To hear some VAs tell it, if you’re not charging by the project, you’re somehow selling yourself (and the rest of us) short.
- You’re working too much.
- You’re capping your income.
- You’re not valuing your expertise.
- You’re undervaluing your time.
Sometimes Hourly Is The Best Option
True confessions: Most of the work I do is by the hour.
For any given client in any given month, I might…
- Install a new website
- Create a Facebook ad campaign
- Set up a new membership program
- Load a series of emails to an autoresponder
- Troubleshoot a misbehaving shopping cart
- Plan and develop a sales funnel
- Create affiliate tools and resources
- Help with customer service issues
- Edit a video
- Moderate a webinar
- Or any number of other tasks.
While I can—and sometimes do—package these services, it doesn’t often make sense to do so. Many of my clients need a wide variety of projects, and to bill them all out individually would be cumbersome and off-putting. Since I position myself as a problem-solving, proactive project manager, they expect me to simply handle it.
And I do, happily.
Even Package Pricing Is Hourly Based
For the few packages I do offer, I didn’t just pull a number out of a hat and declare that to be my price. Instead, I based those rates on how many hours it takes me to complete the project. Without that calculation, how would I know if I’m making my preferred hourly rate?
So while clients know exactly what the cost will be to complete their project (no surprises when the invoice shows up), I have the benefit of knowing I’m earning more than minimum wage.
I also offer retainer packages to a few clients. While they pay me a set fee every month, we both also understand that this fee is based on hours worked. If it weren’t, I’d run the risk of spending 40 hours per month on a $500 retainer. Likewise, they might discover they’re spending $1000 per month for 3 hours of my time. Both situations are equally unstable, so there needs to be an hourly base from which to work.
The Downside of Hourly Work
Even though this is my preferred pricing model for my specific business, it does have a downside: Pricing estimates are a bear.
For example, I once worked with a client who wanted a custom menu inside WordPress. This requires some PHP coding (which I am not an expert in, but can piece together in most cases), some CSS work, and probably some custom post types. Truthfully, I didn’t know exactly what it would involve without digging in and starting the work.
My policy is that I’m paid in advance for all work, but how do you bill in advance when you have no idea how long the job will take? In this case, we agreed that she’d pay me for 5 hours in advance, and if the project ran over, she’d purchase another block of time.
The bottom line is this. It’s your business. Set your pricing and policies in a way that makes sense to you and your clients, and don’t let anyone (even me) tell you that you simply must do it this way or that way. You get to make the rules for you. And you know what? If you find out later that it’s just not working, you get to change the rules, too.
I want to encourage you to explore the package pricing model, though, and for that, you want to turn to Lisa Wells. She’s the expert when it comes to upleveling your pricing strategies so you can work less and earn more. Check out her Profitable Packages training here.