Rates and Billing

Discuss setting rates and find billing resources and information.

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Old 06-04-2012
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Question Clients who buy a "bank" of hours
I have a client who just opened a new business. He wants to utilize our support options but isn't sure how many hours per month he would need us. He is asking about buying a bank of hours that could be rolled over to the next month if unused. Also, we bill in 15 minute increments and he is concerned that a lot of time would be eaten up with us replying to emails.
Has anyone dealt with a situation similar to this?
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Old 06-04-2012
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Default Re: Clients who buy a "bank" of hours
Most VA, myself included, do not allow the hours purchased for one month to roll over to the next month. It makes it to difficult to budget for the month. This is a standard clause in most VA contracts. (Very much an industry standard.)


If they do not know how many hours to purchase, perhaps the first few months should be billed on an hourly basis as opposed to a retainer basis. (If you offer hourly billing.)


It ultimately depends on your business model. You are the business owner, so it is your decision.


Best of Luck,

Julie

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Old 06-04-2012
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Default Re: Clients who buy a "bank" of hours
Hi Lisa,

If you are concerned that your PC won't like the idea of billing him on hourly-basis, perhaps you can offer him an option where he has 3 months to use the 15 hours... It is sort of a gray area because it allows him to roll the unused hour over; however, you know that it would only be for 3 months as a trial period...
Also, when it comes to timing email correspondence, I don't log in 15 minutes for every email read/sent if it only takes me a couple of minutes. Instead, I "bundle them up" - keep track of them and at the end of the day add them all up... And as some other VAs would tell you, sometimes you don't count in some short replies (if you are away from your computer and answering via your smart phone), so it's ok to sometimes round the time up... It evens out in the end.
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Old 06-04-2012
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Default Re: Clients who buy a "bank" of hours
Sara,

That's really a helpful answer. That seems practical and fair to everyone.
jan
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Old 06-05-2012
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Default Re: Clients who buy a "bank" of hours
Lisa,

For new clients I offer a bank of hours to be used within 3 months. After the initial period then we shore up a firm retainer package based on their needs. As for the emails I utilize a PM program where they comment directly on the projects at hand which allows for communication on projects to be integrated with that task.

My general rule on emails is I a lot a small amount of time for email management and conferencing so that we can keep that avenue open without eating up their time. If it gets excessive or are not in regards to a project then I bill for that time however I let them know that it is more for business development and so therefore they will be charged.
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Old 06-05-2012
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Default Re: Clients who buy a "bank" of hours
@Lisa - This is a great post and great information. I have not offered this yet but will be soon.

Thanks for the ideas and advice!!
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Old 06-05-2012
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Default Re: Clients who buy a "bank" of hours
I have one lawyer client who buys a block of 30 hours, mostly transcription. As I'm just retained for overflow work and, between workload, vacations and staff sick time, his needs vary from day to day, week to week and I just let him roll along.

I keep an Excel spreadsheet detailing date, client, work performed and time spent which I submit periodically to his bookkeeper as some of that time can be billed to clients. When he's coming close to the end of the 30 hours I email him and he direct deposits payment for another 30 hours. As my time is flexible it works for both of us.

Lynne
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Old 06-06-2012
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Default Re: Clients who buy a "bank" of hours
Thanks so much everyone for the input. Julie, you are right, I do have a clause in my contract that states I don't roll over pre-paid time, but his set up is brand new and the fact that he has no clue how he is going to use me has me rethinking it in his case. I don't normally bill on an hourly basis but some tasks in the past have forced me to do that. One thing about this business, it's something different all the time and sometimes, concessions need to be made. I like your idea, Sara. Until he has a better handle on what he is going to delegate to me, I will offer the 3 month trial period and bundle the emails. This will probably suit him for now. Lee, I like your concept of allotting a certain amount of time for correspondence and then bill for the ones that are considered business development. I am going to use that idea if you don't mind. Lol. I have a standard 3 month trial period on my contracts for several reasons. First, many new clients have never used a VA before and this trial makes them feel better about "trying something new" to see if it works for them. Second, I have a team of 9 and not all clients fit well with a particular VA, so I allot time for the relationship to build and if it turns out that they can't work together for whatever reason, I can switch to another VA on the team. I have never had that happen but we all know Anything can happen! Lynn, I like the set up you have with the attorney. I just brought a paralegal on the team and can use that idea for her or any client, for that matter, who has a similar situation. I don't want to leave it open ended on the bank of hours (no time frame) with this client since I will not be retained by him otherwise. Like Julie said, it makes it hard to budget for the month.
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Old 06-06-2012
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Default Re: Clients who buy a "bank" of hours
To add to the discussion, should I specify that the payment is non-refundable or a portion of it if he doesn't use all of the hours by the end of the trial period?
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Old 06-06-2012
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Default Re: Clients who buy a "bank" of hours
Absolutely, you need to specify everything so there's no grey area... It will protect you and your client.
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