Virtual Assistant - Hourly Rate or Project Based Fee?

6/10/2014 Sue Canfield
Moving Clients from Hourly Rate to Project Based Fee
by Sue Canfield


Many virtual assistants start out charging an hourly rate. This can raise some challenges:


*Clients often have a difficult time perceiving the value they receive for the rate per hour they are charged.  

*How do you justify an increase in your rates?  

*Tracking time takes time that clients don't want to pay for.


A better option is to move clients away from an hourly rate to a project fee. The benefits of charging a flat fee for a project include:


*Clients perceive a higher value received for their money  

*An increased project fee is easier for clients to accept  

*No more time tracking means you have more time to work for clients = more pay


How can you move a client from an hourly rate to a project rate? What if they object? Is it really better?


Let's use a real-life example to show how this can be done to the mutual benefit of both you, the virtual assistant, and your client. I'll call this client "Cindy."


Cindy and her virtual assistant have been working together for nearly five years. Cindy had her assistant do a variety of tasks such as submitting articles, scheduling blog posts, following up by email with contacts, sending out newsletters, and managing social media accounts.


Originally the virtual assistant charged an hourly rate that included all these tasks. The assistant had to track her time, down to the minute, and send in a monthly accounting showing how she used the time. She'd then bill Cindy for another 10 hours.


After a year or so the virtual assistant realized she could get more done if she didn't have to track every minute of her time. She had come to realize the time it took to get each of these tasks done and that she could get them done more efficiently if she charged by project rather than by the hour.


So she proposed a change to Cindy in how she'd bill for services. Instead of hourly she would now charge a flat rate for each article submitted, another flat rate for scheduling blog posts, another project fee for sending out the bi-monthly newsletter, and another for managing social media accounts.


This would free up the virtual assistant's time since she no longer had to track her hours. Cindy would know exactly what it would cost her each month to get these tasks done and she'd know exactly what she was getting in return. It allowed Cindy to create a budget and never wonder if her assistant was running out of hours.


This worked well for both Cindy and her virtual assistant. About a year later the virtual assistant proposed a rate increase for scheduling blog posts. She gave Cindy 60-days notice so there were no surprises. Cindy wasn't sure she'd be able to handle that rate increase at the time. She worked together with her virtual assistant and they came to an agreement to try it for 60 days. If it then still didn't work, they'd revisit the situation and negotiate a rate that worked for both of them.


Tips for moving a client from an hourly rate to a project fee:


*Create an addendum to your existing contract outlining your proposed change  

*Give your client 60-days notice so there are no surprises  

*Be reasonable and flexible 


About the author:


For nearly 35 years Sue Canfield, Chief Virtual Officer, has helped small business owners with administrative tasks. She co-authored the book, The Commonsense Virtual Assistant - Becoming an Entrepreneur, Not an Employee, to help virtual assistants understand what it takes to be a business owner. Learn more about their book and coaching services at



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