Why are VAs charging low rates?


Why are VAs charging low rates? This is just my opinion, many might disagree with me but we are all allowed our own opinions, comments and discussions are always welcome.

When I receive a request from potential clients, who have emailed many VAs, these are the requests I tend to stay away from, as in my opinion they are going for a low rate asking for many quotes.

There can be a few reasons they want a low rate: They cannot afford much in their budget; they think the job will be done quickly; they don’t know what is involved; they are trying their luck etc. If a client says that it takes 5 hours and you know it takes 10 hours, then tell the client it takes 10 hours, always be honest with the client about the work – clients often try this trick.

Another reason VAs tend to lower rates is because of the competition and therefore you do this to get the job which in the end shoots yourself in the foot, as you are not getting paid what you are worth and what the job is really worth, therefore, you lose out.

A VA should know from the research they do when setting up their business on how long different tasks take. We should always ask for an example and as much info as possible to assist us in writing out an estimated quotation. Never quote blind. Many of our tasks take much longer than the client would know.

Estimates: An estimate is not a fixed price. An estimate is the service provider’s best guess of what the job will cost, based on their skill and past experience.

What is the difference between an estimate and a quote? https://www.consumerprotection.govt.nz/general…to…/quotes-and-estimates/ When it’s not possible to work from a standard price list, you have to give a quotation or an estimate instead. The main difference between a quotation and an estimate is that a quotation is an agreed fixed price. An estimate is approximate price that may change. Check out this site for more info: https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/difference-between-quotation-and-estimate

Remember there should be no reason to offer a discount or low fees, as you have the skills and experience behind you, you may not have the experience of running a business but that does not impact the skills you do have and the experience you have using those skills, do not forget this.

Often it can assist the client by explaining to them what is involved, (education goes a long way) with services they require, never be afraid to liaise with the client, you are on the same level as business owners. YOU ARE NOT AN EMPLOYEE, YOU ARE AN EQUAL.

It’s all about having a mindset as a business owner and being confident in the services you are offering.

Educating clients is part of being a VA, clients will not know or understand if we do not do this!

Client Relationships and Pricing

Always treat your client as an equal not as a Boss/PA situation. Gauge your clients when pricing. Students and scholars tend to not have much money so keep your prices lower. If a company is a one-man operation, then you could lower your prices if they ask (but do not lower them to a point where you are making nothing for the job you are doing) but if they have a few staff stick to your guns and charge your set price. Don’t let clients beat your prices down, as they will try to do this. Ask for company information, you have a right to know about who you are working for and what their company does. This info is helpful when charging. My prices are worked out according to time, my experience, electricity, paper usage, cartridge, printer uses etc. Never let a client talk down to you, you are on equal terms, make sure you are always in control of your company, prices, decisions etc.

Transcription charges are the worst because clients do not realise what is involved with transcribing a tape and the length of time it takes to transcribe, do not undercharge with this service.

You are entitled, like any other company, to charge the right prices for your services. I find that charging per page for typing, works, especially with students and scholars as it is easier for them to work out their payments rather than charging by word. Per word you would charge in the region of 5 to 8 cents per word, but not all students will know how many words they are required to do but they usually know how many full A4 pages they must complete. Always make sure you send back a quality job, properly spell and grammar checked, proofread and presented well. The way you send back your work reflects your company’s image also the way you handle clients over the telephone, I’ve recently had clients who are complaining about VA’s working from home and their attitude. When they ring me, and they are so taken by surprise by my attitude to them and that I am so willing to help and that I will give them my time. I always listen, take notes, ask questions about each job, the more information I have the better, I am able to quote for the job and the more liable I am to reach my deadlines they give me. Your aim is to make each client want to come back and use your company over again. It never hurts to be polite and friendly even over the Internet or telephone. The way you write your documents/email reflects you and your company.

Work to a procedure when dealing with clients and quotations. The client will contact you, via SMS, Email, WhatsApp, Skype etc. For example, they will ask can you to assist them with Transcription, and they will ask you to provide a quotation. Prepare your quotation, asking all the relevant questions, attach it to your email or fax etc. and send it to the client. If the client is satisfied, they will sign your quotation; maybe add a few comments, fonts, deadlines etc.

Then you can begin the job. On completion, you prepare an invoice, send your invoice to the client and await payment. If you are wary or do not know the client, you can ask for 50% – 75% payment before you start the work, or ask for full payment. This is good to do with large jobs like transcription. You might battle with payments with large companies as they have payment runs and often only pay at month end, smaller business will pay usually within 10 days or the days you stipulate on your invoice.

Another problem we face is when we contract out work; we have to wait to be paid from the clients before we can pay our contractors. Often the clients can be late with payments, so the contractor must wait for payment, this I would advise should be written in as a clause you place within your contractor agreement, just so that the contractor is aware that they will be paid after you receive your payment from your client and not before.


Have procedures to follow within your business, this gives structure to your business and makes it easier to manage, have set ways to do things and do things that work for you. Have these set up in your business plan. What works for one person may not work for another, it is your business after all!

Another way to check out pricing in your area is to check out your local ‘Post Net’ store/shop prices.

If you have to travel to a client, charge for petrol, check pricing with the AA as prices are fluctuating continually, check what the latest petrol rate is per km.

When quoting for jobs you need to get as much information as possible, you need to know what software you will use to do the job, can you reach the deadline, is the job complicated or easy, ask lots of questions before quoting, and don’t quote so blindly that you will lose out. Do not take on work for the sake of doing the work at such a ridiculously low price because only you will lose out more in the end and the client gains as the job gets done for practically nothing, you are running a business not playing at doing typing from home.

The charging of low rates is becoming an issue. It’s not worth charging low rates. You will be losing out in time, electricity, internet gig time, downloading/uploading of documents, printing documents etc. Surely the aim here is to make money, charging low prices you are losing money rather than gaining.

As a VA you need to charge for every bit of your time. An example is typing; you might receive the document in PDF format and have to print it out before you type it. You would add a printing charge to that document. A document might not be plain copy typing, it could have graphs, charts that need to be created in Excel and then imported into your document that is extra work.

You may have graphics that you need to scan first; more time is used, therefore you need to charge for the scanning that you do. You might have to get graphics from the internet then it becomes internet research and more time used, you can build these costs into a per page rate/charge per document or charge the extra on top. If you are going to work as a VA and not charge for the little extra’s that pop-up you are not going to be making enough money to survive.

Look at each job/task as a whole, look at what is involved, you are not simply typing up a page of text you also have to download that page from the email, print it out to work from (if you do it this way), you may also have to upload/send your completed document back through Sendspace, Dropbox, You Send It etc. You may have to do internet research or obtain graphics from the internet, look at the bigger picture of the task/work when pricing. Think! is it worth charging an hourly rate or a rate per page/job; always check out what is involved.

There is such a dramatic change in rates around the country, what the clients will or won’t pay, I would say go in with that higher rate and then you can be negotiated down to a medium point that you and the client are happy with. A client that wants jobs done at low rates is not worth it for you; they are clients not worth having. There is no such thing as doing the job for the love of the job. The aim is still to make money; after all we are in recession. I know there is a serious rate problem in the Cape, Durban and Pretoria and we need to educate the clients. Only we can change this situation. When a potential clients rings and they are looking for quotes, they are often after the lowest rate, talk to them and tell them what they maybe can expect by charging the lower rate, tell then they might not get quality work, a job might not be done the way they want it. Explain that for you to do the job you will be using electricity, internet time, printing, educate the client into what is involved with the job, sell your skills and experience to that client and maybe by doing this we can educate and get the rates up to a higher level and change that client’s mindset.

Do not do anymore work for a client, if they have not paid their last invoice. No matter how urgent the client says the work is, if they can’t pay you for the first task, why should they pay you for the second urgent task, your payments must be important to you, otherwise why are you doing this.

Prepare for yourself as part of your business plan a company schedule/procedure for answering clients who require quotes. Have a form ready with everything you need to ask a client and then all you need to do is fill in this form and base your quotation on this form, keep them handy in a file on your pc or printed out on your desk, ready to use if a call or request comes in. There is a great form to use, contact me, and I will send you a copy.

Always prepare a company quotation on company documentation and attach this to an email, this is much more professional then just sending an email with a rate. Your quotation must have your contact details and include your terms and conditions and any information that you have agreed to do for the client. Submit your quote as a PDF attachment to an email, and refer the client to this in your email.

Remember the faster you send that quote in the quicker you could be to getting the client to contact you further and you can beat the competition. With quotations it’s all about beating your competition. Make sure your wording is right and spelt correctly; make sure you are inviting the client to contact you further.

For a client looking for a virtual assistant or transcriptionist to partner with, they are usually not looking at price, they are looking at your skills and experience in the business. Sometimes when putting in a quote it can be months later when you hear from the client again, some clients take that little bit longer to decide if they really do need a virtual assistant or not, especially so when it’s for regular work.

For once-off/adhoc jobs it’s often the case the client will take the cheapest or near to cheapest quote, that is the way the industry is at the moment. It is up to you to decide is it worth quoting a low rate for the job. But, think before you quote what is involved with that job, how long will it take and decide your quote on that, that is the best way to quote. Going in on a low rate sometimes you will find that once you get the job it’s not worth doing as it is costing you more to do it than what you are getting for it, there is no profits to be made with doing jobs that way.

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