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Charging What You’re Worth and Getting It

picture saying money

There have been many discussions lately on Facebook discussion groups about low pay for Virtual Assistants. Many VAs wonder how they can compete with VAs in other countries who charge 1 to 2 dollars an hour, or writers who charge 1 dollar a page, or web designers who build entire eCommerce websites for 500 bucks. Well, here is my answer. Fasten your seat belt.

Choose Your Audience

The first thing you should do when you start your VA business is choose an audience and then get to know them. Know what they care about, know what they’re willing to pay for good services, and create services that appeal to them. Do not choose an audience that will even want to pay those types of low fees. The people who want to pay those low fees aren’t in your audience. Period. Therefore, you can forget about them and focus instead on your audience.

Hint: Your audience may not be only on the Internet.

Once you know who your audience is, go where they are. Go to live events, go to online events, beat the street in your local community — be where they are. Let them get to know you and what you do. Whatever you say you do, do it. For you. Do it so much that no one can ignore the fact that this is what you’re good at doing. Spending time with colleagues can be nice, but you’re going to be more likely to get clients when you surround yourself with your ideal clients. If you’re confused about all this ideal audience stuff find a mentor who can help you, or take a course that will teach you what to do.

Don’t Give Yourself Away

I know you hear a lot about giving things away for free. I do it. I tell people to find something to give away free to build their email list. But, you don’t give away your time free. Give away something that you can give away over and over again that doesn’t take more time after you’ve created it the first time such as a checklist. But, don’t give away your time free to get references or referrals. It won’t work.

I’ve been doing this for 20 years now, and let me tell you, when I’ve charged what I want to charge, what I know I’m worth, that client sticks around a lot longer than the freebie or cheapie seeker. That’s not to say I won’t have sales, or do something fun on occasion to build up my email list, or work with someone at a reduced rate that I really love and want to work with, but I don’t give away my time for free and you shouldn’t either. I don’t care which guru tells you this is a good idea. Do not do it.

Do Unto Others

Yes, I’m going there. I know for a fact there are VAs or “Want to be” VAs who have no problem hiring others and paying low rates to them. They will go on and hire someone to do something for five bucks then get on a message board and complain that people want to hire them for five bucks. If you want to command higher rates, pay higher rates when you outsource too. Pay what you think the job is really worth  based on the criteria you set that makes you feel good about it. If you and a friend want to work out some subcontracting rates, or other special deals that are lower than the rates you charge a client directly, that’s fine —  but don’t undervalue yourself or them. If you feel resentful about any particular job, it’s time to resign kindly after trying to raise your rates. But, remember how it feels and don’t do it to others.

Let me say something about people who want to pay low rates for a moment. Not all of them are bad people. Business is not personal. Business is business and is about dollars. Just repeat to yourself: Not My Ideal Client and move on. The client who wants to pay super low rates just isn’t for you. That’s okay. It doesn’t make them bad, although I do think there are some mills out there that do take advantage of people.

I once talked to a local potential client who contacted me. He wanted me to come to his office. I was curious so I did. He’s a big Internet Marketer so I was super curious, I won’t lie. I went to his office and he spent 30 minutes bragging about and showing me pictures of the million dollar house he was building. A million dollar house in Alabama is pretty huge, let me tell you. Then he made his offer to me.

“I like what you’re doing, and what I hear about you. I have a great offer for you. (the rest is paraphrased) I want you to come to this office Monday through Friday and work 8 to 10 hours a day for 10 dollars an hour.

First, let me say that at the time I was still in the mindset that I might want a “real” job with benefits and security. (that makes me laugh so hard now) So I was actually willing to entertain working in an office. But not for 10 dollars an hour. I told him I can’t get out of bed and get dressed for less than 45 an hour, plus since he wanted me to essentially do all the work, research, and everything involved with creating his information products I wanted 10 percent of profits.

He almost fell out of his chair.

I laughed.

We just looked at each other. I waited for him to say something.

Finally he said. “I have a woman in Texas who works from home for five bucks an hour, why would I pay you that much?”

I said, “Thanks for the conversation about your house, and for such an amazing offer to do all the work with none of the benefits, but it’s not for me.”

I shook his hand and left as he stood there slack-jawed.

He called me a month later and offered me 5 percent and 15 an hour. I said no. He called another month later and offered me 22 an hour and the 10 percent I wanted. I still said no. He had already shown me that he’s not my ideal client. I wouldn’t work for him for any  amount of money now.

When you’re good at what you do, you can walk away and turn down things. In fact, if you don’t turn down something that is wrong for you, you’ll close the door on what is out there that is for you.

Build a Real Website

Stop thinking you can get by with a Blogger account or account. Build a real website. I don’t really care if it’s from a builder like or, (although it’s better to get self-hosted WordPress and it’s not as hard or scary as you think, at least try it) but upgrade and pay for it and don’t use the free version.

If you expect people to pay you a premium rate, your business needs to look like a premium business. Build a real website, pay for the upgraded version so that it has a real domain name, and promote yourself in a way that is not taking advantage of a bunch of free things in a way that makes you look like a hypocrite.

If you’re not good at building websites and following directions on how to build one, use an amazing theme (which is honestly just like using a builder if you read the directions) or pay someone to do it for you. But, I promise, if you want to be a VA you will do yourself a favor by getting over your fears and just trying it. Learning to build a website, especially right now in WordPress (a very sought out skill) will be a great thing for you to do. It’s not that hard either. You can learn to build a WordPress website using Angela Will’s courses. You can even learn it and teach it to others if you want to.

In the beginning, I had no clue how to build a website. Back in the day (in the mid 90’s) it was harder to build a website. I had to figure out how to do it though. I barely knew how to turn on the computer. But, I taught myself how to do a basic HTML website, then I started building them for local business owners. Then I finally learned how to use Front Page and another program I think it was called Corel Draw or something. But, the thing is, I learned. I spent hours and hours doing it. You can too, and I promise, it’s way easier now.

Treat Your Business as a Business Not a Hobby

So many people come to me and say they want to work from home and do what I do. I’ve even heard the words, “I can just do what you do” as if what I do is so simple and easy that just anyone can do it. Sorry. No. Not anyone can do it because not anyone will do it. You have to hustle to get clients, you have to follow up with what you said you’d do, and you have to deliver outstanding service to your clients. If you say you can work 20 billable hours a week, and you’re not full of clients, guess what — you are your client. Get to work.

Get a real business license if it’s required in your area of the world. Get a bank account, set up everything legitimately for a business. Set aside an office space. Do the work necessary to be a real business. Not just for yourself but for the people you want to work with. They need to see that you take yourself as seriously as you want them to take you. Work is not just going to flow into your lap even when you do these things, but you’re going to have more chance to make it than if you don’t do this.

You Can Make a Really Great Living as a Virtual Assistant

You can make a good living as a virtual assistant despite the so-called gurus out there promoting 2 dollar an hour outsourcing. I can tell you for sure that even if you go to one of their webinars, they will not actually promote 2 dollar an hour outsourcing. It’ll be more like five bucks an hour and even 10 bucks an hour which is also cheap. What’s worse is that they will sell you their course they just admitted cost them 35 dollars to create, that is not high quality for several hundred dollars too. But, most of the time the people who try it will find out that the work is not up to par, and is not what they wanted.

If you want to make a real living at it be realistic. There are only so many hours in the day. You’re not going to make six figures working for free or charging 10 dollars an hour. In fact, if you want to make six figures, 100K a year, you’ll need to make about 150K a year. Then, you’ll also need to work about 30 hours a week, billable hours — those are hours you can charge to a client — for about 105 dollars per hour. Now, think of that for a moment and let it sink in.

But, yes it can be done, but you’re going to have to think outside the hourly box, and outside of what you thought a VA did and what you thought you’d do. Again, you’ll find your ideal client and do what they need, exceptionally well so that you can easily command that amount or more. (Look into “package rates” too.)

What Goes Around Comes Around

I know it’s happened to you before. You saw a really good “deal” via Groupon being advertised on Facebook. Maybe some leggings for 10 bucks, or a ring for 5 bucks. You couldn’t help it and bought it only to find out it’s junk. They know it’s junk, but they also know statistically you’re unlikely to return it. Now, don’t get your panties in a wad if you happen to be one that is charging these super low rates. You have to understand that if you’re in a third world country working for a service, you are also getting scammed. If you are highly skilled and capable, get out from under the service and go out on your own. Like Vivian in Pretty Woman said, “I say who, I say when, I say how, I say what, and I say how much.” I don’t think that’s the actual line, but you get the picture.

I had a discovery call recently from a person who had outsourced some work that I charge a minimum of 100 dollars for, for five bucks to a Fiverr person. In their opinion they were “scammed”. However, they then tried again with someone else who was cheap, and then started working with the person off the system for even more money, and ended up spending a couple of hundred of dollars trying to save money because the work was not done correctly and there was no way for her to really talk to the person.

That’s what was said anyway. I have no idea what really happened.

The point is, that’s why they came to me, even though I was a known person to them prior to that moment, but my fees are higher. I did not take the job.  They weren’t my ideal client.But for them it ended up costing more to fix the issue than it would have to just have me do it from the start.Their loss.

Your job as a high quality Virtual Assistant (or whatever you want to call yourself) is to make your ideal audience notice you and realize that they need you. That you provide skill, value, and personal service that they’re missing. Differentiate yourself from everyone else. Charge your fee with pride, knowing you deserve it. I know I deserve every single penny I charge. I don’t flinch when I tell people what my fees are. You shouldn’t either. When your client doesn’t flinch either, then you know they’re the right client for you.


Q & A: Do I have to pay taxes?


Once again as the end of the year draws near I am seeing questions regarding taxes. One time I tried to offer via Tax Mama a course so that Virtual Assistants could learn about taxes but there were no takers. It’s disturbing to me each year to get questions related to taxes that go something like this:


I finally  made over 600 dollars per client. I guess I have to file taxes now, what do I do?”


I’m going to be serious here, this drives me batty.

When you start a business you need to set up bookkeeping, and if you don’t know how to do it, get a book and learn how to do it.

I highly recommend Tax Mama’s book: Small Business Taxes Made Easy, Second Edition — There are others out there, I don’t care which one you get, but get one. Follow it. Do it. Don’t make it harder than it is, and certainly don’t listen to idiots who proclaim this crazy 600 dollar line above. It’s not true.

There are also really great bookkeeping systems you can use if your business is small like Go Daddy Bookkeeping, or you can get an all-in-one app like I’m not even an affiliate of either one of these, and I’m telling you to get a bookkeeping program right now, don’t delay. Keep track of what comes into your business (income) and what goes out of your business (expenses). It’s that easy.

There is nothing tricky about it. I use Go Daddy Bookkeeping because I have a very small business and have since it started as Outright for years now.  Before that, I used a spreadsheet that I made myself. You can also use a program like QuickBooks Pro 2014 [Download] if you want to. It’s a little more complicated for the non bookkeeping types, but if you have a larger business than mine you might need it. Plus, if you hire a CPA and / or a bookkeeper they will usually help you with this.

If you keep track, save receipts, and use a bookkeeping software program, or a spreadsheet that you make yourself using Excel — you’ll take maybe five to 10 minutes to do your taxes each year. There will also be no stress worrying about it. You’ll also be aware of whether or not you need to send in quarterly tax payments. Go Daddy Bookkeeping actually tells you what you should pay quarterly, if you get the upgraded version. It really could not be easier. Don’t trip yourself up in your business over something like this.

Here’s the part that makes me crazy —

Even if you did not have to pay taxes, it’s important to keep track of your income and expenses so that you can determine if your actions are profitable or not.

I would go nuts not having a clue if I was making money or not. Even if I didn’t plan on paying taxes, which is highly inadvisable, I would keep track of what’s going in and out of my business just out of curiosity of whether or not my efforts were worth it or not. I like to see whether each project I am involved in is paying off too. With programs available today to help you, there is no real good excuse not to do it.

If you’re currently running your business without a bookkeeping plan of some sort, and without any knowledge whatsoever about what you’re doing —  please, please promise me that you will get a book, learn to do it yourself, or hire a bookkeeper and a CPA to help you. It would be shameful if you started and ran a successful business that was closed due to nonpayment of taxes. Your bookkeeping program, and your bookkeeper and CPA are tax deductible business expenses. There is no reason not to take your business seriously in this way.

How To Deal With “The Comments”

Whether you are a virtual assistant, a writer or any other type of wahm (or wah dad), you have heard the occasional “comment”. You know the ones. We’ve all heard them.

“Can you do fill-in-the-blank for me because you’re at home and I have to work?”

“It must be nice to be home all day with your kids.”

“How is that little internet thing going.”

“You just play around online all day.”

Sometimes, it goes in one ear and out the other. Sometimes, it gets under our skin. The problem is that people like that are just never going to get it. With friends and family, you can just politely change the subject instead of trying to explain what it is that you do all day for the millionth time. With strangers, you can think up some witty reply.

Maybe “I can’t do fill-in-the-blank because it will interfere with my nap” or, how about the popular, “I invented the internet. It’s going pretty good.”

Sarcasm aside. The problem can be either avoided completely or nipped in the bud before you go postal in your own living room. But, what do you do if a client has that perspective?

Unfortunately, I had this happen to me recently. A friend, former co-worker and potential new freelance client said, “I thought you would be so much less expensive per hour because you work at your own convenience. I mean, you don’t have to come in to an office so it should be cheap”. Hmmm.  Really? This is what you think? Now, I should tell you that I worked for him 10 years ago and he still tells his current office staff on a weekly basis, “Lisa would have done it this way” (which they must hate). He thinks that I am “the BEST web/internet/all around amazing person in the world” – and that’s a quote. Yet, he somehow thinks that I would work for HALF of what I did a decade ago – just because I am at home! I am no mathematician but that just doesn’t add up.

I think I typed out seventeen email responses (some very … er, impolite) before I decided on what to say. Here was my response:

“I work away from home until 2pm most days and then from 9pm until the wee hours of the morning. I don’t know if I would call that convenience – LOL! I sure prefer sleep. I work just as hard virtually as I would in the office. Probably harder because there aren’t any interruptions. No emergency phone calls, no one stopping by with coffee to chat…”

Obviously, that’s not the most professional response, due to the fact that we are personal friends as well, but the point is, stand up for yourself.  Do not let anyone, friend or foe, talk down to you or assume you work for cheap. Jot down a few responses to the “comments” and keep them in a word doc so that you can quickly refer to them during a Skype call. Knowing your answers in advance can help you respond with confidence and without skipping a beat.

Do you really want to be a Virtual Assistant?

Lately I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Moms and women who claim to want to be a virtual assistant, bidding On leaving the park
really low on projects, winning them, and then not performing the tasks they bid to complete — leaving clients in the lurch. These “virtual assistants” have many excuses for not doing what they said they’d do such as:

“My child was sick.” “I was sick” “My husband came home early” and so on.  Well I have some advice for you:

Stop it!

You’re giving virtual assistants a bad name and making clients afraid to hire people because you don’t live up to your hype.

Due having this site and my business I get a lot of requests from new people who claim to want to be virtual assistants for a chance, and since I outsource I’m all about giving someone a chance to prove themselves or get experience under their belt, but when you’re given a deadline, outside of a tornado or other natural disaster you should be on time with your deadline 99 percent of the time. AND THEN, if you’re going to be late, at the VERY LEAST you should warn the person you’re working with that you’re going to be late.

I have a hint for those of you who do this regularly. I am not going to hire you. In addition, I WILL WARN others not to work with you too! I realize we all have issues that happen and I’m very reasonable, but if 3 times out of 4 you’re late or have an excuse about being late, I’m not going to give you more work to do.

Being a virtual assistant is a business.

No one is perfect (I was recently late on two assignments with two separate clients myself). One was completely my fault for not being properly prepared in case of no electricity and a tornado struck, (twice) and the other was also my fault but due to hiring a Writer who had emailed me and begged for work, claiming to really need it to buy FOOD.  This person had been late with almost every assignment I’d given her but she promised me that she would not do that again. I had a weird feeling, but I felt for her. I remember what it’s like not to have money for food.

Well, having more work than one person can handle I gave her some of the work. Not only did she not turn it in on time, she didn’t email me to inform me, until it was due. This caused me to have to work almost 24 hours without sleep to get that assignment done, as well as my other work done. Yet I was still late.

So, please, get a clue, this is a real business, with a real opportunity to support yourself and your entire family but it is a job. It is WORK. It’s not residual, and the work doesn’t keep. You must perform or you’re never going to make it. If you don’t want to make it, stop trying so that those of us who do will be taken seriously.

Creative Commons License photo credit: mahalie

Be aware of coming legislation in 2012 that will affect YOU

Please join me in starting a campaign to write your local (USA) representatives to remove this new 1099 requirement discussed in the article I link to here from law. It is a burdensome requirement and should not be allowed to take affect.

Check out this article which explains it:

This is pretty upsetting and will be a huge burden for all small business especially individually owned and operated business.