Whenever we’re looking for a product or service, one of the first questions in our mind is the cost. And so the question, “how much does it cost to hire a virtual assistant?” is probably going to be uppermost in the mind of a small business owner, or entrepreneur, looking for some kind of administrative support.
To answer the question with “it depends” sounds a little evasive but there is some merit in this answer. It depends on the kind of task, or tasks, you’re looking for help with along with the skills and level of experience required for this work.
First let’s clarify what we mean by Virtual Assistant (VA) in the context of this discussion.
We’ll briefly cover what a Virtual Assistant is, how they can help your business and the kind of services they offer. We’ll then move onto the all-important question “how much do Virtual Assistants charge?” along with some other thoughts to consider.
What does a Virtual Assistant do?
A Virtual Assistant is a business owner who specialises in undertaking admin tasks for their clients, who might be a small business owner, entrepreneur or an independent contractor. As the title Virtual Assistant implies, they work remotely, not at their client’s offices.
How can a Virtual Assistant help my business?
A business owner will naturally want to focus on their core activities, the ones that will grow the business. Every company though, no matter it’s size, has its admin and repetitive tasks. The majority of these are necessary to keep everything running smoothly on a day-to-day basis, but they are time consuming.
A Virtual Assistant handles as much or as little of the admin as you want, allowing you to increase your focus on client service and the other activities that lead to business growth.
A Virtual Assistant also helps your business financially.
If you were to employ a PA or admin assistant, not only would you be paying their salary, but you will also be paying additional employment costs, eg employers National Insurance and pension contributions, along with holiday and sick pay.
When hiring a Virtual Assistant, you are only paying for the hours they work for you; the National Insurance and pension costs are their responsibility, and you don’t pay them if they are on holiday or off sick.
What services does a Virtual Assistant offer?
This is where the “it depends” answer to ‘ how much does it cost to hire a Virtual Assistant?’ comes in. Theoretically, anyone you contract to carry out services for you ‘off-site’ could be considered a Virtual Assistant. But for this discussion, we’re focusing on office administration tasks.
Many Virtual Assistants can help with a broad range of admin tasks with some specialising in specific areas. The following is a list of the typical tasks a VA could handle but of course this is not exhaustive:
Minutes - On site or remote
Invoicing Clients (and nudging late payments)
Drafting and formatting correspondence
Create, edit and format documents
Typing up notes
Travel, accommodation and overseas visas
Ad-hoc Administrative Tasks
Social Media Management
So... How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Virtual Assistant?
OK, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
You can literally pay from as little as £5 per hour to £50 or more per hour. This is clearly dependent on many factors, eg the task and skill level required, experience, as already mentioned, and their location (see below).
In the UK, the Association of Professional Virtual Assistants carry out a survey each year asking Virtual Assistants over 70 questions covering a range of topics, including how much does it cost to hire a Virtual Assistant? In 2020, their findings revealed the following:
- The most common hourly rate was between £26 and £30 per hour, charged by 39.7% of the 155 survey participants
- 25.8% charge over £30 per hour
- This means 34.5% charge less than £26 per hour, the majority of which are in the £21 to £25 per hour bracket
- 2% charge over £45 per hour
It’s also worth bearing in mind that although many Virtual Assistants work from home, they still have costs that add up. These include:
- Tax and National Insurance contributions
- Business insurance
- ICO registration and other compliance requirements
- Hardware, eg laptop, monitor, printer etc.
- Office supplies, printer ink, paper etc.
- Lighting, heating
- Continued professional development
How important is location?
By being virtual, your assistant can be based anywhere in the world. And of course this has its financial advantages.
Hiring someone from India or the Philippines is going to be a lot more cost effective than hiring someone in the UK, mainland Europe or the USA.
What’s more, generally speaking, the technical skills and work ethic of people from countries such as India and the Philippines are very high. But it all comes down to what you want from your VA.
There are several things to think about when considering a VA from another country but probably the two biggest ones are the time zone they are in and language.
How important to you is it that your Virtual Assistant is in the same time zone? If, for example, they are based in the Philippines and are 7 hours ahead of you, does that cause you any communication issues?
For some people, this will not be a problem. If you’re hiring someone for tasks such as updating social media accounts, creating content or web design, these can be done at any time. Email and other messaging options make communication simple.
But, if you know there will regularly be times when you want to speak with them directly in the afternoon UK time, will it be frustrating to you when they’ve switched off their laptop? And what about if their work means they deal directly with your clients?
Think about this carefully. It may mean you need someone closer to home.
No matter how good your Virtual Assistant’s spoken English is, if it’s not their first language, their written word may not be grammatically to the standard you require.
Of course you can always edit their work but consider how much time this will take if you have to carefully proof-read every article, blog or social media post they produce.
More importantly though, does any of their work go directly to a client?
It could be emails arranging meetings, reports, customer quotations or any kind of correspondence. If a client, or prospective client, consistently sees poor grammar from your company, it’s not going to do anything for your credibility.
A final point on location is culture.
While the world is a much smaller place and western culture is accessible from most parts of the world these days, countries still retain their own individual cultures. Whether your VA is writing content for you (which you can edit), or interacting directly with your clients, it helps if they have an understanding of the audience their work is speaking to.
Is cost everything?
Working with a Virtual Assistant is all about building a good working relationship. They’re going to be your ‘right-hand’ person, in much the same way as if you employed a Personal / Executive Assistant, so it’s important you can work together from day one.
Obviously, there is no fool-proof way to ascertain whether you’ll ‘get on like a house on fire’ when you interview them but, as well as discussing their experience and skills, take some time to ask about their life outside of work. For this reason when you have your initial discussions, use Zoom, Teams or similar software. It’s a lot easier to get to know someone than on a phone call.
Having a more casual conversation gives you a better feel for who they are as a person.
Ultimately, working with a VA is the same as employing a PA. You have to be able to work together and so it’s vitally important you get on together on a personal level.
Don’t overlook this aspect. If they’re the cheapest but you’re ‘butting heads’ the moment you hire them, it’s not going to end well!
As we’ve seen, the answer to ‘How much does it cost to hire a Virtual Assistant?’ can be anywhere from £5 per hour to over £50 per hour. As with anything in life, you tend to get what you pay for.
The more you pay, the higher the skillset, experience and level of professionalism you get.
Take the time to not only understand what your needs are today but look ahead to your medium and long-term business goals. If you hired a VA for the tasks you need help with today, would they be capable of giving you the service you want in 9, or 12 months, or even 2 years from now when your business has grown?
We’ve already said that working successfully with a Virtual Assistant is about building a good working relationship. If they have helped you on the road to the growth of your business and you then had to replace them, that relationship is gone, and you’ll have to start again. Getting good people is never easy. It may be worth paying for the skillset, experience and professionalism that will be with you for the next 5, or more years, rather than just 12 months.
Location, language and culture can also impact the success, or otherwise, your Virtual Assistant has on your business, so don’t forget to keep these in mind.
While hiring a Virtual Assistant is initially seen as a cost, hiring the right person is really an investment in your business. By taking the low value tasks off your hands, your VA is enabling you to focus on the high value tasks that allow you to grow.
We’re always happy to answer any questions about working with a Virtual Assistant, so please do not hesitate to get in touch.