There’s a question that comes up often when Virtual Assistants are talking to each other.
What is billable time to your clients and what isn’t?
And the answers will often surprise you. They surprise me!
The short answer is that anything you are doing for a client should be billed to them.
Here’s a quick example.
Think about going to McDonald’s (or wherever your favorite pickup place is). You don’t leave with anything that you haven’t paid for. You get your sandwich, your drink, and you got to the sideboard and get your condiments and napkins. Maybe you didn’t see the napkins and condiments itemized on your bill, but everything you are leaving with is factored into the price you paid – including the staff that served, the machines they used to process your order, and the lights over your head.
It’s the same thing with your clients.
You provide a VA service to them. The service includes what you do for them (i.e. managing their scheduling), and everything else that you need to use to provide that service for them. These things are what make up your billable rate. You need to make a certain amount of money in your business to cover your expertise and your expenses.
If you can not earn a profit in your business, then you won’t be in business long.
Now let’s talk about the itemized stuff.
Aside from doing the client’s scheduling, what else do you need to do to manage their work? With VA work it’s mainly communication and administration. Do you bill for these things? If you do not, then you are giving away your time.
What specifically? Phone calls, meetings, updating the project management system, reading and responding to emails.
Some Virtual Assistants do not charge their clients for this time. They call it ‘included’ but what if one client sends you one email a day and one sends you 20?
The assumption would be that the one who is sending you 20 emails is a larger client, who is probably paying you for more time. But it’s not always the case.
I once had a client who LOVED her email. She was a writer, so words were her craft but I used to dread seeing her name in my inbox because it was there so often. One Monday morning I logged in to see more than 80 emails from her, that she had sent over the weekend. Eighty (I counted them). And she was a client who was billing only 5 hours a month with me.
I had another client who LOVED phone meetings. She didn’t like to write or type, so she wanted to speak on the phone every time she needed to tell me something. A phone call every day adds up quickly – even if it’s just 5 or 10 minutes.
As a service business, your time is your money. You need to get paid for it.
That means everything you do for a client should be getting billed to them. If you were not there helping them in their business, they would be doing things themselves.
And yes, we all want to be giving and generous – there is never a problem with that. As a VA, that is one of the best things you can be – provided that you are not giving your time or energy away for free.
Clients are paying you to work with them. So, charge them accordingly to get their work done. Your time is as valuable as theirs (actually it’s even more valuable, in my opinion!)
Charge for your phone time, your email time, your project management system time. If you don’t like the idea of itemizing that kind of thing, fix a monthly rate to it, something like 15 minutes a day for communication with a client is only 5 hours a month. But then be sure to track it so you are sure you are billing them the right amount.
Communication is one of the most important parts of your business. And truly, some clients are better at it than others. You should not include it in your services in case you get a client who loves phone calls or sends 80 emails. It will happen, the longer you are in business. And you will be the only one who loses.
Factor in everything you do and you will be happier in your business, and your clients will be happier too!
Tracey D’Aviero is a veteran VA and Founder of Your VA Mentor. Tracey trains and mentors professional women and men who are brand new to the VA industry or who have been struggling to make their business successful. Her mission is to educate professionals on how to build and grow successful and profitable virtual businesses in the VA industry by implementing systems and smart principles. Contact Tracey for speaking engagements, group training or private coaching at www.yourvamentor.com.
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