What is a virtual assistant?

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An image of a Virtual PA with glasses at home at her desk with her laptop, phone, pencils and coffee.


Often a freelancer or contractor, virtual assistants (VAs) can take repetitive or time-consuming admin tasks off your hands, freeing up vital time for your top-level priorities. VAs are particularly effective as support for project work, as they can be brought in for short term projects at short notice, reducing the costs associated with onboarding.

Thanks to high-performing communication technology, VAs offer a cost-effective alternative to the traditional PA role, providing much of the same assistance, but without the need for an extra desk or the expenses of a full-time employee.

How a Virtual PA could be the ideal solution for you

Personal assistants are a life saver for executives and managers the world over, but not every business is lucky enough to be able to accommodate them. Perhaps you’ve downsized your office and don’t have room, or you’re an entrepreneur without the budget for an in-house PA.

Regardless of the size of your operation, there is often a need for assistance across a range of admin tasks – this is where a VA can be invaluable.

What does a virtual assistant do?

If you were to write a virtual assistant job description, it would share many of the same tasks as one for a personal assistant. Many VAs come from a PA background, and so are already very skilled in similar duties, such as:

But that’s not all. The technology that allows VAs to work remotely is constantly evolving and improving, to the point where there are very few tasks they couldn’t do effectively. So the answer to ‘what does a virtual assistant do’ is changing all the time, and is limited only by the software they can access.

Differences between a VA and a PA

Having said that, there remain some distinct differences between virtual assistants and personal assistants.

Having an assistant with you in person and in the office allows them to take care of the inevitable physical paperwork any business produces. A PA will typically be involved in incoming and outgoing deliveries, filing documents, preparing meeting rooms, and the occasional personal errand (ever needed a last-minute gift for a forgotten birthday?)

A virtual assistant can’t be expected to cover these tasks, but they do have heightened expertise in other areas. Working remotely and without quick access to IT support requires serious tech know-how from a VA. Their computer and software literacy can be a valuable leg up for their manager and the wider team, who perhaps won’t know of certain online tools that could help boost performance.

Virtual employees, as a staffing solution, are growing in popularity thanks to the flexible working model, and the option is well worth exploring if your business has limited office space, or needs short-term support. Whatever the situation, our consultants are available to help, so be sure to get in touch with your requirements.

If you’ve hired your first virtual staff member, be sure to read our advice on onboarding remotely, as well as our tips on how to manage a remote team.

Looking for a virtual job, or in need of some virtual assistance? Register with us today to see how Tiger Virtual can help!

Author Rebecca Siciliano Tiger Recruitment Team
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