If you are a virtual assistant and are charging by the hour, do you realize you are being paid less than a “slower” virtual assistant?
That’s one ‘aha moment’ that’s pretty painful, yet so many virtual assistants continue to charge by the hour because they don’t see another way. They feel that by changing up their business model, their clients may leave them, or they simply don’t know where to start and what they can do differently than charging by the hour.
And then there’s the fear. This presents itself as lack of confidence or excuses like “I don’t like to sell.” And then the pesky voice inside their heads that seem to appear just when they want to make a change that will benefit their bottom line.
You know the voice. The one that says, ““I’m not ready. Who am I to charge more? I’m no expert!”
Some will write to me and point out they use retainer packages. They tell me all about their fun 5-hour packages, their solid and stable 10-hour packages and then get really giddy about their all-inclusive 20-hour packages. They feel so proud and believe they are chock full of value and will surely appeal to clients, right? But guess what, they are still charging by the hour.
I’m here to tell you there is another way, a better way, and that is to create value-based service packages. These are packages based not on or marketed as hourly packages per se, but rather on the value, experience, and expertise you bring to the table. I’m going to show you how you can break away from the dollars for hours trap and make more money in your business using packages.
But first, I want to tell you why I love to teach others how to create packages and what it looked like inside my business. It was 2005 and my husband got orders to move from Southern California to a mid-sized city in North Carolina. A quick check into the available jobs in the area and I found zero suitable jobs for me. I thought it was the perfect time to start what I referred to back then as a “remote secretary” career. A few months later, I found an entire member association that catered to this very specific industry – virtual assistants.
I set up my website, looked around at what others were charging, and followed suit. But as the years went on, there were things that I couldn’t keep ignoring… I was attracting less than ideal clients, work was always feast or famine, I never knew how much I would be making month to month, and the worst part was that although I was learning tons of programs, worked very fast, and gave my clients really great value, this wasn’t reflected in what I was being paid.
I even got inquiries from those who had read a book that promised them wealth in a few hours per week by hiring a $5 virtual assistant. I was basically a commodity and was being compared to every other virtual assistant! But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when my client wanted to take the summer off so she asked that I not bill her and please save her a spot until the fall and she’d check in with me then.
That was just crazy talk. I had had enough. I didn’t want these types of clients anymore. It was partly my fault, I was pretty bad about managing expectations. But what I ultimately wanted to do was work with those clients who saw me as a true partner, had real businesses, and saw me as an equal business owner.
That’s when I became obsessed with value-based packages.
I bought e-books, workshops, and not one but TWO “how to charge what you are worth” coaching programs. Now, I had an idea of what packages were but I wanted to totally move away from hours for dollars, retainer packages, and instead build my packages based on value so that hours or hourly rates does not even come up in the client conversation.
After months of trial and error, actually it took an entire year, I cracked the code and created value-based packages. By 2013, my model was about 90% value-based packages and I was averaging double what I used to charge by the hour. But here’s the beautiful part, by moving to this model I was working less hours, stopped rolling over hours for clients, and best of all, stopped tracking my time and providing this full accounting to my client each week. It was simply awesome!
The bottom line was this: by creating packages I was making more, almost double, and working less. And if a client went on vacation, I still got paid.
And this is why I tell every virtual assistant that I meet that she should stop selling her time and start selling her value. For one, when you base your relationship with your client on time, you work for one hour, they pay for one hour, your income is limited by time and you will always have that cap. Your client will always be calculating the return on investment in their head – that’s when you’ll hear the “I can do this myself and save x dollars, right?” Your cash flow takes a hit when they go on vacation. And finally, you are a commodity – they will compare you to other virtual assistants and choose the lowest price per hour (and have you seen the prices that offshore virtual assistants charge? Good luck competing with that.).
So get it in your head that you are going to stop trading hours for dollars. First, remove anything from your site that screams “affordable” or “cheap” or “inexpensive” and remove your hourly rates. Instead, add benefits and results your clients will get by working with you. Second, bundle up your services and display your package rate.
And that is how you make more money in your virtual assistant business and specifically, that is how you make more money with packages.
Learn more about Lisa's company here!