Blog Hiring a Remote Executive Assistant vs an in-house Executive Assistant

Hiring a Remote Executive Assistant vs an in-house Executive Assistant

Dec 19, 2022

5 min read

As a CEO, time is your biggest commodity. Between back-to-back meetings and a tight schedule, startup executives are facing their biggest difficulty: scarcity of time. Ever since Covid-19, and for some even well before that, founders and CEOs found themselves unable to find a healthy balance between tasks at work and home. This is why high-performing executive assistants have been in great demand, and the curve doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Executive assistants provide incredible leverage to leaders on their time – their most valuable asset. Having an executive assistant helps you stay organized and focused, so that you can concentrate on achieving your strategic goals, such as:

  • Improving the efficiency of your business operations
  • Strengthening relationships with your internal/external stakeholders
  • Building a successful team
  • Supporting your executive leadership team
  • Growing sustainably 


What does an Executive Assistant do?

An Executive Assistant (or EA for short) can help manage your schedule, keep track of important tasks, and organize your business objectives. An EA can also be a sounding board for ideas and suggestions from coworkers, customers, and other people who come into contact with you. In short, hiring an executive assistant is like having an extension of you. One who can proactively think about the things you’re not thinking about and be 2, 3 steps ahead. At Viva, we often say, if you have a mediocre executive assistant, you’re better off without one because of how detrimental anything but a peak performer can be for you. 

If you’re looking to hire an assistant, you’ve contemplated whether to hire a remote EA or an in-house employee. Below, we’ll dive into the 5 things you should take into account before making that decision: 

  1. Needs
  2. Cost
  3. Quality of Talent
  4. Onboarding 
  5. Technology

Your core needs

There is no school you can attend that teaches you how to work more efficiently and productively. These are skills that come with time. But, leaving this gap in knowledge untreated can result in not only an inefficient use of your valuable time, but it can cause conflicting priorities for leaders. A great executive assistant should not only help cover your needs, but anticipate necessities by being proactive, observational, and detail-oriented.  

Our executive assistants are always one step ahead of their leader’s expectations, providing them with templates, briefings, project management files, and condensed meeting minutes. These practices enhance a leader’s productivity by 10x what they would be able to produce in the same amount of time.

At Viva, we have developed our own tried and tested productivity funnel, a proven method of managing tasks efficiently. We train our team in repeatable processes for effective 

delegation and calendar compartmentalization, so you can spend every minute of your day productively.  In less than 1 week, an EA can show you value by taking the following things off your plate:

  • Compartmentalize your calendar by creating a consistent schedule and increasing focus time
  • Manage all scheduling requests to free up time spent on back-and-forth communication
  • Create email labels and categories to achieve an inbox with zero unread emails
  • Prepare pre-meeting briefings to enable more effective external meetings
  • Design meeting minutes and follow up on action items to achieve greater meeting outcomes
  • Build and implement a document management structure to speed up the process of funding documents

Even when some tasks might sound impossible to fulfill remotely, at Viva we have managed to prove this reasoning wrong. Just this year, one of our Executive Assistants helped a customer find a very specific office space for rent in LA. With strict requirements regarding area, budget, and size, our EA called dozens of leases and there was one that seemed to have everything the company needed, except an available phone number. Our EA solved this by taking the initiative to open Google maps street view, where a small advert with the phone number appeared on the side of the building. This resulted in the lease being signed right after viewing. There are several other ways that our EAs get creative with free or paid tools to accomplish tasks exactly like this that may require in-person support. This is just one of the dozens of examples of the ways our team gets creative to truly make remote work, work. 

Extending your runway

If there’s anything we’ve learned from the mandatory work-from-home orders from these past years, is that working remotely is far more cost-effective for your business than having full-time in-house employees. However, some people still think they need someone in person. This might be due to the belief that in-person attendance is necessary for productivity and problem-solving. Nevertheless, statistics show how productivity can increase by up to 77% by working remotely compared to working in an office. 

Oftentimes, employees can do all of their work remotely. But if a percentage of the tasks have to be completed in person, would you spend 200% more by hiring someone locally? According to Hivedesk, when companies hire remotely they can save up to 30% on overhead costs and more than 50% when hiring someone located outside the United States. To get an idea of the costs, hiring an in-house EA can be quite expensive. An average base salary of an EA can go as high as $120-140K, all while not including perks and benefits, which could raise this number to $160K. This ends up costing the company 25% more than what they initially set out to spend. At Viva, we know prioritizing costs when you’re scaling is as essential as supporting your team. When you hire an executive assistant from Viva, you’re saving half of that amount every year. With this cut in expenses, you can support twice as many people on your team for the same cost it would take to hire an in-house executive assistant. For instance, you could be supporting 10 executives in your team, rather than assisting half or less at most.  

Finding high-performing talent

Now that we’ve covered how hiring remotely can be more cost-effective, startups may run into trouble finding high-quality talent when facing the challenges of growing sustainably. Even when opting for hiring remotely, it’s likely to end up with mediocre freelancers who not only charge a lot but end up executing subpar quality of work. In many instances, senior executives miss out on considering international talent. Despite being more cost-saving, senior executives overlook international talent because of the following misconceptions: 

  • Difficulty distinguishing applicants’ caliber of education
  • Lack of similar industries/jobs in other countries
  • Cultural differences in working environments
  • Fear of the unknown 

This is why at Viva we hire the top 1% of talent in Latin America and at a minimum, all have an undergraduate degree and 5+ years of professional experience. Yet another way we de-risk working with us is putting everyone through an 8-week training process. Only those who make it through the entire process end up working with you. This makes us 100% certain that we’ve found you the right talent, every time.

We understand that your first time hiring an executive assistant can be quite daunting, especially if you’re not sure what to delegate. At Viva, we have developed an onboarding process that doesn’t require you to have any prior delegation experience. We make sure your new EA can support you and provide you with the best and latest practices for delegation, automation, and prioritization on an ongoing basis.

Onboarding Process

Conventionally, the onboarding process used to take around 100 days, but can you imagine spending all of your first business quarter still showing the ropes of your business to your new hire? Some startups don’t even have an onboarding process, and simply throw talent into the deep end under a sink-or-swim training method that wastes valuable hours of productivity for everyone. In this case, more often than not other colleagues end up “teaching” new employees, as HR teams don’t always have enough bandwidth for over a month of training. This informal process can have negative implications for your other employees’ performance, as their accomplished tasks get cut due to this distraction. 

A great onboarding experience often leads to longer talent retention. This is where company culture also comes into play, even at the very beginning. When hiring remote freelancers, ensure that they can feel as connected to your team as everyone else in-house. At Viva, we have ensured that all our EAs have a sense of belonging and community. How? We have focused on creating an ecosystem where our Vivans thrive not only professionally, but in other areas of their personal growth. Our EAs enjoy weekly activities around culture, wellness, and social activities, as well as training sessions on personal and professional growth. This is a support that most freelancers don’t have, and this can be damaging in the long run, leaving them to feel ostracized and increasing the likelihood of retention challenges with you. 

Armed with the right technology

Talent is key to your company’s success, but there also needs to be an integration of technology and technique. Whether it’s the absence of time to research the right tools or you’re tied to budget constraints, lacking the right technology to enhance your in-house productivity can eventually become a big issue. This is often a concern with startups, as they have to focus on stretching their initial capital investment, leaving very little budget for the right tools. 

When you hire an in-house executive assistant, not only must they adapt or learn the tools that you’ve been utilizing, but even if they have the expertise on the right tools to use, they are tied to their area’s budget. This leaves very little room for improvement. By hiring remotely, freelancers often already own all the tools they will need to perform their job efficiently. This is a great addition, as you won’t have to worry about additional costs that come when hiring internally. 

However, a downside of hiring remotely is not having visibility on your freelancer’s schedule and task completion. This is where time-tracking and calendar tools enter to solve this issue. When we match a leader with an EA, we take a look at the client’s workflow and evaluate which tools will benefit our customers, such as:

  1. Notion
  2. Calendly 
  3. Superhuman
  4. Magical
  5. Clockify

Taking advantage of the right tools can make or break your team’s productivity. 


Juggling too much? Let’s recap…

When it comes to leading a team, you might feel the need to “wear many hats”, and while that could be true in the beginning stages of your startup, you can’t expect to perform all these tasks for life. Although many leaders do continue to work like this as their startups continue to grow, past Series A, B, and even C. Evaluate your pain points in terms of time management and determine whether or not it’s time to hire an executive assistant.

When all it’s set and done, hiring a full-time employee requires a greater investment of time, energy, and money. If you have time and costs to spare and require a lot of in-person work, an in-house assistant could be a better fit for your company. On the other hand, if you want to keep scaling fast, the most effective solution is for you to hire a remote executive assistant that anticipates your needs. If you’re looking for a high-performing EA, and don’t want the headache of finding one, we can help. Executives at customers like Mutiny, Notion, Apollo, love how much more productive they are because of Viva. Book a call with us today to learn how you can too.

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