THIS HAPPENS TO EVERY VIRTUAL ASSISTANT
Several weeks ago I was grocery shopping in the middle of the day (one of the perks of being a V.A.!) when I ran into a friend who is also - YUP - a Virtual Assistant. We chatted about the benefits of frozen taquitos for a few minutes and then promptly got onto the topic of "insane work schedules" and the fact that some days our workloads are very, very light...and other days? The poop emoji hits the fan and every client wants fifty-eleven tasks done URGENTLY.
If you're a Virtual Assistant, and you have more than one client...then I guarantee this will happen to you.
Call it Murphy's Law, but if there's one thing I've learned as a V.A. for the last 9 years it is this: Every client seems to get busy and needs help all at the same time.
So how does a Brainy Gal manage this?
There are some things you can do to try and PREVENT becoming over-scheduled:
- Make sure every client knows, up front, that you require a certain amount of notice (ie: 48 hours) for new work requests.
- In your initial consultation, ask if they have 'busy seasons'. For example, how many launches do they do each year? Do they host an annual conference or event that will require lots of your time to help with? Are they in accounting or bookkeeping when tax season becomes your crazy busy time? Or perhaps in real estate - when the housing market is hot or cold depending on the season? Knowing approximately when certain clients might need more of your help can help you balance.
- Stick to your boundaries. I have learned the hard way that when you work late into the night to finish a client's project, they will expect you to do it over, and over again and again. Have a fairly strict starting and cutoff time and polocies around weekend work. Make sure your clients are aware of them!
- Leave some contingency time in your schedule. Don't promise one client your FULL 8 HOUR DAY if there is a possibility that another client may try to sneak in an urgent request. Try to leave time in your schedule for those down-to-the-wire tasks that hit your inbox.
- Communicate clearly and often. Ask all of your clients what their week is looking like and what expectations they might have for you. Let them know when your schedule is going to be tight so they aren't surprised when you're swamped. Perhaps you can reach out and remind them you are available on days when your schedule is looking light.
- Consider a fee for 'last-minute' requests...but be careful with this one. Some Virtual Assistants add an additional fee onto work that is submitted last-minute or charge more for working after hours, which I think is a great way to ensure it doesn't happen very often. However, a stressed-out, busy client asking for your help late at night might be unhappy to learn he/she is going to have to fork out more cash to make it happen.
Here's an extra tip: Pay special attention around vacation and holiday time.
Tell all of your clients about your upcoming vacations and holidays WAY before they happen. You will find that when you tell clients you are going on vacation for a week, they will often 'panic' and think of a zillion things they might need to be done before you go! This puts you in a sticky situation, as you suddenly have half-a-dozen clients asking you to do things for them the very night before you leave on vacay (when you are supposed to be trying on outfits and packing - duh!). Remind clients for several weeks before you go that if they have items they want to be done, to send them over to you well in advance.
Lastly, accept the fact that you're going to have to work late, once in a while.
This is a hard pill that I had to learn to swallow, but the sooner you accept it, the happier you will be. Sometimes, no matter what measure you put in place, a bunch of clients will need a bunch of stuff all at the same time. And you will have to work late to finish it. You will have to skip your yoga class and give your kiddos bowls of cereal for dinner and work until your eyeballs burn.
The key is making sure it doesn't happen too often.