How to Go from Hourly to Project Rates for Virtual Assistants

Rates for virtual assistants are typically by the hour or project based. As a freelance marketing specialist, you likely started out charging an hourly rate, which is a straightforward approach but it can limit your income and leave you feeling burnt out. (Maybe even resentful!) If you’ve mastered your digital services and you’re performing like a well-oiled machine and getting your client results, then it’s time to switch to project rates and become a top-tier service pro!

This is the way to reward your expertise, experience, and time-in-grade without being tied down to time tracking. Congrats if you’re here!

Ready to ditch the time clock and increase your income?

If you’re charging hourly rates and you’re ready to transition to project-based pricing, I’m here to teach you how to confidently propose this to your clients and set yourself up for success. I’m Emily Reagan, a freelance digital marketer and marketing assistant mentor. I’ve been freelancing with marketing and PR services since the golden days of 2007 and have learned a thing or two along the way. (And made a million mistakes with my own pricing!) 

I know this and see it time and time again with my most successful students: the quicker you can pull out of hourly rates into the projects, the faster you’ll build profits and be seen as an expert who can charge even more.

Let’s walk through the steps of how, why, and most importantly when so you can make this transition.

How to Go from Hourly to Project Rates for Virtual Assistants

Why Make the Switch from Hourly Billing to Project Rates?

There are several compelling reasons to move away from hourly billing:

Reduced Stress: Tracking hours can be a tedious and stressful task. I’ve always hated tracking my time. Project rates free you from this burden and allow you to focus on delivering results.

Increased Income: Project rates enable you to charge a premium for your expertise and experience. You’re not just selling your time; you’re selling the value you bring to your client’s business.

Improved Efficiency: Knowing exactly what’s included in a project incentivizes you to work efficiently. You can streamline your processes and potentially complete projects faster. You’re not punished for being fast and good!

Clearer Value Proposition: Project rates help you position yourself as a strategic partner, not just someone who clocks in and out. Clients perceive you as an expert in your lane, offering more value than simply the hours worked.

Side Note: If you’re in this position of being fast + good at marketing services, I want to refer you inside our Digital Marketer’s Workgroup. This is a tight-knit, exclusive referral community of freelance marketing assistants, specialists and managers who are helping each other work our freelance businesses to the premium levels. We only open a few times a year, so apply here. We’ll help you attract high-quality clients, niche down in specialized services, increase your rates and become a booked-out, go-to expert!

Before You Make the Leap to Project Rates

While project-based pricing offers numerous advantages, it’s not for everyone. Here are a few things to consider before making the switch:

Confidence in Your Skills: Project rates require a solid understanding of the services you offer, the time it takes to complete them, and the value you deliver. You need to be confident that you can deliver high-quality work within the agreed-upon timeframe. (Need to grow your confidence and master marketing services? My Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School is open to self study students now. This will give you a solid foundation in marketing strategy and services and how to do the work.)

Clearly Defined Scope of Work: A successful project hinges on a clear and detailed scope of work, including timelines, deliverables, and all the little pieces. Project-based rates for virtual assistants need to outline exactly what’s included, what’s not, and what additional services might incur separate charges. This helps avoid misunderstandings and scope creep. If you haven’t been doing the work for very long, or with other clients, you may not know all that needs to be done or have a handle on the revision process.

Raise your Rates First: Don’t jump the gun into project rates without raising your rates first. The numbers have to match what you’re already charging. If you have a hefty hike, it won’t make sense budget-wise to your client. Click here to get my script on how to raise your rates as a virtual assistant. After you’ve raised your rates, sometimes more than once, your client will be ready for project rates and see that it will be more efficient for them too.

How to Go from Hourly to Project Rates for Virtual Assistants

The Art of the Announcement: Transitioning to Project Rates for Virtual Assistants

If you’ve decided project-based pricing is the right move for you, here’s how to propose it to your clients:

Start with Appreciation: Thank your client for their business and highlight the positive results you’ve achieved together.

Explain the Benefits: Frame project-based pricing as a way to deliver even better results. Explain how it allows you to focus on strategy and deeper integration with their business, ultimately offering them more value. 

Confidence is Key: Be firm and confident in your proposal. Don’t apologize for the change. Don’t over-explain. Keep it to the point. Project rates reflect your expertise and the value you provide. 

Offer Options: Present a range of project packages tailored to your client’s needs. This allows them to choose a solution that fits their budget and specific requirements. Make a custom proposal or send them your new Services & Pricing Guide.

Be Prepared to Negotiate: Your client might counter your initial offer. Be prepared to negotiate, but don’t undervalue your services. Remember, you’re offering a premium service through project rates.

Note: This conversation could be done in writing as an email or your next 1:1 meeting, the latter is my preference.

Sample Script for a Marketing Assistant who helps with a podcast

“I love working with you producing your podcast. We’ve seen downloads double, added 100 more 5-star reviews and booked really big players as guests. We’ve never missed an episode and we’re positioned well to start working with sponsors. I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished together!

Moving forward, I’d like to be your official Podcast Manager and offer your podcast and promotion management as a monthly project rate. We’re in a good workflow with production, guest management and promotion. This allows me to continue getting results, go even deeper into making this podcast a revenue stream and accomplish our goals of 10,000 downloads a month.

Since I’ll no longer be offering hourly rates, here’s my proposal (or Services & Pricing Guide) with my podcast management rates. Book a time with me, and we’ll discuss your podcast management rate, what will best fit your business based on what I’ve been already doing in your business and where you want to go.

I’m excited about this elevated role and to keep this progress going!”

Do you see what I did there? We moved into project rates AND claimed a job title that matched the new role. Go ahead and offer these rates with all new prospects and clients, but make sure you’ve really covered your bases with scope and know what additional set-up and deliverability work goes into your projects. 

Aka know your work and your numbers. You can always offer hourly rates when it’s convenient for you and when you don’t know what you’re walking into for other projects. 

Remember this is YOUR business. As an independent contractor, you are in charge of your profit margins, your rates and who you work with.

The switch from hourly to project rates for virtual assistants is a great way to start charging your worth as a digital marketing specialist.

If you’re a serious freelancer, I suggest you apply for our Digital Marketer’s Workgroup. The Unicorn Digital Marketers Workgroup is a community designed to support professional digital marketing assistants who are ready to build their network and their businesses, Inside our tight-knit referral community, we are always looking for fabulous sister service providers.

We also share job leads from online business owners looking for digital marketing specialists – like you!

Learn more and apply here for the Digital Marketer’s Workgroup.

⚡️Related Podcast Alert: How Virtual Assistants Can Transition from Hourly to Project Rates

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | iHeartRadioAmazon

In this episode from my Unicorns Unite podcast, I cover how to confidently approach your clients when you’ve been doing the work for your clients and you’re ready to move to a project rate.

Set Yourself Up for Success

If you’re new to the marketing field, consider taking a course like my Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School to build your foundational skills and confidence.

The Takeaway:

This conversation is a bold move where the serious growth happens. Ditching hourly rates and going all-in with project-based pricing is an investment in YOU and your freelance business. It empowers you to take control of your income, reduce stress, and build a more sustainable and profitable career. But more importantly, it positions you as a premium service provider who commands premium rates, without adding more hours. 

Time to reflect your true worth! You got this!

I challenge you to think about your new project rate and what that will look like. Then go for it. DM me on Instagram and let me know how it goes with your current clients @emilyreaganpr

I’m cheering for you!

-Emily, Digital Marketing Consultant and Implementer

Emily Reagan is a mom of four, milspouse, freelance digital marketer and Virtual Assistant coach who has helped 400 go-getters, including military spouses, stay-at-home moms, and professional women learn in-demand skills and find flexible remote work as digital marketing assistants and specialists. She’s shared 2,000+ job leads with her freelance marketers & VA community.

Ask her any questions over on Insta @emilyreaganpr

“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:

Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School with Emily Reagan

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). You can also choose to go through the self-study program now. Enroll here.

2. Already doing the work and have clients? But need more clients and a better referral network? Apply for our Digital Marketer’s Workgroup. This is a tight-knit community of freelancers like you, supporting each other. Plus I’ve shared 1,600+ 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.

Further Reading:

>>Create a Services Guide with Virtual Assistant Packages to Book Better Clients

>>All About Virtual Assistant Contracts 

>>How to Raise Your Rates as a Unicorn Virtual Assistant

>>4 Time Tracking Tools for Virtual Assistants

>>Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School

>>The Digital Marketer’s Workgroup

Yes, you really can work online.

Feeling overwhelmed and not sure how you can work from home and build your own online digital marketing business? Take a deep breath – you can do this. Start here with my list of 10 popular tasks that online businesses need help with the most!

These are the tasks that new clients are constantly asking for help with, and skills that they really need to find in a virtual assistant. Get access to this free download right now. Then make sure your own VA toolkit is up-to-date and relevant, and decide where you might need to invest in new growth and development for your biz.

▶️Related YouTube Video: Pay Yourself First: Transforming Your Money Mindset as a Freelancer with Belinda Rosenblum

In this episode of my Unicorns Unite podcast, I chat with Belinda Rosenblum about overcoming money mindset challenges and building a profitable business for female entrepreneurs.

Pay Yourself First: Transforming Your Money Mindset as a Freelancer with Belinda Rosenblum

Pay Yourself First: Transforming Your Money Mindset as a Freelancer with Belinda Rosenblum (read more ⤵️) Are you ready to create an offer that makes real money and that you’re so excited to sell too? I want to invite you to Belinda’s free “High-Profit Offers Workshop.”

You can subscribe here to Emily’s YouTube channel for Online Marketing Techie Skills & Strategies for Digital Marketers

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Emily Reagan is a jill-of-all trades when it comes to digital marketing and techie skills. She’s worked as a behind-the-scenes digital marketing implementor and strategist for a decade for online biz owner clients.

She’s a mom of four, Air Force wife, and founder of the Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School, where she teaches smart women the in-demand, highly-coveted digital marketing skills to get flexible, online work.

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