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.
48 thoughts on “How To Determine Your Rates”
I am in the process of starting my VA business. I’m struggling with how do I determine what a fair amount of time is for a particular service (typing a letter or report, preparing a spreadsheet or entering data, making travel arrangements) so that I don’t over charge the client or short-change myself?
I have been reading your posts and articles and have found them very helpful and informative. Thank you for sharing your expertise and experience with us!
Thanks for any help you can give me!
It’s important to know what you’re talking about! I once quoted for some proofreading. I have no formal experience or qualification in this, but how hard can it be, I thought. I practised on a page or two of text and somehow arrived at a price for the job. The client laughed so much he practically fell off his chair; and I didn’t get the job because it was clear I had no idea what I was doing!
There’s loads of stuff online to help with pricing, and I looked at other VA websites to see what they were charging.
So true Jane! It’s important to pick a niche that you marketing your services to based on a true understanding of the work you are providing. If you don’t know how to do something there is no shame in saying so and referring the person to someone else. As a matter of fact the client will appreciate you for your honesty and might hire you anyway for other areas within your expertise.
Reese,You are SO right about charging with what you are comfortable with. In the beginning my family often told me to charge more, but I liked the figure I was charging, it rolled off my tongue easily and I felt it was a very fair deal to the client and I was making a good living. I didn’t raise my rates (across the board) for several years – I raised it to some new clients along the way to build my comfort level with the new figure. I also found that I received a ton of referrals which built my client list and my confidence and I rarely had to explain my rate, sometimes they just said “where do I send the money” without even knowing my rate! That is a real confident booster.
Always, always, always, stand firm with your rate! If you do offer someone an introductory rate be sure they know it is for a limited time!
Well done, Debbi and well said!!!! You go girl! 😉
Hello, I read all about getting started and I am ready. I have a lot of experience as an AA. I am just having trouble getting started on finding clients. Where is the best or first place to get a good start at this?
Gina, thanks for reading! The best place to start out to read ALL of my blog posts as they were written with YOU in mind. I do my best to cover all the questions I had when I was just getting started. XOXO
Great post Reese :-)As a new startup I did think of the rates I was going to charge and the level of experience I am able to offer potential clients. I did not back down and my first client is comfortably accepting the rate I have quoted.
I do give packaged options and a one-off option that potential clients could enquire about where a variation in pricing could be assessed based on their job requirements.
Love the post.
Thank you all for your responses. I will research other websites to see what other VAs are charging for services.
You’re welcome, Dianne! Let us know what you come up with! We’re here to help.
I am not sure how to approach a client. Do you call them on the phone, email? How do you know who to call? A small business may not even know what a VA is.
Pam, there are a variety of ways to contact a potential client. You could cold call, or build up a relationship with your potential clients on social media. I got all my clients from LinkedIn the first year I was in business. All of this without ever having to leave the comfort of my own home and networking in my pjs!
[…] post about rates and what you should charge and it’s just as relevant as this post so click here to read that […]
Another great post! However, I’m STILL struggling with the whole pricing thing, because I’m reading more and more about the need to factor in your expenses when determining your hourly or package rates. For example, as an entrepreneur running your own VA business, you also have to then cover your own E&O insurance, health insurance, extra costs for electricity in running a home office, etc. So, how do you even begin to sit down and try to estimate what your monthly overheads would be that would need to be factored into your hourly/package charges?! All.So.Confusing. Any guidance is REALLLLY appreciated. Keep up the great work!!
Hi Nats! Start backwards. What must you earn each month is order to break even. This would include all of your monthly expenses including all of the things you mentioned in your comment. Once you have that monthly number that you must make, use a tool like this to figure out what you’re hourly rate needs to be. http://www.calcxml.com/calculators/convert-salary-to-hourly
Brilliant! Thanks so much. Its back to high school math now. Eek lol. Reese, you rock!!
Actually, Reese, that link is misleading. I think it assumes you can actually work a 40-hour week, which one can’t, of course, because of the working on the business part that takes up so much time.
Hi Reese! Just found your site today, and it’s great! Thank you for the great content. I struggle with pricing. I am new, and preliminary research suggested I use hourly rates. The clients and prospects I’ve had so far seem comfortable with it, and understand it. When I quote an hourly rate, and tell them they will only pay for the time it takes, they are happy and seem more likely to hire me. However, I am miserable working this way. My first regular client gave me a budget for the same tasks each week, and asked for a flat fee based on my hourly fee. I scoped the work and told him what it would be, and he agreed, but then started loading me up with more and more work, changing scope on the fly. I tried to reign him in and suggested either he pay for more hours (blocks of time), or reduce the amount of work. Simple, right? HE fired me. He didn’t want to break up the work, he was used to not doing it at all, and he didn’t want to do some, but not all, and he decided to go find someone else to do it faster. He ended up doing it all himself again, and says he will be investing in technology to speed up the work instead, but he can get someone cheaper for the portions that won’t be covered by technology improvements. By the time he fired me, I was working for a rate of $10/less an hour than my standard hourly rate. 🙁 He gave me an excellent testimonial though, said my quality was great, he just couldn’t afford me.
Then I have other clients who want to pay hourly, and want me to keep track, but if I get something done quickly b/c I’m good, or faster than others, I’m penalized by making less money. This wouldn’t be a huge deal if I had a ton of clients and loads of little projects, but I don’t. I need to maximize the profitability of my time. I also notice that some clients want me to set aside loads of time to work on their projects, but if I do that and they only hand me a small amount one day, and a lot the next, it’s hard for me to schedule, and to predict my income. I’d rather set it up so they have x amount of my time for x fee each day when they are using me as a secretary, but don’t want them to have sticker shock. I can base it on the hourly rate, but if they do what my other client did and dump tons on me every day, then I’m going to make less and less over time. Thoughts?
Deb, service based business are tough to scale. You can either decide to create monthly retainer plans for your clients or continue doing what you’re doing which is charging the the hour. If you’re charging by the hour you can absolutely scale your business but it’s means you must build a team so you can take on my work. I recommend looking into hiring a team leader that manages the day to day of the work and you become the project manager. Your clients don’t have to know or you can be totally transparent. Up to you. Make sense?
I don’t know if you still monitor this post-hope you do. I am looking to start offering VA services. I have professional and corporate experience in contracts, billing, processing, data entry… Several random fields. As I work on my MBA and continue my full-time job, I want to do something that will give me an opportunity to be my own boss. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and I think this is a good way to go.
I wanted some guidance on where to start, how to market myself, and ultimately, “how” to get my first client. I don’t mind working for free to get the “big break”, so I think offering 3 hrs upfront would be a great incentive, and recoup that @25/hr afterwards.
Furthermore, whether I create a “LinkedIN”, or go off “oDesk”, I am not sure. Putting together a website and having some marketability that way, but I just want to know where to start.
Thank you so much for your time. Hope to hear from you!
Sam, welcome! I have written so many blog posts to answer all the questions you mention in your comment. If you haven’t already, sign up to my email list and get ready to gain a whole lot of insight about how to get your VA business off the ground!
Hi Reese! First off I want to thank you for all the great advice I have been reading on your blog posts!
I have a potential new client that contacted me today wanting to hire me to research price points for tens then after he give me the final price list the items on sites like EBay, Amazon etc.
My question is would it be best to charge by the hour which my price is $25 per hr, or should I charge one price for the research and one for the listing?
Also what do you suggest for time keeping?
Thank you in advance for your help!
MaryAnn, you’re very welcome! I would charge by the hour. For time keeping, Freshbooks all the way! XO
I need assistance with pricing as well. I think you sent me an article last year that dealt with charging a flat rate. I seemed to have misplaced. Do you have any such article in your archives?
I know this is about a year late, but I recently found your website. I love the idea for the ‘blocks’ of time. Let’s say someone signs up and pays for a 10 hour block. What happens at the end of the month when only 8 hours was used? Do you bill them the difference, and give them a 2 hour credit? And we don’t use the word ‘hourly’ at all?
After being in business for a very long time, I am restructuring the payment plans for my clients. I know that I am NOT charging my worth! Time for a change!
I LOVE the concept buying a block of hours.
Hi Nancy! Sorry for the late response. If a client purchases a 10 hour block of time you need to decide at what point you want those hours to expire. Everyone is different. I never expired the hours as to give more flexibility to my clients but there are plenty of VAs who expire purchased hours within a 30 or 60 time frame. If the client doesn’t use up all their hours, they are lost. I hope that answers your question.
I am only in the research phase of becoming a virtual assistant and of course, this topic is a critical one. Forgive me if I am repeating questions, but I just want to be clear. In starting with a client, is there a minimum number of hours per day that I should arrange or is this per week or per month? Also, what evidence can I provide the client about the use of my time on their job?
Thanks so much for any assistance provided.
Hi Leigh Ann! There is no minimum per se. It tends to be whatever the clients needs are. Some weeks they have more work, others less. That’s why I prefer to charge my clients using block of hours. They pre-pay a minimum of 5 hours in a block. This guarantees me pay for my effort and it also reserves the time for the client. As for the evidence that you are working on your clients business you can use a software called Freshbooks. Just start the timer when you begin working and stop the timer and log your hours when you stop. At the end of each week you can send your client an exported Excel file that will breakdown your hours and projects.
Hi Reese, I’m so glad I found you, I was approached today by my ex-employer (I moved to Los Angeles) asking me to manage their Amazon Store, posting the products, photos, description, dealing with customers, etc.They asked me to send them a proposal.
So I’m a bit lost on how much should I charge, their company is in Puerto Rico where salaries are lower than in the states.
Sure I charge by hour or by posting?
Please help me, this could be a great opportunity for me to get other clients in the US.
Pablo, charge by the hour, not the post. Think about what the average salary would be for someone doing this in-house. Choose a rate that you feel good with. Not too high and not too low. Good luck, Pablo!
I’m a new va for an attorney, he wants me to work between8-12 hrs a week, however, he want me to be available to answer calls 8:30-5, Mon-Fri. I understand that I may only answer a few calls a day, but how should I charge for my availability for hours he wants? Also, he has two computer programs that he wants me to learn that he uses in his practice. Do I charge for the time I spend training/learning?Thanks,
Hi Selena! Great questions that everyone can benefit from. If you were asked to learn a problem that is something very standard I wouldn’t charge for the time you spend learning. That said, it sounds like the program you need to learn is very specific to your clients practice. That said, I would absolutely charge for your learning curve. Let you client know this so there won’t be miscommunication. As for answering the phone calls 8:30am – 5pm Mon-Fri that is a bit tough. Working virtually means that often times we virtual assistants work at various locations like cafes. Will you have a way to forward his business calls or will you need to sit in front of your desk during those hours. I would encourage you to have his calls forwarded to you so you can answer them wherever you are. I would have them forwarded to your cell phone and then charge him for the calls accordingly. Alternatively you could suggest to your client and future clients a virtual receptionist service such as Ruby Receptionists
Hi Reese. I am new to your site and also a new VA in the process of starting my business. I am so thankful to have come across this information. I have over 20 years of experience as an Administrative Assistant. I too am struggling with setting my rates. I’m not sure what would be in my best interest as well as attractive enough for clients to want to hire me. As of now, I don’t have any which is fine because I need to set up my rates first so I have that information available once a client is interested. Any suggestions? Thanks so much!
Hi Nikole! Set up a rate sheet using a blank paper (preferably a Google or Word doc) and list out all the services you provide and the hourly rate or project rate for that service. Try to be succinct and just list the stuff that you’re an expert at. This way you can whip this sucka out during a call and know how to price your stuff on the fly. BAM!
Hi Reese,I’m glad I found your website! I am a new VA with a possibly new client–MY FIRST one. He was going was looking to outsource his business needs. but I told him I can help him. He needs someone to do appointment setting and set according to his schedule, return calls. He initially said he needed someone to do this almost 10 hours a day, although he also said in reality he would get 3-4 calls per day which he picks up from a cloud service answering company. Now, how much per hour would I charge to basically, pick up his VMs, call back leads, setup an appointment, and enter into a calendar? He seems like a savvy person, but I would like to finally get my very client. I thought about offering a trial period, or even throwing in free 5 hours like I read here. Any ideas?
Lou, I’m glad you found it, too! Congratulations on your first client. Determining your rates depends on a lot of factors. I’d start by reading this blog post I wrote on figuring out your rates. Good luck!
Hi…. I have been approach to handle to a few social media sites for a company along with scheduling appointments, answering phone calls, and updating the clients calendar. This will be my first doing something like this and would like to be fair in my pricing for the client and myself. I been thinking about offering the first 4 free or discounting the first 10 hours. Also, I was thinking about asking for a stipend to boost my data plan on my phone since I will need my phone to manage some of the social media sites. Should I include that in the rate or should that be separate ? Any help you can provide would be very helpful.
Hi Marie, work that into your rate. Why are you thinking of discounting your hours?
I am trying to determine a price for retrieving postal mail, scanning that mail and emailing it to my client on a weekly basis, or using a program like Dropbox so he can get his mail on the fly. Any comments on what to charge, by the page? by the hour? Thanks for your service.
By the hour. How much do you need to make each month? Start there and work backwards to arrive at an hourly rate. Your time going to and from retrieving post is billable. Don’t forget that.
I’ve been reading all the comments and have found them to be very helpful. I presently work in an office outside my home and I would like to start my own VA services from home. I’m looking at ways to advertise my services. I’ve worked in the office/accounts receivable and payable field for over 27yrs and feel that I’m more than confident with my skills, knowledge and abilities to offer Administrative/Personal Assistance from my home. Any suggestions on ways I can advertise my services.
LinkedIn is a great place to start, Marie!
Dear Reese,A question, I have been an executive assistant for about 20 years. I am still working for a very high level executive , owns many businesses in different countries. So I have been working from home for him for about 5 years.
I would like to work on the side as for the past couple of years, I am not very busy, as he spends most of his time overseas. So in order to keep myself busy and add to my income, I have found a client (referred by prior boss).
I really am not sure how much to charge.
Lydie, you could charge based on how much you already make (market prices) or you can differentiate yourself and charge what YOU want to charge. What does your gut tell you?
Hi! Thank you so much for a very helpful article. I am desperate on seeking for someone’s advice in this topic and I am so happy I was lead to you page. I am currently a virtual assistant for a real estate company based in Oregon. I live in the Philippines and most of foreign employers would get Filipino workers because of the low rates. My job title in the contract is “Data Encoder, Marketing & Social Media Specialist” , and I am being paid for only $3.50/hour. I just started my career on the virtual industry and I would really like to be successful with it. I have no complaints with the workload, however I feel like I am underpaid. My employer would give me tasks outside my scope, like handling his website and doing graphic design layouts. I have 0% skills on this area but I am prompted to use the internet and teach myself. Also, when I started working already I found out that the Data encoding job is not merely encoding. My boss is making me work on a Real Estate Appraisal Report and most of the time it needs analysis, because there are appraisal comments/verbage that he wants me to fill out. Again I have 0% knowledge on this, and I need to check the internet on how to do it on my own. He did conduct some training but it’s not as detailed as it’s supposed to be. Currently, I was able to get the hang of things. Plus what really bothers me is that every appraisal report is worth $500 or more and he is just paying me almost -% compared to what I earn for the whole month. I really do hope you can help me with this. Thanks again.
Thank you for this post. I am just starting my VA business, and I appreciate your idea of keeping the price simple – one hourly rate for a block of 5 hours. Figuring out my pricing has been a serious migraine for me, until I came across your website. I can’t wait to read your other advise. Thanks, again
Happy to help!!
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