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What’s The Difference Between A VA And A PA? 5 Factors To Consider

Young woman in bright yellow shirt sitting at computer desk looking at camera

You know that a successful executive doesn’t get by on good ideas alone, but with good help behind them. So you delegate; get others to take care of your business administration and nitty-gritty while you perfect the product.

However, when it comes to your everyday admin, is hiring a personal assistant (PA) the best option? What about a virtual assistant (VA)?

This post will outline the differences and help you decide which one is right for you.

What’s The Difference Between A PA And A VA?

The key distinction between a personal assistant (PA) and a virtual assistant (VA) hinges on whether they provide in-person vs. virtual support. However, with the shift towards remote work, the line between these two roles isn’t as clear as it once was. In fact, you’ll often see these roles used interchangeably, the same way the terms virtual assistant and executive assistant are conflated.

What is a Personal Assistant?

A PA, also sometimes referred to as a personal aide or a personal secretary, does in-person tasks around the office. This can also include personal errands, such as picking out gifts. They’ll often be performing tasks for someone at the manager level or below.

(By contrast, an executive assistant will be directly supporting someone higher in the organization, such as a senior executive or C-Suite leader.)

A personal assistant can do tasks such as:

  • Scheduling
  • Inbox management
  • Printing, sorting, and/or filing documents
  • Ensuring that conference rooms and meeting spaces are set up
  • Delivering and/or picking up important packages or mail
  • Taking meeting notes
  • Sending thank you notes or other small gifts
  • Helping with childcare or grocery shopping
  • Coordinating school or family appointments

While some PAs could be remote, most personal assistant positions require in-person support.

What is a Virtual Assistant?

A VA typically provides low-cost solutions to easy, one-off tasks or iterative tasks that aren’t too complex and don’t require being in the office. While anyone could have a virtual assistant, they’re most often used by entrepreneurs or founders of smaller businesses who aren’t as worried about employment compliance as enterprise corporations.

A virtual assistant can do tasks such as:

  • Basic scheduling
  • Finding and booking restaurants or meeting places
  • Data entry or easy research tasks
  • Rudimentary copyediting

5 Factors To Consider When Deciding Between A PA Or A VA

Although PAs and VAs each have their specialties, there’s a lot of overlap and gray area when trying to decide between them, especially since the pandemic. So how do you decide which one is right for you?

Here are 5 factors to consider when you’re deciding whether to hire a personal assistant or a virtual assistant:

  1. Budget
  2. Office Space
  3. Tech-Savvy
  4. Availability
  5. Reliability

1. What’s Your Budget?

Perhaps one of the biggest concerns is money: how much is it going to cost to maintain each?

The best personal assistants are a long-term commitment; you won’t get someone to sit and take your calls all day and make your bookings without some guarantee of continued employment. Getting to work out their payment is good as you get to budget accordingly, but it’s not the most flexible option.

A virtual assistant is typically pay-as-you-go. If you only need them on Thursdays, that’s fine! They work as and when they’re needed and are paid by the hour, freeing up your time and your budget.

2. Do You Have Office Space?

An in-house personal assistant needs office space to work in, not to mention a computer with the latest up-to-date software packages. They can be a streamlining dream once they’re all set up, but that takes time and money.

A virtual assistant by contrast already has a computer and works remotely from their home or other location. That means you can continue to run your business from home or shared office space without worrying about relocating to a larger office.

3. Tech-Savvy

A personal or virtual assistant has to be efficient; that means training and experience.

Chances are you’ll only hire a PA that knows their way around Microsoft or Google Suite, but can they be trusted to manage your company blog? A PA can become a great company asset in time, but finding the right person takes time and you’ll likely need to provide intensive one-to-one training to ensure that they have the right set of skills for your company.

Many VAs are managed through a virtual assistant company, which is responsible for training and often provides some type of service guarantee.

This means that you can specifically request someone who already has the skills or specific software experience you need and that has been vetted by a reputable company. And if you’re looking for the top virtual assistant companies, we’ve already compiled a list and ranked the best options out there.

4. Availability

Your assistant needs to be around to take care of business as it arises. Is yours?

An in-house assistant is just a stroll down the passage and they’re there at 9 on the dot – traffic permitting. But what if they get sick? Don’t they need a holiday? What does your business do during this period?

Working with a virtual assistant company ensures that you’ll always have a VA on-call, even during annual holidays or when your regular VA is sick. Business needs can shift at a moment’s notice, so having assistance that’s a constant ensures you’re never caught off guard.

5. Reliability + Availability

The best kind of help is the kind you can take with you should you need to work abroad or relocate for personal reasons.

While your personal assistant may be less keen to make the move with you, a virtual assistant is already based elsewhere and your physical location and business geography are inconsequential to the way they work – so they’re always available, even when you’re miles from the office.

A personal assistant and virtual assistant offer different solutions for businesses, and the choice you make comes down to your requirements: traditional, one-to-one interaction or flexibility and virtual efficiency?

Topic: Remote Executive Assistant

About the author Katie Hill is a Content Writer at Boldly, which offers Premium Subscription Staffing for demanding executives and founders. When she isn't writing about remote work or productivity, she can be found adventuring in Colorado's backcountry.

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