How to Budget for Your Virtual Assistant and Keep Them Long-term

April 17, 2023

Image with the title of the episode and a photo of Rochelle speaking into a microphone. The background is a bright blue watercolor image and there are flowers and rhinestones sprinkled around the edges like a digital collage

Show Notes

As entrepreneurs, we often rely on virtual assistants to help us with tasks that we don't have time for or don't have the expertise in. However, it's important to recognize the value of the work they do and to pay them fairly. In this episode, we'll be discussing some ethical practices for paying virtual assistants, setting a budget, and creating a positive work environment to ensure that your virtual assistant stays with you for the long term.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Pay your virtual assistant fairly and recognize the value of their work, regardless of where they live.
  2. Set a monthly budget and pay for deliverables on a per-project basis to create a sustainable long-term relationship.
  3. Clearly define expectations and deliverables to ensure that your virtual assistant understands their role and can meet your needs.
  4. Prioritize creating a positive work environment that aligns with your personal values and business mission.

Good company culture starts right now, where you are, with your first team member, as you set the tone for what kind of influence you want to be in your community and the world around you.

~Rochelle Sanchez


I don’t know if I need to put this warning or not, but if you’re here hoping for one of those validations where I might say that you can hire a full time virtual assistant for $300 USD a week and they’ll be your full time accountant or marketing person, then you’re gonna be disappointed. But that’s why this week we’re getting into the topic of what you should pay your virtual general administrative assistant.

This is Compassionate Side Hustle Strategy, hosted by me, Rochelle Sanchez. I help solopreneurs like you build good habits and compassionate systems that allow you to show up consistently and authentically in your business.

The end goal is to help you onboard a virtual assistant who is 100% aligned with your mission and within your budget, but there are a few things you should probably get in place first, right? That's why we're here.

You deserve to do what you love for a living. And I believe that you're closer than you think. So clear your schedule and let's get to work on the next best step for you on your business journey. 

So obviously this is a podcast and not a one on one conversation that I’m having with you, so the answer to what you should pay your virtual assistant will depend on your circumstances, what you want to get out of their work, how you value someone else helping you with the specific tasks you give them, and all that.

And I took a while to get to this topic because it’s just… so loaded, really. Or it CAN be if you’re not clear about what you really want.

In your research for getting started with a virtual assistant, you may have run across a few options and choices.

They probably sound like this:

  • “I hired a full time subcontractor for only $300 a week!” or
  • “You’ll have a dedicated marketing agency starting at $99 per month!”
  • or my favorite: “The minimum wage in their country is equivalent to only $4.00 USD/hr, so it levels out”

I’ll start with the heavy stuff first, just to rip off the bandage and also to make sure we’re on the same page with this. I’m talking about the whole $4 per hour deal. And then we’ll move on to how much to actually pay your virtual assistant and all the complications that might come with that decision.

So, I’ll share something personal with you:

I’m a woman of color.

I’m a citizen of the United States.

I’m a daughter of highly educated immigrants from the Philippines.

A lot of the outsourcing advice right now in the entrepreneur and coaching industries directs small business owners to hire people from the Philippines at outrageously low rates. It’s problematic in so many ways and also quite heartbreaking. I made the mistake of doing some research and signing up for one of the newsletters of a popular agency that outsources tasks to the Philippines and the messaging in their follow-up sequence is just… so problematic. Especially coming from the founder in the United States who is not a person of color.

But I’ll cut to the chase, here instead of taking you down that rabbit hole:

I pay my virtual assistants (whether they’re domestic or international) at least $22.00 USD/hr with end-of-year bonuses, and I think you should, too.

That’s because I don’t believe that hiring internationally at such low hourly rates is ethical.

And if the project isn’t an ongoing, hourly type of project, then in my project listing, I specifically state what deliverables I’m looking for, state my budget for the full project, and then part of my interview process is I ask them how many deliverables they can offer within my budget.

I believe there’s nothing ethical about a mission-driven, change-oriented business owner in what is known as the most powerful country in the world, and knowingly underpaying another human being just because that human resides in a developing country.

I wouldn’t admire Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, or any billionaire for doing so, and I believe that we as business owners need to hold ourselves to the same standard. I need to hold MYSELF to the same standard if I, too, want to see a great amount of success in my own business and not submit to unethical practices on my way to that end goal.

My frame of thought is this, and then we’ll move on to solutions: If I hope my business makes the world a better place and provides a transformational experience in my high ticket offers for high paying clients, it’s my responsibility to do so in a way that raises ALL boats, not just the yachts that belong to the wealthiest people on the planet.

But of course, we’re still talking about this current level of your small business, trying to scale, definitely not a millionaire much less a billionaire yet, so planning to pay a virtual assistant a certain amount more than what you may have hoped for just got really complicated, right?

So let’s talk about that.

I know that paying your virtual assistant more than the boasted “only $4/hr” might complicate things for you, especially if you were hoping to keep costs low as you start to outsource some of the administrative work in your business.

Paying someone more means you’re spending more money. I won’t argue with you on that.

Does that make outsourcing seem a lot more expensive and complicated? Sure. Yeah, it does. Relatively.

Should we give up, let the rich get richer, and accept things for how they are? Of course not!

So, how do you get around how expensive a virtual assistant can be, if you want to pay them well, while also minding your own budget and not digging yourself into debt with more business loans or long-term credit card debt?

Especially if you want to find a great virtual assistant and hope to work with the same person, long-term?

  • First of all, you set a budget and stick to it.
  • Second, you create systems and identify clear expectations and deliverables for each team member. And yes, I do recommend having more than one person on your team other than you.
  • And third, you stick to your personal values and your business mission.

Let’s start with that first one: Your Budget

Having a budget means that you don’t go over X amount per month, no matter how much you pay the VA per hour.

Remember — and you’d be surprised how many people don’t quite understand this — remember that a budget is a number.

So when I ask you to write down your monthly budget for a virtual assistant, you write down numeric digits.

Not the words, “biggest bang for my buck.”

Or “depends on the person and the value they bring.”

It sounds silly but you’d be surprised how many people say that kind of stuff when I ask them what their budget is for a general admin VA!

If your budget is $200 a month then set that boundary and stick to it. Simple!

If you want to be an ethical business owner and pay your subcontractor team well, then that just means that instead of spending $200 to hire someone full time, what you’re actually doing is spending $200 to hire someone for 10 hours of work, total, spread throughout the month.

Or even better, and what I actually suggest working up to: You’re hiring someone for a $200 package and they have a specific number of deliverables they’ve agreed to give you, instead.

So this could mean that you pay them per number of tweets written, number of graphics created in Canva, or number of edited videos or episodes uploaded. That kind of thing.

This is your chance to step away from the slogging, stay-productive, capitalist culture we have in our corporate jobs and that we unknowingly bring into our businesses.

And it shows that you don’t expect your team members to clock a specific number of hours, either, as long as they get the work done.

The good company culture starts right now, where you are, with your first team member.

And honestly? I happen to think that’s really exciting, because not only are you creating a team, establishing a system of accountability for yourself, and creating a healthy office culture for your business… but you’re setting the tone for what kind of influence you want to be on your community and the world around you.

The kids in your life will see how you treat people. Your ancestors will be proud of how you’re being the change, doing personally challenging things, and treating people with dignity.

And assuming you make it big, bringing in the big bucks down the line with an incredibly successful business model, you are setting an example for the entrepreneurs who are coming up after you.

You’re modeling what our modern work culture could be like, and it starts with your first virtual assistant. Isn’t that nice?

So that’s budget. Let’s talk about…


Having documented workflows in place means that you don’t have a ton of wasted down time and extensive training if your VA suddenly raises their prices out of your budget and ultimately cuts their contract with you.

This happens often, especially with virtual assistants who are excellent at what they do and working hard to scale their businesses. Not every VA wants to operate like a business owner and scale and achieve that typical American entrepreneur dream, but I’d say that a lot of them do.

So it is very likely that you’ll find a unicorn who’s amazing but they let you know that their prices for their monthly retainer package are increasing.

And that will leave you to search for and hire someone else that you can afford, who can do the equivalent amount and quality of work.

I mentioned this in a previous episode already, but it’s really important that you don’t take it personally. And also, this is why we have workflows in place.

Knowing what needs to get done (in what order, and how frequently) will make finding a new VA a lot easier.

And so if that’s the case, I recommend keeping good documentation on all the pieces of your business and all the backend systems. This is a service I provide, but basically it involves recording walkthrough videos, having an organized digital filing system so that you know which VA needs access to what platform, and for storing content templates and passwords and stuff like that.

If your brain doesn’t work that way and you can’t even imagine trying to put that together yourself, then I honestly recommend you reach out to someone who has a systems-oriented brain.

Of course I’d love it to be me, but I may not be in your budget right now. But if you’re feeling like this is a big issue for you, I’d say that having solid workflow videos is a good place to start, and there are plenty of people who can help you with that.

So if and when you need to find a new VA to take over, you have a system in place so that it’s just a matter of them stepping in, learning the ropes for a couple hours, and then becoming the newest addition to your team.

I will make a note here, before moving on: This is all assuming you can’t afford your VA’s new rates. If your VA does great work for you and lets you know they’re increasing their rates, and you can afford it AND you like working with them, then keep them on board! Push some money around and adjust your budget to make it work.

So let’s move on to the next piece, which is your:

Expectations & Deliverables

If you haven’t already, write out clear expectations and deliverables in your contract or agreement with your virtual assistant. The cost will obviously go into your contract, but try to get as specific as possible with what you’ll be expecting of them.

For example, exactly how many social media posts would you want per batch that you pay for? How many words should be written in every draft? How many videos or podcast episodes should they upload, and where and by when? You should absolutely talk these expectations over with your VA before the contract starts so that you know exactly what you’re getting for the amount of money you’ve set in your budget.

If you know exactly how much work one VA accomplishes per month and you have that process documented somewhere that’s easily shareable, you can easily find someone new to take over their duties if necessary.

And finally, let’s talk about your:

Personal Values and Business Mission

Again, it’s entirely possible to unknowingly carry the dismissive (and sometimes, abusive) energy from a corporate job into your business. And that’s why I urge you to stay vigilant as your build your business and make sure you’re not replicating the same problematic practices of the corporate world. It’s easy for us to get stuck in “hustle mode,” overwork ourselves, and judge our success by the amount of money we either make or save.

But you started your business for a reason. You know that the world needs what you have to offer, and you’ve already committed to making a positive impact without doing harm to others. That’s kind of the idea with entrepreneurship and being your own boss.

That’s why it’s important to revisit your mission statement and business vision often.

Double check regularly to be sure you’re living by it. In fact, it’s a good idea to make a list of the kinds of things you definitely don’t want to bring into your small business culture, and pay special attention to being the kind of business owner you wish your old boss had been.

This is also a reminder to practice great self-care and surround yourself with people who understand what you’re building and will hold you accountable to your intentions.

The hard parts of being a business owner aren’t really the cost of the website or apps or staying caught up with trends. It’s all the internal change that happens inside you. This is something I didn’t see until I was in it, and that I know my peers in masterminds and group programs also mentioned was a surprise.

There’s so much internal work happening, all the time. It’s deciding what’s right and what’s not, how you want to be versus how you’ve been acting your entire life, it’s how you fit in or don’t fit in anymore now that you’re thinking about this stuff that your friends with typical day jobs don’t have to think about.

So I’ll leave you with this, in summary:

  • Pay your virtual assistants well. At least a livable hourly wage, and even better if you can do a project- or deliverable-based thing with them.
  • Stick to your budget and don’t pressure yourself to spend more than you can, right now.
  • Get those workflows and systems documented, if not just for being organized but also to help you out if and when you have to find a brand new virtual assistant.

And finally: remember that it’s starting right now, with you and your first virtual assistant. This is an important step for you in your business journey, and I hope you give yourself space to really feel that and appreciate it about yourself.

If no one has told you or affirmed it for you: I am proud of you. I see the work you’re doing and as always, I’m rooting for you over here. Take good care of yourself and I’ll see you next time.

Compassionate Side Hustle Strategy is sponsored by Gentle Momentum.

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To learn more, visit Rochelle Sanchez dot com and click on the "Work with me" button.

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