What if it isn't feasible for you to hire a physical assistant? Say you're working out of your home-based office and there just isn't space to accommodate another employee. Perhaps your labor costs are through the roof and you cannot afford to hire additional personnel. Maybe you don't need a full-time assistant, just a competent individual who can provide social assistance to your customers for 3-4 hours a day.
For these reasons and others, some companies turn to virtual assistants if they struggle to find quality candidates to fill the role. In an increasingly automated business environment where machines are taking over repetitive tasks from human resources, and remote working is afforded to long-serving employees, virtual teams have become the new normal.
Situations where virtual assistant services may prove invaluable:
- You're burdened by workload and at a risk of burning out.
- You need to focus your expertise on your core business instead of administrative tasks.
- You cannot afford to hire a full-time assistant.
- You don't have a system in place to train a full-time, physical assistant, and need someone who is ready to get started from day 1.
- You or your current employees wish to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and seek a solution that balances cost and quality.
Any task that does not require the physical presence of an employee can easily be outsourced to a virtual assistant. It includes making calls, booking travel arrangements, scheduling and confirming appointments, assisting with social media engagement/networking, screening your emails and responding on your behalf, invoicing and book-keeping, and performing research-oriented tasks.
How Much Will a Virtual Assistant Cost You?
Local versus overseas
Virtual assistants based out of North America set their rates between $15 to $75 or more per hour. Those who're starting off their career will naturally cost you less than a seasoned virtual assistant with a couple of years of experience in this niche.
If you're fine hiring an overseas virtual assistant, you may be able to slash 20% to 30% off the costs of hiring locally (or more). The Philippines has emerged as a popular destination for virtual assistant services, not just for the low costs but also the reliability and experience offered by Filipino professionals. In some cases, you can expect to pay as low as $4 to $10 per hour.
Remember that virtual assistants charging a higher fixed rate will still save you money as you don't have to worry about sick pay, gas and mileage; training meetings; utilities such as broadband, electricity, heating and phone lines; free tea and coffee.
Nature of job
Your costs will also be determined by the type of work you expect the virtual assistant to perform. Routine administrative tasks or social media management will set you back less than technical support or projects that require technical certification or specialized knowledge.
Charging by the project
Not all virtual assistants charge by the hour; some may bill you on a project-basis. For instance, the assistant may price you for various tasks he/she is expected to perform as part of a big project, say social media management. That means, you'll be billed for setting up social media pages/accounts, building fan/follower lists, creating social media content and scheduling/posting, replying to comments and maintaining an active, engaging social media presence.
Prioritize quality over cost
A virtual assistant works independently and there is less scope to monitor his/her work. By hiring an experienced virtual assistant, you can rest assured that performance aligns with expectations. That's not to say that a less experienced assistant isn't reliable. However, it is best to avoid hiring someone who undercuts the average by a significant margin or quotes very cheap prices. This is often a red flag that the individuals are not confident in their ability to deliver quality work.
Here are some more tips on identifying reliable virtual assistants who can be valuable assets to your business.
What to consider before hiring a virtual assistant
- Skills and capabilities: Create a checklist of the tasks and responsibilities you expect the virtual assistant to perform. Based on this assessment, state the skill-set the individual must possess. Also describe how the individual would accomplish the tasks delegated out. All of this should go into the job description you submit to virtual assistant services. Companies who write thorough job descriptions setting out expectations clearly have a better chance of landing the best person for the job compared to those who put together one in a hurry.
- Location and schedule: The individual's location will be an important consideration if you plan to hire a foreign worker. A difference in time zones can create some problems if virtual assistants cannot guarantee that they can communicate with you during your working hours. It can prove to be a bit of a handicap for you as well as the assistant, especially when he/she requires a clarification or needs to get a message across to you urgently.
- Cultural compatibility: If your virtual assistant will be interacting with your office team, it is helpful if there are no cultural clashes that affect communication and team-work. The working culture differs across countries; so someone who is used to a formal hierarchical work system may not fit in easily with the open, informal and innovative culture at a Western firm.
- Budget: Unless you're working with a very restricted budget, you'll not have trouble finding virtual assistants across skill-sets and experience who you can afford. That being said, also think about the business value acquired by hiring someone who charges you $70 by the hour, and delegate accordingly. You don't want to end up micromanaging your virtual assistant, rather, maximize your time savings to focus on core business or other objectives for which you considered a remote assistant in the first place.
Evaluate virtual assistant services by reputation, years in the business, testimonials and reviews, to make informed hiring decisions.