During my presentations, I ask my audience a few questions. One of them asks them to be honest about fear around outsourcing to a VA.
Quite often they respond with this:
‘With so many VAs offering services, I’m unsure what I should be paying, what they’re worth, whether I can afford a VA, and how I would pay them’.
Before I jump into addressing these fears, I’d like to point out one thing many business owners forget!
VAs (here in Australia) are independent business owners – just like you. They’ll have their rates and payment structures in place to suit their business, their skills and their goals – just like you.
The 5 most common payment structures for a Virtual Assistant
Hourly rates are very common for the ad-hoc type of VA work such as general admin or constantly changing tasks. Hourly rates are often preferred by clients when you don’t have a specific project, or you’re not working regularly with your VA.
If working hourly, your VA may track their time (using certain tools – check out this comprehensive review of top time tracking apps) and will invoice you after an agreed-upon period (e.g. once a week, or after 10 hours). Other VAs may charge you up front for a few hours before they start (a deposit). This is for their safety, especially with ad-hoc or new clients, as it means they won’t hand over the work and have you go AWOL without payment (it has happened before).
2. Retainers – hourly based
Retainers are a great way to secure hours upfront, allowing you to budget and plan and have a consistent agreement in place. Retainers can be weekly or monthly.
The main issue I’ve found with retainers is that the client may find themselves worrying about what they should be getting their VA to do to ‘use up the time’, rather than simply focussing on outcomes that move towards goals. Your VA will also need to keep track of time which can be a distraction from getting the task done. Managing time also takes time!
However, some businesses really do need adhoc support, making packaging by outcome very difficult. That’s why retainer hours can actually be quite popular.
3. Packaged Hours
Unlike a retainer, packaged hours generally come without time limitations which means you can use them at any time. It’s risky because the time itself is not reserved. So, although this is great for clients (you have time up your sleeve anytime you need it), it’s can be a challenge for the VA to keep track of, although with modern tracking software this is definitely getting easier. If you don’t think your work will be regular and urgent, you may find that a pre-purchased package of hours works well for you.
(I often see VAs offering a discount if you buy a package of hours. I discourage VAs from offering this as they end up being paid less than they’re worth. Please value your VA.)
Some VAs offer support and training packages in which you can secure a certain number of training hours as you learn a new program, such as a CRM or new website system.
4. Package – outcome-based
Monthly or weekly packages based on outcomes are amazing and if you’re offered this type of package – jump at it. With pre-planning, the package will allow you to have consistent outcomes, budget more easily and account for your busier or quieter months.
When your outcomes change, you can check in with your VA and reassess the price moving forward. Unlike the other packages, your VA will always be working towards outcomes rather than counting hours.
Some business owners need support for projects with set outcomes rather than needing constant support. For example website creation, tech support, an event, a single newsletter and so on. With these projects, it’s important for both parties to know what the expected outcomes and goals are. If these change (or the project blows out), the price may need to be altered.
If you’re a business with occasional projects, this is a great VA payment model. But for regular ad-hoc work, project deals aren’t suitable – you don’t want to have to create proposals and agreements all the time – do you?
So, what does a Virtual Assistant cost?
All the VAs I talk about are business owners (i.e. they are not paid by mega-corporations to do work at cheaper rates), so their pricing needs to cover their business running costs.
Over the years, I’ve found VAs charge anywhere between $7 an hour (offshore) to $120 an hour (onshore) with most charging between $35 to $55 per hour. This range is due to the huge variety of services offered by VAs.
Within the VA industry, there are bookkeepers, copywriters, social media managers, content managers, CRM specialists, administration, event planners and so on. They all have different levels of experience and skills, hence the variety of prices.
Pricing will depend on what you need, and I encourage you to base your decision on the value of the outcome.
How Virtual Assistants expect payment
VAs are business owners, so you can expect to pay them as you would any other business. Most will offer payment options from bank transfer to credit card. PayPal is popular too.
And like other business owners, you should receive an invoice with your VAs payment terms and options displayed. Overdue payments are usually sent to debt collectors so please pay your bills promptly.
Return on Investment using a Virtual Assistant
Rather than focus on the cost of a VA, ask yourself the cost of NOT having a VA. But first, you need to know why you’re hiring a VA.
If you’re desperate and after a magic solution, you need to stop, take stock, assess your current position and your future goals, and see how a VA will fit into that to help you achieve your goals.
Once you know what you need a VA to help you achieve, you can then ask for the right kind of help, work out the right kind of payment package with the right VA, and start achieving wonderful things.