What Do Freelance Virtual Assistants Do and Why Do I Need One?


We live a fast-shifting world where the traditional frameworks of how businesses operate are having to adapt. In recent years this has seen the emergence of remote working and co-working spaces where businesses have adapted to the logistical fluidity of the modern workplace. This has been particularly prevalent in modern-day tech start-ups and business that may rely on freelancers for their output.

On a more micro level, this has seen a shift in the traditional ways of working for individual roles and positions within companies. Graphic designers for example now have all the tools they have to work from home, as do UX and web developers. The roles of business development and sales also don’t exclusively rely on face to face meetings anymore.

Looking at the role of freelance virtual assistants in particular, there are certainly some interesting trends to be aware of, and some that are certainly interesting to business owners. We all know the overhead savings of hiring remote workers, and it is said that hiring a virtual assistant could save as much as 78% in this department. Given that around half of the workforce is expected to be fully working remotely in 2020, it’s no surprise demand for freelance virtual assistants are on the rise.

Of course in the traditional office world and particularly for C-level employees and executives we’re all familiar with the role of the PA. In this guide we’ll take a look at the role of the virtual assistant (VA) and how this compares to the traditional role of the PA and why you may want to consider hiring one.


hire a virtual assistant

The Difference Between a PA and a VA

A PA, or personal assistant is certainly a role we all know and love. A PA will support their bosses (and sometimes wider teams) be it Managing Directors or CEOs, in arranging meetings, booking transport, carry out bookkeeping, minute taking and day to day correspondence but all usually within the confines of an office and on a permanent basis. The contributions made are often overlooked but are priceless in the day to day running of a business.

A VA will carry out many of the tasks that a traditional PA will, though perhaps unsurprisingly this will be on a largely remote basis either at their homes or offices and often not in a client facing setting. VAs are also more likely to work on a flexible contract by contract basis and may take on various projects at one time, therefore offering quite a mixed palette of work experience and dynamism. This is perhaps the main difference between the two: A PA will oftentimes support one senior individual at any given time while a freelance virtual assistant will embrace the flexibility of remote working to take on a variety of projects at any given time. Given what we’ve already highlighted in terms of a more fluid workplace requiring flexibility and a multi-faceted skillset, this may suit how businesses and employees work in the immediate future.

A Day in the Life of a Virtual Assistant

We’ve covered the basic of what a virtual assistant does in comparison to a personal assistant, so let’s delve into this in more detail to give you a better idea of the profession. To look at an example, and with modern workplace trends and emerging industries in mind, let’s look at a freelance virtual assistant working for a digital marketing company.

Assuming they’re working for a digital marketing director, day to day delegation of tasks that a virtual assistant could look after could be scheduling social media content and preparing reports alongside meeting scheduling and managing of events. The need to potentially extend beyond the traditional administrative duties of an assistant and look after day to day work within a company’s specialism is certainly a focus for VAs, and there is an expectation to have this in their skillset.

For many businesses you can also expect VAs to go above and beyond support and delivery tasks by leveraging on their experience and contacts they’ve built up in their career working with other businesses. This can be particularly useful in business development support and the need to drum up new prospects and potential revenue opportunities. Virtual assistants could be expected to work down this avenue alongside their usual duties.

What Should I Look For When Hiring a Virtual Assistant

With virtual assistants being more prevalent in the workforce these days it’s important to have keen eye on the skills and specialisms you’re looking for.

With the very nature of VAs obviously being virtual, the scoping and interviewing process does present some challenges. The risks may even extend to the actual remote working process and not having full visibility on their work and general credentials.

Key character traits such as attention to detail, dependability, communication and time management skills are of course vital. As we’ve alluded to already, skills in whatever vertical you’re hiring in, be it social media or digital content production, are also ones to keep in mind.

Make sure your job description is clear cut on what experience and expectations you have over the role. Reponses to this job description, be it on a freelance marketplace site like PeoplePerHour or elsewhere, are likely to be plentiful, allowing you to have a large talent pool to choose from. This can be overwhelming and you’ll likely have to filter through quite a few bogus applicants which can be tedious, though like looking through any plethora of CVs you may receive for a job description you should know what you’re looking for based on what we’ve outlined.

When looking for a VA make sure they have a specialism and experience that sets them apart from the rest and marries up with your company or client base focus. Be sure to open up interactions that go beyond messaging and email exchanges and keep in touch via regular video calls and catchups to assess project status and tasks for the day.

All in all..

Like many virtual and remote-based positions the pros of a hiring a freelance virtual assistant, from business cost saving to increased flexibility, are certainly quite prevalent. There are many tools and communication methods out there to make this work smoothly and as we’ve highlighted, there are additional perks involved such as supplementary skills that can all contribute to your business operation.

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