Imagine someone offered you Fridays off for the rest of your life. How much would you be willing to pay to work only Monday through Thursday? Put another way, what is an hour of your time worth?
Whatever you answer, it’s almost certainly a higher amount than a virtual assistant (VA) charges. There lies the heart of the opportunity presented by VAs: You can delegate your routine work to someone else for a fraction of your time’s value, freeing that time up for things like friends, family, and fun.
Here’s how a VA can make your life easier.
What Is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant works for you remotely, doing whatever tasks you assign them. They usually work remotely, but they do the same work an in-person personal assistant or administrative assistant would do for you.
That could include taking routine work tasks off your plate, managing your calendar, screening your emails, booking travel for you, and taking care of personal errands like ordering gifts and sending cards.
Think “J.A.R.V.I.S.” from the “Iron Man” movie, except as a live human being.
VA’s hourly rates depend on where they live and their skill set. General VAs living in countries with a low cost of living or currency valued less than the U.S. dollar tend to be the cheapest, while VAs with special skill sets or those living in Western Europe or North America tend to charge more. In general, expect to pay between $5 and $25 per hour for a general VA and between $10 and $70 per hour for a specialist VA.
Why Hire a VA?
Say you earn $50 an hour, but you spend a fifth of your working hours on low-skill tasks like compiling data and reports. You could continue spending eight hours — the equivalent of a full workday — every week on these routine tasks. Or you could pay someone $10 per hour to do them for you.
In a 40-hour workweek, that means reducing your take-home paycheck from $2,000 per week to $1,920 per week and having to work only 32 hours rather than 40.
Or you could keep working those eight hours but spend them working on high-skill tasks and flying past your peers on productivity. That should position you nicely to get a raise the next time you negotiate pay and benefits. Just make sure your boss doesn’t mind you using a VA.
If you telecommute or otherwise work a job where you don’t need to be physically present, you could literally stop working Fridays if your VA picks up 20% of your workload.
Beyond your work, you can also delegate personal tasks to a VA to free up time with your family. How many Saturday hours have you wasted contacting some company’s customer support or sifting through your bills? A VA can easily do these tasks for you.
Tasks You Can Outsource to a VA
When you’re not in the habit of delegating work, it doesn’t come easily. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for tasks you can pass on to a VA, start with this list.
1. Travel Planning
Whether you travel mostly for business or pleasure, your VA can make all your arrangements for you. All you have to tell them is what you want from your trip.
For example, you could say, “Find me the cheapest flight from BWI to LAX that leaves the morning of November 3 with a return departure that takes off after 3pm on November 6. Please also book me the most affordable four-star hotel within a 15-minute walk of this address. Oh, and make sure it has a pool.”
Later that day, you’ll get your booking confirmations. The day before your flights, your VA can even check you in and email you your boarding passes.
Beyond finding the best airfare deals and scoring deals on hotel bookings, your VA can book you a rental car, dinner reservations, and tickets to events. They can even research fun things for you to do on your trip and plan your itinerary. Just tell them what you like to do, and they’ll find activities that meet your requests.
Feeling more adventurous? You can take it a step further and have them research entire destinations for you. For example, “Find me a cheap European country to explore, with high-quality wine regions, sandy beaches, and plenty of medieval architecture and history.” They could run everything by you before booking, or you could let it be a surprise to add to the sense of mystery and adventure.
Regardless, you don’t have to spend any time scouring travel websites and researching neighborhoods to stay in each city. Just tell your VA your parameters and let them handle it for you.
2. Personal Errands
You don’t have to go on vacation for your VA to book your dinner reservations. Have them take care of that and other personal errands for you.
Remember how Jim Carrey’s secretary in “Liar, Liar” bought his son’s birthday gifts for him? While you might not want to take it to that extreme, you can delegate tasks like minor gifts, personal cards, and other social niceties to your VA. I’m terrible about sending out greeting cards, so that’s one thing I’d let a VA take care of for me.
If you hate clothes shopping, you could even give them your sizing information, basic style, and a budget. They can order you new clothes as you need them, with or without your approval before buying.
3. Hiring and Arranging In-Person Support
Your virtual assistant can’t perform in-person jobs for you, but they can find someone who can.
For example, if you hate cleaning your home, have your VA hire a maid for you through Handy.com and schedule their visits. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Or under $200 per month, you and your spouse can stop bickering about cleaning the bathroom and mopping the floors.
If you have kids, your VA can research and hire a well-reviewed nanny, au pair, babysitter, or day care service, depending on your needs and budget. Again, they can send these for your review first if you prefer.
4. Administrative Work
You do plenty of work, both personal and professional, that doesn’t require a ton of thought.
That includes scheduling meetings and managing your calendar, entering data into spreadsheets, and fielding phone calls from people you don’t need or want to talk to. You also undoubtedly spend too much time on your email inbox.
All of that work can be handed to a VA.
When the loud, chaotic world clamors for your attention, they can run interference to screen who reaches you and who doesn’t. You can reroute work calls to them and instruct them to only connect you with the most important callers. Even better, they can screen your emails and pass along the most important for your personal attention. Routine emails they can respond to for you or simply delete.
5. Screening and Managing Physical Mail
Similarly, your VA can receive your physical mail for you, throw out the junk mail, pay the bills, and even set up paperless billing on your accounts to minimize the paper bills. For the minority of mail you need to see yourself, they can either scan a copy of it and email it to you or forward it physically.
You can set this up in one of two ways. One option is opening a P.O. box near where the VA lives or works, assuming they live in the same country. They pick up your mail once or twice per week, sorting and managing it for you.
Or, better yet, open a P.O. box with a private mail service that can scan your mail so your VA can review it online. I use one called St. Brendan’s Isle. They scan the envelopes, allowing me to choose Shred, Scan, or Forward for each piece of mail. You’ll never end up with another pile of mail on your dining room table.
While it would be great if your VA could fill out your tax return for you, they can do the next best thing by assembling all the numbers and figures you need to either complete your own tax return or send your fino to an accountant.
They can log into your financial accounts and download tax statements like 1099s from your brokerage account or mortgage interest 1098 statements from your mortgage lender. They can track deductible expenses for you if you provide them with a list. And if they also sort and handle your physical mail, they’ll already have important tax documents like your W2.
That makes it fast and easy to do your taxes using online accounting software.
Even on a month-to-month basis, your VA can track your income and expenses. If your income dips or your expenses spike, they can let you know.
Granted, providing this level of financial access to your VA requires trust. Only you can decide on your comfort level, but the longer you work with a VA and the more tasks you delegate to them, the more you’ll know if you can trust them.
7. Basic Banking
Your VA can pay your bills for you, set up bank transfers, or make rotating investments for you to dollar cost average. Better yet, they can automate these tasks to simplify your finances even further.
They can also create an account with a robo-advisor like Personal Capital to handle those recurring investments, along with choosing investments for you based on your profile and automatically rebalancing your portfolio.
8. Creating Regular Reports
In both your job and your personal finances, you have critical numbers you should be tracking regularly. That means weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual reports with specific key metrics.
Those numbers vary from person to person and job to job. But there are a few numbers everyone should track regularly, such as net worth and savings rate. As someone looking to reach financial independence and retire early (FIRE), I also track my FIRE ratio every month — the percent of my living expenses I can cover with passive income from my investments.
Online apps like Mint can automate much of this tracking for you, but they can’t do everything. Decide on the crucial numbers in your job and personal finances that you want to track regularly, and have your VA create simple reports for you.
9. Tech Help
How often have you wanted to throw your computer against the wall in frustration?
Between installing new programs, cleaning out unused files and data, and a hundred other tech tasks, serving as your own tech support gets old fast. So stop doing it.
Nowadays, you can grant remote access to your computer to anyone anywhere in the world. Use a program like Chrome Remote Desktop or AnyDesk to give your VA access to your computer, and they can install programs or set up your computer the way you want it.
If you don’t already use an automatic cloud backup service, have your VA set that up for you as well. That way, if your computer crashes, all your files and data remain saved off-site. I use Carbonite.
10. Contacting Customer Support
Few tasks are as miserable as contacting, waiting on hold, and speaking with customer support agents. Yet we have to do it every time we run into an issue using a product or service. Let your VA do it for you so you can watch your kid’s soccer game instead.
Just tell your VA what problem you’re experiencing, give them your relevant account credentials, and let them sort it out for you.
11. Producing Graphs and Graphics for Your Presentations
Most of us aren’t great at creating graphs or designing graphics. And it shows in both the amount of time we waste doing it and how amateurish the end results look.
Stop wasting your time outside of your skill set. Ask your VA if they have experience creating graphs or graphics, and if so, great. If not, they can hire an affordable specialist on Fiverr for a few bucks.
Your reports and presentations will suddenly look far more professional, and you’ll stop wasting hours each week or month on something you frankly aren’t very good at.
12. Party Planning and Social Scheduling
Throwing parties and other events is stressful. They involve a lot of moving parts, which gets overwhelming fast.
Give your VA a list of the specifications, and they can take care of the rest. From finding a venue to sending invitations to arranging food, music, and entertainment, it’s likely they can plan it all remotely.
Your VA can also manage your social life in general. That could mean adding social plans to your calendar, responding on your behalf when friends or family members email you about getting together, or even proactively emailing friends and family to propose plans.
13. Finding Fun Activities
Beyond managing your social calendar, your VA can find fun things to do for you. Ask them to find you a chic new restaurant and book reservations for your date night on Friday. Have them find the best local happy hours in your area, send you a concert calendar, or look up the best nearby hiking trails. Or task them to research family-friendly local activities happening over the next month to plan outings with the kids
If you have trouble coming up with fun ways to spend your nights and weekends, let your VA suggest activities for you based on what you like. You’ll go from never being in-the-know to always having an idea ready for a Saturday adventure.
14. Planning Your Meals
My wife and I are constantly looking for meal ideas. All too often, the evening comes and neither of us has a plan for what to make, so we just order delivery. It’s expensive, unhealthy, and just plain lazy.
If you’re the same, you can task your VA with finding easy but delicious recipes for you to make. Have them start building a library of your favorite recipes and adding new ones to it. They can send you a meal plan for the coming week, complete with a grocery list of all necessary ingredients.
If you really want to make life easy, you can even have them order that list online for delivery, so the groceries simply appear at your door. Just make sure your VA knows when you’ll be home so the delivery can be completed.
They can even look for recipes your kids can make with you as a family activity.
15. Any Other Routine Tasks at Your Job
Every job has routine tasks. Chances are, many of them can be delegated to a VA. As an online business owner, a few tasks I delegate to an assistant include:
- Answering routine customer service emails
- Posting ads
- Sending follow-up emails to leads
- Loading emails from my business’s Facebook group to our email autoresponder
- Scrubbing our email list every 60 days
- Keeping our press page up to date
If you telecommute or have a job where you don’t have to be physically present for every working minute, delegating these tasks can shave hours off your work week. You truly can reclaim a full day of work every week and spend it with your family, friends, or out golfing, hiking, or skydiving.
How to Hire a VA
The most obvious place to start is with VA agencies, where you pay the agency an hourly fee rather than paying the VA directly. The VAs come prescreened for you, and often the agency assigns the most appropriate VA based on your personal needs. In most cases, these companies have efficient systems in place for reporting exactly what tasks the VA has accomplished on any given day or week.
It takes all of the guesswork out of hiring a VA. And they charge a premium for it, of course. Check out OnlineJobs, OkayRelax, Efficise, or the U.S.-based Fancy Hands to start your search for a VA agency.
Alternatively, you can hire a VA through freelancing websites like Fiverr and Upwork. You can choose from thousands of VAs and screen them based on their experience with specific tasks. You benefit from other client reviews and a transparent payment platform. Because you’re paying the VA directly, you cut out the middleman of the corporate agency, but you do pay a fee to the platform.
However, you also don’t get the trust that comes with a corporate brand name, and the task of screening and finding an effective VA falls to you.
To hire a VA even more directly, you can ask for referrals from friends, family members, colleagues, or even members of online communities like Facebook groups. That means you lose the protections put in place by freelance platforms, such as payment escrowing and peer reviews, but it also means no fees.
Unless you personally know someone with a spectacular VA looking to take on additional clients, start more conservatively with either an agency or a freelance platform.
In today’s world, most jobs don’t measure your success by how many hours you sit at your desk. They measure your results. And you can deliver those results while working fewer hours if you bring in a VA to knock out the low-skill tasks.
Take advantage of geoarbitrage — lower cost of living and labor in other countries — to outsource the bottom quarter of your work, and all the tedious personal tasks you don’t enjoy, to a virtual assistant. For a fraction of your hourly rate, you can regain control of your time.
Time is the most valuable resource in the world. You can always earn more money, but you can never reclaim time spent doing things you don’t enjoy.
Are you considering hiring a VA? What tasks do you plan to outsource to them?