what's a virtual assistantNot surprisingly “wait, what’s a virtual assistant” is a question I hear a lot in my line of work. It seems upfront, a virtual assistant is just an assistant who commutes virtually – but there is actually a lot more to a VA than that. In this post I’ll try to break it down without boring you to tears.


I’m independent, yo’

Most of the time the virtual assistant you hire is not considered an “employee” but instead is classified as an “independent contractor”, this distinction may seem small but it actually makes all the difference in the world.

“A virtual assistant (typically abbreviated to VA) is an entrepreneur who provides professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients from a home office. Because virtual assistants are independent contractors rather than employees, clients are not responsible for any employee-related taxes, insurance or benefits. Clients also avoid the logistical problem of providing extra office space, equipment or supplies.”

- Wikipedia’s definition of a virtual assistant

Note the benefits of having an VA as an independent contractor versus an employee, like not having to pay employee-related taxes and avoiding the extra cost of office space, etc. The great thing about hiring a quality virtual assistant is that they come trained for basic tasks and are ready to get to work “out of the box” versus a traditional employee which you’d have to house, train and sign lengthy contracts with.

Still, important differences between an independent contractor and an employee should be noted on th IRS website. There is no set-in-stone way to determine which is which (it’s more of a mental judgement call) but reading through the IRS’ guidelines can help you make sure you steer clear of their mighty government wrath.

If you’re outside of the USA I’d suggest you look up your own tax codes and employment codes and if you’re hiring a VA who is outside of the USA the rules are different, once again.

Virtual means easier

The thing I love the most about “virtual assistants” is the fact that they’re, well, virtual. This agility and mobility caters well to our busy lives and state of constant motion. I can get in contact with my assistant from email, skype or Yammer – it’s so simple and assigning tasks when you aren’t sitting across from someone makes for a clearer working relationship.

I.E. you don’t waste time chewing the fat or endlessly explaining things, if they have a question they ask and you answer. End of story.

What can a virtual assistant do?

I explain it to people two ways:

  1. What can a personal assistant or executive assistant do? A virtual assistant can do all of those things except they commute virtually so they won’t be able to physically pick up your laundry but they can sure arrange for it to be dropped off over the phone or online.
  2. Write down everything you do over a few days. This means everything from “respond to emails” to “brainstorm new marketing strategy” to “send flowers to mother”. Then with a highlighter mark every task that doesn’t have to be done by you. You’ll quickly see that roughly 80% of the things you do in the day don’t necessarily have to be taken care of by you. Instead with a little training you could delegate most of your daily tasks to your virtual assistant – leaving you with the 20% of the tasks that really mattered.

Is a VA right for you?

Are you busy? Do you feel like you have too much on your plate or not enough time in the day? Are there are variety of tasks you have to get done but hate and/or put off?

Then yep, a VA is right up your alley since they’ll assist you in handling all the small tasks that take up your time. Get started by finding the perfect virtual assistant through Zirtual, just click here to see how we can help.

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