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How to charge a client

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So, I think I might have just gotten my first client. He showed interest but I am not sure how to charge him. Also, would it be wise for me to type up a contract for him to sign? I'm excited and nervous at the same time because this is my first potential client so any feedback would help.





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Congrats! Ok, there are a few ways you can charge your client

1. Hourly - Pay as you go - It is perhaps the most common pricing method for service based businesses. The only problem with hourly pricing is that you are limited by the number of available billable hours in a day. It also does not account for the speed you have developed over time and as a result of this you must increase your hourly rate to account for expertise and experience.

2. Retainers - Retainer pricing is based off your hourly pricing. Most people that have retainer pricing provide a discount as an enticement for people to “sign up” for more hours.

For example your hourly price may be $40 and you may set up retainers as follows:

A – 5 hours – 5% discount $190.00

B – 10 hours – 10% discount $360.00

C – 25 hours – 15% discount $850.00
You get the idea. If you determine you will provide retainer pricing there are a few things to consider. How quickly must the retainers be used? Do the hours expire? Will you provide a refund? Must retainers be paid in advance? Do extra hours revert to old rate or does this guarantee the new rate?
Here's an example of mine...click here
3. Packages - This pricing determination is based on services rather than time. Keep in mind that when you tell someone your price they are thinking like this …

“It takes me 10 hours per month which is $400 per month – I can’t afford that”. They do not realize that these same tasks would take you only 5 hours to complete.

When providing package pricing you simply provide a list of products you will provide within that package and the price it will cost. You determine this price by estimating the time to complete these services each month and multiplying it by your hourly rate.

An example of package pricing might look like this:

Article writing - $XX per article

Monthly social marketing package - $XXX per month

- includes 12 blog entries
- includes 3 daily tweets
- maintenance of Facebook page

Even though these packages are based on how long you think it will take to do these services and is still based on your hourly price, your client simply sees the bottom line and what they will get for those services. The client is not left guessing how many hours they may need – they simply know what services they want and how much it will cost. It is great for them for budgeting purposes. It also allows you to make more money as you develop speed without having to increase your package pricing.

Keep in mind that as you learn your client’s business and their needs you will undoubtedly get faster. Hourly pricing does not allow you to benefit from this … package pricing does.

On your website tell your potential client that you can customize a package to fit their needs and their budget.

4. Project (one time) - So often on the forums I see the question “I have a potential client that needs me to do xyz, has anyone ever priced something like this?”

Some examples of things you might find a request for project based pricing include one-time customer projects, mass mailings, calling projects, database entry, etc..

Project pricing works similarly to package pricing. In essence the client is simply looking to be able to budget how much a particular project will cost.

Next time you are asked to provide a project price, here are two quick and simple ways to determine the price:

- Industry Standards – research what the industry standards are. For example transcriptions are based on a 1:4 or 1:6 ratio. You can usually do 100 letters of a mass mailing per hour including addressing and stuffing. These standards are available if you do the research.

- The “test” … take a small sample of the project and then multiply your results

The biggest problem with project pricing is that until you become familiar with how long something actually takes it can be hard to come up with a fair price. Many VAs tend to underestimate the amount of time something takes, especially when it is something they enjoy doing. If I was to ask you how long it would take to type 40 handwritten pages what would your answer be? For each person the answer is different. For this reason you can see why project pricing can be very difficult.

Don’t be afraid to overquote a project if you are asked to quote a project. I will often say that I will set a $300.00 budget for the project and track my time. I let the client know that I will track my time and charge them my hourly rate but not go over the set budget of $300.

Project pricing is a great way again to allow yourself to be paid for your speed and expertise. As with package pricing, the client is simply looking at the total cost the project will be and whether they think that is a feasible amount to pay to outsource the project.

Keep in mind, as I have stated, that hours to complete a project are subjective … often times those that are not in our industry haven’t a clue how long something will take. If, for example, you were to have someone build a house for you and they said they charge $100 per hour including costs … what on earth would this mean to you? Do you know how many hours it would take them? Probably not.


Hope that helps!


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This has really helped me a lot. Thank you so much. I think I might go with the retainer pricing option. It seems a bit more likely to reel the clients in.

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As others have said, Tawnya did a great job with breaking down the options. To add - or emphasize - make sure you get a deposit if you're doing anything other than retainer. Have the client put down some money (I usually base it off about 2-3 hours' at your base rate, or $250 - nothing smaller than $250). Then, the client can work off that amount.


You need to get paid something first - as it solidifies trust between the two of you. My opinion, anyway. :)


Good luck!

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Agreed! Forgot to add that I always get payments (or good portions of payments) up front. If you are doing a project that is big you can break it up into different milestones and once each is achieved they have to pay for the next one ahead of time.

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This is awesome. Thank you. Quick question - which of these is most popular among VA's?


Hourly rate retainers seems to be the most popular but more and more VAs are offering Package Pricing as it tells the clients exactly what they are getting for their investment


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