Business owners and entrepreneurs often ask us, “how much does it cost to hire an assistant?”
Our answer is… it depends. It all depends on what you want and what you need.
We’ve identified 6 key factors that influence how much your assistant will cost:
- Type of assistant: The cost varies considerably depending on the type of assistant you need (e.g. administrative assistant, specialized assistant, personal assistant, executive assistant).
- Geographical location: Where an assistant is based affects the cost (e.g. U.S. versus Brazil, South Africa, India, or the Philippines).
- Full-time vs. part-time: The hours an assistant works has an impact on how much you pay.
- In-person vs. virtual assistant: There are significant cost implications based on whether an assistant works on business premises or virtually.
- Specialization: Whether an assistant specializes in a particular area (e.g. graphic design or marketing) can influence how much you pay.
- Resume and past experience: Where an assistant went to school and their previous job experience will also affect how much they cost.
In this article, we’ll explain each of these factors in detail and outline the price you can expect to pay for the 4 main types of assistants—based on whether they’re US-based and in-person, US-based but virtual, or international and virtual.
We’ll also discuss the indirect costs involved with hiring an assistant that should be taken into consideration—but are often overlooked.
Lastly, we’ll walk through how Persona’s executive assistant service works, and how it can help you avoid many of the indirect costs associated with hiring assistants.
If you’ve been wanting an assistant but haven’t had the time to hire one, click here to get started. You can try a Persona assistant for a month or two and see how you like it. For testimonials from our clients, check out our homepage.
6 Factors That Influence the Cost of Hiring an Assistant
#1: Type of Assistant
Depending on the type of assistant you want, prices range from a few hundred dollars a month for a part-time administrative assistant to a monthly salary of $12,000 for a highly sought after executive assistant (the equivalent of what some might think of as a “Chief of Staff”).
To begin understanding how much an assistant will cost you, you must first decide which type of assistant you need. So let’s begin by defining the 4 main types of assistants:
An administrative assistant’s focus is typically on repetitive operational tasks such as data entry, bookkeeping, or payroll. Admins are typically the least expensive type of assistant because their utility is generally limited to basic recurring tasks. They usually don’t interact with key personnel or clients on your behalf, or take on more complex tasks that founders and executives often need (e.g. project management or creating presentations).
Specialized assistants provide support in a specific area such as digital marketing. For example, a specialized assistant may be hired to help with copywriting or designing landing pages. They typically cost more than an admin assistant due to their specialization, but less than a personal or executive assistant, due to their utility being limited in scope.
Because they’re hired for specific things, they don’t do generalist tasks such as calendar management or making travel arrangements. They’re paid solely for handling tasks within their specialized area.
Personal assistants handle a wide variety of personal tasks such as making dinner reservations, coordinating grocery deliveries, or sending gifts to friends and family.
They tend to be more expensive than admin or specialized assistants because of the wide scope of tasks they can handle. However, they typically don’t help with the business-related tasks and projects that many executives would want to delegate to an assistant.
Executive assistants are the Swiss Army Knife of assistants. A great executive assistant can be leveraged to handle tasks from all 3 of the above categories. They can manage administrative tasks such as bookkeeping and payroll, specialized tasks such as social media management and other digital marketing activities, and personal tasks as well.
In addition, executive assistants can take over things such as calendar and email management, and communicate on your behalf with key stakeholders inside and outside of your organization. As a result of their wide-ranging utility and high level of competency in communication, organization, and other key areas, executive assistants are typically the most expensive type of assistant.
#2: Geographical Location
If you don’t mind your assistant being in a different time zone, you can pay a lot less. For example, if you live in the U.S. and hire an assistant based in Eastern Europe where the cost of living is much lower, you can pay as little as $1,000 per month for an assistant. This is in stark contrast to an average US-based assistant who could cost around 4-5 times that.
In general, assistants based in the U.S., Canada, and other western countries tend to be the most expensive, while assistants from other regions are much more affordable.
However, it’s also worth noting that assistants from less expensive regions can also be more skilled and capable than US assistants because it’s easier to attract and hire candidates who graduated from the very best universities and pay them a competitive rate for their region.
#3: Full-time vs. Part-time
Another key factor in cost is whether you hire a part-time or full-time assistant. It may seem more cost-effective to hire one that’s part-time. However, there are several trade offs to consider.
First, part-time assistants’ hourly rates are more expensive. For example, the same executive assistant might cost an average hourly rate of $60 for part-time work versus $40 for full-time. So, while you may be spending less overall than you would for a full-time assistant, you’re not getting as much for your money.
Second, a part-time assistant will often spread their time across different clients. You won’t necessarily be their highest priority. When their workload for other clients piles up, they may not have much bandwidth for you.
Third, part-time assistants are often pursuing another career path on the side and may not take their assistant work as seriously as a dedicated, full-time person.
And lastly, it typically takes longer to get a part-time assistant up to speed than a full-time assistant who’s committed to your business and working on it every day. You can invest a lot of time in training part-time assistants and then lose them suddenly, setting you back to square one.
#4: In-Person vs. Virtual Assistant
Hiring an in-person assistant as an employee is substantially more expensive. In general, you can expect to spend up to 1.4 times their salary due to costs including payroll tax, insurance, benefits, and overhead costs (e.g. providing office space, a desk, heating, lighting, etc.).
There’s also variance in the cost of living which affects how much you need to pay, even within the U.S.
For example, if you’re based in New York, you might have to pay a New York-based assistant a salary of $70,000 to meet the cost of living. In contrast, the cost of living in Arizona could be $50,000, so you can pay a remote assistant $20,000 less for the same quality of output.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that if you’re only looking for candidates in your local area, the talent pool will be much smaller and therefore reduce your chance of finding a really great assistant. For every option available in San Francisco, there may be hundreds available nationally.
While many people assume virtual assistants charge you only for their working hours, it’s also possible to hire them on a full-time salary basis. And if they live abroad where the cost of living is much lower, you can hire an experienced virtual assistant for much less than one based in the U.S.
Specialized assistants tend to charge a premium. The more specialized the skill set you hire for, the more it’s likely to cost you.
The trade off, as we mentioned above, is that specialized assistants won’t typically be willing to do generalist or personal tasks. However, that’s not the only potential downside of hiring a specialized assistant.
Specialized assistants are also typically entry level in their specialization. For example, a digital marketing assistant will often be fresh out of school with very little experience. Therefore, the tasks they can help you with, such as social media marketing or sending email marketing campaigns, are things that a smart generalist assistant could likely do for you—in addition to many other types of tasks.
#6: Resume and Past Experience
Lastly, there are 3 primary variables of a candidate’s background that have a bearing on price:
- Education: Where an assistant went to school and what kind of degree they received.
- Company pedigree: Which companies they’ve worked for (i.e. candidates who’ve worked for Google cost more than ones who’ve worked for a lesser known company).
- Experience: How many years of experience they have is a key factor that will also determine how much they are expecting to be paid.
With these factors in mind, how much can you expect to pay for these different types of assistants? Here’s an estimate based on what we’ve seen in the market.
In-Person vs. Virtual Assistant Cost Breakdown for the 4 Main Types of Assistants
Bearing in mind the different factors we’ve outlined above, costs can vary considerably. The following prices are a guide of what you might expect to pay for the 4 different types of assistants we’ve discussed, depending on where they’re based, and whether they’re in-person or virtual:
Note: These estimated costs only apply to the salaries or hourly rates of the various types of assistants. They don’t take into consideration other indirect costs that you should also be aware of.
The Indirect Costs of Hiring an Assistant
The amount you pay an assistant doesn’t take into account the time and effort it takes to hire one—or even replace one if things don’t work out. Finding a really good assistant, regardless of which type of assistant you want, isn’t easy.
If you do the hiring yourself, and do so thoroughly, which you should if you want someone who’s truly competent, you need to:
- Write a job description: Work out the specific tasks you want an assistant to do and then synthesize these into a job description that will attract the right kind of applicants.
- Run paid job posts: Advertise the position by running paid or “pro” job posts on the right job boards, such as LinkedIn in the U.S., or regional job boards when hiring abroad.
- Review applicants: Develop a process where you can sift through potentially hundreds of applicants to filter the candidates you want to interview. This typically involves reviewing resumes, online profiles, and relevant background information, such as where they went to school, which companies they’ve worked for, how many years of experience they have, etc.
- Interview candidates: Develop a series of structured interview questions designed to assess candidates on how well they’ll fit the role. Follow a structured interview process so you can cross compare the answers from each candidate.
- Conduct work sample tests: Create and administer relevant work sample tests (e.g. composing a series of emails or planning a travel itinerary) so you can see whether a candidate is capable of doing the specific types of jobs you want them to do.
- Check references: Request recent references from direct supervisors and ensure that you ask structured questions so that you obtain useful and relevant information about the candidate.
This process requires significant time and energy, which could be better spent on things like product, business development, fundraising, or whatever your core competencies are.
You also aren’t guaranteed a great candidate (especially if you rely on freelancer sites like Upwork or Fiverr). You may need to go through the process several times before finding an assistant that works out.
Lastly, there are costs associated with training your assistant. This includes the time you’ll need to take to onboard them, teach them your systems, and coach them in certain areas to learn the tasks you want them to do.
It’s not to say these efforts aren’t worth it—they absolutely can be. It’s just to say that they’re costs you need to anticipate and be aware of that are outside of the cost you’ll pay them once they’re hired.
The Problem with Recruiters and Virtual Assistant Services
To avoid the challenges involved in hiring, some companies outsource the hiring of their assistant to recruitment or staffing agencies, or use online virtual assistant services.
For a number of reasons that we’ve written about previously, this will often only get you a poor quality assistant.
Recruiters and virtual assistant services rarely have thorough processes for vetting candidates. They’re often overly reliant on a few keywords in a resume or a superficial first impression during an interview—when it’s been proven time and again that these factors aren’t effective at predicting the on-the-job performance of an assistant.
So what factors are predictive of good on-the-job performance in an assistant role? Research has determined that the following generalist aptitudes are what truly matter:
- Problem Solving Ability: How smart are they? Can they figure things out in new and complex situations?
- Key Character and Behavioral Traits: Are they organized, reliable, detail-oriented, etc.?
- Communication Ability: How well do they write and communicate? Can they communicate on your behalf or alongside you with key people (team, board members, investors, etc.)?
The absolute best assistants possess these qualities. But most recruiters and VA services do very little to assess them.
This is why we created Persona, a service that vets assistants on these key generalist abilities, and provides world-class, virtual executive assistants without the hassle of finding and hiring them yourself.
How to Shortcut the Hiring Process and Get a World-Class Executive Assistant
When we started Persona, we didn’t just want to make it easy for founders and executives to get an assistant. We wanted to make it easy for them to get an assistant that would actually be transformative for their business.
We used our deep expertise in assessment design and cognitive science to build a hiring process that measures the things that matter most in generalist roles: problem solving ability, communication ability, and key character and behavioral traits.
Every Persona executive assistant goes through an in-depth vetting process that includes a mix of:
- Quantitative assessments
- Structured interviews
- Work sample projects
- Communication exercises
- Reference and background checks
Our entire vetting process is customized on a candidate by candidate basis, depending on their background and how they progress through each step. This tailored approach means we can understand our applicants on a deeper level, and find the ideal candidate for each of our client’s requirements.
Our executive VAs are used in all types of industries, including tech startups, non-profits, real estate, professional services, and more. They execute essentials like email and calendar management, research, and data entry. But in many cases they also help clients with things like:
- Social media management
- Workflow and project management
- Customer support
- Employee onboarding
- eCommerce management
- Creating website content or landing pages for WordPress, Squarespace, and other content management systems, etc.
- Personal tasks
We know that executives—especially startup founders and small business owners—simply don’t have the time to find and vet great applicants on their own. So, we’ve made hiring a world-class assistant simple. And there’s no long-term commitment, so you can try an assistant for a month or two and see how you like it.
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.
- Step 4: Our talent team will guide you through the onboarding process over 2-3 weeks.
- Step 5: For a flat monthly rate, you get a fully dedicated assistant working for you 40 hours per week (no long-term commitment needed).
If you’ve been wanting an assistant but haven’t had the time to hire one, click here to get started. For testimonials from our clients, check out our homepage.
If you’re looking for personal assistant services, we may be able to help as well. We currently provide startup founders, high net worth individuals, and business executives with remote personal assistants on a month-to-month basis. If you want to hire a personal assistant, please fill out the form linked above and let the account manager you speak with know that you’re looking to hire a personal assistant. While many virtual assistants and virtual assistant services make it seem like they’re well suited for personal assistant work, it’s actually a very skilled role that’s quite hard to hire for. If you’re hiring a personal assistant, Persona should be one of the main options you consider. Persona makes having a top tier personal assistant cost effective and easy.