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!

To Track Time or Not?

Virtual Assistants need to have an effective and accurate time tracking system in place. It’s easy, but it can get out of control if you let it.

‘Losing time’ can not only set your schedule behind, lead to disorganization and late night catch-up, but it can also impact your revenue if you forget to bill for work done.

Here are a few answers to those questions you have about time tracking:

Why should I track my time?

First of all, because you need to know how you are spending your day. How much of your time is being spent on billable work? Non billable work? Wasted time? Things you dislike doing?

If you write it all down, it will be easier to assess where you can make adjustments to make your business more profitable .. and more fun too!

Also, as you start to get busier, the day can disappear right before your eyes. You want to be sure you are not losing out on billable time simply because you didn’t write it down.

When should I track my time?clock

Every day, every minute.

There are resources (see a few below) that can help you do this by using stopwatch to stop and start a timeclock, or you can do it the old fashioned way by writing it down.

I use a spiral notebook and record every task I do every day (even breaks, lunch, and my own business stuff). By using a spiral notebook, I have a record for every day. I transfer my written notes into my time tracking program for billing.

How should I record tasks?

In whatever way makes the most sense to you … whatever is easiest for you.

If you choose a complicated system or one that confuses you, you will run into trouble more than once.

My system is simple … I write my clients’ initials at the beginning of each line, and I record the task item I took care of for them beside it. I indicate the time I worked during the day. I record one task per line in my book for easy reference, and for easy transition to my time tracking program.

In my time tracking program, I have each client set up with their rate and I also have individual tasks set up for all of the things I do. I enter each client’s name and their task and the length of time I worked on it.

At the end of the month, I run my reports and can provide the detail if the client wants it.

I charge my clients on retainer (or by project rate) – I don’t need to track my time, do I?

Of course you do! What if your client goes over your budgeted time… or is way under? Even if you are working with someone on a project rate, it’s important to keep track of the hours you are putting in.

When you decide to revisit your rate package (which you should do often!) you will have an exact measure of how long projects are taking you to do.

If you are working with someone on retainer, it’s good to be able to keep a detailed list of what you worked on for them at the end of their retainer term.

Recording your time is helpful in both of these situations.

Any of these questions are easily answered just by developing a great system to keep track of how you are spending your time.

There are all kinds of resources out there (some free, some paid) that can help you manage this part of your business.

Myhours.com has a free level … it’s what I have used for years. Paymo.biz and Toggl.com are very reasonable and popular with VAs.

Freshbooks.com is a paid solution but also allows you to invoice your clients and track expenses. I use it in my business!

There are many other services and systems that you can use to track your time (just Google ‘time tracking software’ and you’ll see!). No matter which system you decide to go with, be sure that it works for you, and above all … use it! Your business, your client and your bank account will thank you!

If you need help to get your procedures in place, ask your colleagues what works best for them, or consider getting some help with yours.

And of course check out Your VA Mentor's free Time Tracking training session here!