From $3 an hour offshore task managers to $60 an hour highly skilled onshore professionals, Virtual Assistants are increasingly defining their own roles and their fee structures.
But the prices they charge and the work that they do depends to a large extent on where in the world they live and work.
Typical Western Virtual Assistants
Many VAs in Western countries are ex-corporate staff who have set up their own businesses, often working from home.
Typically they are highly skilled and can perform some, if not most, of the following functions:
- Lead generation
- Data entry
- Web design
- Graphics design
- Content writing
- Document preparation
- Personal assistance
- Real estate
- Customer Relations Management (CRM)
Some VA agencies in the United States, Australia, Canada, Britain, and Europe are highly specialised and boast executive teams that can deal with finances and management, creative teams comprised of writers, illustrators, designers, and artists, and technical teams that focus on big data, analytics, and operating systems.
But all these VAs come at a price. Often a hefty price. But more about fee structures later. For now, let’s examine the pros and cons of hiring locally.
Advantages of Hiring Local Virtual Assistants
If your business is based in the US, Canada, Australia, Britain, the European Union, or other Western countries, there are a number of sound advantages that come with hiring local VAs:
1) They are likely to be highly skilled—some agencies say they employ just two percent of all applicants, while one claims it is easier to be admitted to Harvard than to enter their employ.
2) They speak your language and know your business environment.
3) Their working hours will coincide with your own.
4) They understand your customers and how to communicate with them.
5) They handle their own taxes, health care systems, and pensions.
6) They are familiar with local banking and financial systems.
The Downside of Hiring Local Virtual Assistants
There is only one real disadvantage of hiring local VAs: their rates are relatively high!
According to Payscale.com, the average rate per hour for a VA is $15.70 (US) in the United States and Canada, but these costs can rocket to $60 to $65 per hour for specialist consultants.
In Australia, the cost per hour of a VA can vacillate between $7 and $50 (AUD), depending on skills and experience.
In the United Kingdom, the average rate is £15-£25 an hour, while in Europe the average is a little lower, at €15 to €20.
The higher the rate, the more you are assured of quality—and the added benefit of a slew of warranties.
Top-class Western VA agencies variously offer one or more of the following guarantees when you subscribe to their services:
- Their VAs are highly trained.
- 100 money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with their services.
- Your virtual assistant has a trained backup, should he or she be incapacitated.
- You get a client dashboard to keep a check on your VA’s time.
- All VAs on their books have been thoroughly vetted and subjected to background checks which, some claim, are equal to those carried out by the FBI.
Despite the costs involved, hiring virtual assistants is still cheaper than taking on full-time workers, as you pay only for the hours they clock up—and you don’t contribute to their pension and health care, nor do you owe them paid leave.
The Cheaper Option: The Offshore Virtual Assistant
VA rates in various countries are determined by factors such as level of economic prosperity, competition for jobs, the value of money, salaries of fulltime workers, and mindset.
It’s for these reasons that the bar is set lower in countries such as India and the Philippines, two countries favoured for outsourcing due to their low fees and proficiency in the English language.
In India, rates average at $5 to $15 an hour, while the average rates in the Philippines are even lower, at $3 to $15 an hour. These rates are in line with the low salaries paid to workers in those two countries.
How do Virtual Assistants in India Size Up?
Once known as the call-centre capital of the world, India has in recent years developed its outsourcing sector to be on a par with those in the West—only much more affordable.
Characteristics of the Indian VA
Virtual assistants in India are known to be educated, polite, and professional. They tend to work for large business process outsourcing (BPO) companies rather than on an independent, self-employed basis.
They are especially known for their skills in the following sectors:
- Database maintenance
- Website development
- Social media management
- Ecommerce management
However, some VAs will offer very personal services such as organising your calendar, booking your appointments, ordering items from eBay or Amazon for you, planning your travels, ordering gifts/flowers for your partner on birthdays/special days, and even finding a reliable dog walker for your puppy.
There Are Definite Advantages to Hiring Indian VAs
1) They have the skills to match the best in the business.
2) Their hourly rates are half or even one-third of those of onshore VAs.
3) Because they are in a different time zone to you, they can help keep your business buzzing for 24 hours a day.
4) They have a strong work ethic.
However, there are some downsides as well:
- Many businesses complain that the standard of English in India is below par and that tasks such as content writing and answering emails are poorly executed.
- The language problem also means that certain assigned tasks are at times misunderstood and therefore
- The time zone difference can be a boon, or it can be a curse. If your operation is in the United States, for example, you may have to wait up to 12 hours for a reply to an email query you have sent your VA.
You may find yourself having very late night/early morning Skype sessions with your Indian VA team.
Why the Philippines is Capturing the Global Outsourcing Market
Virtual assistants in the Philippines enjoy the same advantages as their Indian counterparts, but fewer of the disadvantages.
For one thing, their rates ($3 an hour) are the lowest in the world, for another, their standard of English is excellent.
Filipinos are known to have a strong work ethic and to be loyal and honest employees. They prefer secure employment rather than take the risks of going it alone. They tend to work for BPO outfits, although more Filipinos work from home than do their colleagues in India.
The Philippines scores highly on the Global Competitiveness Index, so their VAs are sought after for content writing and communication tasks.
The Main Downside of Hiring Filipino VAs—Varying Quality
Their rates may be low but their work could also be low in quality. Finding an efficient, skilled VA takes a good deal of research. Those wishing to hire a Filipino VA are advised to go through a reputable BPO, such as Virtual Done Well.
Taking all factors into consideration, the Filipino VA, should you be fortunate enough to find the right one, offers great value and superlative service.
Both onshore and offshore, the virtual assistant business is booming. If you are an entrepreneur, you are spoilt for choice. Decide which VA in which country best fits your needs and then set about forming your virtual team. Provided you do your research thoroughly, you can’t go far wrong.