How much time do you spend on little things every day? Wouldn’t it be nice if you had an extra hand to help out with email, online research, social media management, and other time-consuming tasks?

Hiring a virtual assistant (VA) can be a huge help in managing your heavy workload. While it’s great to develop your in-house talent, a well-qualified VA can work miracles. You might not realize just how many things they can help you out with.

There are two ways to hire a virtual assistant. You can hire a freelancer directly or work with a virtual assistant services company.

Want the short version? Click here to skip to the end.

Try Hubstaff free for 14 days

Get started

What’s the difference?

  • Virtual assistant services hire employees who are assigned to different clients (including you). You usually talk to a project manager.
  • Freelancers are usually self-employed and work solo. You work directly with them without an intermediate company.

Both VA service providers and freelancers can be of great benefit for your business. They can handle the extra workload that’s suffocating your team when you just can’t hire a new employee. They can also take on tasks that require skills you don’t have in-house.

Making the right choice between the two will depend on your needs and the specific characteristics of both categories. Let’s go through the most important criteria in the selection and consider the pros and cons of working with a virtual assistant company or a freelancer.

Services offered

The leading factor in choosing an external contractor is whether they can get the job done. How do virtual assistant services score against freelancers on this point?

Virtual assistant services


When you partner with a VA company, you get immediate access to a wide variety of skills. Since you’re not working with a single person, but with a whole talent pool, you can use their services for tasks as diverse as accounting and blog writing. This can be arranged under a single contract.

Virtual assistant services provide a variety of capabilities

You can hire a VA to manage your communication flow (goodbye, thousands of emails and interrupting phone calls). They can arrange your schedule. They can even take care of your bookkeeping.

Professional virtual assistants can also assist you with partner communication, investor scouting, competitor research, content writing, social media management, and website maintenance.


While you get access to a large set of skills, you can’t check the portfolio of the VA who will be assigned to your account. So there’s a risk you might not be happy with the services or attitude of a certain employee (though many services have policies in place to deal with this.)



You have full control over who you work with. You can select a freelance virtual assistant who has the exact knowledge and experience required for the tasks at hand. This is especially useful if you need an external contractor to help you with a project that requires a certain skillset.

Plus, since you communicate directly, you can better judge if their personality will match the style of your team.


Since one person can only have a limited number of skills, you may need to hire separate freelancers for different activities. This can be tedious in terms of contracts and payments.

One-on-one support

Another important criterion when choosing between a virtual assistant service and a freelancer is the level of support you get. Here are the pros and cons for both.

Virtual assistant services


When you use a VA service provider, you typically get assigned a project manager. This person delegates tasks to assistants on a case-by-case basis. The project manager is your point of contact. For recurring tasks, you may also get a dedicated VA.

In case you’re not satisfied with the work of an employee, you can request a replacement.  In most cases, you also have a money-back guarantee if you’re not happy with the services.




When you work with a freelancer for some time, they’re likely to get used to your style of work and the types of tasks you have. They can invest time in adapting to your preferences.

Virtual assistant services provide support via your project manager

You communicate directly with your assistant, so you can clarify your expectations straight to them. Simply put, you’ll develop a more stable work relationship with a freelance virtual assistant.


If you’re not happy with the services of a freelancer, you don’t have many choices. Typically, there’s no money-back guarantee, and you can’t take the issue to anybody else.


Obviously, you need the right skills and the necessary level of work quality from your virtual assistant. What you might forget to consider is their availability. After all, you need their help at a specific moment—and it’s important they can deliver it on time.

Virtual assistant services


VA service providers often have people on the job around the clock. Since they have big teams that handle numerous projects, they have to ensure they cover all pending work as fast as possible. This means they’re more likely to react quickly when you have a task for them.


As mentioned earlier, assignments are not under your control. Even though you get full availability, the specific VA may not be the best fit for the work you outsource.



You can negotiate your availability needs in advance. Often you’ll be able to reach a working model that fits both of you. Some freelancers can also work from your office, so you get time together in person.


Freelance virtual assistants are more likely to have specific days and hours during which they can work on your tasks. They are usually serving a number of clients in the same time and need to juggle their priorities.

Unfortunately, there may be cases when the freelancer you’re working with won’t be available when you need their help.

Subscribe to the Hubstaff blog for more tips


The cost of outsourcing projects is understandably a major factor for your choice of an external contractor. When you’re trying to scale your business with VAs, price is an important consideration.

Virtual assistant services


Virtual assistant service providers often offer a free trial period before you start using their paid services. This is a great opportunity to test your work chemistry without investing a lot of money in advance.

After that, you pay one price for monthly services or a specific number of hours. As mentioned earlier, they also usually provide a money-back guarantee.


While the payment rates and conditions vary, in most cases VA service providers will require a higher payment commitment from you. Typically, you’ll have to cover a monthly fee.

Since virtual assistant services are running a whole company, they are likely to charge more for sustaining their administrative structure.



In most cases, working with a freelancer will cost you less than a VA. Freelancers have lower overhead because they don’t have payroll, office, or administrative expenses. They may be more flexible with how they’ll charge you.

It could be per hour, per completed task, or a fixed monthly fee. You may also be able to negotiate discounts if you work together on a long-term basis.


As noted earlier, it’s unlikely that you’ll get a money-back guarantee from a freelancer. This means that if you’re not satisfied with their services, you’ll still need to pay them. If you need different types of services, you may have to pay a few people instead of one, which may turn into a bit of a hassle.

The short version

Virtual assistant services are great because they

  • can help you out with almost any task
  • have a large talent pool
  • let you work with VAs who are best suited to your needs
  • usually offer a money-back guarantee
  • have people available around the clock
  • often offer a free trial

But they also

  • don’t let you see portfolios of individuals VAs
  • make it harder to establish a regular working relationship
  • might not have a specific VA that meets your particular needs
  • are usually more expensive

Freelancers may be a better choice for some businesses, as they

  • offer very specific skillsets
  • communicate directly with you
  • get used to your style of work
  • are often open to negotiation about availability
  • offer more affordable rates

But, on the other hand, keep in mind that freelancers

  • have more limited skillsets
  • usually don’t offer money-back guarantees
  • may only have specific days and hours of availability
  • might necessitate the hiring of multiple people

Make the right choice for your business

There’s no predefined formula when it comes to choosing between the services of a freelancer and a virtual assistant provider. Before you set off to make your selection, make sure you consider your work needs. Then compare them to what both external contractor options can offer you. The result will be strictly individual for your particular case.

When you decide it’s time for a virtual assistant, be sure to check out our ultimate guide to hiring a VA!

Have you worked with a virtual assistant employed by a service? Or hired a freelancer to help you out? Share your experience in the comments below!

Category: Outsourcing