Ep. 034 Want to Raise Your Hourly Rate? 4 Questions to Ask Yourself
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of today’s pricing episode, I thought it would be great to tell you a little bit about my evolution in pricing my virtual assistant services.
I think that so often, we get really vague advice like “charge your worth!” and “if a client won’t pay your rates, then they’re not your client.” But we rarely hear virtual assistants get real and honest about their rates (especially their hourly rates!) So I want to share my journey, with real numbers, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you know that my virtual assistant journey began with working with some kinda random business owners on the freelancing site Upwork. And I’m embarrassed to say that I was pretty much accepting any hourly rate at that time. I think the lowest hourly rate I worked for was maybe….$11 an hour? Obviously, there’s no way to run a sustainable business at that rate. And while I was able to pretty quickly scale up from that, I would not recommend that any virtual assistant work for such a low hourly rate, even at the very beginning of building their business.
I hear other virtual assistants recommend working for low rates or even for free in order to gain experience, but the thing is, we all have experience already, even if it’s not specifically online as a virtual assistant. Like Peggy Re James told Support Squad Members in her exclusive training last month, just because you’re new to being a virtual assistant does mean that you’re new in terms of business and work experience. You have so much to draw from, so keep that in mind.
So pretty quickly into my virtual assistant journey, I settled into the comfy, safe rate of $25 an hour. And this felt pretty good to me for a little while! It was affordable for my clients, it allowed me to run a sustainable business, and confidence-wise, it definitely felt better than $11 an hour.
Then over the next 6 months or so, I started to become more niched in my business to the point where I was a high-level executive assistant for soulful entrepreneurs, helping them to build systems in their business that allowed them to bring in more income and reach more people. With this more specialized approach in my business, I eventually landed at a rate of $40 an hour. And this is where I set my hourly rate today with my retainer clients.
And over time, I’ve noticed that there are really 4 main points to consider when determining an hourly rate. And I’m going to break them all down for you right now.
# 1 - How Sparkly is My Client Experience?
I can’t stress enough the importance of the client experience! Creating a streamlined, personalized, beautiful customer experience will attract clients that are more than willing to pay a higher rate.
Think of it like this - Say you want to go on vacation and are checking out hotels, reading reviews, and doing cost comparisons.
One hotel costs $99/night, is close to everything you want to check out, has the amenities you need, but when you read the reviews people are saying things like “Horrible experience, chaotic check-in, bad communication” or “Decent hotel, but terrible management.”
Then you find another hotel that costs $159/night, has a similiar location and amenities, but the reviews say things like “Wonderful experience, excellent service” or “Friendly and welcoming staff, seamless check-in process”.
I don’t know about you, but I would be more than willing to pay the extra money if it means having a stress-free, pleasurable experience at the second hotel. Even though the amenities are about the same, the experience is really what makes the difference.
And clients who are wanting to hire a virtual assistant to make their lives easier, will definitely pay a higher rate for a virtual assistant that provides an amazing client experience.
So how do you ensure a great client experience?
First off, you need to map out, on paper or in a project management tool like Trello or Asana, the entire experience from booking the discovery call to off-boarding the client. Throughout every step of the process, think of ways that you can make the experience easier or enjoyable for your client.
Is it easy for them to schedule a discovery call using a tool like Calendly or Acuity? Do they have all of your pricing information before the discovery call? What happens when they decide to hire you? Is it easy for them to find and pay their invoice? Are the channels of communication clear?
There are so many ways to throw a little bit of sparkle on your client experience, and each little bit of sparkle makes your services that much more valuable to your ideal client.
If you’re scared to raise your hourly rate, think of how you can improve your client experience and find little things you can implement throughout the process!
(And if you want to learn the ins and outs of creating a beautiful client experience, including how to automate most of it, you’ll love Amanda Pruden’s Training “The Client Experience” in The Support Squad Membership Community. Click here to check out a preview.)
# 2 - How Much Technical Skill or Training is Required to Complete the Tasks?
If you have a skill that is very technical or requires a ton of extra training to master, you can charge top dollar for your hourly rates.
For example, if you took an extensive course to master the art of creating Facebook Ads, that service is going to be a lot more valuable than something that most people can do, like inbox management.
This is why I think it’s well worth it to invest in continued education and training. If you want to drastically increase your rates, take some time to research skills that are in-demand in your niche. If you work with coaches that create a lot of video, learning complex editing skills could come in handy. Or if you work with photographers, learning the ins and outs of photo-editing in Photoshop or Lightroom might be an in-demand skill.
Think about how you can take one of your more generalized services and focus it in a little more. How can you refine it so that it’s more valuable?
I’ll also note here that you really don’t need to have a ton of fancy skills to be a virtual assistant. If you’re not interested in learning an in-depth technical service, pay attention to the other 3 points I talk about in this episode, and see where you can expand in other areas.
#3 How Refined is My Niche?
As I mentioned, I was able to drastically increase my rates after I refined my niche as a virtual executive assistant for soulful female entrepreneurs.
I believe there were a couple of reasons for this:
Because I was presenting myself as an expert, I was attracting clients that were at a certain level in their business, bringing in over $10,000 per month. Their businesses were already successful, so they were looking for someone to help take them to the next level. They saw my rate as an investment in their business.
I personally felt more confident when I had more focus in my business. Rather than throwing things out into cyberspace and seeing if they would stick, I could become much more strategic in my marketing. Once I had a more clear vision for my business, I had no problem asking for a higher rate.
So as I always say, yes, it is possible to have a virtual assistant business without a niche. But your income potential and your overall satisfaction will definitely increase when you find your area of expertise.
#4 - Can I Provide Proof of Incredible Results?
Want to charge an AMAZING hourly rate? Prove that you can give AMAZING results.
There are a few ways you can do this:
With social proof - Ask your former clients to write you an in-depth testimonial. To make sure it dives deep and provides lots of evidence for future clients, you could come up with a quick questionnaire in Google Forms to send to them.
A portfolio - Having a portfolio of your highest quality work will prove to potential clients what you’re capable of! You can create a portfolio page on your website or make a pdf in Canva. Just make sure that you are showing off your absolute best work. Quality is better than quantity here!
Case studies - If you are a social media manager, take screenshots of your clients’ engagement rate! If you are a Pinterest manager, keep records of your clients’ link clinks. If you provide email marketing services, track your clients’ open rates! If you can show your success with past clients, potential clients will gladly pay a premium hourly rate, because they’ll already have that trust and be excited to see the results that you can show them!
You will notice as you ask yourself these 4 questions that there are probably pieces of your business that you can definitely uplevel in order to justify a serious increase in your rates. The beautiful thing about being a virtual assistant is that there is so much room to increase your income. And by continuing to improve your skills and your customer service, you will not only begin to attract clients that will be happy to pay your rates, you will also be falling deeper and deeper in love with your business. And that, my friends, is priceless. If you want to ask any questions about this week’s episode, make sure to join us in our private Facebook group, The Support Squad Hangout.
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