Business

Belay vs. Boldly vs. Persona: Comparing 3 Top Virtual Assistant Services

Jason Hreha
May 20, 2022
9
min read

In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between Belay and Boldly virtual assistant services, as well as how they differ from the remote executive assistant service we offer at Persona.

Belay vs. Boldly vs. Persona: Comparing 3 Top Virtual Assistant Services

Belay and Boldly are two companies that offer virtual assistant staffing services to founders, entrepreneurs, executives, and other business people who want remote administrative support. 

If you’re considering hiring a virtual assistant service, it’s likely that you’ll come across Belay and Boldly as you search for options online.

In this article, we’re going to discuss the similarities and differences between these two services, as well as how they differ from the remote executive assistant service we offer at Persona. 

Specifically, we’ll cover:

Note: Our unique hiring methodology enables us to find world-class assistants for our clients. We hire roughly 1 out of every 1,000 applicants. If you’ve been wanting a virtual assistant and you’d like to work with someone who can take on more than just administrative tasks, click here to get started. You can try one of our remote executive assistants for a month or two and see how you like it. For testimonials from our clients, check out our homepage.

In reviewing the websites of both Belay and Boldly, here’s what we can say for certain about how they’re alike and how they differ. 

1. Belay and Boldly Offer a Similar Set of Virtual Assistant Services

Belay lists the following services as being offered by their virtual assistants:

  • Research and reporting
  • Inbox and schedule management
  • Travel arrangements and expense reporting
  • Project coordination
  • Social media assistance
  • Light bookkeeping

In addition to their virtual assistant service, they also offer separate services for virtual bookkeepers, social media managers, and website specialists. 

Meanwhile, Boldly lists the following tasks and projects as being included in their VA service:

  • Executive admin
  • Project management
  • Email marketing
  • Social media
  • Content marketing
  • Bookkeeping
  • Customer service

They also offer bilingual and backup assistants as a part of their service. 

Our key takeaway here is that while both companies offer general administrative support (e.g. calendar and email management, research and data entry, etc.), Boldly places slightly more emphasis on digital marketing support (email marketing and content marketing). 

Note: We’ve discussed this at length in past articles, but we’d urge executives to be wary of hiring VAs if their intention is to rely on them heavily for digital marketing (i.e. content marketing, SEO, etc.). Many VA companies list these types of technical marketing services as part of their offering, but often these are best executed by specialists. VAs tend to be best utilized as support for these marketing activities, not as lead drivers behind them.

2. Belay and Boldly Both Offer Part-Time and Full-Time Assistants

Belay and Boldly both appear to offer part-time assistants in addition to full-time dedicated virtual assistants. For example, Boldly’s pricing plans range from 30 hours to 60 hours per month, with the option to choose a “bigger plan” for up to 160 hours (the equivalent of a full-time assistant). 

The topic of part-time versus full-time assistants is something we’ve discussed at length in past articles. Read our post on how to know if you need an executive assistant for more on the pros and cons of each. 

In our experience speaking with thousands of founders and executives, as well as working with part-time and full-time assistants ourselves, we’ve found that—especially for executives—hiring part-time assistants tends to lead to poor outcomes for a variety of reasons. 

We’ll discuss why this is in a moment. 

3. Boldly Places More Emphasis on Hiring Experienced Assistants

Compared to Belay, Boldly seems to focus on hiring experienced assistants. They require applicants to have a minimum of 7 years of experience. And they state that, on average, their assistants have 10 to 15 years of experience in an assistant role, and often have past experience working with Fortune 500 companies. This is one of the core differentiators they emphasize about why executives should choose them over other services.

With that said, having vetted tens of thousands of applicants for our executive assistant service, we’ve discovered that past years of experience in an assistant role isn’t a good predictor of how talented someone is in an assistant position. It’s actually a distraction from what really matters and often can lead to worse outcomes than hiring someone with zero past assistant experience. 

In the next section, we’ll explain why this is, and share the ways in which our remote executive assistant service differs from Belay and Boldly. 

To understand how our service is different from Belay and Boldly, it’s useful to hone in on the following areas:

  1. We only offer full-time, 100% dedicated assistants.
  2. Our hiring methodology is based on first principles (i.e. it’s designed to determine whether or not an applicant possesses the specific qualities that predict success in an executive assistant role).

Let’s look at each.

1. We Only Offer Full-Time, Fully Dedicated Assistants (Part-Time Assistants Deliver Far Less ROI)

As we mentioned above, both Belay and Boldly appear to offer part-time assistant plans. And from the surface, we understand why these would be attractive options to many employers.

Executives often think that hiring someone who can just do a few hours of admin work per day would sufficiently meet their needs. However, because part-time assistants spend less time working with their executive, it often takes them far longer to learn an executive’s preferences and the inner workings of their business, relationships, and operations.

This is nontrivial because knowledge of these preferences, relationships, and systems are what determine the effectiveness and value of an assistant. 

In addition, part-time assistants are also less likely to stick with executives for the long-term, so there’s more risk of investing in an assistant only to lose them 6 months into working together. And they’re more likely to have other part-time jobs—which can lead to scheduling conflicts and further distraction from your business and needs.

In contrast, by hiring someone into a full-time position, assistants are: 

  1. More committed and likely to stick with you for a longer-term period.
  2. 100% focused on supporting you and your business.
  3. Quicker to understand (and exceed) your business needs and preferences.

This is why we’ve designed our service around strictly offering full-time remote executive assistants. 

2. Our Hiring Methodology Is Based on First Principles (Not Flawed Criteria Like Past Years of Experience)

Earlier we discussed how Boldly emphasizes that they only hire assistants with 7 years of past experience in an assistant role. This is demonstrative of a wider trend when it comes to hiring virtual and executive assistants, which is that companies (including in-house HR departments, recruiters, and VA services) tend to place too much emphasis on the wrong variables when hiring. 

Years of experience is a perfect example of this. This criteria is based on the false assumption that past experience as an assistant is predictive of someone being talented in the role. 

It’s not. 

In reality, what predicts success and effectiveness in an assistant role is a specific set of abilities and character traits (more on this below). And it turns out that there are many people who:

  1. Possess the qualities and traits that make top assistant talent.
  2. Have an interest in becoming a virtual or executive assistant.
  3. Do not have past experience in an assistant role.

By requiring applicants to have past work experience as an assistant, companies rule out this entire pool of candidates, which often contains even better talent than the pool of candidates with past experience.

Whether they’re ambitious young professionals who’ve identified virtual assistant jobs as attractive opportunities to learn about business through working directly with founders, or they’re people looking to transition out of their current industry into a new line of work with greater flexibility, many professionals without past experience can make talented virtual assistants.

It makes absolutely no sense to rule these people out. In our experience, these individuals are often even more driven, open minded, and innovative than people who’ve been assistants in the past. 

This overemphasis on past years of experience is just one example of the flawed traditional approach to hiring assistants. There are more, but we’re not going to discuss them here. Read our founding story for further discussion of these flaws. 

In the next section, we’re going to discuss the hiring methodology we’ve developed to find and hire top virtual executive assistants based on first principles (i.e. criteria that predict someone will be successful in an assistant role).

Note: To view a comparison between our service and others including MyTasker, Time Etc., Remote CoWorker, and more, check out our article on the best virtual assistant companies

We can’t speak to the exact hiring processes of Belay and Boldly because they haven’t outlined their approaches to hiring publicly. However, we believe our hiring methodology and selection process is more effective at finding top talent than most virtual assistant services on the market. 

Our methodology is based on the premise that the best way to consistently find top talent is to more concretely measure the abilities and traits that predict success in a remote executive assistant role. Specifically:

  1. Problem Solving Ability: How smart are they? Can they figure things out in new and complex situations? 
  2. Key Character and Behavioral Traits: Are they organized, reliable, trustworthy, detail-oriented, etc.?
  3. Communication Ability: How well do they write and communicate? Can they play the role of gatekeeper, communicating on your behalf or alongside you with key stakeholders (executive team members, board members, investors, etc.)?
  4. Tech Savvy-ness: How comfortable are they with learning new technologies and software? How quickly can they pick up and learn the programs that modern companies use to run their businesses?  

If someone demonstrates that they have these abilities and talents, and they’re driven to become a remote assistant, whether or not they have past experience as an assistant is irrelevant. 

When you can identify individuals who are in the top percentiles compared to other candidates in each of these areas, you can find the absolute best talent.

We’ve used our backgrounds in behavioral science and assessment design to develop a hiring methodology that does just that: it rigorously and concretely measures candidates on each of these key abilities and traits.

We use a tailored combination of the following when assessing applicants:

  • Quantitative assessments: Tests that allow us to evaluate candidates accurately on key generalist abilities. 
  • Structured interviews: A strategic interview process to cross-compare candidates on the qualities and abilities that matter.
  • Work sample projects: Mock projects to see the quality of their work, based on the types of tasks they’re likely to do in a VA role.
  • Communication exercises: Exercises to evaluate candidates on key communication skills such as email etiquette. 
  • Reference and background checks: A structured approach to interviewing candidates’ references.

Through this process, we’re able to thoroughly test candidates on the abilities and traits that matter most, see how they perform the types of real world tasks that they’ll encounter in working for our clients, and see how they compare to a wide swath of other candidates.

Our methodology is also flexible and customizable such that we adjust our assessments based on how individual candidates perform at each step. For example, if we like the quality and sophistication of a candidate's writing samples, we then want to know "how quickly and consistently can this candidate produce this level of writing?" and employ additional steps to answer that question about fluency. 

Or, if a candidate has a critical reference who describes a weakness that the candidate has, we select a sample project for that candidate to perform in order to evaluate for ourselves the scope of that purported weakness.

As a result of this more methodical approach to evaluating and hiring assistants, we’re able to provide remote assistants that a) do more than what traditional administrative assistants do and b) consistently exceed our clients’ expectations.

Our assistants tend to spend about a third of their time on basic administrative tasks that you might think of as the traditional responsibilities of an executive assistant. The rest of their time they spend on a wide variety of other key business functions. 

Currently, our assistants manage varying combinations of the following for our clients:

  • Communications: Manage email, communicate on an executive’s behalf and alongside them with company staff members and key stakeholders, draft company memos, etc.
  • Scheduling and time management: Manage an executive’s calendar, schedule meetings and phone calls, resolve scheduling issues, balance personal appointments with work meetings.
  • Project management: Manage the CEO’s to-dos, ensure they stay up to date and on track with their key projects.
  • Business operations: Help create, organize, and improve on internal business processes and standard operating procedures. 
  • Marketing and social media management: Create and schedule social media posts on top platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook, monitor engagement metrics, respond to comments, help grow overall online presence. 
  • People operations: Manage employee onboarding, assist in the employee recruitment process (e.g. reviewing resumes and cover letters for certain criteria), manage payroll, etc.
  • Strategic planning: Work with the company leaders to define and come up with plans for new products, initiatives, and services. Project manage some or all of these new company programs. 
  • Client services: Handle important interactions with clients (e.g. customer support, invoicing, etc.). Provide ideas and feedback about how to improve systems and processes.
  • Special projects: Manage a wide variety of unique projects depending on what your executive needs. For example, our EAs have worked on things like light graphic design in Canva, workflow design, transcription, lead generation, CRM management, Amazon eCommerce management, and more.
  • Personal assistant tasks: Help make online orders, reservations, travel arrangements, and other accommodations for executives’ personal lives.

We provide world-class executive support for all types of industries, including tech startups, non-profits, real estate, professional services, and more. We serve c-level executives across the U.S.—in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Austin, Miami, and New York—and internationally.

If you’re a startup founder, entrepreneur, small business owner, or senior management executive of any kind, you can try one for a month or two and see how you like it (no matter what time zone you’re in!). 

Here’s how to get started with us: 

  • Step 1: Complete our form to let us know your needs. 
  • Step 2: If you’re a good fit, we’ll set up a call to discuss our service with you.
  • Step 3: Our team will hand pick an assistant who we think will be a great fit for you based on your needs and business hours.
  • Step 4: Our talent team will guide you through the onboarding process over 2-3 weeks.
  • Step 5: For a flat rate monthly subscription, you get a world-class assistant that equates to a full-time employee (40 hours of remote work per week, with no long-term commitment needed).

If you’re ready to try a remote executive assistant that can be truly transformative for your business, click here to get started. For testimonials from our clients, check out our homepage.

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