The terms “Virtual Assistant”, “Freelancer”, “Outsourced” etc. are rather vague terms, and can mean a wide range of thing to different people. The vast majority of VAs I use are based oversees, and cost between $2-$10/hr. To understand how and why, and how they compare to other types of VAs out there, here is a breakdown of types of VAs commonly referred to as “Virtual Assistants” or “Freelancers”.
The Traditional Domestic VA
Historically, assistants, or personal assistants, performed secretarial work for managers and CEOS etc, so adding the term “virtual” in front of a traditional assistant role indicated someone who did not have to physically reside at the business location. Indeed, there are a number of VAs who still fit this category. If you’re looking for someone to answer the phone, schedule your meetings, and act like your secretary, this can be a good choice for you. Many small businesses even use this type of VA to act as the face of their company, processing invoices, answering customers, dealing with press releases etc. Typically, this type of VA resides in the US, and has excellent communication skills.
This type of VA however, is not what this site primarily focus on for a couple of reasons. First, many people cannot afford a full time VA, or even a part time VA on a regular basis. Secondly, many people just starting off simply don’t have the level of work required to justify this type of VA. Lastly, the VAs I’m referring to specialize in specific skills and are much less expensive. One big plus I should mention, is with this type of VA you do get reliability and dependability, so if you have processes or procedures you absolutely want to get done with the least amount of hassle or training, this could be a good choice for you.
The Oversees VA
Due to the spread of the Internet over the last 5-7 years to many 3rd world countries, plus the development of tools like Skype which make worldwide communication free, hundreds of thousands of VAs have sprung up around the world from sites like Odesk and Elance, or sites that focus on specific regions with large amounts of VAs such as the Philippines. The skill set and quality of work do be done is vast and diverse, and jobs can be done for as little as $5 for a fixed price job, or $2-$5/hour.
I feel the potential for using this type of VA is staggering. There are plenty of all-star VAs out there skilled in everything from graphics design to research, to highly technical skills that you can do some real amazing stuff if you know how to find and manage them properly. That’s what this site is about.
It should be pointed out that there are many excellent VAs with similar skill sets who are not oversees, and you can use them with great success, especially for high quality or mission critical work. I’ll be discussing these options in the future as well.
There are a number of VAs who are specialized in some highly technical skill. You tend to find these on sites like Elance. If you need an Iphone App created, you might hire a specialist. There is some overlap between the Oversees VA and the Specialist, but I tend to divide them up when prices start at $10-$15 + per hour. You can find equivalent US or European based VAs/Freelancers around $20-$30 for similar skills.
Small to Midsized Technical Firms
Say you have a complex project, either a large software program requiring multiple engineers, or perhaps you’re designing something mechanical or electrical that requires Solidworks, Autocad 3D, or advanced simulation or design tools like Mentor Graphics. Many people try the Specialist for this type of work, but find it quite difficult and expensive to keep making changes and revisions. You might turn to a small to midsized technical company based oversees that staffs 20-300 engineers who will assign a team to your project. This is typically what small to midsized businesses do. Prices can range between $20-$30/hr.
Large Multinational Turnkey Design Firms
When nothing but the best will do, but you just don’t want to hire full time employees, you might turn to the large multinational turnkey Design Firms. At this level, you’re probably not referring to them as VAs, but an outsourced firm, but for completeness sake to move up the ladder of complexity, I’ve included them. They can provide full featured design, testing, and verification services, but typically cost $25-$35/hr, the price of a typical engineer, but with the ability for near instant scalability.
The bottom line is, there is a wide spectrum of talent available both domestically and around the world that can help you in
many areas of your business and life. With so many websites and free tools such as Skype to help with collaboration, more and more people are discovering the vast and diverse landscape of this rapidly growing resources known as Virtual Assistants.