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Virtual Assistant Vs. Personal Assistant: The Best Support for Business Owners


Barnaby Lashbrooke

Founder and CEO of Time etc, author of The Hard Work Myth

7 minute read

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Ever since the early days of enterprise, ambitious and hardworking small business owners have always been faced with a mountain of responsibilities and tasks to juggle to get their companies off the ground and drive them to success.

For this reason, personal assistants (PAs) have long been business owners’ saviors. There are many people who believe that having a dedicated personal assistant is a rite of passage for successful entrepreneurs and high-net-worth individuals.

But, they’re not the only option on the table.

The rapid development of technology has given us a lot of helpful tools and innovations, one of them being virtual assistants (VAs).

However, personal assistants and virtual assistants are not one and the same. If you are looking for an effective solution to keep your life on track and make the most out of every day, there are some key differences between the two roles that you need to be aware of to ensure you’re getting the best support possible.

What does a virtual assistant do?

Virtual assistants are typically independent contractors who work remotely. They provide executive and administrative support and help complete regular, recurring tasks as needed by their clients.

Virtual assistants may not be able to run and make copies or show up to work with your favorite coffee, but they can do a significant amount of meaningful work. Depending on the needs of your business, an experienced virtual assistant could do almost anything you need. Their abilities include, but are not limited to:

Hiring virtual assistants helps entrepreneurs cover the tedious, repetitive tasks that come with running a small business. Their work can save you time so you can do other, more specialized tasks that will help you to generate revenue and grow your business.

See: Virtual Assistant Vs. Freelancer: The Best Ways To Outsource

What does a personal assistant do?

The role of a personal assistant also helps to make life easier for executives and business owners by taking care of all the little tasks that eat up their time.

Similar to a dedicated virtual assistant, this might involve anything from booking travel and managing appointments to dealing with correspondence and taking meeting notes. As personal assistants work in-house, many use them for running errands such as getting coffee or collecting orders, or in-person administrative tasks such as filing or picking up mail.

The benefits of hiring a virtual assistant

Recently, there has been a substantial increase in demand for virtual support, and that's not without reason. Hiring VAs provides many valuable benefits to your business.


Since virtual assistants are not full-time employees of your company, they provide great savings as compared to full-time staff.

Virtual assistants are only paid for the time they spend working on tasks for you, which is usually a much more cost-effective solution in the majority of cases.

If we take figures from recent research as an example—that the average full-time employee is productive for 2 hours and 58 minutes each day—what could set you back $173.92 to pay a full-time employee would only cost you $106.92 for the same amount of productive time with a virtual assistant.

When you consider the costs of recruitment, full-time salaries for experienced candidates ($45,212 per year on average in the US and £28,000 per year in the UK), employee benefits, office supplies, and equipment, the money saved by hiring a VA could be as much as 90%.


In most cases, virtual assistants are equipped with many years of career experience under their belt (a minimum of five-eight years in a professional role for all assistants at Time etc), and with that comes an ever-expanding range of tasks they can manage on your behalf.

We know that simple administrative tasks aren’t the only jobs that can eat away at your time and hold you back from focusing on more business-critical tasks, so whether it’s managing your social media accounts, creating email campaigns, updating your website, writing, proofreading, or publishing content, you’re sure to find a VA who can handle it for you.

Recruiting for a full-time, in-house position usually involves making a decision based on the talent that’s currently available within a commutable distance from your business. But due to their remote nature, hiring a virtual assistant means you don’t have to be limited by your location when it comes to finding the most suitable candidate. You have access to a much greater pool of skilled candidates, which means you’ll be more likely to find the best fit for your needs.


Virtual assistants provide a major advantage in that they are extremely flexible. The needs and demands of a business change a lot from month to month and year to year, and hiring a full-time, in-house assistant is a big commitment.

Hiring VAs through a fully-managed service usually means their support is provided through monthly packages or subscriptions, which can be customized to your specific needs. Many business owners take comfort in the fact they can scale up or down as needed.

If you originally hire a VA for one purpose (scheduling and email management, for example) but then you find yourself needing to offload other specialized tasks (let’s say, social media management), you can add additional assistants to your team at no extra cost.

And when an employee at a large company misses a few days of work, it's not usually a big deal. Colleagues could cover for them until they come back, and everything usually runs smoothly. However, for fledgling companies or businesses with smaller teams, those few days can make a big difference. But with services like Time etc, if your virtual assistant takes a vacation our team will arrange for another suitable assistant to fill in for them during their absence, ensuring your tasks are always covered and nothing falls behind.

See: The Ultimate Guide to Finding a Virtual Assistant

The benefits of hiring a personal assistant

Personal assistants can also help save time and trouble by taking over more routine tasks and leaving business owners free to concentrate on the bigger picture.

Always on hand

Hiring a full-time personal assistant means that you receive 100% of their time during working hours, and you always have someone available to pick up any tasks as and when they arise.

Plus, many find that working with someone in-person makes it easier to build familiarity and trust more quickly when you see them every day. You can see the personal assistant's work as it happens and check in on their progress as needed.

Maintain your schedule

We all know the life of a business owner can be a hectic one. With so many phone calls to take, emails to send, and meetings to attend, it can be helpful to have someone there in person to help you keep track of everything.

You could check in with your assistant first thing each morning to get a run-down of the day ahead, and reconvene in the evening to make sure you’re prepared for the next day.

What’s The Bottom Line?

As an entrepreneur, your time is extremely precious. You don't want to spend it on mundane tasks like sending emails, entering data into spreadsheets, or prepping social media posts. Instead of wasting your energy on busy work, delegate those tasks to someone who can do them just as well as you can. This will free up your time so that you can focus on the more important aspects of growing your business.

When you need an extra pair of hands, there are many similarities between a personal assistant and a virtual assistant for small business owners, but knowing what sets them apart is how you will reap the most benefits from your decision.

Those with busier and more intense schedules, who have more immediate and ad-hoc tasks with tighter deadlines, and who prefer more direct face-to-face communication are likely to benefit from the more dedicated, full-time support of a personal assistant.

But hiring new full-time employees might be hard to justify financially if you only need a few hours of support each week to tackle regular, repetitive tasks. For those who are in need of a more budget-friendly and flexible option, virtual assistant services are the way to go.

If you want to start reclaiming valuable time to do more, achieve more, and earn more in your business with the help of a skilled virtual assistant, speak to our expert team today to get set up for success.

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About the author

Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder and CEO of Virtual Assistant service Time etc as well as the author of The Hard Work Myth, recently recommended by Sir Richard Branson. Barnaby is a Forbes Columnist on productivity and is also an accomplished entrepreneur, selling more than $35 million worth of services.

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