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Virtual Assistant or Personal Assistant? What are the Differences?

At a glance, you may think a virtual assistant is the same as a personal assistant, and you will be half-right. Both types of assistants fill the same role and do similar tasks to help their employers grow their business. But despite their similarities, both VAs and PAs operate very differently.

What does a Personal Assistant do?

A personal assistant helps company leaders achieve more crucial goals and complete leadership tasks. They do this by taking on the menial jobs that are too time-consuming or do not require immediate attention. These tasks include filing paperwork, picking up documents, scheduling meetings, and so on. 

What does a Virtual Assistant do?

Virtual assistants are online independent contractors who tackle specific tasks to help an employer grow their business. A VA’s skill set determines the jobs they can take on. So, for example, a social media manager is a virtual assistant who can manage and market your brand on social media. Your choices are flexible when looking for a VA.

What makes them different?

One can easily assume that a personal assistant and a virtual assistant are the same, except one of them works online. They are only similar in what they do for their employers, but they are very different in many ways.

  1. Tasks – As mentioned above, VA’s can take on a variety of tasks based on their skillsets, and so no two VAs will be similar in the same niche or field. Being skilled contractors, they can handle any non-essential or difficult jobs their employers cannot or do not have the time to do.

Personal assistants, on the other hand, are limited to what the employer and their colleagues need doing, ranging from handing out photocopies, taking meeting notes, or organizing travel itineraries.

  1. Workplace – A virtual assistant works remotely from the comfort of their home office, usually alone but sometimes as part of a team. They seek out clients by visiting different job posting sites, like Fiverr or Upwork, and can choose to work with one or more clients at a single time. Consequently, it takes more time to develop trust between the VA and the employer.

While a personal assistant works on-site at the office for a single staff member or group, only doing the tasks assigned to them. A positive thing to point out here is PAs can develop strong working ties with their colleagues since they work in the same space.

  1. Company Costs – Working with a VA can be very cost-effective. Employers only need to pay them for hours worked or per task completed, with a few bonuses for exceptional work. They also do not need to pay for a physical office or give equipment because VAs work remotely using computers and gadgets they already own.

Personal assistants receive a monthly salary (with incentives), are provided with their own working space and office equipment. PAs are great options for big companies but can be costly for small businesses or entrepreneurs with a tight budget.

  1. Hiring – Hiring a VA is relatively easy. Employers can find them by posting a job offer on sites like Upwork and then interview those that are interested. The time spent searching for a virtual assistant can take between a couple of days to a week, depending on the number of interested applicants.

Hiring a personal assistant, however, involves many steps. To get applicants, an employer will need to put out an advert, organize interviews with interested applicants, and then work alongside HR to complete the hiring process. For entrepreneurs or owners of small businesses, this will cost them much of their time and money.

  1. Growth – VAs have multiple opportunities to grow since they are their own boss, and they hold their own time. Virtual assistants can decide what new skills they want to learn or how they want to advance in their online careers. Indecision and the lack of long-term goals are the only obstacles that can hinder a VA’s growth.

Personal Assistants do experience growth and do get the chance to learn new skills. However, those opportunities only come up when a PA gets promoted or when their boss gives them a new set of tasks to do. Thus, the only thing blocking their growth is the lack of (or fewer) opportunities available to them; they have to work for it.

Is One Better than the Other?

To be fair, being a VA may not always be better than being a PA. Some personal assistants work more closely with their bosses, earn higher pay, and have far better opportunities. While some virtual assistants go from client to client, doing the same thing over and over, content with not growing professionally.

Both fill the roles that help owners grow their business, each one with unique advantages and disadvantages. Hire the one you believe will be more effective for you and your company.

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