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  • Michael Bolt

Personal or Virtual Assistant; Which is Right For Me?

How do you know which assistant solution is right for you? How do I hire the right one for me? Before we drill down into the details lets first define which is right for you.

The definition of a Personal Assistant is:  secretary or administrative assistant working exclusively for one particular person.

The definition of a Virtual Assistant: there doesn’t appear to be one, so we can either assume it is the virtual version of the above or use Wikipedia’s explanation –

Based on the above, we can deduce that a personal assistant will work solely for you and a virtual assistant is likely to be self-employed. As with everything in life, this doesn’t tell the whole story and in fact doesn’t answer the question – not yet anyway.

Having a personal assistant used to be solely for those in the corporate jet stream. It was something to aspire to and an indicator that you had ”made it”, or at least were very much on your way to the top. That was of course in the days when a computer was little more than a glorified word processor and a mobile phone had a base station and couldn’t leave the confines of your home. Now they are more mobile, not only in terms of their operating location but also the fact they can work in business and social support.

By contrast, a Virtual Assistant is something which has been made possible by the progression of modern technology. Such as, mobile phones, and more recently smartphones, more advanced telecoms, and the development of the truly mobile workforce. It’s the latter which has really brought the Virtual Assistants value to the forefront for many. Having someone to assist you and your business – that doesn’t require the traditional management needs – offers a fantastically modern solution. Like a personal assistant, they can also work across business and personal support.

To add more to the mix, what about a Virtual PA (Virtual Personal Assistant)? What is this and does it differ from either of the above? This is a question which has played out for several years. It’s one of those questions which seems to be defining its own answer again because of technological advances. It’s fair to say that a Virtual Assistant is the same as a Virtual PA. However, more recently the term Virtual Assistant has taken on a split meaning as this is also shared by artificial intelligence systems such as; Google Assistant, Cortana, Siri, and the home-based system Alexa. Whilst these are excellent systems, they are not quite there when we talk about a personal assistant – not yet anyway. Having reviewed several articles/blogs/forums over the years, I can only conclude that they are the same. The only difference is in the eye of the beholder.

So, we have the terms; Virtual, Personal, AI (Artificial intelligence) and while we are at this, let’s throw in ‘secretarial’ too. Is this just a simple case of terminology? Well no. Let’s look at this from a different perspective for a moment. What do you want or what do you do that has brought you to this question? Its more than likely you have either concluded that you are not working efficiently, and you therefore need help or someone else has come to this conclusion for you. This may even be one of those midnight forays into the dark world of those “I know I need help but I’m too proud to ask for it” moments!

By considering how you like to work, we may find the best solution for you. We do need to consider the physical aspect first. Do you need or like to have face-to-face contact? if so, you may have answered your own question! After all there is or should be no ambiguity about what Virtual means. If you need someone to make your morning coffee or do paper document filing, then a Virtual Assistant simply won’t work for you. Your decision has been made – but one final question before you step off this journey –  is this really needed and for how long? If you need to scan a box full of documents or file them, this could still be fulfilled virtually for you – give it some thought and then come back to re-consider your options. That filing cabinet in your office isn’t needed, when the cloud can offer far more space for little to no cost. With the recent GDPR introduction, your data is probably better off stored in digital format than paper anyway.

Alternatively, if you don’t need, or want, a stranger working in your home, sharing your small office space or you simply feel you’re not at that stage yet, we can investigate what a virtual solution could look like for you.


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