Time is money—and spending it on routine clerical tasks can come with high opportunity costs for the time-pressed business owner. That’s why many entrepreneurs, enabled by new technologies and platforms, are contracting virtual assistants.

A virtual assistant (VA) is anyone who can be hired to perform clerical or administrative tasks from outside of your office—even from another country. They can manage calendars, book travel, transcribe audio files, update websites, do light bookkeeping, make calls and even respond to customer service emails, according to Chris Ducker, entrepreneur and author of Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business. “Delegating these small tasks begins freeing up extra time for you each day. Ten minutes here and thirty minutes there can add up quickly,” he writes.

In a long-term relationship, a VA can reduce full-time labor costs by handling dedicated tasks, says Eunice Joshua Clarke, director of marketing at the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA). VAs can also be hired for individual projects on a short-term basis, enabling small businesses to quickly scale up when needed.


Quality of Work May Vary

Small businesses should be cautious when hiring, as there is a wide spectrum of candidate experience and qualifications. IVAA maintains a directory of qualified VAs on its website, and online platforms such as Zirtual.com can vet and validate candidates. If you’re hiring through a site like Upwork.com or Freelancer.com, seek a candidate with high ratings and positive feedback.


The cost of a virtual assistant can range from $3 per hour for workers in India and the Philippines to $30 and up for U.S. workers through agencies, depending on the skill level required. VAs can also work on a per-project basis.


Hiring VAs is a learning process and may require trying out a couple of candidates before finding the right fit,


  • Start by testing candidates with small, clearly defined projects before moving on to regular work


  • Create training documents or videos so that new VAs can quickly be brought up to speed


  • Use collaborative software solutions such as Teamwork, Trello or Slack, and hold weekly planning calls



Working with a virtual assistant can provide great value, but as with hiring an employee, success depends on finding the right person. Says Clarke, “You’re ultimately taking a chance on a human and hoping they do a good job to serve your needs.”



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