Virtual Assistant vs. Employee?


For some business owners, the £25p.h. VA industry average rate can seem high for part time business support, especially when the lowest hourly rate for an employee can range from just £3.70p.h. for an apprentice to £7.83 for an individual over the age of 25, with the ‘living wage’ currently calculated at £8.75 per hour for areas outside of London.  However, there are a number of ‘hidden costs’ associated with employees that aren’t necessarily considered when a business owner is trying to determine whether an employee or freelancer worker is the most appropriate option for their growing business. Here are some of the expenses that business owners need to factor in when budgeting for a new employee:

Office Space – Is your office space appropriate for another team member, or will you need to consider moving into a larger facility to house a growing workforce? If you take on a freelance worker who works remotely, this isn’t something that you need to worry about as they will have their own office set up externally.  Some VAs do offer in-house working (generally for a few hours a week), but this varies from Virtual Assistant to Virtual Assistant, so if it is a pre-requisite, make sure you address this issue early.

Furniture and Technology – Chairs, desks, desktop computers, VOIP equipment, work laptops, etc. If you don’t have any spares laying around the office, there can be a significant cost associated with setting up a work station for a new team member.  Established VAs tend to have all of this equipment already, reducing the associated expenditure for you.

Stationery – the cost of those pens, post-its, notepads and reams of A4 paper can add up, admittedly, not to the level of your computer equipment (unless you insist on buying gorgeous and very expensive pens), but they are a cost to factor in!  As with furniture and technology, VAs tend to have the stationery covered, though, from experience, are always happy to receive a branded pen or two!

Software – making sure that you have software licences for a new team member or workstation is something that is often forgotten, particularly with start-ups or small businesses who aren’t replacing team members but expanding their team.  If you have specific software requirements, it may be that you also have to invest in a new software licence for a freelance worker too, though they may have their own preferred tool for the tasks required.

Training – the likelihood is that many new employed team members will require some level of training to carry out their work effectively and to the standard that you require.  Freelance VAs are established business owners who specialise in particular areas of remote business support, so may already be well versed in the activities that you are looking for help with.  You could easily find a virtual expert in each of the jobs that you need assistance with, rather than having to rely on one person to deliver all aspects of the role, or you could choose to deliver training to a remote worker that you have worked with for a while and who meets your brand and business ideals so that they can expand their knowledge and skills for you (if they have the time and capacity to do this).

Tax, NI, Pension Contributions – if you have an employee, you will need to arrange the payment of these yourself.  Freelance workers will sort out their own tax, national insurance and pension contributions.

Team Dynamics – it can be difficult to locate new team members who fit in successfully with a well established and settled small team.  As Virtual Assistants tend to work remotely, personality clashes are much less of a risk when you take on a remote freelancer.  You can also ‘trial’ VAs for a small number of hours initially, so if the right personality ‘fit’ is an important consideration for you, you can easily test this with a relatively small associated financial cost.

Flexibility – Need more hands on deck one week? Need someone who can help with a variety of tasks on an ad-hoc basis? Need someone who can cover a few specific hours per week? The beauty of the Virtual Assistant is how flexible they can be.  Most provide retained support, with the opportunity to buy additional hours (with enough notice!) if required.  If you think that your business requires a more flexible approach to working than a traditional employed role, speak to your Virtual Assistant at the outset and find out how much notice they require for additional work, and whether or not they would have capacity to complete this if/when you needed it.  It’s also worth asking whether they can help (or know someone who can) with tasks that might seem a little ‘off piste’ (i.e. marketing when you are helping with bookkeeping), as the VA community is an incredibly collaborative and supportive network, so they may know just the right person to help you with particular tasks, even if they can’t help themselves.


If the £25ph hourly rate still seems a little high to you, please take a look at the infographic at the top of the page, created by VIP VA, to help provide non-VA business owners with a greater understanding of what kind of business related outgoings a responsible and professional VA has – from Insurance to software costs, tax to utility bills.  When you take on a VA, you are investing in an experienced, highly skilled and efficient professional who can help you take your business to the next level, so if you need to grow your business, make sure that you consider all of your options before settling on a new team member for your unique business.

*Source of Data for image: gathered from survey of VIP VA Members in August 2017.