If you're like many small business owners, executives, and entrepreneurs, you may be wondering whether you should hire an executive assistant (EA) or a personal assistant (PA). Both types of assistants can help manage your time and workload, but they have different roles and responsibilities. So which one is right for you? In this article, we will break down the differences between an executive assistant vs personal assistant so you can make the best decision for your business.
Executive Assistant vs Personal Assistant: What is an EA?
An executive assistant is a professional who renders administrative support to a business owner, a manager, or a team. An EA is responsible for organizing the executive's calendar, scheduling appointments, and coordinating travel plans.
They may also prepare reports, handle correspondence, and manage projects. In some cases, they may even be responsible for handling sensitive information and act as a liaison between the executive and other members of the company.
As of May 2021 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there are an estimated 1,825,980 administrative and 466,910 executive assistants employed full-time in the country. The BLS report does not specify the number of remote personal and executive assistants, though, or ones hired through a managed service provider, so the actual numbers are certainly higher.
Tasks an EA Typically Handles
An executive assistant handles both tedious and high-level tasks, and hiring the right EA will supercharge a company executive's productivity. Here are some things managers typically expect an EA would do for them.
An EA is responsible for handling the administrative duties of an executive or senior manager. This can include everything from receiving or making calls and managing correspondence to coordinating travel plans and preparing reports.
An EA may also be responsible for overseeing projects and ensuring that they are completed on time and within budget. This may involve working with vendors, clients, and other members of the company to ensure that everyone involved meets a project's deadlines.
In some cases, an EA could even assist in managing finances and budgeting. This can include tasks such as preparing invoices, tracking expenses, doing basic bookkeeping, and creating financial reports.
An EA can also provide support to an organization's human resources (HR) department. This may involve tasks such as processing employee onboarding paperwork, maintaining personnel files, and tracking employee vacation days.
An EA may also be responsible for scheduling interviews, conducting reference checks, and updating the HR database. In some cases, they may even be involved in the development and implementation of HR policies and procedures.
An EA may also act as a liaison between the executive and his subordinates or parties outside the organization. This can include clients, vendors, suppliers, and other businesses that the executive needs to communicate with regularly.
The EA's role in this capacity is to ensure that communication between the executive and these parties is efficient and effective. This may involve coordinating meetings, preparing reports, handling correspondence, and resolving any issues that arise.
Executive Assistant vs Personal Assistant: What is a PA?
A personal assistant, on the other hand, is an individual who provides support to one person rather than an organization. A PA's responsibilities can vary depending on the needs of the individual they are assisting. There are PAs for
Furthermore, remote personal assistants cannot perform tasks that need their physical presence (e.g. mowing lawns or picking children up from daycare). However, a highly competent PA will find third parties like other contractors or vendors who can provide those services to their clients.
Some common tasks that a PA may perform include making travel arrangements, managing correspondence, scheduling appointments, and running errands. In some cases, a PA may even be responsible for taking care of personal tasks such as grocery shopping and paying bills.
Tasks a PA Usually Handles
PAs typically handle both professional and personal tasks for their employer. If you're unsure which the better option is between getting an executive assistant vs personal assistant, at least for you, perhaps it might help you to know what you can expect a PA to do for you. Here are things you can assign to a PA.
A personal assistant can find, screen, and hire service providers like cleaning personnel, babysitters, chefs, pet sitters, house sitters, and gardeners. They can also set up and manage a cleaning and house chore checklist for their client.
Having a checklist like this enables the household to monitor the completion of tasks, whether they're everyday ones like taking out the trash or heavy-duty endeavors like decluttering and spring cleaning.
Personal assistants may also handle admin tasks like managing the family calendar, scheduling appointments with medical or personal care professionals, planning family trips, events, and meals, managing family members' emails, and more.
Finally, PAs can handle clients' personal shopping needs. They can look up stores and vendors near the client's home and order items for delivery. A personal assistant could also buy gifts for people in the family's network, manage their wardrobes, and facilitate the selling of items the family no longer needs.
Executive Assistant vs Personal Assistant: Similarities
In a nutshell, if you're choosing between an executive assistant vs personal assistant, things will come down to the type of skills you need most. Whether EA or PA, though, your assistant needs to have certain traits if they are to be successful in what they do. The best personal and executive assistants have these qualities:
An assistant interacts with various stakeholders, so they must be able to assess a situation and provide meaningful responses to prompts or questions. They should be adept at explaining processes, asking for clarifications, or following instructions. Assistants also need to be great at building rapport with everyone from managers to fellow assistants.
When assistants excel at the spoken or written word, they’ll be able to help their clients accomplish their goals quicker. A high-quality assistant will know how to smooth over miscommunications and leverage technology in creating messages. Ask how they handled busy days in the past, or what their system is for tackling work. These should reveal how they organize tasks.
Assistants need to be the type of people who can really get into the nitty gritty of projects. They must be alright with scouring outputs for inconsistencies, missing information, typos, and the like. They must also know how to gather and verify contact details of clients, prospects, and external partners.
Much of what assistants do directly affect the lives of who they work for. Executive assistants are the first point of contact for clients. So, they must be great at taking accurate notes, reviewing documents thoroughly, and accomplishing assigned tasks.
Meanwhile, personal assistants must know how to scrutinize options and select the best one for the client and their family, if applicable. From reviewing hotels and flights to poring over food ingredients lists for allergens, assistants must always ensure their clients’ comfort, convenience, and safety.
An assistant has dozens of to-do’s at any given time. The most successful assistants are strategic thinkers—they know how to prioritize among tasks given shifting business needs. EAs and PAs are also able to create filing systems or databases for information, so that others they work with can access the data they need without trouble. If you're still evaluating whether to get an executive assistant vs personal assistant, evidence of this should be one of the first things you look for.
Your potential assistant should be good at ranking action items and prioritizing the ones that are most urgent or important. They should also know how to reach out to the client's teammates if necessary and collaborate with them.
One of the most important traits of an assistant is diplomacy. A great assistant will know how to be sensitive and tactful with their messages. They are mindful of the social repercussions of actions and are quick to adjust their approach or message if needed.
Another important part of diplomacy is discretion. Since assistants work with confidential data, they must know how to keep what they know to themselves. They should serve their clients to the best of their ability without compromising the latter’s reputation.
Finally, a good assistant is accountable and has initiative. Clients of PAs and EAs are typically go-getting individuals. So, their assistants must be able to match their drive. They must also know how to anticipate the client’s needs and address these. Top-notch assistants take ownership of their work, don’t blame teammates for subpar output, and routinely go above and beyond so they can fulfill their duties.
EA vs PA? Depends on Your Priorities
When choosing between an executive assistant vs personal assistant, think about which aspect of your life needs more assistance. For streamlining and addressing business needs around an office, an EA could be for you. However, if you need someone to run personal errands and help organize your household, a PA is a better fit.
Either way, finding the right assistant for you is easier when you team up with Wing. Our executive assistants and personal assistants are available for 4 or 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and are entirely managed and dedicated. Say goodbye to tasks slipping through the cracks—speak to Sales about how you can get a Wing Assistant today!
Aya is Wing Assistant’s blog manager. When she’s not wrangling content briefs, editing article drafts and handling on-page SEO, she is crafting messages for Wing’s other communication materials. Aya writes about SaaS startups, marketing for startups, search engine optimization, and pop culture.