Running a small business is a dream come true for a lot of people, but as business starts booming, burgeoning entrepreneurs find themselves face to face with a nightmare: the overwhelming volume of administrative tasks involved in working for yourself. To cope with this reality, many have considered hiring a virtual assistant to help manage some of the day-to-day operations of their business.

However, there’s still a lot of confusion about what a virtual assistant is and what he or she does for business professionals. To answer some of the questions you might and figure out if hiring a virtual assistant might be the right for you, check out the handy guide below.

Who should think about hiring a virtual assistant?

Running a business involves a lot of administrative tasks – preparing paperwork, answering emails and phone calls, keeping up a website. Many small business owners find this kind of stuff to be unpleasant and become frustrated when it begins to interfere with other, more important facets of running the business. If you find yourself increasingly bogged down with phone and computer-based work that you could easily train someone else to do, it might be time to consider hiring a virtual assistant.

What is a virtual assistant and can s/he do for my business?

A virtual assistant, as the term implies, is an office professional that works remotely. While this means virtual assistants aren’t physically present in your business, given the increasingly web-based world we work in, they often don’t have to be. Virtual assistants do the same tasks as traditional assistants, such as:

  • Answer emails and phone calls
  • Prepare paperwork (invoices, payroll, etc.)
  • Coordinate meetings
  • Create employee schedules
  • Interface with clients over the phone or using Skype
  • Create and maintain a company’s website
  • Keep up with a company’s social media sites (Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc.)

Where do virtual assistants typically work?

Virtual assistants work from their own home offices, and could theoretically be based anywhere in the world. Because the tasks they do are technology-based, the home base of your virtual assistant isn’t a factor in her ability complete her assignments. One consideration, though: if your business deals with a lot of time-sensitive material, it might be helpful to hire an assistant based in your time zone, for the sake of simplicity when it comes to task due dates.

When do I assign tasks to my virtual assistant?

You and your virtual assistant will have to spend some time working out her schedule and how many hours per week she will be working for you, but virtual assistants are typically flexible and turn tasks around based on your needs. In fact, this is one of the advantages of hiring a virtual assistant over a traditional assistant, whose work hours would be more rigid.

Why does a virtual assistant make more sense than hiring a secretary?

Although the hourly rate for virtual assistants can be slightly higher than that of a secretary or traditional assistant in some cases, it’s generally cheaper to hire a virtual assistant because they are classified as independent contractors. This means that you are not obligated to provide health insurance or other benefits, which can be costly. Also, you won’t have to spend money on office space, furniture, supplies, utilities, etc. for her, since she’s responsible for her own remote workspace.

How do I hire a virtual assistant?

Business owners have a lot of options when it comes to finding a virtual assistant, but before beginning the search, it’s important to figure out exactly which tasks you plan on having your assistant complete; it’s probably also helpful to estimate how many hours you think this will amount to each week. This way, you’ll be able to give the VAs you interview a clear picture of your expectations.

When you’re ready to begin your hunt for the perfect virtual assistant, begin by asking people in your professional network. There’s a good chance one of them already has a virtual assistant and can make a recommendation. Next, advertise the position on your business’s social media sites, especially Facebook and Twitter; a lot of virtual assistants look for work on these sites. Finally, sign on to one of the major websites that connect virtual assistants with those looking to hire. Two popular sites are VA Networking and Elance. If you take all of these steps, you’ll be casting the widest net possible, increasingly the likelihood that you’ll find a virtual assistant who will meet your needs.

Hiring a virtual assistant is a great way to keep your business running smoothly – keep these tips in mind when considering whether a virtual assistant is right for you!


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John Gower

John Gower is a writer for NerdWallet, a personal finance website dedicated to helping entrepreneurs save money with financial tips on everything from social media marketing to current cd rates.

  • Really loving the content you guys put out! I was immediately drawn to your story and blog the first time I found you. Look forward to reading more. A VA is something I am looking into right now and this was helpful.

    Hope to have a drink with you guys in the future!

    • Awesome to hear that Cody, thanks for checking out the site! VA’s are great – those and independent contractors are invaluable if you can find good ones.

      I’m down to grab a drink – let me know the next time you’re in FL 🙂

      • Will do man. I travel all over, but unfortunately I don’t make it to FL very often.

        Just as I was rolling pretty good with the blog (thanks for stopping by btw) you got me all interested in this importing jazz haha. I looked into this several times in the past, but you really explained it a lot better.

        Damn that freaking entrepreneur ADD…

  • Bob Edwards says:

    Will, I have really enjoyed your site, tons of good information. Would you mind if I ask how you monetize this site (or do you)? I have expertise in several area but can’t figure out how to make money other than selling related products. I see blogs all over but cant figure out how they make it pay. Thanks in advance, I really enjoy the clear info and motivation you provide.

    • Glad you enjoyed the site Bob! I monetize StartupBros through my own coaching and consulting programs, as well as our book and online courses (that last link isn’t finished yet though). Basically, build an audience and then give them what they ask for – easier said than done. We’ll have an online course for that soon too, I’m sure 😛

      • William says:

        Would be nice to dig on that online course whenever it’s ready, of course! I’m a VA too and I would love to stay updated and be connected with other VAs and entrepreneurs of the same field. Otherwise, solid post you got here.

  • ian amor says:

    Hi Will May I suggest info on business models would be helpful to your clients also

    the best crowd funding sites ? interview those who have successfully used one /

  • Not only do you have a great site going here Will… But it is everything that a small start-up needs to hit the ground running! I’m always looking for new ways to find new clients by thinking outside the box and I can always read between the lines in your articles to market myself by thinking like the client that might hire me. I’ve been a VA for 18 months now and I love the like minded people that are involved in the VA world. So many creative ideas come out of this style of technology! One contributing factor that I believe makes this industry so desirable is that I can work for a client in a completely different area where we both get knowledge and understanding of a different way of living i.e. Miami vs San Francisco! I believe this is a fairly untouched subject when talking about the benefits of hiring a VA.
    If you don’t mind I would like to plug myself.
    I am a fully active VA of 18 months based out of the beautiful mountains of Northern California. Anyone who thinks they may need my assistance can contact me through my website – I know what it is to be the “good” VA for an entrepreneur or small business if you know what you are looking for.
    Thanks again Will!! Great read!

    • Thanks a lot Jessica, I’m glad you saw some value in the site 😀

      Awesome to hear you’ve enjoyed it! I’m sure it’s nice being a US based VA, rather than an outsourced one. You probably get a much more professional clientele.

      Best of luck to you in your freelance business 🙂

  • Ashley Mooney says:

    Just used this as a resource in my latest eBook – great stuff, guys!

  • Dorota Beben says:

    HI Will thank you for the articles you have written they are very interesting. What are your thoughts about selling Electronics, Tablets,maybe smaller items??

  • Ennovation says:

    Great said Mr. john Gower. Speciall that part “What is a virtual assistant and can s/he do for my business?”.

  • […] Startup Bros-The Virtual Assistant, by John Gower […]

  • Hi Will, I’m a VA based in South Africa and I’ve been working as a VA for 7 years now.

    Thank you for the great read. Your article is informative and an excellent guide on how to hire a quality VA.

    My target market is the startup world and fellow entrepreneurs. I’m gaining fantastic traction in my home country and I’m excited to see where this journey is taking me.

    Thank you for all your great insights. I look forward to reading more!

  • Backlinkfy says:

    Hi John, Very good points here. I feel like the new generation will do away with traditional marketing and focus more on digital. With that said, the next 10 years will change how we market products and services and who carries out the tasks.

  • John T Newell says:

    Well explained. Thank you. I was not confident earlier to get a VA. After i hired one from Habiliss, they made my life simpler. Any kind of research, appointments and calls i won’t want to make, I give them and they are fast to respond. I think its a revolution in outsourcing personal and business tasks. Thanks again John.

  • Tamara John says:

    The information is really worthy.I have hired my virtual personal assistant from India they they are very awesome