Foreign versus U.S. Virtual Assistants

Being a U.S. virtual assistant company, I think people often assume that we are against the idea of outsourcing work to foreign countries. This isn’t the case. We feel that offshore outsourcing and foreign virtual assistance in particular, is an important tool in a small business owner’s toolbox.


Many people go about finding a virtual assistant with one thing in mind (rock bottom price), find the cheapest service they can, have a horrible experience, and then right off the entire virtual assistant industry which is a shame.

There are distinct pros and cons of working with a foreign virtual assistant versus one located in the United States and you should be aware of these going in. They each offer unique benefits and drawbacks that make each well-suited for particular types of work.

Foreign virtual assistants:

Working with a foreign virtual assistant or virtual assistant service has the obvious, major advantage of being cheap. U.S. virtual assistants simply cannot compete with foreign assistants on price. However, up front price and end value are different things and cheaper is not always better.

This part of the conversation needs to be treated carefully. There are inherent disadvantages to outsourcing work to other countries. Generally speaking, the person you are working with will speak English as their second language. This may not matter in some situations and may actually be an advantage (for instance if you want to provide customer support to customers from that country). However, in other situations it can be a tremendous barrier for obvious reasons: important bits of information can be lost during the back and forth discussion of a project which may lead to results that are slightly off mark.

Being a virtual assistant is more challenging than people assume — it is not an easy job to be handed a project and be expected to run with it knowing very little about context and the intent of an assignment. Especially when vague or cryptic instructions are given and you really have to read between the lines to grab hold of what needs to be done. I can only imagine how difficult it is to do this when the instructions are not in my native tongue.

That being said, some work is just so straightforward that language barriers do not matter and in these instances, why not outsource to a foreign country?

U.S. Virtual Assistants:

Again, virtual assistance is not easy. When work is not straightforward (and it often isn’t) eliminating any potential problems, such as language barriers, is the key to an evolving, collaborative relationship. Tasks can be handed off and results are reliable so there is little hesitance to delegate.

In order to compete, U.S. virtual assistants have to deliver more value to justify more expensive pricing. They understand this so you will usually find that American virtual assistants put more emphasis on becoming a part of their client’s business. Not all business owners want this but for the solo business owner who can use all the help he or she can get, this can be an important advantage.

Also, in situations where your virtual assistant will be doing client-facing work, such as customer support, taking phone calls, or making sales calls, you may want to avoid them having to deal with language barriers as well.

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