How Much Does a Virtual Assistant Cost?

By Bill Peatman | Updated: 14 Oct, 2022

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 major factors that affect how much a VA costs:  

  1. Service model 
  2. Skillset 
  3. Location
 

We’ll dive into what each of these factors entails so you can find a virtual assistant service that meets your needs and budget.  

Virtual Assistant Service Models 

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 virtual assistants 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.  

However, there are 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.  

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. 

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  

Amplify your productivity with 2022's top virtual assistant service.

Specialist Vs. Generalist Virtual Assistants 

Like an in-house employee, the cost of virtual assistant services often varies based on the skills you require. Most virtual assistant providers brand themselves as either generalists or specialists. The former can tackle most process-oriented tasks while the latter can handle advanced projects in a single area of expertise.  

Here are some examples of the different types of tasks you can offload based on a virtual assistant’s skillset:  

Marketing and Website Maintenance  

When most people think of a virtual assistant, marketing support doesn’t necessarily come to mind. However, offloading tedious tasks allows you/your team to focus on driving your marketing strategy. Here are some of the tasks you can offload depending on if the VA is a specialist or not:  

Generalist:  

  • Schedule content that your team created 
  • Set up routine workflows for activities such as monthly newsletters 

Specialist:  

  • Turn your blog posts into social media content 
  • Add meta and/or schema data to your articles 

This type of support encompasses a wide variety of activities and software so, if you opt for a specialist, expect to pay higher rates if you use niche software or industry-specific tactics.  
 

Sales & CRM Management 

Given that salespeople spend as little as 30% of their time selling, using a virtual assistant for sales support is a no-brainer.  

The type of virtual assistant you should move forward with varies based on what you want to offload:  

Generalist:  

  • Set up outbound campaigns and schedule the meetings that come from them 
  • Keep your CRM updated by monitoring your sales team’s calendar and updating the related records 

Specialist:  

  • May perform duties traditionally done by an SDR such as outbound cold calling  

Since a virtual assistant that specializes in sales support has skills that fall somewhere in between a generalist and an SDR, they may not be worth the extra cost unless you need them to cold call.  

General Operations Support 

Offloading many of the logistical tasks required to keep your business running is an easy and relatively affordable way to boost efficiency.  

Generalist:  

  • Complete manual workflow steps that you haven’t been able to automate such as copying data between systems that aren’t integrated or whose integration has limitations 
  • Coordinate meetings and send reminders to help keep people on track 

Specialist:  

  • Tackle operational tasks that are not standardized and require a significant degree of judgement  

Whether or not a specialized virtual assistant is worth the extra cost varies based on how standardized your processes are. Keep in mind that many of the tasks that you think are ambiguous can be standardized. Our Engagement Managers regularly help our clients create processes so they can offload more tasks to their virtual assistants.  

Executive Administration 

The difference between a generalist and specialist virtual assistant is similar to an entry-level vs senior in-house executive assistant. The former will tackle standardized tasks and have a much lower salary while the latter is able to complete highly nuanced projects but has a much higher salary.  

Generalist:  

Specialist:  

  • Perform duties expected of a senior in-house executive assistant such as preparing presentations and drafting communications on your behalf 

Which Skillset Offers a Better ROI? 

Whether a specialized virtual assistant is worth the extra cost depends on if you want to offload advanced tasks or handle those activities in-house. Often, you get a better ROI by hiring a generalist since they’re able to tackle a broad range of tedious tasks giving you and your team more time to focus on projects that leverage your expertise.  

US-Based Vs. Offshore Virtual Assistants 

Among virtual assistant services with the same model and skills offered, there is still a significant range in costs based on location. For example, a freelance virtual assistant in India might charge $7 per hour while an assistant with comparable skills in the United States may charge $40 per hour.  

There are often differences in the level of knowledge about local business norms which can make a difference, particularly if you’re looking for executive administrative support.  

This includes:  

  • The tone, brevity and overall communication style used in emails and other messages 
  • The types of restaurants that are appropriate for different kinds of business dinners 
  • The preparation needed for conferences and other types of events 

Given this, working with a company that offers a hybrid onshore/offshore model is often the best option. For example, at Prialto, our virtual assistants work from our offices in Guatemala and the Philippines. However, our Engagement Managers are based in Portland, Oregon. They act as consultants for our clients and coach our virtual assistants. This approach ensures our virtual assistants provide highly nuanced support at a lower cost than many US-based alternatives.  

Weighing Costs and Risks   

As mentioned above, the cost of a virtual assistant varies depending on the provider's business model, skillset and location. The combination of factors that you need depends on your budget and the nature of work you’re offloading.  

If you need support with multiple areas of your business, a combination of providers may be the best fit. For example, you can hire a generalist, managed virtual assistant service to tackle your day-to-day administrative and operational tasks as well as a couple of specialized freelancers for ambiguous and/or short-term projects.   Amplify Your Productivity