DEFINITION of 'Virtual Assistant'

A virtual assistant is an independent contractor who provides administrative services to clients while operating outside of the client's office. A virtual assistant typically operates from a home office, but is able to access the necessary planning documents, such as shared calendars, remotely. People employed as virtual assistants typically have several years of secretarial or office management experience.

BREAKING DOWN 'Virtual Assistant'

Virtual assistants have become more prominent as businesses increase their use of the Internet for daily operations. Because a virtual assistant is a contractor, a business does not have to provide the same benefits that it would for a full-time employee. In addition, since the virtual assistant works offsite, there is no need for a desk or other workspace at the company's office.

Hiring a Virtual Assistant

With the increasing number of freelance contractors who work from home, the employment market has seen a proliferation of Web-based companies that serve as intermediaries between prospective employers and contractors. Some freelancer sites have enormous work pools made up of individuals across the globe with a wide range of experience and expertise.

On these sites, clients can post details about the type of tasks they need the virtual assistant to perform and the maximum rate they are willing to pay. Freelance workers may then bid on the job and give the client samples of their work for review. In some cases, the client can set up a video conference to interview the applicants and to more thoroughly assess their qualifications.

For the client, one advantage of hiring a virtual assistant is the flexibility to contract for just the services he needs. Depending on the terms of the agreement, some virtual assistants may be paid by the task rather than by the hour. In contrast, employees in a traditional office setting usually must be paid for a fixed number of hours per day.

Duties of a Virtual Assistant

The specific duties of a virtual assistant vary according to the needs of the client and the terms of the contract. Some virtual assistants handle clerical and bookkeeping duties, while others may post regular updates to social media or write articles for a blog. A well-rounded virtual assistant may also handle travel arrangements, appointment scheduling, data entry and online file storage.

Before hiring a virtual assistant, the client can ensure a smoother working relationship by creating detailed instructions about tasks he needs performed. A written manual reduces the risk of misunderstandings that can occur in a remote working relationship.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Virtual Office

    A business location that exists only in cyberspace. A virtual ...
  2. Virtual Good

    A good or product traded in the non-physical realm, typically ...
  3. Trade Adjustment Assistance - TAA

    An unemployment assistance program offered in the United States ...
  4. Assisted Living

    A type of housing that combines healthcare and help with activities ...
  5. Assistance Agreement

    An agreement between a lending government, financial institution, ...
  6. Independent Contractor

    A self-employed taxpayer that controls his or her own employment ...
Related Articles
  1. Small Business

    How to Outsource Work: 2 Tips for Business Owners

    Small business owner can increase efficiency and profits by outsourcing routine functions such as bookkeeping and payroll.
  2. Financial Advisor

    The Upside of a Client Service Associate Career

    Client service associates play a vital role in the financial industry. Here's the lowdown on this position and what it can offer.
  3. Financial Advisor

    The Case for In-Person Client Meetings

    Meeting clients in person seems unnecessary considering how we connect with technology. But advisors can miss a lot by cutting out in-person interactions.
  4. Small Business

    Should You Hire Contractors or Employees for Your Small Business?

    Learn the pros and cons of hiring independent contractors instead of regular full-time employees. Find out about a potential risk for severe tax penalties.
  5. Small Business

    Get the Best Freelance Rates for Your Work

    Smart strategies for estimating costs, researching fees, pricing projects and getting your rate for a range of clients.
  6. Investing

    The Best Work from Home Jobs for Moms

    Here are the four best work from home jobs for moms. See if one peaks your interest and get started today!
  7. Financial Advisor

    Manage Your Clients' Expectations

    You can't control how they react to the market, but you can help them understand the reality of the situation.
  8. Financial Advisor

    Advisors: Why Older Clients Need Housing Help

    When was the last time you talked to your clients about housing in retirement?
  9. Managing Wealth

    Asset Manager Ethics: Acting In the Benefit of Clients

    Investment managers should always act to benefit the client. Learn what actions managers should take on a client's behalf.
  10. Personal Finance

    Private Banking Vs. Wealth Management: Not Quite the Same

    Discover the various ways in which private banking and wealth management services coincide, as well as the significant differences between them.
RELATED FAQS
  1. What are some examples of common fringe benefits?

    Learn how offering fringe benefits can be a strategic recruitment and retention tool for employers and drastically increase ... Read Answer >>
  2. Under the Uniform Securities Act, client information may not be disclosed to a third ...

    The correct answer is c. No authorization is needed from the client’s wife since it is a joint account. Also none is needed ... Read Answer >>
  3. How do externalities affect equilibrium and create market failure?

    Learn about the responsibilities of the International Monetary Fund and its functions regarding the international monetary ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Cover Letter

    A written document submitted with a job application explaining the applicant's credentials and interest in the open position. ...
  2. 403(b) Plan

    A retirement plan for certain employees of public schools, tax-exempt organizations and certain ministers. Generally, retirement ...
  3. Master Of Business Administration - MBA

    A graduate degree achieved at a university or college that provides theoretical and practical training to help graduates ...
  4. Liquidity Event

    An event that allows initial investors in a company to cash out some or all of their ownership shares and is considered an ...
  5. Job Market

    A market in which employers search for employees and employees search for jobs. The job market is not a physical place as ...
  6. Yuppie

    Yuppie is a slang term denoting the market segment of young urban professionals. A yuppie is often characterized by youth, ...
Trading Center