How to Become a Virtual Assistant

Charges for Virtual Assistant work

Detailed help for Virtual Assistants and Small Businesses

Your local Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise Agency, Business Link or regional 'business start-up' centre will help you to work out how much you should be charging to make a living from your VA practice. You need to know how much you need to earn and plan on that basis. Being the cheapest means you will probably have the shortest business lifespan. They may also be able to help with all sorts of accounting details and they may even offer courses or support for the first 6 to 12 months.

The charges for your Virtual Assistant services should vary, depending on your clients requirements.

Because of the variety of work undertaken, and the length of time you will partner with individual clients, each support contract should be priced on a individual basis. Tasks like word processing, may be priced at a base rate and then increase for more complex tasks such as database management and complex group transcription. I will own up and say I never did do monthly 'agreed  hours' contracts. There are various tax rules in the UK that you have to comply with to prove that each and every client you work with is indeed a client and not an employer. To this end I decided that I would work for each client on an individual contracts basis, this was probably overkill, but I preferred it that way.

Booking forms

It is really important that you issue a booking form for each client and each major job. You should detail the work and make sure the client signs it and returns it to you. You should also get a payment in advance which is detailed in the booking form. Working this way will save you a lot of grief. I have spent hours working with clients sorting out a job only to have them baulk at the thought of an advanced payment. If you cannot get an advanced payment, you could have real trouble getting paid at the end of the job so it is best to know before you start.

Make sure that the job specification does not change to a higher level job part way through but you are expected to complete the job at a base rate. Each change should be detailed and agreed with the client. I was once asked to do something by a client that was not in the booking form and was going to be very expensive. I wrote an e-mail asking for confirmation, I got it from a secretary but insisted that the client agreed to the extra work in writing. I did the work and then the client was horrified to find the extra work on the invoice. If I had not had the agreement in writing I would have been greatly out of pocket.

Discounts - a good idea?

Discounts seem to be a great idea when you are starting out but they are a disaster waiting to happen. You have set overheads, your hardware, software, electricity, phone etc etc etc. These have to be paid regardless of your rate. If you give a 25% discount for the first item of work from a new client you actually need to get 50% more work just to break even. It is very hard to increase your workload by 10% when you are starting out and the more discounts you give the less likely it is that your VA practice will succeed as there are only so many hours in the day and you can only earn so much before the time runs out.

Accepting Payment

There are various methods of accepting payment. Cheque, bank transfer, credit cards and on-line payment systems such as PayPal. If you need to do an urgent job for a new client and you do not have a Merchant account, PayPal is ideal as you can have the money in your account in minutes and then do the work knowing you have been paid (you may wish to increase your charges by 4% as this is what you lose when you receive money via PayPal - if the work is urgent the client is far more likely to agree). Methods of payment should also be included in the booking form as you will have to pay any bank charges if the wrong method is chosen or another currency is used.

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