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Virtual Assistants: Cost-effective or Extravagant?

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The virtual assistant (VA) has become increasingly popular after coming onto the time-pressed scene nearly a decade ago. Their popularity is thanks to providers such as TaskRabbit (, Exec ( and Davinci (, which make hiring individualized help as simple as sending an email.

Virtual assistants are real people who are paid on a per-task basis. Tasks can include administrative work, house cleaning, dog walking, furniture removal, and an interestingly common task: building IKEA furniture.

In most cases, the VA sets the price for his or her service and the person in need contacts the assistant through the designated Web site. While the concept of personal assistants is enticing, is it a cost-effective method for businesses?

According to VA, the answer is yes. The site makes the argument that virtual assistants can save a company an estimated $60,000 annually. Although a virtual assistant's hourly rate is typically more than that of a full-time, in-house employee; businesses that hire virtual assistants come out ahead in the end.

[Employers] save the cost of benefits and overhead that would have to be applied to the new employee's wage, the site notes.

What's more, virtual assistants are experienced in their advertised field. Thus, these individuals tend to be more efficient in completing a specific task. VA notes that businesses will spend less time training a VA compared to a new, full-time employee.

These monetary benefits have not fallen on def smart phones. According to TaskRabbit, "an untold amount of users" have employed VAs since the company started in 2008, saving an estimated $5.7 million by using the service.

The virtual assistant boon really hit in late 2007 when the country's economic footing slipped. As a result, thousands of highly experienced and talented workers became unemployed. While some found in-house positions again, many of the newly unemployed decided to make a go at the freelance arena.

In fact, according to the Freelancers Union, the economic downturn of 2008 helped to increase the number of freelancers and contract workers in the United States to 42 million. Essentially, one in three eligible workers in the country today freelances his or her talents.

Virtual assistants are an interesting phenomenon in the U.S. workforce today, mostly because they provide clients with specialized help, save them money and give them the most elusive commodity: time.


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