A Virtual Assistant Costs How Much?

blogging employees outsourcing running a business from home virtual assistant Jan 21, 2016

“OH, A VA costs how much?”

“Oh, I only have basic tasks”

“Oh, don’t want to pay more then $20 an hour”

As a Small Business Development Coach and Specialised Virtual Assistant (didn’t want to get put in the box that I was worth less then $20 because of my position title), I am all for smart outsourcing and budgeting however more often than not, I hear from business owners who have hired virtual assistants for less than $20 an hour and they have had issues (I am sorry but I do not have empathy for business owners who are willing to short change another business owner and expect miracles from them!! – you will see below what I mean by shortchanging.)

If I was given a dollar every time I heard the below complaints I would be millionaire!!

“It takes forever to get my tasks completed, however they are really simple”

“The time I am getting billed for the tasks is a lot longer then it would take me to complete the task”

“I have been stung – will never use a va again”

And when I enquire more information about the virtual assistant that has been hired I find out usually one of 4 things:-

  1. They have been hired from overseas – Philippines or India (don’t get me wrong there is some amazing virtual assistants from these countries however keep on eye out for my blog post coming soon about why hiring from these locations can cause issues in your business)
  2. The virtual assistant is charging less then $20 an hour (see below why this is a red light alarm)
  3. The client never enquired if the virtual assistant was a legit business just paid someone to offer the services (pretty much self explanatory why this would be an issue).
  4. Lack of communication / follow up from the client (I have had businesses come to me for advice about an AWOL virtual assistant when I ask when did you purchase the plan with them then when did you last contact them sometimes this can be months apart – you can’t just hand over money and go missing yourself and expect the VA to chase you – also remember to read the fine print with prepaying for hours or on a retainer there is usually a clause on when they expire.

Short Changing

As mentioned above about short changing another business owner, lets go through why numbers matter when it comes to quality and reliability.

When a virtual assistant is charging less then $20 an hour the following problems could arise or actions are possibly occurring:-

  • They may be an international VA business based in the Philippines or India operating in huge groups, and you have group of people (not one) accessing your business information and content.
  • Tasks may take longer due to skill sets, English not first language, lack of experience
  • Virtual assistant could be just starting and low rates are just to get clients – these usually have step jumps when they realise the rates other virtual assistants are charging and as they gain more confidence.
  • Delays to get tasks completed – this could be a simple fact of maths see below

For a virtual assistant to charge the below rates they make for a 38 hr week (full-time employment hours)

$1 an hour = $38 a week

$2 an hour = $76 a week

$3 an hour = $114 a week

$5 an hour = $190 a week

$10 an hour = $380 a week

$15 an hour = $570 a week

$20 an hour = $760 a week

Even the big corporate organisations that run hundreds of international virtual assistants only charging $3 an hour only makes the company $114 a week, and that is only if the virtual assistant bills out 38 hours, any less then income from that amount is less. So when you think you are helping out someone in another country have a look at how much they will actually be receiving once the virtual assistant company has taken their cut. Not only do they have to pay the virtual assistant but meet government obligations, insurance, equipment, internet etc.

And a virtual assistant living in a high cost society would be on struggle street charging anything less then $20 an hour as their only income as this is their weekly turnover figures NOT PROFIT. I know from my own virtual assistant business the expenses can be rather high depending on the services you offer – eg: Adobe subscriptions, website, developers licenses, payment charges, accounting software, project management software, taxes, insurance.

Hence why they are required to take on more clients and work then they can handle.

With the minimum wage for most countries being between $10 and $15 an hour (in Australia the award wage for a clerical position in 2015 was just over $28 an hour for a casual) (and administration jobs usually paying more then the minimum wage) – Virtual assistants working for less then their countries award wages are actually ending up worse then if they were employed – hence the term short changing another business owner.

What is the use of them being in business?? They might as well get a job they will end up better off! And if they are not seen to be operating like a business for profit some tax departments may class them as an employee.

These figures are also only if they have enough clients to actually bill the 38 hours a week and because they are making so little low cost virtual assistants will take on as many clients they can to hope they can bill out 38 hours a week.

Yes it is completely up to them.

What does this mean for business owners?

Due to virtual assistants taking on more and more clients to meet income requirements –

  • Introduction of lead times on jobs – you must submit the job with a 7 day lead time, your task will not be started for 7 days from when it is submitted and then that is only if they have the time.
  • Longer turn around time
  • Additional charges for same day turn around, express services
  • Virtual assistant charging for all contact with client – time to read and respond to emails, Skype calls, phone calls
  • Virtual assistant charging in increments – minimum of 15 or 30 minute blocks (some even charge 1hr increments), even if the task only takes 2 minutes you are charge the increment as per the agreement.
  • Need to put in place retainers in the hope that clients will not use all the required hours for that month (and they don’t carry over!! – so what you don’t use you lose)
  • Virtual assistant extending time on tasks to ensure they are getting their required income

Not all virtual assistants that are low rate do this (and some high rate virtual assistants do this!!) – but it is good to ask the below questions.

How to make sure you are getting value for money?

Things to ask before signing on a new virtual assistant:-

  • Pre-paid or post paid for services
  • If purchase of retainer is required – do unused hours roll over to the following month?
  • Do you charge in increments? If so what are the increments?
  • How do you record the time you are working on my tasks?
  • What happens if I have an issue with the time taken to complete a task?
  • Is there task lead times?
  • What is the turn around for tasks?
  • What is the turn around time for communication? If I email you when can I expect a response/acknowledgement?
  • What happens if I need a task completed urgently ?
  • Operating hours –  what hours do you operate, do you have holidays (this is important for planning launches and back up for these periods).
  • Do I get a dedicated virtual assistant?
  • Do you subcontract my tasks? If so to who?
  • Is this just a bridging job or are you in business for the long run?

How many hours a week do you actually need a VA for?

What happens if you were to get a VA charging $30 – $50 an hour? (also take into consideration exchange rates, some times a virtual assistant charging $50 in Australia could be as low as $30 US an hour based on exchange rates and vice versa).

Would it change your mind if ….

    • There was no lead time for tasks
    • No increments charge – you are only charged for the time that the virtual assistant works on your task?
    • Quick turn around
    • Quick responds to correspondence
    • Readily available
    • High skill set
    • Quality
    • The task completed quicker then someone just learning the task or with no experience with program
  • Dedicated business owners who are in the industry to provide top quality, professional virtual assistant services and who are here for the long haul.


 Need more ideas on how a virtual assistant can help you and your business?

Download our additional 25 ways booklet.

Need Help with Outsourcing_

*** Please Note:- not all virtual assistants or virtual assistant businesses will offer the 25 services listed or the additional 25 listed in our downloadable document – please enquire about the services your virtual assistant or potential virtual assistant offers to ensure they meet your requirements for your business. You may need more then one virtual assistant for your business depending your needs and their skill sets. ***