What is a Virtual Employee? The Pros and Cons of Hiring Them

What is a Virtual Employee? The Pros and Cons of Hiring Them

Have you ever heard the term “virtual employee” and wondered what exactly it means? Basically, a virtual employee is just like a regular employee who works for your business. However, instead of coming into your office or physical location, they provide services remotely.

In most cases, virtual employees aren’t directly employed by your business. You’ll usually go through a third-party company to hire them. So you’re essentially paying that company for the services of the employee. But they can perform a wide array of tasks for your business, from data entry and scheduling to posting on social media or clearing out your inbox.

For small businesses, virtual employees offer a cost effective way to get more done and grow their operations. It’s not just about what you pay directly to employees, though virtual employee salaries are often fairly reasonable. But you can also save on overhead costs like office space and equipment by going this route.

With on-site employees and even freelancers, you have to also worry about the recruitment and hiring process. Virtual employee agencies often handle this part of the process for you. So if you want to pass off some of the more repetitive tasks for your business, this can be a quick and inexpensive way to do it.

Are you thinking about hiring virtual employees or learning more about what they could provide for your business? Check out this guide about what virtual employees can do for you. It’s created by Time Doctor, providers of a time tracking software that can be used to manage your virtual team.

Why Hire a Virtual Employee?

Most small businesses have tons of little tasks that need to get done throughout the day. Some of them require your unique vision or skills; others don’t. If you spend a significant amount of time doing repetitive tasks like creating spreadsheets or responding to simple email inquiries, that’s less time you have to work on growing your business.

A virtual employee can handle these tasks for you. And hiring one usually doesn’t cost as much as hiring a traditional employee, both in terms of salary and costs related to hiring, onboarding, office space, equipment, and benefits. So the process eliminates a lot of the roadblocks that often keep small businesses from growing their team early on.

How to Hire Them

If you’re sold on the idea of hiring a virtual employee, the next step is to determine your small business’s needs. Do you need someone to manage your schedule? Post on social media? Do simple data entry? The tasks you’re hiring for might impact where you look.

There are plenty of services available to match you with the right virtual employees, including Work Better Now, Outsourcely, and Zirtual.

If you want more control over the hiring process, you can also post a job listing on traditional job sites like Indeed. However, this requires more time upfront. If you’re looking for freelance help, sites like Upwork can also help, but these are typically better for those looking for short-term or project-based help.

How to Manage a Virtual Employee

Once you hire virtual employees, it’s your job to make sure they’re working effectively within your small business. This starts with thorough training surrounding the exact tasks you need them to complete. Once they’re trained, set specific deadlines and goals so they know your expectations. Then you should also check in regularly and make sure they understand how to reach out to you or another member of the team if they have questions or concerns.

Ultimately, managing virtual employees is a lot like managing in-person employees. You need to be clear, set goals, recognize good work, and correct bad habits when you notice them. Even though you’re not interacting with them in person each day, you should consider them a member of the team and make sure they have the same support and guidance as you’d offer to anyone else.

Pros of Using Them

Hiring virtual employees can often be an easy and cost effective way to grow a small business team. You can save time on hiring and onboarding, save money on overhead, and free up more of your own time to work on the things you really need to focus on with your business.

In addition to the practical aspects, working with virtual employees allows you to expand the talent pool your company has access to. If you live in an area without a huge base of job seekers, you can still find hard workers and people with the skills you need to support your company’s most important operations.

Cons of Using Them

However, virtual employees are only an asset when you have a clear need well suited for their skills. You also need the ability to work from a separate location. There are certainly options out there for skilled jobs like marketing and IT, but you’ll probably want more control over the hiring process for those workers. So you don’t necessarily save as much time on the hiring and onboarding process.

Additionally, this format isn’t especially well suited to companies where collaboration is a major focus. There are apps like Slack and Basecamp. These apps allow virtual teams to share ideas and communicate. But it’s often not the same level of brainstorming that happens in person. And it’s tougher to create the sense of camaraderie that often occurs in small offices.

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Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

7 Reactions
  1. I love the idea, but haven’t pulled the trigger myself. If you’ve got really clear processes in place it seems like a great route to go.

  2. You have shared amazing information will all of us. It will definitely help business owner and entrepreneurs to hire virtual employee and work with them.

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  6. This is a well-explained article that clearly and precisely describes the advantages and disadvantages of the virtual employee. In my opinion, it is advantageous to choose a virtual employee over a regular employee.

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