Wondering if you should hire a virtual assistant vs a remote executive assistant? Consider these important factors:

A recent study done by the firm TAB showed a surprising statistic – the average entrepreneur spends 68.1% of their time working ‘in’ their businesses on day-to-day tasks and only 31.9% of their time working ‘on’ their business (important business development tasks like setting long-term goals, strategic planning, etc.). 
Even more surprising was that within that 68%, the second biggest time-suck was administrative tasks (scheduling, travel arrangement, contracts, responding to emails, etc.)  

Almost every business owner and executive knows they should be delegating these non-strategic, yet very important administrative tasks in order to free up their time, but many are not sure where to start, what the options are for hiring an administrative assistant or where to find a great one.

If you’ve found yourself in this position and you’re researching your options, you might be wondering what the difference is in hiring a virtual assistant vs. remote executive assistant?

This article will walk you through the differences, what each type of admin can do, and how to decide which option is best suited for your needs.

Two factors to consider first

Before we dive into the question of virtual assistant vs a remote executive assistant, there are two important lenses through which to evaluate potential solutions:

  1. Experience level
  2. Employment status

Experience Level

With the rapid rise in popularity of remote work, the gig economy and freelancing, thousands of people around the world are hanging out their shingle and declaring themselves ‘remote assistants’ whether virtual assistant or remote executive assistant — and as with many professions there is a wide spectrum of experience, from executive assistants with 10-15 years of experience supporting C-level executives at Fortune 500 companies to young graduates in their first position.  So let’s be clear, all ‘remote assistants’ were not created equal.

The role of an executive assistant doing complex research, scheduling, travel arrangements, etc. is a skill, not something you can pick up overnight. The experience level is a critical consideration.

Employment Status

If you plan to bring someone on board to support you as an assistant, someone that is going to be in the thick of your work, possibly with access to your emails, your schedule, someone who will represent you to clients, suppliers or colleagues, you are no doubt going to want to invest in them and want them to stick around for the long term. 

The employment status of your potential assistant is therefore very important. Typically remote assistants come in two flavors, those hired as contractors or those that are employees, either directly employed by you or employed by a staffing company.  Bear in mind that contractors present both a compliance risk (employee misclassification) and tend to be less stable in terms of long-term retention. 

Employees on the other hand that are properly retained and who receive the benefits of W2 employment tend to be more reliable over the long term.

As a label ‘Virtual Assistant’ and ‘Remote Executive Assistant’ are used in different ways by different staffing companies, so as you do your diligence dig into the experience level and the employment status of the candidates that you are considering.

Virtual Assistant vs a Remote Executive Assistant: What are the differences?

Let’s look at how these two are most frequently defined:

A virtual assistant is usually an administrative professional who works virtually (either independently or for an agency as a 1099 contractor) handling a variety of basic administrative tasks for a business, entrepreneur or executive. Some virtual assistants perform this job as a ‘side-gig’ to their other profession, while some make it a full-time career. 

(The term virtual assistant is now also being used for AI solutions such as SIRI and Alexa, however, that’s not the type of VA we’ll be discussing in this article!)

A remote executive assistant is usually an administrative professional whose work consists of supporting management, including executives, using a variety of project management, communication, and organizational skills. A remote executive assistant typically supports senior executives with scheduling, email management, travel planning, etc and are normally a W2 employee (or team member of a subscription staffing company) who works solely in their position as a remote executive assistant for one or multiple clients. 

In a nutshell, here are some of the key factors you should consider when deciding to bring on a virtual assistant or a remote executive assistant:

  • Do you need a dedicated assistant or do you mind a triage-type solution?
  • What’s the complexity of your tasks and do they require a personal touch?
  • What’s your turnaround time for tasks?
  • What’s your budget?
  • Do you need someone for short-term projects or long-term support?

Let’s break it down further:

Do you need a dedicated assistant solution?

When we use the term ‘dedicated’ here, we mean that you’ll be working with the same person for the long-term on all of your tasks, vs. working with a pool of administrative professionals assigning tasks without knowing who will be taking them on (a triage-type solution).

Because many VAs are contractors without set hours, many virtual assistant companies offer the group or triage approach in order to ensure that client tasks can be covered quickly and that the task can be assigned to a VA who is experienced in that type of task. However, some virtual assistant companies do also offer a dedicated option – you can do some research on those companies here.

Most remote executive assistants are dedicated to one or a few clients at a time and will work with those clients for the long-term (in many cases, years.) Because they will often have experience in all administrative type tasks (and more), they can fully support each client without relying on other outside resources. 

When you’re thinking about the type of solution that’s right for you, it’s important to really look at the type of tasks you’re going to assign. If your tasks require insider-knowledge about your business, a personal touch or a knowledge about your preferences, a dedicated solution will save you much more time in the long run. We’ll discuss this in further detail in the next section. 

Complexity and Sensitivity of your Tasks 

This is often the factor of hiring an administrative professional that trips business owners up the most. Here’s why: A lot of administrative tasks are a lot more involved than they might look on the surface. It’s important to look at your tasks, and think through them step by step. Ask yourself, is it easy for you to do because you already know exactly how you’d like it to be done, or is it something anyone could easily take over? If it’s something that requires more detailed knowledge, hiring a dedicated solution is going to save you much more time in the long-run.

For example, if you need simple tasks done that almost anyone could do like simple research or taking notes on a webinar, using a virtual assistant who you can send a quick task to is a fine solution. 

If your tasks are more complex in nature and require a bit more background information, or you are concerned about how this person would represent your company, it might make more sense to go with a dedicated remote executive assistant who already understands your business, your needs, and your goals. 

For example, if you are looking for someone to help book travel for your team every month and you need them to use a specific booking system, you need them to have all your employee’s passport information, dietary requirements, and window/aisle seat preferences, it will save you insane amounts of time to have a dedicated solution who can gather this sensitive information once, keep it in a safe place and use it again and again. A dedicated executive assistant can even create a ‘travel booking’ SOP for you that can be used time and again. 

It’s also important to consider the sensitivity of your tasks.

For example, while ordering office supplies is something that doesn’t seem complex or sensitive on the surface, you need to ask yourself: ‘Am I comfortable sharing my credit card information with someone I don’t know or haven’t worked with before? Do I trust this person to take my needs and preferences into account?’

A dedicated remote executive assistant can be given your payment information once in a secure way to use on all future orders; not to mention a great dedicated executive assistant will have already identified your brand preferences for supplies and where you like to order from — which saves you time in explaining your task for each occurrence! 

Considering Turnaround Times 

As mentioned above, because many virtual assistant companies work on a triage-system, turnaround times on tasks can be longer than if you were to use a dedicated remote executive assistant. Many of these companies do not require their virtual assistants to respond immediately, and will not have set working hours for each client so be sure to keep that into consideration.

On the other hand, with remote executive assistants (because they are a dedicated solution) turnaround time can be much faster. While even your dedicated remote executive assistant can’t promise 24/7 availability, most set a standard schedule with their clients as to when they’re going to be online, dedicated to your specific needs, and can give you near-immediate responses during those time windows. 

Budget

Using a virtual assistant whom you are either sharing with several other clients or several virtual assistants through a VA service will likely be cheaper than hiring a dedicated remote executive assistant. The price will also depend on the service you use for virtual assistants, whether it’s onshore or offshore, what the experience level of the virtual assistants are, how well they are vetted by the virtual assistant company, (or if they’re independent, what area of the country they are in, etc.) If cost is a deciding factor for you, there are options available to fit almost any budget. 

Because dedicated remote executive assistants typically have more experience (for example, all of Boldly’s executive assistants have 10+ years of experience on average, many working for Fortune 500 companies) your hourly cost is going to be higher. However, because you’re working with a dedicated EA fractionally (for example 60 hours per month) it’s still going to be a more cost-effective option than hiring someone of the same caliber in house. 

Do you need an assistant for short-term projects or long-term support?

Along the same vein as the considerations above, whether or not you need short or long-term support is going to be a big factor in what the right solution is for you. 

If you need short-term or project by project support, you can choose from a plethora of different gig-type options for virtual assistants. Upwork, for example, would be a great place to start. 

In order to have long-term support from a dedicated executive assistant, you need to be sure the company they are working for is dedicated to retaining them as talent. This is going to take some research on your part to figure out which companies take great care of their employees, which companies have great reputations and are dedicated to retaining great people. (Glassdoor is a great place to begin that research!)

Look for companies that employ their dedicated executive assistants as W2 employees and offer them competitive pay and benefits. 

Where to find a great virtual assistant 

So taking all the factors above into consideration, if you’ve decided that a virtual assistant is a great fit for you, a great place to start looking for a solution that fits your needs is virtualassistantassistant.com

This site has real reviews from clients on a wide range of virtual assistant companies, informative cost comparisons, and descriptions of the strengths and weaknesses of the most popular VA companies. It’s a wealth of information to find a company that fits your needs.  

Where to find a great remote executive assistant?

If you want a more permanent high-quality solution and you’ve decided that a dedicated remote executive assistant sounds like the best fit for you, you can either begin by posting the job and recruiting/hiring your remote EA in-house, or you can check out subscription staffing from Boldly

Boldly is a unique solution to hiring quality remote talent that let’s business owners and executives subscribe to incredible remote talent for one simple monthly payment. They can get access to Fortune-500 trained talent for key roles—and for ongoing long-term fits.

This actually solves three problems when looking for a dedicated remote executive assistant:

  1. You won’t need to recruit and hire on your own. (On average, it costs over $4,000 to recruit, and almost $2,000 to train a new in-house employee, on average. That’s before paying any salary.)
  2. These talented remote executive assistants get flexible, stable, W2 employment with benefits and a company focused on their happiness and retaining them for the long-term
  3. You’ll get to work with someone who has been thoroughly vetted and has more than 10+ years of professional experience as an executive assistant, fractionally. 

In fact, premium subscription staffing is getting popular precisely because more leaders demand these advantages: the flexibility to scale quickly, at a lower cost, and without the hassles of recruiting and hiring. 

Whichever solution you decide on, outsourcing your administrative tasks is a step in the right direction

As long as it’s carefully considered, the decision to handoff your administrative tasks is a great one overall that will save you time in your day-to-day so you can begin focusing on the growth and future of your business. 

Here’s to your future success!

So, virtual assistant vs a remote executive assistant — which solution is going to be right for you? If you’re interested in learning more about subscribing to your next remote executive assistant, get in touch here