My Blog


PA or VA?

22 February 2021 Ann Little

I’ve been inspired to write this blog by the wonderful Lesley Jones. It has become part of my business development, defining the identity of my business and its services. I was intending to discuss the differences between a VA and PA, but my research has thrown another possibility into the equation, and even whilst working through this blog, I have been learning and developing. 

When it comes to networking, my industry seat is for the VA, but I’ve always called myself a PA. What are these PA and VA terms that we bandy about?

VA - A Virtual Assistant is an independent contractor who provides administrative services to clients while operating outside of the client's office. A virtual assistant typically operates from a home office but can access the necessary planning documents, such as shared calendars, remotely. 

PA – A person who does office work and administrative work for someone. It is an abbreviation for Personal Assistant. 

EA – An Executive Assistant a person employed to assist a high-level manager or professional with correspondence, appointments, and administrative tasks.

To a degree all these terms can be interchanged, but there are subtle differences and each one has its own set of benefits. So, does that mean they’re all pretty much the same? No. 

A big difference between VA and the other two is that a VA is a freelance, contracting position whereas, typically, a PA or EA is an employed role. In these times the fact that a VA is virtual is less of a defining point with so many people working remotely from home, however it’s not usually a permanent employed position and they will work with multiple clients. A PA and EA are employed and work with one person or a team. 

All assistants have their unique experience, skills and niches, so while I’m about to talk about tasks of each in general terms these aren’t black and white categories but it gives you an idea of where the differences are.

A VA will do the following:

  • Book appointments
  • Bookkeeping
  • Data presentation
  • Database input
  • Diary management
  • Use of Microsoft Office
  • Online research
  • Travel Research
  • Professional administration
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As a VA works remotely on an ad hoc or retainer basis there are reduced labour and overhead costs. There is increased productivity and flexibility when contracting a VA. 

In addition to everything above a PA will:

  • Have an ability to sort out problems
  • Collate paperwork for meetings and training
  • Compile travel arrangements
  • Deal with and follow through with received correspondence
  • Cleanse and maintain office and e-systems
  • Proofread documents and reports
  • Deal with delegated daily business tasks. 

As a PA you build a strong relationship with your manager and learn the company’s core values and industry terminology. 

In addition to everything a VA and PA do, an EA also:

  • Attends or stands in for meetings or conferences in place of the executive
  • Carries out specific research and projects
  • Data analysis and recommendations as a result
  • Delegated tasks and assignments
  • Has exceptional decision making and problem solving skills
  • Handles business operations
  • Has high level responsibility 

Similarly to a PA, an EA works closely with their manager to be an integral part of the business and understand the values and ethos of both the individual and the company. 

It’s at this point that I was expecting to tell you that I personally prefer the term Virtual PA for the way I conduct business and the services I undertake; I have a number of clients, but each client feels as though they have my undivided attention. I maintain the right number of clients to allow me to give this personal service. But, this is where my learning comes in. 

The level of work that I do for clients goes across the board – covering VA, PA and EA tasks. I am not an employee, and on that basis I over a high level of productivity and you only pay for my working time; if you don’t need me, you don’t pay. I consider that I offer a hybrid service, and this includes the EA role as well. Mulling this over with a client, I think that I will have to re-title myself and change a description of my business and my services. Virtual PA doesn’t quite seem to cut it now when I know I provide Executive Assistant level quality. 

To sum up, Silver Lining Services offers the following benefits to each and every one of its clients:

  • We deal with your administrative needs from diary management, organising meetings and creating presentations
  • We send out marketing emails to your clients, customers and contacts
  • We charge only for what we do therefore offer great value for money and a high level of productivity
  • We build a strong relationship with each of our clients learning about their industry and business software
  • We work for a variety of clients, but make each one feel special
  • We will help you organise your life, as well as your business, so that you can truly have a fantastic work-life balance
  • Any level of work, from basic admin up to high level business support, will be provided to our clients
  • We pride ourselves in client satisfaction.

These thoughts have all ultimately stemmed from working on business and personal development during lockdown. Researching for this blog has help solidify my business’s identity and in turn means that I can focus on the change in direction that I am taking. I know without a doubt that quality of service is the priority for me; my business is on a journey of growth, but built into that growth is provision to allow clients to still have the personal touch. 

References from Oxford Languages, Collins Dictionary, Investopedia and LinkedIn Article by Karen Hannon


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