What Does a Personal Assistant Do?

Updated: 07 Oct, 2021 | Bill Peatman

With everyone working from home, the lines between personal and professional work have blurred. One minute you're meeting with your team on Zoom, and the next, you're answering the door for grocery delivery.

The reality is that the internet already blended personal and professional task management. Workers regularly shop, bank, and message during the workday to save time. Tasks that once required a car trip get done in a few seconds without leaving the office.

It's all about productivity. Getting your tasks done quickly and efficiently helps you be more productive at work and home.

That is why many executives are turning to remote personal assistants to offload more personal and professional chores to focus on what matters most.

What is a Remote Personal Assistant

A remote personal assistant is someone you hire to do time-consuming day-to-day tasks that, while necessary, don't need to be done by you. In the professional world, remote virtual assistants do tasks like scheduling meetings, planning travel, filing expense reports, and data entry. Those same assistants can help with personal tasks, giving you more time for what's most important in your life.

What Can a Remote Personal Assistant Do?

Think of your remote personal assistant as a mini-you. They can represent you and get things done on your behalf. Much of the work a remote personal assistant can do is similar to what a professional assistant would do. Let's look at the types of tasks you can offload.

  1. Scheduling. Research has shown that it takes 20-25 minutes to schedule a business meeting. It can take even longer to schedule personal appointments because fewer self-scheduling options are available. How long would it take to get ten people together for dinner? A remote personal assistant with access to your calendar and contacts can schedule:
     
    • Medical appointments
    • Fitness classes
    • Personal care (hair, nails, massage, etc.) appointments
    • Car repair and maintenance
    • Dinner parties
    • Child care
    • Pet care
    • Children's activities
    A remote virtual assistant can remind you of what's coming up on your calendar and reschedule appointments when plans change. 
  2. Shopping. Americans spend 44 hours per month shopping online. You know how long it takes to research products online and to find the best price. A personal assistant can research for you and, providing you trust them with your credit card, make purchases. A remote personal assistant can order anything that is deliverable, including:

    • Gifts
    • Groceries
    • Clothing
    • Flowers
    • Meals
    • Self-care products
    • Tools
    • Home dé cor
    • Outdoor equipment
    The list is pretty much endless as you can buy almost anything online! You could even have your assistant find the best price for a new car.
  3. Inbox control. On average, people spend three hours per day managing email. If your inbox is out of control, a remote personal assistant can help you take it back. With all that online shopping, you are probably on dozens of e-commerce sites mailing lists and bombarded with offers. Buried in there are the critical messages that need your attention. A remote virtual assistant can be the guardian of your inbox by:

    • Deleting spam and offers you don't want
    • Getting high priority messages to you right away
    • Responding to requests on your behalf
    • Organizing messages in folders
    • Keeping your contacts up to date
    • Putting action items on your calendar
    • Unsubscribing from email lists you no longer want
    "Inbox zero" is the holy grail of email management. A remote personal assistant can help you get there!
  4. Travel. It takes 12 hours to plan a business trip. It can take even longer to schedule a personal trip or family vacation. Like shopping, the time it takes to compare airfares, routes, car rentals, accommodations, and activities and stitch them all together is daunting. Give your assistant your preferences and loyalty program information, and they can put it all together for you, searching and giving you options for:

    • Flights
    • Airports
    • Hotels
    • Car rentals
    • Excursions
    • Cruises
    • Vacation rentals
    • Restaurants
    Imagine having your assistant create and deliver your entire travel plan for you. They can also check you in, get your baggage tags, and schedule your airport transportation.
  5. Home management. Your home is your castle, and castles require a lot of upkeep. Most executives outsource much of that upkeep to specialists, and those specialists need to be scheduled and managed. Here are some of the household management tasks a remote personal assistant can do:

    • Home cleaning
    • Landscaping
    • Pool/spa care
    • Snow removal
    • Contractors
    • Home repair
    • Appliance repair
    • Laundry and dry-cleaning
    • Pest control
    • Window washing
    • Junk removal
    If your home has remote access—an e-lock on the door that opens with a code—an assistant can schedule home maintenance even when you are not home, changing the code when workers leave.
  6. Event management. Ever wonder why people hire wedding planners? Because the logistics of special events involve a rat's nest of details, it can take more than a year to plan a wedding! A remote personal assistant can be your "wedding planner" for all kinds of events, from kid's birthday parties to an actual wedding. Event planning tasks a remote personal assistant can take on include:

    • Sending invitations
    • Managing RSVPs
    • Venue research and booking
    • Ordering catering
    • Ordering decorations
    • Ordering gifts and favors
    • Entertainment booking
    • Creating seating charts
    • Booking hotels and transportation for visitors
    • Paying bills and tracking costs
    A remote personal assistant can even help the bride find a dress and "say yes to the dress."
  7. Personal financial management. It's easy for executives to take their eyes off the ball with their finances. You should be paying more attention to this area—Americans spend just 6 hours a month on their bookkeeping. A remote personal assistant can be your financial eyes for you, keeping track of your income and expenses, so you never fall behind. Individual finance tasks a remote virtual assistant can do are:

    • Paying bills
    • Monitoring account balances
    • Confirming direct deposits
    • Researching interest rates
    • Tracking stock prices
    • Organizing tax documents
    • Checking credit scores
    Imagine no more overdue payments or late fees! A remote personal assistant can be your financial watchdog.

How to Manage a Remote Personal Assistant

Many of the tasks you can hand off to a remote personal assistant require a high degree of trust. If you give an assistant access to credit cards, bank accounts, tax documents, and other sensitive information, you need to trust them. It would be best if you also had processes in place to limit your risk. Risk management practices for managing a personal assistant include:

  • Issuing encrypted passwords through a password management program
  • Ensuring their computer has anti-virus software
  • Performing regular backups
  • Using secure network access

Also, specify your processes and preferences so that the remote personal assistant meets your expectations. Preferences the assistant will need to understand are:

  • Trusted vendors
  • Meeting times at home
  • Meeting durations
  • Airlines, car rentals, hotels, and airports
  • Travel time it takes to get to local appointments
  • Meals/food

How you manage a remote personal assistant will depend on how you hire them. If you hire a freelancer or use an agency to hire your assistant, you are responsible for:

  • Performance management
  • Any training they need on your tools and processes
  • Quality control of their work

That can be a lot to take on, and you may not want more people to manage or go through the interviewing and hiring process. Also, if you don't have experience hiring and managing a personal assistant, it may be challenging to find the right person. If the assistant doesn't work out, you start over.

You can also use a managed personal assistant service. A managed service provider hires, trains, supervises and reviews the assistant's work for quality. The advantages of the managed service model are:

  • Assistants use the service providers secure computers, networks, and building
  • Service providers train the assistants on your preferences and process before they start
  • You have no training, performance management, or quality control responsibilities
  • Backup assistants ensure you never have to start over
  • Assistants go through background checks and sign confidentiality agreements

Can a Remote Personal Assistant Help with Work Tasks?

Yes. Because there is so much overlap between work and personal tasks, most remote assistants do personal and professional work. For example, there are few differences between scheduling, travel planning, email management, and event planning for the home or the office. The household tasks are also mostly a matter of scheduling.

Accomplish More with a Remote Personal Assistant

Think about how much more time you will have at work and home with the help of a remote personal assistant. Here is the time you can save:

  • Scheduling (individual and household): 20-25 minutes per appointment
  • Shopping: 44 hours per month
  • Email: 3 hours per day
  • Travel: 12 hours per trip
  • Events: 1 hour to 1 year
  • Finances: 6 hours a month

That is a lot more time for you to focus on your family, hobbies, or Netflix. It can also reduce the stress of long to-do lists hanging over you.

Prialto has provided managed virtual assistant services for personal and professional tasks for more than a decade. To learn how a remote personal assistant can work for you, check out our 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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