Don’t let the title mislead you, this post is for both those of you that are interested in using a virtual assistant as well as virtual assistants themselves ( and those that want to be one).
I love hanging around the virtual assistant forums. It’s become just one of the ways that I try to give back to the virtual assistant community. The forums were an important place for me when I was first starting my business and I got tons of great advice and information there. But the one thing you don’t generally get is advice on what to charge. That’s because a conversation about rates always seems to end up in some sort of pissing match, and that’s just not good for building a community. I agree and understand completely why this subject is off limits on most forums.
But… (hey, with the title of this post you had to know there was a but.)
This lack of information can and does end up hurting both new virtual assistants and potential clients.
Without the type of guidance that new VA’s get in other areas, they are left to their own devices when setting their rates. 9 times out of 10 they’re going to set them all wrong, for several reasons.
First, they under estimate the amount of time ‘simple’ activities are going to take. Answering calls, uploading videos, managing e-mails and other administrative tasks may not be complicated, but they can be very time consuming. Would you be shocked if I told you that the average time spent dealing with a business phone call (which includes all processing procedures such as getting caller information, etc.) is somewhere around 15 minutes? So although the time spent actually in conversation may be more like 4 minutes, many people fail to figure in the time spent related to that call. If you’re not figuring it in, not only are you giving the additional time away for free, but you’re seriously in danger of over-scheduling your time and not being able to handle everything you may have committed to.
Second, they fail to figure in the costs of self –employment. While ten dollars an hour might sound like a great hourly pay, when you start taking away the costs of taxes, business supplies, internet services, phone services and other business costs, you’re most likely going to be operating in the red with that $10 hr. rate. Remember, what may be a great pay rate as an employee isn’t going to cut it as your own boss.
Third, they set their rates based on 40 hours a week of client work. The problem with this is that they are not figuring in time to do marketing, bookkeeping and other activities related to their virtual assistant business. Even if they don’t mind working 70 or 80 hours a week, getting a full client load can take years to develop, if it ever happens at all.
What does all of this mean to those of you who are looking to begin working with a virtual assistant? It means if the VA’s you’re interviewing are quoting low rates like this you might want to think twice before hiring them. Now that may sound harsh to those VA’s out there that are trying to find clients at that rate, but in the interest of the potential clients out there I have to say it. Chances are low rates mean that the VA you’re talking to may not have a realistic view of what it takes to run their own business. And not just in terms of money, but also in terms of time management.
I find myself cringing whenever a new virtual assistant tells me they charge anything under thirty five dollars an hour. While there may be some individuals out there in dual income households that can pull it off, the truth of the matter is that one of the biggest reasons of virtual assistant business failure is setting rates too low.
As a virtual assistant, be smart and take everything into consideration when calculating your rates. As a potential client, understand that even at higher rates a virtual assistant is still a money saving (not to mention stress and time reducing) alternative when you understand that you aren’t responsible for all of those extraneous costs like taxes, insurance, equipment and supplies.
Find out even more about setting rates and other helps for starting and running your virtual assistant business at Virtual Assistant Survival School!