What is a Virtual Assistant and What Does a VA Do

Have you ever wondered how some of those one-person businesses accomplish tasks all over the world, despite being led and operated by, well, just one person?

When I say one-person businesses, I really mean businesses that have just one person working. Not one person working at the helm, but one person working in total.

For those of you reading this blog, who fall in that category, will you stop smiling and tell us your secret? How do you do it? How do you manage so many tasks without even breaking a sweat?

Because those of us, who can relate to it and can feel the pain, would love to know the answer. 

We might be known by different names. Some of us like to be called marketing agency owners, while others prefer the term entrepreneurs. But, our pain points are the same.

We’re people who have multiple clients under our belt, have almost hundreds of emails coming in every hour to our mailboxes, and are looking for ways to scale our business effectively.

So, what’s the answer?  A virtual what? A virtual assistant? Now, what the heck is a virtual assistant?

What is a virtual assistant

A virtual assistant (VA), as the name implies, is an assistant that helps and supports your business virtually. This does not mean that she/he is a robot. It simply means that the person is based at a remote location and is trained to facilitate you and your business when called upon.

It’s the advancement of technology that makes this process a possibility because businesses no longer need people to be present in the same room or even the same location for them to work.

The presence of the internet, along with document-sharing and other business-related software, makes it easier for people to work remotely and makes it convenient for companies to function.

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Since virtual assistants work on their own from a remote location, businesses can save extra expenses related to their location and equipment costs. Furthermore, the assistants can hit the ground running with minimal or no training, thereby enabling companies to save time and effort.

In fact, saving time, effort, and cost are the major reasons why businesses surge towards getting virtual assistants onboard. By outsourcing their internal processes, companies can spend more time focusing on the important aspects of their business, while the VAs do the heavy lifting.

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While businesses can hire virtual assistants for any and every possible function, some of the more common services among the VA circles are social media management, video editing, website design, administrative tasks, among other things.

How to hire a virtual assistant

The process of hiring a virtual assistant can depend on the tasks that businesses are looking to fulfill. While for some companies the process is not time-consuming since all they need a VA for is a one-time task, others might spend days in hiring one due to the complex nature of the work.

Hiring process

Since the internet plays a vital role in allowing virtual assistants to be of service to businesses, it’s the internet only where businesses can hire the VAs depending on their requirements.

To start off, companies must post the details of the tasks, for which they need to hire the virtual assistants, on multiple online platforms that act as intermediaries between the two. These tasks could be anything from managing time-consuming emails to handling your social media needs.

After that, depending on the VA responses that they receive, the portfolio of work that the VAs share, and the most viable cost of hiring, companies can proceed with getting the VAs onboard.


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In some instances, there might also be a bidding process involved, where numerous virtual assistants bid for a specific task that they would like to work on, thereby giving companies plenty of options to choose from.

Companies might also choose to hold video interviews with their shortlisted virtual assistants in order to understand them better, and assess their skills and credentials in a deeper way.

Finally, once a virtual assistant is finalized, companies have the choice of either hiring VAs on a full-time contract basis or a service-based freelancing basis. While both routes have their pros and cons, it’s the flexibility of the process that provides businesses with the value they’re after.

Hiring challenges

One of the biggest challenges that businesses face when it comes to hiring VAs, who act as freelancers, is shortlisting candidates based on a variety of factors. These include their wages, expertise, scope of work, and past proof of performance.

virtual assistant upwork comparison

As it is evident in the image above, if a business wants to hire a virtual assistant, it will have to put in a lot of time to first shortlist one candidate and then interview them to bring onboard.

Would you choose the VA that charges you $50 an hour, has a 98% success rate, and is based in Colombia or the one that charges $35 an hour, has a 92% success rate, and is in the USA?

While this process doesn’t seem tedious at the onset, the harsh reality is that time is of the utmost importance for businesses that are just beginning to scale. The truth is that they might not have the time and power to put in that extra effort to negotiate pricing and scope of work.

But, not all VA-providing platforms are the same. While some might have a more hands-on approach, where companies are required to put in extra efforts to hire VAs, there are others where most services have fixed prices and businesses can hire teams instead of freelancers.

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What does a virtual assistant do

Apart from bringing you your coffee, there’s isn’t anything that a virtual assistant can’t do.

Depending upon what businesses need them for, virtual assistants can assist with almost every work-related task. As mentioned before, among other things, some of the most common tasks that virtual assistants have under their belts are social media management, operational and administrative tasks, website design, community management, and content management.

In addition to those, companies can hire role-specific VAs to handle specialized duties as well. In these scenarios, virtual assistants have a specific skill set that only allows them to tackle just one domain. For example, sales and marketing, public relations, or customer service.

virtual assistant what Vendasta does

While having a virtual assistant does provide businesses with the value to save time, money, and effort, there is a flip side to the whole concept as well.

Since most VAs are freelancers, who work on their own accord, there’s no assurance for companies that the work outsourced to them will be completed on time. Furthermore, since most VAs work alone and from remote locations, there’s no way for businesses to supervise them and ensure that the VAs are paying attention to details as desired.

Therefore, before getting a virtual assistant onboard, businesses must make sure that the VAs understand the task at hand and are clear about the instructions and their deliverables. One way to ensure that is to have a proper written framework for tasks that need to be completed.

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Why should you hire a virtual assistant

The simplest reason for most companies to hire virtual assistants is to have efficient business operations in place. Hiring VAs enables businesses to employ reasonable resources to fulfill tasks that internal employees either don’t have the time for or aren’t qualified enough to tackle.

Some of the reasons why businesses must hire virtual assistants are:

Reduced operational costs

It goes without saying how hiring VAs can help businesses save money through reduced operational costs. In contrast to hiring someone internally, hiring a VA gives companies operational flexibility since they don’t have to worry about equipment and benefits expenses.

Furthermore, since the concept of a virtual assistant states that the person would be providing his/her services on a contract basis, VAs have an unsaid understanding with companies to not expect payments in case they breach that contract by not working or not producing deliverables. 

Time management

Hiring virtual assistants empowers businesses to utilize their time more efficiently. For example, would you rather waste four hours a day doing tedious tasks like cleaning out your inbox or spend those four hours conceptualizing innovative strategies to help your business prosper?

That’s a no-brainer, right? Having VAs working for you to handle such tasks that you consider wasteful, helps you regain lost time that you can invest on your business rather than in it.

However, businesses must be wary of those freelancing platforms that provide VA services in a manner that ends up making them waste more time searching, instead of helping them save it.

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Decreased workload

Have you ever been in a situation where you missed your kid’s hockey game or a dance recital because you were either too busy handling ‘things’ or because ‘something came up’ at work?

Saving time and decreasing your workload go hand-in-hand when it comes to outlining benefits of hiring virtual assistants. Having VAs, who can handle those ‘things’ or tackle that ‘something at work,’ can help you get more time and therefore reduce your increased workload.

Brand Improvement

The benefits of building an organic brand presence far outweigh the benefits of paid advertising. Not only does organic growth help reduce the financial burden on a business, but it also helps get more inbound leads, which all business owners would agree is the best form of marketing.

Getting virtual assistants on board helps businesses focus on multiple tasks at the same time, thereby giving them the ability to focus on the important things like improving their brand equity. Such a practice helps them increase their organic consumer traction and scale their business.


Access to more skills

One of the foremost reasons why entrepreneurs and one-person businesses hire virtual assistants is to get easy access to skills and expertise, which otherwise would either be too costly or too time-consuming to employ.

Imagine you’re an entrepreneur running a marketing agency. One of the first things that you need to do, in order to attract potential customers, is to fill your marketing stack with services like website design and social media management. 

While you can choose to do so by going the longer route of hiring internally, the option of hiring ready-to-employ virtual assistants is the more beneficial route since it enables you to hit the ground running in no time in a much more cost-effective manner.

Quality service

There might be instances where hiring a virtual assistant wasn’t a good experience for a business due to the absence of robust guidelines. However, most of the time hiring VAs leads to companies getting access to hard working individuals, who insist on delivering quality service.

One can argue that VAs might be able to deliver more value than internal employees, but at the end of the day it all depends on how professional and focussed an individual is.

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How can Vendasta help you

When it comes to fulfillment work, there are a lot of options present in the market today for businesses to hire virtual assistants. However, if you’re looking to enjoy an amalgamation of saving time, providing proof of performance, and scaling operations, then choose Vendasta.

Vendasta’s marketing services not only gives you access to best-in-class talent to fulfill your tasks, but it also has a proper laid-out process in place that helps you save time.

It is common knowledge that most businesses venture towards hiring VAs because they want to save time, rather than waste it. And one of the biggest challenges with some of the VA platforms like Upwork and Fiverr is that often businesses end up wasting time trying to find the perfect fit.

This happens because these platforms leave it to the businesses coming to them to find the perfect virtual assistant on their website by weighing the pros and cons of those individual VAs. Businesses waste time playing the role of HR instead of being innovative and productive.

In Vendasta’s case, once businesses hire their white-labeled marketing services team to handle tasks, they can be assured that their tasks will be completed in a timely manner through our in-house (not offshore) strategists, who bring in years of expertise and experience.

Furthermore, businesses can sit back and relax without having to worry about which virtual assistant to choose, while maintaining their brand identity and not losing touch with their values.

Lastly, when businesses hire virtual assistants from Vendasta, they also get access to a world-class end-to-end commerce platform that helps them scale without increasing costs.

So, what are you waiting for? Happy hiring!

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About the Author

Ankur is a former Content Marketing Specialist at Vendasta with years of experience in marketing communications and journalism. When he's not writing blogs and producing content, he can be found tweeting, playing the guitar, and watching sports.

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