LearnHiring a virtual PA


writes on May 22, 2007

I just finished Tim Ferris’ excellent book The 4-Hour Workweek and it’s already had a significant impact on my life: It’s given me more free time.

The best tip I picked up from the book was hiring a virtual personal assistant (PA). Everyone has those annoying things on their to-do list that have been there for months, which just aren’t getting done. They’re important but you just don’t have enough fricken time to finish them.

Enter a ‘Virtual PA’. If you’re running a small business like Gill and I, you can’t justify spending £18K-£30k on the luxury of a PA. However, with the advent of the global marketplace, you can get a quality PA who works remotely, at a very affordable price.

I signed up with Get Friday, a reputable service in India. I’ve been assigned a PA named Shinu and he’s been very professional and helpful with the two tasks I’ve given him so far. The rates start at $15/hour and if you use them enough (160 hours a month) you can get that down to $7/hour.

Tips for using Virtual PAs:

  1. Make sure their English is excellent (let them know you’ll need to speak to them over the phone)
  2. Clarify exactly what the task is – don’t assume anything
  3. Give them a deadline
  4. Tell them how long they should take

(By the way, I took the above photograph while I was at the pub tonight. I just picked up a new Casio Exilim Card camera, so expect to see some more photos in the future.)


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32 Responses to “Hiring a virtual PA”

  1. david baer on December 18, 2009 at 5:14 am said:

    Small Business owners are largely forgotten. Thats why I only focus on them. I have experience several members of my family file bankruptcy due to small business failures. I also I suffered through 2 destroyed businesses due to failure however, in my failings I have learned some of the secrets to success. (Who can say they know it all?)


  2. The major advantage of hiring a virtual assistant instead of hiring a regular office worker is that it comes out cheaper for the company.
    You may visit my post: http://quick.catchfriday.com/2009/11/07/why-a-virtual-assistant-is-the-perfect-assistant.aspx
    A virtual assistant bring reliability, competence, creativity and other great characteristics to your business without the insane costs.

  3. Jaki Levy on April 22, 2009 at 7:57 am said:

    There are many advantages to using a virtual assistant. I am documenting my experience on my site, and posted a few more relevant links, including a podcast from AJ Jacobs about outsourcing. For my personalized view, take a look at this post: http://www.arrowrootmedia.com/2009/04/17/outsourcing-your-work-life-my-outsourced-life/. In fact, even this comment has been outsourced and posted by my virtual assistant.

  4. vijay kumar on July 23, 2008 at 7:18 am said:

    hi,am vijay kumar

  5. Hi there

    Does anyone know of any good resources/websites/links/information etc for Virtual Assistants in the UK, a lot of the useful information seems to be in the USA. I am just starting out and would value any input.


  6. Right! virtual assistants must have good communication skills, in order for them to interact with your clients well, but you must also consider that finding one could be the hard part. but there’s a solution for that, you can conduct tryouts so that you can separate the good from the best.A good VA is critical in achieving a good business.

  7. Can they make sales cold calls or find the right person to talk to in organizations?

  8. Ann Crosby on January 6, 2008 at 1:21 pm said:

    A message to all busy entrepreneurs! Please contact me if you need executive secretarial skills on line! I have extensive experience having spent fourteen years working as an executive PA in the UK for high profile companies such as R. J. Reynolds International and McCann Erickson Advertising. I am a Powerpoint and Excel wizard and can efficiently provide very creative presentations which will effortlessly promote your business. Complex mail merges are second nature to me. I have audio typing skills and also take shorthand should it be necessary for you to dictate correspondence over the telephone for same day turnaround. I also have a wealth of experience arranging the logistics for executive conferences involving hotel accommodation, transport, conference dinners and secretarial support for busy, travelling executives. I am proactive rather than reactive so if you allow me to control your diary, you will be where you need to be when you need to be. I am based in Southern Ireland with state of the art office and communication facilities. I look forward to working with you.

  9. I’m glad you’ve had success with a VA! Also, some great resources in the comments above. For those people (like me) that can’t commit to a full time VA (see my issues here: http://www.outsourcedmylife.com ) I suggest you look at a service like http://www.oDesk.com. You can get virtual assistants for just a few hours a week and you can see reviews and ratings for them. Hopefully some day I’ll have the time and work that I can employ someone full time, but just not yet.

    Please keep the suggestions coming on what types of work you’re having your VA’s do!

  10. hi!
    I’m a Filipina and a business consultant here in the Philippines.I am working for a british company whose into outsourcing too.As what i’ve seen on this page you are all into virtual pa’s and outsourcing.Well,to tell you more about this, in Philippines there are a lot of outsourcing companies,U.S. and british call centers too.I personally looking for a job as a virtual pa.Anyone who might be interested in hiring my services..Please contact me anytime!


  11. (Mental note to self – check back on various blogs when I have left a comment just in case someone asks me a question)

    What kind of tasks can a VA do?

    Well for me, being a VA describes how I work and not necessarily what I do. I am a qualified Bookkeeper (Australia) so I offer bookkeeping services, lead management, web site management including edits, design and hosting, complex documents including manuals, procedures, spreadsheets, powerpoint presentations etc. The bulk of my work lately has been designing e-newsletter templates.

    Depending on which VA you use, it depends on what services they offer. Some VAs are marketing experts and others are bookkeeping experts. Then you have writers/editor experts and you have human resource management experts.

    Most VAs have at least 10 years corporate experience with many of the ones I know having 15+ years. I’d be interested to read about everyone’s experience in using a VA for $5 an hour. My rates are what they are and I don’t apologize for them. I have the experience, knowledge and expertise that you would expect of my rate which is by no means exorbitant. Its just more then $5 an hour.

    My only advice to anyone using a VA or contemplating using a VA is to ensure you communicate effectively. Make sure they know exactly what you want and when you want it done by. Give feedback on tasks so they can get to know you, your business and your expectations as much as possible. Communication is the key to any relationship and your business relationship with your VA is no different.

  12. Just curious if after using Get Friday for a while now, if you’d recommend them.

    I’m in search of a PA myself, and would be curious to know what’s worked well and what’s worked less well.

  13. I first contacted GetFriday on the 28th of May. I still haven’t got set up with them, and they’re talking about another 3 weeks so I guess I’ll have to have more patience than usual.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how good their services are, it’s a cheap experiment that could pay big dividends.

  14. If any of your readers are interested in outsourcing their administrative headaches, they can find qualified Virtual Assistant professionals at the Virtual Assistance Chamber of Commerce at http://www.virtualassistantnetworking.com

    Of interest:

    Virtual Assistant Directory: http://www.virtualassistantnetworking.com/directory/

    RFP Center: http://www.virtualassistantnetworking.com/rfp-center.php

    Client Guide to Virtual Assistance: http://www.virtualassistantnetworking.com/client-guide.htm

    How to Hire a Virtual Assistant: http://www.virtualassistantnetworking.com/how-to-hire-a-virtual-assistant.htm

  15. Following up…

    I just got off the phone with Get Friday, after I didn’t hear back from them after submitting an inquiry on their site.

    It seems they’re thoroughly overwhelmed by demand generate by the Tim Ferris book, and now accept clients after a 15-20 day waiting period instead of the usual 24 hours.

    I asked if they were hiring like crazy and she laughed nervously. I’m hoping a mad hiring spree won’t lower their standards but it’s probably inevitable.

    You’re lucky you got in when you did Ryan!

  16. I know this is off topic but I can’t get past anything other than the home page on Amigo?? I was going to buy an ad campaign and the site keeps breaking at any page beyond the home page.

  17. I had my VA do two things so far:

    1. Research our competitors and fill out an Excel sheet
    2. Research good design sites so we could find a designer

    I wasn’t super impressed with the first item (but it was still helpful) but the second task was done brilliantly!

  18. I had my VA do two things so far:

    Research our competitors and fill out an Excel sheet
    Research good design sites so we could find a designer

    I wasn’t super impressed with the first item (but it was still helpful) but the second task was done brilliantly!

  19. Wow. The whole world seems to be reading this book right now.

    Ryan – definitely keep us up to date on what you’re getting help with and how it’s going.

  20. Ryan, I have GetFriday working for my firm as well.

    They just started this week, but so far they’ve been great. Good luck with your outsourcing.

  21. Hendrik on May 23, 2007 at 10:07 am said:

    I’m also interested in the kind of tasks you assign your VA!

    Most tasks I’d like to outsource couldn’t be done by a _virtual_ assistant. Things like “wash my car”, “do grocery shopping”.

    I can only imagine something like “check my expenses”, “find a cheaper insurance for X”. But are these worth the “setup cost” of outsourcing them? They aren’t that regularly performed, are they?

  22. What kind of tasks do VA do then?
    Kylie? Since you’re in the business …

  23. Hi there!

    I am a Virtual Assistant based in Australia and yes, using a Virtual Assistant/PA is a great way to ensure those tasks that need to be done, get done. Being virtual, your assistant can be located anywhere around the world.

    If located in a different time zone, you could send your tasks to your VA at the end of your work day and by the time you wake, they could be in your in box ready for your approval.

    Virtual Assistance is an exciting industry and I do recommend that you carefully screen your VA to ensure that you will work together well. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and communication is the key to a successful relationship.

    Good luck with your VA!

  24. Hey Ryan – Just wanted to let you know that we offer a similar ‘virtual PA + live-chat software’ bundle for live-chat on websites. Feel free to drop me a line if you’d like to use our service on any of your sites. I had talked with you about launching this service at SXSW and we’ve finally gone live 🙂

  25. andrew on May 23, 2007 at 12:28 am said:

    Virtual PA in India? That’s bizarre.

  26. PA sounds like what I am doing. I recently started a small business, but to supplement income while it is growing I work/consult for two small businesses in the financial sector who needed a hand. I most recently completed research for their new office and have been in charge of setting up a VOIP PBX and all the networking, etc. I also do the less glamorous job of preparing their excel docs and random jobs they need to be relived off for more important issues.

    Ryan, if you need another assistant, I would be glad to work for you or any of your readers!

  27. What a good idea – not heard of this kind of service. Let us know how you get on.

  28. I would love to know the same.

  29. Hey Ryan – what jobs have you given him so far?

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