Hiring a virtual assistant has become commonplace for busy entrepreneurs looking to bypass adding more staff members. Invaluable partners for companies, entrepreneurs, and busy individuals, virtual assistants perform a wide variety of personal and business-related functions.
From answering emails, to scheduling meetings, to drafting agendas, VAs save clients a lot of time (and money). For example, instead of combing through hundreds of emails yourself, you can hire someone to highlight the ones that need priority attention and immediately connect with potential clients and important stakeholders.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the advantages and possible pitfalls of hiring a virtual assistant, as well as explore how Pareto compares. While Pareto may at times overlap with personal assistant work, Pareto’s extended team primarily carries out strategic data operations geared toward growing businesses. Read along to find out if Pareto’s extended team is the perfect match for you and make the best decision for your business stage and future goals.
What Is a Virtual Assistant?
With the growth of flexible and remote jobs, virtual assistants are becoming more and more prominent. Managers, CEOs, lawyers, and investors are now more likely to have a VA instead of the traditional personal assistant.
At first glance, a virtual assistant’s role may seem similar to that of a personal assistant. They carry out administrative tasks, answer emails for you, manage your schedule and, simply put, take care of all those pesky little tasks that most busy people don’t want to deal with.
Usually operating on a freelance basis, VAs work remotely to provide this extra help without the long and costly process of hiring. VAs usually work in a business setting, but some will also provide personal support. This personal assistance can include buying and sending gifts, making travel plans, or making dinner reservations.
Virtual assistant is indeed a catch-all term that encompasses different roles. While most VAs will offer admin help, some have higher degrees of specialization in technical fields and can be hired to do graphic design, SEO content writing, or email marketing campaigns. To better understand the diversity of this profession, let’s look at the different types of virtual assistants.
What Are the Different Types of Virtual Assistants?
In the past, assistants were jacks of all trades who were required to lend a hand in all kinds of busywork. Nowadays, however, there are more and more VAs who want to detach themselves from the purely repetitive and mundane work and specialize in highly technical niches. We can simplify the different types of virtual assistants into 7 categories:
1. Administrative VAs
These are the most sought-after type of assistant, especially by executives. This is also the VA type with the largest workforce. They are natural multitaskers and ensure that the day-to-day life of their client goes smoothly.
2. Social media VAs
Social media managers are increasingly more common as businesses develop their social media strategies. They’ll engage with the audience through responding to comments and direct messages, track performance, schedule posts, and sometimes even brainstorm social media strategy.
3. E-commerce VAs
Ideal for online businesses, e-commerce VAs take care of inventory, write product descriptions, and provide customer support.
4. SEO content writer VAs
With significant overlap with content writers and SEO specialists, they carry out more creative work, such as writing optimized blog posts, and have highly technical skills.
5. Customer service VAs
Skilled communicators and proficient in thinking on their feet, they deal with customer queries over email, chat, or phone.
6. Graphic design VAs
They support marketing and social media efforts and may design logos, social media posts, and illustrations for the website.
7. Accounting VAs
Overlapping the functions of an accountant, they are dedicated to bookkeeping and are responsible for payroll, verification of expenses, and record-keeping.
The field is as varied as can be. With the recent expansion of the virtual assistance scope, there are some blurred lines between VAs and technical positions, such as SEO specialist, content writer, or accountant. Nevertheless, administrative VAs still make the largest slice of the digital help provided.
What Can Administrative Virtual Assistants Do for You?
Administrative VAs are dedicated to supporting the normal functioning of a workplace setting through daily management of mundane (but often time-consuming) tasks. Experienced VAs know the ins and outs of the businesses they work with and eventually operate with little to no guidance and autonomous decision-making.
Some of the best tasks to consider giving to administrative VAs are:
- Administrative tasks, such as scheduling appointments, organizing calendars, answering emails, taking meeting notes, and writing thank you notes.
- Customer support, such as answering emails, live chats, and phone calls.
- Accounting tasks, such as budgeting, keeping track of expenses, and setting up payment reminders.
- Personal or team-building tasks, such as making restaurant reservations, finding hotels for international travel, or buying and sending gifts.
You get the idea.
As we’ve seen, some VAs are equipped with additional technical expertise and can provide more specialized solutions such as content creation, marketing, SEO, social media management, or even graphic design. The lines are blurry, but technical VAs scope can overlap with editors, content writers, SEO specialists, web marketers, graphic designers, and even web developers.
In any case, more often than not, clients will look to VAs for that extra support with these mundane tasks that will keep the engines running smoothly.
What Are the Benefits of Hiring a Virtual Assistant?
In 2020, the number of businesses that hired virtual assistants increased by 41% and this trend is here to stay. And for good reason.
Here are the 5 main benefits of hiring a virtual assistant:
- It’s cost-saving. Bypassing hiring an in-house assistant leads to saving costs in insurance and benefits. Plus, they’re only paid during the extent of their service and there’s no additional investment in equipment, infrastructure, or software. Prices range from $1-$100 per hour so businesses of all sizes can find affordable options for their needs.
- It saves you time. SME owners and executives spend a weekly average of 16 hours carrying out administrative tasks and duties. These are certainly time-consuming, but it doesn’t justify hiring someone full-time, which is why VAs typically serve more than one client.
- It leaves more time for core work. There are more useful ways to spend your time than to spend hours booking flights for your yearly company retreat or browsing Amazon for the perfect holiday gifts. Delegating administrative tasks frees up founders and executives’ business hours to work on product development, sales, team building, and fundraising.
- VAs are knowledgeable business partners. Experienced VAs don’t just execute — they have deep knowledge and experience of the business world and are capable of talking to clients, organizing your schedule based on priorities, and making fast decisions. They can take care of all this so you don’t even have to think about it.
- VAs do it better (than you). Most entrepreneurs are not great at keeping up with their schedules, answering emails, and carrying out repetitive tasks without losing focus. Let’s face it, VAs are more skilled and will complete them much faster. Sometimes it’s better to leave it to the pros.
What’s the Hourly Rate for a Virtual Assistant?
Unsurprisingly, virtual assistants come with different levels of experience and expertise, which translates to different hourly rates.
If you want to work with a VA but are unsure whether you have the budget, the good news is that it can vary anywhere from $1 to $100 per hour, with an average of $16.44. This will depend on how much experience they have, the type of work they do, and the project complexity. The fact that they can work around the globe is also a factor in determining compensation.
Before defining the budget, here are some important questions to ask:
- How much would it cost to do it in-house?
- How much time will these tasks take to complete?
- What skillsets will it require?
Looking at the necessary skillsets, desired experience level, and location will be the main factors in determining an expected hourly rate.
What’s the Dark Side of Hiring a Virtual Assistant?
This sounds great so far, doesn’t it?
Who doesn’t want to save time and money?
However, not everyone has great experience in working with virtual assistants. Here are some of the possible downsides of hiring a virtual assistant:
- The hiring process is time-consuming. Hiring a VA will be similar to other recruitment processes, which require time-consuming vetting. With the high number of VA agencies and freelancer marketplaces, you will likely spend hours reading pitches, demoing agencies, budgeting with different proposed rates, and sorting through poor-quality proposals. Much like hiring full-time. Yikes!
- It’s easy to look for VAs in the wrong places. When you Google “virtual assistant”, the seemingly easiest and most readily available platforms to find them will be Upwork or Fiverr. With a large pool of freelancers to choose from, they will seem like the perfect place to find your future assistant. Top VAs will likely be booked and navigating different rates, specializations, and experience levels to find the perfect fit will require a strike of luck.
- You risk poor quality work. If you had plenty of time in your hands to begin with, you would not be considering hiring a VA. Because of this limited time, a rigorous vetting process, with tests and interviews, is unlikely to be undertaken. And while you can get lucky and find the most competent and affordable VA for your needs, you can also be left with a VA horror story to tell.
- Freelancers can be unreliable. Freelancers bring a cost-saving advantage over agencies. However, they also bring the added risks of not having any money-back guarantees, ghosting, deadlines missed, and the need to constantly train the VA for new tasks.
Additionally, it’s argued that virtual assistants and startups are not a good fit. Founders who had high expectations for what a VA could take on often end up disappointed with the results. One of the reasons this happens is that most VAs are not specifically trained to operate in the startup ecosystem.
So… Is Pareto a Virtual Assistant Agency?
So… Is Pareto a Virtual Assistant Agency?
Pareto’s women-led virtual team of data experts works as an extended team to provide strategic data and carry out repeatable processes for growing businesses. Even though there is some overlap with the scope of virtual assistants, Pareto’s solutions are aimed at supporting startup founders in their specific challenges.
More than strictly admin work, our specialized and customizable solutions, such as competitor research, lead generation, finding influencers, and fundraising, are catered to growing businesses’ needs and require industry knowledge, as well as the latest and best tools for web research and data processing. In short, Pareto will not only save you time (and money), but will support you in reaching your ideal customers, expanding brand awareness, or finding the perfect investors for your fundraising.
Unlike hiring a VA, Pareto customers get to skip the time-consuming screening and vetting by being immediately matched with a project partner. The project partner is the single point of contact that allocates each project to the most qualified data experts. Regardless of size, all accounts are closely managed by a project partner.
Instead of working with just one person, there’s a full team to back you up with different skill sets and expertise. Plus, all Pareto projects are quality guaranteed!
What Can Pareto Do for You?
There are 40+ ways the Pareto team helps growing businesses. Here’s just a taste of what Pareto can do for you:
- Lead generation & outreach. Our best lead gen wizards will scour the internet for your desired leads and compile updated lists with valid contacts for maximum return. We can also automate email campaigns and carry out the outreach on your behalf.
- Competitor research. Always keep up with the competition with fresh custom-made lists of competitors and comprehensive tracking.
- Search the web for whatever you need. If it’s online, we can find it for you. Whether you’re looking for suppliers near you, office spaces for rent, research articles on a certain topic, or retailers to sell your product, we’ll get you the most updated information.
- Candidate screening and sourcing. Skip the time-consuming resume screening and hire faster with pre-vetted candidate lists that match your desired criteria.
- Find investors. Get in touch with the right investors for your startup fundraise with investor lists that match your industry and startup stage.
- Find influencers. Develop your influencer marketing campaigns and boost brand awareness with brand partners that fit your voice and niche.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for, sign up and let us know how we can help. We’re happy to carry out custom data collection and management projects for your specific needs.
Ready to Focus on What You Do Best?
If you’re still trying to do everything yourself… you’ve probably realized by now that you can’t. No one can make good strategic decisions while spending hours moving data from column A to column B.
Instead of stacking responsibility on top of responsibility to the point of having a jam-packed schedule, be intentional with your time. Whether you decide on a VA or Pareto’s extended team depends on your current needs. Focus on what you do best and direct your energy to where it needs to be.
No more mindless tasks that suck the life out of you!
Do you want to see if Pareto is the right fit for you? Try us out with a project pilot.