Personal Assistant vs. Virtual Assistant [Is there a difference?]

You know you need help with your administration tasks, but are you unsure whether to hire a personal assistant (PA) or a virtual personal assistant (or remote personal assistant)? To decide on the best option, you must assess your needs, your management style, and the cost impact of either option on your bottom line. But first, let’s clarify the difference between these two types of office support.

Personal assistants have been around for centuries, dating back to the days of royal courts and wealthy households. In the early 20th century, PAs became more common in business as secretaries and administrative assistants. PAs typically work on-site for their employer, and their duties can include a wide range of tasks, such as scheduling appointments, managing correspondence, and providing general support.

Virtual personal assistants are a newer phenomenon, emerging in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the rise of the internet and cloud computing. Virtual personal assistants work remotely and can be located anywhere in the world. Virtual personal assistants typically offer the same range of services as PAs. Still, they may also have specialized skills in social media management, web design, or graphic design.

The roles of PAs and Virtual personal assistants have evolved to reflect the changing needs of businesses and individuals. Today, PAs are often seen as strategic partners to their employers, providing valuable insights and advice. Virtual personal assistants offer companies a more flexible and cost-effective way to get administrative support.

In the next section, we’ll examine the critical differences between PAs and Virtual personal assistants and help you decide which type is right for you.

Critical Differences Between Personal Assistants and Virtual Assistants

Personal assistants (PAs) and virtual personal assistants (VPAs) provide administrative support to professionals and businesses. However, with digitalization and the impact of globalization, a new breed of PA has emerged. This position has helped many large international companies become more agile and operate cost-effectively. However, there are some critical differences between the two roles: 

  • Work location: PAs typically work on-site for their employer, while virtual personal assistants work remotely.
  • Cost:  Virtual personal assistants are typically more cost-effective than PAs, as they do not require office space or other benefits.
  • Flexibility: Virtual personal assistants offer more flexibility regarding hours and scheduling.
  • Skills: Virtual personal assistants may have specialized skills in areas such as social media management, web design, or graphic design, in addition to traditional administrative skills.

Personal Assistant Vs. Virtual Assistant Tasks and Responsibilities

What does a personal assistant do?

A personal aide is an on-site aide to a manager or executive, helping the boss with time-consuming administration tasks. These tasks can vary but typically include the following: 

  • Acting as the first point of contact – usually answering phone calls
  • Organizing the manager’s diary, such as setting up appointments and meetings
  • Making all travel arrangements for the manager. This can include flights, hotel stays, and transport for business trips
  • Assisting with arrangements for events or conferences
  • Helping to prepare presentations and reports
  • Acting as the link between clients, staff, and suppliers, and the manager
  • Other miscellaneous tasks

Bosses sometimes charge their assistants to purchase birthday gifts for their wives or collect their dry cleaning. Not being part of their job description can detract from time spent on directly work-related duties.

Are there any tasks that only a personal assistant can perform?

Yes, there are some tasks that only a personal assistant can perform, such as:

  • Providing on-site support: PAs can provide on-site support to their employers, such as helping them prepare for meetings, manage their office environment, and run errands. This type of support is not possible for VPAs who work remotely.
  • Handling sensitive or confidential information: In some cases, PAs may be required to handle sensitive or personal data on behalf of their employers. This type of information is not typically shared with VPAs due to security concerns. 
  • Providing personal care or assistance: In some cases, PAs may be required to provide personal care or service to their employers, such as helping them to get dressed or groom themselves. VPAs do not typically offer this type of assistance.

How much does it typically cost to hire a personal assistant?

The cost of hiring a personal assistant varies depending on several factors, including the PA’s experience, skills, and location. In the United States, the average salary for a personal assistant is $51,000 per year. However, salaries can range from $30,000 to $70,000 annually or even higher for PAs with specialized skills or experience.

Are personal assistants more or less available than virtual assistants?

Virtual assistants are typically more available than personal assistants. This is because VPAs can be located anywhere worldwide and work during convenient hours for their clients. On the other hand, personal assistants are typically limited to working hours that are convenient for their employers.

What does a virtual personal assistant do? 

By contrast, a virtual personal assistant (VPA) works remotely. The assistant can be in the same country as their employer or in a completely different part of the world. The VPA relies on modern communication tools such as telephones, the internet, and various communication apps to communicate with their employer and complete their daily tasks.

A virtual personal assistant can perform the same tasks as an administrative assistant but naturally cannot be present. In addition, a virtual PA typically works fewer hours. The virtual assistant is paid hourly, so the virtual personal assistant is much more cost-effective, especially in the long run. For instance, PayScale has stated that a personal aide can cost a company $23k – $63k annually. Compare that with a virtual personal assistant earning $21k – $57k annually. Hiring a virtual assistant is much lower than hiring an on-site employee.

Are there any tasks that only a virtual assistant can perform?

Yes, there are some tasks that only a virtual assistant can perform, such as:

  • Accessing and managing online accounts: Virtual personal assistants can access and manage their clients’ online accounts, such as social media accounts, email accounts, and e-commerce accounts. This can be helpful for clients who need help managing their online presence or who need assistance with tasks such as customer service or order fulfillment.
  • Providing technical support: Virtual personal assistants with specialized technical skills can give technical support to their clients. This can include troubleshooting computer problems, installing software, and managing networks.
  • Working with international clients: Virtual personal assistants are well-suited to working with international clients, especially digital nomads, as they can be located anywhere in the world. This can be helpful for businesses that need support with tasks such as translation, market research, and customer service.

How much does it typically cost to hire a virtual assistant?  

The cost of hiring a virtual assistant is typically lower than the cost of hiring a personal assistant. Virtual personal assistants do not require office space or other benefits. The average hourly rate for a virtual assistant in the United States is $25-$50 per hour. However, rates can vary depending on the VA’s experience, skills, and location.

Are virtual assistants more or less affordable than personal assistants?

Virtual assistants are typically more affordable than personal assistants. Virtual personal assistants do not require office space or other benefits. Additionally, virtual personal assistants often charge by the hour, which can be more affordable than paying a salary for a full-time employee.

Personal Assistant Vs. Virtual Assistant Differences The Pros and Cons of Hiring an Assistant

Money aside, there are pros and cons to hiring either a personal assistant or a virtual personal assistant. For instance, a private helper works during set office hours but can assist anyone. In most cases, such an assistant is used to achieve in-person tasks such as making coffee and carrying out other non-essential errands. Conversely, with a personal VA, the shared duties can be conducted only by arrangement.

Your assistant can be yours exclusively rather than being available to other team members. This is important if you deal with high-level and confidential work you do not want to be leaked. On average, a virtual personal assistant is less prone to taking sick days, which means higher productivity.

Many business executives, especially C-Level executives, are getting used to the concept of a worker working remotely. This will align with the management style they were taught. Also, trust is imperative. Trust is not always instantly achieved. Research by Dirks and Ferrin in their paper, ‘The Role of Trust in Organizational Settings,’ highlighted the importance of trust among members of the same team. Some steps can be taken to build trust between you and your VA. These include installing a time tracker to record what they are working on and tracking the time spent. It is critical to have open communication between you and your VA. This means regular check-ins, similar to those with your in-person staff member. Not only will this build up trust levels, but you will also create a platform for a fruitful working relationship.

How to Increase Your Time by Hiring a Virtual Assistant?

Hiring a virtual assistant can be a great way to increase your time. Here are a few steps you can take to make the most of this opportunity:

Identify your needs

Determine which tasks you would like to delegate to a virtual assistant. This could include scheduling appointments, responding to emails, social media management, and data entry.

Find the right virtual assistant.

Look for a virtual assistant with experience in the specific tasks you need help with. The best is to book a free discovery call with our outsourcing expert.

Establish clear communication

Communicate your expectations and goals to your virtual assistant. This will help them understand how they can best support you and ensure they meet your needs.

Set clear boundaries

Set clear boundaries and expectations for your virtual assistant regarding availability, response times, and communication channels.

Monitor the performance

Monitor the performance of your virtual assistant and give feedback as needed. This will help you identify any areas for improvement and ensure that the work is being done to your satisfaction.

Following these steps, you can use a virtual assistant to increase your time and free up your schedule for other activities.

desk with laptop for personal virtual assistant

Which Type of Personal Assistant Is Right for You?

You should, by now, have a reasonably good idea of the similarities and differences between a personal assistant and a virtual personal assistant. To know which option is best, you must decide on your needs, not forgetting the budget. The answers to these questions may help: 

  • Do I require in-person support? Alternatively, would a virtual assistant be able to handle all my tasks?
  • Is there a need to have a face-to-face meeting with my assistant? Or would a video call suffice?
  • During which hours do I need an assistant?
  • What are my standard deadlines – are they short notice, hourly, or will a few days do? (A PA may best meet short-notice deadlines; however, a virtual PA can help if the deadlines are longer).
  • How much can I afford to pay my assistant according to my budget?

You should be able to make the right choice for yourself and your business. At Aristo Sourcing, we pride ourselves on sourcing only the best virtual personal assistants for our client’s unique needs. For business owners wanting to book your free consultation to hire a virtual personal assistant – we are here to help you.

Personal Assistant Vs. Virtual Assistant Faqs

What is the difference between a personal assistant and a virtual assistant?

The main difference between a personal assistant and a virtual assistant is that a personal assistant works in the exact physical location of their employer, while a virtual assistant works remotely. Personal assistants typically handle various tasks, including administrative duties, scheduling, and personal errands. Virtual assistants also take on a wide range of functions but are more likely to focus on administrative and technical tasks.

What are the pros and cons of hiring a personal assistant?

Personal assistants offer distinct advantages, including providing highly personalized support, working full-time, and managing a broad spectrum of tasks spanning administrative and personal domains. However, drawbacks encompass the potentially high cost of hiring, the need for office space and additional resources, and the limitation of availability, particularly during off-hours and weekends.

What are the pros and cons of hiring a virtual assistant?

Virtual assistants offer cost-effective hiring options and the flexibility to source talent from anywhere globally, ensuring access to specific skills and experience. However, they might lack the physical presence and availability alignment with their employers, potentially necessitating additional training and support for optimal productivity.

How do I find the right virtual assistant for my needs?

There are several ways to find a virtual assistant. However, the most effective way is to book a free consultation with our outsourcing expert, who will assist you with all your questions and compile a profile of the ideal virtual assistant based on your needs.

How do I set clear expectations for my virtual assistant?

It is essential to set clear expectations for your virtual assistant early on. This will help to ensure that they can meet your needs and that you are both satisfied with the working relationship. Here are a few tips for setting clear expectations:

  • Be clear about your goals and objectives. What do you want your virtual assistant to achieve?
  • Provide specific instructions for each task. What are your deadlines and quality standards?
  • Be available to answer questions and provide feedback. 
  • Communicate regularly with your virtual assistant.

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