Many ‘trades’ set their own rates, although some might be guided by industry requirements and expectations. Solicitors, bookkeepers, accountants, business coaches, plumbers, painters, mechanics, and so the list goes on.
So, why then, do many of the public feel they can tell Virtual Assistants how much they should be charging? I’ve heard many VAs talk about this – they get contacted by a potential client who wants a lot of stuff done, often things that require someone with a great deal of experience but in the next breath, they tell the VA they will only pay (or ‘can’ only play) $xx per hour. What right do they have to tell the VA how much the VA should be accepting? VAs are not employees, they’re business owner/operators – just like all these other services and just like the majority of potential clients, who are usually business owners too.
Maybe they mean well, or think they’re being generous, or helpful, but it is really important to understand that service providers, business owners, independent contractors set their own rates. No-one else. And in the VA Industry, there is no governing or legislative body (as there may be with some industries in different countries). Generally VAs are encouraged to work out rates that are right for them, according to their cost of living, currency and where they live. Like all other business owners, they have taxes, insurances, equipment and other overheads to cover. And many VAs continue with professional development, taking courses to improve their skills and knowledge, as well as their service offerings.
As a business owner, would you like it if someone outlined what they wanted you to do and then told you they can only pay $10 an hour, or maybe even $5 an hour? What about $15 an hour? For some business owners, depending on what they do, that might be a good rate in their country, but for most in western countries, it won’t be.
If you’re a prospective client of a VA, it would be better for you to outline what you need to have done and tell the VA what your budget is for the week or month. That way the VA can tell you what they can get done for what you can afford. The reality may well be (and this is often the case), the VA can get things done a lot more quickly than you can, because they’re experienced in those things, and consequently, what might take you 4-5 hours to do, may take the VA only a couple of hours. In which case, money well spent and you have gained those 4-5 hours to concentrate on earning more income from your own business.
Let the service provider set their own rates – and let them get on with the business of supporting you, without feeling like you’re trying to screw them down. No-one wins in that scenario.
Kathie is the owner of VA Directory and is former past President of the Australian VA Association. She founded the Virtual Assistant industry in Australia in the mid 90s, having already been operating a home-based secretarial service. Today the VA industry covers a multitude of office-based services for clients worldwide.