So, you’ve decided you need a little help. Your business is growing, and that’s great. You’re getting to the point where you don’t have much time to manage your daily tasks, whether that making sales reports or modifying your ad spend. But the question is, should you hire a US virtual assistant, or an international one?
Hiring a virtual assistant is an investment, there’s no question about that. Here at FreeeUp, we believe it’s often a great choice. A virtual assistant can help you streamline your processes and give you more time to focus on growth. If you’re a small business owner, than you know how much time in your day can get devoted to more tedious tasks. Between answering questions from customers, scheduling appointments with clients, and managing any automated systems you might be running, you can lose hours and hours of precious time.
However, even though you’ve decided to hire, you might still have a fair number of questions. What are your options in terms of candidates? Many people who need extra help choose to hire US virtual assistants, whereas many others opt for international contractors. Which one is right for you? That depends on the needs of your business.
In this post, we’ll help answer some of your questions. First, we’ll break down what a virtual assistant is. Then, we’ll discuss the difference between a US virtual assistant and a international assistant, as well as the potential pros and cons of both.
What is a virtual assistant?
When you hear the phrase virtual assistant, you might think of an electronic aid, like Siri, or Amazon Alexa. However, a virtual assistant can also be a living, breathing person. They are just a person that you don’t interact with face-to-face. In business lingo, a virtual assistant helps you with your day-to-day tasks while they are working remotely. For example, you might have a business based in Seattle, but hire three virtual assistants that are located in the far corners of the world.
You can contract a virtual assistant for a set amount of hours, rather than paying them full-time like you might an in-person assistant. Have you always dreamed of having someone follow you around constantly to help you with your day-to-day business tasks? It’s a nice dream, but maybe you’re not ready to pay for that kind of CEO lifestyle. In that case, a virtual assistant is the perfect solution.
What is a US virtual assistant?
A US virtual assistant is exactly what it sounds like: a virtual assistant who is based in the US. Likely, their first language is English, and they are definitely familiar with US culture and customs. A virtual assistant simply means they work remotely instead of with you in the office. In theory, they could live as close as next door.
The pros of a US virtual assistant
Pro: They can make communication much easier
Because they are based in the US, communicating with this type of virtual assistant is very easy. Often, they will have a solid internet connection, and their won’t be any language barrier to slow you down.
Pro: They understand US cultural norms
Beyond just closing the language gap, a US virtual assistant will also understand cultural norms that you might take for granted. This includes taking vacations on the same holidays with you, interacting with customers in a familiar manner, and understanding the general business climate of the US. For example, let’s say you need someone to review your product pages for a credit union website. Your typical US assistant might have a better understanding of how loans, checking accounts, and other financial staples work in the US.
Pro: They can work at the same time you do
If you are looking for someone to cover a 9-5 type shift, then most US virtual assistants are prepared to do just that. If you need a lot of communication and interaction during the day, then make sure that expectation is set up early on, especially if you decide to go international instead.
The cons of a US virtual assistant
Con: They tend to cost a lot more
This is the biggest con of a US assistant. It’s very unlikely that you will find someone competent for less than $10 an hour, and many assistants will cost quite a lot more than that. If your budget is a serious concern for you, then you may want to think twice about a US candidate.
Con: They may not be able to work certain hours
Although a US virtual assistant is more likely to be online at the same time you are, the opposite is also true. If you need someone to cover a late night shift of ad management or customer service, then you might have a harder time finding a US worker.
What is an international virtual assistant?
An international virtual assistant is located outside the US. English may or may not be their first language, and they have different cultural norms and standards than you may be used to. Although international virtual assistants can be found throughout the world, the most commonly available are those based in India or the Philippines.
The pros of an international virtual assistants
Pro: They tend to be inexpensive
International virtual assistants tend to be much cheaper than their US counterparts. An international worker may be able to do work for $5 an hour that you would have to pay $15 a hour in the US. A few mental calculations should show you how much this kind of difference adds up over time.
Pro: They may be able to work unusual hours
If you need late night shifts, international workers are an awesome option. Often enough, they will be wide awake at the times you are not, just based on their timezones. This means if you need certain work-related items checked up on constantly, they can cover for you.
The cons of a international virtual assistant
Con: You may encounter a language/cultural barrier
This is likely the biggest con you will encounter when hiring a an international assistant, but there’s good news. In reality, this “con” varies greatly from person to person, and can be mitigated by your own business practices. For example, you can often tell in an interview, long before you hire, whether an assistant can live up to your communication standards.
Be realistic about what you need and don’t hire someone you can’t communicate with. We also recommend using text-based communication (like google chat or slack) whenever possible. This will help you avoid problems with understanding accents on both sides. It will also give your virtual assistant written documentation of you instructions, that they can refer back to whenever they need it. For more helpful tips on communication, including with international workers, check out this blog post.
Con: They may not have the same level of connectivity
This isn’t one that most people consider right away, but it counts for a lot. International virtual assistants may not have the same level of connectivity that you are used to personally. Struggles with the internet and electricity tend to be more common than they are for US workers. If you do decide to go international, make sure this is something you bring up in the interview. Ask the candidate what kind of home office equipment they have. Then, ask what their plan is in the event of a connectivity loss. This will help prevent future problems.
Ultimately, there isn’t a completely “right” answer for you should hire. What really matters is what you and your business need. Go over these pros and cons and first measure them up against your business. How much money can you afford to spend? What kind of hours do you require? Then ask yourself questions about what you need personally–after all this will be your assistant! What kind of communication style do you prefer. Are there certain apps or productivity tools that you are absolutely committed to using? Hire someone who can fit into your current work life, not someone who you will to rearrange everything to accommodate.
If you are still unsure after this process, we recommend interviewing both international and US based virtual assistants. As you interview, you will get an even better sense of these differences we discussed. You will also be able to consider rates and hours based on individual circumstances, rather than just general trends.
Looking for more information on hiring remote workers? Be sure to check out our newly released book, Free Up Your Business. It’s jam-packed with our best tips and tricks on recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and training excellent online workers.
Emily Bell has worked in digital marketing for seven years, tackling projects for a wide variety of tech and PR companies, as well as a few of Amazon’s top third-party sellers. Her work has appeared in Entrepreneur, Influencive, Addicted2Success, Forbes, and around the web.