Virtual Assistant fees are a tricky business. It can be very difficult when starting out as a Virtual Assistant to know how much you should be charging for your services, let alone knowing how to make what you’re worth.
Everyone will have a totally different set of circumstances within which they are operating. Is it a side hustle or are you looking Virtual Assistant jobs? This is bound to have a bearing on your mindset when setting your fees.
When I started up as a Virtual Assistant, I was on mat leave. I was just dabbling, working from home online for extra pocket money to top up my measly maternity pay! I will have had a very different idea about what to charge, than someone else who has left the relative stability of employment and is looking to set up and replace that income entirely.
However, whatever your circumstances, in this blog I would like to give some advice and explore some of what I consider to be key contributors in deciding how to set your Virtual Assistant fees.
How much money do you need to make as a Virtual Assistant?
This is a good place to start. In fact, your target income may end up being very different from your current employed salary or an employed Virtual Assistant job once you start working it out.
Working from home online, you will have no commute to pay for and no parking fees. Additionally, no lunches/coffees to purchase in the office or out and about and no office wardrobe to update.
You may find that you now place more value on your free time and flexibility than financial gains. If so, if you were actually earning less as a Virtual Assistant, it would be a happy exchange for being able to choose your own working hours.
What have you forfeited?
Consider that you may no longer have a benefits package, whatever that looked like in your employed role. This likely included holiday pay, additional company sick pay, employer contributions to a pension, etc. You will also have overheads such as equipment, subscriptions, stationery, insurance and utilities to think about.
To get a ballpark figure for what you should be charging as a Virtual Assistant, you should add up what salary you would like. Then add the cost of your overheads per year. Divide this by the number of billable working hours per year you think you will do. This could be a 35 hour week for 48 weeks of the year as you would like to take 4 weeks holiday. So for example £20,000 salary plus all your expenses including tax and then divide by 1680 hours to find your hourly rate.
Charging hourly as a Virtual Assistant versus package rates
It is worth doing some good old competitor analysis. What are other Virtual Assistants charging? Do they charge per hour or per task? Do they offer hourly rates or monthly packages?
It is commonplace for Virtual Assistants to publish packages such as ’10 hours per month for £X’ etc. Whilst I can absolutely understand that they offer bundled hours with retainers to ensure some stability with income, I have never personally gone for this option with my clients.
Just like people, every business is different and some smaller enterprises just won’t have the need or budget to stretch to that many hours per month. When I think of my clients, many would never have taken me on if I had a minimum requirement each month.
Then I think about the referrals that have come from those clients. If they had never been clients in the first place, I never would have got other clients off the back of my work for them.
My point in all this is that there are more benefits to a meaningful client relationship than minimum monthly retainers.
In my opinion, it is far better to offer bespoke packages for your Virtual Assistant service. Use a client budget as a starting point for negotiations. As time goes on and the relationship develops, you can give them ideas for other things you can help with which would benefit their business. For example, I do Facebook and Instagram posts for one client. After a while, I offered to interact with local people on Instagram for her. Her followers have increased dramatically as a result on Instagram.
But this is just advice and all our journeys are different. I can appreciate what works for me won’t always work for other Virtual Assistants. I would recommend writing down what you perceive to be the pros and cons of offering hourly rates versus monthly packages and give some consideration to both.
Would you offer work at a loss?
When I started out as a Virtual Assistant, as mentioned previously, I was sort of playing at it for a bit of extra money.
As I was new to it, I felt I couldn’t charge what I wanted to. I would undersell myself or spend longer on jobs than anticipated. This would reduce my hourly rate unintentionally.
However, whilst none of this is advisable, I don’t actually regret the quite frankly ridiculous Virtual Assistant fees I earned to begin with. It was a learning curve and for each piece of work I completed, I received feedback and started to build credibility for my services. Without that feedback, who knows whether other clients would have taken any notice of my profile?
I am definitely not advocating you consistently undermine your worth. However, will there be some jobs you are prepared to do for less in your Virtual Assistant business in order to gain experience or feedback?
I do think there is some merit in making informed and sensible decisions about taking on one-off projects which could be perceived to have additional value-added benefits. This could be either in terms of the audience it may put you in front of. Or the potential for future work with a client, for feedback, to build relationships. Perhaps for some work in return.
Have confidence in yourself!
Having said all the above, be so very mindful of your experience and the value that brings to the client. Don’t undersell yourself, especially for ongoing projects which are going to require a lot of your time.
Think of it in terms of what a client charges for their time. By you being their Virtual Assistant and taking tasks from them that they would normally do, in essence, you are making them back some money.
For example, if you charge £15 per hour, but your client has the potential to earn £50 per hour. By taking an hour of admin off their hands, you are essentially saving them £35 per hour and giving them time to work on their business growth plan.
You are not likely to have this information about what they charge. However, you should be able to take an educated guess and factor this into your calculations.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate
I have also been known in the past to turn work down as I couldn’t do what they expected in their budget. Then the client would come back to me and ask what I can do for that budget. Sometimes clients won’t have awareness of how long certain tasks can take. You need to be confident to have these conversations and take control.
Similarly, I responded to an ad on social media for 2 hours per week of admin support paying £9 per hour. I advised I was interested but it was below my usual fee. They still got in touch and explained they would rather pay my Virtual Assistant fees as I had experience than paying someone with no experience £9 per hour.
When demand for your Virtual Assistant services outstretches supply
Once you have built up demand for your Virtual Assistant services which your supply can’t physically meet, then you can start to think about increasing your Virtual Assistant fees.
I reached a point where I was having several new client enquiries a week and so I started quoting more per hour. Someone once told me you should increase your fees for every sixth client, and that has stuck with me.
You only have so many hours in your day and week. When you reach the point whereby you are having to turn down more lucrative Virtual Assistant work, you need to re-evaluate where you’re at. Potentially you will have to have difficult conversations with existing clients.
There are no two ways about it, people are funny about money and it is a very taboo topic of conversation. However, when you are working from home online running your own Virtual Assistant business, it is something you need to be comfortable and confident talking about.
It is still very personal though, so take your time, do your research, get some more maths help and weigh up your options. If you do make a mistake, then don’t let it worry you. We are human and you are new to this. Every mistake can be used as a learning opportunity.