Time etc vs. BELAY vs. Persona: Evaluating 3 Top VA Services

Hiring the right virtual assistant (VA) can be transformative for founders and executives that want to spend more time on the work that drives their business forward, and less time on day to day administrative tasks.

In our experience, the #1 thing that determines the success of hiring a virtual assistant is the extent to which they possess the following key attributes:

  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 a candidate is strong in each of these areas, they are likely to deliver great value for your investment. If they’re lacking in one or more of these areas, they’ll likely fail to meet your business needs and expectations (or worse, add more work to your plate).

So, when deciding between virtual assistant services, the key thing you should seek to understand is: How thoroughly does the service you’re considering vet candidates based on these qualities?

VA services that focus on these qualities are the most likely to deliver a great virtual assistant.

In this article, we’re going to share the unique hiring methodology we’ve designed at Persona to rigorously vet our assistants based on these attributes, in order to offer one of the best virtual assistant services on the market.

Then, we’ll compare our service to two other virtual assistant companies: Time etc and BELAY.

Note: Our 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, fill out our form. 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.

The Hiring Methodology We’ve Designed to Provide World-Class Virtual Assistants to Our Clients

We’ve used our backgrounds in behavioral science and assessment design to create a hiring methodology that directly and thoroughly measures candidates on the key attributes discussed above: problem solving, communication, character traits that are essential in administrative support roles, and tech-savviness.

There are two key things that separate our hiring process from other companies:

  1. We leverage a number of evaluation methods beyond resume review and interviews to more thoroughly vet candidates.
  2. We directly measure candidates on the skills and attributes which predict success in a virtual assistant role.

Specifically, we use a tailored combination of the following when assessing candidates’ traits and abilities:

  • Quantitative assessments: Tests that allow us to evaluate candidates accurately on abilities like problem solving and nuanced character traits like reliability, dutifulness, detail-orientedness, etc.
  • Structured interviews: A strategic interview process to cross-compare candidates on the qualities and abilities that we measure.
  • Work sample projects: Mock projects to see the quality of their work, based on the types of tasks they’re likely to do on the job.
  • Communication exercises: Exercises to evaluate candidates on key communication skills such as email etiquette and professionalism.
  • Reference and background checks: A structured approach to interviewing candidates’ references.

By using these additional tools, we’re able to collect concrete data that shows each assistant we hire has the traits and abilities they’ll need to excel as a virtual assistant. We aren’t placing bets or making best guesses about candidates based on relatively superficial variables, such as whether they have past years of experience working as an assistant. We actually review work samples and see the quality of candidates’ performance on the exact types of tasks and responsibilities that they’ll perform on the job.

Furthermore, we customize our process on a candidate by candidate basis, based on how individuals perform throughout each step. So, 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. Or, 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.

As a result of this thorough and flexible hiring methodology, we’re able to provide a higher level of talent and consistency than most virtual assistant 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 top 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 what your executive needs. For example, our VAs have worked on things like light graphic design in Canva, website design, transcription, lead generation, CRM management, Amazon eCommerce management, and more.
  • Virtual personal assistant tasks: Help make online orders, reservations, travel arrangements, and other accommodations for executives’ personal lives.

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.

Now, if you’re considering hiring a virtual assistant service, it’s likely that you’ve come across Time etc and BELAY as you’ve searched for options online. Both companies offer remote administrative support to founders, entrepreneurs, executives, and other business people in need. Let’s look at what each service offers and discuss some of the differences between their services and ours.

Time etc

Time etc offers US-based virtual assistants that support clients in a variety of administrative and marketing activities (similar to what you’ll find with most VA services), such as:

  • Help with your to-do list
  • Schedule management
  • Inbox management
  • Expenses and receipts
  • Data entry
  • Research
  • Social media
  • Format documents
  • Content writing
  • Website updates

They list the following 10 things that they look for in their virtual assistants:

  1. Key traits
  2. Personality
  3. Education (preference for college-educated)
  4. Experience
  5. English skills
  6. Communication
  7. Software experience
  8. Tech-savviness
  9. Environment and equipment
  10. Long-term commitment

On the surface, much of this appears to overlap with attributes that we look for. However, they list criteria, such as a minimum of 5-8 years of relevant experience, that we’ve found to not be particularly useful or predictive of success on the job. In fact, requiring past administrative assistant experience often rules out some of the best candidates for VA roles.

The key thing that we don’t see when reviewing their site is what their vetting process is. It’s one thing to list relevant attributes that they look for, but what really matters is:

  • Do they directly measure these attributes during their hiring process?
  • How do they measure these attributes? What specifically do they do?
  • And how thorough are they in the measurement of candidates’ key traits and abilities?

So, if you decide to look at Time etc as an option, be sure to ask them these questions and get specifics on their process.

The other key thing that we see is that their pricing plans offer a variety of both part-time and full-time options, ranging from 10 hours/month plans to 60 hours/month plans (unused hours rollover).

While we understand the appeal of part-time assistants, we’ve written previously about the downsides of part-time assistants. Specifically:

  • They have a higher hourly rate.
  • They take far longer to get up to speed (understand your business, preferences, etc.) and often fail to deliver significant value for your investment compared to full-time assistants.
  • They often have other clients, whether inside or outside of the VA company.

In the case of Time etc, they appear to offer dedicated virtual assistants, so you should have a VA that’s only working with you. But their dedicated VAs may still be working with other clients outside of Time etc. And in our experience, this can lead to lackluster, unsuccessful VA engagements.

At Persona, we offer strictly full-time assistants because we’ve found that full-time engagements are where the real results and benefits come from when working with an assistant.


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.

While they state that they use an exhaustive recruiting process that includes “…among other things—several video interviews and skills assessments to find skilled, servant-hearted candidates”, this is all they say. So, if you decide to talk to them, be sure to ask them to tell you more about how they vet candidates and evaluate for yourself whether it’s as exhaustive a process as they say.

Similar to Time etc, BELAY appears to offer both part-time and full-time assistants. So, as we mentioned above, their assistants may work with clients outside of BELAY—potentially spreading their assistants’ focus and bandwidth to different clients, and ultimately delivering less value to you as a result.

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 Fancy Hands, WoodBows, Time etc., 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 Executive Assistant for a Month or Two and See How You Like It

We provide world-class executive support for all types of industries, including tech startups, non-profits, real estate, professional services, and more. And due to our rigorous hiring methodology, we believe we offer some of the best VA talent on the market.

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 free consultation 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 support team will guide you through the onboarding process.
  • 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 virtual executive assistant that can be truly transformative for your business, fill out our form. For testimonials from our clients, check out our homepage.

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