Resourcing can be one of the trickiest things for businesses to get right. Hiring permanent employees is expensive; picking unknown freelancers is risky. But with some research, an understanding of what will work best for your business, and a strategic plan, you don’t necessarily need to decide between virtual assistants vs. temps, or anything else – you can simply pick the right solution for the right situation.

The quick guide to staff resourcing

Bringing in people to work for you happens for two main reasons:

  • You need specialist skills
  • You need to make effective use of your time

These reasons are just as relevant to big businesses as they are to start-ups. The question is whether it is more cost-effective and efficient to hire someone as an employee, or to outsource your requirements. Hiring someone is known as a ‘fixed’ solution and outsourcing is a ‘flexible’ solution. So which is best?

Fixed solutions

Many companies take on staff members as permanent employees. This may be full time or part time, and allows the business to grow, develop a culture and focus on success. Employees come with costs, however, including:

  • The cost to recruit – advertising, interviewing, plus paying fees to agencies, if used
  • Legal costs for employment contracts
  • Monthly salary
  • National Insurance contributions
  • Workplace pension contributions
  • Office equipment – desk, IT, phone, stationery
  • Holidays, sick pay and other statutory payments
  • Time taken by you to manage and motivate them
  • Time to get your new hire up to speed
  • Costs associated with your new hire not working out as planned

Permanent employees also need to be protected, so you will have to make sure that you comply with all relevant employment and workplace legislation.

Flexible solutions

There are a number of flexible staffing solutions that give you access to specialist skills and allow you to complete everyday business tasks and dedicated projects efficiently. These range from contractors and freelancers to temporary staff or a virtual assistant. Services and rates vary not just from one type of flexible resource to another, but from one person to another within each type – so one freelance bookkeeper might only offer very basic accounting support, whilst another might handle VAT returns and credit control.

For many businesses, a flexible solution is the perfect one. It allows the business to pay only for the time taken to do the work, and to pick and choose the services it uses. Businesses also often build ongoing relationships with these staff, who get to know and understand the business, acting as a dedicated service provider without any extra cost to your company.

Choosing the right flexible solution

So, if flexible is better than fixed for your business, which is the best option? Secretarial services? Virtual assistant companies? Freelancers? Temps? Here’s our essential guide:

Secretarial services

What? Hire someone to handle your admin – for small businesses, this can be anything from phone answering, letter and email writing, to filing, calendar management and more. You can hire this kind of help through an agency. They will send someone to work in your office for a set number of hours per week.

For: A good skill set allows secretaries to take a range of day-to-day tasks off your to-do list, allowing you to get on with running your business.

Against: Staff from these agencies are often transitory, so you may end up with several different people rather than working with a single secretary. And often, the person sent to you doesn’t fit into your organisation, making them more of a hindrance than a help. You’ll also pay a fee to the agency, on top of the temp’s hourly rate, so it could end up being more expensive than you think.


What? Temps are temporary staff who register with an agency in order to find fixed-term work. You can hire a temp for any period of time, and for a range of tasks.

For: It’s a quick way to find staff when you need them at short notice. It can help you to fill essential gaps when other staff members are on holiday or to boost staffing at particularly busy times.

Against: Temp staff are often less motivated, looking for a minimum number of hours and employers can have trouble with absence and productivity. In addition you still have to find someone with the right skills and fit for your company.


What? People with specialist skills who work for companies on specific projects. Usually self-employed, they can work in-house or remotely.

For: Most freelancers have high levels of skill and experience and can work with you and your teams to deliver a project. They bring a fresh approach and you may build a long-term relationship with them.

Against: Rates vary significantly, and in some areas, people can set up as freelancers with very little experience. It’s often difficult to find and assess which freelancers are right for your business.

Virtual assistants

What? A virtual assistance service can take over a wide range of business tasks, including:

  • To do lists and diary management
  • General secretarial and virtual admin services
  • Sales support outsourcing solutions
  • Travel and event management
  • Finance support and bookkeeping
  • Marketing support

Often an agency working with people who have a range of skills, so that a tailored staffing solution can be put together for you.

For: You only pay for the hours that are worked, so it is easy to budget and they are self motivated to ensure your success. Virtual assistants work remotely, so no overheads or additional travel costs to worry about. Most importantly you are building a relationship that grows with your business, providing you with valuable support for a range of skills whenever you need it.

Against: A key part of what a virtual assistant does is the ability to work remotely, so if you want someone in the office you can keep an eye on, this might not be for you.

Case Study: Managing your CRM

You know that making effective use of your new CRM system is the best way to keep in touch with existing customers, and make sure that they are receiving excellent customer service. But you haven’t got the time to keep the system up-to-date and to make use of all the features. So you want to hire someone to do it for you.

You need someone with experience in managing CRM systems who can pick up your business quickly, understands what you want to achieve and can get on with the job.

You don’t really want to hire someone to do this permanently because at the moment, you just want to get things up and running, and you can’t afford the recruitment process just for a few months. A temp won’t have the experience you need, and will need training, which takes additional time. You might look at freelancers, but they are more likely to be interested in higher-level strategic marketing rather than maintaining an existing system.

In this case, your best option is hiring a virtual assistant. Things you will benefit from include a set number of hours per week or per month so that you can budget with confidence; a dedicated professional who will take the time to understand your business; the flexibility to increase or reduce hours as necessary, and the option to add on related services such as social media management or email marketing campaigns.

Now that you know more about the benefits of fixed staffing vs. flexible staffing, and virtual assistants vs. temps, freelancers and agencies, you can start to work out which options are best for your business.

We hope you found our blog on the benefits of flexible staffing useful. If you’re short on time and would like to learn more about our virtual employee outsourcing services feel free to call us on 0800 994 9016 or use our contact form in the menu above.


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