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A virtual executive assistant is an off-site, typically freelance, administrative professional. He or she carries out the same responsibilities and tasks as a traditional executive-level administrative assistant, with one major caveat. Virtual assistants, including those assistants catering to executive clients, manage any and all administrative or secretarial tasks that do not require a physical presence. Unlike traditional executive assistants, a virtual executive assistant works from a remote location as an independent contractor to several executives and small business owners at the same time.
The key differences between a traditional executive assistant and a virtual executive assistant are location and the working relationship between the executive and the assistant. With the advent of modern technology, including email, productivity software, and virtual meeting capabilities, geographic location is no longer a barrier. Assistants can live miles, even continents away from the executives they represent. Additionally, rather than an employee-employer relationship between the virtual executive assistant and the executive, the relationship is one of service provider and client.
According to professional organizations like the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), there are two primary types of administrative assistants. Traditional secretaries and entry-level administrative assistants manage such tasks as calendars and scheduling, preparing print and verbal communications, maintaining documents and filing systems, making travel arrangements, and organizing meeting agendas and supporting documents. Comparatively, executive assistants manage these same tasks for executives and upper-level managers, as well as maintaining higher levels of responsibilities such as making minor business decisions on behalf of the executive. Depending on the specific position, executive assistants may also be responsible for a variety of other tasks, including preparing newsletters, updating online executive profile information, or maintaining a website.
Few virtual assistants make the same distinctions between general administrative assistance and executive-level administrative assistance as seen with on-site administrative professionals. Rather, as a small business owner, a virtual assistant contracts with two or more clients to offer whatever support services the business owner or executive needs. Most clients seek an off-site assistant who is capable of serving in any assistive capacity, including serving as a virtual executive assistant. Specialized skills, such as using social media platforms, building complex websites, bookkeeping, and other skills, are common among virtual assistants.
Each virtual assistance practice offers varied service levels, rates, and service types based on a specified target market. Successful virtual assistants possess more than just administrative support skills. Marketing knowledge, managing small business finances, the capability to outsource projects both for the assistant and for clients, as well as a solid understanding of social media and similar emerging technologies, are imperative. Rates for virtual assistants are typically based on hours or offered as flat-fee retainers, similar to accountants and legal professionals.