It’s the eternal battle… Income vs High Rates. If you have carefully crafted your virtual assistant rates to reflect your experience, your costs, the quality of your work and your ability to continue in business, can you afford to work for less? Should you work for less? (Still struggling with calculating your rate? Check out VAPro’s Pricing Formula spreadsheet!)
But when bills are due, you’ve just been offered work at less than your usual rate, it’s oh-so-tempting to take it. Some money is better than no money, right?
Or, are you letting the side down and devaluing the whole VA industry?
Here’s the thing: There’s no absolute right or wrong answer here.
A lot will depend on your personal circumstances. But here’s what you should be asking yourself:
- How badly do you need the money?
- Will you enjoy working with this client?
- Does the client have the potential to develop into a higher paying client?
- Are there steps you can take to minimise the effect on other higher paying clients should they come along?
- Most importantly: How can I justify my rate to clients properly?
How badly do you need the money?
Bills need paid. If you can’t pay bills, you’ll need to go back to a (whispering…) J-O-B. This undoes all the hard work you’ve put into your business so far. You need to be able to keep the momentum going, you need to be able to service the clients you already have. And that might mean taking the cash and buckling down to some hard work for little reward – temporarily, at least.
If you can afford not to take the work, don’t take it. Spend the time you would have spent working on doing more marketing and searching for the right kinds of client who can afford your rates.
Your rate being £50 an hour isn’t much use if you have zero clients. But as to whether or not you can weather the lean period till more clients come along? Well, only you know.
- Further reading about virtual assistant rates: UK Virtual Assistant Survey
Will you enjoy working with this client?
I have clients I genuinely love working for – they appreciate what I do, I make a real difference to their business, the work is interesting or I learn new skills. They slot in easily with the rest of my tasks, I can use the stuff I learn on other clients, it adds to my business overall.
I have other clients who are… um… Well let’s just say when their email pops into my inbox, I let out an inward groan. I know they are going to be awkward to work with. They will attempt to micro manage us. They moan about things I have no control over, like how fast other people get back to us or how much things cost. It zaps my energy. I spend hours in gut twisting nerves trying to word an email that won’t illicit an irritated response. I call these tyre kicker clients and I aim to get rid of as many as possible.
If you weigh up the effect this client will have on the rest of your business, it often dictates whether or not you can afford to take the job.
Does the client have the potential to develop into a higher paying client?
Sure, they might be strapped for cash now, but can you develop them so they turn into full paying clients? Supermarkets do this all the time – they draw people in with loss leading products at excellent prices and whilst you are there you pick up a ton of other stuff.
Can you upsell them to other services which you offer? Could you agree to a payrise upfront after, say, 6 months? Will they stay loyal or shop around for the lowest virtual assistant rates? Is it an ongoing repeating task that you might be able to streamline over time so it doesn’t take you as long (i.e. you spend less time but charge the same, thereby effectively upping your hourly rate)?
Are there steps you can take to minimise the effect on other higher paying clients should they come along?
It’s one thing to take a low rate… It’s quite another to take a low rate for work that means you have to turn down higher paying work later.
So think about how you can minimise that happening – can you have a longer turnaround time on that work? Can they pay you upfront or can you put them on a direct debit to minimise the hassle of credit controlling that client? Can you batch their tasks into a session once a week rather than having to react to each one there and then?
One big learning from this dilemma: Your marketing needs some serious work!
If you aren’t attracting enough clients paying your chosen rate, you need to look at how you find more clients who will pay that rate on an ongoing basis. You want to avoid the see-saw of getting super busy, so you stop marketing and then getting quiet again and falling into the feast or famine cycle of marketing. It must be consistent, regardless of whether or not you are busy.
Most importantly: How can I justify my rate to clients properly?
Have you explained why your rate is more than they are currently willing to pay? Are you adding in extras which other VAs or an employee wouldn’t be able to match? E.g. experience in a particular sector, having a team behind you, having quick turnaround times or being able to offer a quality mark would all be things which clients would highly value and be willing to pay more for.
Even if you do offer a discounted rate, can you make it a time limited offer or a volume limited offer? (e.g. you would do discount for 3 months or only on 10 hours per month). And ALWAYS make sure your invoice includes the full rate and then takes off their discount, so they know what a good deal they are getting!
Make sure you understand what other VAs charge – there may well be VAs with more experience than you who offer the same service for a cheaper price. So look at different VA models… You might be able to make more profit by tweaking your business model.
FINAL WORD: Virtual Assistant rates
What you charge is your own choice, the industry and pricing is not regulated and you have to do what is right for you. If you can make it work charging £20 an hour or £100 an hour, that’s what you should do. Not all VA businesses are the same, not all people are the same and so not all virtual assistant rates are the same.
Accepting a low rate doesn’t mean you are forever more tied to that rate… It also does not mean that you will get bad clients.
However, it may (or may not) help you to know that in the last UK VA Survey (June 2023), the average pricing of UK VA’s stood at £29.77 per hour.