Virtual Assistant Services Rates: What Should You Pay?

by | August 25, 2020


Hiring a virtual assistant can seem complicated. How can you make sure that you’re finding the right professional for the services you need, at a level you can definitely afford?

Complicating the process is the fact that depending on who and where you hire, you may anywhere between $2 per hour and $80 per hour for virtual assistant services. It’s no wonder that especially those hiring VAs for the first time can get confused and frustrated by the process.

There is no simple answer to the typical VA service rates. That said, understanding the variables involved, along with some common ranges, can help you both budget for the right professional and make sure what they’re asking for is in line with their value to your business and the market rate.

So let’s dig in. After a basic introduction of some of those variables, we’ll dig into the services that virtual assistants can provide before highlighting some of those ranges for each of the relevant services. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know exactly what to expect in the hiring process.

An Introduction to Virtual Assistant Services Rates

That broad range between $2 and $80 per hour can be explained by a number of variables that go into the pay structure. Virtual assistants will change their rates depending on:

  • Their experience level. VAs with significant experience in the tasks you’re asking for tend to rightfully charge more than those new to the profession.
  • Their location. U.S.-based virtual assistants generally charge more than those based in other countries, like the Philippines or India. Skip down for a more in-depth exploration of service rates in the U.S. vs. the Philippines.
  • Their services provided. Simple administrative tasks will likely not cost you as much as executive-level services and representation. Again, we’ll have a more in-depth exploration of the impact these types of services have on virtual assistant pay below.

Another important variable to consider is the pay structure. You can hire VAs through hourly pay, but many will charge either by the project or on a monthly fee for longer-term engagement. When hiring based on an individual project you need to be completed, you can expect to pay up to 50% of the fee upfront to ensure good faith.

Finally, you might find yourself hiring a VA through a virtual assistant company, which comes with a number of advantages. In this case, though, you might end up paying more because much of the background bookkeeping and payment work is done by the company through which you’re working. On the good side, payments will be more regulated and streamlined.

Top Services that VAs Can Provide

Before you hire your virtual assistant, it’s important to understand what services you actually need them for. Based on the typical skills for virtual assistants, You can expect a range of services from them depending on your needs:

  • Inbox management and scheduling, to take care of your email inbox and business calendar.
  • Virtual desk services, allowing you to keep the business phone lines and email inbox clean and representing your brand.
  • Digital marketing assistance, from marketing automation to social media and website maintenance.
  • Basic data entry and advanced database management, depending on your individual needs.
  • Expense reporting, invoicing, and other basic bookkeeping tasks.
  • Research, both competitive research and industry research to keep you at the bleeding edge of your environment.

Each of these services, of course, require a different skill set. Find a VA that can do it all, and you might end up paying for all of them. And of course, the location of the professional you hire matters significantly in what those rates are. So let’s get started there, before digging deeper into the common rates based on service type.

Typical Rates for Virtual Assistants in the U.S.

The most basic (and also most significant) variable for VA pay rates is the location of the professional you’re trying to hire. In the U.S., you can expect to spend anywhere from $15 to $80 per hour for a qualified professional ready to jump in and do the work.

Where on that range you fall depends largely on the type of service you’re looking to hire for, which we explain in greater detail below. Experience level and industry familiarity also make an impact.

It’s important to note that the pay here is responsible for more than just the work done to help your business. Freelance professionals and comprehensive services add overhead, which is the time they spend on bookkeeping, client acquisition, and other tasks needed to keep their business running. Keep that in mind before you think the rates are getting too high.

As you’ll see below, the typical rates for virtual assistants in the United States are significantly higher than those based in other countries, particularly if they’re based in Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines. For that extra price, you get a number of additional benefits:

  • Assistants based in the U.S. understand the culture of your audience because it’s theirs, as well.
  • Assistants in the U.S. have more easily verifiable resumes, particularly as it relates to their education and past work experience.
  • Assistants in the U.S. will not work in a different timezone than you, making them more easily available when you need them.
  • Assistants in the U.S. are familiar with the way businesses like yours work, easing the transition and helping them become productive faster.
  • Assistants in the U.S. work on a payment system (like PayPal or direct deposit) that you’re familiar with. That eases monthly or project-based payments for everyone involved.

With these benefits in mind, you might find yourself naturally gravitating towards VAs who are based in the United States. Still, it’s important to understand the other side of the coin, as well.

Typical Rates for Virtual Assistants in the Philippines

At first glance, hiring a virtual assistant based in the Philippines is a great value thanks to its low price. You can expect to pay between $5 and $45 an hour for their services; in other words, cut the rate charged by their American counterparts in half.

On the other hand, not all that’s shiny is actually gold. We’ve written extensively about the benefits and drawbacks of hiring a VA who is based in the Philippines. Some of these drawbacks include:

  • Less quality control than you would have with a worker based in the U.S.
  • Potential time zone gaps that prevent you from operating at the highest possible efficiency.
  • Losing the ability to contribute to the U.S. economy as it attempts to recover from the current COVID-10 crisis.
  • Less flexibility when it comes to payments, including the hidden costs of international transaction fees that can range up to 7.5%.

Speaking of payments: you’ll also need to make sure that the payment system you use is compatible with that of the professional you’re hiring for virtual assistant services. Your options will be more limited than they would be for domestic professionals.

None of these is a definitive reason for staying away from virtual assistants based in the Philippines and India. They are, however, cause for making sure that you understand the complexity of the situation before you commit to hiring someone at these lower rates.

Common Rates for VAs Based on Service Type

The general ranges above are a great initial guide for how much you’ll spend on a virtual assistant, but they’re not enough. A more specific breakdown is necessary to optimize your hiring process.

We’ll start our breakdown of rates with a few disclaimers. First, it’s important to understand that these are just averages. You might well find an assistant who charges more or less for the same service, based on some of the other variables mentioned above. In that case, judgment on how that rate fits your budget is crucial.

Second disclaimer: all the below average rates are hourly. But, as mentioned above, that’s far from the only pricing model. In fact, especially when you work with a VA company, you’ll likely get charged on a monthly basis. But even in that case, these monthly retainers are often based on hourly rates in the background, so keeping it hourly still makes for the best comparison point.

Thirdly, the below list of services is not comprehensive. You might well have other needs. In that case, use this list as a guidepost and look for a rate that provides similar services. It’s an educated guess but still helps you determine your budget.

Finally, it’s important to note that these average rates are measured by U.S.-based virtual assistants. As mentioned above, outsourcing to another country can save you a significant budget on the sticker price, though you might need to pay extra in currency and exchange rate fees.

Enough with the disclaimers. Let’s get started on those rates!

Basic Phone Services and Scheduling Rates

Expect to pay between $15 and $25 per hour for basic virtual front desk services. Professionals who can accomplish these tasks tend to be entry-level, although they might have a few years of experience under their belt.

Within this price range, you can expect both a general competency in the field along with strong written and verbal communication skills. Organizational skills are also beneficial for anyone you hire to perform basic phone, email, and scheduling services.

Advanced Email Management Rates

A virtual assistant who can take over and manage or optimize your email inbox typically charges between $15 and $35 per hour. In other words, they start at the low end of the range but may charge more based on their ability to correspond on your behalf (not just on behalf of your business) and keep your inbox organized.

Hiring a professional for this type of tasks requires a similar skill set as the above, but typically performed at a higher level. Spend some time to find a professional who has experience specifically with inbox and advanced email management, including the set up of automated rules and scheduled/merged sends.

Research Services Rates

Hiring a professional assistant to perform research on your behalf typically ranges between $20 and $40 per hour. Yes, you can find professionals below these rates. However, you will need to spend extra in order to be able to trust the research that will be performed on your behalf.

Being able to perform this job up to your expectations requires an assistant who can’t just communicate, but also understands the internet intuitively and can find both obvious (Google) sources and more in-depth business databases. That specialized expertise likely results in higher hourly demands, but you will get high-quality results in turn.

Data Entry and Database Management Rates

Are you looking for a VA to manage your database and perform anything from entering data to pulling reports? If so, expect to pay between $15 and $40 per hour for a qualified professional ready to take on your data needs.

The skills required here differ from the above. You need a professional who is exceptionally detail-oriented, minimizing human error and being able to understand both data and database structures at a higher level. At the upper end of the price range, you might even find a professional who can help you build and expand your database.

Bookkeeping and Basic Accounting Rates

Looking for an assistant who can help you with your payroll and other bookkeeping needs will likely cost you between $20 and $50 per hour. The higher cost range has to do with the trust you need; after all, you cannot afford to make mistakes in calculating the payroll tax you owe or similar tasks.

Again, the services here are different from the above, although being detail-oriented is still a crucial skill to look for. But so are math skills and at least some accounting experience, enabling the professional you’re hiring to manage your accounts effectively and accurately.

Marketing Automation Assistance Rates

Marketing help in the form of a virtual assistant typically ranges between $15 and $50 an hour. That’s the broadest price range on the list, and the reason is connected to the vast potential of skills you might be looking for depending on your needs.

A recent college grad would love to help you with social media at the lower end of that range. Advanced SEO services? You might need to look for existing experience and dedicated expertise, which comes at a higher price. For basic marketing services, though, you can expect to pay the lower end of the range.

Website Maintenance Assistance Rates

Finally, an assistant who can help you maintain your web presence will likely cost between $20 and $30 an hour. The difference to the above is the relatively small gap in this range; anything beyond basic help with your website is likely best managed through a dedicated web professional.

Still, even an assistant expected to perform these tasks will likely need at least some basic experience in managing websites and content management systems. Beyond that, a good handle on grammar and general writing skills will come in handy to help you maintain a professional presence online.

Finding the Right Cost-Benefit Balance for Your Virtual Assistant

So there it is. Not a straightforward price, but a number of ranges based on the help you need. From there, you can evaluate just what services you need, and what type of assistant may make the most sense to hire.

It’s important to note, of course, that the ranges above don’t stack. Hiring an assistant for marketing automation and website maintenance doesn’t mean adding both rates together, but their rate will probably fall somewhere between the two. That’s how you can make sure that as you look for the right professional, you don’t set your expectations too high or too low and can budget accordingly.

With these numbers in hand, you can begin to make some calls. Do you need the experienced professional who you can trust to get advanced tasks done, but at higher rates? Or do you want to go with the entry-level professional who might need some handholding, but requires a lower budget?

It’s not a perfect choice either way. The key is to make a choice that makes sense for your business, at your current situation. That said, these typical rates can begin to guide you in the right direction to make sure you hire the right VA for your needs.