How many hours per month...?


#1

How many hours per month would you consider maximum for a VA before you advised a potential client that it would be better to seek a part-time employee instead of recommending finding another VA?

I’ve never been in this position before. It’s not just a matter of business capacity but what’s best for the enquirer, and I do want to give the most helpful advice possible.

Thanks!
Janet


#2

Oh good question Janet! I guess it would depend on lots of factors…

Biggest one being, are you a solo VA or a team? Teams will be able to provide more services than an individual and therefore it allows the client to be more flexible with their workload e.g. you might have graphics, typing, bookkeeping, SEO, and copy writing skills in the team, whereas it would be unusual to get all those skills in one person, so no one employee would be able to provide all those things. Likewise if you are a team and get 24 hours of audio in one day (this has actually happened to me a number of times!!) the team would be able to type it, whereas a single employee would not be able to. So if you are a team, it probably does still make sense to have a VA rather than an employee.

Second question: What is the workflow like? If it is an unusual blip in their usual working pattern, having a flexible admin resource is sensible, because it lets them scale up or down the hours, rather than having a fixed number of employee hours. e.g. if their usual employee is on maternity leave, if they have a project which last for 3 months but then goes quiet, if they are growing and aren’t sure about sustainability of a role.

Thirdly - if this isn’t an actual client, do they understand how VAs work? We get this all the time - people come on and say “I need a VA for 20 hours a week”. They don’t actually mean that, because they are used to having on site employees who spend half their lives making tea, clearing emails, faffing about with paper jams etc. One recent study by VoucherCloud says that UK office staff work as little as 2 hours 23 mins a day! What they actually mean is that they want the facility/availability of a VA for 20 hours a week, and it might mean 5 hours actual billable work.

Hope that helps!


#3

Caroline, you are a star as ever. Thank you. This added a lot to my own thoughts and my conversation with two former VAs at the weekend. I’ve sent a comprehensive reply which I hope will be useful as this person was keen to have some professional help in her charity. I was personally interested but I couldn’t offer anything like the hours she was looking for - even bearing in mind the caveat in your third paragraph. Thanks again! Janet


#4

PS Caroline, I am delighted to say that the enquirer was hugely appreciative of the reply I sent her and says it has given her a lot to think about. From her description of the charity, she does need and would really value some experienced PA/VA help for a particular situation she is now in. It sounds like a project I’d love to be involved in but my current commitments won’t allow. I have of course directed her to the SVA For Clients info and I’m going to reply with your Virtually Sorted contact details.

It was great to see you again in Feb at Olympia and I will aim to get to the next one. I hope your talk at the recent PA conference was well received - well, I couldn’t imagine it wouldn’t be!

Thanks again.


#5

Fab - sounds like a fun project! Today’s PA Conference was really interesting, such a big mix of different kinds of PA.

NB: The PA Show in Feb has changed locations, it’s at Excel in Docklands!


#6

Everyone is different but I put a limit of 16 hours a week because if they do not renew it leaves too big a gap in your pipeline. Also depends on the notice period in the contract.

Hope that helps!


#7

A very good point!

My usual recommendation is that no client should make up more than a third of your income and no one industry should be more than 50%. We saw so many VAs go bust when the property crash hit in 2007/2008, because they’d specialised in that niche and just suddenly didn’t have any work.