I am a VA (virtual assistant). A virtual assistant is a real person (independent contractor) who works remotely (usually from home) to provide administrative support to others. All work completed is done under an Independent Contractor Agreement which includes a Confidentiality Agreement. This protects both you and me and is a benefit for all parties.
Anything and everything! Using today's technology, a virtual assistant can provide all the same services a traditional secretary can - minus getting your coffee or picking up your dry cleaning. Although I could ORDER your coffee and have it AND your dry cleaning delivered ;)
Most communication is done by phone, email, texting, instant messaging, or video conferencing. Many of my clients use DropBox, Basecamp or Google Drive for file sharing so we can work in real time together. We can always email documents back and forth, if that's your preference. It should be noted, most clients allow their virtual assistant access to their emails and calendars just to simplify this process. (This is done after confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements are in place of course!)
Depending on the scope of the project or depth of the job, I will charge an hourly or a per-project rate. Most general services are $20 per hour and usually take no more than 1-4 hours. Projects can vary anywhere from $50 - $1000, depending on the scope of work. Some clients have opted to pay a monthly retainer fee for my services, and call upon me only when they choose. Total service costs will be discussed and agreed upon prior to any work being done.
A virtual assistant is an independent contractor, requiring only a 1099 at year-end. There are no employee taxes (ie. FICA, FUTA, unemployment) or insurance costs associated with hiring a VA. You may have seasonal times where your business picks up or slows down, which makes having a VA convenient without having to hire a part or full time employee.
I am old enough to have recognized my own strengths and weaknesses! Therefore, yes, there are times when I may subcontract work out to someone who is better at what you need than I may be. I network with a talented group of Virtual Assistants all over the country, who specialize in different industries and areas. All work that is sub-contracted out is managed by me, however, and if work is completed by another VA, that will always be disclosed up front.