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I've scaled a lot lately and I'm working at least 12 hour days 6 days a week in order to stay on top of all my contracts.

I have a lot more leads that I just can't take on right now so most of them are being pit stopped ie. I can't take on any more clients right now but I'll add you to the waitlist if you're interested.

I have 2 choices right now:

  • Hire a VA (Virtual Assistant) to take some of the workload off of me for my existing clients and new clients.
  • Stop taking in new clients and risk losing good leads without gaining the equivalent back.

I've worked with some VA's before but I've never done extensive work where they'd impact my overall clients and were usually the VA of a client that was able to do work in 1 area and give me more time to focus elsewhere. I digress.

What should I consider with both options?

If I choose to hire a VA, how do I hire the right VA? I've heard many horror stories.

If I don't take on any more clients how can I maintain current leads for 3-12 months and should I continue to try and gain more leads to cover ones that fall off the radar?

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  • What does "VA" mean? I'm assuming assistant?
    – Scott
    Jul 10 '16 at 5:39
  • Yes, it's in the tags but I'll add it in the question too :)
    – Memj
    Jul 10 '16 at 5:40
  • Oh..okay I see the tag (now)... not a term I'm overly familiar with, obviously :)
    – Scott
    Jul 10 '16 at 5:40
  • No fault of your own. It's a term I pass around dozens of times a day so it becomes impulse to abbreviate and become arrogant on others ignorance to the meaning.
    – Memj
    Jul 10 '16 at 5:42
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the OP really needs to go to some site specializing in the pros/cons of having a virtual assistant.
    – Xavier J
    Jul 10 '16 at 17:55
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In most cases, too much work means it's time to raise prices.

The point of raising prices is to weed out the less profitable clients, but maintain your workload. At a higher price point, you will get less work, but your income will remain the same (or better). I, personally, would rather have 10 fantastic, regular, high-paying, clients than 50 sporadic, small job, clients. Especially if I make the same income either way. I could easily chop my pricing and get a ton more clients. That's not always a good thing.

There's an old adage... if you get every job you bid on... your prices are too low.

My immediate suggestion would be to start bidding very high on new client projects - such as double, or triple your normal rate. You'll be amazed that some will actually pay a much higher rate. Some won't, but if you have enough work already, there's not really that much loss there.

That being posted, you could hire an assistant and in some cases that's a good fit. Realize that a distant assistant (internet) will still require your time in terms on direction, review, etc. So I would only ever consider an assistant for tasks that wouldn't require a great deal of oversight. If you can hire someone to completely take "skill set A" off of your plate, and (eventually) trust them completely with that aspect, then it may be a viable alternative. For example, an assistant to handle client relations, or quality control, or browser testing, etc.

However, an assistant to merely do the same tasks you do may not be a good fit if you want control over deliverables. Difficult to explain in text... but... my clients come to me for my aesthetic sense... my eye.. my methods.... teaching someone or overseeing someone to do things as I would do them would be as much or more of a burden as my just doing them from the start. Therefore, I have to be careful to hire for projects/aspects I don't want to handle or that are not dependent upon my direct input. Only you can evaluate how much of your time is taken in each project aspect and whether or not those aspects could be delegated without generating more work or time.

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  • When you raise prices do you keep them that high or do you bring them back down? I may have 10 clients that take up 100% of my time, increase prices, and 6 months later end my contracts with 3 clients and take on 1 new client at the higher price. That leaves me with 2 empty client spots. Let's say 3 months later 2 more contracts end so now I'm at 6 clients with 4 open spots. Good or bad idea to lower prices to fill the gap?
    – Memj
    Jul 10 '16 at 6:03
  • Additionally, how vastly is the game changed if instead of hiring a VA you hire someone that's skilled or an expert (if you can afford it) within your field that already knows how to do the work but just needs to be brought up to your standards. Is it still the same story or can is be more to your advantage by informing clients there's now a team working for them at no extra cost?
    – Memj
    Jul 10 '16 at 6:06
  • Just picking your brain a bit here Scott, hope you don't mind :)
    – Memj
    Jul 10 '16 at 6:07
  • Well, it really depends upon the frequency and length of any fluctuations. I have a very hard time lowering prices. And, I much prefer all my clients pay the same general rate. Freelance is always feast or famine so it can become difficult to stick to higher pricing when there's less work to be had. But it's also possible to save better for lean times and not be overly concerned with the fluctuations.
    – Scott
    Jul 10 '16 at 6:07
  • Whew.. there's a lot that could be gone into here. Truth is.. as a subcontractor/assistant you won't want to pay the rates any expert will want. I've been asked to subcontract.... for like 1/8th my normal rate... that's not worth my time to even think about it. People (even you and I) want to still make money even if the work is being done by an assistant. So the margins one needs to create are not enticing to anyone of a greater skill level - most are generally doing okay on their own. But if you could find an expert at a low rate, yes, grab that if possible.
    – Scott
    Jul 10 '16 at 6:09
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It's time to look at your business plan - you DO have a business plan?!?!?! do you want to be a small 1 man shop or grow to be more of a consulting shop. I know a few language experts who are 1 man shops and charge between $125 and $150 an hour. I also now a few 5 to 10 people shops who charge between $65 and $125 per hour depending on the difficulty level of the work being accomplished. IMHO big ship = more management headaches = more $$$. Smaller shop = more control = more uncertainty of work load MAY EQUAL more $$$

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Just let me give a simple suggestion: if you are now young (I guess) and you are working 12 hours a day 6 days a week (which I did that too), in the long term you are going to be eaten by your own job and have no time for your personal life or for developing your own business while building other's businesses, and when you will be in your 30's or 40's you will not be able phisically and mentally to keep up with that rithm (expecially if you will eventually have a family).

My suggestion is, while you can, try to built your business in a way that others work for you and you are the supervisor, and when all flows good you have time to think about other side projects and different ways to get extra income.

Now I am in my 40's with 20+ years of web develoment and design, with family, in the past I based my freelance business on the amout of work (more work at proper price = more income), but now I am not able anymore to do "computer marathons", after a certain point my powers of concentration fade away...

I wish to have realized that before, but I didn't think about that when I was coding and photoshopping from 8am to 10-12pm every day for years.

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