How To Compete With Overseas Virtual Assistants Charging Five Dollars an Hour

How To Compete With Overseas Virtual Assistants Charging Five Dollars an Hour

You've seen them. The virtual assistants that market their services for five dollars an hour. There are even virtual assistants on Fiverr.com that offer 3 hours of virtual assistant services for five dollars.

You might ask "why would anyone hire a virtual assistant at a higher rate when you can hire a virtual assistant for $5 an hour?".

A Step by Step Guide To Eliminate Hearing "You're Too Expensive"

A Step by Step Guide To Eliminate Hearing "You're Too Expensive"

You've just had the most amazing potential client conference call and now it's time to discuss your rates. You quote your price, and your prospect lets out a long sigh which means you're about to hear something like:

"That's more than I expected."

"Why are you so expensive when others charge much less?"

"I can't afford that, it's over my budget."

How To Price Your Virtual Assistant Services

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One thing that I talk about over and over with virtual assistants and my private coaching clients is the issue of rates or pricing.

Pricing your VA services takes a lot of thought. You have to take a holistic look at your entire life experience, not just your work experience. You also need to understand your market.

We've all wracked our brains at one point or another regarding how much we should charge for our services. There is no shortage of advice out there. Ask 10 different people, you’ll get 10 different answers.

 

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You wouldn't just slap a name on your business so don’t just slap a price on your services.

Before you figure out how much you should charge you need to ask yourself this: "Are the services that I am providing services that I am well versed in?"

In other words, are these services things that you are known for being awesome at?  Don't offer presentation creation if you've only created 3 presentations in your life and they were so-so or worse, you've never created one from start to finish having only dabbled in PowerPoint.

Don't offer copywriting if your own copy sucks. That just doesn't make any sense. And you certainly shouldn't offer design services if you don’t have any design work to showcase.  One of my biggest pet peeves are VAs who offer design work but their website ain't nothing to write home about. Don’t do that.

Back when I was an EA (executive assistant) I was a black belt calendar ninja (swords and all). I managed calendars for so many people and managed so many logistics that it would make most assistants heads spin.

Once I became a virtual assistant I focused on the areas I was an “expert”. There were plenty of skills (not just calendar management) I was damn good at, so those skills got the focus.

I wasn't good at creating presentations and I went down that rabbit hole and got screwed. So take it from me, don't say you know how to do something and charge good money for it only to produce less than stellar results. It will only bite you in the ass and hard. I wrote a post about that here. Read it.

Don’t let the word expert freak you out, either. When you know more about a subject than someone else, some might call you an expert. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

So let’s fast forward and assume you have the services that you’re going to market and you’re ready to price those bad boys.

Here are my two tried and true ways for getting to that magic number.

Feeling it out

Grab a piece of paper and draw a line graph.  On one side of the linegraph write down the lowest rate you would offer for your services. At the other end of the line graph write down the highest rate you would offer. This high number makes you nervous, because you’re saying, hell, I’d never be able to charge anyone THIS much.

Then pick a low ball number, something that feels way too low.

Now, pick a number between the low and the high that feels right to you. The one rate that you feel in your gut as the one that makes the most sense.

THAT is you’re your magic number.

Start with the end in mind

When you start with the end in mind it means you can’t afford to play with your income. You need to know each and every month how much is coming in because your livelihood depends on it.

Start with the end in mind and work backwards.  Do a monthly budget and see how much money you have to have each month to live. Then break that number down like this:

Monthly cost of living = $3k

What I've got to earn each day (we’ll take an average of 22 days per month) 3k / 22 = $136.36 per day

$136.36 per day / 8 hours a day = $17/hour.

This is just an example. You’re personal situation is different so you’ll need to do this breakdown according to your situation and charge accordingly.

That’s the pricing method for when you’re trying to figure out what to charge by the hour. But what if you’re ready to start charging by the package?

Let me start by saying that if you’re a new virtual assistant I don’t encourage you to charge by the package until you have worked as a VA with several clients and have gained some solid experience.

Then you can start thinking about packaging up your services into packages.  Services packages work well for virtual assistants who know exactly what they do and what they don’t do. They know without a shadow of a doubt how long it will take them to do the job.

Let me give you an example. I always use a graphic designer as an example because it’s a real world example that we can all relate to. Graphic designers charge by the project. Either you’re getting a website or some design work. They quote a price and do the work. If it takes them more time than they expected because of something they didn't think of, tough. The client doesn't have to pay more because they didn't create a project quote that made sense.

The same thing applies with the VA industry. When you give a quote for a project you've got to be able to quote a price that makes sense. That means you know how long it's going to take to get it done. You'll get there with experience. That’s why you should hold off with packages or project work until you’re ready to offer something you know how to do with your hands tied behind your back standing on one leg.

Here's a great quote to  remember as you work through what to charge, "price is what you pay, value is what you get" - Warren Buffet

Talk to me below in the comments. How do you feel about your current prices? Do you think they make sense or do you feel like you need to adjust?

Let me know below.

Rock on,

Reese

How To Determine Your Rates

You're an aspiring or new virtual assistant and you're having trouble trying to figure out this whole rate thing.   Let me help by making your life a little bit easier.

I just read a very interesting post by Leonie Dawson titled "how to work out pricing for what you sell".  She talks about what it means to just start out and how she priced her products and services "back then" as compared to now.

 

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When I read Leonie's article I immediately resonated with her opinions because I remember what it was like just starting out in this industry.  I remember charging $20/hour and feeling totally excited by it because it was a whole $2 more than I was making when I was working as a VA for a VA firm that paid me a mere $18/hour.

So, back to Leonie's article -- her opinion is to charge what you feel comfortable with and charge what will snag that client without hesitation.  In other words, you want to make it worth your clients while so there is no chance they are going to say no to you (because your rates are so reasonable).

Leonie continues to write that you shouldn't even think about increasing your rates (or prices if you're selling products) until you have a steady stream of clients.   Her advice is to work on getting as much experience all while asking for testimonials which are critical for your business.  I can't stress this one enough.

If you're client-less you need to think about upping your marketing game @leoniedawson @ReeseBY

I know this may not be what you wanted to hear, especially since so many of you are struggling with your price points and making ends meet but her advice is the same advice I would offer any one of my coaching clients.

When you are an aspiring or new virtual assistant you have got to make a name for yourself and build your credibility.  The only way to do this is through experience and testimonials.   The more you have of both, the higher the rate you can command.

The good news?

This doesn't have to take forever.   I started charging $20/hour and within a year I had increased my rate to $35/hour.  That's a 43% increase in less than a year!

Once you get one client it's a whole lot easier to get another.  It's like that saying that my mom taught me, "don't go on an interview when you're out of a job, go on an interview while you're still employed so you don't appear desperate".

The same concept can be applied to building your virtual assistant business.   Once you have your first client you're a little less desperate, a little more confident and that confidence oozes out of your skin and your prospective clients can hear that confidence in your voice and in your emails.

Trust me, I know how hard it is to land that first client.  It can take months (although it doesn't have to).

A sure fire way to really seal the deal with a prospect is to really sweeten the pot and offer them something they can't refuse.   Perhaps it's an insanely reasonable rate, perhaps it's 10 free hours upfront.   Whatever the offer, if you have zero clients then you need to re-think your strategy and give up some moo-lah for the short term so you can make bundles of cash in the long term and finally live your dream of running your own business from the comfort of your home (like me!).

As Leonie said, figure out a price point that you're comfortable with and move onwards and upwards!

Need some help figuring out what your price point/rates should be?

Leave me a comment below and let me know what you're struggling with!   While you're at it click here to tweet out today's tweetable.

I can't wait to see you in the comments.

Rock on,

Reese

 

 

 

VA Retainer Package Or Bill At The End of Each Month?

Retainer Vs Bill At The End Of The Month
Retainer Vs Bill At The End Of The Month

You've been wondering if you should charge your virtual assistant clients by the hour at the end of the month or if you should create a VA Retainer Package and require payment up front. Let me break down the pros and the cons of both and why I believe virtual assistants should work with a retainer plan (tweet it out).

Submitting invoices at the end of the month - PROS

What I like about submitting invoices at the end of the month is that I don't have unused hours that carry over into the next month.   I start over clean each and every month.   I have full visibility into my work schedule for the next month so I can manage my work schedule accordingly.

Submitting invoices at the end of the month - CONS

When you submit a client invoice at the end of the month for hours worked and let's say it's a new client, how can you be sure you'll get paid?  Perhaps you have a contract and let's say in that contract you stipulate that the client has until the 10th of the month to pay.   The 10th comes and goes.   Are you going to pursue legal action?  Are you going to add a late fee?   These are all things to consider when you charge your clients by the hour and submit your invoice AFTER you've performed the work.

Retainer plans - PROS

When you work on a retainer plan you can trust that you are going to get paid and on time because you won't begin any work until the money is in the bank.   I don't begin any projects with any new clients until they have paid my retainer fees in full.  I don't offer 50% of my retainer free up front and the other 50% of my fee after the work has been completed.   Lawyers don't work like this, I don't either.

Retainer plans - CONS

Virtual assistant retainer plans are great but what happens when when there are unused hours left over?  Do you carry the time over or expire the hours after a certain time period?   If you're flexible and you don't put an expiration date on the time than any unused hours that carry over make it hard for a virtual assistant to budget his/her time into the following months.   This can create havoc on your work schedule.  This is often why virtual assistants put an expiration on their virtual assistant retainer packages.

Another point to bring up about retainer packages, let's say you get paid $400 in January for 10 hours.   At the end of the month you have only worked 4 hours so the remaining time carries over into February.   So now you're in a situation where you are not going to get paid again during the month of February.   This means that unless you have a new client in the pipeline or another client is giving you more hours, you're going to earn substantially less during the month of February.

The only way to rectify this is to put a clause in your contract that stipulates that your retainer hours do not carry over.

I do not expire my retainer hours.  I have tried both options for my business and I've decided to be more flexible with my clients.  My reasoning is that most of my clients are small business owners and they are working with a small budget for virtual assistant services.   The more I restrict them (and effectively cost them more money), the more likely they are going to look for a cheaper alternative.   At the end of the day, if a business can't afford you, they can't afford you, no matter how amazing you are.

This can be hard (but very rarely occurs) for me when I'm trying to budget my time each month, but it's helped me build long lasting relationships with my ideal clients who love working with me.    So because of this, I feel it's important to be flexible and offer retainer hours that do not expire.  It's an added bonus that my clients truly appreciate.

One last option that I'd like to bring up is a per-project quote.

Let's say you have a new client that has a project that he/she wants done and they don't want to commit to a retainer plan.  Go ahead and offer a quote for the work.   It may be hard at first to determine how long it will take you but as you do more of these projects it will get easier.   This is a great way to build a relationship with a new client without them taking on the added costs of a retainer plan.

I suggest you find what works best for you and your business. You have to make the right decisions as a entrepreneur and making decisions means you've tried out all the options and you've chosen the right one, that works best for you.

So what do you think about virtual assistant retainer plans vs working by the hour?  I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Don't forget to click here to tweet out this post to your followers!!

Overcome The Overwhelm Of Starting Your VA Biz

Hi everyone! This week I decided to record a video and read off an email that I got from one of my readers.   She has some very good questions about what software and payment gateways she needs in place in order to get started as a virtual assistant.

So many of my readers have the very same questions.   In today's world of technology everything you need to have a successful VA business can give you choice overload!   Stick with what works, don't complicate things!

I hope you find this week's video useful!  But before you click play check out the AWFUL video thumbnail of me below.   Could I possibly look any worse?  Gotta love video.

 
 

As always leave me a comment below.  I LOVE hearing from you and read every single comment.

Did you find this week's video helpful?  If yes please let others know about it by clicking here to Tweet it out!

xoxo, Reese

Virtual Assistant Rates: How Much Should You Charge?

virtual-assistant-rates-how-much-should-you-charge-large

If you're a new virtual assistant or a seasoned virtual assistant this is a topic that gets a lot of traction.   Figuring out what your rates are can be one of the hardest things for both the newcomer and experienced VA.

Instead of telling you what you should charge I'll share my experience.

When I first became a virtual assistant I worked for a company called Secretary in Israel.   It's a wonderful virtual assistant company that matches clients with virtual assistants.   At that time, Secretary in Israel was charging $35/hour for senior level virtual assistant services and my share of that was $18/hour.

When I decided to branch out on my own I began charging $20/hour.  In my eyes, it was an increase in my hourly rate but it was still way below the $35/hour rate.    I thought that because I offered my services at such a low rate I was sure I would be able to get several clients.

I did get several clients from referrals and they never batted an eye at my $20/hour rate.   After working at this rate for several months, I realized that I was getting more and more referrals and I didn't have the time to handle all the work coming in.    It was time to re-think my hourly rate.

I increased my rate to $25/hour and again, no one batted an eye.

The next time another potential client approached me for my services I told her that my hourly rate was $30/hour.   Within 24 hours, this client suggested we move forward and she has been a client of mine ever since.

Eventually, I started asking clients for $45/hour.

Keep in mind that I got clients and raised my rates because I was really good at what I did. I solved my client's problems.

I was so busy that I needed to evaluate how I was charging my clients in terms of the retainer packages I was offering.   I had 3 options in my retainer package.    The idea was if you purchased more time I gave you a discount on the hourly rate.

Here is how it looked:

10 hours of VA services - $45/hour = $450

20 hours of VA services - $40/hour =$800

40 hours of VA services - $35/hour =$1,400

Over time, the above options stopped working for me. That's because I had a large client roster (and more work than I know what to do with).   I didn't need to discount my rates --so I stopped.

I started offering 5-hour blocks of time for $45/hour.   Period.   If my clients want to purchase 10 hours then they paid $450.  It's was that simple.

Today, I charge $100/hour for my services. I've been working in this industry for over 10 years. 

My pricing now goes through a VERY methodical process and I never guess at how much I should charge. In my free training below I go through this process in detail so make sure to sign up to the free training on how to price your virtual assistant services. 

I feel it's important to say that when you offer your clients too many choices they often time choose nothing.   Do yourself a favor and pick one price point and stick to it.   Derek Halpern of Social Triggers wrote a great blog about offering too many choices.   While Derek's post is about selling stuff online it can easily be translated into creating rate sheets for virtual assistants.

If you offer basic administrative services, as well as advanced services don't charge less for the more basic services.   Your profit margin will be higher for those basic services and that's totally fine!

Take a look at these posts to take things a step further.

How To Determine Your Rates

How To Price Your Virtual Assistant Services

So tell me, how much are you charging for your virtual assistant services and what information did you base this number off of?

Leave me a comment below.

Much love,

Reese