How to Find a Personal Assistant

Updated: 14 Oct, 2021 | Bill Peatman

With the pandemic blurring the lines between home and work, more and more executives use remote personal assistants for an added layer of support. Getting someone to schedule your next hair appointment saves you just as much time as an executive assistant saves planning a meeting at work. Whether you are overwhelmed by day-to-day tasks at work or home (or both), a personal assistant can give you hours back in your day.

There are so many tasks a personal assistant can perform for you:

  • Scheduling personal and medical appointments
  • Shopping for anything that can be ordered online or by phone
  • Paying bills
  • Scheduling home repair and maintenance
  • Keeping your calendar free of conflicts
  • Planning travel
  • Responding to emails

How Do You Find a Personal Assistant

You may have heard about the personal assistant trend, but how do you find a personal assistant? It can be a sensitive process, especially if you plan to share your credit card or medical conditions. There are three ways to hire a personal assistant: 

  • Find a freelance personal assistant through an ad or job board
  • Find an independent contractor personal assistant through an agency
  • Find a personal assistant through a managed service provider

Let's look at the pros and cons of each option.

Find a Freelance Personal Assistant

Directly hiring a freelance personal assistant will likely be your lowest cost option to find a personal assistant, especially if you look overseas. Job boards and marketplace advertise rates as low as $10 per hour. For U.S.-based personal assistants, job board Indeed says the average U.S. personal assistant costs $13 per hour—not a very big difference.

Directly hiring a personal assistant will require the most work on your part. You will need to:

  • Create a job description
  • Recruit and interview candidates
  • Set performance expectations
  • Train and onboard your assistant on how you like things done
  • Provide ongoing performance management

In this scenario, you need to be clear on what you want a personal assistant to do and how you want them to do it. Then there is the matter of trusting an assistant with your personal information. Ideally, you will have standards for:

  • IT security on any device the assistant uses
  • Confidentiality
  • Password protection

There's also the risk of a bad fit. If the assistant doesn't work out, you start over—but hopefully wiser. 

The pros of finding a freelance personal assistant:

  • Lowest cost 

The cons of finding a freelance personal assistant: 

  • Highest lift
  • Lowest security
  • A bad hire, and you start over

Find an Independent Contractor Personal Assistant through an Agency

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of agencies offering independent contractor personal assistants. Most agencies are U.S.-based and provide resumes of personal assistants offshore or onshore that they have vetted in advance. This model of finding a personal assistant removes some of the effort and risk from you.

You will still need to:

  • Create a job description
  • Interview candidates
  • Set performance expectations
  • Train and onboard your assistant on how you like things done
  • Provide ongoing performance management

An agency will help you with many of these tasks—except the training and performance management. But the job description and interviewing will be easier, and no recruiting is required.

You will also need to be clear on what you want your assistant to do. An agency experienced with personal assistants can help you do that. Perhaps a more significant benefit of the agency model is the reduced risk.

  • Candidates are pre-vetted
  • Work history is validated
  • More likely to have secure devices
  • Some sign confidentiality agreements

Device and data security can still be an issue. Most independent contractors work in home offices using personal computers and networks. If you plan on sharing access to sensitive information, you should be sure that your assistant maintains up-to-date malware prevention software and network security best practices.

You will pay a little more through an agency as the matchmaker gets a share of the fee. The average rate is about $25 per hour. Some agencies offer hourly packages with discounts for commitments to more hours per month. Others allow you to negotiate your terms once you find the right match. You start over if the assistant doesn't work out, but the hiring process is faster than with a freelancer.

The pros of finding a personal assistant through an agency: 

  • Lower lift
  • Lower risk

The cons of finding a personal assistant through an agency:

  • Still considerable lift
  • Higher cost than a freelancer
  • Security issues
  • A bad hire, and you start over

Find a Personal Assistant through a Managed Service Provider

With a personal assistant managed service provider, you are not hiring an individual personal assistant—you are hiring a company. Managed service providers hire, train, and oversee the performance of the personal assistants. The assistants go through background checks, sign confidentiality agreements, use secure, company-owned computers and phones, and work in secure facilities and on secure networks. They also use encrypted password managers, so the assistant never sees your passwords. Finally, managed service providers provide trained backup assistants for continuity when someone is on vacation, sick, or doesn't work out.

In this model, all you need to do is communicate your preferences for:

  • Tools and tech you use
  • Communications channels
  • Response times
  • Scheduling times and lengths of meetings

There's no job description, recruiting, interviewing, training, or performance management. But you will need a list of the tasks you want to offload. The service provider's managers train the assistant in your tools and preferred processes, and your assistant shows up ready to work. Most have worked with other executives and individuals and are quick studies.

The pros of finding a personal assistant through a managed service provider:

  • Zero lift
  • Highest security
  • Lowest risk
  • You never start over

The cons of finding a personal assistant through a managed service provider:

  • Not the cheapest

Most managed service providers are U.S.-based, and their assistants work in offshore centers. The cost is typically around $25 per hour, sold in monthly blocks of hours per month. You get training, performance management, backup assistants, high security, and ongoing service optimization for that price.

Finding the Right Personal Assistant for You

None of these models for how to hire a virtual assistant are right for everyone. If you know exactly what you want and how to onboard, train, and manage an assistant—maybe you have had an assistant before--hiring a freelancer might be a great option. If you think you only need a little handholding to pick an assistant and can take it from there, an agency might be the best route to take. Finally, if you just want to hand off your tasks to someone else and say, "get it done," a managed service provider is a good choice. 

Prialto offers a managed virtual assistant service. To learn what it is like to work with Prialto, check out this guide.

Discover how a virtual assistant can boost 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.

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