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Feeling Overwhelmed? How A Virtual Assistant Can Help

This could be exactly what every busy woman needs.

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Chloe Batchelor
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Are you feeling overwhelmed? Exhausted? Panicked?

Congratulations: You’re human.

Apparently, we’re supposed to be able to work, parent, partner, adult and self-care simultaneously. Fortunately, there are these incredible people called “virtual assistants” who never need to step foot into our messy homes in order to help sort out our lives.

Wondering exactly how they can help? Here’s the lowdown.

What is a virtual assistant (VA)?

These are assistants that typically work part time for each client, says Catherine Castro, director of HR and recruitment for 20four7VA, a virtual assistant company. The field has grown in recent years, and it’s expected to reach $25.6 billion by 2025, according to Business Wire. Most work for multiple clients at a time, so virtual assistants tend to be reserved for people and businesses who don’t have a need for a full-time assistant.

“You can save up to 80 percent on staffing costs by hiring a VA,” Castro says. “Also, you have the ability to grow your business without the need to expand your office space or hire additional full-time staff physically.”

Plus, Castro says, virtual assistants offer an array of services, from general administrative tasks to more complex projects such as website development, social media management and graphic design. It really depends on the needs of the client, says Lauren Macaulay, a virtual executive assistant in Galway, Ireland. She commonly does email management and invoicing for clients —  but has also worked on podcast pitching, content creation and presenting at virtual conferences. Some people will hire a virtual assistant (also often called “virtual personal assistants”) to help with home tasks, such as online shopping for birthday gifts, paying bills, hiring cleaning companies, researching family vacations, connecting with utility companies and more.

What exactly can they do?

There aren’t set tasks for virtual assistants, so you can request that your VA do a range of services you require. Everything from standard administrative support to personal assistant support is standard, explains Victoria Rose, an executive virtual assistant in San Diego. She has been tasked with calendar management, emails, data entry, travel arrangement, expenses, report preparation, special event planning, interior design, personal shopping and even website development. But every VA can assist in various ways, from researching travel to organizing your email inbox to scheduling appointments (or becoming the default virtual parent). “I get requests for things such as finding a holistic vet or setting up a mobile car-cleaning service,” says Kathleen Gauden, owner of the Virtual Assistant & Company in the Pacific Northwest.

How do they handle privacy issues?

Many executive assistants use Google Drive and Dropbox to store your personal information, as these have excellent security measures built in to store your info, Rose says. “We use tools like these to store important information and share data electronically with our clients,” she says. “We are skilled and trained on these technologies to ensure optimal security measures are in place for top-notch protection.” Other platforms such as LastPass and 1password protect passwords, says Helen Peterson, a virtual assistant educator (she teaches others how to be virtual assistants) in Bend, Oregon.

What’s their background?

There’s no specific training to be a virtual assistant. Rose was formerly an executive assistant turned serial entrepreneur. Many, however, simply dive into being virtual assistants, says Peterson, who learned how to do the gig by researching what she could do as a stay-at-home mom. Melissa St. Clair, a VA and owner of Paper Chaser Biz, is a military spouse with a background in executive office and business management. She was seeking a portable career that would offer her freedom, flexibility and financial security — and this led her to the virtual assistant industry.

How much do they cost?

This runs the gamut. Most start at $25 per hour or have monthly retainers of $300 to $500. They go higher depending on the specialty, Peterson says. Rose, for example, charges $3,500 per month for a three-month service agreement.

How can one find a virtual assistant?

VAs tend to have a major online presence, so you can start by Googling “virtual assistant” followed by a list of your needs. You can also post a job listing for a virtual assistant on Taskrabbit, Upwork or Fiverr. It’s best to chat with the virtual assistant to find out more about their skill set to see if they’re a match. While there are VAs who focus on technical assistance, some are more comfortable helping out with personal tasks. Other virtual assistants prefer to work for small or solo businesses.