You meet with clients, answer emails, invoice work, and find time at the end of the day to relax — and those tasks are just a small portion of the work on your plate. Even though you’re a powerhouse, you may be doing too much. The solution? An assistant.
Business management doens’t get any easier when you’re burnt out. You need time and energy to devote to your clients, team, and brand. Carving out these resources often means handing off the more superficial tasks to a dedicated and trusted assistant.
Virtual assistants (VAs) are an excellent option for professionals in any field who need support professional but don’t require a full-time, in-person employee. VAs are experts at tending to the administrative tasks of a business, freeing up time for the people they support to rest, recharge, and reinvest in the organiztion.
Getting precious time back may be priceless, but virtual assistant services aren’t. Read on to learn how much virtual assistants cost and what their work entails.
What is a virtual assistant?
Virtual assistants are freelancers or independent contractors who remotely support other professionals. VAs manage calendars and communication, schedule appointments, book travel, and much more.
Some virtual assistants have niche skill sets. For example, not all VAs have bookkeeping or social media management skills, but others specialize in these areas. The following are examples of what virtual assistants can do:
- Data entry
- Customer support
- Graphic design
- Content creation
- Email management
3 factors that affect a virtual assistant’s pricing
Anyone on a budget will be pleased to learn that the cost of a virtual assistant varies. In many cases, you can access basic services at an accessible rate or pay more to scale up support for complex tasks.
Here are three core factors that impact the cost of a VA:
- Skills and services: Assistants offering basic skills, such answering emails and scheduling meetings, charge less than those with specialized knowledge. For example, an assistant who manages social media content or performs accounting tasks may charge a premium for these services.
- Experience level: Assistants who have been in the industry for many years and have supported high-powered professionals charge an increased rate. Like all long-time professionals, experienced VAs have tackled challenging situations and likely garnered unique or industry-specific skills worth paying for. With that said, many VAs new to the profession offer great support at a more affordable price point.
- Location: Pricing adheres to local markets, and assistants’ fees often reflect their living costs. If you work with a VA in a country like the U.S., where the cost of living is high, you can expect to pay more. Prices even very city to city — a VA living in Los Angeles likely charges more than one in St. Louis.
3 virtual assistant fee styles
Like independent contractors, virtual assistants take on projects that interest them and clients they have the time to support. Some VAs may seek full-time, steady contracts, while others balance several clients or only want to take on a few work hours per week.
VA pricing styles vary to reflect the nature of the work. Here are the three common types of VA fees:
- Hourly: Most virtual assistants charge hourly, which is convenient for the VA and client. The client only pays for the hours the assistant works, and the assistant only takes on projects that fit into their schedule.
- Project-based: In the project-based model, an assistant assesses the scope of work before setting a rate. The VA then calculates the project hours, difficulty level, and deliverables and translates this data into an appropriate fee. This pricing model benefits you if you only require help in the short-term, until a project is finished.
- Retainer (full-time): The full-time payment model benefits assistants who work an eight-hour day for one client and complete routine, repeated tasks. These VAs form long-term bonds with the professionals they support and learn that person’s business well, and their rate looks more like a salary.
The types of virtual assistants: specialists versus generalists
A VA who performs typical tasks with supervision and instructions would be considered a generalist. What they lack in niche expertise they make up for with a wide range of abilities. You might hire a generalist VA to manage all scheduling and client-facing communications, including phone calls, emails, and social media messages.
Some virtual assistants perform niche work outside of basic administrative tasks and require less day-to-day supervision. But helping with marketing campaigns doesn’t make a VA a specialist. Specialists know how to perform high-level tasks — whether administrative or niche.
For example, a marketing specialist doesn’t only help a professional update the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) tool or schedule email blasts. This VA might instead interact directly with clients or design campaigns from scratch.
So, how do generalist and specialist work measure up in terms of cost? Specialists charge more, but there’s an upside — they can take on more responsibilities. Generalists, on the other hand, are more affordable, but may have a lesser impact on your workload.
How to calculate the cost of a virtual assistant
If you’re in need of a virtual assistant, you need to see how this cost figures into your business’ monthly or yearly expenditures. Here’s how:
- Choose a type of assistant: Do you require full- or part-time VA support? How many hours a week will they work, or is it a project-based contract? Does your VA need to have specialized knowledge? You need the answers to these questions before you can start your search.
- Multiply the rate by hours: Choose a VA rate within your budget and calculate the weekly, monthly, and yearly costs. If the VA you wish to hire charges by project or requires a full-time salary, use these numbers as your base.
- Consider other fees: If you hire a VA through a freelancing platform, you may have to pay a fee or a percentage to the company for matching you with this support professional. Factors these figures into your calculations, as well as any relevant tax.
- Don’t forget overtime: If your virtual assistant charges an hourly rate, they may also ask for overtime when they work more than the projected hours. Consider the possibility of paying more for heavier work months.
3 tips for saving on VA costs
The reality is that good support doesn’t—and shouldn’t—come cheap, but you can hire a virtual assistant at a rate that’s fair for both parties. Save on VA services with the following tips:
- Get organized: If your virtual assistant charges an hourly rate, you don’t want them wasting time on busy work. Organize tasks, set the VA up with the necessary tools, and give precise project instructions.
- Hire through a platform: On a platform, you can compare rates, experience levels, and specialty skills to ensure you’re paying for VA services that meet your needs instead of shelling out for expensive and unnecessary niche work or wasting time on the wrong fit.
- Monitor work: Use a time-tracking system to monitor how efficiently the virtual assistant works. This helps you identify snags in workflow and help make the VA’s work more agile — for example, by providing software that automates simple tasks.
Are you a VA? Here’s how to set your rates
If you’re considering becoming a VA, the question at the top of your mind is probably “how much do virtual assistants make?” In short, VAs make what they ask for. As a freelancer or independent contractor, you decide what to charge clients — which may sound like a daunting task.
But with some careful thought, research, and self-confidence, you will land on the right price for your services. Here are three steps to get you started:
- Check out the competition: Research your peer’s rates and figure in skill level, experience, and other factors, like geographical location, that could drive numbers up or down. Ask yourself: where do I fit within this range?
- Do the math: Total your monthly expenses to determine your cost of living and divide this number by the hours you would like to work per month. If you need to earn $5,000 per month to live well and you can work 160 hours per month, your hourly rate should be around $31.
- Calculate taxes: Since many VAs are freelancers, they don’t benefit from automatic tax withholding as traditional employees do. Estimate how much you’ll owe the government at the end of the year and divide this number by 12 so you can put money away each month for your taxes. If taxes significantly impact your earnings and prevent you from making ends meet, you may need to consider charging a higher rate.
Launch a better business with Practice
Both virtual assistants and the professionals they support can benefit from Practice’s customer relationship management (CRM) tool. Use the platform to safely store client data, send messages and documents, and receive payment — all in one place.
You can also continue sharpening your professional skills with Practice’s blog, a library of educational materials on small business topics ranging from drafting a contract and writing a stellar resume to scoring your first client.