How do you charge for being "On Call"?


New Member
Hi All!!
I am negotiating with a potential client. He wants me to be available 9-5 to field phone calls and emails. He is overseas and I would be the "eyes and ears" of his business while he sleeps.
How do I bill for being on call? I am not clear how many call or emails he gets daily. Once I get a sense of the volume, how do I set up fee structure?
Thanks all!!


Staff member
Marisa, congrats on the PC :) Personally, I'd avoid being 'on call' - it changes everything about the way you can run the rest of your business and service your other clients, not to mention ties you to the phone and computer for eight hours or more each day. Unless the fees attached are very much in your favor, I'd reconsider this one. Just my two cents ;)

Olinda Services

New Member
I too hesitate to be "on call". I turned down a client recently who wanted me to do the same for him. Unless the client is willing to have the calls go to voicemail and you check them "x" times per day. That way you could plan your day and charge for the actual time used to check the voicemail, return calls, forward information and email to him.

Your Virtual Wizard

Community Leader
I agree...the on-call can be very limiting in your personal and professional live(s). Unless the money was there...

Lisa's advice to check voice messages or email x number of times per day is a good solution. You could charge your hourly fee for that service for however long it takes you to do the call backs or return the emails.



New Member
I agree with everyone else here. I do not liked to be chained to the phone. Checking e-mails would be all I would opt for. Unless you can answer on your cell phone, that may be an option?


New Member
If being "on-call" for a set time frame, I have billed my hourly rate for those hours that I was to be on-call. Lisa's suggestion is more cost effective though.


New Member
My opinion, and I hope I don't sound greedy or anything, is that you're an idependent contractor and you work to task. Well, his task is that he wants to answer his phones and check email between 9 and 5 which requires you to be available between those hours (no running out to lunch or scheduling client meetings or what have you). Therefore, I would charge him for the time that he expects you to be available.

I used to work at an answering service (eons and I'm trying to remember how they did the billing. I'm thinking that the clients paid a flat monthly service and then so much per message or something like that. So, maybe you could charge him a certain reduced "flat rate" just for being on-call and then charge at your normal rate when you actually have to deal with the phone or email.

But, like Tess said, it ties you to someone else's schedule so do you really want to do that?

Wordpro Wizard

New Member
It depends on your circumstances. I am available 7 days a week but during those 7 days I take my dog running, maintain households, care for my elderly mother and shop, cook, clean, laundry, home maintenance. I can work at any time, my available hours are long but I only return phone calls within 3 hours and I certainly won't be chained to anything. I get up around 5 a.m. and go to bed by 10 p.m. but I let everything go to voicemail after 5 p.m. I check it and return calls only if there is an emergency. If we wanted to be chained down we'd get a regular J.O.B. Yes, we work harder and longer but we earn the flexibility in our lives. Remember you are an independant business owner, not an employee.

I would suggest to the client he gets an answering service (which is inexpensive) and you deal with those calls as and when you can every few hours. If you are chained to his needs from 9-5 you will have no time to market or service other clients (and I bet he doesn't want to pay much either!).

I think being on call, can be an easy money maker for you. I realize that I'm sort of in the minority on this.

What I have done is stated up front "let's try this for 2 weeks - we'll go with 5 (or 10 whatever you feel like the time will be) hours a week, and allow for adjustments either way." I have call forwarding on my office phone, and forward to my cell phone. It's a blackberry so I can answer emails when I'm out and about as well.

I don't like the minute by minute billing for phone calls and emails. ( :=) it's our business, we can do it any way we want to, as long as we're ethical.) At this point I charge two clients up front for the month's "on call" and "as needs arise". Project work gets billed mid month - that's the by the minute billing I do.

I also tell the clients that I field phone calls for, "I make every effort to answer the phone as calls come in, but there are times that they will receive voice mail. My policy is to answer calls that come in between (whatever hours I'm fielding calls) and answer any voice mails within 2 hours." (even if it's just to acknowledge the call and set up a time to call back later.)


Staff member
I've been watching this thread closely because I find it so interesting the creative ways others have come up with to service their clients' needs - more power to you!

My first reaction was to say I'd recommend billing for the hours, at your regular hourly rate but that didn't seem a likely win from the client's perspective. Lisa's solution makes perfect sense to me and Cheryl's even more so [it's so obvious you've been providing this service and you've made it work for you!]

I'm certain I couldn't offer the service, given my lifestyle and home environment [1 year old nearby at all times :)] but I think these are great solutions for you Daisy, and I'm wondering what you'll wind up doing.


New Member
I find this thread interesting as well, primarily because it brings up a dilemma I was having with narrowing down my niche and market. I agree that special consideration should be given to how a VA would handle these types of requests especially since phone duties along with other tasks can pose as a huge time constraint.

Personally, I would prefer to focus on customer support services by servicing inbound calls and processing email requests as opposed to offering other VA services. Initially, I tried to incorporate other services but I see now how difficult that could be. After reading this thread, it has become apparent that call and email handling (customer support) is a need.

If it was me, and if the services I provided focused on other tasks (such as web design, social media marketing, etc.) other than answering the phone, I would outsource that task to other VA's who specialize in call center services; especially if the call volume is quite heavy. If a low call volume is projected, then I would fulfill the client's request. Your service could be deemed as exceeding the customer's expectation; therefore, opening up the opportunity for a loyal long-term customer. This could also open up the door for additional referrals from that satisfied client. Additionally, your client probably wouldn't have a problem with paying premium rates for the service you are providing. Just my 3 cents.

Thanks for the great thread and all the excellent response posts :thumbsup:



New Member
Thank you all for your ideas. I spoke with the client yesterday and he wants me to implement a system for customer service for his business. My initial thought that I would be tied to a phone was false (thank God!!).
Thanks again for your insight. It gives me something to think about for the future. You all are an invaluable resource and I am glad to be among you!!
This thread has been very helpful, I especially liked TRC - Cheryl's 2 hour policy for returning calls when they go to voicemail.

I just wish I had come across it before I drafted the terms of my agreement.