How do Virtual Assistants and Freelancers Differ?

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FreelancerVirtual Assistants vs Freelancers

There have been many discussions taking place recently in the Virtual Assistant industry.  Since the economic issues arose, many people have lost their jobs and have begun to think of alternative methods of employment – retraining in other careers, self-employment, or making their living on the internet.

And since most Companies have experienced some form of negative impact on their businesses during the economic unrest, many have tightened their belts and budgets.  One of the first cuts is usually in the Adminstrative operations.  This has created a boost for our industry, as Companies are now outsourcing their administrative tasks.

I have spoken to countless Executive and Administrative Assistants who have recently found themselves unemployed and rather than face the uncertainty in the job market once again, they have decided that self-employment is a better choice for long term employment.  Virtual Assistance would provide the perfect transition for their skills and experience.  However, I heard of several instances of an unemployed nurse, cashier, factory worker who wanted to transition to Virtual Assistance because they have a home computer and are familiar with the internet, however, they have had no actual experience.

Employers who are new to outsourcing are sometimes having unpleasant and frustrating experiences in getting their projects and tasks done.  And Virtual Assistants are rightfully concerned about their reputation in the industry.

The following points may help businesses in their search to find the right VA or Freelancer.

1.  Virtual Assistants own and operate their own Company.  They already have several years of corporate, executive or administrative assistance.  They bring their skills and experience to the table to partner with businesses in getting the project or tasks done.  Often, virtual assistants can offer many services to their clients, much the same as when they worked on-site as employees.

Freelancers usually are listed on sites like Elance, Guru and kiWork.  They are looking for assignments particular to their field of experience such as web design, data entry, research, etc.  They rarely multi-task in offering several services.

2.  Virtual Assistants predominately have a business website, business phone, email, fax, toll free number and have a fully functional home or business office.  A prospective client can check out their site for more information on their experience, client testimonials, their portfolio, their rates, their service packages, even an About page so they can familiarize themselves with who they want to partner with to get the job done.

Freelancers have an account on the sites and usually can only be contacted by email, and do not have a website.  However, they are regularly rated by those who employ them which is included in their profile and you get a feeling for whether the freelancer is professional and reliable.

3.  Virtual Assistants take the time to have a consultation with clients to clarify their needs and expectations.  Often clients will ask for recommendations and call on the Virtual Assistant to provide input on how to effectively get the job done.

Freelancers bid for the project or task listed on freelance sites.  They DO have the opportunity to ask for clarification before they quote.

4.  Virtual Assistants, like all businesses, provide an invoice with details of the work done, rates, taxes, etc.  Most of them have specific payment options available to their clients.

Some Freelancers provide invoices but some don’t.  Usually they are paid through the freelance site using Paypal.

Before you contemplate outsourcing as an option, whether it be with a freelancer or a virtual assistant,  ask yourself these questions:

  • Who do you want to work/partner with?
  • What is your budget?
  • What level and method of communication do you want between you and them?
  • What other resources do they offer to effectively utilize the working relationship?
  • What role do you want to play as the Outsourcer?

With those questions answered, you will have a much easier task of locating the right outsourcing solution for your needs.

Diane L. Coville

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