Q: I am interested in knowing how a VA charges for services or jobs: whether there is a contract, how often a VA expects to be called upon, etc. I recently ran a contest. As I looked at the responses I thought, “Someone else could be handling this for me…”

I love not only the question but that the author seems pro-actively researching and planning.  When I started the Virtual Assistant Program I was as innocent as a lamb, really! All I knew was that I wanted to be a Virtual Assistant… Good that I chose my training academy wisely. We were 6 in our “class”, from all walks of life, everyone with different experiences and from different areas, but all with life experience and maturity. We actually had to apply for, and be approved for the program. We bonded quickly and to this day, almost 8 years later, I still am in regular conversations with 2 of my classmates.

We worked hard and had a fabulous support system going on in our little group. We wrote our business plans, created our pricing, got our Welcome Packets together, set up our websites, hung out our shingles, and were proud of having passed the weekend-long, tough exam that made us ready to be the best Virtual Assistants we could possibly be.

Client #1 came and the oh so uncomfortable question arose: what and how do you charge? I was ready to sink into a mouse-hole. Then, taking a deep breath, I said the number and breathed an inner sigh of relief. I had done it, I had said it!!

So, how does a Virtual Assistant charge, and what about the stuff that needs to happen before the working relationship starts?

Again, as there are different ways in which VAs work, there are different payment methods. Some VAs are, in fact, in employment – they are paid by a larger company that, in return, sends them work. Then, there are the VAs who are business owners. Some charge at the end of the month for time worked. Others, like me, work on a retainer basis. By doing so, the VA can really schedule her time, and is able to guarantee each client a certain amount of time reserved for his/her work during the month. This also aids in creating a long-term and collaborative working relationship.

Personally, I have a contract that was drawn up by my lawyer. I believe in having written standards, on top of touching on standards and boundaries during the Intake Process. I am grateful that, to this day, I haven’t had reason to need the contract. My Policies and Procedures Document forms part of it and states my business hours, the best way to get in touch with me, how and when I invoice, and payment terms. It also clearly states confidentiality in our relationship,

There is no “one fits all” answer to the question asked above. I know VAs who do not want to talk with their clients and are perfectly happy to mostly stay in email communication. For me, that doesn’t work; I am a people-person and need regular verbal connection. One great aspect of these calls is that often they will become small brainstorming sessions that leave us both feeling excited and thrilled of having birthed something new, even if it’s something that might be, in the bigger picture, insignificant.

To this day I am grateful for having had such thorough introduction to being a Virtual Assistant. It still rules how I connect with a potential client. I so believe in laying a good foundation.

If you work with a Virtual Assistant, have you signed a contract, and do you connect via phone or is it strictly email correspondence?