Virtual Assistant, Personal Assistant or Concierge?
Many people ask me what the difference between a virtual assistant and a
personal assistant, or a virtual assistant and a concierge, for that matter.
These are important distinctions to make before deciding to set up your new
business, because each one suggests very different responsibilities to your
Virtual assistants are much like administrative assistants. They mostly work
from home by themselves, or a centralized office with a few others, as we do.
Their tasks are generally limited to the administrative, too, such as
transcription and typing, correspondence, and mass mailings.
And speaking of mailing, we find Stamps.com really helpful in that regard. We
hate going to the post office and waiting in long lines, even if it is for our
beloved clients! With Stamps.com, we dont have to. For $80, we got a 4-week free
trial, free postage and a postage scale, which youd have to admit is quite a deal.
With support for most address book software, mass mailings can actually be easy!
In contrast, a personal assistant can be asked to do some of the administrative
stuff, but the emphasis of the position isn't usually concentrated there. We
have found, in our varied and storied careers, that personal assistants are
generally asked to do more, well, personal things, like picking up dry cleaning,
making vacation plans, picking up children from school, etc.
This position is great for people who love to be on the go, and hate staring at
a computer screen all day. And in order to do it, you're going to need a great
cell phone with Blackberry capability, so you can stay in touch with your
client, hisor her spouse, and any kiddies. Cingular has a great Blackberry phone
that's less than $150 when purchased with a new service plan. Great coverage and
the ability to text and email from your car? Bring it on!
The concierge may be the most misunderstood of all three fields. Many people
assume that concierges work solely from hotels, providing guests with extra
services, such as booking transportation to and from the airport, helping with
theater or concert tickets, and arranging for secretarial services while in a
certain city. But you can start your own concierge business, whether or not you
are affiliated with a hotel.
If you decide to do this, your target client will most likely be those who are
new to the city, such as temporary workers, new arrivals, or people who are in
your city for purely business reasons. Helping these people find the level of
service they're seeking can be very lucrative, as well, since many have expense
accounts for business and can be a bit freer with cash and tips (we all love that!).
Reading up a bit on concierge businesses is important before taking that crucial
first step. The Concierge Manual takes you on a step-by-step journey to creating
your business, designing a brochure, and even potential legal issues. Don't be without it!
But just because these three are related but different fields doesn't mean you
can't mix and match. We include concierge services in our service package for
AssistantGirls.com, because we are located in Los Angeles, a large American city
that experiences an enormous amount of business travel.
One resource we couldn't live without is our Zagat Guides. Whether we need the
number of the hottest new restaurant in Beverly Hills, or need to make a suggestion
for hotels in Baltimore, or nightlife in New York, these kick-butt little guides
make all the difference. And isn't that why they hired you in the first place?
Copyright 2006 AssistantGirls.com. Alyson Mead is founder of
She spent eight years as a book editor in New York, working for companies such as
Scholastic, Macmillan, McGraw-Hill, Glencoe, Steck-Vaughn, Silver Burdett & Ginn,
Prentice-Hall and others. She has published hundreds of freelance articles in
journals such as Salon.com, ChickClick, MSN.com, In These Times and many more,
and ghostwritten several book projects.