Today I want to dig in and answer one of the hardest questions you probably have about working online. In other words, I’m going to help you figure out exactly how to raise your rates as a virtual assistant or unicorn digital marketing freelancer.
So, I’m assuming if you’re here, you’ve built up a small but steady client base of online business owners. Whether you call yourself a unicorn digital marketing assistant, online freelancer, or virtual assistant, you’re starting to crush your own goals and build success for your clients.
You’re no longer the novice digital marketing assistant who is desperate to find your first client, and you’ve realized that now you can pick and choose the clients that YOU want to work with.
Which, of course, is great news for you and your favorite clients.
But keep in mind how important this can be for your growing biz.
Because your value as a unicorn digital marketing assistant has gone way up, and you’re hopefully even more aware of your worth. Which means you deserve much more than those beginner virtual assistant rates you accepted at first.
And that means it’s time to have that difficult conversation with your existing clients about increasing your charges. So I’m going to share my tips and suggestions for exactly how to raise your virtual assistant rates with your clients. I can’t promise it won’t still feel a bit awkward, but I can promise that you can do it professionally and fairly. And it’s SO worth it.
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My Own Journey: from Beginner VA to Sought After Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant
I took on my first retainer clients in 2009, and have never looked back. Back then, I started simply doing Pinterest work as a side hustle. I had no idea that there was even much opportunity to work online as a virtual assistant. (Spoiler alert – there is plenty!)
But I quickly learned that I had discovered the key to my own professional success. Because working as a virtual assistant was not only the perfect side hustle for me as a busy mom and military wife. It was also the beginning of the journey to create my own online business and eventually launch my successful Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School for smart go-getters and smart wanna-be work-from-home freelancers.
What I quickly learned along the way was that my own digital marketing skills and tech toolbox was growing in leaps and bounds every time I took on a new task for a client.
I quickly moved beyond just the Pinterest gigs and took on ALL the range of digital marketing tasks that I could find. Right away, I loved the challenge and dove into each new task that presented itself. (I basically consider myself one of the OG unicorn digital marketing assistants).
And I began to realize that those beginner rates that I had accepted from my first clients were no longer relevant. I had so much more to offer, even to those original clients that hired me before I had wrapped my head around the world of digital marketing skills.
I knew my value and my worth, and I knew that it was time to negotiate higher rates with all of my clients.
Of course, it felt intimidating. I had huge imposter syndrome even though I knew that I deserved more for my expertise. What if they turned me down, or even worse, fired me? (Yes, I have been fired before.)
But at the same time, I knew that I had earned the right to grow and develop as unicorn digital marketing assistant. I realized that I could still be loyal to my clients, without shortchanging my own income.
Since then, I have been able to raise my rates to levels that I never even considered as a brand new virtual assistant. And I still have to turn away clients!
Here’s Exactly Why You Should Raise Your Rates as a Virtual Assistant
First and foremost: you are a business owner.
Yes, you work with other businesses. You’re the unicorn digital sidekick that they desperately need on their team.
But you aren’t their employee, and that’s what you need to remember right now.
You are a digital entrepreneur yourself. An independent contractor who offers high-quality, in-demand services to other business owners in need. And as a freelance consultant, you get to set your own rates and contract terms with each individual client.
No matter how much you love your clients, or how loyal you are to their business, you can’t forget that ultimately you’re working for yourself (and your family).
Which means in the end, you have to look out for yourself. And like any professional job, you deserve an income that allows you to actually LIVE. That covers not only your basic expenses, but also helps you reach your financial and personal wealth goals.
And you need enough profit to gain financial flexibility to invest in yourself and your business so that you can continue to grow and expand for the future.
In other words, don’t depend on your clients to determine your rates. That’s your job, not theirs.
Sure. Every once in a while, you’ll have a dream client that recognizes your worth and offers you a higher rate before you even ask.
They see your growth and realize that you are indispensable to their business. They know that you are becoming sought after, and don’t want to risk having you snatched away by another business owner with a better offer.
But it isn’t always that easy. Some clients may love your work but not realize that you deserve more than you originally charged them in the beginning. Others may not voluntarily pay more if they assume that they can just keep you on their team at the lower rate, while taking full advantage of your higher-level skills and experience.
Regardless, it’s up to you as the virtual assistant to find the conviction to raise your rates and confidently communicate the change with your clients.
Not Only Should You Raise Your Rates as a Virtual Assistant, But You Should Do It Often
Think about most of the traditional jobs you’ve held in your life. Did you get a regular raise? I’m going to assume that for almost everyone, the answer is yes.
Even teenagers working their first jobs at the mall or local fast food joints are offered regular pay increases. Smart business owners know that in the end, it is cheaper for them to entice loyal employees to stay than constantly hire and onboard new ones.
And with the inflation rates as painfully high as they are right now, a basic cost-of-living increase is essential to even just maintain the status quo.
Being a freelance digital marketer is no different.
As a unicorn digital marketing assistant, your rates not only reflect your expanding skillset. They also reflect your basic right as a business owner to offset your own increasing expenses.
And, they reflect the reality that as you offer more high-level services, you will receive more offers from higher-paying business owners. It’s a simple illustration of supply and demand from Economics 101.
But even your best clients will probably balk if you try to increase your rates from $20/hr to $60/hr all at once. Or if your monthly package rate suddenly doubles overnight.
That’s exactly why you should normalize raising your rates regularly, with all of your clients.
If it becomes part of your regular business routine, clients will learn to expect it. Doing it in increments over time will help them budget adequately and help keep the lines of communication open.
And once it becomes a routine part of your professional practice, it will feel a lot less intimidating each time.
Common Myths That Come Up When Virtual Assistants Want to Raise Their Rates
At this point, I bet I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably not convinced that you should actually raise your rates like all of these other virtual assistants.
Keep reading – does anything sound familiar? Because these are the objections I hear all the time!
I’m not worth it.
Raise your hand if you’re the poster child for imposter syndrome like me. No matter what level you reach in your business, you’re probably going to doubt your worth.
Trust me, every freelancer (and every small business owner) has faced this. The successful ones are those that move past it, solidify their own worth in their own minds, and move forward.
My client can’t afford it.
The money guilt is real. In fact, I have a whole podcast episode here about feeling guilty for taking money from your business clients (it’s definitely worth a listen).
It is important that business owners feel like your services are worth the investment. You need to make sure that in the long run, your clients understand how you will improve their bottom line. And as your own skills expand, you will offer them even more opportunities to grow their profits and build their success.
But unfortunately, not every single client is guaranteed to be a successful business owner. And ultimately it’s their responsibility, not yours, to find the funding sources that they need to adequately support the business of their dreams.
Once again, in the end, YOUR top priority has to be YOU.
Being a VA is just a small side hustle for me, not like a real job.
This is one myth that needs to stop right now.
So many unicorn digital marketing assistants feel like this.
It’s only a small hobby job. Something to fill the hours between naptimes or help pay for gas money on the next road trip. A little part-time gig that you do after work.
That you’re “just” a VA.
These digital marketing skills are absolutely essential to every successful online business. And I know my reading audience here – you’re likely a super smart, creative, tech-savvy, analytical partner that your clients depend on to keep their business thriving.
Whether you have a full client load at 40 hours a week, or only do a couple of small projects a month, this is high-level and high-demand work. And your rates should reflect that.
My client will fire me or refuse the rates.
You know what? This does happen. Some clients refuse to pay their unicorn digital marketing assistants what they’re actually worth.
And that’s ok. Because if they get angry, or offended, or upset, that’s on them. Trust me – these aren’t the clients that are going to help YOU build YOUR business dreams as a unicorn digital marketing assistant.
In fact, they’re actually going to clog up your calendar, suck up your time and mental energy, and prevent you from moving on with other potential clients that could end up as your dream partners.
Part of knowing your value is being able to walk away from the clients that aren’t worth your time and effort.
It might not happen easily at first, while you’re still getting your foot in the door and building your portfolio, but it’s worth the wait. You will end up better off (and better paid) when you have clients that respect you as a professional.
Trust me – there are other clients out there. There really are. I personally share multiple, exclusive job posts every single day to the freelancers in my Digital Marketing Workgroup, and that’s just a small group of digital marketing professionals.
If you have the high-level skills and the initiative to make things happen, you’ll get good clients.
Here’s How to Actually Raise Your Rates As a Virtual Assistant
Hopefully, now that you’ve read this far, you’re ready to take the next step and actually raise your rates. Cue the sweaty palms and anxiety rush, right?
Here are my tried-and-true suggestions to make this transition as seamless and professional as possible:
Build it into your contract negotiation.
I always recommend that unicorn digital marketing assistants start with short-term contracts. It gives you a natural opportunity to re-write your contract terms on a regular basis.
Each time you renew the contract, you can update the contract services you’re providing to demonstrate the higher-level roles you’re doing. Then, it’s much easier to set new rates for the new contract.
I cringe when I see contracts for two years (or more!). Things change dramatically in just months when you work online. Start with shorter contract terms and always follow up on schedule with your clients. This is your prime opportunity to revisit the scope and pay of your work.
Do it in writing.
There’s definitely a time and place for face-to-face communication, but this is not it.
Not only will an email make it easier for you to intelligently collect your thoughts, it also will give your client some time and space to consider your proposal before they have to respond.
Plus, you have the added benefit of documentation in the email chain if there are any questions or misunderstandings down the road.
Keep it professional, but personal.
Are you still feeling hesitant and unsure? Shift your mindset before you even begin writing.
You are not asking a boss for a raise. You are communicating your increased rates of service.
Silence any of those apologetic and uncertain thoughts, because you have to own this from the very beginning.
But that doesn’t mean you should resort to bland, corporate-level communication.
You definitely need to make it personal and write from a space that honors the positive aspects of the relationship you have with this client.
Remind them of your marketing wins, shared success stories, and top results you’ve accomplished in your work together. Mention the upcoming goals and targets you will be focused on next to take their business to the next level.
Then clearly communicate that as of XX date, you will be raising your rates to XX. No apologies, no negativity. You don’t need to ask permission, or share your “why”. Own it and do it with confidence. And you’ll get respect if the client has any business sense of their own at all.
Make sure you give them at least 30 days’ notice so that they can adjust their own budget and think about their options.
For example, this might be a great opportunity for them to discuss other packages or services that you offer to make sure that this is the best fit for their growing needs. Maybe it’s the perfect time for them to upgrade from an hourly rate to a monthly package rate.
Close your email with a note about how much you enjoy working with them and their business, and how enthusiastic you are about the projects coming up. Thanks for working with you and you’re looking forward to the future.
That’s it. Really.
How to Raise your Client Rates Script
Here is what to copy and paste — remember to give your clients plenty of time (30 days) and personalize with your results and strengths ⤵️
I absolutely love working with you and helping you reach CLIENT IMPACT GOAL HERE from behind the scenes. I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished together, especially YOUR BIG RESULT HERE.
I wanted to let you know that as of DATE-30 DAYS FROM NOW I will be increasing my rates. I’ve attached my new package rate sheet
**OR OPTIONAL: My new project rate is $XX.**
I wanted to give you enough time before this change. Let me know if you have any questions.
I am eager to continue our partnership and support your dream!
That’s it! Keep it simple!
The Takeaway: Deciding to raise your virtual assistant rates feels hard at first, but it’s a step you need to take.
I had a long-term client for years. I started working with her early in her business career for only $20 an hour(!!). As her business grew, I worked even harder behind the scenes. I constantly looked for new opportunities for growth for her, which built my own tech skills and digital marketing experience.
The scope of my tasks increased rapidly as her business boomed. We hired new team members and I focused even more on the higher-level tasks. I devoted a lot of my mental energy and working hours to her business.
At some point, as her profits exploded, I finally realized that I deserved better compensation for my efforts. I began to understand the true value of what I was bringing to her business every day.
So I finally asked for a higher rate. And was shocked when she balked. I did eventually raise my rates as her virtual assistant, but I also realized that this client was more concerned about the dollar signs than my own personal contributions as a partner and a professional. As a real person.
I began to resent the work that I had previously loved. So it was no surprise that I felt pretty upset when my compensation didn’t improve again even after I was an integral part of another very successful launch with her.
Finally, I realized that I needed to walk away. I had stayed too long, trying to believe in her business from my heart, be a loyal teammate, and work from a place of servitude.
While those are all great things in the right environment, it didn’t serve me in this situation. Still, walking away from one of my top clients was so, so hard.
And it was also the best move that I have ever made in my career. It freed up my time and brain power to focus on my own business, and it gave me the push to upgrade my own digital marketing services to new high-level clients and top-paying opportunities like day rates and intensive project consulting.
It’s never easy, and I still feel discomfort sometimes when I hit that “send” button. But trust me – it’s worth it. You’re worth it.
⚡ Related Podcast Alert: Want to listen to the podcast episode of this article? It’s all right here: Get ready to raise your rates as a virtual assistant⚡
Keep your eyes on the prize.
What is your target freelance rate for this year? Next year? Five years from now?
Now think about how you will get there. What courses do you need to take, and what networking opportunities do you need to pursue?
And ultimately – which clients are going to help you get to those goals and which ones are holding you back? It’s time to shed those business owners who are keeping you at a low hourly rate so that you can move forward to the higher-level opportunities you’ve earned.
If you attended my last free live workshop, I know you already have a solid understanding of exactly how to set up your business pricing structure to meet both your short-term and long-term financial goals.
Did you miss it? If you did, and you’re at all curious about how to establish your virtual assistant business rates and digital marketing service packages, make sure you get on the waitlist right now.
From how to monetize the skills you have right now, to how to position yourself to maximize your client rates in the long run, this workshop is everything you need to optimize your rates and find the financial results you deserve.
And for a limited time, it is absolutely free! So sign up right here and I’ll send you an email as soon as it opens again. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this!
You’ve got this. Deep breaths. Start working on that email. Get the rates you deserve. And let me know how it goes!
-Emily, Digital Marketing Consultant and Implementer
“I help smart women learn the in-demand digital marketing strategies and profitable tech skills to get hired as a unicorn digital marketing assistant.“
3 ways we can work together:
1. Do you need to acquire digital marketing implementation skills and build your workflows so you can solidly put yourself out there for work? Check out the Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School. (It opens twice a year so jump on the waitlist now!… I also share job leads with my students so it’s a gateway for anyone who wants to build a freelance business that gives them flexibility and meaningful work).
2. Already doing the work and have clients? But need more clients and a better referral network? Apply for my Digital Marketing Workgroup. This is a tight-knit community of freelancers like you, supporting each other. Plus I’ve shared 1,500+ job opportunities with this community.
3. Need to hire a Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant? Submit your job opportunity here. I’ll share with my workgroups totally free.