Virtual assistant services that connect U.S. businesses with offshore “virtual” employees were already popular due to advocates like Tim Ferris and his 2009 book, “The 4-Hour Work Week.” Who could resist the book’s subtitle: “Escape the 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich.” Virtual assistant services are even more popular now as the world has become far more comfortable with remote work and offsite employees—so much so that the B2B review site Clutch lists more than 4,000 virtual assistant services.
With 4,000 to choose from, how do you choose the right service for you? Like many “what’s right for me” questions, the answer is, “it depends.” Service providers have developed specialties, primarily around the kind of work they take off your plate and the levels of support and expertise they provide.
You do not want to hire a graphic designer to do your admin work, and you do not want to hire an administrative assistant to do graphic design. To save you time—who has time to research 4,000 firms--this guide has winnowed the field to the best virtual assistant services in their categories of specialization.
Table of Contents:
- Best Virtual Assistant Service for Executives - Prialto
- Best Virtual Assistant Service for Marketing Services - UAssistMe
- Best Virtual Assistant Service for Software Development - TrinityWired
- Best Virtual Assistant Service for Small Miscellaneous Tasks - Fancy Hands
- Best Virtual Assistant Service for Accounting - Belay
- Best Virtual Assistant Service for Short Term Projects - Upwork
- Are Virtual Assistant Services Worth the Cost
Best Virtual Assistant Service for Executives – Prialto
When it comes to the core functions of executive assistants, Prialto has the most reliable, professional, dialed-in service. Prialto is a managed service provider, which means it hires, trains, and supervises virtual assistants—they are employees of Prialto and are not freelancers or independent contractors. All assistants are trained and managed to deliver:
- Professional communications
- Email management
- Travel planning
- Expense reporting
- CRM data entry and sales support
- Email marketing
- Templated document prep
- Back-office tasks (invoicing, payment processing, website updates, etc.)
These functions are not random. Executives spend some 16 hours a week, studies find. That is two full business days spent on repetitive, objective, and easily delegated tasks.
Could you hire, train, and manage your own assistant to take on this kind of executive admin work? Yes—but then the recruiting, hiring, training, and management are up to you, putting more on your plate. Prialto’s secret sauce is its teams of managers and backup assistants that continually optimize the service and take on more tasks once they master the basics and the team understands your business.
With 10+ years of experience and more than one million hours of support, Prialto managers and assistants have seen it all—every tech stack, every productivity tool, and every type of executive, including venture capitalists, startup founders, CEOs, and sales teams. Prialto’s service also makes it easy to scale as the company maintains a bench of trained assistants in its service centers in Asia and Central America and backups that are ready to step in at any time as your tech grows.
Best for: Executive administrative tasks.
Cost: $25 per hour for a dedicated virtual assistant, two managers, and two backup assistants.
Best Virtual Assistant Service for Marketing Services – UAssistMe
Marketing service requires virtual assistants with expertise in specific marketing disciplines to take on creative projects. These include services like graphic design, content writing, and website design. UAssistMe is a virtual assistant agency with headquarters in Miami that matches businesses with assistants in El Salvador that have specialized marketing skills. Categories of focus include:
- Graphic design
- Social media marketing
- Website design
- Content writing
- Marketing specialist
Creating original marketing materials requires special training and skills and a lot of creativity and subjectivity. Remember that getting a virtual assistant up to speed on your brand requirements is up to you; in that sense hiring a virtual marketing assistant through UAssistMe is much like hiring an internal employee or freelancer—onboarding, training, and quality control are on you.
The price is a significant difference between hiring in the U.S. and a service like UAssistMe. UAssistMe sells its service in monthly packages that range from half-time to full-time, with prices averaging about $12 per hour. So, the cost savings for these creative services can be significant.
Best for: Companies that need specialized marketing services at a low cost.
Cost: Starts at $12/hour.
Best Virtual Assistant Service for Software Development - TrinityWired
Software development is one of the most in-demand skills. Good coders are hard to find, and those in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs have their choice of jobs. Woodbows is a well-known virtual assistant agency that offers software developers, app developers, and web designers (for customer websites that require coding) through a sister company, TrinityWired. Services offered include:
- Mobile app development.
- Custom software development.
- UI/UX design
- Website development.
- DevOps services.
- AI and machine learning development.
- Quality assurance and testing.
Headquartered in the U.K., Woodbows offers virtual assistants from the U.S., the Philippines, and India. TrinityWired base is in Miami, with developers in India. You can hire individual developers or dedicated teams. Defining specs, evaluating code, and managing performance are up to you. Outsourcing software is tricky and fraught with risks like misunderstanding requirements and a subsequent blame game. However, outsourcing makes sense if software development is not your core business, and you need a functional app or website.
TrinityWired boasts impressive client retention and repeats customers. It claims to develop mobile apps in 10 weeks (about two and a half months).
Best for: Non-software companies that need a software product.
Cost: $25 per hour or $2500 per month.
Best Virtual Assistant Service for Small Miscellaneous Tasks – Fancy Hands
Fancy Hands bills itself as the service to choose “when you need a hand.” Fancy Hands sells its service by the task—you pre-purchase the number of jobs you think you will need per month, and tasks roll over into the next month if you do not use them all. You can request work through the Fancy Hands app, text, phone, or chat.
One of the most common uses of Fancy Hands is to field incoming calls and emails—virtual assistants answer basic questions and take messages to save you time from sifting through the spam and calls that do not require your time. Fancy Hands assistants also make outbound calls on your behalf for everything from booking travel and reservations to disputing bills—those soul-sucking minutes on hold add up, and you are paying by the task, not by the hour.
Tasks that clients offload to Fancy Hands assistants include:
- Scheduling meetings
- Travel and meal reservations
- Resolving e-commerce disputes
- Finding and purchasing products
- Proofreading documents
- Comparison shopping
- Scheduling medical and home maintenance services.
Fancy Hands assistants are U.S.-based, and task requests work a lot like Uber. You do not have a dedicated assistant. You request a task like you would a ride, and an assistant with the skills to fulfill your request accepts the request.
Best for: Busy individuals with ad hoc tasks.
Cost: Starting at $6 per task.
Best Virtual Assistant Service for Accounting - Belay
Accounting is another area where a virtual assistant needs highly specialized skills. Belay is a virtual assistant agency that matches businesses with curated independent contractor clerks it claims will “make your CPA shed a tear.” Accounting also requires knowledge of U.S. financial and tax procedures and regulations. Belay’s virtual “accounting clerks” can perform the following:
- Prepare and issue invoices
- Process ACH/credit card transactions
- Identify delinquent accounts and insufficient payments
- Reconcile deposits, withdrawals, and bank statements
- Resolving discrepancies in customer accounts
- Provide the weekly aging report to the client
- Maintain up-to-date accounts receivable records
- Reconcile customer balances
- Enter all vendor bills and expenses into the accounting software
- Process bill payments through a 3rd-party bill pay system, like bill.com
- Review, code, and process vendor bills
- Maintain vendor database and vendor balances
- Verify W9 completion
- Review expense reports and investigate any issues
- Reconcile and review credit card statements
- Reconcile accounts payable sub-ledgers
Belay only recruits U.S.-based virtual assistants. The company does not post a complete price list but a starting price of $34 per hour, which goes up with experience levels. Belay reviews your requirements and presents a set of resumes for you to consider. Once you select your assistant, onboarding, training, and performance management are up to you.
Belay claims, “an acceptance rate lower than Harvard’s” and promises elite skills to match. Like Prialto, Belay is looking for long-term engagements, not gigs. So, the service works best for ongoing accounting support.
Best for: Businesses that need U.S-based trained accounting clerks.
Cost: Starts at $34/hour.
Best Virtual Assistant Service for Short Term Projects – Upwork
All the virtual assistant services listed so far offer ongoing support for repetitive tasks. But what if you have a short-term project on sporadic work that is needed occasionally? Enter Upwork, the world’s largest freelancer marketplace. Upwork offers freelancers in all kinds of fields, including:
- Software development and IT
- Graphic design
- Sales and marketing
- Writing and translation
- Admin and customer support
- Finance and accounting
- HR and training
- Engineering and architecture
That is a lengthy list. There are three ways to engage Upwork:
- Post a project and allow freelancers to bid on it.
- Search for freelancers and offer your project to a freelancer based on their profiles and review.
- Pay an additional fee for an Upwork specialist to curate workers for you.
Upwork freelancers come from all over the world, including the United States. The service is ideal for short-term projects because this is what the freelancers want. You want to design a new brochure, but you will not produce another brochure for a year. There is no need to hire a graphic designer monthly.
The biggest challenges with Upwork are communicating your requirements and quality control. There is no intermediary. Also, with many freelancers in far-flung time zones, it often takes 24 hours to exchange messages. That said, if you find a freelancer that works well for you, you can go back to them the next time you need help—for that next brochure, for example.
Best for: Short-term project and ad hoc tasks.
Cost: Upwork advertises costs as low as $5 per hour.
Are Virtual Assistant Services Worth the Cost?
To determine if a virtual assistant service is worth the cost, estimate your time on the tasks you want to offload and divide that by your hourly wage. If you are paying yourself $100 per hour to do work that a virtual assistant could do for $25 per hour, which takes up 16 hours per week, the investment makes sense. But you also must figure out how much management and training you and your team will have to invest in making the service work. With Upwork, for example, all control is up to you. Conversely, Prialto requires little or no management.
How to Find the Right Virtual Assistant Service
As you can see, there are all kinds of virtual assistant services with different specializations and for diverse needs. Besides each service mentioned here, there are dozens more in each category. You can find a remote assistant who can do any task delivered online. To find the best service for you, you need to:
- Document your needs—be clear on the functions you want to offload.
- Estimate the amount of time per month you think that this work requires.
- Find companies that specialize in the type of work you need.
- Interview two-three service providers.
Other issues to consider include:
- Response times—how quickly do you want assistants to respond to email, chat, phone, text, etc.
- Leftover hours/Overages--how are you charged if you use too few or too many hours?
- Tools and technology—does the service require you to use specific tools, or does it provide assistants that use your tools and technology?
- Quality control—how do you resolve issues of quality control?
The combination of cloud software, ubiquitous internet, and an increasing acceptance of remote work have made virtual assistants so popular that the field is expanding into more types of services. If a service category is not mentioned here, that does not mean that there is not a virtual assistant service that tackles it. Finding the right service might take some time and patience, but the payoff in productivity and cost savings is worth it.
About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.