Virtual assistant. VA. Strategic assistant.

These three terms represent an efficient way to delegate without having to incur associated employee overhead costs or make a full-time commitment to a support resource. 

For decades now, virtual assistants have operated as independent contractors, working remotely from anywhere in the world and providing a multitude of support services at varying price points. 

Today, virtual assistants are sought out by entrepreneurs, startups, and leaders around the world as a quick, easy delegation resource. But the rise in popularity of virtual assistants has spawned a plethora of services that offer varying levels of skill, expertise and effectiveness. 

As the field has grown, it has begun to separate into two tiers:

Traditional
virtual assistant services
that provide professional support staff for common business tasks. Typically, it’s up to the business owner to develop the delegation strategy and manage the assistant(s).

 

Premium
virtual assistant services
that provide, in addition to an administrative support staff, strategic guidance for implementing and executing effective delegation. A more sophisticated service, it is designed to incorporate a proactive, consultative approach to support. The service provider manages the team for the business owner.

However, even as the industry has begun to move toward tiered services, much of the public continues to view all virtual assistant services as the same. Too often this confusion results in businesses investing in services that don’t meet their expectations and needs.

Below we explore the differences in the types of services; how to know which might be right for you; and how to choose one that meets your needs and truly frees you and your business to grow.

 

Section 02  

What's a Virtual Assistant and What Do They Do?

The term virtual assistant (often shortened to VA) has become a catch-all for any remote staff that provides professional support in the form of administrative, technical, and/or creative assistance. 

In the responsibilities they hold and the tasks they perform, virtual assistants are very much like traditional in-house assistants. However, rather than occupying a desk in your office, they work online or by phone from home, their favorite coffee shop or on the go. The recent popularity of VAs can be attributed to a few trends:

  • Technology that frees people to work from anywhere at any time
  • An increase in the number of remote businesses that rely on distributed workforces
  • The move to a more flexible view of administrative support 

Like a traditional in-house assistant, a virtual assistant can be part time or full time, contract or permanent. They can be self-employed or contracted through a third-party service.

And like traditional in-house assistants, virtual assistants (and the companies that employ them) offer a wide range of skills – from performing straightforward administrative tasks to providing expert guidance about which tasks to delegate and how to best implement and execute a delegation strategy. 

The range in types and levels of support provided by virtual assistant companies means that businesses that employ VAs can have markedly different experiences and see significantly different ROIs. 

Ultimately, finding the right virtual assistant service is not all that different from finding the right in-house assistant. You have to find a service that can provide the services you need and that is a good fit for your personality. 

Not every business owner is cut out for delegation. Many entrepreneurs have created their companies from the ground up by taking charge of every aspect of the business. Handing over key responsibilities and tasks runs counter to what made them successful, and it often poses a challenge. 

In order for any delegation strategy to be effective, the business leader must be able to:

Hand over responsibility and control to others

Hand over responsibility and control to others

Guide their team to understand what and how to delegate

Guide their team to understand what and how to delegate

Demand accountability of themselves and their team

Demand accountability of themselves and their team

In the end, a virtual assistant service may not be right for every business, which is why it’s important to know the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

 

Section 03  

In-House vs. Outsourced Business Support Services

A successful leader understands that a great assistant is invaluable to their ability to focus and influence change. There are many ways to accomplish a single goal when it comes to delegation, and the answer isn’t always a full-time resource sitting outside your office door. 

It’s important to evaluate your level of need when assessing the best resource to provide business support services.

Working With Virtual Teams

Listen to the Team Success Podcast for a discussion of key strategies for working successfully with virtual teams.

The Advantages of Hiring an In-House Assistant

Hiring a full-time in-house assistant has many advantages. First, that assistant is usually dedicated solely to supporting you and your needs and can operate in a more on-demand way. They have the ability to perform on-site tasks such as setting up meeting rooms, greeting clients and organizing paper files. 

Conversely, there are many challenges with hiring a full-time assistant. The first is the costs that come with any FTE hire. According to salary.com, the average base salary for an executive assistant is $65,430, and ranges from $58,226 to $73,877, depending on region.

pillar-boxbg-wallet

The average base salary for an executive assistant is
$65,430
and ranges from $58,226 to $73,877, depending on region.

pillar-boxbg-hand

In addition to salary, you'll have to pay benefits and overhead costs, which typically range from
25-40%
on top of the base salary.

In addition to salary, you’ll have to pay benefits and overhead costs, which typically range from 25 to 40 percent on top of the base salary. Thus, you might have a total annual cost of $91,602 for a full-time assistant. You’ll also have costs associated with providing office space, as well as purchasing their office equipment, such as computers, phones, supplies and office setup.

Furthermore, because in-house assistants are a local resource, you may encounter limitations with available talent in a geographic area. Relying on one person also involves the limitations of their commitment, strengths and expertise. 

Lastly, a different level of commitment and responsibility is required by the leader when working with a full-time assistant. An FTE requires your management, time and attention and can bring additional “noise” to the office, which can be distracting during focus times. 

While a full-time assistant can have a great impact if they stay, they can also leave a huge hole, and significant exposure, when they exit.

The Advantages of Using Remote Support Staff and Virtual Assistants

Using remote support staff to handle administrative duties creates an efficient way to delegate without having to incur associated employee overhead costs or make a full-time commitment to manage, train and provide office space to a staffer. A transactional style of delegation allows leaders to delegate simple tasks with minimal commitment.

Independent contractors

Independent contractors

Varying price points

Varying price points

Removes geographical limitations of talent pool

Removes geographical limitations of talent pool

Time tracked equals pure productivity

Time tracked equals pure productivity


Remote support staff operate as independent contractors, working remotely from anywhere in the world and providing a multitude of support services at varying price points. A fractional or strategic resource, these contractors require a low level of commitment and oversight from their clients and offer elasticity in the support role, including the capacity to scale over time. 

From a talent pool perspective, they are not limited by geography, so the level of talent available can be higher than what is available locally. In most cases, they track their time by the minute, so you are paying for pure productivity as opposed to the salaried downtime that inherently comes with a full-time employee. 

Remote employees are sought out by entrepreneurs, startups, and leaders around the world as an easy, quick delegation resource.

The biggest challenge with using self-employed remote support staff is their level of experience, consistency and commitment to you. 

You may still have to spend time managing remote staffers, identifying how and what to delegate to them. You are typically relying on one person to support you, so you’re capped by their individual growth potential. In a transient, remote industry, this creates a significant possibility of exposure for the leader who becomes reliant on this independent, fractional resource.

Because of these challenges, it’s important to know the differences between traditional and premium virtual assistant services, and what to expect from each.

 

 

 

Section 04  

Traditional vs. Premium Virtual Assistants

In the eyes of too many business owners, all virtual assistant services are the same. While both traditional and premium VAs can be useful and productive when used appropriately, there are significant differences between them. It’s important to understand and have the right expectations.

Knowing what each kind of assistant can and can’t deliver, and what to expect when engaging with each, will go a long way to ensuring you get the support and assistance you need and the best possible return on your investment. 

Traditional Virtual Assistant Services Support Transactional Tasks

Traditional virtual assistants offer support with transactional task-driven delegations, such as:

  • Basic scheduling
  • Website updates
  • Email marketing
  • Billing and expenses
  • Unsubscribing from emails
  • Personal tasks

Transactional task-based delegation ultimately does not create the true, consistent time leverage that most leaders seek. And it typically winds up taking more time to manage than it gives back to the person delegating. 

With transactional delegation, the entrepreneur is responsible for driving delegation and identifying what and how to delegate. The onus is on them to provide structure, in the form of systems that ensure tasks for the virtual assistant to execute are clearly documented.

Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs don’t bring deep knowledge around what or how to delegateThey simply know that they need help and have run out of time. In search of instant relief, they turn to a virtual assistant to help them with the perceived lowest value tasks and begin to reactively delegate. 

In many cases, they have had previous negative experiences, with VAs being unreliable, hard to reach and unable to consistently execute tasks in a timely way. All of this leads to frustration and fear of delegation, ultimately yielding minimal and inconsistent results.

 

See Everything Strategic Support Provides

See Everything Strategic Support Provides

Get the Infographic

Premium Virtual Assistant Companies Offer Strategic Support

With traditional virtual assistants, it usually falls on the business owner to come up with a delegation strategy. The VA is there to perform the tasks assigned to them, not question if it’s the right approach or provide guidance on how to effectively delegate impactful tasks, and to whom. 

This type of expertise differentiates premium from traditional virtual assistant services. WIth a premium virtual assistant service, you not only get support staff, you also get a strategic consultative team to help you leverage your time through delegation. They can support you with accountability and follow-through for yourself and your team and help you set up your weekly schedule for optimal productivity.

A strategic consultant is a resource that goes beyond transactional delegation and focuses on applying delegation strategy to create a long-lasting, impactful ROI.

  • They bring a level of sophistication around systems and processes to help entrepreneurial leaders understand what and how to delegate.

  • They create a plan of accountability to support the leader’s goals and priorities to ensure that any support time is focused on the most impactful tasks.

This delegation planning incorporates automation, delegation and proven efficiency strategies.

A strategic delegation consultant provides a more thoughtful, proactive approach bringing the power of planning and execution to delegation. They offer:

  • ROI-focused delegation strategy
  • Process design and improvement
  • Project management services
  • Complex scheduling
  • Total inbox delegation
  • Business automation
  • Accountability and planning
  • Strategic time management

 

Because they work in teams, you get the added benefits of:

Redundancy in the support role (in case of turnover)

Redundancy in the support role (in case of turnover)

Access to the knowledge base of a diverse team

Access to the knowledge base of a diverse team

Scalability to grow with you

Scalability to grow with you

 

Section 05  

How to Choose the Right Virtual Assistant Service

It’s not always easy to differentiate between a traditional and premium virtual assistant service. Even if a service labels itself as one or the other, at the end of the day, those are just terms that anyone can use in their marketing. That’s why it’s important to know what a service provides and what it doesn’t. Here’s what to look for.

20 Things to Consider When Choosing a Virtual Assistant Service


Download the PDF   Download the PDF

  1. Is the service providing oversight and delivery of the virtual assistant service, or are they simply matching you to a virtual assistant?
  2. Are you assigned a team member or members to work with directly?
  3. How are team members assigned to you? What are the criteria for the assignments? What is the level of sophistication of the team?
  4. What are the response time frames for working with VAs? How often can you hear from them? How will you communicate with them across time zones? What hours does the team work? Are they responsive nights and weekends?
  5. How will your VAs protect your information? How are they capturing and storing your information in case of turnover?
  6. Does the service provide strategy around how and what to delegate, or does it expect you to bring that to the table?
  7. What happens if the assistant leaves? What is the service’s policy? What is your potential downtime?
  8. What happens if the assistant is out of the office (on vacation or sick)? Is a trained backup ready to step in?
  9. How does the assistant communicate with your team and clients? How does the service ensure consistency with your brand and culture?
  10. What happens if you need more or fewer hours? What are the commitment and cancellation terms? 
  11. What happens if you experience a bad fit with the assistant paired with you?
  12. Does the service have proven support methodologies to help you implement remote support with things such as inbox and calendar, or do you have to direct them?
  13. Are team members employees or subcontractors? Legally, you cannot train or manage sub-contractors, making execution inconsistent.
  14. How does the service train and vet its team? Where is the team located? How are they screened and verified?
  15. What is the service’s management structure like? How is the remote team managed and held accountable? How long has it been in business?
  16. How do VAs track their time? Can you review timesheets easily or will they be sent to you? What happens if you don't use all your time or if you need more hours?
  17. What technology do VAs support and use internally to manage your work?
  18. Are the VAs you work with set up to operate proactively on your behalf, anticipating your needs, or are they just responding to tasks you send over?
  19. What services are included or excluded in the commitment? For example, will the service provide copywriting, bookkeeping or social media management?
  20. What commitment is the service asking you to make to ensure success? What are the payment terms?
How Your Company Can Run Itself

Get Your Company to Run Itself And Free Yourself to Do More

Watch the Webinar Replay
 

Section 06

Choose a VA Service That Can Deliver Enduring and Impactful ROI

Partnering with a strategic delegation resource is one of the most impactful investments any leader can make. The key is to make an informed choice when it comes to selecting the best administrative support resource for you. 

While many business leaders think that any virtual assistance service will do, they often discover the hard way that they need more than simple task support and assistance. They may find themselves burned out by the inconsistencies of transactional delegation.

A premium virtual assistant service that includes a strategic support team offers immense benefits that go well beyond transactional delegation. It applies accountability, a goals-focused delegation strategy and the power of a team to create enduring and impactful ROI. 

Premium virtual assistant services bring a level of sophistication around systems and processes to help leaders understand what and how to delegate. They also create a plan of accountability to support the leader’s goals and priorities to ensure that any support time is focused on the most impactful tasks. 

Incorporating automation and efficiency strategies, these services employ a thoughtful, proactive approach that brings the power of planning and execution to delegation, along with the power of a team. This allows them to deliver consistent, highly skilled managed support remotely, at a fraction of the cost and commitment of a traditional executive assistant.

Take Back Your Time And 

Get Back to What You Do Best

See If Our System Is Right for You
 

Take the Assessment ›