The secret ingredient to hustle culture: A virtual assistant in the Philippines (2023)

By Ashley Westerman

• Manila, Philippines

  • Virtual assistants based in the Philippines are becoming a sought-after hire for startup entrepreneurs in the U.S. who want to do more with less.
  • With a monthly wage in the thousands of dollars, these virtual assistants can make multiple times the average salary in the Philippines. But they fear their employment is precarious.

On April 4, Christine Carrillo, a Hawaii-based executive and entrepreneur, sent a glowing tweet thread about her virtual assistant in the Philippines.

“The most undervalued asset of a CEO is an Executive Assistant,” wrote Carrillo. “My EA saves me 60% of time.” Carrillo says she runs a tech startup; coaches seven CEOs each month; writes, surfs, cooks, and reads every day; and participates in an “intense” writing course. How does she swing that? By outsourcing everything from research to company due diligence to her assistant, Carrillo said.

The flurry of responses was mixed. Some followers eagerly wanted to know how they could do the same. Others were critical. “Sounds like you have a Chief of Staff, not an EA,” replied one. “Maybe you should think of a title upgrade for your rockstar?!” (Carrillo did not respond to a request for comment from Rest of World.)

Not everyone is unhappy in the industry. Angela Monta, a virtual assistant in San Mateo in the Philippines, works all through the night, five days a week, for $1,200 a month, and she couldn’t be more pleased.

Just over a year ago, the 25-year-old worked for the Philippine government. She felt burdened by the lengthy commute to the office, and worried that she’d bring home Covid-19 to her family. So, Monta quit her job, and since February 2022, has worked virtually as an executive assistant to a venture capitalist based in California — a 15-hour time difference away.

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Monta is part of a growing wave of Filipinos who work remotely as virtual assistants to startup entrepreneurs, often in the U.S. As their clients perform their client-facing hustle, assistants carry out the office grind, doing everything from email correspondence to calendar scheduling,working through the night on U.S. hours for salaries that can far outstrip the Philippine average wage.

Logging on overnight from her parents’ home, Monta spends her workday catering to her client’s dizzying range of needs. Her tasks can include “literally everything,” she told Rest of World: Once, she even helped the family’s nanny monitor the child’s daily routines, minutely tracking their sleep behavior, feeding, and even bowel movements.

Monta makes almost three times what she did working for the government — and four times more than the average Philippines salary of around $300 per month. “When I started being a virtual assistant, life became a lot easier for me,” she said, with pride. “It’s really … a job that upgrades your lifestyle.”

As solo and small businesses bloomed during the pandemic, so did the use of virtual assistants. Usually, they’re cheaper, hired quickly through outsourcing companies or freelancer platforms, and more flexible with hours and assignments than traditional staff.

According to Colombia-based virtual assistant agency There Is Talent, the market for virtual assistants doubled in size between 2021 and 2022. The company estimates there are now roughly 40 million across the globe. Experts and workers told Rest of World that a significant number of them are based in the Philippines, where a ready workforce of skilled, English-speaking customer service professionals already exists.

Hiring remote virtual assistants is a good deal for employers, who typically pay a fraction of a standard salary, and don’t have to pay healthcare or pensions. An executive assistant hired in the U.S. costs nearly $56,000 per year, or roughly $4,700 per month, according to recruiting platform Glassdoor. Monta costs her employer about a quarter of that amount.

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The rise of the virtual assistant industry has been a blessing and curse for the Philippines, according to Leonardo A. Lanzona Jr., a labor economist at Ateneo de Manila University.

“Workers hampered by the current economic conditions now have more opportunities,” he told Rest of World. “But the problem is that these jobs do not have the same security and benefits that come from regular employment.” While being a virtual assistant may be a viable job for most Filipinos, Lanzona said, the temporary nature of those arrangements still leaves them in a precarious position, facing an insecure future.

Upwards of 1.3 million Filipinos do some sort of online freelance work, according to figures cited in a 2022 report by payment platforms Payoneer and GCash. Even before the pandemic, Payoneer data showed that the Philippines was the sixth fastest-growing market for digital work globally in 2019.

Pinning down the exact number of Filipinos working as virtual assistants is difficult, Rest of World’s reporting found, because of the inherently unregulated nature of freelance and gig work in the country. Still, the anecdotal evidence is prevalent: It seems almost everyone in the Philippines nowadays knows someone who is a virtual assistant.

“There’s a lot of competition,” Raine Soriano, a 35-year-old virtual assistant in the Nueva Ecija province, told Rest of World. He found his first virtual assistant role in 2016 through an ad on social media, and now works for a real estate company based in Canada, making about $2,000 per month.

Dozens of Facebook groups have sprung up to cater to would-be virtual assistants; Soriano said he sees “around 20 times more” people on social media looking for virtual jobs than before the pandemic. Groups with keyword-heavy names like “Virtual Assistant Jobs Philippines,” “Filipino Virtual Assistant Hiring,” and “Philippine Home-Based Virtual Assistants” host members stretching into the hundreds of thousands.

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The groups present a near-constant stream of job seekers posting their credentials, as well as employers posting their openings and resume requirements — mainly for executive assistants and data entry specialists, but also for account managers and content creators.

Upwork is another popular job-seeking platform. Most of company’s clients looking to hire virtual assistants are based in the U.S, according to Upwork data. Employment in the category jumped 34% between 2021 and 2022, and in 2023 so far, “general virtual assistance” has been the second-most in-demand skill within their customer service listings, the company told Rest of World.

Pay rates are typically decided by the workers and the clients, Margaret Lilani, a Talent Solutions executive at Upwork, told Rest of World. They can be hourly, or at a fixed rate for the whole job. “It’s really up to the talent to determine the rate, and then it’s up to the client as to whether they would accept the role at that,” Lilani said.

Not all virtual assistants in the Philippines have had a positive experience. Horror stories circulate in the community about clients who hire an assistant, only to ghost them when payment is due. It’s a risk, due to the marketplace-style matching method of platforms like Upwork. The company tries to mitigate that with a dispute resolution team, and an escrow-like function where the client pays upfront and the money is held by Upwork until the job is completed, Lilani said.

Jerty Mateo, 42, has been a virtual assistant for 10 years. She told Rest of World she has only ever had to chase down payment once: Mateo and a client had agreed on a $7-per-hour rate, but sometimes, the payments would fall short. Then the last payment never came, Mateo said, and she had to tenaciously chase the fee for three weeks.

The main issue, for her, is job security. “As a VA, you’ll never know this might be your last day. And the next thing you know, when you’re talking to your boss, they can say, ‘Oh, we don’t need your service anymore and we’ll just call you when we need you again,’” Mateo said.


Mylene Cabalona, president of the BPO Industry Employees Network, an interest group that represents workers in business process outsourcing, told Rest of World some of her members work as virtual assistants. Cabalona said she sees some of the same abuses in her industry — job insecurity, low wages, and wage theft — being reported in the virtual assistant community. She hopes to one day extend her group’s organizing efforts to them. “But right now, we don’t [know] the extent of how big the industry is.”

Lanzona, the labor economist, echoed Cabalona. If freelance virtual work is to be a viable part of the Philippine economy, he said, the government needs to create basic laws and policies to provide virtual workers with protection.

“Firms have the option to choose any worker abroad,” Lanzona said. “This has become a race to the bottom, especially for those with no specialized skills.”

(Video) Why Hire Filipino Virtual Assistants? Why from the Philippines?


How much does the average Filipino virtual assistant earn? ›

Average ₱39,130 per month.

Why virtual assistant is in demand in the Philippines? ›

Virtual assistants based in the Philippines are becoming a sought-after hire for startup entrepreneurs in the U.S. who want to do more with less. With a monthly wage in the thousands of dollars, these virtual assistants can make multiple times the average salary in the Philippines.

What is the biggest challenge as a virtual assistant? ›

Communication. Many business relationships, especially VA/client ties, suffer from poor communication. With the communication's emphasis on technology rather than face-to-face interaction, the nature of remote employment might create extra communication barriers if not given attention.

How much should I pay my Filipino VA? ›

Most Filipino VAs are degree educated with a minimum of a bachelor's degree. The entry-level virtual assistant salary is usually between $2.50 and $5.00 per hour, with experienced and more specialist virtual assistants looking at salary rates of between $3.50 and $10.00 per hour.

How do I become a freelance virtual assistant in the Philippines? ›

Just go to and browse jobs. Just make sure, that you are equipped with good organizational and time management skills, plus very good communication skills. With these, you will surely land a good virtual assistant job.

How do Virtual Assistants get clients? ›

Here are my tips to help you do just that.
  1. Network with Other Virtual Assistants. ...
  2. Reach Out Locally. ...
  3. Give Existing Clients Opportunities to Write Reviews. ...
  4. Keep Your LinkedIn Profile Updated. ...
  5. Reconnect with Past Clients. ...
  6. Join Groups and Advertise Yourself. ...
  7. Optimize Your Customer Service. ...
  8. Improve Your Payment System.

What makes a successful virtual assistant? ›

Virtual assistants need to be able to schedule, handle clients, organize tasks, and manage multiple clients often at the same time. The ability to multitask will help a virtual assistant keep the ball rolling and the company moving forward.

How many clients can a virtual assistant have? ›

As a Virtual Assistant, you can work for as few or as many clients as you want depending on your time and availability. The tasks you do as a Virtual Assistant can vary widely depending on what you like to do and what you are good at. In fact, there are over 100 services you can offer as Virtual Assistant.

Which country is best for virtual assistant? ›

The 10 best virtual assistant countries for outsourcing
  1. The Philippines. The Philippines is a popular outsourcing destination due to its affordable rates and lower cost of living than most Western countries. ...
  2. India. ...
  3. The USA. ...
  4. The UK. ...
  5. Brazil. ...
  6. Ukraine. ...
  7. Australia. ...
  8. Malaysia.
Dec 7, 2021

Why hire a Filipino VA? ›

Filipino virtual assistants are primarily known for their excellent English language skills, work ethic, and cultural affinity. Hiring a virtual assistant anywhere in the world is still ideal for starters.

Why hire Filipino freelancers? ›

Filipinos are used to outsourcing

Since a lot of Filipinos have had previous work experience in BPO firms, they know how to adjust their time to fit with their clients' schedule, treat with foreign clienteles, and meet deadlines that span different time zones.

What is a good niche for virtual assistant? ›

Social Media Management

This is one of the most in-demand and highest paying niches in the media industry. This is because many people hire virtual assistants or social media managers to manage their overall social media accounts depending on the goal that they need it to serve. This niche includes: Content Creation.

What makes a virtual assistant stand out? ›

Stay updated on industry trends and SHARE them: Another great way to stand out to potential clients is to consume everything you can about your niche or industry. Read the blogs, listen to the podcasts, do the research, and then share what you learn on social media or your website!

What is your most valuable skill as a virtual assistant *? ›

  1. Communication. One of the top virtual assistant skills is communication, both asynchronous and synchronous. ...
  2. Time management. ...
  3. Bookkeeping. ...
  4. Email management. ...
  5. Organization. ...
  6. Writing and typing. ...
  7. Basic IT knowledge. ...
  8. Self-motivation and concentration.
Dec 16, 2022

How much usd should i bring to Philippines? ›

Any excess amount not covered by specific written BSP authorization is subject to confiscation by the Philippine Bureau of Customs. A person may carry up to the amount of USD 10,000 (or equivalent in any other foreign currency), in cash or other monetary instruments, into and out of the Philippines.

How much does a Filipino virtual assistant cost? ›

Entry-level virtual assistants can be hired from the Philippines from USD 2.50 to 5 per hour. While experienced virtual assistants can be paid from USD 5 to 12.50 per hour depending on their specialty. You can use this as a baseline of how much to pay your Filipino virtual assistants.

How much is the salary of SEO virtual assistant in Philippines? ›

Filipino virtual assistants work on hourly rates that are fixed based on the skills required. You can hire general virtual assistants for $6 per hour (300 pesos) or highly skilled VAs such as system Administrators for $14 per hour (700 pesos).

Can foreigners work online in the Philippines? ›

Can a foreigner work in the Philippines? Yes. It isn't mandatory for foreign nationals working in the Philippines whose employers are located abroad, or those who don't have an employer, to secure a work permit. This permit by the way is known locally as an AEP, which stands for Alien Employment Permit.

Is freelancing worth it in Philippines? ›

Freelance work has become a common income source for Filipinos. One of the primary reasons people gravitate towards it is flexibility. Unlike office workers, freelancers can diversify their income source and as many would put it – enjoy the freedom of becoming their own boss.

How many virtual assistants are there in the Philippines? ›

According to Upwork, out of the 8 million virtual assistants on its platform, one million are from the Philippines. It comes as no surprise since Filipinos are among the best nationalities who can write business English. The country also holds the highest literacy rate in Southeast Asia at 96.2%.

Is it hard to find clients for virtual assistant? ›

Finding clients is hard. However, getting your first few clients for your online business is far from impossible, and setting up your own virtual assistant business should be easy if you follow our guide. This article will help you lock down your ideal first client and make virtual assistance your full-time job.

What services do you sell to clients as a virtual assistant? ›

15 Services Provided by a Virtual Assistant
  • Minute taking. Just because your AGM needs to take place virtually, you still need someone to take the minutes, type up and circulate after the meeting. ...
  • Document production. ...
  • Bookkeeping. ...
  • Expense management. ...
  • Diary and email management. ...
  • Data Entry. ...
  • Call handling. ...
  • Travel management.
Sep 20, 2022

What are the top 3 skills that make a great virtual assistant? ›

If you are looking to recruit a virtual assistant, the following are some of the most in-demand virtual assistant skills.
  1. Word Processing Proficiency. ...
  2. Communications Skills. ...
  3. Computer Literacy. ...
  4. Creativity. ...
  5. Attention to Detail. ...
  6. Self-Motivation and Discipline. ...
  7. Time Management Skills. ...
  8. Effective Decision Making.
Sep 16, 2022

What are the top 3 qualities a virtual assistant in this field must have? ›

10 Must-Have Virtual Assistant Skills
  • Exceptional Communication Skills.
  • Ability to Meet Deadlines.
  • Detail-Oriented Skills.
  • Self Motivation.
  • Tech-Savvy Skills.
  • Integrity.
  • Openness to Assessment.
  • Expertise in Particular Areas or Subjects.
Nov 25, 2022

What is the weakness of a virtual assistant? ›

Working as a Virtual Assistant Can Be Lonely

This kind of job is often hardest for extroverts who need interaction with others every day. As a virtual assistant, you may not have that. Or, if you do, it will likely look a lot different (think Zoom calls with clients or customers).

How much can you charge as a virtual assistant? ›

On Upwork, freelance virtual assistants charge an average of $18-35/hour depending on skills and experience.

How do I get a high paying virtual assistant client? ›

  1. Be of service and offer a review or consult. A great way to get your foot in the door is to offer your ideal client a free review or consultation. ...
  2. Reach out to other virtual assistants. ...
  3. Join the Introvert VA Club. ...
  4. Try “Hire My Mom” ...
  5. Reach out to past clients.

How do I become a highly paid virtual assistant? ›

How to become a virtual assistant with no experience
  1. Take training courses. You've got to prepare for working as a VA and running your online business. ...
  2. Determine the work you like and can do. ...
  3. Figure out the prices to charge. ...
  4. Create an online presence. ...
  5. Start applying to jobs. ...
  6. Learn about yourself and clients.

How much does a virtual assistant charge per hour in USA? ›

There's no standard rate for part-time or full-time virtual assistant services. A freelance virtual assistant can charge anywhere between $1 to over $100 per hour! If you hire them as employees, you can expect to pay them an average salary of around $75000 per year.

What is the smartest virtual assistant? ›

Let's take a look at the 10 best AI assistants:
  • Alexa. ...
  • Google Assistant. ...
  • ELSA Speak. ...
  • Fyle. ...
  • Socratic. ...
  • DataBot. ...
  • Youper. ...
  • Hound. Closing out our list of 10 best AI assistants is Hound, which is an AI-powered voice assistant app available on Android and iOS.
Oct 21, 2022

What is the hourly rate of virtual assistant in USA? ›

How Much Do Virtual Assistant Jobs Pay per Hour?
Annual SalaryHourly Wage
Top Earners$65,000$31
75th Percentile$51,000$25
25th Percentile$29,500$14

How to hire a foreigner in Philippines? ›

Alien Employment Permit
  1. Application for one may be done personally by the foreign worker or by the company petitioning for his services.
  2. Application has to be filed with the Department of Labor and Employment office with jurisdiction over the area where the foreign national will principally be assigned.

How to hire remote Filipino workers directly? ›

There are several methods for hiring employees or remote workers in the Philippines from another country:
  1. Set Up an Entity in the Philippines. ...
  2. Partner With an Employer of Record in the Philippines. ...
  3. Hire and Pay Contractors in the Philippines. ...
  4. Incorrect Payroll Contributions. ...
  5. Permanent Establishment.
Jul 5, 2022

Why do people from Philippines work abroad? ›

High unemployment rate in the country

And this is the opportunity to help another country because they don't have enough workers to help them. This is the chance to earn money for their loving someone in the Philippines. Working abroad is the best opportunity for you to travel overseas and go on a different adventure.

How can I start freelancer in Philippines? ›

Step-by-step process to register your freelancing business with the BIR
  1. Update your TIN through BIR Form 1905. ...
  2. Update your personal information and RDO through BIR Form 1905. ...
  3. Accomplish BIR Form 1901. ...
  4. Accomplish BIR Form 0605 and pay the annual registration fee. ...
  5. Pay other fees. ...
  6. Submit requirements together with BIR Forms.

What is a Filipino freelancer? ›

According to the DICT, a freelancer earns money from clients outside the Philippines on a per-job basis.

What does freelance mean in the Philippines? ›

It primarily entails working under a contract that does not need you to report to an office daily at a specific time. Freelancer is the term used for people who are freelancing. Freelancers are considered self-employed and can work for different companies independently.

What is the most popular virtual assistant? ›

The Best Virtual Assistant Services of 2023
  • Fancy Hands: Best for Quick Requests.
  • Time etc: Best for Entrepreneurs.
  • Uassist.ME: Best for Bilingual.
  • Prialto: Best for Large Teams.
  • WoodBows: Best for Customer Satisfaction.
Mar 13, 2023

What are two popular virtual assistants? ›

They are listed from most accessible to least accessible.
  • Google Assistant. Google Assistant is available on all Android and iOS devices as well as on Chromebooks. ...
  • Cortana. ...
  • Alexa. ...
  • Siri. ...
  • Voice recognition. ...
  • Cortana. ...
  • Alexa. ...
  • Google Assistant vs.
Feb 21, 2023

Are virtual assistants in demand 2023? ›

The virtual assistant business is booming. As remote work has become the norm, executives are turning to remote administrative, sales, and back-office assistants to handle their ice support teams to help them offload day-to-day tasks.

What is the most challenging part of virtual assistant? ›

Difficulty in communication

The main issue with virtual assistants is that there is no way to communicate face to face.

What problems do virtual assistants solve? ›

Having a virtual assistant who is a really good communicator can help when it comes to managing those customer and client complaints as they can help create templates, Standard Operating Procedures, and automate the process so you can also get feedback effectively.

What is another name for a virtual assistant? ›

A virtual assistant, also called AI assistant or digital assistant, is an application program that understands natural language voice commands and completes tasks for the user.

What is an example of hard skills for virtual assistant? ›

Hard Skills
  • Communication skills. ...
  • Planning and scheduling skills. ...
  • Mastery of various project management tools. ...
  • Computer skills. ...
  • Basic research skills. ...
  • Writing skills. ...
  • Basic accounting skills. ...
  • Familiarity with social media.

How much should I get paid as a virtual assistant? ›

How Much Do Virtual Assistant Jobs Pay per Hour?
Annual SalaryHourly Wage
Top Earners$65,000$31
75th Percentile$51,000$25
25th Percentile$29,500$14

How much is the salary of Magic virtual assistant in the Philippines? ›

The estimated total pay for a Virtual Assistant at Magic is ₱34,375 per month.

How much money do you make as a virtual assistant? ›

Try sites like Belay, Robert Half or Fiverr

Sites like Belay help connect virtual assistants with employers who need their services. You'll apply on the site and they'll put you in contact with potential employers who pay between $18 and $21 per hour, according to the company.

What is the salary expectation for a virtual assistant? ›

The salary range for a Virtual Personal Assistant job is from $33,770 to $41,650 per year in California.

How many hours do I need a virtual assistant? ›

The virtual assistant has reliable employment, while the client has a reliable assistant who is able to devote sufficient attention to their needs. We find that, with a minimum of 20 hours per week, your virtual assistant gets to know you much more quickly, so you see the efficiency benefits of hiring one sooner.

What is the #1 job of a great virtual assistant? ›

Virtual assistants may respond to emails and schedule meetings in clients' spare time on their online calendars, saving them significant effort. The two most general virtual assistant skills are customer service and inbox management.

How many hours do virtual assistants work? ›

These are time-based and can range from 10 – 75 hours or more. You'll have a ton of flexibility and have support along the way to make the most of your demands. Additionally, as there's an agency in place, they provide you with virtual assistance to handle disputes over virtual assistant work.

Should I hire a virtual assistant in Philippines? ›

Outsourcing tasks to a Filipino virtual assistant is a low-cost way to free up your time. It will provide more time for the management to work on the vital aspects of your company. Numerous other websites, such as Upwork, assist in recruiting virtual assistants, freelancers, and independent contractors.

How much is the salary of Athena virtual assistant in Philippines? ›

Athena Salary FAQs

The average salary for an Executive Assistant is PHP 38,000 per month in Manila, Philippines, which is 15% lower than the average Athena salary of PHP 45,000 per month for this job. What is the salary trajectory of an Executive Assistant?

How much is the salary at Epson Philippines? ›

The average Epson monthly salary ranges from approximately Php 13,947 per month for Office Worker to Php 29,592 per month for Human Resources Specialist.

What qualifies you to be a virtual assistant? ›

Virtual Assistant Requirements:

A high school qualification or equivalent. Prior experience as an administrative assistant. Excellent verbal and written communication skills. Fully computer literate with proficiency in Microsoft Office.

What is the demand for virtual assistants? ›

Virtual assistants are in high demand because business owners can lower their costs while simultaneously building up their teams efficiently and increasing the quality of the work produced.

Can you make a living as a virtual assistant? ›

Most virtual assistants do not get rich right away, but it is possible to earn a decent income. Those with basic skills and just a client or two may just earn a few hundred dollars per month. However, those with high level skills, years of experience, and several clients can earn $100,000 per year or more.

Is virtual assistant a difficult job? ›

Of course, like all jobs, it's hard work, especially at the beginning. You'll have a lot to learn, you'll need to be determined, and don't give up at the first hurdle, but the freedom that will come with being in charge of your own life will be incredible.

Is virtual assistant job stressful? ›

For many Virtual Assistants the centre of their stress resides in too little time (because, lets face it.. we take the stress so our clients don't have too). Not having enough hours during the day can amount to severe pressure.


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