I spend quite a bit of time pondering VA rates, both from the perspective of a client and the virtual assistant him/herself. I was reading a blog written by someone looking to partner with a VA – which is great – however, the first comment was one that made mention of how overpriced VAs are. I hate reading statements like that because it makes anyone who reads it and is unfamiliar with the VA industry question the value of VAs.

A couple of months ago, I was on the phone with a potential client who came around to the rate question and when I responded with a figure, I was told that my rate sounded fair and that he refused to work with VAs who charged too little.

Things didn’t work out with that client for different reasons, but that’s the right attitude to have. (I hope that both VAs and clients of VAs really think about this!)

Still think you would rather work with the cheapest VA you can find?

There are a couple of things you should think about. First of all, a little disclaimer: I’m not in any way-shape-or-form saying that less expensive VAs turn out a lower quality of work, and if you need a one-off project completed, by all means, go for the lowest bidder.

But here’s where you have to be careful. Pretend for a moment that you found a wonderful VA to help you out with a couple of small projects. She charges $30 less per hour than the industry average and you are feeling very good about your investment. You’re getting such a good deal that you decide to enter into a retainer agreement with her, and your rate gets even lower! Good deal for you! Right? Well…

You are loving this arrangement. She’s at your every beck and call, she’s efficient, she’s learning all about your business. You increase her hours – you’re making more money with her help! This is working! You are becoming dependent on this VA. You have evenings and weekends free while she works hard to keep you on top of everything. What would you do without her?

Meanwhile, your VA realizes that she’s charging too little. She’s very busy with your projects, in fact, she’s busy enough that she decides to raise her rates for new clients since she doesn’t really need that much more work. Then she gets a project at that higher rate and it feels good to get paid closer to what other VAs make. So, she decides to market a bit more so she can get more projects at her new rate, and they start coming to her.

The new rate she’s charging is closer to what she’s worth, and she’s attracting clients who will pay that rate.

How long do you think your perfect VA can stay with you without a rate increase when her other clients pay twice as much as you’re paying?

Or…if she never raises her rate and is booked solid on that lower rate, how long will she be able to afford to stay in business? Probably until her taxes are due and she realizes how expensive and time consuming it is to operate a business and she doesn’t have enough hours in a day to make what she has to at that rate.

Partnering with the lowest bidder is absolutely your decision of course, but it’s not without its risks and I hope you think about that when you decide to start working with a VA.

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