Is a Virtual Assistant Value for Money?

Written by: Penny Cooke | Posted on: | Category:

While I was setting up my VA business – getting all those ducks in a row (logo, business cards, website etc) – my sister and brother-in-law paid me a visit. I pulled up a shot of my logo to show them. My lovely b-in-law read it as VFM and asked, “What does that stand for? Value for money?” And that got me thinking.

I’d heard from other, more established, VAs that they were often told by potential clients that they were too expensive, that they cost too much, and that they could hire a PA for less than hiring a VA.

Leaving aside the experience that a VA will bring with them (in my case, over 20 years as a Personal Assistant, mostly C-suite), what Mr Potential Client doesn’t take into consideration is all the other add-ons that need to be factored in if they were to hire a PA, rather than outsource to a VA. Let’s start at the beginning. How much time does Mr PC spend on his administration? What’s his hourly rate? My ad hoc rate is £30 per hour. If his is more than £30, he’s already making a profit from hiring me. What would he gain from all the time that a VA will free up for him? More productivity, for a start. More time making his business grow. More time with his family, perhaps.

According to Indeed.co.uk, the average salary for a Personal Assistant in the United Kingdom is £29,299. In Oxford, where I worked until September 2018, it’s £28,566. At my last salaried position, I was earning not quite an extra £10k on top of that £28k, which reflected my skills and experience, but let’s stick to the UK average of £29,299.

So … 52 weeks a year, 5 days a week, 7½ hours a day, an average PA costs £16.10 an hour. Oh, so I really am expensive?
Hang on a sec! I forgot to factor in Employer’s national insurance costs. That’s about 14% on anything over c£7500 a year. And that brings the cost to Mr PC to £32,133.

Let’s factor in those days that Mr PC is paying his PA to do nothing. Average annual leave in the UK, according to Glassdoor.co.uk, is 28 days. So, 260 days a year drops to 232. (I’ve not included Bank Holidays in that. Excluding Christmas & New Year, which I’m sure Mr PC would allow, there are an additional five Bank Holidays in the United Kingdom – two for Easter, two in May, and the August Bank Holiday. That’s an extra working week of not-working-but-being-paid.) I’m sure that his hired PA is hale, hearty and healthy. But the Department of Work & Pensions calculates that the average worker takes 5½ days a year off sick. Average days at work has now dropped to 226.5.

Now, if you hire me as a VA, I’m on the clock (literally, I time myself). The clock is stopped when I put the kettle on and make myself a cup of tea; when I stop for lunch; when I pop to the loo; when I answer the phone and it’s a personal call; when I get up from my computer to stretch my legs. I don’t have any co-workers who will stop by for a chat.

Something else to take into consideration is productivity. The article here from Business Leader lists some astonishing facts. One stand-out for me is that “(t)he research found that the average office worker spends up to 5 hours on non-work-related activity every day, including chatting and flirting with colleagues, online shopping, and doing the tea run.”. I’m going to err on the side of caution and kindness here, and assume that most office workers are actually working for 75% of their time, and that they never arrive late or leave early. That means they’re working for 5.6 hours of the 7½ hours you're paying them for. How’s the comparison looking now?

£32,133 / 226.5 days / 5.6 hours a day = £25.33 Hmm…

I’m going to assume that Mr PC’s offices are fully insured, and that he has liability insurance, too. He will, of course, supply desk, chair, computer, software, printer, phone for his new Personal Assistant. He might need to send her on a course for GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and register with the Information Commissioner’s Office. All this, of course, I already have in place as his VA.

All things considered then, Value for Money really does mean Virtual Ms Friday.

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke / Pixabay

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