“I want to hire help, but I have no idea how much a virtual assistant should cost me?”
Listen, lovelies: Before we dive into cost talk, let’s get one thing straight.
You absolutely, 100% CAN afford to hire a virtual assistant (VA) for your business.
Even entrepreneurs on shoestring budgets find ways to make it work, and I promise that you can do the same!
But first, there’s a common misconception that outsourcing your business costs money. The truth is exactly the opposite, though.
Outsourcing can actually make you money…
If you do it right.
That doesn’t mean that your new virtual assistant will work for free. It simply means that what you pay her should be easily recouped in added sales and profits.
When you hand over a lot of the day-to-day admin tasks to your assistant, you’ll be able to do more marketing and have more sales conversations, without all that other stuff pulling at you, and that means, you’ll be able to make more money.
Let me share a little story with you:
Back in 2008, I was still managing a lot of my customer support emails, and my assistant kept telling me to let her take care of it. But because email felt like such a personal thing, I was resistant – at least until I did an actual assessment.
I discovered that I was spending about 10 hours a month answering emails, and a lot of the emails that I was replying to were repetitive, general issues like – I can’t access my downloads, what are my account logins, etc. But there were also some emails that made me feel like complete crap for days afterwards because they were from frustrated, upset customers who said mean things in the heat of the moment, and it was very hard for me to respond professionally when it personally stung me so deeply.
Frankly, it was draining – mentally and emotionally, and it really ate away at my creativity and motivation to do what I really wanted to be doing. So I finally turned ALL of my customer support over to my assistant, and when I did that, it felt like a huge weight off. Turns out, she provided better care to my customers than I ever did because she was able to handle it professionally, and without attachment.
Plus, I was able to use the 10 hours a month that I was spending in my customer support desk to create new programs, grow my mailing list, and market my business. It may have cost me an extra $250 a month, but that investment paid for itself over and over and over again! And since that day, I’ve never managed my own customer service because I’m just not the right person for the job.
Now, assuming you’re eager to hire a virtual assistant and curious to know how much you should expect to pay for top-notch support, let’s forge ahead.
I’ve got some important tips to keep in mind as you’re interviewing, and some key mindset shifts to make so you won’t be disappointed after hiring.
How Much Does a Virtual Assistant Cost Tip #1: There’s a Wide Range of VA Pricing
Although many VAs offer a core of services including administrative duties, scheduling, some light accounting, and social media monitoring, a handful have cultivated other skills. Depending on what a particular virtual assistant can do, she may feel comfortable charging more.
Which is why you’ll find a huge range of prices that Virtual Assistants’s charge. For virtual assistants based in North America, you can expect the rates to be anywhere from $15 per hour on the low end and $50 or more per hour on the high end. If you choose to hire overseas, you can expect to pay much less.
I personally do NOT outsource overseas – instead, I hire other women owned businesses in the US. I pay my team anywhere from $30 – $50 per hour depending on what it is they do. And then my writers and designers are paid on a per project basis.
Virtual Assistants just starting off will more than likely have a lower price point than more experienced VA’s. For example, someone just opening their virtual doors may charge $15 per hour. You may even find some newbie VA’s offering as low as $10 an hour just to get experience and some training.
But someone who has been in business for several years will probably be at a higher price point (perhaps $30 per hour). And then there are those who are more tech savvy – this is where you’ll more than likely find the $50 – $75 per hour (or more) rates.
You also have to take into consideration, when it comes to the cost of working with a VA, that not all projects are billed by the hour. You will find that some VA’s have prices per project instead.
An example of this might be a VA who offers social media management services. Instead of charging per hour, they have a set price you pay for the set up (if need be) of social media accounts, finding followers, posting content, etc. Another example might be a VA who specializes in Kindle book formatting and charges per project instead of per hour.
So, as you can see there are a lot of different variables that will affect how much you spend hiring a VA for your business. A good rule of thumb to follow is to set a budget and then work with your VA to get the most bang for your buck.
One last thing that is worth mentioning here, don’t try to cut corners and hire someone just because they charge $15 an hour versus the person who charges $35 per hour because you think you’ll get more for your money.
How Much Does a Virtual Assistant Cost Tip #2: VAs Who Need More Guidance Are Typically Cheaper
The level of management required from you, as the business owner, is another key factor in cost calculation.
Most of us want a savvy VA who can problem-solve and make decisions on her own, but that means she’ll need to have more experience, and likely charge a higher pay rate.
THAT makes an inexpensive rookie VA seem mighty appealing…until you consider the big picture.
Often times, the VAs who charge less will need more hand holding (even some training probably) than a more experienced/higher priced VA.
Many times, they also work slower, so while it may take a high-priced VA one hour to complete a task, a low-price VA may take 3 hours to do the same job. Because of that, it may end up costing you more in the long run to work with a lower priced VA than it would to just spend more up front.
The key is to determine exactly what you need to outsource, and then find the ‘perfect’ fit for your business.
So don’t rule out lower end or higher end price points – talk to them first to get a feel for their skills and their work ethic, etc! Then make your decision.
How Much Does a Virtual Assistant Cost Tip #3: VAs Charge More for Specialized Skills
It’s not just the volume of skills a VA possesses that drives up pricing. Certain coveted skill sets are associated with paying premium prices.
Many VAs can handle essential business tasks like graphic design, copywriting, technical support, even marketing execution, which puts them in high demand.
If you’re a one-woman shop, hiring an assistant who can write your ads AND whip up images for your Insta can streamline the heck out of your workflow!
However, specialty skills cost top-dollar, so don’t expect to pay $15 per hour for someone who knows her way around Photoshop and Illustrator.
How Much Does a Virtual Assistant Cost Tip #4: Cheaper Isn’t Always Better
The bottom line is that VAs are a diverse pool of workers, and they charge an incredibly wide range of hourly rates. In my experience, virtual assistant costs range from $15 per hour to $50 per hour or more depending on experience and skills.
My advice for you?
Rather than hiring on price alone, pay close attention to what your ROI will be over the long term.
Do you want someone who’s cheap but needs a boatload of attention, or will you actually save more by hiring a skilled VA at a higher hourly rate? Your time is valuable, and when you pay contractors to support you it’s crucial to keep that in mind.
How Much Does a Virtual Assistant Cost Tip #5: How to get what you paid for…
Put another way, how will you know you’re not being overcharged?
This is probably the most important point you and your new VA will need to agree on, but the good news is, this is an easy one.
Nearly all virtual assistants use a time tracking software to keep track of where hours are being spent. Of course, if it’s a project that is billed at a flat fee and not charged per hour, there won’t be anything for them to track. But for the sake of this, we’re going to assume all projects are being billed per hour (and more than likely in 15 minute increments as that’s how most VA’s do it).
Most of the time tracking software out there allows the VA to run a report that provides a breakdown of how she spent the hours you purchased. You can ask them to send you a report at the end of each week or at the end of every month, whichever you feel more comfortable with.
Truthfully, most VA’s send out time updates without you having to ask. It’s a standard procedure and it’s probably even mentioned in their contract.
Another option is to ask your VA to keep a daily log. This can be a simple document that you share via Dropbox or other file sharing service, and on it your VA can simply detail the tasks she worked on during the day. You can do this either in addition to or in place of her regular time-tracking software.
How Much Does a Virtual Assistant Cost Tip #6: You need to be in the know about how long your tasks take
It’s helpful if you know before you assign work about how long the job will take. Chances are you’ve done similar work yourself, so you probably have a good idea. After all, you used to post your own blog posts and send your own emails, right?
If you truly have no idea, ask first. Your VA will be able to give you a close estimate about how long any given task should take. She does similar tasks for other clients, so getting a fairly accurate estimate shouldn’t be a problem, just keep in mind that special instructions or odd circumstances can cause an estimate to be off a bit.
For example, if you need a dozen screenshots for your blog post, that’s going to add to her time posting.
It all comes down to trust.
Here’s the truth: You can’t know with 100% certainty what your VA is doing during the time she’s billing you. All you can do is build a good relationship, then you won’t be wondering just how accurate the bill is at the end of the month.
If it takes a while to find a VA who has the right balance of affordability and independence, don’t despair!
Keep looking. There are literally thousands of assistants out there, hungry for work, and if you cast a wide net you’ll find someone who is a perfect fit for YOUR needs and YOUR business.