If too much of your workday is consumed by phone calls, research, paperwork, data entry, and other time-sensitive tasks, get that time back by delegating tasks to a virtual assistant (VA). With a virtual assistant you can “set it and forget it,” allowing them to step in and handle many of the everyday clerical, scheduling, and technical aspects that keep your business operating smoothly. The key is to find a VA with the right mix of experience and skills so they can seamlessly integrate into your routine and be as helpful as possible.
So, how much does it cost to hire a freelance virtual assistant? That will largely depend on the size and duration of your project and the rate and expertise of the virtual assistant you choose. In this article, we’ll break down some key cost factors to help you more accurately estimate the cost to hire a virtual assistant for your business.
Define Your Virtual Assistant's Scope
Virtual assistants can handle almost any administrative project from scheduling meetings and taking calls to sales support and marketing. They should be self-motivated, proactive, accurate, and great problem solvers. When you find the right one for you, there’s no limit to what he/she can do for your business.
First, decide what you’re comfortable delegating—along with any related processes — before you start outlining elements of your job post. This will be different for everyone, but an easy place to start is by identifying what activities are currently limiting most of your availability and efficiency. From there, decide which of those are a good fit for a VA and begin outlining the description.
Be sure to include as much detail as possible. It may be helpful to break these down into categories. For example, you may hire a virtual assistant to help with any of the following:
- Assistance with a new marketing campaign. A virtual assistant can help you with digital marketing campaigns by publishing content, curating email lists, posting to social media accounts, and more.
- Data entry. This can be anything from entering new products into an ecommerce store to updating customer records to adding new listings to your real estate site, all of which may require more specialized knowledge into the platform you use.
- Customer service support. Let a VA monitor online chats, respond to support emails and FAQs, or create reports from your CRM software so you can focus on providing the best possible solutions for your customers.
- Support your sales efforts. A VA can help create presentations, field any rerouted, after-hours inbound calls, or drive traffic to online storefronts.
- Financial projects. Projects such as accounting, receipt transcription, vendor relations, and invoicing can all be handed over to a virtual assistant.
- General administrative work. Let a VA schedule travel arrangements, respond to emails, take notes, or type up documents.
Now that you’ve laid out an idea of the day-to-day tasks or project you’re hiring a VA for, here are a few additional factors that can typically affect cost.
Cost Factor #1: Experience and expertise.
The most important qualities to look for in a VA are reliability, resourcefulness, efficiency, and great communication skills. The more experienced a VA is, the more they’ll be up to the challenge—and the higher the rate they’ll be likely to charge. On Upwork, freelance virtual assistants charge an average of $18-35/hour depending on skills and experience.
If your organization is larger with a more “corporate” structure and protocols, it may benefit you to hire a VA with corporate office experience who is more comfortable navigating the ins and outs. Some freelance virtual assistants will list prior office experience, corporate positions, or executive administrative assistant roles in their profiles. This should translate to valuable knowledge that can give them the instincts and skills to handle more demanding work.
It’s also important to find someone who complements your skills, company, or workflow and who brings something additional to the table that you may be lacking. Once you’ve identified what work you’ll need performed, you’ll be better able to match up a potential VA with the skills required. The more complex the work, the more experience you may require—which can affect rates.
Start by asking the prospective VA what their core skills and services are, then find out what focused, advanced skills they have. If any of the work you need performed are outside of their scope, you’ll have to widen your search and potentially increase your budget.
Typical Rates Charged by Virtual Assistants*
|Type of Virtual Assistant||Description||Average Hourly Rate|
|Administrative Professional/Data Entry VA||Proofreading, data entry, clerical work, research, Excel, etc.||$12-20+|
|Marketing VA/Customer Service/Accounting Support||Copywriting, budgets/accounting, marketing support, customer support, CRM software experience, email marketing, social media marketing; software like PowerPoint, Quickbooks, Salesforce, WordPress, etc.||$20-35+|
|Business consulting, content management, project management, advanced IT/site management, web development, and server management||$38-50+|
*Reflect rates charged by freelancers on Upwork in North America with over 1,000 hours and 90% success rate.
Cost Factor #2: Types (and frequency) of the work you need performed.
Depending on your needs, you can hire a virtual assistant on a per-project basis and pay them hourly, or go with a fixed-price if you have a short-term project. Especially if you need a virtual assistant for an ongoing basis, you may need to consult your human resources partner or another advisor to verify the worker’s classification.
Some projects may be one-off, while others may be more long-term. Take an email marketing campaign, for example. If all you need is a VA to pull contacts and enter them into your marketing platform like MailChimp, you can expect to need a few hours of their time. If you need more significant campaign support (e.g., crafting email copy, handling responses, and monitoring bounce-backs), you may want to set up a contract that gives them a number of hours a week to perform all their responsibilities.
What if you need more involved VA services, like operational support and business consulting? This is next-tier VA work and may incur higher rates than more menial tasks. In this capacity, a VA can advise you on best business practices, build teams, recruit other virtual assistants and delegate daily tasks. This may also require them to spend more time getting intimate with your business and processes, so could be considered more of an investment.
Cost Factor #3: Level of technical knowledge required.
General office skills, email etiquette, and administrative work should come with the territory. Tools like Excel, PowerPoint, and the Google Suite are pretty standard—but what if you need more specialized, technical knowledge?
Ecommerce stores, for example, have to maintain, enter, and update inventory, handle customer inquiries, track orders, respond to reviews, and more. In these cases, finding a more skilled VA who knows their way around your platform—whether it’s Magento, Amazon WebStores, eBay, or Shopify—is worth the extra cost. If your company uses specific platforms like HootSuite, MailChimp, or Evernote; content management systems (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla; customer relationship management (CRM) software; or an online chat support tool, look for someone already familiar with the service you’re using.
If your business is in a specialized field like the medical field, specify that as well. You may require a VA with more knowledge about medical records, terminology, related legislation, and best practices. If you need a virtual assistant to help with more complicated accounting and bookkeeping tasks, that could also affect rate. Do you need research services, and if so, are they general Internet research, or more specialized legal research? Some virtual assistants are also versed in professional services like CRM, search engine optimization (SEO), lead generation, and social media marketing, making them valuable multi-taskers who you’ll feel comfortable delegating more business-critical tasks to.
Oftentimes, VAs are also hired to handle more technical, IT-related aspects of your business. These may require more specialized skills like WordPress administration and post formatting, etc. If you need a virtual assistant to handle website maintenance and updates, servers, networks, and office hardware; or to provide tech support to customers and vendors, specify this and be prepared to pay more than you would for less specialized work.
Cost Factor #4: Location
Virtual assistants work remotely from their own location, hence the name “virtual.” Thanks to technological advances like VoIP and ubiquitous access to email, it’s possible to receive dedicated, near real-time support from a virtual assistant, no matter where they’re physically located.
Virtual assistants can be right in your city or on the other side of the world, which can be a big factor in the rates they are likely to charge.
When searching for a freelance virtual assistant outside of your region, one of the most important factors to remember is how location can affect real-time communication. VAs can work from anywhere, which opens you up to a larger pool of potential candidates with varying rates depending on location and their local cost of living. However, you’ll want to keep time zones in mind: Working across time zones can lengthen your timelines with less opportunity to interact live, but can also be used to your advantage, such as round-the-clock customer support or critical work being done while you sleep.