Should I Hire an Employee or Virtual Assistant?

If you’re in the market for a new car, you have two purchase options—you can buy or lease. There’s a similar choice when you’re looking for administrative help for your growing small business—you can bring on a new employee or virtual assistant (VA). Read on to learn about the pros and cons for each of these choices.

What’s the Difference?

An “employee” is an individual you hire as a permanent member of your staff to perform a specific service in exchange for wages or salary.

In contrast, most “virtual assistants” are self-employed, contract or freelance workers. They typically work remotely and perform specific administrative tasks. This might include: bookkeeping, online research, data entry, making customer service calls, sending thank you notes to customers, coordinating order fulfillment, scheduling, or managing calendars.

How Do They Stack Up?

There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to adding either an employee or VA. The charts below help you compare the two options based on key aspects.

Employee
 Scheduling Employer sets working hours and where they work. They work exclusively for employer.
Benefits* Employer may be responsible for benefits and insurance.
Payroll/taxes* Employer does the paperwork to track work, prepare payroll, and pay taxes.
Cost Generally higher. Pay based on salary or wage, regardless of work completed.
Work Assignment Performs duties as assigned.
Work Environment Employer provides the needed tools, equipment and workspace.
Managing Works under employer’s direct supervision.
Mentoring Can be developed over time to take on more responsibility as needed.
Virtual Assistant
Scheduling Sets their own hours and determines where they’ll work. They may be working for other businesses at the same time.
Benefits* Responsible for their own benefits and insurance.
Payroll/taxes* Tracks their own work, submits an invoice, and pays their own taxes.
Cost Generally lower. Pay only for time on task or project.
Work Assignment Performs only contracted duties.
Work Environment Uses their own resources to provide their own workspace.
Managing Works independently and reports results.
Mentoring Focused on the task contracted to perform so development opportunities are limited.

*Check with your insurance professional or legal consultant to determine what is required in your state.

So which is better? The answer depends on your needs. If you require on-site staff at specific hours, you likely need to hire an employee, especially if you plan to expand the responsibilities over time. But if you need administrative support that can be handled virtually with a flexible schedule (and you don’t want the payroll hassle), then a VA might fit the bill.