InboxHero Reviews: Zirtual

Update 8/10/15: Zirtual has abruptly shuttered their operations, emailing clients and employees to let them know of the shutdown early in the morning, with no prior warning. A very sad ending to a company with a lot of upside. Reading the review below will tell you why the way Zirtual handled the shutdown is not a surprise to us.

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InboxHero owner, Peter, began his virtual assistant career with Zirtual, so this review comes from a familiar view of Zirtual's practices inside and out.

Background:

Zirtual is a large and growing virtual assistant company, based in San Francisco and Las Vegas. Zirtual recently annouced it had crossed the 400 employee mark. Most of these employees are "Zirtual Assistants," or "ZAs," and work as full-time or part-time employees of Zirtual. Until May 2014, ZAs were considered independent contractors, but have since become full-time employees.

Zirtual has become one of the largest virtual assistant companies in the U.S. in recent years, after the role of virtual assistant was made popular by books like "The 4-Hour Workweek", By Tim Ferriss. There are plenty of other sites where you can hire assistants, like Elance, Upwork, or Freelancer, but Zirtual is unique in that all the ZAs are based in the U.S., and all are employed by Zirtual.

Sign-Up Process:

If you're curious about whether a virtual assistant could be helpful for you, OR if you want to know if ZAs can do the tasks you would want (that's important!), you can request a consultation with a Zirtual agent.

If you know you'd like to try Zirtual, check out their plans and pricing. Once you choose one that fits your needs, you fill out a questionnaire and you'll be connected on onboarding agents who will find a ZA that will (ideally) fit your needs. Onboarding is all quite simple (depending on what you're looking for), and within a day or two, you're up and running with a ZA.

The process of getting to know one another and working styles can take a couple weeks, depending on you and the ZA.

Pros:

Large company = lots of resources

Having 400+ employees has its perks!

You can reach Zirtual agents quickly through social media, phone calls, or emails. Zirtual has partnerships with companies like Uber and Instacart to save you a bit of money. If your ZA goes on vacation, Zirtual will send another ZA to fill in for that time.

Thorough Hiring Process

Zirtual boasts that they only hire 1-2% of applicants, and every assistant that is hired goes through a 9-step hiring process, which includes video calls, emails, and test scenarios.

In the end, Zirtual ends up with a pool of (mostly) either educated young people, or experienced personal/virtual assistants.

Solid Virtual Assistant Training

Zirtual has a 1-2 week long training course that they put new hires through, which has test scenarios, shadowing experienced assistants, and one-on-one help from trainers.

Even if the new hire has zero experience when hired, they come out of training with a good idea of what to expect, and enough resources to become great virtual assistants.

Introduction to Virtual Assistants

Zirtual is especially helpful for people who have never had a virtual assistant before. Sign-up is simple, you don't have to research a ton of different assistants--they do that work for you and choose an assistant that they think will fit your needs.

Of course, it doesn't always work well, but with a ZA, clients who have never worked with a virtual assistant can see what that relationship looks like, and if it's helpful.

Good for Simple Tasks

If you are looking for help with scheduling, research, travel booking--simple online functions that most clients would like taken off their plate, Zirtual could be a great resource. These are the tasks that ZAs are trained in, and what they will have most experience doing.

If you're looking for specialized help, Zirtual makes it very clear that ZAs are unable and not allowed to help you with such "domain skills."

Cons:

COST

Zirtual is not built for the college student, the struggling entrepreneur, or penny-pinching family. Zirtual offers three monthly plans: $400 for 16 hours, $750 for 32 hours, or $1200 for 55 hours.

While they don't advertise this, Zirtual finds that clients generally use around 80% of the hours they've paid for. So, if you have the $400 plan, and only use 80%, you're paying Zirtual over $31/hour for your assistant.

Zirtual does not list any non-retainer plans, so if you're looking for help that may vary widely month-to-month, or is less than 16 hours per month, you're either going to spend a lot of money on help you're not getting, or Zirtual isn't the place for you.

ADD-ONS

One aspect of Zirtual's service that rubs some clients the wrong way is that Zirtual charges fees for services that should be included in the plans.

Want your ZA to use your company's email address rather than their @zirtual.com account with their Zirtual signature? That's $99/month, unless you pay for the more expensive accounts.

Want another user to be able to request tasks (spouse, coworker, business partner)? That'll be $99/month, and you can't have more than one. More than two people want help? They have to buy another plan. That can add up very quickly.

NO SPECIALIZED SERVICES

Even if your ZA is proficient with Photoshop, video editing software, design, project or team management, Zirtual does not allow them to provide those services.

ZAs can find you freelancers or companies to provide those services, but don't expect your ZA to do anything "specialized."

ZA COMPENSATION AND TURNOVER

Zirtual pays ZAs a beginning wage of $12/hour, and since many of their employees are millennials with bigger job aspirations and need for higher pay, turnover at Zirtual is very fast, generally between 6 months to a year for new employees.

Some ZAs go on to start their own virtual assistant companies when they realize how much of the clients' pay is going to Zirtual, and not to them.

At the very lowest, if a client used all 55 hours they paid for, Zirtual would be receiving just under $22/hour. In this case, the assistant gets $12/hour, and Zirtual gets $10/hour.

At the very highest, if a client used 0 of the 55 hours they paid for, Zirtual would be receiving, well, $1,200 for no hours. In this case, the assistant gets $0, and Zirtual gets $1,200. 

These are extremes, and the truth falls somewhere in the middle, with Zirtual making at least as much off the top as the assistant (who does ALL the work) actually gets.

TURNAROUND TIME

Assistants work for a specified time each day, so if you have a task that you need completed at 5:30pm and your ZA is done with work, you'll have to wait until the next business day.

If you want tasks done after hours or on the weekends, you can pay extra for this service.

TIME ZONES

While Zirtual will try to place you with a ZA in your time zone, that's not something they can guarantee, due to limited availability. Some ZAs end up working with clients in all four timezones.

INBOUND CALLS

While ZAs can take calls from you about tasks or to chat, they are not allowed to take calls from contacts, vendors, or service providers on your behalf.

Your ZA is working on scheduling a meeting, and person you're meeting with calls to make scheduling quicker? No can do. How about they're running late and call the ZA to see if they should reschedule? Can't do that.

MESSAGING/CONTACT

If the only way you like to communicate with your ZA is phone and email, then this isn't a problem. But, if you like to text or iMessage tasks or questions, you have to pay for the $750+ plans.

God forbid you want to have the ZA use a chat tool, like Google Hangout or Slack, because Zirtual does not list that as an option for any plan.