So, your company is growing and you’ve decided to explore hiring a virtual assistant. You’ve probably noticed that the choice of options is enormous. From dedicated to task-based, onshore to offshore, admin to marketing, entry-level to premium—the number of possible variations can be mind-boggling.

Making the wrong choice can be problematic, but perhaps even worse than making a mistake is to do nothing, missing the immediate opportunity of freeing your time to focus on things that are more important. Those key strategic tasks to grow your business will unfortunately remain in the parking lot until you unshackle yourself.

Moving your business forward is all about leveraging your time.

Fortunately, finding the right virtual assistant company doesn’t have to be daunting.

Ryan is the founder of a small consulting business in the marketing industry. In order to take on more clients, he needed someone to help take on skilled tasks, but he couldn’t find the right person to hire. “It was a struggle. The people who applied either didn’t have sufficient project skills or weren’t the right fit to represent the company when speaking to clients. I needed someone who could do both.” While sharing his story with another CEO friend, Ryan was introduced to the idea of using a virtual assistant for the skills he needed. “I was skeptical at first, thinking that someone who worked remotely couldn’t understand my business and my needs, but after meeting the assistants the company suggested, I was sold. I can say, without a doubt, that it was one of the best decisions I have made for my business.”

Below is a decision making tool and all the questions you need to quickly cut through the crowd and find the perfect partnership to help move your business forward.

First, a Quick Primer on the Different Types of VA Companies

Very broadly, Virtual Assistant companies can be sorted into three categories—whether or not your assistant is dedicated, where they are located, and the complexity of tasks they can handle.

Dedicated
As the name implies, dedicated virtual assistant companies allow you to work with the same assistant consistently. You can make sure that you match well with your assistant and can integrate her or him into your team. If you choose to work with an assistant part-time, for, say, 10 hours a week, then you will be sharing your assistant with other clients.

Task-based
With a task-based VA company, rather than having a single virtual assistant, you submit your tasks to a pool of assistants. This kind of arrangement tends to work better for personal tasks and basic-level admin tasks where there’s no need for an assistant to learn about your business in order to perform the task. The relationship with the VA is impersonal and you won’t know in advance who will do your task.

Onshore
An onshore virtual assistant company, typically in North America or Europe, will offer assistants based in your preferred country. This means that you will have native language speakers who are fully familiar with the subtleties of your local culture.

Offshore
Offshore VA companies typically offer assistants based in The Philippines, India and South America at competitive prices. Of course, if your company is based there they’ll be onshore to you!

Service & Skill Level
Whether dedicated or task-based, onshore or offshore, VA companies vary in service level and the skill/experience of their assistants. Some companies offer basic level admin support while others offer a more advanced range of business related services such as executive-level admin, marketing, design, web development etc.

Regardless of where you hire your virtual assistant, she or he should have the same values, qualities and skills as your ideal in-house candidate. There’s no need to compromise.

Getting to grips with the different types of virtual assistant company is the first step, but how do you determine which type of company is right for you, and avoid common pitfalls?

Which Type of VA Company is Right For Your Business?

virtual assistant selection criteria

To select a company that matches what you need from a virtual assistant, we recommend filtering your requirements through six criteria.

Budget

  • How much can you afford to spend per hour?

At this point don’t worry about whether spending more gets you better quality, or if you can save money by going offshore, just decide what is the maximum you can afford to spend. The other criteria will help align your expectations with your budget.

Timezone

  • Do you need your assistant to be working at the same time as you?
  • Is it okay if just a few hours of the working day overlap?
  • Or doesn’t it matter?

Language/Culture

  • Will your assistant be speaking to or communicating with your clients, suppliers, or other team members?
  • Is it important that they speak your language to a mother-tongue level, or is English as a second language acceptable (i.e. there may be some fluency errors particularly in writing, and an accent when speaking)?
  • Is it important that your assistant has a cultural sensitivity to your country or your customers?

Each country has its own cultural preferences that can have an influence on communication and work effectiveness, even if you are working in the same language.

Relationship

  • Do you want to be able to work with the same virtual assistant on an ongoing basis so that you can build a strong working relationship and so that your VA can become an integral member of your team?
  • Or are you okay with an impersonal relationship where your tasks are assigned to a pool of people?

Think about the value of consistency in terms of training, quality control, efficiency etc.

Risk

  • How important is a trained backup for your VA (in case of illness or vacation)?
  • How important is a satisfaction guarantee that ensures you get the right VA for your company and needs?
  • How important is the quality of work?

Type of Tasks

  • Do the tasks you want to delegate require the VA to learn about your company and work closely with you?
  • Do the tasks require specific skillsets or advanced-level experience, or are they repetitive mechanical tasks that can be done by anyone?

Identify the type of tasks and whether they require consistency, specific experience, or a specific language/cultural sensitivity.

Here’s an ‘at a glance’ chart of the different options. Click to enlarge in a new window.
virtual assistant company comparison

Selection Tool

Try this tool which will suggest the most suitable type of VA company based on your criteria.

Which kind of VA?
Same timezone is not compatible with a $10 per hour budget
Mother-tongue is not compatible with a $10 per hour budget
Non-mother tongue assistants only require a $20 per hour budget
Non-mother tongue assistants only require a $20 per hour budget
A $20 per hour budget and mother-tongue language level is only possible with a pool of assistants. Increase your budget if you need dedicated support.
Dedicated support is not compatible with a $20 budget and mother-tongue support. Either increase your budget, opt for non-dedicated support or opt for non mother-tongue support.
Dedicated support is not compatible with a $20 budget and same time-zone support. Either increase your budget, opt for non-dedicated support or opt for some overlap in timezone.
Non-mother tongue support working with a pool of assistants only requires a $10 budget.
Working with a pool of assistants only requires a $30 budget.
If quality is paramount then tasks that could be affected by language or subtle misunderstandings may be best assigned to a mother-tongue assistant.
Select either Basic Admin or Executive Admin
Sending tasks to a pool is not compatible with tasks where the VA needs to learn about your company
A $10 per hour budget is not sufficient for Executive level admin support
A $10 per hour budget is not sufficient for marketing support
A $10 per hour budget is not sufficient for advanced-level business support
A $20 per hour budget is not sufficient for Executive level admin support
Warning: Sending marketing and social media tasks which require knowledge of your company to a pool will affect quality.
Running Social Media and Marketing campaigns with a non mother-tongue assistant may impact quality.
A $30 per hour budget is not sufficient for executive-level assistance.
A $30 per hour budget is not sufficient for marketing and social media support at a native language level. Consider increasing your budget or accepting an assistant that speaks English as a second language. Please adjust your criteria to find the best virtual assistant option for your needs.
A $30 per hour budget is not sufficient for business-level support at a native language level. Consider increasing your budget or accepting an assistant that speaks English as a second language. Please adjust your criteria to find the best virtual assistant option for your needs.
A $40 per hour budget is only necessary if you plan to take advantage of services in addition to basic admin, otherwise you can reduce the budget to $30.
Executive level admin support is not compatible with a pool of assistants.
Result:
Based on your criteria, the most suitable type of VA company for you would be:
Onshore–Dedicated–Business
Based on your criteria, the most suitable type of VA company for you would be:
Onshore–Dedicated–Business
Based on your criteria, the most suitable type of VA company for you would be:
Onshore–Dedicated–Business
Based on your criteria, the most suitable type of VA company for you would be:
Onshore–Dedicated–Business
Based on your criteria, the most suitable type of VA company for you would be:
Onshore–Dedicated–Basic
Based on your criteria, the most suitable type of VA company for you would be:
Onshore–Task-based–Basic
Based on your criteria, the most suitable type of VA company for you would be:
Offshore–Dedicated–Business
Based on your criteria, the most suitable type of VA company for you would be:
Offshore–Dedicated–Basic
Based on your criteria, the most suitable type of VA company for you would be:
Offshore–Task-based–Basic
Note: This tool is written from the perspective of readers in North America and Europe in regards to language, culture, what constitutes onshore etc.

How to Apply the Criteria in Practice

Let’s see how this works by looking at some examples.

Marketing Assistant – you are a US-based marketing company looking for a marketing assistant that can do a combination of project management, which involves speaking with clients and contractors, and blog writing. Your budget is up to $40 per hour.

  • Timezone – you need a team member that works similar hours to your clients so ‘same timezone’.
  • Language – with a requirement for good quality writing and client communication, mother tongue language skills are a must.
  • Relationship – you want your assistant to be integrated into your team so a dedicated VA is a core requirement.
  • Risk – given the client facing aspect of the role, quality is more important to you than saving money, and some form of quality assurance would be valuable.
  • Types of task – clearly the role involves learning about your business, as well as marketing and social media, and the project management aspect of the role requires executive admin skills.

Evaluation: Based on the language and timezone requirement you need someone onshore, and given the need to integrate into your team you need someone dedicated. Finally given the advanced skillset required you need a ‘business-level’ service. Onshore-Dedicated-Business

Data Assistant – your marketing team collects raw data which needs to be analyzed and entered into a cloud-based tool for one hour each day. Your budget is up to $20 per hour.

  • Timezone – given the nature of the task there is no timezone requirement.
  • Language – fluency is sufficient since there is no client contact or significant language requirements to perform the task.
  • Relationship – for the sake of efficiency and to ensure accountability for the accuracy of the work you want the same person consistently performing the task.
  • Risk – given the ease of proofing and verifying the work performed there may be a case here for choosing budget over quality.
  • Types of task – this is a basic level admin role.

Evaluation: Given that there are no timezone or language requirements for the task this would be suitable for someone working offshore. You need someone dedicated to ensure accountability. The task is basic admin, so a basic level company should suffice if the person is well managed. You may want to test whether there is any accuracy improvement by paying a little extra to go with a business level service. Offshore-Dedicated-Basic

Admin Assistant – you are a busy professional that needs to delegate some personal tasks. Research, scheduling appointments, and ordering online. Your budget is up to $20 per hour.

  • Timezone – given the scheduling involved you probably want an assistant whose timezone at least overlaps yours.
  • Language – fluency is probably enough however there may be a case for having someone who is intimately familiar with your culture in order to be successful at the research tasks.
  • Relationship – the tasks are suitable for a pool.
  • Risk – the tasks aren’t rocket science, but at the same time quality over budget may be worth considering to get the best results.
  • Types of task – this is a basic level admin role.

Evaluation: In this case you could go with an onshore task-based company, or for the same budget you could get a dedicated offshore assistant. This is one of those cases where you may need to try both to see what works best. There is a case for the cultural fit of an onshore company, and an equally strong case for a dedicated assistant offshore who can get to know your preferences. Onshore-Task-based-Basic or Offshore-Dedicated-Basic

Find and Evaluate Suitable Companies

Now that you are equipped to find the right kind of virtual assistant company, visit the website virtualassistantassistant.com, which ranks hundreds of VA companies based on independent user reviews. There you’ll find both onshore and offshore companies of all variety.

As with any company, there’s good, bad and indifferent. Make sure they’re the right fit for you by asking the right questions.

Here’s a list of must-ask questions for you to use during your company search.