So many virtual assistants burn out in less than a year. They end up resenting the job, hating their workload, and dropping the ball on tasks. This happens because of a lack of boundaries.
This is the number one thing I want to help other assistants (and the people who love them) understand.
Boundaries are critical to your success.
Boundaries govern your working hours and the amount of clients you take on. They also govern the amount of work you do for each client, and the way in which you do it. It’s important to make sure that you’re communicating these boundaries once they're set.
Set your working hours. You need to communicate when you’re “in the office”. This is the same thing as showing up in an office, so it’s important to set these and stick to them. If a client knows they can reach you between 9am and 5pm, but calls at 7:30pm with a task, do not answer the phone. Period. When assistants break this rule, it teaches the client that they can reach them anytime. The flip side of this is also true. Your clients should know when they can reach you. If they call during working hours, answer the phone, or return the call within an hour. My clients know that I serve many people. They know if they don’t immediately reach me during business hours, I’ll be in touch within an hour.
You need to plan for a communication breakdown. Talk through your style of communication. Does a client HATE email? Does your assistant only take texts from VIP clients? These are good boundaries to define as you start working together. I always ask clients how I should best reach them in an emergency. It’s good to know, and it helps us both feel at ease.
Keep normal hours when working late. One of my favorite hacks for email is Boomerang. Boomerang is a gmail-based program that lets you delay sending an email until a specific time. I use this every Friday so that my clients all receive their end of week reports at 5pm on the dot. Remember, I have a full client load. If I wrote all the emails at 5pm, some clients would get theirs after working hours. This would be an example of me not keeping my boundaries. Instead, I start them at 4:30, and queue them to go out all at 5:00pm on the dot. Another example of this is if you’re up late working on tasks, and you need to respond to an email. Respond, using Boomerang, and send the email when the recipient is in the office next. It’s an easy way to keep up on email without looking like you’re in the office all the time.
Maintain a professional standard and conduct business in an ethical manner. Your assistant is an asset, not someone to abuse. Remember that you have a professional relationship. Asking your assistant to do something that’d make your mother blush isn’t a good idea. (Don’t ask your assistant to buy birth control, set up a swinging date, or filter through porn sites. Not okay.) It's usually okay to ask for help with personal tasks like doctor's appointments. This can vary by assistant. (Some only do professional tasks — another boundary!)
Contact information might be business only. Some assistants prefer to use Google Voice, so that boundaries stay firm. If clients text or call after hours, the pressure to pick up the phone isn't as big. Keep the boundaries you set whether you have your assistant’s actual phone number or not. Clients delegate to me at 3am, knowing that I won’t answer, or start working until I’m back in the office.
Boundaries are key to a successful VA/Client relationship. Make sure that time, energy, and integrity are protected for everyone involved. The biggest and most rewarding client interactions come from my boundaries around communication. My clients know without a doubt that they’ll be able to reach me between 9am and 5pm. They know that I respond within in an hour during working hours. They know that sending tasks outside of those hours is okay — but that I'll write back when I’m back in the office.
Effective boundaries create positive client relationships.