From a humble personal data assistant (PDA) to the now powerful smartphone, it is fairly amusing to see how far technology has taken us.
Evolution of The Personal Data Assistant
Commonly called Filofax, these organizers became popular in the late 1970s to early 1980s. It is a 6-ring bound A5 set of sheets for notes, phone number, addresses, and office-related tasks separated by colorful dividers.
Personal Digital Assistant (PDAs)
Electronic organizers eventually supplanted the Filofax. Standard functions include calendar and address book, among others.
Nokia introduced the first Network-enabled PDAs (PDA with a mobile phone built into it). The Nokia 9110 is a large mobile phone that opened out into a screen and keyboard device.
Sony Ericson and Nokia were the market leaders before being supplanted by Apple and Samsung. Smartphones are very similar to network-enabled PDAs except they are designed to function as mobile phones first. It has limited PDA functionality.
Functionalities of a personal data assistant are exponentially growing. The emergence of apps has introduced a whole world of uses for smartphones.
Personal Assistant Apps for Smartphones:
Mobile personal assistants like Siri are shaping the trends for today’s personal data assistants. Functions like voice command and artificial intelligence are redefining the way we live.
Here are some of the best personal digital assistants:
Premium services like those providing high-end virtual assistance should require more diligent deliberation before committing. It is highly suggested to take advantage of any virtual assistant free trial promotions before paying the full subscription fee.
Here are some of the Best Virtual Assistants for every Task:
The virtual assistant (VA) industry has been seeing growth outside the United States. Virtual assistant international companies mainly from Asia, India and the UK are now becoming strong contenders.
So we have listed some international companies worth a look:
Virtual Assistant International Spotlight: Philippines
In the last decade, outsourcing businesses have been a boom in the Philippines. Young, talented, and ambitious Filipinos capitalized on this growth. This propelled them to being one of the best locations to find an excellent virtual assistant.
Founded: 2009 by Utah-based entrepreneur, John Jonas
Overview: A remote job board for Filipinos.
Create a way to tap into the affordable Filipino workforce to the rest of the world.
Founded: 2011 in Australia by Braden Yuill
Overview: A remote staffing agency. They work exclusively with Filipino virtual employees. Candidates go through rigorous screening before being matched with a client.
Founded: Portland, Oregon
Overview: Employs a global staff mainly from Asia and Central America. They provide virtual executive assistant services for entrepreneurs and businesses.
Virtual Assistant International Spotlight: India
India has long been known for its outsourcing businesses. It is home to many virtual assistant companies and most of its workforce are excellent English speakers. No wonder India is people’s top-of-mind when it comes to virtual assistance.
Founded: 2008 with locations in Atlanta, Georgia and India.
Overview: Geared towards small businesses. Clients can train their dedicated assistants to the specific needs of their business.
Founded: Based in the high-tech suburb of New Delhi
Overview: Employs college graduates and subjects them to 2-weeks of intensive virtual assistant training.
Acelerar provide round the clock virtual assistant service for businesses and entrepreneurs alike.
Founded: 2012 by three veteran VAs who brought their experience to the table
Overview: Other than general administrative tasks, MyTasker also offers SEO and virtual receptionist services.
Virtual Assistant International Spotlight: Europe/UK
The UK and Europe are also regions with a fast growing outsourcing industry.
Founded: 2009 by Sandra Lewis
Overview: An International premium virtual assistant company with clients and assistants in North America and Europe. Their approach is very personalized – making sure that clients are assistants are carefully matched based on skills and personality.
Founded: 2007 by entrepreneur Barnaby Lashbrooke
Overview: Initially a UK-based virtual assistant company but has now expanded into the US. They only employ professional VAs with at least 5 years commercial experience.
Founded: 2014 by Richard Walton
Overview: A South Africa-based virtual assistant company targeting clients from the UK.
Most assistants have either lived or worked in London, giving them a good understanding of UK business practice.
A Good Alternative
While virtual assistants are becoming more and more diverse, it is still very limited to what can be done remotely. Virtual assistants are unable to do tasks that require them to be physically present.
A Virtual Assistant company is basically a firm that provides outsourcing services. Some companies are based in the US but it is not unusual that some of them are based internationally (Philippines and India). They have a pool of highly skilled and specialized virtual assistants they specifically match with a client.
Why Hire from a Virtual Assistant Company
There are several advantages to hiring a virtual assistant through a virtual assistant company as compared to a direct hire.
Does the bulk of the recruiting and screening legwork
Find a replacement when your VA gets sick, goes on vacation, or gets promoted/fired
Can match you up with highly specialized VAs if you want an “all-around” assistant
Makes taxation simpler
Top 6 Virtual Companies in USA
Best for 24/7, 365 Service: Magic On-Demand Personal Assistant
Established Year: 2015
Rate: $35 per hour, billable by the minute
Magic is a text-based concierge service. This on-demand personal assistant service promises to fulfill any demand – as long as it’s legal and possible.They can also do one-time requests or recurring tasks such as calendar management.
Virtual Assist USA assistants are skilled to handle more specific tasks such as social media managing, SEO, content development, or graphic design. The company also provides continuing training to up-skill its employees.
Best for General/Traditional Office Work: Time Etc
Established Year: 2007
Rate: $26/hour, minimum of 3 hours
Time Etc assistants helps busy entrepreneur with their day-to-day tasks. They best handle basic administrative work. A free-trial is available if you want to try Time Etc. They also provide a money-back guarantee.
Best for Both Onshore or Offshore VA: 24/7 Virtual Assist
Established Year: 2008
Rate: $299 for 30 hours/month
24/7 Virtual Assist has both US-based as well as offshore assistants. For businesses looking into expanding their operating hours to a 24-hour support, offshore assistants are a good option.
Best for Bilingual VAs (Spanish and English): Uassist.ME
Established Year: 2009
Rate: $269 for 20 hours
Established in El Salvador, most Uassist.ME assistants are bilingual and can write in both Spanish and English. They are able to handle general administrative work as well as technical tasks like translating, customer service or law.
Best for Odd Jobs: TaskRabbit
Established Year: 2008
Rate: Depends on task
TaskRabbit is a diverse platform for home services . From minor home repair, furniture assembly, to cleaning – all you have to do is post the specifics of the job and when you need it done, TaskRabbit will match you to a list of qualified workers in your local area.
To find the best virtual assistant that fits what your business needs, you need to make sure that the virtual assistant company is in line with what you are looking for.
Remember, your virtual assistant is a direct reflection of you and will represent your business – choose wisely.
Effectively tapping into such a rich pool of potential consumers is every business owner’s dream. This is something a social media virtual assistant can help you achieve.
Social Media has long established its place in marketing. About 2.34 billion people all around the world are social media users. In effect, people are connected now more than ever.
But if you think Social Media Marketing is all about setting up a Facebook profile, you are wrong.
There is a lot more to social media than just posting photos every now and then. Only experts can bring out the best in your business through social media.
What Can Social Media Do for your Business:
Let the numbers do the talking:
3 out of 5 small businesses credit social media for gaining new customers
99% of the top brands are on Facebook
64%Twitter users are more likely to buy the products of brands they follow online
If that does not convince you enough, here are some benefits social media can do for your business.
Enhance Brand Exposure and Equity. One post is not restricted to your country and can be seen by millions of people. People often see your value in the number of your followers, therefore: more followers, greater valuation.
Lead Generation. People who visit your page are more likely to be potential customers.
Get to know the Target Market. Analytics in social media channels provides valuable insights about your audience. This will allow you to create content they would enjoy.
Quick Customer Service. Address grievances straight away by quickly replying in the comments or sending them a message.
Open Up for Collaborations and Keep up with Trends. Expand your network by collaborating with other similar brands.
Monitor Competition. Monitor the activities of your competitors and observe what strategies work for them.
What is a Social Media Virtual Assistant?
A social media virtual assistant is a remote employee whose expertise is in social media marketing. Not only does it save you the overhead cost of hiring an in-office staff, you also don’t have to go through the learning curve of each social media channel.
A social media virtual assistant knows the world of social media intimately. Leveraging this knowledge will help your business become more visible to potential customers.
Tasks a social media virtual assistant can do for you:
Create Content. Engage your potential consumers through well-research and useful content.
Engage with Audience. Nothing makes a customer feel valued than a personal response to their query.
Social Media Profile Upkeep. Maintain quality by keeping your page updated, and replying to comments in a timely manner.
Manage Facebook Ads. Takes care of tasks related to Facebook ads like keyword research, SEO, and analysis of the ad campaign.
Competitive Analysis. Keeps an eye on the competition and observe what strategies work for them.
Where to Find a Good Social Media Virtual Assistant:
Now that you have realized how valuable a social media virtual assistant is, the question now is where do you find one?
A social media virtual assistant can do so much for your business. It has become a necessary evil in this highly competitive digital environment. Either go through the learning curve of social media marketing or use a service like Magic to hire an expert social media virtual assistant and start growing your business today.
These three start-ups share a similar vision – to make personal assistance service available to more people.
Time is not luxury and it shouldn’t be.
Everyone should have the time to relax, spend time with family and friends and have hobbies – not slave away in chores and time-consuming tasks. Personal assistant on demand services will definitely change the life of anyone who uses it.
Days are filling up with time-consuming tasks but you are far too busy working on more important things and tasks are getting overlooked. Finally, you have realized the need to start looking for personal assistant (PA) help.
You need help and you need it now – but where do you find a personal business executive? When you type ‘looking for personal assistant’ on a search engine, do not be surprised if it floods with a million results.
The best first step when looking for a personal assistant is to find websites that offer honest customer reviews of Personal Assistant Hiring Companies – more like a Yelp for PA companies.
Helpful Websites When Looking for Personal Assistant
‘Save time, money and headache’. Virtual Assistant Assistant is the first and largest database of VA company reviews written by actual customers.
Search a company
Easily read reviews about them
Compare multiple companies according to their star rating
Personal Assistant Hiring Companies
Now that you are armed with customer reviews, it will be easier to browse through various companies and see what they have got to offer. Each would have their own strengths and only you can decide which best fits your needs.
Belay is a virtual staffing solutions company that employs exclusively US-based assistants and specialists. They provide several services such as bookkeeping, administrative assistance, web support, and content writing – all done through a virtual channel.
Zirtual only hires US-based assistants and provides a broad spectrum of services from research, to scheduling and even personal requests. However, Zirtual VAs are not available 24/7 and are not able to do in-person tasks.
Be it a business or personal request, this San Francisco-based personal assistant on demand service can make it happen for you. Magic works via SMS text message so just text them anything you want and Magic will be on it – 24/7, 365 days a year.
Nowadays, more and more daily average tasks can be outsourced by having an executive personal assistant. From ordering weekly planned meals from food delivery services to paying bills and getting your mail.
All of these service providers promise one thing – free up your time, at a small cost.
Hiring an executive personal assistant has gained popularity since the boom of offshore ‘virtual PAs‘. Assistants from India and the Philippines offering their services for about $1-3 per hour have made it more possible for entrepreneurs and even mid-level executives to consider getting themselves a personal assistant.
But the million dollar question is this: Would an Executive Personal Assistant Really Make You More Productive?
What Can an Executive Personal Assistant Do?
Lisa Krohn, who has done personal assistant jobs for Martha Stewart and Jimmy Wales (co-founder of Wikipedia), tells her clients that “I will take away everything in your life and take care of it”– except whatever it is that you do best.
“I will take away everything in your life and take care of it” – Lisa Krohn
So what can a personal assistant do? Essentially anything – from handling emails, organizing your schedule, booking trips, researching, to doing your morning coffee runs.
Difference Between Two Workflows
This infographic by Sid Savara quickly explains a basic workflow without an executive personal assistant versus having one:
Without a Personal Assistant:
This base task workflow is very linear. The beauty is in its simplicity. The quality is consistent and there is only one point of contact, making communication a lot easier.
But with single point of contact comes a single point of failure.
With a Personal Assistant:
Having two people did increase efficiency, but only after going through setting up initial expectations and ironing out kinks. Although the need to review the work of the assistant may seem like an extra step, this process takes a lot less time than actually doing it.
All of these take into consideration that the executive personal assistant is functional. Read about Farjhad Manjoo’s virtual assistant nightmarehere.
Delegation is Key
If you have decided to finally hire someone, be it a short-term engagement or a for a full-time position, keep this in mind: A personal assistant is only as effective as your capacity to delegate.
Finding the appropriate workload that can be taken on – or restructured to be partially taken on – by the assistant is a crucial necessity to harnessing a streamlined workflow between you and the assistant.
How to Find an Assistant
Outsourcing companies around the globe offer match-making services to make sure you find an assistant that fits your needs and lifestyle. However, going through agencies is only cost-efficient if you are looking for a full-timer. Posting an ad on Craigslist or perusing Care.com is a good place to start.
One of the biggest hurdles in hiring a personal assistant is that people don’t know what they need. One day you may need coffee runs and ordering lunch then the next day, research and content writing.
If hiring a full-time personal assistant for odd jobs every now and then makes you feel uncomfortable, then an on-demand personal assistant service might be more appropriate for your needs.
Magic is a text-based service that can do anything for you (provided that it’s legal and possible!). A team of highly skilled individuals ensures that all the logistics to make your request happen are in place.
You can access Magic through its website, iOS app, or its text-based service. You can also text “M4EPA” to (408) 217-1721 to jumpstart your Magic experience if you are a new user.
Ask and you shall receive, in every sense of the word.
Ultimately, are you more productive with an executive personal assistant? Gwyn Waters, founder of SF Bay Area’s only community for personal assistants – the PAN Network explained it best:
“The capacity that you gain isn’t necessarily productivity related or measurable, but I think it’s almost like an increased intellectual capacity, you have time to think about the big stuff for once.”
Outsourcing is a borrowed term from the corporate world which means to obtain goods or a service from an outside or foreign supplier, especially in place of an internal source. Applied to a personal level, personal outsourcing is having to delegate mundane, day-to-day chores to someone else.
Is it Worth My Time?
This is the most essential question you should ask yourself whenever you start on a task. Your worth in time is basically determined by your hourly rate.
On average, people living in California earn $38,956 a year.
9am – 5pm = 8 hours a day
5 days a week for 52 weeks = 260 days
this makes 2080 work hours a year.
$18.73/hour – this is how much your time is worth.
An easy example is cooking food. Right from getting the ingredients, down to the cooking – it may take a good hour to prepare a meal. That’s $18.73 plus the cost of the ingredients (not to mention grocery shopping time, commute time, and cost of petrol consumed if you want to be even more accurate).
This is a functional application of your worth in time.
Now that you have freed up some time, what do you do? That, now, is all up to you – if you are an entrepreneur, work on your business! If you would like to spend time with your family and friends, do so!
The entire point of personal outsourcing is allowing you to work on higher value tasks.
Types of Outsourcing
Onshore refers to having people within your local area or city who you delegate the chore to. It can be a company or an individual wanting to make extra cash. Here are some tasks worth onshore outsourcing to:
Laundry. In most American cities, it takes 1.5-2 hours to do a standard sized load. That’s $28 – $37 worth your time!
Grocery Shopping. You can spend an easy hour when doing groceries, not including the time it takes to unpack at home.
Daily Meals. One of the most popular forms of personal outsourcing. Either use food delivery apps to order meals whenever you feel like, or sign-up for a weekly set menu delivery.
House Cleaning. Home maintenance requires so much physical effort and time. You can easily find someone to do it for you in your local classifieds or Craigslist.
Offshore refers to getting help from people outside your immediate vicinity. This can get a bit more complex than onshore, but as long as you have good communication and transparency between the two of you. While physically limited, there is still a good list of tasks you can outsource offshore.
Email Management. Virtual assistants can help you sort through your emails, even reply to non-important emails and take care of correspondence when setting up appointments.
Handle Calendar. Overbooking is a hassle for both sides of the people involved. Avoid overbooking and have someone overlook your calendar.
Social Media Marketing. Social Media is a good platform for ads. Have someone manage your Facebook and Twitter to keep your social media presence high.
24/7 Customer Service. Expand your business and accommodate customers at all hours of the day and night by having a rotational team to handle inquiries.