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When searching for a contractor in any industry, it’s important to know who your options are and what they charge for their services. The same goes for when you are marketing yourself and your business. While some may not think of virtual assistants as specialists, the services we offer and the prices we quote should be analyzed as much as any other contractor you hire.
With that said, I was more than a little bit surprised by the hourly rates and pricing structure I saw when I visited another Virtual Assistant’s website earlier this week. While I appreciated her candidness, I found it unfortunate that any company or individual would sign with her when other, more flexible options are out there.
Following are a few important points to consider when hiring a virtual assistant:
- Location – Big city doesn’t mean more skills. Unfortunately, a contractor located in a larger metropolitan area may only mean a larger hourly rate, retainer, and time commitment. As a company based in a small town, our cost-of-living is less than our competitors living in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. As such, we can charge less without feeling like we are undervaluing ourselves.
- Charge per Service – Virtual assistants who, like us, offer various services may charge a different rate per service. Our opinion on the matter is different: Regardless of whether we are performing administrative or graphic design services, an hour worked is an hour worked. There’s no reason to complicate the billing process by charging different rates for different services just because our competitors do.
- Blocks of Billable Time… Or Not – Like lawyers and accounts, some virtual assistants charge for blocks of time rather than actual time worked. At Sutton Creative Studios, if we work for one minute, we charge for one minute. You may wonder how this is possible, and I’ll give you a point-blank answer: We use Freshbooks, and their Time Tracker. When we start working on a client’s project, we push ‘Play’. When we stop, we push ‘Pause’. The time is then recorded and the client is only charged for actual time worked. Period.
- Commitment – Nobody can predict the future. The benefit of hiring a virtual assistant is the flexibility our clients have in terms of hours needed. Some weeks they may have a lot of work, other weeks they may have none. Our policy is simply to ask for two-weeks notice if they foresee their work coming to an end. In return, we also offer the same notice should we see ourselves not being able to continue working for a client.
- Retainer/Deposit – Because we are not fortune tellers, we don’t ask for a one-month (or greater) retainer. Per our standard contract, our “retainer” is based off the client’s initial time estimate, and covers the first two weeks of work *in the event that they do not pay their invoice.* If the weekly invoices are paid, their retainer goes toward their last two weeks of work. We’re sure you can understand, however, that work on a client’s project stops when the retainer runs out.
At Sutton Creative Studios, honesty is our policy. We’re happy to discuss any of our policies or practices with (potential) clients at any time. Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions you may have.
Kim Sutton is the Managing Partner and Chief Everything Officer of The Sutton Companies, including Sutton Strategic Solutions and Sutton Creative Studios. She is a graduate of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Architecture. In her free-time, Kim cherishes the time she gets to spend with her husband, Dave (her business partner), and five children. She also enjoys reading, knitting and writing.
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