5 Smart Ways to Specialize Your Virtual Assistant Services

5 Smart Ways to Specialize Your Virtual Assistant Services

When you are deciding what Virtual Assistant services you can offer clients, how do you start that brainstorming or thinking process?

Often we think about the things we know how to do based on our last job, or VA services we are currently offering clients.

We come up with a list of services that we can confidently do, and then we piece those together as the client needs them or asks about them.

Maybe you are good at doing data entry or bookkeeping or social media updates.

And maybe you love doing those things every day.

But maybe you also wish you could raise you rates and do something different. Something that gets you excited to start work most days.

If you change the way you think about your service offerings, you can actually create a specialized list of services for clients that you love to work with.

I’m not talking about packages, though that certainly could come into the conversation at this point.

I’m talking about focusing your services for a particular industry or service so that you can level up your expertise, and help your clients get more value from working with you.

Here are a few smart ways to level up your virtual assistant services for your clients:

1. Social Media

Social media is a really popular service offering for VAs. Many VAs, however, provide ‘just the posting’ type of service.

What if you could expand your offerings to include reporting insights for your clients, or creating images, or even curating content from others? It’s a means of increasing your expertise in this area and bringing more value to your clients.

By taking a bigger role in your client’s social media activity you become more invested in their business and you actually help them more than just publishing their weekly content.

Lots of business owners don’t even look at their analytics. It’s a great place to add value for them – and increase your level of expertise at the same time!

2. Customer Service

Customer service is very much an in-demand service required by business owners. Every business needs clients, and every business needs to look after those clients.

So maybe right now you are handling customer service emails for your clients. What if you could also help your client with the onboarding procedures, run reports for the payments or membership numbers, and help them maintain their follow up systems or nurture those clients?

Once again, it’s about offering more value for a line of services that you are already providing for your clients. You will also bill more time with each client, and become more invested in their business – which builds solid, long-term VA-client relationships.

3. Event Management

If your clients organize online or in person events, this is a great area to level up your virtual assistant service offerings.

Instead of just setting up and managing the registration lists, consider helping with checklists for all event details, liaising with event staff, and follow up for the attendees. If the events are online, you could do the same thing – checklists, liaise with the event guests or guest speaker, manage follow up.

Growing your responsibilities if you like doing event management is a great way to help business owners with the pieces of the admin that they often don’t do well (or take too much time to do on their own).

4. Speaker Support

When you think of services, it’s not always just about what you are doing. It could be who you are doing it for.

Consider a speaker. What kinds of VA services do they need? Research for speaking gigs, connection and follow up with event planners, speaker one sheet preparation, audio or video transcripts and editings, and so on.

So sometimes if you choose who you want to work with, your specialization goes there. Imagine only having to network with one type of entrepreneur. You could become the go-to person for something like speaker support easily.

5. Project Management

Project management takes a level of skill that not all VAs have. If you do it well, you could explore offering it as a service.

Even VAs who run teams need project managers. If you use a particular system like Asana very well, this could be the service that you offer your clients. You also have the option of running one-off projects or ongoing ones.

Maybe these examples speak to you. Maybe they don’t quite. It’s about reframing how you think about specializing.

It’s not always about building packages for clients. It’s about doing tasks that you do well, and that your clients need (especially if they are not doing them now!)

Specializing doesn’t always mean moving to packages. It’s about grouping tasks that are related to a project together to create new work, and better work flow.

Think about the services you are currently offering your clients.

Are there areas that you can add more value and more responsibility to take more off their plate for them? Have a look at yours and see where you can specialize!

For help with your services, consider registering for my Getting Started as a Virtual Assistant self study program. It walks you through step by step all of the things you need to have in place to open or grow your business properly – including your rates and services! www.GetStartedVA.com

About the Author: Tracey D’Aviero is a Virtual Assistant Coach, Trainer, Speaker and Author. After operating a busy VA business of her own since 1996, Tracey began teaching others to run their VA businesses in 2010 through Your VA Mentor. In 2016 she purchased the CAVA and GAVA VA associations and now teaches and coaches VAs exclusively. She has a vast amount of experience working in many different industries which helps her to offer her students and coaching clients a unique perspective and sound advice. She is a proud advocate of the Virtual Assistant industry. Learn more about Tracey’s journey in the VA industry here.

5 Things to Consider When Setting Your Virtual Assistant Rates

How much money can you make as a Virtual Assistant?

This is a very popular question among new VAs. The answer is very simple. You can make whatever you want.

I know that sounds like a really basic answer but it’s the truth!

When you are a VA, you are a business owner. You can set your own rates and your clients can choose to pay them (or not!).

But make no mistake - no one gets to set your VA rates but you.

Here are 5 things that you need to consider when setting your VA rates:

1. Your Level of Expertise

It goes without saying that the higher skill level you have for any task, the higher your rate can be. When VAs set their rates, they often undervalue themselves because they think they don’t have enough VA experience.

Even if you don’t have a lot of experience as a VA yet, it is your experience as an administrative professional that counts. Let me say that again: VA experience is NOT required to start your business, or to set your rates. ADMIN experience is what is important.

If you have taken some skills training, you can also charge more than someone who has just picked up the skills on their own (think social media services).

2. Your Revenue Target

How much do you need to earn every month? This is a key place to start when you are setting your rates. You need to set rates that will allow you to earn what you need to sustain your business.

Rather than picking a number out of thin air (that’s what I did -- cringe!), or a number that you feel comfortable selling to clients (I did this too -- ack!), you need to base your rates on actual numbers.

Use this rate calculator to figure out what you need to earn, and how that can break down into an actual hourly billable rate for you. When you know how much you need to bring in every month, and how many clients you can work with, you will be able to set a solid rate for your services.

3. Billable Versus Non-Billable Time

Calculating your rates sometimes also brings up the question of billable time versus non-billable time.

What is the difference? Simple…

Billable time is the time that you spend working on client work – the time that they are actually paying you for.

Non-billable time is your own admin time - doing your billing, seeking out new business, onboarding new clients – these are all things that are not billable in your business, but your time has to be accounted for (and covered) by your client rates.

Some business folks call this overhead, and it is, but it is often a variable expense that changes, the more clients you have.

But make no mistake – whenever you are doing work for a client, that is billable time, and you should be charging them for it.

4. Your Business Setup

Do you work on your own or do you have subcontractors (or do you intend to have them at some point?). If you have subcontractors, your rate needs to be able to cover that expense. Don’t start your business and then try to accommodate subcontractors – you need to plan for it and charge accordingly.

What about your expenses – do you anticipate a spike in your expenses any time soon? Many VAs go into business not thinking about what they might put out – or worse, then they start to panic over normal business expenses (like credit card fees), because they haven’t accounted for them when setting their rates.

Your rate needs to be able to cover your overhead and your plans and still leave you some profit. After all, you are in business to make money, so be cautious not to send back out everything that comes in.

5. Your Target Market’s Budget

How much can your clients afford to pay you? You need to take this into account when you are considering who your clients will be – and this is where their budget comes into your planning.

For instance, if you work with non-profits, your rates might differ from someone who works with lawyers. Sometimes this is also related to your expertise, but for sure there are certain clients that are accustomed to paying more than others.

If you are setting up rate packages, consider this point in particular. Create different levels of client service packages that can accommodate different budgets.

Setting your rates is one of the most important things you need to do well in your business (other than the actual VA work!). If you don’t set them high enough to start, you won’t be able to maintain your business well.

Do it right from the start and you will be able to get clients, build your business, and be happy!

For help with getting your business foundation in place, consider registering for my Getting Started as a Virtual Assistant self study program. It walks you through step by step all of the things you need to have in place to open or grow your business properly – including your rates and services! www.GetStartedVA.com

About the Author: Tracey D’Aviero is a Virtual Assistant Coach, Trainer, Speaker and Author. After operating a busy VA business of her own since 1996, Tracey began teaching others to run their VA businesses in 2010 through Your VA Mentor. In 2016 she purchased the CAVA and GAVA VA associations and now teaches and coaches VAs exclusively. She has a vast amount of experience working in many different industries which helps her to offer her students and coaching clients a unique perspective and sound advice. She is a proud advocate of the Virtual Assistant industry. Learn more about Tracey’s journey in the VA industry here.

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.