Beth wrote to ask about charging rush fees to clients who push on turnaround:

“I haven’t charged it before but just got a new client with whom I feel it would be very appropriate because she’s always pushing; always wanting things NOW. But I am not sure what’s the best way to do it – flat fee, or raising the hourly fee or something else, and what’s a reasonable percentage.”

Oooo…unfortunately, I don’t actually have an answer to the question you posed because I don’t support VAs doing “rush” work.

You see, there’s a distinction between something occurring super infrequently, that’s important and couldn’t have been planned for (like the client’s been invited to be on Dr Oz in two days and the producers need X, Y, and Z from the client, who, in turn, really needs your help pulling those things together), and something that’s urgent and a “rush” because the client forgot, didn’t have an appropriate plan, or where she’s gotten a wild hair and wanted something to happen immediately (like deciding on Tuesday she wants to do a free webinar the next day and needs you to do all the work to make that happen).

Within a great relationship with an ideal client, just about any VA I know would bend over backwards to help a client with that first scenario—and wouldn’t imagine charging her extra (above, or in addition to, the usual fee) for it. I support that.

It’s the second scenario that spurs most people to think about adding some sort of “rush” fee, either to compensate for the rush, or as an attempt to make doing it less appealing to the client (because it will cost more to do it). And that’s the one I don’t support.

A couple of my reasons:

  • Virtual Assistants aren’t paid to sit around and be available at the spur of the moment for urgencies. Virtual Assistance doesn’t really work well when clients expect they can get things done on a quick turnaround. It’s unrealistic, and unfair to the VA and the rest of her clients. People who need rapid support need employees, not contractors.
  • Rush work is usually the result of drama. Drama is an awful thing in life and business. It causes an increase of adrenaline (the #1 drug of choice in the United States, from my perspective) rushing through the body, and too much adrenaline on a regular basis leads to some awful illnesses, not the least of which are adrenal fatigue and kidney disease. I don’t support anything that has that kind of negative impact on a person’s well-being, plus I’ve never seen whatever premium money is earned be ultimately sufficient to make it worth doing.
  • Rush work often means working longer, harder hours (hence why it’s not really worth the money). And there’s this, maybe most of all, because you deserve better:

So, while I can’t tell you how to do what you think you want to do, what I will do is suggest what to do instead:

  • Create a standard around “normal” turn-around times for requests, and refuse to work any other way for urgencies that arise from poor planning. Again, you deserve better.
  • For new clients: in order to deserve a place in your practice, they need to manage their time and work, and not expect you to be at their beck and call. If they can’t, they aren’t ideal and will only hurt your practice.
  • For current clients who have urgencies you’ve tried to accommodate in the past, you’d want to send a letter explaining that doing it won’t work for you any longer, you’re making changes to your practice, and explain the new turn-around policy. Offer, of course, to support the clients in planning their work so that they don’t have rush/urgent requests at all.

Ultimately, that will be better for everyone’s personal and professional well-being.

I hope that helps, Beth! Let me know your thoughts and if you have follow-up questions!

And I look forward to what the rest of you think about doing rush work and charging a premium for it!