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Earning more money as a virtual assistant is possible if you improve on these key areas: productivity, negotiation, and expertise.

Since your clients want value for money, they’ll always expect you to demonstrate your expertise and deliver quality work within set deadlines.

But reliability, high output, and great virtual assistant skills don’t come cheap. You know that but most clients don’t. That’s where great negotiation skills come in.

If you learn how to ask for the rates you deserve and favourable working terms you’ll always look forward to signing up and onboarding more clients. That translates to more cash and a successful virtual assistant career that others can look up to.

So here’s a game plan for boosting your productivity, skillset, and negotiation skills.

1. Increase Your Productivity

Time is precious in the virtual assistant business. But the ability to work remotely and set a flexible schedule can often tempt you to take your eyes off the goal.

Since most virtual assistants are paid per task it’s important to stay focussed and accomplish as much as possible within a workday.

Lack of focus always starts with distractions and it takes a while to get back to peak concentration.  A study done by the University of California, Irvine discovered that it takes you 23 minutes and 15 minutes to get back on track after a distraction at work.

So first, limit your distractions. Most distractions such as email notifications and unexpected visits from loved ones are caused by others. These are easy to eliminate by reminding your friends and family to respect your workspace and work hours.

You can also disable all email and social media notifications when you’re in the zone and keep your phone at arm’s length until your tasks are complete.

Only allow yourself to be distracted when you take a break from work. You can schedule a 5-minute break after every 25 minutes of work using the Pomodoro Technique. After about 4 breaks, you can allow yourself to have a longer break of about 20 minutes.

If you feel as if your brain is fried at the end of each workday, this technique will keep you from pushing yourself too hard while helping you get work done.

Faced with unpleasant tasks and looming deadlines, most virtual assistants resort to distracting themselves.

Scrolling through your social media feed and putting off your boring tasks may give you short term relief but it lowers your income potential.

Next time you feel like distracting yourself, follow the 5-minute rule that Instagram’s Co-Founder, Kevin Systrom uses to beat procrastination. 

“If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it. After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing.” – Kevin Systrom

And he’s right. Once you start on a task and get into the flow state, you’ll get so immersed in your work that you lose track of time.

Once your distractions are out of the way, batch your tasks.

Here’s what batching looks like. You pick similar tasks from multiple projects and group them. Next, you set aside a block of time to complete these tasks.

Have a look at this social media manager’s to-do list:

  • Research and create content for social media channels.
  • Update the social media calendar.
  • Schedule social media posts.
  • Respond to social media messages.
  • Monitor brand mentions.
  • Monitor competitors’ social media channels.
  • Find and engage with potential customers and brand advocates.
  • Engage with thought leaders.
  • Engage with social media influencers.

The social media manager may group these tasks in three different batches as follows:

1. Content Creation

  • Research and create content for social media channels.
  • Update the social media calendar.
  • Schedule social media posts.

Virtual Assistant

2. Communication

  • Respond to social media messages.
  • Monitor brand mentions.
  • Monitor competitors’ social media channels.

3. Outreach

  • Find and engage with potential customers and brand advocates.
  • Engage with thought leaders.
  • Engage with social media influencers.

The second to-do list seems more manageable, allowing him to use one skill at maximum efficiency as he concentrates on one task at a time. Switching virtual assistant tasks wastes time and leads to more errors which inevitably lowers your income.

Lastly, automate your tasks. Some tasks only keep you busy rather than earn you more money.

A great example is setting up meetings and calls with clients. You can reduce all the back and forth by using appointment booking software. Clients can just pick a date and time that’s convenient for them saving you time to work on more challenging tasks.

Other tasks that you can automate include task management, customer service, and bookkeeping.

To become your most productive self, you must understand how you use your time. Using a productivity app will help you know where all the time goes, so you can make adjustments to your schedule and start earning more.

Productivity Apps Every Virtual Assistant Should Try

  • RescueTime: This app automatically tracks your time and helps you set productivity goals. For instance, you can set a reminder for spending less time on your email inbox. Also, it tracks time spent in meetings, commutes, calls, and breaks so you can have an in-depth report of time spent each day.
  • [email protected]: Using streamlined music, [email protected] keeps your brain in a focus-flow state. This improves your motivation, learning, and memory, allowing you to get more tasks done.                   

2. Get In-Demand Virtual Assistant Skills

According to Small Revolution’s Virtual Assistant’s Salary: The Definitive Guide, work experience plays a major role in increasing your income.

Employers pay virtual assistants based on three levels of experience – beginner, intermediate and specialist. The scope of work, also related to a virtual assistant’s skill level also comes into play when an employer is considering what to pay a VR.

Entry-level virtual assistants display basic skills and get paid the lowest rates. A beginner VA typically earns between $10 – $20 per hour.

Virtual assistants with intermediate skills get an average income. They usually have a few years of experience and online job training under their belt. Experienced virtual assistants attract a payment of $11 – $30 per hour.

Specialist virtual assistants have worked long enough to decide what niche they’d like to focus on. They have mastery in at least one skill such as graphic design or email marketing and are therefore able to command more pay than the other two levels. A specialist virtual assistant can earn between $14 – $35.

So how do you upgrade your skills to start earning more? Pick a niche for yourself and enrol in an online course. You’ll be able to ask for more pay when you can demonstrate additional skills to your client. Here are a few skills you can add to your virtual assistant resume.

  • Social media marketing — Learning how to market your client’s business online through ads will pique the client’s interest. If you’re already updating your client’s social media pages, take on more responsibility and get paid more.
  • Graphic design — Learning how to create visually appealing graphics will make it easier to update your client’s social media channels, website, and sales pages.
  • Affiliate program management — Learning how to set up and manage an army of marketers will drive traffic to your client’s website and increase sales which translates to higher pay for you.

Remember to keep yourself updated on industry trends by attending networking events. Interacting with other skilled virtual assistants will open your eyes to more income-generating opportunities.

Another way to reap from peer to peer education is by working in a coworking space.  A work from a home career can be very isolating so you must be proactive in joining a community of experienced virtual assistants if you want to grow.

3. Become a Better Negotiator

Being busy as a virtual assistant doesn’t always translate into financial success especially if you don’t match your rates to the quality services you provide. To avoid selling yourself short, you must understand your worth.

Look to your experience and expertise, keeping in mind all the projects you’ve worked on in the past. Consider the amount of time it has taken you to perfect your skills as well as the demands this new client will place on your time. That should give you the confidence to ask for more when you enter into a negotiation.

Since you’ve already started working as a VA, you probably have a minimum acceptable rate that you charge your clients.

Virtual assistants arrive at this amount by summing up their monthly expenses with their business expenses. They then divide it by the number of hours worked in that month. Sounds familiar?

If you’ve been using guesswork to know how much you should charge a client, here’s a formula that will come in handy next time:

Minimum acceptable rate = (business costs + personal overheads) / worked hours) + tax

The minimum acceptable rate sets the groundwork in every negotiation and clients will pay what you ask for if you’re willing to demonstrate value.

Understand the client’s problems and show them how your time and skills can help solve these challenges. Provide as much value as possible and soon you’ll be an irreplaceable member of your client’s team.

The elements of negotiation aren’t always fixed. If you can’t get exactly what you want out of a negotiation, employ the Expanding Pie Principle.

Introduce benefits, annual bonus paid time off or health insurance into the negotiation. Find out how you and the client can arrive at a win-win arrangement even though they can’t match your rates.

4. Prevent Virtual Assistant Burnout

Negotiation isn’t always about money. It also involves setting boundaries around your availability so that you can prevent virtual assistant burnout.

Raising your income puts pressure on you to get more work done which, if left unchecked, pushes you closer to exhaustion, alienation and poor performance.

You know you’re suffering from burnout, when you lack concentration, feel less engaged at work and even avoid social situations. You start having a series of bad days which places a tremendous amount of stress on personal and professional relationships.

You start to lose money and your reputation as a reliable and competent virtual assistant starts to fade. Burnout may cost you your hard-earned career.

At the root of burnout is excessive and prolonged stress. Therefore, stress management strategies such as regular exercise, quality sleep, and proper work-life balance are critical.

Use your free time to not only do the things you love but to also build a supportive network of friends. When you’re alone, it’s easy for challenges to seem bigger than they are.

Social contact allows you to gain a different perspective on the challenges you face and reminds you that you are not alone.

As a result, you’ll come back to your workspace with renewed focus, ready to overcome any obstacles that may stand in the way of you earning more money in your virtual assistant business.


Written By
Katrina McKinnon is the founder of Small Revolution, which started as a knowledge base for online store owners and has now expanded into offering training for virtual assistants and copywriters. Through Small Revolution, you will learn the skills in a fun and practical way.

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