What’s a virtual assistant? People ask me this question constantly and it seems so hard for me to answer. I mean, to me, virtual assistants can be almost anything, to almost anyone. They can do design work, they can SEO your website, they can proof read, they can help you screen emails, they can even call to reschedule your dentist appointment. A virtual assistant in the most basic terms is an independent contractor, from anywhere in the world, that ‘virtually’ commutes (be it via telelphone, skype or email) and does tasks you assign them for a set hourly or monthly pay.

A brief history of virtual assistants

First, virtual assistants are often called VA’s (for obvious abbreviation reasons). Often this is confusing when I tell someone “yeah, my VA is on it” because they’re imagining someone who fought in World War 2 checking my inbox and helping me SEO my website (VA also = veteran’s association in the US). So it’s easier to just say virtual assistant.

No one is sure exactly when the concept of virtual assistants started, it probably was born around the same time people realized they could start outsourcing projects and other IT related stuff to different countries for less. A really boring article, here, states that the first VA was used between 1995-97, but who knows for sure.

What we do know is that when people started realizing they could hire a kick butt virtual assistant in the Philippines for $5 an hour and get the same results as hiring a secretary in the states for $15 an hour – the peer to peer outsourcing world started to take off.

Why virtual assistants are cheaper

Virtual assistants are less expensive for two reasons, one is that often they are in a country where the currency exchange is favorable for the employer – now that doesn’t mean you’re ripping someone off – I have had several virtual assistants in the Philippines who I pay between $5-8 an hour and who live better than I do. This includes having maids and nannies! Instead it just means that the US dollar goes a lot farther in say the Ukraine than it does in say, Los Angeles. The cost of living, eating and everything is far cheaper there – so their hourly rate is less.

Another reason virtual assistants are cheaper is because you don’t hire them for 40 hours a week + overhead + medical, etc. Instead you hire them just to do what you need done – period. So if I need a logo done I pay a virtual assistant or freelancer $100 for an amazing logo…

… and then I get this! Easy, breezy! Another option is hiring a virtual assistant to work a set number of hours for you each week – being careful not to cross the line of having them as an employee for tax reasons (The IRS will be down your throat) and it’s still often far cheaper than having someone in house.

I have another great designer, who works usually 10 hours a week for me for $10 an hour = $100. That means every week I get roughly 10 hours of design work for a price that I could not find here in the bay area.

Why you should hire a virtual assistant

I hire virtual assistants all the time because they are cheaper, often more experienced and always virtual, a big bonus when I’m traveling constantly and trying to build a business that is location independent. Virtual assistants force you to delegate tasks and take an honest look at your business model. Instead of spending 8 hours bs-ing with an in house employee while you ‘try’ and get work done – you send off the tasks to be done for the day and the next morning wake up and they are completed. This gives you hours and hours of beautiful, focused work time!

If you are looking to hire a virtual assistant to help you with any number of tasks be sure to check out Zirtual which matches you with a virtual assistant that will meet your needs – guaranteed

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  • http://twitter.com/jenfromal Jen Fromal

    I’m totally down with the Virtual Assistant trend. I love that more and more people are redefining what an office is and how work “should” be done. One very efficient and focused worker is definitely better than a couple lackluster cubicle dwellers.

    • http://www.Escapingthe9to5.com/ Maren Kate

      definitely! it’s the idea of “cloud commuters” that I love – for both sides, the entrepreneur and the VA :)

  • http://twitter.com/jenfromal Jen Fromal

    I’m totally down with the Virtual Assistant trend. I love that more and more people are redefining what an office is and how work “should” be done. One very efficient and focused worker is definitely better than a couple lackluster cubicle dwellers.

    • http://www.VirtualZeta.com Maren Kate

      definitely! it’s the idea of “cloud commuters” that I love – for both sides, the entrepreneur and the VA :)