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Virtual Assistant Vs. Freelancer: The Best Ways To Outsource

Barnaby

Barnaby Lashbrooke

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

9 minute read

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As a business owner, you’re often forced to wear many hats. At times, you might even go a little hat-crazy as you feel a strong sense of responsibility for every aspect of your company, because it is yours. As a result, the average entrepreneur loses more than 30% of their week to low-value tasks like administration, scheduling, and email, and consultants and coaches lose up to 40% of their time to non-billable activities. When you’re losing time and money to this extent, the odds for success are stacked against you, as only around one-third of businesses reach the ten-year mark.

One of the top reasons why entrepreneurs avoid delegating tasks is due to this fear of losing control, but the truth is, delegation is a key leadership skill that will help grow your business beyond where you could take it on your own. As author John C. Maxwell wrote in his book 'Developing The Leaders Around You', “If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”

With this in mind, outsourcing certain tasks and projects to a third party can be crucial to a company’s success. They bring unique skills and perspectives to the table, help to ensure operations run smoothly, and afford you more time to focus on meaningful work. You founded your company for a reason. You wanted to do something you were passionate about. If your skills aren’t currently being put to the best use, or if you spend most of your day on the wrong type of tasks, then it’s time to consider outsourcing.

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between hiring a virtual assistant and working with a freelancer, and how you can make the right choice for you and your business.

What are virtual assistants and how do they help entrepreneurs?

Virtual assistants are self-employed contractors who work independently or through an agency or dedicated service that finds clients for them. They provide administrative and executive support remotely and on a flexible basis, and can be used for a wide range of tasks such as:

  • Email management
  • Scheduling
  • Editing and formatting documents
  • Data entry
  • Email marketing
  • Social media management
  • Writing and blog posts
  • Research
  • Expenses and billing
  • Finding products and services
  • Booking accommodation and travel

Think of them as an extension of your team, keeping your tasks ticking over in the background.

Virtual assistants are in high demand nowadays and for good reason. Here are some of the benefits of using a virtual assistant to help your business…

Cost-effective

As businesses grow, so does their need to expand or scale-up. And while you might be used to doing everything by yourself, over time, working longer hours to keep up with the demand will not give you the results you want.

The obvious next step is to hire employees. But hiring full-time staff can be expensive and can significantly raise your overhead costs, which can be tough when your business is just starting out, or just starting to take off. Virtual assistants are an affordable alternative, as you only pay for their productive time completing your tasks. With the annual salary of an experienced executive assistant averaging at £46,010 in the UK and $63,979 in the US, entrepreneurs can save up to 90% when they hire a virtual assistant through services such as Time etc. The money you save can then be reinvested back into your business, which could allow for many more opportunities for growth.

Flexibility

Aside from the cost, hiring a full-time employee is a big commitment.

The advantage of virtual assistants is that their services are mainly available through monthly packages or subscriptions, which can be set up based on your unique requirements. Having a quiet month? With services like Time etc, if you don’t use all the hours in your plan, they will roll over to the next month so you don’t lose out. Having a busy month? You can easily scale up your plan to suit your changing needs.

Skills and experience

Each individual assistant will have their own unique specializations from their previous professional experience, so you can be sure that you’ll find an assistant with the right skills and experience to fit your business's needs.

At Time etc, virtual assistants must pass a rigorous 10-stage application process and have a minimum of five years of previous experience to join us (and on average only the top 2% of applicants make it through), so you can rest easy knowing your tasks are being handled by an experienced professional.

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

Coverage

For larger companies, an employee missing a few days of work might not have big repercussions. Other members of their team can fill in for them until they return, and operations usually go as normal. But for a startup or a business with a smaller team, those few days away could set you back.

With Time etc, if your virtual assistant takes a vacation our team will arrange for another assistant to fill in for them during their absence, ensuring your tasks are always covered and nothing falls behind.


How can a freelancer help your business?

Similar to virtual assistants, freelancers are self-employed. More commonly, they work on their own but the number of freelance agencies and websites that match them with potential clients is growing.

Most freelancers choose a narrow niche to specialize in, which makes them a good choice for work that requires specialist knowledge. Some of the fields where freelance work is particularly common include:

  • Web design
  • Coding and programming
  • Graphic design
  • Marketing and PR
  • Accounting and bookkeeping
  • Videography

Take a look at some of the benefits of hiring a freelancer…

Larger talent pool for recruitment

Thanks to the internet and remote work, hiring a freelancer means you do not have to be restricted by location to find the best person for your project.

Popular freelance websites such as Fiverr, Upwork, and Toptal have global communities of freelancers which means you can hire someone on the other side of the world with as equal ease as someone just down the street.

Expert skills

As freelancers usually specialize in one area, such as graphic design, software development, or copywriting, offering a narrower range of services allows them to quickly master their skills.

Working with different clients can also equip them with valuable insight and experience on solving different problems for different companies, as well as a good knowledge of industry trends.

One-off projects

As your business grows, tasks are bound to crop up that are beyond your expertise, or that of your team. Maybe your company branding needs an overhaul, or your business website needs redesigning?

Luckily, you don’t need to hire someone full-time to do these one-off projects. Using an experienced freelancer is a great way to get the job done to a high standard, as they already have a wealth of skills and experience they can implement right away, and you save on the costs of hiring a permanent employee.

Faster turnaround

As well as the costs associated with recruiting and adding a new full-time employee to your company, it can also take a lot of time. To successfully onboard a new hire, the process should take about three months. Training an existing employee or team to take on these ad-hoc projects can have its benefits, but again, this often requires a great deal of time and resources to be invested. Not only will it take time to adequately train them, but a significant portion of their days will need to be spent performing the primary duties and responsibilities of their main role, so you could end up waiting a while. If your project is important, or you have tight deadlines, training someone from scratch or hiring someone new just isn’t a viable option.

Freelancers tend to be highly experienced in their field, so once they are briefed on your project they will usually be able to start working on it straight away. If your team is too busy with other projects and priorities, outsourcing to a freelancer can speed up the process to complete the project and you can avoid your team becoming overloaded.

What's The Bottom Line?

Virtual assistants are a great option for you to offload repetitive and time-consuming tasks that, while important, take your time and energy away from the high-value and high-impact work that will take your business forward.

Think of the tasks that waste your time the most on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. This could be anything from data entry to chasing payments. Ask yourself, is your expertise specifically required? If the answer is “No, anyone could do it with the right instructions”, you should consider delegating the task. Another easy way to determine which of your duties can be delegated is by using our free online tool. Once you’ve completed the process of handing these tasks over to an experienced virtual assistant, you won’t have to worry about them again. You’re free to enjoy the benefits of more time to spend on what matters most, safe in the knowledge that those tasks are in good hands.

Freelancers are better suited for one-off or short-term projects requiring particular knowledge or skills and call for specific deliverables.

Once you’ve decided on the best choice for your business and you’re ready to outsource, the key is to find someone who can deliver what you need. But this can be difficult - after all, time is precious, and you need to spend it on important things instead of sifting through long lists of candidate profiles.

If you opt for a freelance professional, you could start by asking your network if they have used any freelancers for similar projects. Not only does this give you a good indication of the quality of their work, but hiring directly means you can avoid paying the extra fees for posting ads for projects on freelance websites. But you must manage the process and payment yourself if you choose this option. However, freelance websites may be the better option if you need to find someone quickly, as it’s often possible to find and hire someone in less than an hour.

If a virtual assistant is the most suitable option, our mission at Time etc is to help entrepreneurs do more, achieve more, and earn more by providing the best virtual assistants for their business. We have a vast talent pool of assistants with a wealth of experience to tackle those tasks that are eating away at your time, and your own Time etc assistant will be perfectly matched with your requirements. We’re so sure you’ll be delighted with your assistant, we offer a complete lifetime satisfaction guarantee.

Are you ready to do more meaningful work in your business? Do you want to get more done without compromising on the things that matter? Try a virtual assistant for free or speak to our team to build a plan that’s perfect for you.

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About the author

Barnaby
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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