Starting your own business is exciting. Being your own boss, even better. Figuring out how much to charge for your services, critical to the success of your business.
When determining what to charge, there are many factors to consider, including the complexity of the task, deadline-turnaround requirements, expected time to complete, and special skills required.
You must also find the balance between your perceived value and what the market will support. Basically 'perceived value' means you are only worth what someone is willing to pay. This is especially true in today's economy. It can be a harsh reality for a VA who thinks they are worth $500 an hour in a $50 an hour economy.
Market research. Begin by searching job postings for services similar to yours. Create a spreadsheet listing several services (typing, transcription, newsletters, customer service, website content, blog posting, etc.). Ask a friend or relative to make inquiries to other virtual assistants requesting quotes on various services.
If you belong to peer groups or online forums, post a query about what others charge. Some may provide exact figures, while other may quote ranges. Either way, it helps you gauge the market.
Per hour vs. per project. Some projects lend themselves better to one model than the other. Many VAs use a combination of hourly and per-project pricing. If you decide to charge on a per-project basis, you should still have an idea of the hourly equivalent to properly gauge your profitability.
Geographic location. While the internet allows VAs to work for anyone, from anywhere, the perceived value for your services may vary greatly based on your client's location. For example, a client in New York may pay $125 an hour for newsletter creation, while a client in Des Moines may only be willing to pay $75.
Increased efficiency. As you build your portfolio, you may find that it takes less time to complete assignments. At this point, you may consider raising your fees. For example, if a client paid $75 for a transcription project last month that took you three hours to complete, why should you be paid $50 next month if it only takes you two hours?
Repeat clients. A great way to maintain customers and, hopefully, keep your work log full, is to offer volume discounts. A client with three projects may believe it is more cost effective to spread them out over a few weeks or even months. By offering a volume discount to contract all three, you make your client happy, while providing yourself with a longer assignment and the opportunity to build a lasting relationship.
Degrees and certifications. Degrees add credibility and validity while increasing your perceived value to potential clients. A VA with a professional certification may be viewed as 'better than' or 'worth more' than one without. Whether or not this is true is debatable. The reality is some clients will pay more for VAs with a degree because it conveys professionalism and a commitment to continuing education.
Don't sell yourself short. Many new VAs have the misconception that offering lower prices will mean more work. This is not always true. If you continually under-price your services, you will find yourself working long hours with very little income to show for it.
It may also communicate 'low quality' or 'inexperience' to clients who believe 'you get what you pay for.' Know the lowest acceptable fee you will accept and start a little higher. This provides room for negotiation.
The following table illustrates ranges for some typical VA services.
Keep in mind that each virtual assistant business is unique and services vary. Ultimately, you can charge whatever you want. Use this as just one component in developing your fee structure.