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What Is A Virtual Assistant? | A-Z Guide for 2024

What is a Virtual Assistant? Since 2020 the world has changed drastically and many companies are going fully or partially remote. The world is your oyster in terms of hiring. Here’s everything you need to know about hiring a Virtual Assistant.

In large companies, there are many specialists, but not everyone is successful in all tasks.

Many people have highly specialized knowledge, but at the same time manage routine duties such as accounting, reporting, and marketing. In such cases, assistants become invaluable, relieving you and your company of a significant workload, increasing efficiency, and ultimately contributing to the success of your business.

Virtual assistants can be from all over the world, making them an incredibly diverse talent pool. The beauty of this is that no matter where your business is located, you can find VA in minutes.

Now, what exactly is a virtual assistant?

You’ve likely encountered the term, especially in the context of tools like Siri, Alexa, and the like. However, there are virtual assistants specializing in entirely different tasks than their programmed counterparts, and we’ll delve into those aspects below.

What is a Virtual Assistant: Introduction and General Information 

The profession of virtual assistant (VA) emerged in the United States about 30 years ago.

In 1998, the number of virtual assistants was about 1000. And today, in the United States alone, their number has grown to 10,000. Globally, their number is about 35,000.

Currently, the popularity of these specialists is growing in European countries and beyond.

A virtual assistant supports you at work in the same way as a personal assistant. The difference is this: A VA only helps you online, you usually do not meet offline. 

They are an independent service provider who helps you with certain tasks and invoice you for their services. Even if you are far from each other, common means of communication will suffice. Such as email, video conferencing, phone calls, or messaging platforms like Slack.


The Difference Between a Virtual Assistant and a Freelancer

A freelancer, similar to a VA is a freelance worker without a permanent job with a company, usually working remotely.

The transition between these two professions is seamless as they become more alike.

Freelancers, however, are often specialists in a specific field (or multiple fields), making them more inclined to work full-time. They typically don’t take on assistant-type tasks.

Currently, freelancers tend to focus more on creative work, while virtual assistants lean toward administrative tasks. Nevertheless, there’s a growing trend of convergence in these careers.

Freelancers and virtual assistants can work on both a freelance and commercial basis.

The distinction between these terms is complex. It largely depends on the level of self-employment, the degree of independent creative work, the level of income, and the associated trade tax obligations.


what is a virtual assistant

Tasks and Activities of a Virtual Assistant

Unless they have specialized knowledge, most assistants start with simple tasks such as back office, research, or data entry.  

The main requirement may be confident PC use and internet skills. 

Other classic tasks include:

The set of possible tasks is very diverse and depends on the skills and knowledge of the candidate. These can be expanded at any time with additional training activities such as online courses, internships, books, and tutorials. 


What is a Virtual Assistant: Services They Can Provide

Here are 15 additional services a virtual assistant can provide:

Email Management

Responding to customer inquiries, sorting incoming messages, sending out offers, etc.

Coordination of Online and Offline Meetings

Organizing meetings with clients, arranging private meetings, structuring daily routines, etc.

Writing Texts

Creating blog articles, podcast notes, product descriptions, and writing texts for newsletters, etc.

Social Media Management

Publishing articles, moderating LinkedIn, or developing a complete social media strategy.

Video or Podcast Editing

If tech-savvy, handling video editing and podcast post-production for your business.

Advertising on Social Media

Assisting in optimizing Facebook or Instagram ads for your clients.

WordPress Web Design/Support

Providing support in WordPress or website creation if the assistant has relevant experience.

Proofreading and Editing

Offering meticulous proofreading and editing services for written content.

Translations

Serving as a valuable resource if the virtual assistant is proficient in multiple languages.

Research

Conducting market analysis, identifying potential customers, gathering information for blog articles, etc.

Customer Service

Handling customer inquiries by phone or email with excellent communication skills.

SEO Marketing

Leveraging expertise in search engine optimization to enhance marketing efforts.

As you can see, virtual assistants can undertake a wide range of tasks, even if initially, you think you can manage them independently. Begin the hiring process, and the professional HR experts at HireUA will assist you in finding the right fit for your needs.


what is a virtual assistant

Essential Skills Required to Work as a Virtual Assistant 

Since many virtual assistants work on a freelance basis, it is important to have a high level of self-discipline and motivation. After all, traditional virtual assistants usually work from a home office and thus are not directly accessible to their clients. Assignments are usually sent by phone or email and are based on a combination of trust and high-quality standards.

Therefore, a virtual assistant needs to be able to motivate themselves over and over again and at the same time fulfill the client’s requirements. Depending on the application, other factors also play an important role, such as:

  • Friendliness in dealing with customers
  • Focused work
  • The desire to constantly develop further

In this context, a virtual assistant should always remember that their actions often represent their client and their company and can damage their reputation, in particular through negligence.

Overview of Specific Professional Qualifications

There are no set standards for the professional qualifications of virtual assistants. This is partly because the areas of responsibility, even within an established employment relationship, are often quite broad. Successful virtual assistants possess a range of skills that set them apart from their peers, and they stand out due to their relevant qualifications.

When compiling a list of requirements, you’ll find competencies in the following areas:

  • Marketing
  • Social media
  • Copywriting
  • Meeting planning
  • Client consulting
  • Accounting

This highlights the diverse nature of a virtual assistant’s work. The level of basic knowledge expected can vary depending on how extensively the virtual assistant supports their client.

It’s important to note that all arrangements between a virtual assistant and a manager should be established beforehand. As time progresses, established routines contribute to making collaborative work even more efficient.


Student vs. Professional Virtual Assistant

If you’re seeking a virtual assistant with extensive skills, you’ll often find them among those who have been in the field for a while. Many assistants pursue additional training, certifications, etc., and over the years, they build a reputation as experts in their field.

However, having deep professional qualifications developed over many years doesn’t always give VAs an automatic advantage over students. Choosing the right assistant depends on the specific responsibilities involved.

For tasks like handling emails, coordinating meetings, or similar duties, clients may not necessarily need a full-time virtual assistant. Typically, these roles are easy to learn and primarily require a high level of dedication and diligence.

The Cost of a Virtual Assistant Per Month

This is a question to which there is, of course, no universal answer. The monthly fee is likely to depend on several factors:

Hourly Rate Or Pricing In General

The pricing structure, whether it is an hourly rate or another pricing model, plays an important role in determining the monthly fee.

Workload

The amount and complexity of the work assigned affect the overall monthly cost.

Any Special Rules

Any agreements, such as project-specific requirements or conditions, may affect the fee.

If you anticipate that you will need assistance for a long time, you may want to consider entering into a permanent employment contract. It is important to know that in such cases, additional costs, such as social security contributions, may be incurred.

Whether More Expensive Virtual Assistants Are “Better”

Simply because virtual assistants differ in many ways, including:

  • Billing models
  • Overall pricing
  • Services
  • Availability
  • Flexibility

Making an optimal comparison between individual services can be challenging. It’s wise to consider your expectations and budget beforehand.

The choice between “full-time or part-time” can influence pricing, with full-time professionals often bringing specific knowledge and experience. In short, it’s unfair to compare virtual assistants solely based on their prices. To act effectively, you need to consider multiple factors and think outside the box if necessary.


Сhallenges of Virtual Assistants

While virtual assistants come with numerous benefits, there are also important considerations:

Security

Data integrity and security are significant concerns as virtual assistants often access confidential organizational data. Ensuring robust protection and controlled access to this data is crucial.

Cost

While virtual assistants can cut costs in the long run, there might be initial increases in hiring them in-house. Companies need to assess whether investing in a virtual assistant will yield long-term benefits.

Employee Training 

To fully leverage a virtual assistant’s capabilities, employees must be trained on how to use and collaborate with it. This may require time and resources for proper training.

Dependence on Technology

Business disruptions can occur if essential technologies (email, WhatsApp, etc.) fail or become unavailable. Companies must ensure they have the necessary technology and resources for seamless communication with their virtual assistant.

Overall, personal assistants in a business environment offer opportunities to boost productivity, cut costs, and enhance customer satisfaction. However, achieving these benefits depends on making the right hire and managing associated challenges effectively.


what is a virtual assistant

4 Tips For Working With a Virtual Assistant – What to Keep in Mind

You can find a wealth of information on working with a virtual assistant, but the following tips will enhance your effectiveness:

  1. Seek a virtual assistant who aligns with your personality and skills
  2. Clearly define the tasks you want your virtual assistant to handle
  3. Be prepared to answer questions and serve as a point of contact for clarification
  4. Avoid assumptions; provide ample explanations. Remember, your virtual assistant is learning about your company, so it’s better to overexplain than underexplain

Despite following these tips, it’s possible that over time, the virtual assistant and the employer may not be a good match. In such cases, honesty is key, and parting ways amicably is important. However, ending the contract abruptly doesn’t necessarily reflect on the quality of the virtual assistant’s work — it might just indicate a lack of compatibility in the collaboration.

Optimal Cooperation Through Transparency & Communication

In principle, working with a virtual assistant can only be effective if both the manager and the employee rely on a high level of transparency and communication.

If there are shortcomings here, it can often be difficult to truly utilize the full benefits of VA support.

Therefore, Hire UA usually takes the following points into account when hiring:

1. A thorough familiarization is necessary before effective collaboration can begin 

2. The virtual assistant should be able to assess their own skills and not be afraid to ask questions
3. It is important to be easily accessible, especially at the initial stage of cooperation


Conclusion: What is a Virtual Assistant — Now You Know!

In simple terms, a virtual assistant is a self-employed professional providing remote support to individuals or businesses. With a diverse skill set, they tackle various tasks ranging from administrative work to specialized services.

The role of virtual assistants has evolved to become crucial in modern work settings, especially with the increasing demand for flexible and remote work. They play a vital role in enhancing productivity.

Success in working with a virtual assistant hinges on effective communication, transparency, and a clear understanding of tasks. The onboarding process is key in determining how your virtual assistant can support you. The expertise of HireUA specialists ensures effective matching of tasks and skills, guaranteeing that your virtual assistant meets your expectations.

Book a call with our team today to talk to us about hiring a VA.

PS: If you’d like a full breakdown of exactly how to hire a Virtual Assistant, check out this video:

About The Author

Anastasia Marinich

Anastasia was born in Odesa and realized at an early age that her work should be creative & enjoyable.

While studying marketing in her hometown, she moved to Germany and continued her education at 2 universities at the same time.As the saying goes "Choose a job to your heart's content and you won't have to work a day of your life!"

Anastasia obtained a degree in Art and has a knack for it. She takes the same approach to writing. Each text is like a picture with a special message and mood. Everyone will find something useful for themselves!

Today Anastasia lives and works in Germany. She travels a lot, practices Ashtanga yoga, learns new things, and continues her creative journey with the HireUA team!
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