3 Things You Must Know Before You Create Virtual Assistant Packages

3 Things You Must Know Before You Create Virtual Assistant Packages

If you don’t have a few things in place before creating packages for your VA services, you will have trouble developing packages that work for you.

I hear Virtual Assistants talk a lot about creating packages in the VA groups and forums. But there is often confusion around what that actually means.

The first thing you should consider is why you want to create a package to begin with.

If you think it’s because you can make more money than charging hourly, you are not technically wrong, but that’s not really the best reason to create packages.

The way to make more money in your VA business is to get better at delivering awesome services to your clients, so you can get more work from your existing clients, and you can get more clients, period.

But packaging your services is a great way to do a few things, such as:

  • Control the profit in your business by setting rates that are fixed, with profit included
  • Avoid scope creep by defining exactly what it is you do for your clients
  • Clearly communicate to your clients what you will do for them, and how much it will cost them
  • Earn more money per hour by getting faster / better / more efficient – instead of less money because you stop billing by the hour.

Packaging your services takes a lot of grunt work to begin with (if you do it correctly!), but it can be  a great way to start to build and grow your business.

You must know (or have) 3 things before you offer your clients package pricing:

  1. A complete list of services you will provide for your clients.
  2. Procedures for each task that is included in those service offerings.
  3. An accurate estimate of time that it takes you to do each task.

Talk about grunt work!

If you don’t have these things in place right now, the you are not ready to create service packages.

But the good news is, you can start getting these things ready right away – by tackling one task at a time, you can start to create the list and the procedures, and add to it every time you do something new.

List of Services

To put together a package for your clients, you have to define specifically what you are going to do for them. This is usually a combination of things that go together, usually by category (ie communication,  or marketing tasks) or by specific task (ie client care – handling contracts, payments, emails, scheduling, etc).

Do it now: Start to make your list. You must define exactly what you can do for clients, before you can build a package from it.

Procedures

Yes, this is the grunt work! But really it’s just writing down what you do and when you do it. Doing a newsletter for someone in Mailchimp? Write down the steps to do it. Step 1, Step 2, Step 3. Don’t leave anything out. Procedure documents help you to free up brain space when you go back to do a task a second time – to make sure that you do it the same way, every time, and that you don’t leave out any steps. Procedures are very important when you are bringing in subcontractors – and if you business grows quickly, you won’t have time to do it then.

Do it now: Start with the next task you complete. One at a time – slow and steady wins the race! You’ll be surprised how much brain space you free up, and also you can build a procedures file pretty quickly!

Time It All

The most important part of creating packages is to get the pricing right. To do that, you must calculate the time it takes you to do every single task in your business. That sounds daunting I know, and it should be! You probably do a lot! But it’s essential. So take those procedure documents and add up the time it takes you to do each step, to get your billable task time. It’s also a good idea to add in 20-25% of extra time to allow for tech issues, or other problems. Speed is not the key – consistency is!

Do it now: Time out everything you do. Be sure to eliminate distractions when you work so that you are focused on the task at hand. Multiply your time for each task by your billable rate to get your ‘per task rate’.

Creating packages is a great way to grow your VA business and provide clear services to your clients for a fixed amount.

Everyone loves clarity, and packages – done right – gives both of you that clarity.

If you want a more indepth lesson on creating packages, have a look at my self study lesson How to Package Your Virtual Assistant Services. It walks you through the entire process so you can get your packages created and start making more money today!

Software for Professional Billing

time is money!As a business owner, you will need to send invoices to your clients in order to get paid. Sending a professional-looking invoice not only creates a good image for your business, but it also aids in helping you get paid on time.

Clients are going to treat you in a more professional manner if you treat your business in a more professional manner. Plus, as a business owner it is imperative that you are able to manage invoicing and billing in an organized manner to keep your business running smoothly.

One way to manage invoicing is to use invoicing software. Today there are a variety of different invoicing software options available that you can use to manage your invoicing in a professional, organized way. There are both free and paid options around. Here are a few that you can consider.

FreshBooks

This is cloud-based professional invoicing software that allows you to send professional-looking invoices no matter how your client likes them - by email, in the mail, or even directly to their Freshbooks account. It also allows you to track time and manage expenses on each project so that you can track profitability of everything that you do. FreshBooks syncs with a variety of other systems such as Outright.org, Basecamp.com and Zendesk.com to help you manage your entire business.

QuickBooks

Available both as cloud-based software and as local software on your computer, QuickBooks offers advanced invoicing options. If you often send estimates first to your clients, you can convert your estimated invoice to a regular invoice automatically. You can also schedule automatic invoices to be created and sent to clients on a particular date. You simply keep track of all the work you do for that client and the system will grab it and make the invoice for you.

Wave

This is a free unlimited invoicing software that allows you to create professional-looking invoices. You can customize your invoices by altering the template with your own logo and colors. You can even add a pay now button to your email invoices that allows your customers who use credit cards to pay your invoice automatically. This free software is also totally mobile ready and completely in the cloud.

PayPal Invoicing

Many people don't realize it, but you can also use PayPal's free invoicing tool to send professional invoices via email to all your clients. If you have a business account, you simply go to "Request Money" then choose Create an Invoice. You can save invoices and client information so that each time you create them you don't have to re-enter all their information. You can't customize them as much as the other offerings but you can add your logo to them. They are free and a lot of people like them.

No matter which software you choose to use, you'll be sure to look more professional if you use a professional program for invoicing. Not only that, you'll be more organized because you'll know who owes you and who has paid you at a glance.

References:

FreshBooks
http://www.freshbooks.com/

QuickBooks
http://quickbooks.intuit.com/invoicing/

Wave
https://www.waveapps.com/invoicing/

PayPal Invoicing
https://www.paypal.com

Common Questions About Setting Rates

Are you having trouble setting the rates for your VA services? It can be one of the most challenging decisions you have to make. In fact, many aspiring VAs struggle with this decision on an ongoing basis. Let’s take a look at some of the more common rate setting questions. The answers may help you finalize your decision.

What’s the Going Rate for the Task?

Before you can begin setting your own rates, you might want to look at what others are charging. This is by no means the only determining factor. As you’ll see there are other considerations that are more important. However, knowing what your competition is charging is useful information. With a little research, you’ll be able to better position your business and your services.

How Much Is Your Time Worth?

A better question may be how much do you want to make per hour? This is a fantastic starting point. You can then take a look at how long it takes you to complete a task and set a rate. For example, your goal might be to make fifty dollars an hour. If it takes you two hours to transcribe an hour audio file then you know to charge a $1.60 per audio minute.

How Are You Going To Charge?

You essentially have two choices. You can charge by the project or by the hour. Charging by the hour ensures you don’t accidentally underestimate the project. Sometimes it takes longer to complete a task than you might have intended.

However, when you charge by the hour most clients will want an estimate. They’ll want to know how long the project will take. You can quote a range. For example, tell them it’ll take two to four hours. If it looks like it’s going to go over, make sure they’re okay with it before you proceed.

To set an hourly rate, take a look both at your experience and your specialization. You can charge a higher hourly rate if you’re offering a specialty service. You can also charge a higher hourly rate if you’re experienced or skilled with the service you’re providing.

Your Rates Aren’t Set In Stone.

Note, you can also charge differently based on the task you’re managing. For example, if you’re setting up a Facebook Fan Page for a client then charge by the project. If you’re managing social networking then charge by the hour.

You can also change your rates as your needs change. If you want to gain a lot of clients quickly then set your rates a little below market rate. You can then raise them in six months to a year.

To position your business as an exclusive provider, you might set your rates above market value. Take a look at your goals. Evaluate your niche. And consider the type of clients you want to work with. Consider your business vision. Then you can begin to set the rates for your services.

Elements of Financial Planning

by Sharon Alderson, CFP, FDS

Your chances of success are heightened by clearly defined objectives and a strategy for reaching your goals. So to get the most for your money, you need a plan. But how should you go about formulating an investment plan?  The following steps will get you started

Establish goals: Consider why you want to build investment wealth.  Is it to accumulate money for retirement, to buy a house, to start a business, or for some other purpose? Determine how much money you need to realize those goals. Above all, make sure your expectations are realistic and specific.

Decide how much risk you can take: In the investment world, as a general rule, the higher the risk, the higher the potential return.  If you can tolerate risk, you could potentially experience greater investment growth – but you also increase your chances of fluctuations in the value of your investment.  Consider whether you have the psychological makeup to tolerate ups and downs in the financial markets.  If market movements are going to keep you up at night, that much risk is not a good thing for you and comfort is a very important aspect of any investment plan.

You also need to consider your age: You don’t want to take extra risk with money as you approach retirement.  At this time you should consider concentrating on capital preservation through more conservative investment strategies. Fixed income investments such as Government and Corporate Bonds, or Real Estate and mortgage funds fluctuate less than equities, and Guaranteed Investment Certificates and Segregated Funds offer a guarantee, but remember no or low risk equals lower returns. You should always maintain some equities investments to provide protection against inflation.

Establish your portfolio: Mutual funds are an excellent way to diversify among the three basic asset classes – cash, fixed income and equity.  As a rule, your portfolio should have a high proportion of equity investments to build wealth while you’re young; as it has been proven volatility is reduced over the long term.  No matter what your age or investment experience, make diversification, geographically as well as over the asset classes, a part of your investment plans.

Regularly review your plan: Once your strategy is in place, your plan should be  reviewed at least once a year, or more often as required by significant developments in financial  Once your strategy is in place, your plan should be  reviewed at least once a year, or more often as required by significant developments in financial markets or major lifestyle changes.  A good financial plan allows for the unexpected by utilizing an emergency fund and protecting your income and assets.  Making adjustments and re-balancing your portfolio back to its original asset allocation will greatly improve returns while keeping within your comfort level.

“Most Plans Fail Because Most People Fail to Plan”

Sharon Alderson CFP, FDS Investors Group Visit Sharon’s Blog at: http://sharonalderson.terapad.com