Virtual Assistant Agency or Independent VA: Which is better?

Virtual Assistant Agency or Independent VA: Which is better?

So you’ve decided to hire a VA. Awesome!

You go to Google and type in “Virtual Assistants” and hit “enter”

Hoo boy.

There are ads everywhere for VA agencies and Freelance-finding services. There are blog posts about “How I outsourced my whole life and now live in a Hammock in Costa Rica.” There are other blog posts about “my VA stole my credit card and now I live in a van.” Ugh.

Where do you start?

 

Here’s what I recommend:

The first step in hiring a Virtual Assistant is figuring out whether you want to sign on with a VA Agency, or whether you want to hire a freelance VA to work directly for you.

 

P1 - Agency vs Independent

 

Agencies vs. Independents

Now I’ll be the first to admit this is a gross oversimplification. There are a lot of different kinds of VA agencies out there, and every independent VA is different. But this article is intended to help you narrow down your search a little bit.

(I’ll discuss choosing the right kind of agency or freelancer in a future post, I promise!)

 

The VA’s Perspective

In preparation for this post, I asked a community of Virtual Assistants for their thoughts on this question and received some really insightful responses from the VA’s perspective:

 

I would say independently you are able to work more on a one on one basis and have a better connection with your VA and that can lead to more creativity. – Jessica Durdin-Ruhl

 

The only reason I can see to hire a virtual assistant through an agency is if you’re a larger company with a lot of repetitive tasks that don’t take in-depth knowledge of how your company operates. – Erika Friday from VACreatively.com

 

Sometimes clients have such a wide range of requirements that working with a team just makes more sense. – Julie Hoflin of Online Marketing Solutions

 

So to answer the question at the top of the post: neither Agencies or Independents are “better”. They are just different. Depending on your needs and preferences, you may choose one vs. the other – and that’s great. The benefit of the post-4-Hour-Workweek world we live in is there are a lot of options out there.

 

Virtual Assistants: Agencies vs. Independents

I went ahead and put together a table that compares some of the broad differences you can expect between hiring an independent VA vs. hiring an agency. Again – this table makes very broad generalizations and won’t be true in all cases.

But it may give you some direction on where to start!

 

 AgenciesIndependents
Commitment
VA's are committed to their agency first, and you second.The VA will be committed to you, the business owner.
Relationship
You may or may not work with a dedicated VA. If you do, the relationship may not be as close, or as much of a true "partnership"It's more likely you will be able to build a long-term partnership with the VA since he/she will be committed to you and your business.
Scalability
If you suddenly need "all hands on deck", an Agency may be able to staff up your project quickly with additional hands.
Likewise, if your business grows over time and you need additional assistance, the agency should be able to scale without significant effort on your part.
Your VA can't quickly scale beyond his/her availability, and if you need to grow your team you will likely need to start the hiring process from scratch.
"Sharing" your VA
Your VA's may be working with many clients, even if you hire "full time".If you hire a VA full-time, you should not have to "share" with another business owner.
Breadth / Depth of Skillset
Agencies often provide experts in many areas, meaning you may have access to several VA's with skills in different areas.Your VA may be skilled in several areas, but it will be hard to find one person who is an expert in many different skills.
Coverage for Absence
Most agencies will provide coverage if your "usual" VA is sick or away for vacation.If your VA needs time off, you will need to find coverage yourself (or ask them to devote some of their time to finding / training a backup.)
Continuity
If you have a dedicated VA, the agency should assist with making a seamless transition if your VA should leave the company. If you do not have a dedicated VA, you may not notice at all.If your VA chooses a new career or needs to quit for any reason, it's likely you'll need to be very involved in finding and onboarding a new VA.
People Management
If you have issues with your VA (such as low quality work or not completing work on time), you should be able to escalate to the agency and they will address your concerns with the VA.For personnel issues and cases when negative feedback must be given, you will need to have the conversation.
Risk of Reassignment
It is possible that "your" VA may be reassigned to another client without prior notice.This is not an issue for independent VA's.
Cost
The cost is typically somewhat higher for agencies to cover their overhead.Hiring a VA directly is likely to be less expensive for the same quality of VA, as there is no "middle man".
Contracts & Agreements
Agencies will almost certainly have set agreements / contracts that they will have clients sign.You will be responsible for drafting / finding an agreement that is suitable for your arrangement with your VA (and getting it signed.)
Tax Reporting
You may not need to deal with any 1099 or tax reporting paperwork. (Ask your Agency and your accountant!)You may have to file a 1099 or other tax reporting documents. (Ask your accountant!)

 

 

What’s your Experience?

Have you worked with a Virtual Assistance Agency or an Independent VA – or both?  What was your experience?  How would you recommend other business owners choose between the two?

Let me know in the comments!

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