Setting Boundaries with Your Virtual Assistant Clients

Look, no one enjoys having to set boundaries. It isn’t fun. It isn’t comfortable. But, it’s necessary. With many different relationships in one’s life. But it’s very much necessary with the Virtual Assistant/Client relationship.

Let me paint you a little picture here…Sarah lands her first client. She’s so thankful and ecstatic and happy to have a client. She hasn’t really thought out all her policies and procedures. She’s a new VA, so she doesn’t know that she needs to. After a week or so, Sarah’s client, let’s call her Jessica, starts to be very demanding. She messages Sarah at all hours, constantly. If Sarah doesn’t answer an email or a Facebook message immediately, Jessica is texting and calling.

She gives Sarah projects and tasks and expects them to be done asap. She doesn’t respect weekends or family time. She expects Sarah to be on the job and on call at all times, ready to see to her every need and whim.

What happens? Sarah becomes stressed out, frustrated, and starts to dread her job. She became a Virtual Assistant to have the freedom and flexibility to work around her family schedule and kids. But now, she feels like she’s “on duty” every minute. And if she can’t answer or do something immediately, she’s feeling guilty and upset.

Is this what the dream is? Is this what becoming a Virtual Assistant was supposed to be? NO!

But this is what happens all too often. Because we don’t set boundaries up front with clients. And then, we don’t enforce those boundaries later on in the relationship. But how do you do that? Well, here are some practical tips to do so…

  1. Make it clear in your contract and in your policies and procedures when your normal business hours are.
  2. Also make it clear that you will respond to communication within so many hours. For instance, my contract states within 24 hours during the work week.
  3. Give your client only two means of communication. Email and a form of communication for quicker responses. For instance, depending on the client, I’ll use Slack of Voxer. I make it clear that for anything having to do with projects of tasks, a client needs to either email it or add it to Asana. If they just have a question, they can contact me via Slack or Voxer. But the same working hours and 24 rule applies to that as well. I make it a rule to never give out my personal phone number or to friend clients on Facebook until we’ve had a working relationship for a very long time.
  4. Make your turnaround time clear up front and in your contract. Let clients know that you require at least 24 hours notice for tasks requiring 2 hours or less, and longer for tasks requiring more time.

Having these rules and expectations clear up front can usually keep issues from occuring. But, if they occur anyway, here is a good blueprint for how to handle them…

  1. Gently remind the client in an email of your policies, procedures, and the contract that they signed. Be sure to read over the email twice before sending, because you want to be sure that no hostility is coming through. Be clear, and be firm, but be kind and professional.
  2. Consider that the first warning. If they continue to abuse your relationship and disregard your policies and procedures, you need to decide if it’s best to let the go. I know this can be difficult, but ultimately, this is your business and your mental and emotional health at stake.
  3. Should you decide to let them go, reread your contract. Be sure to follow it as it pertains to ending a client relationship. If you have in your contract that you have to give 14 days notice, do so. Some clients may choose to end the relationship right there, if so, let them.
  4. Be courteous and professional at all times. And always keep all email documentation in the event that you may need it. For instance, if a client gets disgruntled over ending the relationship, and doesn’t want to pay your invoice, you can use the contract and all email documentation to prove to your payment system that you are owed the money. Or handle it with an attorney depending on the amount they owe. Either way, always cover your bases.

Dealing with clients who push past boundaries is never fun, and hopefully you’ll never be in that situation. But if you are, now you can be prepared to do so. If you’re a new Virtual Assistant and are looking for resources to help you handle your contracts, policies and procedures, and other onboarding tasks, check out the Virtually Scale VA Tool Kit. 

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