How Much Should You Pay for a Virtual Assistant? (Part 1 of 2)

How Much Should You Pay for a VA pt 1

 Hiring a virtual assistant is as much an investment in you as it is your business.

Back in 2017, I wrote a blog post about the true cost of a VA.

It’s now 2020. We’re at a time in history where my company’s name, “Don’t Panic,” makes more sense than I ever expected as folks all around–entrepreneurs, small businesses, and even large corporations–are feeling uncertain.

And, yet, a post about the cost of a virtual assistant from three years ago is still our most visited.

People want to know the bottom line. It’s natural. The bottom line is extremely important for business planning.

But there are so many factors that go into knowing how much to pay for a virtual assistant, so it’s time to refresh and reframe the cost of a VA in today’s wobbly world.

“I can’t afford to hire a VA.”

This phrase is still the most common one that I hear right after people say, “I would love an assistant.”

I’m still here to tell you that you’re wrong about that. And I’m still here to share with you how rates and costs are determined in a transparent, open, and honest way.

Let’s get started…

First, some ground rules.

Hiring help of any kind is an investment. The ROI is time.

This is true in a lot of ways. At home, the decision to finally hire a housekeeper or nanny frees up your time to focus elsewhere. Similarly, hiring an assistant for your business frees up your time to do what you love, instead of getting sucked into and stuck in the weeds of admin or communication work (things OTHER people love doing – or at least don’t mind so much).

Everyone has a different definition of “expensive”.

Of course, if food and rent are struggles right now, then investing in this way wouldn’t make sense. We still have to be logical and reasonable. But, if you are in a place of investing in yourself and your business, then it is absolutely possible for you to find an assistant that fits your budget.

The investment isn’t just a monetary one.

Hiring help is a luxury and an investment. I only mention this because it’s a big misconception that this is for everyone. It’s not. It takes time and energy to hire and support someone if they are new to your team.

Down to dollars and cents.

A quick Google search will show you the average salary for an administrative assistant. Logic would state, “Ok. Take that number, divide it by 52 and then divide again by 40 to get an average hourly rate.”

Easy calculation, right?

Not so much.

There are other factors that go into creating a salary: health insurance, supplies (like a computer), internet, phone, taxes, invoicing software, cloud storage platforms, web hosting costs… Things start to add up quickly. This is why you may pay $10/hour for an intern, but $20/hour for a virtual assistant. A virtual assistant has to cover the normal life expenses PLUS all the business expenses that would otherwise be covered if they were a full-time employee in your office.

You’re not just paying for the actual hours worked.

You’re paying so your assistant can remain in good standing with the government (*cough* those taxes I mentioned up there *cough*), stay healthy, and have the best possible technology to do the best possible job.

I get it. The “sticker shock” of virtual assistant rates or monthly retainers can feel really uncomfortable. It’s important to then consider how much more the cost would be if the assistant was a regular employee (things like employee taxes, providing healthcare, PTO… the list goes on).

“Per Hour” Factors

  • Experience. Many virtual assistants got their skills from previous corporate jobs, which means they are all skilled up and ready to go. This also means that they charge more because of their expertise. On the flip side, those with less experience start out with lower rates and then raise their rates as time goes on.
  • Type of service. Data entry and creating website copy are not equal-effort tasks. Neither is answering emails and editing audio or video. Don’t be surprised to see different rates for different types of service. If the cost is higher, it’s likely that work is more effort to perform than basic admin support.
  • Deadlines. If your project causes a VA to have to drop everything else for their other clients (and maybe even time spent with family or just time for themselves), they are probably going to charge more.
  • Hassle factor. Alright. This might be hard to hear for some, but I’ll take the hit and be the bad guy: Sometimes if a VA feels you’re going to be challenging to work with, or your project has a lot of moving parts, they’ll charge a little more per hour.

This is an “including, but not limited to…” list, and is, therefore, in no way exhaustive. But it’s a good base to get you understanding what all goes into that hourly rate sticker price. This is also why virtual assistants can charge anywhere between $1 to $100 an hour. My team and I have found the “sweet spot” to be generally $20 to $40 per hour for executive assistant services and $40 to $60 per hour for higher-level marketing, podcast, or financial tasks.

The answer to “what should I pay for a virtual assistant” is never an easy one, and it’s rarely cut and dry. An experienced VA with testimonials and references might be worth $50 per hour to you. However, if you know you don’t need someone who is an absolute pro and who is eager to learn, then $25 per hour may be more up your alley.

This post is part one of a two-part series on how much to pay for a virtual assistant. Next, we’ll go into other types of rates, including monthly retainers, per project, and negotiating rates.

Get tasks off your plate faster with the VA Starter Kit!

Jess Tyson, CEO & Director of Calm

Jess is the founder and proud Director of Calm at Don’t Panic Management. (And yes, she invented that title because that’s what you do when you’re the boss!) She wrote the book on how building a successful relationship with a virtual assistant can make all the difference in helping business owners get to the next level. Her life is often a whirlwind of wrangling her toddler, speaking at conferences (virtual and beyond!), researching productivity hacks, and meticulously making matches between overworked entrepreneurs and focused virtual assistants. Jess's first book, Panic Proof: How the Right Virtual Assistant Can Save Your Sanity and Grow Your Business is available now:

  • Current location: Redding, CT
  • Go-to Karaoke song: “Hand in My Pocket” by Alanis Morissette
  • Favorite kind of cheese: Aged Goat Gouda
  • Beverage of choice: Champagne
  • Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
  • Superpower: Delivering miracles, especially when all hope is lost.

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