The Pros and Cons of Virtual Assistants for Small Businesses | Nan McKay


I am a big proponent of virtual assistants for small businesses, especially online businesses and startups.

A virtual assistant is an independent worker who assists with administrative, business development, social media, other marketing, or other tasks. Taking on recurring tasks and administrative work frees up time for small-business owners, entrepreneurs, and managers.

The virtual assistant works remotely, often from a home office. Virtual assistants may be U.S.-based but may also be located in another country. Virtual assistants have become incredibly popular with small businesses over the past decade because they are a flexible workforce. A virtual assistant can be part-time or full-time, depending on your requirements. Need twenty hours a week? No problem. Need thirty hours? What about forty? Virtual assistants are available. Virtual assistants may be paid an hourly rate, or they can get paid a fixed fee per week or month.

There is no overtime because they accept the job or they don’t. Your only control over the hours they work is your agreement upfront, but the agreement is usually on a job basis – a project – or a monthly basis. Not on the number of hours they work per week.

Since many virtual assistants live in different parts of the world, the hours you communicate may be different, which should be discussed upfront. Their night may be your day and vice versa.

The benefit is that you do not have the same level of government reporting, and, especially if you go through a service such as Upwork and Fiverr, you don’t have the tax concerns. Of course, there is a “however.” You do have the supervision concerns, and those are sometimes more difficult because of language barriers, the clear expectations of what you want as the service delivered, and the timeframe for delivery.

I am also a big proponent of spending your time on things you are best at and letting someone else help you with the tasks you aren’t good at or don’t’ know. Be careful, though. Get a commitment upfront and try them out – which is another benefit of virtual assistants with a service. If you don’t like their work or you don’t get the outcome you are looking for, you can simply not use them in the future. It’s not like firing an employee. Unless you have used them a long time – then you are going to feel an obligation to them and it’s harder to let them go.

And if you can hire them on a monthly basis if you have ongoing tasks, you don’t have to monitor the individual tasks like you would otherwise. It depends on what you want them to do, of course.

The bottom line is that it will be an expense, and you have to provide clear direction and follow-up. It is more like project management than employee supervision.

Today, virtual assistants tend to specialize so, if you have a specific project to get done, you may want a variety of virtual assistants.

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