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Talk to me about being a virtual/remote PA?

(20 Posts)
Laquila Wed 04-Jan-17 15:14:50

I have years of experience as a PA (high-level corporate and personal/family stuff), covering all kinds of stuff - basically anything and everything that needed doing at the time, NOT just typing and making cups of tea <looks pointedly at friends who always seemed to think I was sitting at a typewriter wearing red lipstick>

I left my last job recently (combination of a bad commute and my role changing/disappearing) and am thinking about the logistics of setting up on my own.

Has anyone done this and how does it work, in practice? For example, how do you manage your time/prioritise certain tasks or clients? Are you retained for a certain number of hours per month for each client? Otherwise how do you manage your time, if you don't know what's coming your way? Or do you work on a project basis and. charge accordingly? Do you market yourself or do you already have a client base from a previous role?

Boring questions, sorry, but any advice would be appreciated!

SherryRB Wed 04-Jan-17 16:39:21

I'm not a VA myself however I do use one from time to time. So I can talk from the client perspective. The first VA I use - she's somebody I used to work with. I know she's a brilliant organiser, great at the detail so when I needed help with my online conference, it was fabulous to work with somebody I already knew. She charges me an hourly rate and provides a spreadsheet and invoice at the end of each month showing me what she's done.

The other VA I used to work with - she specialised in a particular type of software and helped me get this set up. It was stuff I could do myself (I come from a software support / technology background) but I decided it made sense to pay somebody to sort it out for me rather than spend hours on doing it myself. Now I do all of that work myself (I know the application very well now) because it's quicker and easier than explaining what I want.

I have used another VA when I wanted interviews from my first conference to be transcribed for my book.

All the VAs I know have reached out to people they used to work with. I'd suggest find the groups on Facebook (if you're on FB) where entrepreneurs hang out if that's the type of client you want. Tell everybody you know that you're setting yourself up on this basis. Tell your LinkedIn contacts. Look at what your competitors do. There are loads of women working in this way now.

Some charge on an hourly basis; some on a retainer basis i.e. x number of hours per month included then extras on top.

I've seen VAs charge anything from £15 per hour to £40 per hour. £25 seems to be a reasonable starting point from what I've seen.

Hope that helps.

Laquila Wed 04-Jan-17 20:37:16

That's really helpful - thanks very much Sherry. I do have some former employers who I think would be receptive. I don't know whether I've got the patience to get all LinkedIn networky about it but I think you're absolutely right - that's the way to go.

dollyollymolly Wed 04-Jan-17 23:29:32

Watching with interest...

Long term PA here and agree with the comment about red lipstick, typing letters and making tea!!! smile

Yddraigoldragon Wed 04-Jan-17 23:38:36

I have seen what look like franchises on fb, pink spaghetti is one of them. Worth looking at for ideas perhaps?

Imsolucky1983 Thu 05-Jan-17 21:35:56

I am a virtual assistant, I have been for nearly 6 years. I could not rely on it as a main wage as the work can be so adhoc, for example I had no work at all for the month of December! I have tried to get people on a retainer package but in reality the clients I have had just have odd bits of work that need doing now and then. Sometimes I can get really busy though and have too much work, it's a difficult balance! It does feel exhausting sometimes constantly looking for the next bit of work, although it means I can pick my daughters up from school/nursery and be there for any sickness/school holidays.

Laquila Fri 06-Jan-17 14:09:43

Thanks everyone I really appreciate the feedback, Yydraig I hadn't heard of Pink Spaghetti (terrible name!) and have now had a little look at their site - very interesting. Imsolucky do you mind if I ask what you charge p/h? Do you price any jobs on a flat fee basis? What kind of tasks do you find work best remotely? (Tell me to mind my own business if you want!)

Imsolucky1983 Fri 06-Jan-17 15:20:15

I charge £12 per hour. I sometimes get asked to provide a price per job but I don't like to do this as it's hard to judge how long something will take. I find the best things to do virtually are items that are not time sensitive. If a client wants for example telephone calls making immediately it may not work if your childcare hours do not match your clients needs. Feel free to ask anything else.

Laquila Fri 06-Jan-17 18:31:24

Thanks very much, Imsolucky. How did you attract clients when you started out? Did you use former employers/contacts from previous job roles? I'm hoping that a couple of previous bosses will want to use me!

I think ideal stuff for me would be research and copywriting - as you say, things that aren't time-sensitive. I've seen advice online that says don't take call-directing/virtual reception tasks - it's a lot more trouble than it's worth.

Imsolucky1983 Fri 06-Jan-17 18:38:41

Yes I never take virtual reception tasks. I have been asked but I just can't see how it will work. Even when both my kids will be at full time school I would have to do the school run so would potentially miss the calls! Attracting clients has mostly been through word of mouth with the odd bit of work from people per hour. I still don't have as much work as I would like so need to think of some more ways to attract clients!

Laquila Fri 06-Jan-17 19:31:51

How did you decide on your hourly rate? It looks as though £20-25 is the norm in some areas but it does sound like a lot. Although still less than a plumber or electrician would charge, I guess!

thesandwich Fri 06-Jan-17 20:12:10

If you are serious about it you will need to get all LinkedIny and networking- it is all about connections.

Imsolucky1983 Fri 06-Jan-17 21:24:05

Just trial and error. Most people seemed happy to pay £10 an hour when I started, but I've managed to slightly increase that. I'm aiming for about £15 an hour, you can always try out an amount and change it, or base the rate on the type of work and it's complexity. I've found a website and word of mouth has worked well for me, I've only ever got 2 bits of work off of social media and they were both one off bits of work, think spreadsheets, and I end up wasting time on social media. That could just be me though!

dollyollymolly Fri 06-Jan-17 23:18:44

Where are you and what level of salary were you earning previously?

As a rule of thumb, your hourly rate will equal your salary. So, if you want to earn £30k then you need to charge in the region of £30 per hour (if you work an average week and take average holidays).

As a freelancer you have no benefits whatsoever and you really need to take these into account. Don't sell yourself short.

Laquila Sat 07-Jan-17 11:14:19

I was on £30k full-time but had reduced my hours recently, with my salary pro-rated. I'm in the North but the contacts I'm thinking of approaching for work are in London.

Do you mean £30k net would equate to £30 p/h, Dolly? I can't work out the sums otherwise! I was thinking of pitching around £15-18 to begin with.

dollyollymolly Sat 07-Jan-17 22:48:32

No, it's based on gross salary. Have seen that advice from various people on the freelancers board.

This thread is quite informative:-

There are plenty of PA jobs in the south paying below £30k so you've done well to earn that up north. Things have been a bit rubbish the last few years but things may be improving.

I wouldn't charge less than £25 per hour if I were in your shoes. I was earning £30k on a contract last year (paid hourly) and that's what the agency were charging for me. I think my background sounds similar to yours.

Hawkmoth Sat 07-Jan-17 22:51:49

What are the relevant FB groups? I've just started out with VA work but have capacity for a couple more clients.

Laquila Sun 08-Jan-17 11:11:11

Thanks dolly - I was very conscious that I was giving up a good salary for the area, but for various reasons I needed to leave.

I was on £30k in London years ago and didn't bloody realise how good I had it, I think!

I'll take a look at that link - thanks very much. The people I've chatted with so far (all freelancers in other areas) haven't raised an eyebrow at £25 p/h - its years since I've temped though so haven't been paid per hour for ages, so I never really think of my value per hour, in those terms. When I think of consultants I've worked with who've charged upwards of £1.5k a day, it seems like a pittance...then I look at the UK minimum wage and it feels like a fortune! My husband's self-employed and I'm always telling him off for underselling himself - it's a complicated process.

dollyollymolly Sun 08-Jan-17 19:36:34

Try not to look back!

Over the last 10 years the number of PA jobs has fallen dramatically. There used to be lots of 1 to 1 jobs and admin staff. Now they often want you to look after 3+ directors. I used to enjoy it but have had some horrid jobs in the last few years. Added to that, salaries have just stagnated.

Temping through an agency and working as a self employed VA are two totally different things. You need to crunch the numbers.

Imsolucky1983 Sun 08-Jan-17 21:24:23

When I started I asked potential clients what they would be happy to pay, that might be worth a try, tell them you are doing some market research. Then over time you can slowly increase your rates. I'm trying to get up to £15 an hour, I do not live anywhere near London though. If I could work 30 hours a week charging £15 an hour I would make £19,500 gross a year and I would be happy with that. Just for the convenience of being able to do all the school runs. I'm still along way off that though after a second maternity leave.

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