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!