Availability Retainers


#1

Hi all,

I’d normally ask thoughts on this kind of thing on the Facebook group; however, the potential client is in the group…

So far, everyone I have worked with have had a set number of hours, for set tasks, worked very flexibly to my convenience. All good.

This potential new client needs structured availability (as much as possible!), to be on hand to offer telephone support when it is needed. The actual calls/tasks will vary from being a few minutes long to more in depth (say an hour to take call, order parts, emails, document what’s happened). When pressed for the number of calls, the information was sketchy, could be none one week but when the worst happened it was 150 in an hour.

I have been asked to send an email outlining my available hours and the monthly retainer for being available during those hours.

I usually pitch to my customers that they only pay for the time used on their tasks. However, I feel I need to consider the commitment to being available. How do people charge for this? I’m now thinking I really need to put some thought into this, in terms of pricing and in terms of if it’s how I’d potentially like to work.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts.


#2

Tricky one… And I think the answer varies depending on whether you are a soloist or a team.

If you are a solo VA, and the client knows that, they’ve also got to accept that there is not a snowball’s chance in hell of you being able to answer 150 calls an hour like that! So presumably they are hiring you to cover their backs when they are busy on another call? As lead VA, it’s their job to recruit the team to be able to quote for this availability to the client. Bluntly, there’s no way a VA can commit to doing call answering 9-5 Mon-Fri as a solo VA. Even if you got enough volume of work/paid enough to balance it (and I have seen it a lot that you don’t!!), that would be being an employee, not a self-employed VA. And it would affect your other work, because I guarantee the phone won’t ring all day until you are in the middle of a complicated piece of work for another client…

As a team it’s easier, because you have backup if you pop to the loo, need to get lunch, go to the bank etc. And also because you can set out blocks of time where you can concentrate on other client work protecting your income. Plus it isn’t being an employee because you can sub someone else in, to cover those full time hours.

It doesn’t sound like it is a well established client if they aren’t sure of what the call volume is going to be. Without that, I’d be really reluctant to commit to doing it myself. It’s one thing to answer 5 calls a week alongside other work, and quite another to be answering 50 a day… Even if you get zero calls, you’d still have to keep up to date with what they want you to ask and who you need to contact etc. plus get cover if you weren’t available…It’s a big commitment.


#3

Thank you for your reply.

It was a very thought provoking call. As it was quickly offered to another VA before I could get my thoughts together and send the email back, I’m now thinking I had a lucky escape.

It was nice to be put on the spot and have to think about how I intend to work once I’ve taken on more clients. I’m pretty certain it isn’t glued to a phone Monday to Friday 8am - 6pm.


#4

Good choice! I used to do it years ago and actually had nightmares about ringing phones… Huge tie and not particularly lucrative unless you have large numbers of clients doing it because it’s so disruptive to everything else.


#5

Hi Vicky

I think you did had a lucky escape there! I started doing call answering only once I had a team of me and 2 others in the office full time. Any less than this and you risk missing calls, which is obviously not an ideal situation for anyone offering call answering.

Its a massive tie, and as Caroline pointed out, its not actually that lucrative, so if you want the keep the flexibility of going to meetings/networking and being able to get your head down on clients work, i wouldn’t recommend starting it alone.

Clare


#6

It’s really funny Clare, but every time I come across someone who actually does call answering, they don’t recommend it for any new VAs… Which doesn’t happen with say audio typing or social media or diary management, because usually the VAs are enthusiastic about sharing their skills and welcoming others into the industry. Your view is very similar to mine!

I just think it’s a super tough job, that VAs tend to warn others off it! Not only is the job hard, the management of it is really hard because you are having to work with a team from Day 1.


#7

Yes, i had been running as a VA doing admin for 2 years before i started call answering, the time management and cost implications of making sure there are enough staff to cover the calls is hard work, the most stressful part of running my business in fact! - I’m out the other side now, I have enough call answering clients to pay the staff for 2 full time employees, but their holidays is always an issue as I’m then tied to the office while the ladies are off. We do still get job satisfaction from it though as our clients love us and that makes it worth it :slight_smile:


#8

Hi Clare,

Thank you for confirming my thoughts.

It’s nice to hear from people who know first hand the reality of providing such a service.

Although I’m a creature of habit, I do love the flexibility of my working day. I couldn’t imagine being tied to my desk with that level of structure.

Thanks again :slight_smile: