How To Set Client Boundaries As A Virtual Assistant
As a Virtual Assistant, your primary goal is to serve your clients’ needs. This often means completing routine tasks and helping on various projects throughout the week. When a business owner hires a VA, they usually do so for specific reasons. This includes being able to offload certain responsibilities, streamline processes or procedures, or start new initiatives that they did not have time for in the past.
However, once you are hired as a VA, it is likely that new tasks and responsibilities will pop up. Once the person who hires you sees your skills in action, they may discover new things they want you to work on. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it will increase your job security and ensure that you will fulfill your hours every week. However, you must be careful to set boundaries regarding what you will work on, when you will do it, and how to handle certain situations.
Create Your Own Contract
Before beginning any type of work with a new client, it is imperative to create your own contract. Even if they have something they would like you to sign, you should still require them to sign your own document. This ensures that the terms and conditions that are being agreed to are the ones you are comfortable with. It also gives you something to refer back to in case there is a conflict or discrepancy in the future.
This contract should include key items such as your regular rate, overtime pay, number of hours you will work each week, and a designated start and end time. It should also list the responsibilities you will be expected to carry out. You may also want to include who you will be reporting to as well. This will help avoid confusion in case someone else in the company reaches out to ask for your help on a project.
Set Your Hours And Stick To Them
Business owners tend to work long hours. It is not uncommon for them to think of something they need you to complete and email you about it at 2 o’clock in the morning. This is normal because it’s when the idea strikes them and they do not want to forget it. The key is that they understand that you will not respond until your designated start time. Before you begin, it’s important that your client understands when you are “on-call” and when you are not.
For example, if you have younger children, you would set your “on-call” hours between 10am-3pm when they are at school. This does not mean you do not work at other hours, it just means you have the freedom to do other things like drop your kids off or pick them up at school. You may choose to work from 9-11pm each night after they go to bed. However, that doesn’t mean you should be expected to answer emails or jump on calls.
Whatever hours you set, it’s imperative you stick to them. It is the only way your client will get used to your availability. If you are needed for an important meeting outside of these hours, you may choose to make an exception. However, if you are needed to attend every meeting between 9am-6pm, and you know that will interfere with your other responsibilities, then you must reach a compromise before you begin working together.
Always Clarify Priorities
In an ideal situation, you are given a list of tasks to complete each day. However, the corporate world is less than an ideal situation. As a Virtual Assistant, you will find yourself being assigned a list of routine tasks and items that will pop up at the last minute. It is imperative that you always clarify priorities when this happens. Do not be afraid to email or call your client and ask them for clarity on which task should be done first, second, third, and so on.
In some cases, the person who hired you will share your services with another executive or manager. In this case, you may be getting tasks assigned from two different people with two different agendas and timeline. If possible, try to understand whose tasks take priority. This way, you can tell the other person what’s on your plate and how long it will take to get to their items. Otherwise, you will have to notify both parties of the tasks you have been assigned and request they work together to determine what you should be working on first.
Stand Up For Yourself
As a Virtual Assistant, it’s easy to find yourself in confusing or uncomfortable situations. Your client may assign you tasks outside of your agreed upon scope or call you outside of your on-call hours. At times, it can be an honest mistake made by a busy business owner. However, if it happens repeatedly, then it is something that needs to be addressed before it gets out of hand.
Just because they are a paying client does not mean they get to be mean or disrespectful. It also does not mean they get to violate the terms of your agreed upon contract. Yes, you should be flexible and help where needed, as long as it aligns with your skills and experience. However, if they are asking you to complete tasks outside your skill set, you have every right to refuse and explain why. It’s important they know that the reason you are refusing is that you do not feel you can produce a high-quality product. Always be as professional as possible, but do not be afraid to stand up for yourself and even terminate an agreement with a client if necessary.
Becoming a Virtual Assistant might be the best career move you can make. However, you must take it seriously and develop the right boundaries on day one. Be sure to supply each client with a contract that states all of your terms and conditions. By taking these steps, you can ensure your VA business attracts several long-term clients.
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