When we think of a personal assistant, we often imagine someone who works with a powerful executive. Maybe they’re too busy to type their own emails or to make their own phone calls. Or perhaps they need someone to run errands for them. But personal assistants aren’t just for elite business professionals anymore. Now, even the smallest mom-and-pop businesses can afford to hire virtual personal assistants for a broad range of important but time-consuming tasks. Although these workers can’t pick up your dry cleaning or make your coffee, they can do a whole lot to help your business succeed. In fact, the question now is, how can you afford not to hire one?

Virtual personal assistants, defined

You might think a virtual personal assistant is your Alexa or your Siri. But actually, a virtual assistant is an independent, self-employed worker who offers administrative and professional services to clients from a remote location. Their typical tasks include data entry, scheduling appointments, and making phone calls. Some virtual personal assistants can help with the financial side of things, including client invoicing and managing accounts payable. Others can help you write website copy or blogs, make travel arrangements, and manage your email.

Virtual personal assistants usually join your team as contractors. That means you can skip the cost and paperwork involved with a full- or part-time employee. You will typically pay them on an hourly basis, so the cost is proportional to the work you allocate to them.

A virtual personal assistant crosses action items off her to-do list.

The rise of the virtual personal assistant

Small businesses, in particular, are taking advantage of the swelling marketplace of virtual personal assistants. The Great Resignation is driving this wave as more career administrators are leaving full-time jobs to go out on their own. As a small business owner or manager, you can outsource as much of the busy work of running the business as you feel comfortable with. In turn, this can help you reserve your energy (and creative brainpower) for the stuff that matters.

What’s making this possible, of course, is technology. The move to remote work accelerated the adoption of cloud-based collaboration and communication tools that virtual assistants require to be efficient. With these tools you can easily delegate or share responsibilities with your assistant. You can communicate in real-time with them using one of the many instant messaging (IM) services that abound.

You can share cloud-based calendars and documents with them, and work on them simultaneously. And cloud-based video conferencing programs increasingly allow you to collaborate with your assistant as effectively as if you were together in an onsite conference room. These programs include features like virtual whiteboarding, real-time translation and transcription, and other helpful group productivity tools.

Why use a virtual personal assistant?

In this blog, we give you 8 reasons you should have hired a virtual assistant, like, yesterday.

1. Outsource the tedious tasks

Virtual assistants can take the most wearisome chores off your shoulders. Forget about cold calling prospective clients, vetting urgent customer calls, or scheduling meetings. Your virtual personal assistant can handle this task. Take writing or responding to emails. The average employee spends more than half of their time reading and answering emails and then getting back on task. Small business owners and managers just can’t afford to spend their time in this way.

2. Cut your operating costs

According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), hiring a full-time in-house employee usually costs about 1.25 to 1.4 times that employee’s salary. That’s thanks to both direct and indirect costs.

Take office infrastructure, for example. It’s often taken for granted, but it’s not free. These costs include workspaces and equipment. Services like broadband internet access, software, and applications also add up. In addition to base payroll, small businesses also must factor in the time and cost of recruiting, training, education, benefits, insurance, and taxes.

By hiring a virtual personal assistant on a contract basis, you circumvent these costs and could theoretically save big. Contractors have their own workspace and computers. They also pay for their own utilities, insurance, professional training and development, and employment taxes. What a deal!

3. Boost productivity

There’s downtime in almost every job. When you pay a full-time employee for eight-hour workdays, five days a week, chances are good they’re not spending every minute working for you. There are coffee breaks. The personal errands or phone calls. Internet surfing.

Studies have concluded that you only get two hours and 53 minutes of effective work out of the average hire in the average day. With a virtual assistant—theoretically, at least—you only pay for the productive work time of a virtual personal assistant. And that’s only for however many hours a week you need them.

4. Choose from dozens of “types” of specialized virtual personal assistants

Depending on your industry, there are many different types of virtual assistants. You can have assistants specializing in real estate administration, website management, social media and blog writing, bookkeeping, and much more. You can hire precisely the talent that fills holes in your in-house expertise and experience.

5. Get increasingly more choices as the market of available talent continues to grow

The 6.1 million skilled independent workers in the United States are estimated to have earned $234 billion in revenue in 2020, up from $229 billion in 2018. This represents approximately 1.1 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). And in the past year, independent virtual workers have begun offering an expanding array of services and boosting their education and training activities so they keep up with how industries are being disrupted by COVID-19. You can take advantage of this cornucopia of talent.

6. Be rewarded with happier and more loyal workers

Flexibility is the greatest perk of being a virtual personal assistant. Virtual assistants have more control over their working hours as well as where they work. Some assistants enjoy working from home, while others prefer coworking spaces, beaches, and even rotating international locations.  According to a recent survey, virtual personal assistants today feel “productive,” and “confident” about their work and three-quarters of them (75%) are more hopeful than fearful about the future. This means turnover will be low—a Stanford University study found that hiring remotely can cut attrition rates in half. Another discovery indicates remote workers take fewer sick days, resulting in a 13% increase in productivity.

7. Eliminate time-consuming micromanagement of workers

Experienced virtual personal assistants tend to be skilled in time and project management. They must be—most are juggling multiple clients, each of whom assumes they are the No. 1 priority. More importantly, you can judge their work on the results they deliver, not on time spent in a chair in front of a screen. And it’s much easier to cancel a contractor who disappoints you than to terminate a full-time employee.

8. Free up time for big-picture strategizing

Because of the demands of running a small business, you’ve probably become used to wearing many hats and taking a DIY attitude toward all the challenges that arise. But if you’re working 80 hours a week or more putting out fires, who’s doing the bigger-picture work that is necessary? Your business might be surviving, but it’s not thriving. Hiring one or even multiple virtual personal assistants gives you the space to think clearly and creatively about ways to advance your business.

A virtual personal assistant talks to their client over video chat.

In summary: Seize the opportunity

Small businesses are born in great excitement and with grand visions. But the daily grind can really grind you down. Yet you have critical processes and tasks that you can’t ignore, even if they keep you from doing the work you really love. This is where virtual personal assistants can be lifesavers. Whether you don’t have a head for numbers, or just don’t have the time to be a secretary and bookkeeper on top of being a restaurant owner, boutique clothes buyer, or graphic designer, be kind to yourself and find someone capable to take these tasks off your shoulders.

With so many options available, now might just be the time to see what a virtual private assistant can do for you and your business.