Essential Virtual Assistant Statistics for 2021

Updated: 19 Aug, 2021 | Bill Peatman

The virtual assistant business is booming. As remote work has become the norm, executives are turning to remote administrative, sales, and back-office support teams to help them offload day-to-day tasks. You might want to know more about this industry and how executives use VAs to make their lives easier.

Let's start with a definition: A virtual assistant is a remote administrative assistant. That's a general category. Everyday tasks VAs can take on include:

  • Scheduling meetings
  • Email and phone correspondence
  • Planning travel and filing expenses
  • CRM data entry and management
  • Following up with sales leads
  • Email marketing
  • Social media management
  • Invoicing and payment processing
  • Data entry and cleanup
  • Bookkeeping

Other virtual assistants provide more specialized services. These aren't admins but professionals with training in disciplines such as:

  • Graphic design
  • Website development
  • Content creating/writing
  • Accounting
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)

Now, onto the stats!

Essential Virtual Assistant Statistics

1. There are either 25,000—or 30+ million virtual assistants in the world.

It depends on how you count. If you consider any remote freelancer as a virtual assistant, there are 10s of millions. There are 12 million freelancers on Upwork, 20 million on Freelancer, and 3 million on Fiverr. Wikipedia says that the number of people with the title "Virtual Assistant" is closer to 25,000.

2. There are 5,600 members of the International Virtual Assistant Association (IVAA).

Virtual assistants even have their own trade association. "The organization exists to promote, support, and preserve the integrity of this rapidly growing industry through interactive online programs and one-on-one networking," IVAA's mission statement says. "IVAA is without stock and is governed by volunteer professionals worldwide who are in practice as and/or mentor virtual assistants and freelancers."

3. The Philippines has most of the world's virtual assistants at 13 percent.

It's difficult to get hard numbers on populations of virtual assistants because there isn't a global Bureau of Labor Statistics that measures employment, and many virtual assistants work on their own under the radars of governments. If you use Upwork as a proxy, the largest percentage (13) of the marketplace's virtual assistants are in the Philippines. That number is representative of the overall market.

4. The hiring of offshore virtual assistants through offshore agencies increased 41 percent in 2020. 

This growth came as businesses closed offices, and many realized that virtual offices need virtual assistants.

5. Freelance virtual assistants working through online marketplaces increased their bookings by 16 percent in 2020.

During the pandemic, solo practitioners also found their businesses growing as demand grew for people experienced at remote work.

6. The Philippines is the unofficial best country for virtual assistants.

What country has the "best" virtual assistants? This is another question that is hard to answer objectively. Many people cite the Philippines as offering the most educated, literate, and hardworking virtual assistants. The Philippines has a 96 percent literacy rate and free college. The country also ranks as the world's best outsourcing destination for business English.

7. Virtual assistants make $2 to $20 per hour.

According to Indeed, a U.S-based virtual assistant makes about $20 per hour. Glass Door says salaries for VAs in the Philippines are $14-$16 per hour. That said, you can find job boards that offer virtual assistants in the Philippines for $2 per hour, so Glass Door's numbers seem high.

8. There are three ways to hire a virtual assistant:

  • Hire a freelancer through a marketplace or job board.
  • Use an agency that provides independent contractor VAs.
  • Use a managed service that hires, trains, and manages the VAs for you.

What's the best way to hire? It depends on how much you want to be responsible for employment, management, and quality control. A freelancer will take the most effort on your part and a managed service the least.

9. 87 percent of VAs work for hourly wages.

How do you pay a virtual assistant? How you pay depends on how you hire.

  • If you hire a freelancer, you pay through the marketplace or use an online payment app like PayPal or Payoneer if you direct-hire a VA.
  • If you hire a contractor through an agency, you pay the agency.
  • If you use a managed virtual assistant service, you pay the service provider.

10. 59 percent of virtual assistants work full-time.

This essential virtual assistant statistic may seem high because VAs are usually part-time roles. But many virtual assistants support multiple clients to make it a full-time job.

11. 60 percent of virtual assistants have a college education.

This statistic also surprises many people. But in countries like the Philippines and India, work as a virtual assistant can be far more attractive than the most common jobs available to college grads— working in call centers. Virtual assistants enjoy working with executives and building long-term, productive relationships.

12. Virtual assistants are 78 percent cheaper than full-time, on-site employees.

It takes about $4,000 and four months to hire an employee in the U.S. You also provide salary, benefits, office space, computers, etc. With a virtual assistant, all you are paying is the hourly rate.

13. 69 percent of virtual assistants are married.

This virtual assistant stat may also surprise those who think VAs are vagabonds that want to work from anywhere. That may have been the case in the past, but the industry is changing. Read on.

14. Executives spend 16 hours per week on day-to-day admin work.

Where does the time go?

  • It takes 25 minutes to schedule a meeting.
  • They spend three hours a day on email correspondence.
  • It takes 12 hours to plan a business trip.

Getting that time back is one of the biggest drivers for virtual assistants. Executives spend too much time on tasks that they can easily outsource. Instead of paying themselves a high salary to do their admin work, executives and HR teams invest in virtual assistants.

15. There are more than 150,000 virtual assistant jobs posted on Ziprecruiter.com in the United States alone.

That's a lot! Though not as many jobs as "software developer "(700,000+) and "website developer" (300,000), for some perspective.

16. The average age of a virtual assistant in the U.S. is 40. 

Another shocker, right? Virtual assistants access vital business information and responsibilities. Executives are looking for seasoned people they can trust.

17. 85 percent of virtual assistants have a professional website.

This statistic shows further evidence that VAs are serious about their businesses and are investing in online marketing to grow.

The virtual assistant is an emerging profession, as shown by the fact that most VAs are married, have college degrees, are older, and work full time. Market analysts measure the industry, and trade associations are forming. Also, a recent report by Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) identified the virtual assistant landscape as a growing sector in the broader Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry.

SIA also found that virtual assistant businesses grew during the pandemic and are increasingly used by enterprises to improve executive productivity.

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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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