How Much Does a Virtual Assistant Cost?

Updated: 02 Apr, 2021 | Bill Peatman

There are all kinds of virtual assistant companies and freelancers available, and the cost and business models vary greatly. So, as is often the case, the answer to the question, "how much does a virtual assistant cost?" is, well, it depends.   

There are three broad categories of virtual assistant service providers:  

  • Freelancers through an online marketplace or job board.  
  • Agencies that match you with a qualified assistant, much like a recruiting firm, but you pay the agency.  
  • Managed service providers that hire, train, and support the virtual assistant for long-term engagements.  

Let's break down the costs of each model and the costs, use cases, and risks.   

Freelance Virtual Assistants   

Google "virtual assistant," and you'll see freelance marketplaces with prices like $10/hour. UpWork, for example, advertises rates of $10-$20/hour. Indeed lists the average price of a freelancer at $20/hour. Sounds great, right? Keep in mind that "average" means half are above and half are below that amount. Freelancers can be great if you have one-time projects that are time-based and require minimal instruction or guidance. But it's hard to guarantee availability and skill level as you must do the vetting and project management. Projects this might work for include:  

  • Format a document.   
  • Create a brochure using a template.  
  • One-time data entry or cleanup.  

These are transactional assignments. There are also risks involved with freelancers, including:  

  • May not always be available if you want repeat or long-term work 
  • They might not have the skills advertised 
  • Training, management, and quality control are up to you 
  • You can end up spending a lot of time getting a project right 
  • If the freelancer gets a better gig, you start over.  
  • Little recourse if things go wrong.  
  • No guarantee of IT security.  

Keep in mind that marketplaces and job boards are not virtual assistant service providers. They are like online dating sites for all kinds of labor and don't specialize in one field. Independent freelancers may have references from past clients, but the vetting is up to you.  

Virtual Assistant Agency  

A virtual assistant agency specializes in virtual assistants and usually has a vetting process for quality control. Prices vary, and many firms are opaque about their pricing and instead talk about how much lower the cost is compared to a fully loaded full-time employeeIndeed lists virtual assistant companies as paying assistants $25-$89/ hour. That's what the assistant earns, so the cost to the customer will be higher. This model can work for longer-term projects requiring special skills, including (many specialize in individual functions):  

  • Bookkeeping  
  • Telemarketing   
  • General admin services (scheduling, travel planning, expense reports)  

The risks with an agency are like those of hiring a freelancer. Agencies typically have a little more accountability for the assistants' performance. Risks include:  

  • They might not have the skills advertised 
  • Onboarding, training, management, and quality control are up to you 
  • You can end up spending a lot of time getting the relationship right 
  • If the freelancer leaves, you start over 
  • No guarantee of IT security.   

Managed Virtual Assistant Service  

Managed virtual assistant service providers offer a high-touch model where the service provider hires, trains, onboards, manages, and supports virtual assistants in their facilities, often overseas (though they work the client's business hours). The cost is typically a flat fee. Prialto, for example, offers 55 hours of a virtual assistant's time for $1350 per month, or about $24 per hour.   

In a managed service model, assistants are full-time salaried employees of the service providers, with full benefits. In Prialto's case, each assistant has fully trained backup assistants to ensure continuity, account managers that support client satisfaction, and robust IT security with the company's computers and networks.   

A major benefit of a managed service is that the client bears no added management burden. Account managers work with the client to document processes so that they can train the virtual assistants on client systems before the engagement. The assistants show up ready to contribute on day one. Client feedback goes to the account manager who coaches and supports the assistant.  

Managed virtual assistant services are ideal for clients with repetitive tasks that can be turned into processes and performed off-site. Typical processes include:  

Scheduling meetings with contacts or recruits  

  • Sales follow-up  
  • CRM data entry, cleanup, and maintenance  
  • Expense reporting  
  • Travel planning  

As the client-assistant relationship grows and the assistant learns the clients' businesses, they can add more tasks. There are risks with this model, too due to the nature of the engagement:  

  • Not suitable for one-time projects or short-term engagements  
  • Clients may be unable to document their processes  
  • Don't have enough work for the hours purchased 

Weighing Costs and Risks  

As mentioned above, the cost of a virtual assistant varies depending on the provider's business model and on the needs of the client. Different models work for different businesses based on the nature of the work.   

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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.

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