Virtual Assistants, Tasks and Errands buyers guide by Inspector Jones

Do you wish you had a personal assistant, but can’t afford the cost or commitment of hiring a staff member? We’ve reviewed the 7 best options for being more productive with a virtual assistant.

The Best Virtual Assistants

oDesk

Our independent review for hiring virtual assistants selected oDesk as the best option, because of its huge size (millions of freelancers - many of them capable virtual assistants), and track record. oDesk also has good support for ongoing part-time roles. Especially if you’re looking for somebody to work remotely, oDesk is a great option.

Virtual Assistants Shortlist

Virtual Assistant Services Features to Look For

What to look for in a service
Each of the virtual assistant marketplaces and services operate quite differently. Especially for businesses, it's important to choose a marketplace that will give the best results. I recommend you look for:
  • Little or no commitments - some services require minimum monthly or upfront payments. Instead, we recommend either pay-as-you-use services, or services that only have a small minimum commitment.
  • For hourly work: good visibility of hours worked. Many of the reputable freelance marketplaces track computer activity, so you can see screenshots, keyboard-activity and mouse-movement
  • A large number of virtual assistants registered to use the service
  • A strong track record, with significant amount of business already conducted
  • Compliance with appropriate tax and labour laws
  • Record of communications between you and the virtual assistant
  • Vetting or security-checking for virtual assistants - to ensure minimum-quality standards for work
How to choose a virtual assistant
When using a virtual assistant, you may find it very different to hiring an on-site personal assistant. Interviews, management, working hours, communication and workplace norms are very different. I recommend you:
  • Decide whether you are looking for one person, or a service which delegates your tasks to a member of a large team. For an individual, look at oDesk and Freelancer.com. For a team, I recommend Gigwalk and Fancy Hands.
  • Consider location - is it important which country the person lives in? Some services, like Gigwalk and Fancy Hands only include people who live in the USA at the moment. Other services are more global.
  • Look at delegating access to your calendar, todo list and email (don't give your password to others, but do use delegation features built into your tools). I'm particularly impressed with Fancy Hands, which has these integrations pre-built
  • Agree upfront how small expenses (like telephone calls) will be paid for
  • Look for strong language skills (telephone and written). Both Freelancer.com and oDesk provide tests to rate individuals, and you may also conduct interviews by desktop videoconference (like Skype)
  • If you are hiring an individual, review their track record - look for reviews from other individuals/businesses who have hired them, and the amount of experience they have
  • It may be appropriate to hire a virtual assistant for a small number of tasks as a test of their skills and fit. For this you will usually pay at their regular hourly rate.

All Virtual Assistants

We’ve reviewed the following virtual assistant services. While only some of them made the Inspector Jones shortlist, these are still great options.