Guide To Hiring Virtual Assistants For Your Small Business In Singapore

In his bestselling book The Four Hour Workweek, author Tim Ferriss talks extensively about how virtual assistants can be the low-cost help needed for small business owners to outsource menial, low-level tasks to focus on more productive activities. 

This year, with more businesses going increasingly digital and remote work becoming the norm, virtual assistants are becoming an untapped resource that have long been perceived to either be reserved for big firms like EY or too much of a hassle to deal with. 

Read Also: Building A Remote Team? 5 Factors To Determine If It Will (Or Will Not) Work For You

Although the global economy is projected to expand by 4% in 2021 according to World Bank forecasts, a return to normalcy is likely to hinge on widespread COVID-19 vaccine rollouts to an otherwise tepid growth outlook. This means that many business owners are likely to look for more solutions to reduce the costs of operations while waiting for the economy to recover. 

It could be a good time to consider hiring virtual assistants to offload parts of the business that are usually menial and administrative in nature, and leave yourself and your core team with greater room to focus on value-producing tasks. 

What Tasks Can Virtual Assistants (VA) Help With?

A virtual assistant (VA) typically provides services to companies and entrepreneurs over the internet. While they can work remotely, you may need to provide them with the right tools and data in order for them to do their jobs well. Most VAs will have several years’ experience earned in the “real” (non-virtual) business world, or several years’ experience working online or remotely. 

You can hire Virtual Assistants to outsource many types of  work:

  • Administrative tasks like data entry and email management
  • Creative work such as low-level graphic design, video-editing, article writing and social media management
  • Bookkeeping tasks such as expense tracking, invoicing, payroll
  • and many more

While these are some types of work you can outsource, you should also be mindful of outsourcing what is non-core to your business, as well as vetting for relevant background experience.

When Should You Hire A Virtual Assistant?

Although books like The Four Hour Workweek actively promote the use of virtual assistants to “outsource your life”, i.e. book movie tickets, dinner reservations and other trivial matters, these self-help books should also be taken with a pinch of salt. After all, the authors bank on these sensationalistic facts to sell more books.

As a business owner, it makes sense to hire a virtual assistant when you find yourself swamped with administrative tasks when you could better optimise your time for your business. 

Using the Eisenhower Matrix, you can see if you are spending your time effectively to maximise business efficiency.

 UrgentNot Urgent
ImportantQuadrant I:
Urgent and Important Do
Quadrant II:
Not Urgent but Important
 Plan
Not ImportantQuadrant III:
Urgent but Not Important
 Delegate
Quadrant IV:
Not Urgent, Not Important Eliminate

It makes sense to hire a virtual assistant if you have a lot of things to handle in Quadrant III: urgent but unimportant matters to attend to that take your attention away from Quadrant I matters. In some cases, you can also outsource tasks from Quadrant II to VAs but they would likely be less effective as such tasks require an in-depth understanding of your business that your core team would know better. Finally, hiring for Quadrant IV is a waste of time and resources, and VAs should not be hired to handle those activities when they can be removed altogether.

Process Of Hiring A Virtual Assistant

You can hire a virtual assistant with 3 simple steps:

#1 Create A Job Description

With VAs, you will have to be as specific as possible with the job description, highlighting exactly what skillsets you are looking for and what tasks you need help with. This way, there will be no confusion as to how the VA can add value. It will also be good if your tasks are simple and repetitive; this way the VA can be onboarded faster because the deliverables are clear.

#2 Find Companies And Portals To Approach For Your VA Hiring Needs

You can post job offers and look for VAs to hire on platforms such as LinkedInUpwork and Freelancer, tapping into local or global talent with the skillsets that you are looking for. Some platforms like Upwork will charge a platform fee for hiring on their website, so if you do not want to bear those costs you can always go for cheaper or free options. The only drawback to hiring VAs on free platforms is the quality of freelancing talent may not be good. 

Read Also: 5 Freelance Portals For Businesses To Outsource Design Work

#3 Set Up A Test Trial Period With Your VA

It will be important for you to set up a test trial with your virtual assistant once you have found a talent to consider hiring. Things like time zone differences and cultural understanding can affect hiring VAs from other countries on freelance portals. For minimal friction, it is always good to test out local VAs before hiring international VAs.

You can start on a part-time basis with your VA for the first month or so, given that most VAs work on a freelance basis and juggle a few projects at once. If this arrangement works well, then you could consider changing the arrangement to a full-time one. 

Benefits Of Hiring A Virtual Assistant

Lower Costs

Outsourcing work becomes a variable cost rather than a fixed one. This allows you to hire for a few set tasks and those tasks alone, reducing inefficiencies in the overall business.

Expanded Talent Pool

Expand your pool of talent from local to international remote workers. It becomes a matter of finding the right fit rather than the right set of skills, as not every highly skilled worker will be a good fit for your team, especially if you are hiring international VAs.

Greater Business Focus

By letting your core team focus on core business functions – business growth, revenue growth – you free up the need to get team members to disengage from key revenue-driving tasks to work on trivial matters for the sake of getting things done. 

Managing A Virtual Assistant

Remote workers can be difficult to manage, especially if you have yet to work with them long enough to understand them well. Communication is essential, and establishing channels of communications on platforms like Slack or project management tools like Trello can do wonders in keeping track of progress when working with VAs. It is also advisable to schedule check-ins with VAs regularly to keep them on track of tasks and course-correct if necessary.

2 Types Of Working Arrangements: Dedicated And Part-time

dedicated virtual assistant is typically someone working for a specialised virtual assistant company. These companies usually provide multiple types of work you can outsource so it becomes more convenient for businesses to manage just one rather than multiple vendors.

The facility and internet connection as well as training for the virtual assistants are provided by the company, however not in all cases, especially for specialised requirements. For businesses, your virtual assistant you hire will either be working in an office or may be home-based.

part-time virtual assistant can be hired on a freelancing portal and engaged on an hourly basis. While it’s possible for companies to hire full-time virtual assistants, it may make more sense to hire someone in your own office if you need the person full-time. 

Part-time virtual assistants usually have less experience than dedicated virtual assistants, or have fewer skillsets to bring to the table. They might be hired to fill a particular role that is time-consuming yet menial, such as data entry, but unable to contribute in other areas to fulfil the needs of the business.

Pricing Options For Hiring VAs

#1 Hourly Pricing

The most basic of remuneration models, hourly pricing is simple and easy to calculate if you know the exact tasks you need your virtual assistant to complete and how long it should take for them to do it. If the tasks are more complex and require a bit more handholding, then the next pricing option might be better suited for you.

#2 Retainer Pricing

This pricing option is great for businesses who want to maintain a fixed budget for VAs and keep the arrangement ongoing for some time. With a retainer agreement, a client might make a commitment — such as 40 hours per month or 10 hours per week. The remuneration can be based on an hourly basis or on the basis of deliverables per month. This offers more flexibility for both the company and the Virtual Assistant to deliver more or less work per month because of the long-term nature of such arrangements. 

#3 One-time Project Pricing

For a quick fix to a labour shortage, one-time pricing can help to onboard VAs for a temporary project. Flat fees are usually the norm for one-time projects with no commitments down the line. This is especially useful for projects that have greater risks and uncertainty; the entrepreneur does not need to stomach the risks of managing permanent full-time staff if this part of the business flounders or a source of cashflow gets cut off. 

Do You Need A Virtual Assistant (VA) Or A Personal Assistants (PA)?

While personal assistants can also be engaged to assist with lower-level tasks and improve productivity, they are usually engaged as a full-time role as it makes more sense; part-time personal assistants may not understand the requirements of your business enough to make significant contributions or help you optimise your productivity properly. 

 Remote Virtual AssistantsPersonal Assistants
Tasks that can be delegatedData entry, admin tasks, writing, graphic design, social media management, bookkeeping and much moreTime management, scheduling meetings, correspondence, note-taking, data entry
Office needed?NoYes, if you do not have a remote working arrangement
Remuneration optionsHourly, retainer, one-timeFull-time (ideal), part-time (hourly)
Country of ResidenceTypically Singapore or Philippines and India, based on requirement and budgetSingapore
Average Monthly Salary (SGD)$50 to $2,200$3,600

Sources: Payscale and Onlinejobs.ph

The cheapest virtual assistants can be found in Philippines, with an average monthly salary of 510 USD (673 SGD). On paper, this should work out perfectly, as you get to lower your operational costs and optimise your workflow. However, costs aside, you should also take note that if you are hiring virtual assistants from another country, chances are you may have gaps in communication even though English is the common language. Friction in terms of cultural understanding, working habits and mastery of language can cause virtual assistants to “disappear” from their employers, leading to rather uncomfortable situations. 

Rather than approaching the decision to hire VAs purely from a cost point of view, it might also be prudent to identify what kind of assistant best suits your needs. If you are looking for someone to improve day-to-day productivity, why tear your hair out churning through virtual assistants performing disappearing acts on you when you can hire a personal assistant to take care of everyday time management and scheduling for you? However, if you are looking for someone to handle a particular segment of work which does not require much supervision to get done, then perhaps a virtual assistant might do the trick. 

Read Also: 5 Freelance Portals For Businesses To Outsource Design Work

Ultimately, hiring a virtual assistant depends on more than just cost but also organisational fit. The business needs to have existing systems in place in order to accommodate remote virtual assistants and onboard them well, and allow them to feel like they belong and are valued contributors to the organisation. 

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