When you have a small business, every penny counts, so it might be hard to justify the expense of hiring a part-time or full-time employee just to field phone calls, make appointments or type up documents. Nonetheless, these tasks are not only time-consuming but vital to the smooth operation of any business. The rise of the internet makes it easier than ever to hire virtual assistants (VA) for one-time tasks or more regular work, even full-time assistance.
We originally looked at 18 companies, including professional organizations like IVAA and freelance sites like Upwork. There were sites that let you post projects for bids, and some that specialized in personal errands. We looked for companies that had the potential to provide long-term, qualified help. These companies had their own vetting processes and guarantees, sparing you the time and energy of doing background checks, interviews and performance tests to make sure you have a qualified and trustworthy individual.
Our buying guide reflects virtual assistant companies that cater to businesses rather than personal errands (although a few do more social tasks as well). We present some of the best here for your consideration. To learn more about how to get the most out of employing a VA, check out our articles.
Best Virtual Assistant for Traditional Office Work
Time etc offers U.S.-based virtual assistants who are highly qualified and come from successful companies like Apple and Virgin because they are interested in working at home. They have an entrepreneur focus and can write and edit content; handle basic administrative tasks; and assist you with social media marketing, research, and sales. It offers a free one-task trial and a money-back guarantee.
Time etc is a virtual assistant service focused on serving busy entrepreneurs. In addition to having a dedicated assistant to handle your day-to-day tasks, you also have access to a team of specialists who can handle tasks requiring more expertise. The assistants are available to you free with your plan; you simply pay the hours. It offers a free trial and a 100 percent money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied.
Best Virtual Assistant for Spanish/English Office Work
Uassist.ME is based in El Salvador, but its employees have all worked in the U.S. and should speak and write English fluently. Employees all have experience in business, marketing, communications, design, translating, customer service or law. They can handle general administrative duties, from fielding phone calls to setting appointments as well as bookkeeping, graphic design and social media networking. They work standard business hours and you can employ them for as little as 20 hours a month or as much as full time.
Although it's based in El Salvador, Uassist.ME is a virtual assistant service that offers virtual assistant services in the United States. With this company, you work directly with a dedicated assistant who can handle administrative duties such as answering phone calls, booking travel and managing emails. These assistants are bilingual and are able to handle writing assignments as well.
Best Offshore Virtual Assistant Service
24/7 Virtual Assistant has employees around the world and offers two types of plans: The U.S. plans are for American virtual assistants. The prices are higher, but you have a virtual assistant who lives in the U.S. and is fluent in English and versed in American culture. They work standard American business hours. The offshore plans are for assistants in other nations. The plans per hour are cheaper and they may work different hours. These virtual administrative assistants all speak English but may also be fluent in other languages as well. They are qualified for basic administrative tasks, plus bookkeeping and sales. Some are also qualified real estate agent VAs.
24/7 Virtual Assistant
24/7 Virtual Assistant assigns you a dedicated virtual assistant to handle day-to-day tasks, but also offers a support team for times when you have a more complex task or a project requiring more specialized skills. It offers part-time to full-time services, and has two sets of plans: U.S.- based virtual administrative assistants and offshore assistants.
Best Virtual Assistant for Technical or Specialized Tasks
Virtual Assist USA assistants can handle a wide range of tasks and have familiarity with programs and tools for administrative, marketing, web, graphic design, social media marketing, search engine optimization, copywriting, content development, video editing, business consulting and web design. The company provides continuing training to keep its employees skilled in the latest business technologies. In addition, it has VAs qualified to build business strategies, create business systems, handle public relations and do SWOT analyses. Finally, it can handle last-minute emergency requests.
Virtual Assist USA
Based in the United States, Virtual Assist USA offers dedicated virtual assistants from a large corps of individuals who have experience and education in areas such as administrative and human resources, marketing, public relations and customer service. It also has expertise in business strategy, project management, business plans, and competitive and market research.
Best Virtual Assistant for Odd Jobs
Sometimes, it's not the simple task of scheduling appointments and proofing documents that eats your time so much as running to the post office to pick up a package or setting up the new displays. Sometimes, especially for small business owners, it can be a challenge just to get to the grocery store. Therefore, not all virtual assistant companies focus on general administrative tasks or webwork. There are a few that, while operating on the cloud, offer on-location, in-person help for physical tasks like:
- Running errands
- Manual labor
- Moving boxes
- Minor repairs
These often call from a pool of freelancers who have had background checks and are experienced, and the companies have insurance in case of accidents.
TaskRabbit connects you to ready workers in your local area who can assist not only in administrative and other tasks virtually, but also with running errands, cleaning, basic handyman work, and more. This app-based service lets you send in your task and time you need it done, and the company assigns someone in your area to do it. You pay them via the app as well. Employees undergo a background check and go through orientation to make sure they provide excellent service. The company insures all tasks to $1 million.
When my uncle owned a small manufacturing business in the 80s, he sometimes needed part-time help for packing shipments, cleaning the manufacturing floor or other manual labor tasks. He'd go to a specific street corner where men hung out waiting for jobs. He'd call out his need, his price and how many he could hire. They'd all head to the shop where they worked for the day, week or until the job was done.
Best 24/7/365 Virtual Assistant
Based in India and the Philippines, Tasks Everyday offers VAs that work different shifts to provide round-the-clock support to its customer base. Your dedicated VA works the shift best suited to your work schedule, but if you have needs during their off hours, you should be able to arrange for assistance.
Tasks EveryDay is the cheapest virtual assistant company we included in our buying guide, but lower price does not mean lower quality. This company has video testimonials online from satisfied customers around the world. Its customers get competent virtual office assistants while the employees earn a good living and work in an encouraging environment. It also offers assistants with specialized skills including bookkeeping, web design and customer support.
Best Virtual Assistant for Non-Standard Work Hours
If you don't want to hire offshore VAs, then Red Butler is your best bet for highly qualified assistants who work outside business hours. The company's regular hours run 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific Time, giving you 12 hours of coverage. It uses a team of virtual administrative assistants, under a dedicated account manager with some plans that offer a one-hour turnaround time on tasks. It handles basic administrative tasks and works with Fortune 500 companies, so it vets its employees to get the most competent and experienced.
Red Butler is a virtual assistant company that works 12 hours a day in U.S. time zones. It offers virtual administrative assistants who can do basic executive assistant tasks and are experienced. Many also work with Fortune 500 companies. The plans offer flexibility, and there are benefits for clients, including discounts and upgrades to restaurants, hotels and businesses. You do not have a dedicated assistant, but the higher plans have a dedicated account manager as your point of contact (POC).
Hiring a Virtual Assistant: What to Consider, What to Ask
Certainly, you'll want to put as much care into selecting a virtual assistant company as you would hiring an on-location employee. However, these companies help remove some of the time and worry by vetting employees for skill and education. As with any of the virtual assistant services in our guide, you can rest assured the assistants are capable of handling the tasks advertised on the websites.
You can also find the hours that assistants are available. This is vital information if you work an odd schedule, such as a catering service for the holidays or are a U.S.-based company whose customers or suppliers reside mostly overseas.
While VAs can handle many tasks, if you have specialized procedures or work in a field that requires specialized knowledge, you should not only ask if they have an employee that fits your needs but also how training works. Do you pay the assistant for the hours you spend teaching him or her, or does the company cover that? If you have a company manual or style guide, does your assistant study that on his or her own time?
Some companies specifically say they train backups in case something happens to your primary virtual office assistant. Ask for details on this, especially if you have specialized needs.
Also important to ask is the procedures if your assigned assistant does not work out, either because of skill, communication issues or because their personality doesn't match the culture and brand of your business. As with on-site employees, not every virtual assistant is a good fit.
General Administrative Services
Virtual administrative assistants, at the core, provide executive assistance, and they work remotely. VAs are skilled at basic administrative functions, such as:
- Taking calls
- Scheduling appointments
- Entering data
- Travel arrangements
- Creating or proofreading documents
- Creating presentations
You'll set your assistant up with a company email for correspondence. Your own communication with the VA can take place via phone, email, project management software or a dedicated app.
Not all virtual assistant companies require employees to have a degree for doing general administrative work, but all the companies we selected for our guide vet their applicants thoroughly, looking for expertise and experience.
You should be allowed to see your potential virtual office assistant's credentials and interview him or her beforehand to ensure the person speaks English understandably (if you are hiring from an offshore service) and that the person's personality matches and reflects your company's image. You can also ask for a writing sample, if writing comprises an important part of the tasks you'll assign.
U.S. Based or Offshore?
If you work odd hours, have a large clientele in nations other than the United States, or want someone fluent in another language without paying extra for the service, an offshore virtual assistant company can be your best choice. Often the prices are cheaper because the cost of living is lower, but assistants are still educated and experienced.
Also, if you work with people who predominantly speak languages other than English, many virtual assistant companies can offer assistants fluent in other languages. In some cases, the assistants may now live in other countries but were educated or worked in the U.S. or the United Kingdom.
What if You Have Specialized Tasks?
If you only need specialized tasks, a VA might not be the best choice. Here are some tasks that may be best accomplished by dedicated services. Click the links to see our recommendations.
- Accounting Services
- Virtual IT Services
- eCommerce (Some services build and maintain your store for you with an upgraded plan.)
- Website Design Services
- One-time projects. While virtual assistant companies provide a ready pool of qualified employees, it might be more cost effective to check out crowdsourcing and freelance boards when you just need to hire someone for a single project.
If, however, you need a virtual assistant for a few hours' work a month but also have special projects that need to be done, then a virtual assistant with extra skills or who can pull other employees from the company for specialized tasks can give you the convenience of working with a point of contact you already have a relationship with and who knows your company. Most assistant companies list their specializations on their websites, but be sure to ask about specifics, especially specialized knowledge, programs or needs.
Virtual Assistants Save You Time & Money
In the past, business owners and upper management had the choice of handling all their administrative tasks themselves or hiring a part-time or full time virtual assistant, with all the time and expense of interviewing and training them, and putting them on payroll. VAs offer a third option of an already trained and qualified executive assistant who works just as hard for you but from a remote location. The virtual assistant company handles the vetting and general training, plus all the necessary employment requirements. You supply the training specific to your company, if needed, and then task your new assistant as you would someone in your office.
The right virtual office assistant can free you up to tackle the important work of your company – or make it possible for you to leave the office early, secure in the thought that you accomplished the strategic work of your business as well as the day-to-day minutiae.