How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Virtual Assistant?


How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Virtual Assistant?

Stephen Atcheler

Stephen Atcheler


The main question we get as a real estate virtual assistant provider is how much does it cost? There really is no simple answer to this question as there are many different models and not only that there are many different roles.

What are the different models and what prices do they typically charge?

Freelancing Websites (Home-based Staff)

Freelancing websites to hire a real estate virtual assistant have really changed from the time I got into outsourcing for my real estate business. Freelancer sites like Upwork were the fastest point of entry with the least financial commitment up front, so they were an obvious starting point. Back then, I could find basic Upwork real estate virtual assistant for around $3-4 (AUD) an hour which was crazy cheap. However, you really do get what you pay for. If you’re super lucky you can find a gem but it can be very hit and miss.

When you are lucky enough to find a gem, then you will start to see where this model can have its flaws. Staff go missing, they have poor internet, wage expectations increase fast, they have strange demands, cultural challenges, communication breakdowns, equipment issues, power outages, weather, and an annoying bloody rooster crowing in the background. So even the perfect person may not be quite so perfect for your business after all.

Wages and current pricing

Wages and current pricing
Virtual Assistant | Freelance Rate

Here I’ve done a quick search on Upwork to see what the going rate is for a real estate virtual assistant right now. As you can see, the top four that come up don’t even have real estate listed as one of their skills. So for $7 to $10 USD an hour, you are still going to have to train them.

In fact, there’s hardly any information there at all. Finding a great worker is largely up to luck.

Most of the best VAs very quickly realise their value and boost their rate. This can happen within a few weeks. I got hooked a few times for the very low rate as it was super affordable however the honeymoon does not last long. Here is the next filter range.

Wages and current pricing 2
Virtual Assistant | Freelance Rate

As you can see, the prices do not get much more over $10/hour. There is one outlier at $17/hour who claims to have experience in property management. So like in any country, the more experience you have and the better you perform and the more you get paid. When you have a website that is global the countries with lower wages end up getting paid more and countries with higher wages end up getting paid less. You are looking in the global market when you hire directly through websites.

In summary, in today’s market, to hire an experienced home-based freelancer you will be looking to pay between $11 and $13 USD per hour.

  • In AUD that is around $19 per hour
  • In Canadian Dollars $17 per hour
  • In Pound Sterling $9 per hour
  • In New Zealand Dollars $20 per hour

So that’s gone from $3-4 AUD back when I started using virtual assistants to $19 per hour – the global market has risen in the past 7 years by 5 times. The free market dictates prices. Basically, the ‘cheap’ VA option isn’t as cheap as it used to be.

Another thing to keep in mind is that these people usually live in poor countries. I know the challenges of living in the Philippines very well as I’ve been here for more than three years. The typical Filipino house is very small, just one room. There is no office, the internet will be of poor quality, they suffer power outages and brownouts, extreme weather conditions, random karaoke parties, and like I mentioned that annoying rooster crowing in the background.

The internet and equipment will become an issue. There is a lot of information that you would not know about the Philippines and some things will surprise you. Computers are crazy expensive due to very tight import rules. So if their PC breaks, guess who they will ask to buy them a new one. Yes, you guessed it you. This will put you in an awkward position. Do you buy them a new computer and risk them disappearing? Or ditch them and find someone new?

Power outages are pretty common and guess what it means for you? No work getting done. And the same thing when there are extreme weather conditions like typhoons and earthquakes. These are very common in places like the Philippines and can leave small towns without power for weeks or even months. So if your VA is in a province, there’s not much you can do.

By the way, I’m not trying to convince you against the freelance model. I’m just trying to highlight that there are challenges that you may not have thought of. It’s always best to be prepared.

Office-based staff

Office-based staff

By office-based staff, I mean that staff go to a regular place of work and are employed by a service provider like ourselves. These providers are called BPOs – business process outsourcing. This model is the most popular as 100% of the issues related to freelance sites have been ironed out.

BPOs can be quite hard to compare when it comes to their pricing. There are terms, fees, inclusions and exclusions that you need to know about so that you can ask the right questions.

The first is the salary of the staff that you employ. I will be very firm on this – you must know what your staff get paid, not just what you are paying. They will be working for you 100% and are your staff. You know what your local staff are getting paid so you should know what your offshore team are paid also.

The fastest growing BPO space in the Philippines is in Clark Free Port Zone, which is where we are located. Here are some salary ranges for this area.

  • Basic Administrator 18,000 PHP Monthly
  • Intermediate Administrator 23,0000 PHP Monthly
  • Experienced Administrator 28,000 PHP Monthly

If you we look at some specialist roles, you can expect to pay more.

  • SEO Expert 35,000 PHP Monthly
  • Graphic Design 30,000 PHP Monthly
  • PHP Web Developer 40,000 PHP Monthly
  • Full Stack SNR Developer 80,000 PHP Monthly
  • Accountant/Bookkeeper 35,0000 PHP Monthly

As you can see, there is no fixed price and it is market dictated. The benefit of this market is it is localised not only to the Philippines but also the city. So they can only compete for jobs and salaries against themselves not the whole world. This keeps wages increasing at a more normal rate, unlike the global competition of a freelance website.

Now that’s just the base salary. There are additional costs to hiring a staff member fulltime and the provider will pass those on to you. You’re looking at about another 20% on top of wage costs. I won’t cover these off here, but feel free to search for the following so that you know what they are.

  • 13thmonth pay
  • Pagibig
  • Phil Health
  • SSS

The final step in the cost equation is how much you pay the provider for their services. Firstly there’s a set up or recruitment fee, then there is an ongoing Facility Fee or Seat Lease fee. These terms are pretty standard across the industry. Make sure you find out exactly how it is broken down and what it covers.

For example:

  • Desk Space
  • PC and Equipment
  • HR and Payroll
  • Internet and Electricity

Each company has different services that they offer or ways of wording these things. The typical cost on the extremely low end would be a fee of around 26,000 PHP per month. If you find a fee at this low end, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Where will my staff be located and what is the office environment like?
  • What type of PC will my staff be using?
  • Do you have back up power and how many internet connections do you have?
  • Are there any hidden extras?

On the higher end I have heard of companies charging as high as 47,000 PHP per month. We are all in business to make money however this is double the low end so there has to be a happy medium. Sometimes high fees can be hidden in wages to make it look smaller, so it’s essential you find out exactly how it’s broken down.

Obviously, you want to aim for somewhere in the middle where you will be getting a solid service but not paying for extras that you really do not need or don’t even know about. The happy middle is somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 PHP per month.

The general setup/recruitment fee should cover exactly that. This is an area where you will find vast differences between companies. We are essentially a recruitment company initially so a provider should be very good at this. Essentially to find, test, interview and setup a candidate you can expect to pay between 20,000PHP and 80,000PHP. Things to ask are as follows.

  • How do you attract talent?
  • Where do you advertise?
  • What is the vetting process?
  • Do you have any testing in place?
  • Who gets the final say?
  • What is the salary of the candidate that you select?

And finally, ask for a quote! You don’t want to be stung by any of these hidden fees that I mentioned.

A simple way to compare BPOs is to ask for a quote based on a salary range of 20,000PHP from each of the providers on your shortlist. This will ensure you know at least roughly what the fee of the provider is. My suggestion is to ask for the quote in a broken-down format so you can see it all clearly. Choosing a provider that is completely transparent from day one will set you on the right track for your future offshore journey.

Quick quote formula for you to work out fair pricing

Salary + 20% (oncosts) + Facility fee 37,000php = (Fair Amount)

This article was not a plug to push our company as a service provider. But of course I would be happy to have a chat if you are looking to  hire offshore staff to support your business. You can simply go to our contact  us and drop us an email or reach out to me directly on LinkedIn. Honestly, I love talking about this stuff and can give you more information than you could ever possibly need.

About Author

Meet Stephen Atcheler, the Managing Director of a Real Estate Virtual Assistant Company. Stephen has been working in the industry since 2013 and has a wealth of experience in making outsourcing work for real estate businesses. He fell in love with real estate at a young age and has been working in the field since 2005. Stephen's passion for real estate and helping other business owners thrive led him to start his own real estate business in 2012, and eventually, to establish a real estate virtual assistant company to take it to the next level. Stephen's wealth of experience and knowledge in real estate and outsourcing make him the perfect person to guide you in setting up your own virtual assistant team. Feel free to reach out to him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram.

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