When you look at what virtual assistant services do for their clients, they generally list a near identical set of tasks, including:
- Inbox management
- Calendar management
- Data entry
- Travel planning
- A few other items such as document management, content management, social media management, etc.
There may be some subtle differences, but by and large, VA services offer some variation of the same basic tasks.
So, if you’re weighing different VA service options, how should you think about evaluating which one is best for you?
In our experience, the #1 factor that determines VA service quality is how thoroughly they vet the assistants they hire. This is what separates services that provide great VAs from services that don’t.
In this article, we’re going to share the unique hiring methodology we’ve designed at Persona to find world-class VAs for our clients and discuss the key things that differentiate our service from other virtual assistant services on the market.
Then, we’ll break down the differences between two other virtual assistant companies—Zirtual and Time etc—based on three factors: services offered, pricing, and stated hiring practices.
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, fill out our form. You can try one of our remote assistants for a month or two and see how you like it. For testimonials from our clients, check out our homepage.
3 Things That Differentiate Persona From Other Virtual Assistant Services
1. Our Rigorous Hiring Methodology to Find World-Class Talent
We’ve used our backgrounds in behavioral science and assessment design to create a hiring methodology that directly measures candidates on the abilities and traits that have been shown to predict success in an assistant role. Specifically, we focus on thoroughly evaluating:
- 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, trustworthy, detail-oriented, etc.?
- 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.)?
- 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?
The extent to which assistants possess these qualities is the key predictor in how well they’ll perform on the job. And we’ve differentiated our service by developing more rigorous and sophisticated ways of measuring these abilities and traits in candidates.
We use a tailored combination of the following when assessing assistants for our service:
- 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.
By leveraging a suite of tools beyond resumes and interviews, we’re able to see candidates’ abilities and the quality of their work before they’re hired. And as a result, we’re sure when we hire an assistant that they have what it takes to not just be adequate in the role, but to deliver significant value to our clients and become an asset to their organization.
Furthermore, we understand that cookie cutter processes are insufficient for thoroughly evaluating assistants, so we customize our hiring process on a candidate by candidate basis, based on how individuals perform throughout each step.
For example, if a critical reference describes a weakness that a particular candidate has, we may select a sample project for that candidate to perform in order to evaluate for ourselves the scope of that purported weakness. Or, if a candidate shows that they’re smart but may not have the requisite level of tech-savviness to work with our startup founder clientele, we’ll take additional steps to measure the candidate’s skillset in navigating modern software tools and interfaces.
As a result of this thorough hiring methodology, we’re able to provide higher level talent compared to most virtual assistant services—more akin to remote executive assistants than virtual administrative assistants.
2. A Wider Range of Services Offered (With Higher Level Complexity)
Because of the rigor of our hiring methodology, the breadth of business areas and projects that Persona assistants can support and manage is wider than most VA services.
Currently, our assistants manage some combination of the following for our clients:
- Communications: Manage email and communicate on an executive’s behalf and alongside them with company staff members and key stakeholders.
- Scheduling and Calendar 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. Manage recurring tasks such as data entry and expense reporting.
- Marketing and social media management: Create and schedule social media posts on platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook, monitor engagement metrics, respond to comments, help grow overall digital marketing 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 your needs. For example, our VAs have worked on things like light graphic design in Canva, 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.
In contrast to most VA services, which primarily provide administrative support, Persona assistants tend to spend roughly 30% of their time on administrative tasks like email and calendar management, while spending the rest of their time assisting with more complex tasks such as project management, streamlining business operations, or any number of other special projects.
3. We Exclusively Offer Full-Time, Fully Dedicated Virtual Assistants
In contrast to most virtual assistant services (including Zirtual and Time etc) which primarily focus on offering part-time assistants, we’ve designed our service to exclusively offer full-time, fully dedicated assistants to our clients.
We understand that the idea of a part-time assistant appeals to many people. You may have budgetary restrictions, or think you don’t have enough work to bring on an assistant full-time.
However, in our experience—especially for executives—hiring part-time assistants (or assistants that work with other clients) tends to lead to poor outcomes because:
- An assistant’s effectiveness increases the more they work with you. Learning the preferences, relationships, and systems are what determine the effectiveness and value of an assistant. Part-time assistants take significantly longer to learn these compared to full-time assistants.
- Part-time assistants cost more per hour than full-time assistants. Where a full-time assistant might cost $40/hour, a part-time assistant might cost $60/hour for the same types of tasks. So in that sense, you see less ROI per dollar spent.
- Part-time assistants are less likely to stick with you for the long term. There’s more risk of investing in an assistant only to lose them 6 months into the engagement. And they’re more likely to have other part-time jobs which can lead to scheduling conflicts and distraction from your business and needs.
For these reasons, we’ve decided to only offer full-time assistants because they deliver far better ROI to our clients. This means Persona assistants aren’t for everyone—they’re for people that want to invest in their business and their team so that they can spend more time on the work that drives their business forward.
If you’re wavering back and forth on hiring a full-time versus part-time VA, check out this article which gives some perspective on how the ROI of a highly competent, full-time assistant far exceeds the cost.
How to Try a Persona Virtual Assistant
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 full-time, world-class assistant.
Zirtual vs Time etc: How Their Services, Pricing, and Hiring Processes Match Up
In reviewing the websites of both Zirtual and Time etc, here’s what we can say for certain about how their services, pricing plans, and hiring practices compare.
Comparing the Virtual Assistant Services Offered by Zirtual and Time etc
Services Offered by Zirtual VAs
Zirtual serves executives, entrepreneurs, and small business owners in a variety of industries such as real estate, finance, nonprofits, startups, and more.
Similar to what you’ll find with most VA services, Zirtual lists the following as being offered by their virtual assistants:
- Inbox management
- Calendar management
- Event planning
- Travel arrangements
- PowerPoint presentations
- Expenses and invoicing
- Social media management
- Web research
- Data entry
- Content management and research
- Website maintenance and support for web design projects
Zirtual assistants are fully dedicated—meaning you work with a single VA consistently—and they highlight benefits such as 2 hour response times on tasks.
Services Offered by Time etc VAs
Time etc also offers virtual assistants that help entrepreneurs, executives, and business owners with a variety of administrative and marketing tasks, such as:
- Help with your to-do list
- Schedule management
- Inbox management
- Expenses and receipts
- Data entry
- Social media
- Format documents
- Content writing
- Website updates
Like Zirtual, their assistants are fully dedicated, and they also claim to provide quick turnaround times on tasks.
Most of the tasks they offer their clients directly overlap with services offered by Zirtual, with the notable exception of offering content writing. While Zirtual offers content management and research, Time etc says their VAs can assist with writing content.
With that said, as we discussed in our article on virtual assistants for social media, while VAs can be useful for helping to manage the publication process (uploading content, publishing posts, tracking engagement, etc.), specialized digital marketing activities like content writing (or SEO, paid ads, etc.) are best suited for people that specialize in those areas.
While it may seem attractive to hire a VA that offers content writing services, be aware that this generally isn’t the best use of a VA’s time and skillset (and typically will not result in great content).
Comparing Zirtual and Time etc Virtual Assistant Pricing Plans
Zirtual offers 4 pricing plans ranging from 12 hours of task work at $549/month, to 50 hours of task work at $1,699 per month.
Their plans are month to month with no long term contracts, so you can cancel services at any time. They do not offer roll over hours, so if you don’t use all your hours for the month, they do not roll over to the next month.
Time etc Pricing
Time etc also offers 4 pricing plans ranging from 10 hours at $360/month to 60 hours at $1,980/month.
Like Zirtual, users can switch plans or cancel at any time. However, in contrast to Zirtual, Time etc users do get roll over hours—so if you don’t use all your hours in a month, they can roll over into the next month.
Aside from Time etc offering roll over hours, there is very little difference between Zirtual and Time etc pricing.
Notably, both services have plans offering part-time assistants—which, as we explained above, comes with distinct disadvantages. However, if a part-time VA is what you’re looking for, then either service can potentially support you.
Comparing Zirtual and Time etc Virtual Assistant Hiring Processes
Zirtual Hiring Processes
Zirtual states the following about their hiring practices:
- Background checks on all assistants
- All assistants are college educated
- All assistants are US-based
- All assistants have administrative experience
- All assistants receive ongoing training
Time etc Hiring Processes
Time etc highlights looking for the following 10 criteria when hiring an assistant for their service:
- Key traits such as problem solving and accountability
- Personality such as integrity and positive attitude
- Education (college preferred)
- Experience (require minimum 5-8 years of relevant experience)
- English skills
- Communication (verbal and written)
- Software experience
- Environment and equipment
- Long-term commitment
In addition, they state that all VAs sign confidentiality agreements to ensure security and privacy.
Compared to Zirtual, Time etc is more specific and thorough in describing what they look for when hiring assistants for their service. With that said, there are a few things that we’d point out after reviewing what they state about their hiring practices:
- Both services seem to place significant emphasis on their assistants having past years of experience as an assistant or administrator. In our opinion, this is superficially relevant experience—not truly useful experience. Different executives have different processes, priorities, workflows, tools, values, and delegation choices—often rendering past assistant experience functionally useless. To be a great assistant, you just need the right qualities and traits. We often find that the best assistants are really smart people coming from different industries and looking to make a career change. And when companies favor candidates with past assistant experience, they often miss out on the best applicants.
- Both services list some of their criteria or what they look for in candidates, but they say little about how they go about assessing candidates based on those criteria. So, if you reach out to them, be sure to ask them: What does their hiring process look like? What specifically do they do? Do they directly measure candidates on the traits and abilities they say they look for? If so, how? (If they’re vague in answering these questions, you should consider other options and choose a company that has a better, more rigorous vetting process—like what we use at Persona).
Other Virtual Assistant Service Providers
If you’d like to review additional options for outsourcing administrative services, check out our post on the best virtual assistant companies which covers pros and cons of other VA companies including Belay, Fancy Hands, WoodBows, MyTasker, and more.
In addition, check out our post on how to hire a virtual assistant to learn about hiring VA freelancers from sites like Upwork and Fiverr.
Try a Persona Virtual Assistant
If you’d like to try one of our assistants, complete our form to let us know your needs. If you’re a good fit, we’ll set up a call to discuss our service and hand pick an assistant who we think will be a great fit for you. For testimonials from our clients, check out our homepage.