Should You Hire a Virtual Assistant Through a VA Company, a Marketplace or Go Direct?

Taking on the task of hiring a Virtual Assistant can be incredibly daunting! Literally millions of people of all levels of skills and walks of life are ready to offer their help. Ratings and reference systems help filter out the supply of workforce in some way, but still, far too many to chose from.  And who can guarantee that VA you’ve chosen had not played  the system somehow or won’t outsourced their job to someone else?  You have no clue – they are virtual!

virtual-agentsFor this reason, you might choose to hire a Virtual Assistant through an existing VA service. This can be attractive because, ideally, they have already pre-screened their VAs and will provide them with the infrastructure they need to get the job done, such as a PC, internet connection, etc.  But there are also some pitfalls to going this route that you need to be aware of.

Before hiring a Virtual Assistant through a VA company, you should consider the a few important factors:

  • Hiring through a VA company means that there is one or several middlemen between you and your VA. These middlemen could include the owner of the VA company, the third party website, and possibly even more. That inevitably increases your cost, sometime two-three fold.
  • Hiring through a VA service may give both you and your VA much less control over your working relationship, increase length and complexity of communication channels, and increase chances of misunderstanding.   You have less control over the project schedule and it won’t be as easy to set terms of the job that work best for both of you.
  • Not knowing what your VA actually gets for compensation deprives you from paying them a fair rate and limits your ability to financially motivate them.

These factors do not necessarily kill the idea of going through a VA company, just make the decision a bit more complex.  And you may decide differently depending on the kind of work you are expecting your VA to do.

  • Is it out-tasking?  Are looking for someone to do various small tasks on ad hoc basis?
  • Is it a large task or small project? Are looking for someone to take the full ownership of a project or perform a well-defined sizable task?
  • Or are you looking for a Virtual Employee, a person on a part-time or full-time basis who’s going to provide ongoing business support and can maintain continuity between the tasks?

When I am hiring a Virtual Assistants for small tasks and ad hoc projects, I usually go through a marketplace like eLance or oDesk. For a relatively low fee (10-15%) these marketplaces help me to find VAs, pay them, control work they do to a degree, and much more.  (Working with VAs and other resources through a marketplace is a large topic on its own that I will tackle at a later date.)  Hiring directly in this case is just too time consuming and benefits of specialized VA companies are not worth the fees they charge.

For project based VA work marketplaces and VA companies work well, it is also possible to go direct if you have a good lead for a VA or have built sufficient experience in hiring VAs directly.

In the case of a virtual employee I used to prefer to hire directly. That allowed me to build a better working relationship with my VA. I could set a schedule that works for both of us at a price that is mutually beneficial.  However as of recent, I find it increasingly cumbersome to go direct.  Too much hassle and overhead.  So I opt for a compromise, for example, I found it reasonable to use companies that only help me with specific aspects of the process such as finding a VA.  A great example of such company is  and

Do you have any suggestions or ideas you’d like to share? Do you think it is better to hire direct? Or do you believe that hiring through a Virtual Assistant company is the better choice? What is your favorite VA companies? Marketplaces? Agencies? Please leave your comments below and tell me what your thoughts are on hiring through a third-party. Or you can send me an email at  Thank you, Nick

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