Virtual Assistants and Freelancers, What’s the Difference?

Remote staffing solutions is the In Thing right now, with the freelance and virtual assistant economies growing. More people and businesses are outsourcing to streamline their solutions. But even then, many people still don’t know the difference between virtual assistants and freelancers. While there’s a lot of overlap between the two, they are distinct and these differences should factor into the tasks you want to outsource.

Virtual Assistants

They help out with different tasks or handle small projects independently. But, as the name suggests, their primary role is to assist. As the term “virtual” suggests, they do this assisting remotely, without being physically there in the same workspace. So they can work from anywhere in the world thanks to the internet and help entrepreneurs, business owners and startups with their work. The type of assistance they provide usually entails routinary tasks like accounting and bookkeeping, customer care, social media management, content writing, etc. Frequently they’re in it for the long haul.    


On the other hand, freelancers are journeymen or independent contractors – working independently and usually on a per-contract or per-job basis. They are often specialists, whose unique skills are relevant to the project at hand – whether its graphic design, video editing or website development. As the name implies, they’re not employed by single companies or individuals on the long term. They do the job they are hired for and when that project is done, it’s over – until the next time.   

Differences… and Similarities 

Virtual Assistants are similar to secretaries in helping executives with their tasks. They can also augment the rest of the workforce, shouldering time-consuming and low-profit work so the in-house staff can focus on their specialties. The nature of this work is generally continuous, and VAs are best when they’re familiar with the team and organization. So they can anticipate tasks and know what their clients need. It’s a relationship that develops, a role that grows.   It’s different from the per-job or per-project nature of freelancers. Being a freelancer gives one a lot of flexibility and creative options, whereas being a VA has stability and routine. If a freelancer lands a long-term job, then he or she can become very much like a VA. On the other hand, a virtual assistant doesn’t have to be a generalist and can have specialist expertise including graphic design, webdev, content writing, SEO, etc. Likewise, a VA can also transition to freelance work. A specialist freelancer can join a project and collaborate with the regular virtual assistant.    So a lot of the differences between virtual assistants and freelancers lie in the work arrangements.   

Other Factors Regarding Virtual Assistants and Freelancers

There are other aspects of the job to consider with regards to virtual assistants and freelancers and choosing which one’s best for your business. Or even you are thinking of entering those fields yourself. One such major factor is whether you’re home-based or office-based.   Home-based virtual assistants and freelancers might have a more affordable rate. It’s also a more flexible lifestyle. But the individual in question is responsible for his or her own gear, internet connection, and availability. If the freelancer or VA is indisposed, he or she might not have any colleagues to take their place.   An office-based virtual assistant has the benefit of a fully furnished workplace with all the necessary infrastructure. Thus there are less chances of their work being disrupted by power outages or connectivity issues. Their schedules will be more structured and if they become indisposed, their colleagues can take their place in the meanwhile. Of course, this setup means the individual in question is working for a company and a virtual assistant company will charge a different rate than a solo freelancer or VA working from home.  


Consider your organization’s needs and requirements as you look for remote staffing solutions. Is it just a one-off project? Or do you need someone working with you or your staff on a long-term basis? What’s your budget? Also, examine the type of tasks and requirements you need delivered. Then you can decide whether virtual assistants or freelancers will best suit your purposes.