Many people who are overwhelmed with their work and in need of assistance often look for just that: an assistant. However, the same individuals may be conducting too general of a search, and will end up flooded with search results for executive assistants, administrative assistants, personal assistants, remote assistants and virtual assistants. A somewhat more difficult question can be, what’s the difference? Determining whether the skills of an executive, administrative, or virtual assistant meets an individual’s needs can frequently be a difficult task. However, the following descriptions of their respective roles within a company will allow for a more informed decision of which type of assistance, and assistant, is needed.
An executive assistant is usually a highly-visible employee who provides direct administrative and secretarial support to executive-level business professionals. These typically include CEO’s, CFO’s and other highly advanced roles. Executive assistants are often tasked with high-level tasks including coordinating executive meetings, making complex travel arrangements, drafting and editing various correspondence, and participating in activities that often span a global audience.
An administrative assistant works for a specific company at either the company’s main office or another specified location. Usually, the administrative assistant is a salaried employee. The main tasks for this position will be working with human resources, or working as a bookkeeper and receptionist.
Personal assistants are a third type of assistant that are rarely responsible for office tasks. Instead, they handle the daily tasks of a senior member of the company to whom they are exclusively assigned. Responsibilities would include coordinating travel arrangements, answering phone calls, managing appointments, and other day-to-day tasks that are not office-related.
In between an administrative and virtual assistant is the remote assistant. A remote assistant generally completes the same tasks as an executive assistant, but they often work from home or another location that is not the home office. However, like, administrative assistants, remote assistants are usually salaried employees with benefits and taxes taken out of their wages. They do not work freelance, like a virtual assistant would.
Next is the virtual assistant. A virtual assistant is not a salaried employee, and works as an independent contractor. He or she provides specific services to clients, and does not work within the same office space. The virtual assistant can provide administrative services, but is not limited to this type of work. Instead, he or she can also work on creative projects such as managing social media pages, designing promotional campaigns, marketing the company, and project or content development. Virtual assistants can also sub-contract work, meaning that they can work for other virtual assistants, as well.
Choosing the Right Assistant
When deciding whether to hire a virtual assistant or an in-person administrative assistant, consider not only the financial benefits of a virtual contractor, but also the following questions. What type of communication is preferred? If the business does the majority of their communication via email or another messaging service, then a virtual assistant will fit right in with the company. Next, how much in-person support is necessary for this position? The answer to this question will likely determine whether an executive assistant or a virtual assistant is hired. For example, a virtual assistant would have a much more difficult time working as a receptionist as they do not work directly in the office and may not have access to the information a caller needs. Needless to say, they would also be unable to interact with office visitors. Also determine the company’s level of involvement with the assistant. If an independent employee is preferred, then a virtual assistant may be the way to go. However, if the position requires significant training or direction, then an in-person position where the new hire can be directly overseen would definitely make more sense.
Other questions to keep in mind when choosing between a virtual assistant and another type of assistant is whether or not the assistant will be exclusive to one company. An executive assistant will either earn a salary or other wages, but will work solely for that employer. A virtual assistant, however, might be contracted to multiple companies. If the virtual assistant is only needed for a certain number of tasks per week, however, they might be the preferred option in this scenario, as they would not be a salaried employee, thereby saving the company from paying for a full-time equivalent salary.
In many ways, a virtual assistant is the ideal type of assistant, but for a more intimate approach, an administrative assistant may also be a good alternative for the company to consider. When making the decision on whether to hire a virtual assistant, keep these differences in mind for the most informed decision.