How to Choose the Right Virtual Assistant Service  

By Bill Peatman | Updated: 15 Apr, 2021

If you have decided to hire a virtual assistant to take important but delegable admin work off your plate, you are a step closer to getting back those 2-3 hours per day most entrepreneurs spend on tasks like email correspondence, scheduling meetings, and following up on sales leads. 


There are multiple ways to hire a virtual assistant. Most options fall into two broad categories:  

  • Hire a freelancer   
  • Use a virtual assistant service  

Virtual assistant services are attractive for busy entrepreneurs for the same reason you need a virtual assistant in the first place—to save time. Instead of taking the time to recruit, interview, qualify and hire a virtual assistant yourself, experienced service providers do it for you. Your time to improved productivity gets a lot faster.  

Different Service Models  

Once you have decided to use a virtual assistant service provider, you will find multiple service delivery models within this market. These, too, can be broadly sorted into two categories:  

  • Managed service—the service provider hires, supports, trains, and coaches the virtual assistants, so you don’t have to. The assistants use computers, offices, and IT security of the service provider.   
  • Unmanaged service—the provider vets independent contractors, you interview and select the one you that’s right for your business, and all management, support, training, and management is your responsibility. In most cases, the assistants use their computers and work from home offices. 

Advantages of a Managed Virtual Assistant Service  

The primary advantage of a managed virtual assistant service is that you get all the benefits of an executive assistant without any more management responsibility on your part. The service provider recruits, hires, trains the assistants, and onboards them onto your systems and processes. An account manager holds a brief call to learn your needs to make sure you get someone with the right skills and experience that shows up ready to work on day one.  

The account manager and the assistant typically have years of experience helping hundreds of businesses and will help you utilize the service using best practices learned over time. Most have backup assistants that also know your tools and systems and can step in the primary assistant is sick, on vacation, or moves on.  

Other advantages of a managed service include:  

  • Performance management and quality control  
  • Business-class IT and office security  
  • Scalability—easy to scale up or scale back  

Advantages of an Unmanaged Virtual Assistant Service  

Unmanaged services are better for specialized skills that require more in-depth training and certification—accounting, for example, or website development. Unmanaged service providers often specialize in specific disciplines, where competencies are universally accepted, taking some risk out of hiring. For example, if an accountant has a CPA, there is a baseline level of competence. You may already have experience managing this role, making the performance management of a managed service less critical.  

Unmanaged services can also be a good call for shorter-term projects or engagements—say to take over for an employee on leave or a finite project like a website design. Managed services are more suited for long-term relationships where the assistants and their support team gain institutional knowledge about your business and can take on more tasks.

Does Geography Matter?  

There are managed and unmanaged virtual assistant companies whose assistants are U.S.-based, and others with assistants based overseas. Geography is less and less a barrier to engaging these services, as the events of 2020 made remote work routine. The surge in remote work is why many virtual assistant businesses flourished during the shutdowns—companies needed assistants that were already experts at remote work.

Choosing the Right Service  

Choosing the right virtual assistant service provider will depend on your short-term and long-term needs and the kind of work that needs to be done.

A managed service provider can be ideal for long-term relationships, and the assistants are typically able to perform a wide range of tasks. The fact that the service is managed puts the performance risk on the service provider. An unmanaged service can work for roles with more vetted professional credentials or shorter-term engagements, and if you don’t mind taking on a new person to manage.  

Prialto offers managed virtual assistant services. For more information about how to work with a Prialto assistant, check out this guide.  

Amplify Your Productivity

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.