As a freelance virtual assistant, you can make a nice career for yourself just by offering VA services to great clients year in and year out.
The income can be pretty stable, and if you like what you do, it’s a great way to be your own boss.
There are many freelancers who have their eye on growth. They want to be making more money from their businesses while doing the same amount of work or less. The more you’re able to do this – maximize your income without maximizing your input – the bigger your bottom line will be.
This is known as “scaling.”
There are all kinds of ways you can scale an online business, but the process to scale a virtual assistant business in particular isn’t always straightforward.
It takes some planning and effort, but scaling is definitely worth doing when you’re ready – and it’s worth doing right!
Why Scaling Your VA Business Makes Sense
In short, scaling your virtual assistant business means you’ve stopped trading time for dollars.
You begin to price things based on the value of what you do, rather than the price tag of an hour of your work. You no longer focus on what your time is worth. Instead, you focus on what your output is worth.
In a niche such as virtual assisting, it’s very easy to get stuck in the “hourly” mindset.
And if you’re happy with your income, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if you’re ready to break the $40/hour ceiling that comes with the territory of the typical administrative type of VA work, you’ll need to think about scaling.
You can scale your services and rates or you can scale by adding other income streams.
The #1 Thing You Must Do to Scale
Before you can begin scaling your VA business, you need to get solid on your base hourly rate. You may already know this, but chances are good that your hourly rate needs to change (read: increase). Your current hourly rate is a starting point.
When you’re scaling your services or rates, you’ll need to make sure your hourly rate is reflective of the going rates for those services. Do some research and ask around. If it’s been a while since you compared rates, you may be surprised by how much you could be charging.
Once you have a sense of the real value of the services and packages you’re going to offer (and we’ll go over this shortly), map out each one.
Estimate the time it will take to do each of the individual tasks involved. Add up the total number of hours for each package, add 10-15 percent to the price, and then tweak that number to the nearest $10 or $25 (or whatever you want) for your package price.
Am I Ready to Scale My VA Business?
When it comes to scaling, you can be laying the groundwork from Day One.
Packaged services is something you can offer immediately if you want, and you can even go for retainers immediately, too. Your rates and experience shouldn’t have any effect on whether or not you can land a retainer. In fact, having beginner rates might make you more attractive to retainer clients!
Raising your rates is one (very effective) way to start scaling as a virtual assistant. Packages and retainer are the next step in scaling. When you feel confident enough in the services you’re providing, and/or you’re ready to transition to that type of pricing model, you’re ready to scale.
Raising Your Rates: The Effortless Way to Scale
Raising your VA rates when you’re just starting out is a fairly painless process.
With each new client lead you get, quote them a higher rate than you’re charging your other clients.
Even if it’s just $1/hour more, you’re raising your rates and scaling your business. Don’t feel like you’re stuck in $5 increments for rates!
This process of charging the next client a bit more than the last is called “the freelance ladder” and it’s how many of us go from making $20 per hour to making substantially more.
You can keep raising your rates with new clients until you get about three “no” responses, and then you’ll know it’s time to reevaluate something. Take a look at your positioning, your track record, and your ability to communicate the value you’re proposing.
You may also need to look at what the going rates are for the services you’re pitching to be sure you’re in the same ballpark.
Scaling With Flat Rates
Moving to a flat-rate pay structure is another way to scale.
Instead of charging hourly for your services, you’ll charge a flat rate for a flat number of hours (or range of hours) that you work.
The client buys the hours in bulk up front and then decides when and how to use them.
I’d recommend putting an expiration on the hours – saying they must be used within three months of purchase, for example. Otherwise, some clients may buy up a ton of hours and then spread them out pretty thinly, which means you have a lot of cash up front but then are stuck doing work at that low rate later on down the line when you could be doing the same work for more money.
The flat rate is based pretty directly on your regular hourly rate, and it’s often offered at a discount. That said, you can primarily offer clients your flat-rate packages at your “real” hourly rate, with a la carte hours available at a higher hourly rate. For example, you could offer a client 40 hours for $800 (so $20/hr) with the option for additional hours at $25 each.
Using Retainers to Scale
These are a lot like a flat-rate pay structure, but more structured.
A retainer is usually done on a monthly basis. A monthly retainer has the client pay $XXX for “up to XX hours per month” with additional hours being billed at $XX. With retainer clients, you can present your retainer rate at a discount with your a la carte hours being your regular rate, or you can have your retainer rate be based on your regular rate with a la carte hours billed at a higher rate.
The main difference between flat rate packages and retainers is that you get paid that retainer rate whether or not you actually work all of the hours purchased.
The client benefits from the security of knowing you’re available if and when they need you, and you benefit from the stable income that may or may not require the full workload.
Scaling by Offering Packages
Offering packages is a GREAT way to scale.
The client is buying a specific set of tasks or projects, while you already know how long they’re going to take, AND you get paid a flat rate for doing them.
No tracking hours, no scope creep, no surprises.
We delve into packaging your VA services in this post. In short, your package rates can be informed by your hourly rate, but they should be geared more toward value than whatever your actual base rate is.
That means that you can price them higher (assuming they’re valued) and be making more money for the same amount of work. That’s scaling!
Scaling by Offering Products
There are two directions you can go when you want to offer products. One is to design products for clients, and the other is to make products for other virtual assistants. You may even find that most of what you decide to offer can be useful for both!
For example, if you’re a Pinterest VA, you can offer packages of ready-made pin templates. You create these templates once, and you can sell them to an unlimited number of clients. This is a great solution for prospects who can’t afford an ongoing assistant. It also gives you an easy way to solve their problems and offer value without giving your time away.
Other ideas for customizable products you can sell could include ebook covers, worksheet templates, pre-made Instagram images, spreadsheets, and more.
You might also be interested in putting together specific trainings, such as teaching the fundamentals of social media marketing on Twitter or a training on setting up pinning campaigns in Tailwind.
Converting Your Existing Clients
If you want to convert your current hourly clients to a flat-rate pay structure, retainers, or even packages, you’ll need to use some finesse. The main thing you’ll need to do is make sure that the new structure you’re converting them to will still fit their needs.
Give them advanced notice that things are changing (at least a full month), and offer a few different options they can choose (including one that looks a lot like the current arrangement and one or two that add on additional services).
You might also consider offering your clients the opportunity to buy some “bulk hours” up front if they aren’t going to be able to move to your new price model. And, of course, if you really want to keep someone on and are willing to accommodate them, you can maintain the status quo and move to the new model with new clients.
Switching to a More Lucrative Niche
Interested in some five-figure months?
Confident in your tech skills?
You might be ready to look for high-value, highly paid niches to move into. The one I personally know most about is digital marketing, which involves everything from sales pages to social media advertising to sales funnels.
As a digital marketing specialist, you might start with writing sales page copy, and then scale up to writing the copy plus setting up the sales page. You could scale further to connecting the payment processor and email service provider. The more you’re able to bundle all of these related services together, the more valuable you are and the higher your rates can go. You become a one-stop-shop for business owners who need your marketing services
But that’s certainly not the only high-value, highly specialized niche for virtual assistants.
Look at what all the different “specialists” offer.
You might specialize in being a podcast showrunner, or in building one-page websites for solopreneurs, or in optimizing Amazon book and product descriptions. Once you specialize in one thing, you can learn the related services and bundle them together as high-value “done for you” service packages.
And that’s how you go from making $30 an hour as a virtual assistant to making $1,000 a month maintaining a Facebook Ads campaign (which takes a handful of hours).
Scaling by Becoming an Agency
One of the things that six-figure VAs do to scale is to switch to an “agency” model. As an agency, you’re a virtual assistant and you establish a healthy client pipeline. Once you’ve got more work than you can handle, you bring on other VAs to pick up the overflow work.
The client pays you, you pay the virtual assistant you’ve hired to do that client work, and you keep a cut for yourself.
Becoming an agency can be a lucrative solution, but it’s not for everyone. You’d have to find people to work under you who are completely reliable. There’s a lot of responsibility on your shoulders when you do it this way, but your income goes up significantly in exchange.
Are You Ready to Scale Your Virtual Assistant Business?
In my opinion, it’s always a good time to scale!
You certainly don’t have to scale, but there are some easy things you can be doing continually to edge your income up without requiring more time or effort from you.
And of course, when you’re ready to do something BIG for your business, you can take any of these ideas and run with them!
When it comes to scaling your virtual assistant business, which method do you think you’d do first (or next)?