What Counts as Billable Time For Your VA Clients?

What Counts as Billable Time For Your VA Clients?

What do you charge your Virtual Assistant clients for? Just time on task? Or more?

Quite often, I see posts in the VA forums talking about time tracking and billing.

One of the topics that is discussed a lot is around what is billable time to your clients and what isn’t?

And the answers you see posted would probably surprise you. They definitely surprise me!

The short answer is that anything you are doing for a client should be billed to them.

Here’s a quick example.

When you go to McDonalds (I use McDonalds as an example often!), you don’t leave with anything that you haven’t paid for. You get your sandwich, your drink, and you get your condiments and napkins on the counter adjacent to the cash. Maybe you didn’t see the napkins and condiments itemized on your bill, but everything you are leaving with is factored into the price you paid – including the staff that served, the machines they used to process your order, and the lights over your head.

It’s the same thing with your clients.

You provide a VA service to them. The service includes what you do for them (ie managing their scheduling), and everything else that you need to use to provide that service for them. These things are what make up your billable rate. You need to make a certain amount of money in your business to cover your expertise and your expenses.

I’m not talking about your internet and your other overhead expenses – I’m talking about all of the time you spend looking after their client work.

If you can not earn a profit in your business, then you won’t be in business long.

Now let’s talk about the itemized stuff.

Aside from doing the client’s scheduling, what else do you need to do to manage their work? With VA work it’s mainly communication and administration. Do you bill for these things? If you do not, then you are giving away your time.

What specifically? Phone calls, meetings, updating the project management system, reading and responding to emails.

It is important to factor all of things like communication into your billable rate – and find a way to do all of it efficiently.

Some Virtual Assistants do not charge their clients for this time. They call it ‘included’ but what if one client sends you one email a day and one sends you 20?

The assumption would be that the one who is sending you 20 emails is a larger client, who is probably paying you for more time. But it’s not always the case.

I once had a client who LOVED her email. She was a writer, so words were her craft but I used to dread seeing her name in my inbox because it was there so often. One Monday morning I logged in to see more than 80 emails from her, that she had sent over the weekend. Eighty (I counted them). And she was a client who was billing only 5 hours a month with me.

I had another client who LOVED phone meetings. She didn’t like to write or type, so she wanted to speak on the phone every time she needed to tell me something. A phone call every day adds up quickly – even if it’s just 5 or 10 minutes, never mind the fact that you have to stop everything you are doing to take the call.

As a service business, your time is your money. You need to get paid for it.

That means everything you do for a client should be getting billed to them. If you were not there helping them in their business, they would be doing things themselves.

And yes, we all want to be giving and generous – there is never a problem with that. As a VA, that is one of the best things you can be – provided that you are not giving your time or energy away for free.

Clients are paying you to work with them. So charge them accordingly to get their work done. Your time is as valuable as theirs (actually it’s even more valuable, in my opinion!)

Charge for your phone time, your email time, your project management system time. If you don’t like the idea of itemizing that kind of thing, fix a monthly rate to it, something like 15 minutes a day for communication with a client is only 5 hours a month. But then be sure to track it so you are sure you are billing them the right amount.

Nobody should be working for free. Your clients don’t, and you shouldn’t either.

What’s billable? Anything you do for a client (honestly - except sending them their invoice each month!).

Factor in everything you do and you will be happier in your business, and your clients will be happier too!

For more tips and resources on making your VA business more profitable, sign up for a free CAVA membership today! Connect with VAs like yourself, and have a look around at our resources, while you consider full membership in our association!

Common Questions About Setting Your Rates

Are you having trouble setting the rates for your VA services? It can be one of the most challenging decisions you have to make. In fact, many aspiring VAs struggle with this decision on an ongoing basis. Let’s take a look at some of the more common rate setting questions. The answers may help you finalize your decision.

What’s the Going Rate for the Task?

Before you can begin setting your own rates, you might want to look at what others are charging. This is by no means the only determining factor. As you’ll see there are other considerations that are more important. However, knowing what your competition is charging is useful information. With a little research, you’ll be able to better position your business and your services.

How Much Is Your Time Worth?

A better question may be how much do you need to make per hour/week/month? This is a fantastic starting point. You can then take a look at how long it takes you to complete each task you will provide, and set a billable rate for each task. Knowing how long something should take is part of your expertise and it helps you set accurate rates for your work.

How Are You Going To Charge?

You essentially have two choices. You can charge by the project or by the hour. Charging by the hour ensures you don’t accidentally under estimate the project. Sometimes it takes longer to complete a task than you might have intended.

However, when you charge by the hour most clients will want an estimate. They’ll want to know how long the project will take. You can quote a range. For example, tell them it’ll take two to four hours. If it looks like it’s going to go over, make sure they’re okay with it before you proceed.

To set an hourly rate, take a look both at your experience and your specialization. You can charge a higher hourly rate if you’re offering a specialty service. You can also charge a higher hourly rate if you’re experienced or skilled with the service you’re providing.

Your Rates Aren’t Set In Stone.

Note: you can also charge differently based on the task you’re managing. For example, if you’re setting up a Facebook Fan Page for a client then charge by the project. If you’re managing their social networking then charge by the hour.

You can also change your rates as your needs change. If you want to gain a lot of clients quickly then set your rates a little below market rate. You can then raise them in six months to a year.

To position your business as an exclusive provider, you might set your rates above market value. Take a look at your goals. Evaluate your niche. And consider the type of clients you want to work with. Consider your business vision. Then you can begin to set the rates for your services.