Ever wish you could clone yourself so you could get more done in a day? Then you'd force 'other you' to do the boring grunt work so you can do the fun parts you enjoy the most or those that increase your bottom line? (At least, that's my own not-so-secret plan!) 

Whether you're a small business owner, freelancer or an independent contractor, the idea of hiring someone else, like a virtual assistant, to work for you might seem ludicrous. Who can afford it? The reality it, offloading a few time-consuming, lower-level projects can actually free you up to earn more money by doing the higher-level work that you do best.

Many of us were first introduced to the idea of a virtual assistant after reading Tim Ferriss' The 4-Hour Workweek book where he "outsources work and life" to virtual assistants so he can pursue other passions.

Now, with estimated 25,000  'virtual office assistants' worldwide (according to Wikipedia) helping others grow their business, it's a role you can't ignore when you're not ready to hire an employee but need more hands on deck to help you get work done.

But before you decide to siphon off your hard-earned freelance dollars for a VA as they're called, read on to learn more about their services, what they cost, and how they can help you grow your business.

What does a virtual assistant do?

Think of a VA as someone who is an employee that does hourly work for you remotely. Some virtual assistants do research on behalf of a writer, others can help you set up calls for phone interviews and meetings, some can help you with accounting, while others can work on your website, to name a few.

Common skills among VAs include data entry, internet research, emailing, customer service support, email services, bookkeeping, administrative support, and much more.

A company like Virtual Assistant USA has VAs that specialize in other services, from marketing, proofreading, travel arrangements, email marketing, video editing, to lead generation and much more.

If you find that you need help with scheduling and juggling your personal life and work life, a company like FancyHands.com can help you research services (like doctors, beauty, dog walkers) and complete tasks that take less than 20 minutes.

The benefits of hiring a virtual assistant

When you're considering leveraging this type of worker, it's because you want to free up your time to make more money for your business.

Freelance writer Diana Kelly Levey uses a virtual production assistant to help her build articles on her site's portfolio section. It's something she says she can do but it's not the best use of her time and Levey can spend that hour working for a higher-paying client instead of doing the production work herself.

Know your limitations. You could hire a VA pro to help with video editing, adding SEO to your website so clients can find you, starting a blog for your business, or helping you plan a business trip.

Freelance content marketing writer, Jennifer Goforth Gregory, cites outsourcing more work to her virtual assistant as one of the reasons why she made over $100,000 freelance writing one year. Outsource help for tasks others can do, which leaves you more time for the work that only you can do for your clients.

How much does a virtual assistant cost?

Just how freelancers' rates are all over the map, so it is with virtual assistant services.

According to a search on Upwork, a U.S. based virtual assistant might cost anywhere between $8/hour up to $100/hour. On Fiverr they tend to start around $10 for a U.S. based VA. Open that search up to any country and you could get a virtual assistant for as low as $3/hour on these sites. Going through a company that matches you with a VA will likely cost more. Equivity has plans for administrative work for five hours a month starting at $170, whereas VirtualGirlFriday.com has basic plans of up to five hours a month for $300. Here's why everyone should have a VA.

Finding a Virtual Assistant

Check with your freelance network and ask on social media if anyone has a great virtual assistant they'd refer to you or a friend who does this kind of work. Some websites to peruse for virtual assistant services include: VirtualGirlFriday.com, Guru.com, VirtualAssistUSA.com, Freelancer.com, Upwork and Fiverr.