Virtual Assistant Retainers 101: What They Are, How To Use Them + Why They Are Not Packages!

A lot of people think that Virtual Assistant retainers are the same as packages and mistakenly call them Virtual Assistant retainer packages. But actually, packages and retainers are fundamentally different on many levels. Let’s dive in and find out how. 

#1 – What Are Virtual Assistant Retainers?

  • They are pre-paid buckets of hours that are billed prior to the work being started.
  • They can be used for any task as the client dictates what the hours are used for.
  • They have an expiration date which means the hours need to be used in x number of days. You define what x is.
  • You have to track the time you’ve used against the retainer.

#2 – Why Use Retainers?

  • Great to use when you’re just getting started so you can get a feel for how long it takes to complete specific tasks or projects.
  • Also great to use if you’re doing admin-based work or only offer one service to clients.

#3 – What Are Retainer Limitations?

  • The client pays for your time NOT your expertise.
  • If you offer more than one service, you’re getting paid a “blended” rate. Basically, you’re losing money!
  • Clients don’t know how long it takes to complete specific tasks or a project and may question the amount of time it took.
  • Clients are focused on the hours of time – not the expertise involved to complete it.
  • Sooner or later you’ll run out of time to sell!

#4 – How Are They Different Than Packages?

  • Packages are based on expertise NOT time.
  • They deliver a specific set of items or deliverables and have a fixed price.
  • They don’t require you to track your time.
  • They are invoiced 50% upfront and 50% on delivery. Or you can invoice for the whole package upfront – your business so it’s your choice.
  • The client pays for your expertise NOT your time.
  • You can charge more for packages than you can for your time.
  • To sum it up – retainers are based on hours and packages are based on expertise.

#5 – Tips On Offering Virtual Assistant Retainer Plans

  • Use them when you’re brand new or offering a new service.
  • Create a new client retainer plan that is between 3 – 5 hours. This way you can be sure it’s a good fit for both of you before purchasing more time.
  • Create monthly Virtual Assistant retainer plans in increments of 10.
  • Be sure that all hours expire within 30 – 45 days after purchase and that’s it clear to your clients. You don’t want to carry excess time on the books. Be sure it’s spelled out in your contract and business policies.
  • Use your task management system to track all your time and create status reports of your clients.

I recommend starting with Virtual Assistant retainer plans and moving to packages only when you know how long it takes to complete a set of tasks or projects. You can’t package what you don’t know. If you want to learn even more about pricing, rates, and packages I recommend you have a look at my Ultimate VA Success Guide: How To Calculate Your Virtual Assistant Rates + Create Packages.

Do you offer Virtual Assistant retainer plans or packages? I’d love to know. All comments and questions are welcome.

Thanks for reading – Susan

P.S. Ready to ditch the timer and be paid for your expertise, NOT your time? Do you want to learn how to create lucrative service packages that you love and make you more money? Then my 90-minute Lucrative Packaging Workshop is the right thing for you - even if you're offering admin or specialty-based service.

Susan Mershon
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