PART 2 of 4

The Problem with "Just Sign More Clients" & "Just Raise Your Rates"

It’s not just bad strategic advice, it’ll also lead you down a harrowing path to burn out.

If you’re reading this, chances are you are familiar with the “hustle, hustle, hustle” quicksand.

The hustle quicksand whispers: More is the answer to all your problems.”

“Psst… More clients will fix everything.”

It’s what everyone was talking about in VA communities:

  • Just keep signing more and more clients.
  • Just keep working more and more hours.
  • Just load your schedule up with free discovery calls.

I genuinely thought the answer to my overworked & underpaid problem was: “I just need more clients”.

I did 3 things wrong because of this faulty assumption:

  • I became a little client hoarder, onboarding more and more clients into my project management tool.
  • I thought all clients were made equal and never thought about how much energy each client took up.
  • I didn’t let any clients go because I was so terrified of income instability.

And if red warning bells are flashing & you’re thinking, “That doesn’t sound sustainable…”

You’re right.

I felt out of control: of my working times, of my workload, of who I had to work with, of my financial security, of my future. A lack of control was the very thing I left corporate work (and blew up my life plan) for.

But still, I kept hearing: “Get booked out. More work is the answer.”

Ummm… Hello? I was already overworked. How was MORE work going to solve the issue?

And the tricky thing about getting ‘booked out’ is being ‘booked out’ doesn’t mean you’re making good money.

It just means you’re at time capacity.

It means you’re working as much as you possibly can – whether that’s 10 hours, 20 hours, 40 or 80 hours a week.

Being booked out has nothing to do with money because being booked out is about time.

And that’s a dangerous path to go on because time is a limited resource in your life. You only have X hours a week. If your pricing or income is tied directly to your time, there will always be a cap on your income.

As much as possible, you need to detach your time from your pricing; I know everyone says to do this, but there’s a particular way VAs can and should go about it which I’ll chat more about in a bit. 

But for now just remember: in the long term and long game, you need to anchor your pricing on something outside of your time.

And if you go down the “just get booked out” route, you’ll often find yourself accidentally sacrificing what you originally started working online for… just to get to your income goals.

I sacrificed my weekends. My evenings.

I sacrificed my time with family, with friends.

I sacrificed my hobbies, my interests outside of work.

And not only that, after working hands-on with dozens of VAs, I’ve seen a definite pattern:

VAs are already one of the most overworked & underpaid people on a team.

Somehow you become your clients’ emergency contact, parking lot, and pressure cooker. Every single idea that your client wants implemented yesterday, gets tossed to you, with tons of expectations and urgent energy.

You handle everything and anything that the client throws your way; you figure things out as you go, you keep track of everyone, and you’re thinking 3 steps ahead of your client.

More work is not the answer for VAs.

What’s worse: more work is burning out your biggest asset — you.

And now onto the second thing that kept me stuck was that… 

I kept being told by mentors: “Just increase your rates.”

“Psst… Just keep raising your rates as a VA.”

Here’s the truth that no one told me: You also can’t just keep increasing your rates for the same set of services infinitely. That doesn’t work.

I know, because I tried.

The "You've Hit Your Income Ceiling" Story:

I will never forget that message.

It came from one of my first ever freelance clients back in 2017.

I had been working with them for over 6 months, and I thought it was probably time to ask them for a salary reevaluation.

So I prepped myself – wrote and rewrote the message draft about 42 times. 

Hyped myself up. 

Played the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack.

I did a whole pep talk in front of the mirror:

“You deserve this. You’re worth more money. You’ve hit all deadlines. They think you’re great. You can do this! You’re awesome.”

And I sent off the message.

Palms sweaty. Knees weak. Arms spaghetti.

20 minutes later, a ding sounded on my laptop, and I rushed over in the middle of eating dumplings to read the message.

It said:

“Deya, we can go up to $16/hr but that’s our maximum. We can’t pay more for this task. If you can no longer do this, we can find someone else.”

My jaw dropped. Heart plummeted.

It’s hard to describe that feeling.

It made me feel so bad about myself; it made me feel unneeded.

And totally dispensable like they had a factory that produced Deya’s and if I couldn’t do the job, they had 140,000 other Deya’s ready to replace me as if I didn’t even exist.

Like they didn’t even care about me or having me on the team.

The lack of security terrified me.

You see, up to that point, I had been working as a VA doing basic admin tasks — emails, calendars, social media, simple design kind of stuff.

I had no work experience, no connections and no clue what left or right was in the online business space when I first started working online.

So I took on whatever tasks I could – which at that point, was mostly basic tasks that I was charging between $10 – $15/hr for.

And when I hit 40 hours a week of client work, I realized that my maximum income was around $2,000 – which if you factor in taxes and other life and Netflix expenses, amounted to actually very little.

So I was scrappy – I thought: “I’ll just increase my rates.” 

That’s what everyone tells you to do anyway.

They tell you to “charge your worth” and that “good clients that deserve you” will pay you whatever you want because they’ll want to keep you no matter what. 

So at first when I got that message, I was mad.

I thought, “What?! But I’ve been working so hard for the past 6 months.”

I did a little stomp around our tiny apartment.

“I guess you’re just a bad client! How can you not pay me what I deserve? You don’t deserve my time. Maybe I should leave! Teach them a lesson about not paying what I’m worth.”

But as I thought about it all night – tossing and turning and tossing some more…


I realized the even worse truth…

I realized that they weren’t a bad client.

Here’s the thing…

What they don’t tell you about “charging your worth” and “just ask for pay increases” is that:

There has to be something in it for the client, too.

Why should they be giving me a pay increase when I was doing the exact same thing they hired me to do at $15/hr?

I had brought nothing additional to the table since they hired me. I hadn’t developed myself.

  • I hadn’t grown my skillset all that much.
  • I hadn’t given them more value.
  • I hadn’t over-delivered in any way or volunteered for higher level tasks or responsibilities.
  • I hadn’t shown them any more of what I was capable of – I just assumed they would magically know how awesome I was and how much potential I had inside me.


And as horrible as it was – it was true, they could hire someone else to do exactly what I was doing for $16/hr.

What I was bringing to the table at that time didn’t quite warrant a rate increase or special treatment.

I probably would have said no to myself, too.

Because when that client said “we could just find someone else” to me, it was clear the power was in their hands. I was “lucky” to have them as a client.

And that made me feel so insecure about my financial stability like the rug could be pulled out at any point.

And I also realized that because I was feeling desperate to keep my clients, I put up with things like:

  • Ultra late payments for invoices (like… 39 days late payments)
  • Clients disrespecting boundaries that I clearly set (like… voice messaging me all evening long & demanding responses ASAP)
  • Doing a bunch of tasks that I didn’t enjoy (like… inputting 1,000 handwritten info-cards into a client’s database)

The insecurity made me feel like I had no leverage.

Like there was a never-ending ocean of Deya’s and the clients could just go fishing for the lowest rates and the person that responded the quickest.

(Like this ^ but instead of a sea of Homers, it was a sea of me.)

So… I took a deep breath and made a vow in 2017 – I didn’t ever want to feel dispensable again.

And that’s where the real story of how I scaled from $15/hr to $150/hr+ begins.

So now if you’re thinking….

“Okay, Deya. Cool story and all, but then what should I do as a VA? What’s the solution? What’s the solution for Virtual Assistants who need OUT of this cycle?”

Let’s talk about that next.

Up Next: Let’s talk about what the solution to getting OUT of this cycle is & how this magical solution fixed all my overworked & underpaid problems.

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