Virtual Assistants vs. Virtual Project Managers — Know the Difference

VAs and VPMs are very similar, but understanding the differences is important for helping you choose the best virtual staffing for growing your business. In this article we uncover when to choose one over the other … or both, for your business!


For years, virtual assistants (VAs) and virtual project managers (VPMs) have been working for some of the biggest and most successful companies worldwide. You might not know what these workers do, but chances are you have heard of the companies that employ them.

The Rise of Virtual Assistants and Virtual Project Managers

VAs first started to gain popularity in the early 2000s as more of an experimental role that only the most forward-thinking companies could get behind.

Today, some companies solely use virtual assistants to staff their teams. These companies gain all of the advantages of a virtual assistant while providing those team members the flexibility to work on whatever they want, wherever they want.

Virtual assistants have grown into an industry. There are virtual assistant conferences, networking sites, and even job boards. The virtual assistant industry is estimated to grow to a $2 billion industry in the coming years. Even major brands like Microsoft have been using virtual assistants for years.

These VAs can help with many tasks, including bookkeeping, social media management, copywriting, editing, and research. They can even help with more mundane tasks, like making phone calls, returning emails, and making appointments.

At the same time, virtual project managers have also made their mark on the business landscape. Project management is big business, particularly for larger operations with multiple employees. 

The basic concept of project management is to make sure that every project is moving toward a goal and that every step of the way is met with constant communication and attention to detail. Many businesses now employ virtual project managers to work with supervisors and employees to manage their projects.

If you’re wondering whether you should hire a virtual assistant or a virtual project manager, it is entirely possible that both can play an essential part in your business.

Let's explore the differences and what you need to know about virtual assistants and virtual project managers. 

What is a Virtual Assistant?

Virtual assistants are professionals who help with tasks on a remote basis. They have a wide range of responsibilities, including administrative support to personal tasks. You can think of a VA as a tactical player on the team helping with very specific, often technical tasks that can help push projects forward.

Virtual assistants are perfect for small-to-medium-sized businesses that want to expand their operations but don’t want to hire full-time employees. In addition to supporting the company's day-to-day operations, a virtual assistant can also handle administrative tasks and boost productivity, freeing up focus for other essential aspects of the business.

What Do Virtual Assistants Do?

Virtual assistants are basically administrative assistants. This means that they can handle a wide range of tasks including:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Social media
  • Editing
  • Research
  • Scheduling
  • Accounting
  • Customer support

Virtual assistants are beneficial in small businesses, where they can take on routine tasks, such as making client appointments, returning emails, and making phone calls.

Virtual assistants are also great for remote owners. Since they can work from anywhere, you can hire a virtual assistant who lives in a part of the world closer to clients, making it easier for them to schedule appointments. In addition, if your schedule is unpredictable, a virtual assistant can schedule and make phone calls at times you choose.

Some virtual assistant companies also offer other, more technical, specialized services, including webinars, podcasts, editing, transcription, and photo editing.

What is a Virtual Project Manager?

Virtual project managers are virtual project coordinators or virtual project assistants. Their job is to handle the day-to-day details of every project, from inception to completion. To fit VPMs into a broad definition, they are "project managers who manage a project from a remote location. They may provide support services for a project, or they may provide management of the entire project". In contrast to VAs, VPMs take a more strategic role, often overseeing a variety of tasks to make sure a project is moving forward effectively and on time.

While project management is a pervasive piece in larger companies, smaller operations will require them as an essential aspect of growing the business. Some operations can fail if they do not have a virtual project manager watching over the day-to-day operations of the business, especially if they are juggling a large number of projects at once.

Hiring a Virtual Project Manager is an integral part of many companies on the verge of growth. Successfully onboarding a new client is an event worth celebrating, but it’s important to have the proper resources to allocate toward managing the client long term. A VPM can fill in that gap efficiently and effectively so that you can keep that client engaged and happy instantly and for the long term.

What Do Virtual Project Managers Do?

Virtual project managers are in charge of the day-to-day details of every project. Some of their responsibilities include:

  • Planning
  • Coordinating
  • Reporting
  • Managing communications
  • Tracking and reporting

Virtual project managers, like virtual assistants, are an excellent option for small businesses. The virtual project manager, who works from a remote location, can use modern technology to keep project details organized and help companies run more efficiently.

At the same time, the virtual project manager can also help businesses make important decisions, such as whether to discontinue a project or determine which new projects to pursue.

In some cases, a business will hire a virtual assistant to work with a virtual project manager. The virtual project manager can then keep a close eye on the details of the project and make sure that the project is progressing smoothly.

Similarities and Differences Between Virtual Assistants and Virtual Project Managers


  • Virtual assistants and virtual project managers are part of the growing gig economy.
  • Both work remotely.
  • Both are available part time or full time, depending on your company’s needs.
  • Both handle a wide range of administrative tasks for a business.
  • Both work with technology to keep your business organized.
  • Both can have a decisive impact on your business.


  • A virtual assistant usually works with a virtual project manager.
  • A virtual assistant usually has a more diverse range of responsibilities.
  • A virtual project manager usually focuses on a specific type of project.

You can think of a VA as a piece on a chessboard, often doing certain specific tasks very well, whereas a VPM would be similar to the chess player, overseeing the positions on the chessboard ensuring the overall strategy of the game is carried out by the pieces.

The Benefits of Working With a Virtual Assistant and a Virtual Project Manager

As mentioned above, a business owner can hire both a virtual assistant and a virtual project manager. Hiring both types of virtual assistants allows a business owner to free up time for other essential tasks and gives the business more access to a wide range of skills that a single virtual assistant might not have.

At the same time, hiring both can also save money on overhead and allow a business owner to expand operations with less risk. A business can also get help from experts in different fields. For example, you could hire a virtual assistant specializing in social media to work with a virtual project manager specializing in webinars.

When Should You Choose a Virtual Assistant Over a Virtual PM?

It depends on what stage your business is in, who you’re hiring for, and how big your business is.

A virtual assistant is an excellent option for a small business or a business just getting started. They are also a perfect option for a company that only has a few routine tasks that need to be performed. A virtual assistant can handle all the day-to-day tasks, leaving your central employees to take on the larger projects.

If you have a business that needs marketing and advertising, hire a virtual assistant to handle the day-to-day tasks while your central employees handle tasks related to marketing, such as social media. 

If your business is managing a specific project, you can hire a virtual assistant to handle the day-to-day tasks of that project, while central employees focus their efforts on improvements, strategic pivots, and innovations that will push the project and service provision to the next level.

When Should You Choose a Virtual PM Over a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual project manager is an excellent option if your business has a few big projects. They can take off the pressure on your employees and help your business overcome obstacles.

For example, if your business has a large project that will require a lot of work, you may want to hire a virtual project manager to help your business through the project. In this case, your employees can focus on the project's specific details, such as creating a proposal, while the virtual project manager keeps track of the project in general.

Hiring a virtual project manager can also save the business money. For example, suppose you’re managing a project involving many public relations. In that case, you may want to hire a virtual project manager to handle the day-to-day tasks, such as managing offers and emails, while your employees work on the strategic details of the project.

The Bottom Line

Virtual assistants, virtual project managers, and virtual project coordinators do similar jobs helping businesses manage their operations from a remote location. Each of these professionals can also handle a wide range of administrative tasks.

Virtual assistants usually have a more diverse range of responsibilities while virtual project managers usually work in more direct contact with people. Virtual project managers usually specialize in managing certain types of projects.

Both virtual assistants and virtual project managers are an excellent option for small businesses and companies that are just starting.

If you are interested in hiring a virtual workforce, we can help you. Pena4 provides virtual employees for health information management, revenue cycle, medical coding, IT management, virtual staffing, and virtual assistant services. You can count on us to help build the best team for your business. Contact us today to learn more and get started!