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Setting rates is always something people struggle with. It’s hard to know what to charge, especially when you’re just starting out. But even experienced businesses can struggle with pricing.
What is the value of the services on offer?
What can the market bear?
How do I know if it’s my price that’s too high, or if it’s that my marketing is off?
What do I do when someone wants to negotiate a different price?
When pricing is one of the top reasons clients decide not to work with Virtual Assistants, it’s enough to make even the boldest VA nervous, even me.
Before we talk about negotiating, let’s talk about your rate. Now, you may have heard that you should “charge what you’re worth!” Or “charge what the work is worth!” If you see a seasoned Virtual Assistant charging $65 dollars an hour, that must be what the work is worth, right?
No. No it isn’t.
When calculating your rate you need to take into account the knowledge, experience, and skill you bring to the table in addition to the value of the work itself.
For instance, if you’re just starting out as a VA, have no experience working for your ideal client but do have experience using many of the tools your ideal client uses, you can charge more than someone who’s just starting out and doesn’t have experience using the tools.
In addition to your knowledge, skill, and experience with the work the client is hiring you to do you should also take into account complementary/transferable knowledge, skill, and experience.
Let’s say you have two VA’s (We’ll call them Bob and June).
Bob and June are both just starting out and haven’t done a lot in terms of virtual assistant work yet, but they do know how to load an email into ConvertKit, check that the links and tags work, and schedule it for delivery.
On top of that, June also knows how to set up automations inside ConvertKit, understands launch strategy, and knows how to use Zapier to integrate tools that would otherwise not talk to each other.
Who delivers more value?
Assuming both are hired to do essentially the same thing—load an email into ConvertKit—June can charge a higher rate because they have skills that Bob doesn’t have yet.
Of course, the client will ultimately decide which VA is best suited for the job at hand, so it’s up to each VA to explain why they are the best fit.
Be honest, and realistic with your potential client. If you’re just starting out and don’t have the experience or skills developed yet, you might find it more difficult to sign clients at $40 per hour. However, you can definitely work up to that as you gain more experience and find more demand for your work.
My Virtual Assistant mentees will tell you that I’m not a big fan of negotiating your rate.
If you’re charging a rate that matches the value of the work, knowledge, and skills you’re providing, there’s no reason to negotiate if a client asks for a lower rate.
And, although I can’ stop you, I never recommend you work for free.
When you find yourself in a position where someone is asking to negotiate your price I suggest you hold firm and go over the benefits they’ll get from working with you. You want to communicate the value of what you’re offering so they can get a clear understanding of the potential ROI.
If you’re teetering on the brink of dropping your rate or potentially working for free, try trimming the frills first.
‘What frills’ you ask?
Why, all the frills you highlighted when you were explaining your services, for surely you didn’t simply say, “I’ll do anything you want for $30 and hour.”
For instance, if your proposal said that you’d proofread, load, test, and send their emails, you might trim off the proofreading bit and explain they’ll need to provide final copy. You might go a step further and say that you’ll do their regular weekly newsletters, and that promotional or “launch” emails could be added on a la carte.
If you’ve decided to do work pro bono for “the experience”, first off—I beg you to reconsider—but if you’re determined to do it, don’t just ask for one testimonial.
Make it worth your while. Get the testimonial and ask for a shout out in your client’s email newsletter or social media, and ask for a referral.
Again, not a fan of working for “the exposure”, even if you think you have zero skills and zero experience, the work you do for yourself counts. Whether you’re setting up automations in ConvertKit or designing your website or writing your own blogs, it’s proof that you can do the services you want to sell.
About three years into business, I found myself sending a proposal to an online famous copywriter who I was dying to work with.
It was the biggest initial proposal I’d ever sent and I was nervous as all heck to see what she’d say.
What she said was, “So the most expensive VAs I’ve talked to are 30/hour. I’m not normally a haggler, and I know you’re better than a regular VA, but I’m having trouble swallowing your hourly price for my small business. Is there any way you can modify it?”
My heart sank. I immediately thought, “She’s right. Who am I to charge $95 an hour? Maybe I should reduce my rate.”
After looking at the notes from our discovery call, I re-examined my proposal.
Did I misunderstand what she needed? Was there anything I could cut? Did I calculate my estimates properly?
The proposal was fine.
Maybe I should give her an introductory rate and go from there? Having her as a client could only help with finding more clients down the road.
Then I reminded myself of all the things I’d accomplished and helped my clients accomplish. The value of my work, experience, skills, and results matched my proposal.
So I sent a brief, but thorough, response about why I believed the package was right for her. I ended it with, “It would be a dream to work with you Laura, and I think I could really rock your world (so to speak), but I don’t think I can change my rate.
I 100% understand if you decide to go with someone else. No hard feelings at all. (although I hope you don’t. 😊)
All the best and lots of love to you no matter which way you decide to go.”
I had to wait the longest 32 hours of my life, but she said YES. “Not only did you convince me, but I like the way you convinced me. Good persuasion. Let’s do it.”
Four years (and roughly 35 launches) later we’re still going strong. I’ve helped her put out three new courses, and a high ticket group program, plus helped her break the million a year mark.
While I’m not a fan of discounting or negotiating your price, you may feel that it’s right for your business. That’s totally fine. After a couple of years in business, I had the opportunity to work for a start-up that I was really excited about and just wanted to be a part of, so I did offer them a discounted rate. I also have a lower rate for nonprofit organizations. But in the first year of business, when I had to make money to grow my business, I absolutely did not work for a discount or for free.
I encourage you to stand up for yourself. If you know that your rate is right, that you’re not being dishonest with yourself or your client, that you’re the right fit for the client, and you’re going to give them the thing they need in order to achieve the goal they stated in your discovery call, it’s actually a HUGE service to tell them that and stick to it. And when you know that you’re doing them the service of sticking to what they need, you’ll be okay with whatever comes after.
If you want a personalized fast track to growing your virtual assistant business, let’s talk. Your mentorship is 100% customized and designed to help you scale your new Virtual Assistant business to $50/hr and beyond.
We’ll cover things like:
→ Essential foundations so scaling your business is smooth and sustainable
→ Filling your calendar with dream clients
→ Setting boundaries to avoid burnout
→ Crafting offers that provide overwhelming relief
→ Creating a stellar customer service experience – because that’s what being an #EpicVA is all about!
→ Getting past imposter syndrome to genuinely and joyfully market your business
→ Growing your profitability with a network, metrics, and more
Get in touch to book a chat to see if an Epic VA mentorship is right for your Virtual Assistant business!
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