Remote Employee or VA: Which Hire is Right For You?

remote employee or VA

If you end each day with a longer to-do list than you began it with, that’s a clear sign it’s time to bring on a helping hand in your business. But many solopreneurs or small business owners struggle with this question: Do I need a remote employee or a virtual assistant?

Alas, there are no hard and fast rules. What’s right for your business might be wrong for someone else. The good news, though, is that we do have some tips to help you think through the type of hire that’s right for you. Read on for advice on making the right decision for your business.

Your Financial Responsibilities

Hiring any type of help, whether remote employee or virtual assistant contractor, will be an expense. But there are different financial responsibilities to consider for each type of hire.

With a new employee, you are responsible for taxes, including payroll, FICA, and FUTA taxes. Additionally, you must carry worker’s comp insurance (yes, even for remote workers!). Plus, employees often expect benefits like health insurance, paid time off, and retirement savings like a 401(k). Finally, you may be required to cover equipment employees need to do their jobs, depending on where you are. California law, for example, dictates that employees must provide tools or reimbursement when employees use their own devices.

Virtual assistants, on the other hand, are often contractors. They are independent workers who pay their own taxes and come with their own tools and equipment. Depending on the agreement you create with your virtual assistant, you may pay them hourly for time worked or a flat monthly retainer.

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It’s important to note that there are penalties for misclassifying a hire as a contractor when they should in fact be an employee. The IRS provides some broad guidelines here, but consult your tax advisor and lawyer to get feedback on your individual situation. Each business is unique, and we are not lawyers or CPAs; this blog post does not constitute formal advice.

Your Expectations

Once you’ve sorted your budget, it’s time to look within. What are you hoping your work relationship will look like?

Because VAs are contractors, they’re often helping out other entrepreneurs and business owners. You must adjust your expectations accordingly. You do not own all 40 hours of their workweek, and as contractors, they are allowed to set their own hours and get back to you in a timeframe stipulated by your contract. At Don’t Panic, for example, we guarantee a response within 24 hours during the workweek.

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If you need someone who’s more available to you, an employee might be the best way to go. Of course, you do not own your employee’s time, either. Still, there is generally an expectation that a full-time employee is more readily available to their boss throughout the day than a contractor with other clients might be.

Your Future Together

Another critical consideration in deciding whether to take on a remote employee or VA is defining what a successful future looks like to you.

Contractors are running their own businesses. At first glance, you might fear this means they’re more likely to jump ship. However, the opposite is true. VAs love being assistants, and they’re dedicated to doing it for the long haul.

Employees, on the other hand, often join organizations looking for growth. Someone who’s interested in building a career at your company won’t likely want to remain in an assistant role forever. That’s great if you’re looking to scale up your organization and hope to create space for someone to grow with your business. However, if you plan to remain a solopreneur forever, a VA might be a better fit for you.

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No matter what you envision the future looking like for you and your new teammate, be sure to outline expectations upfront so that the folks you’re interviewing have a clear picture of what they’re signing up for.

And this should go without saying, but any long-term relationship—whether with a contractor or employee—should be built around mutual respect. If you pay a fair rate and treat your hire or VA with kindness, they’ll likely stick around for a long while.

Your Ideal Candidate

The traits you look for in a VA versus a new hire will likely be different. A VA often comes with an existing skillset. They work as a professional virtual assistant contractor; they have the knowledge, experience, and tools on hand to dive into your work immediately. Plus, since they’re working with other clients, they’re often learning new skills from those relationships that can streamline how they work with you.

While there’s less upfront training time with an experienced VA, the tradeoff is often cost. More experience usually means a higher hourly rate.

If you opt for a remote employee, you might be getting someone who’s a bit more green. Perhaps your full-time assistant is a recent college graduate who loves your company’s mission and hopes to build a career with you.

You know that person will have the passion and drive to work hard for your organization, but because they’re new to the workforce there’ll be more training and mentorship that you must offer in the beginning to get them up to speed.

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As you can tell, there is no objectively right or wrong way to hire help for your business. Choosing whether to hire a remote employee or virtual assistant is more about understanding your own needs, limitations, and desires. Start by understanding what you’re looking for, and be sure to consult your CPA or legal advisor if you have questions about whether a contractor or remote employee is right for you. Then, of course, have honest discussions with any candidates to find a person whose expertise and goals align with your needs. Happy hiring!

Get tasks off your plate faster with the VA Starter Kit!

Jess Tyson, CEO & Director of Calm

Jess is the founder and proud Director of Calm at Don’t Panic Management. (And yes, she invented that title because that’s what you do when you’re the boss!) She wrote the book on how building a successful relationship with a virtual assistant can make all the difference in helping business owners get to the next level. Her life is often a whirlwind of wrangling her toddler, speaking at conferences (virtual and beyond!), researching productivity hacks, and meticulously making matches between overworked entrepreneurs and focused virtual assistants. Jess's first book, Panic Proof: How the Right Virtual Assistant Can Save Your Sanity and Grow Your Business is available now: panicproofbook.com

  • Current location: Redding, CT
  • Go-to Karaoke song: “Hand in My Pocket” by Alanis Morissette
  • Favorite kind of cheese: Aged Goat Gouda
  • Beverage of choice: Champagne
  • Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
  • Superpower: Delivering miracles, especially when all hope is lost.

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