We had a really interesting discussion on the forum recently regarding clients wanting to pay temp rates…. One faction thought VAs should price themselves competitively with the local temp rate (even if that meant going as low as £10/hour). And the other reckoned that because we’re not a temp we should differentiate ourselves in our pricing.
From the Client perspective: Grasping that thorny vine, let’s say I’m a client in a rural area and my local temp agency charges me £15/hour for an assistant. I have 200 envelopes which need stuffing, which should take about 2 hours to do. Let’s look at how much it will cost:
Temp: £15/hour x 5 hours (minimum hire is ½ day) = £75 + I have to be there when they are working, sort out a space for them to sit, etc.
VA: £20/hour x 2 hours + 2 x £10 courier charges = £60
But on paper, the VA is charging more than the Temp.
From the Temp’s point of view: It’s in my interest to spin the job out for as long as possible since I’m usually doing this as a stop gap between jobs and there’s no long term relationship with the client. I should try and take as long as possible to do the job so I earn the maximum amount of money. I’m usually not highly skilled or experienced, since I’m unable to find long term employment. I can’t afford to take jobs where the travel costs make it prohibitive to me earning any money so I won’t do jobs of less than ½ a day, and it would need to fit round my other commitments. If they are in a remote area, would the temp agency even be able to find somebody at relatively short notice?
From the VA’s point of view: It’s in their interest to create a long standing relationship with the client and do a great job, quickly and efficiently, so the client wants to use them again. They are usually highly skilled former executive assistants and also have a virtual skill set which makes them extremely knowledgeable about small business practises. However, working on site reduces the VA’s flexibility and they loose out on billable hours through travel time and office niceties. So for the VA, working on site is actually less lucrative than working at their own office.
Looking at this breakdown, it’s no wonder clients want VAs to come on site to work – it’s cheaper than hiring a Temp! But many VAs don’t realise this and feel they need to compete with the temps in terms of price (low hourly rate) and service (being on site), which is simply not true.
I often have clients saying “I need a VA for 20 hours a week”. What they actually mean is that they want the facility of an assistant for 20 hours a week, but most small business admin won’t take anything like 20 hours a week. They have the employee mentality where there’s no incentive to do a good job or delight your boss. In fact, I reckon that by batching tasks, automating where possible and working in a focussed efficient manner, most of the tasks a part-time staff member does could be completed in less than 5 hours a week by a VA. What I always say is “How would you like to have a VA available for 40 hours a week, with no red tape at £XX per hour and only pay for the time it actually takes for them to do the tasks?”
We’re underselling ourselves as “being expensive” when in fact we work out cheaper than either a temp or an employee.
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