You’ve done it! You signed that client. (Congrats by the way!) I believe it’s always a big deal. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first, your second, or your hundredth. Whenever one of the assistants in my network matches with the perfect client, I can’t help but smile.
If you’ve been at this for a while, you might know to expect that imposter syndrome will try to sneak in like a villain in the night. Once the initial excitement wears off, you might be asking yourself, “What now? Can I actually do this?”
First off, kick that imposter syndrome to the gutter. Your client saw something fabulous in you and you should too.
Look, finding (and signing) clients looks a little different for every assistant. But onboarding your new client and starting this new client-assistant relationship off on the right foot doesn’t have to be hard or stressful.
So in today’s blog, I’ve compiled all of my best tips for virtual assistants (regardless of where you’re at in your journey) to show you that life on the ‘contract signed’ side of your business can be as smooth and joyful as you were when your new client first said “Yes” to you.
Even if you’ve struggled in the past with your clients, you can leverage these tips to create a new strategy to WOW-ing your future clients. When you implement these tips, it can be a fresh slate to revitalize your confidence and shake off any old wounds from past working relationships.
Before we dive in, I want to mention that I’ve helped 120+ clients find their virtual assistants. An interesting by-product of what I do is that I find myself mediating between them quite often. This is NATURAL and necessary in many cases because both sides don’t often know how to communicate their needs and make those micro adjustments that end up being game changers. Too often I’ve seen people just walk away from the relationship before ever giving it a chance. Most of the time, an open and direct conversation between them will turn the tides.
What can you do?
Here’s a quick snapshot of what you can do to impress your new client. These tips come from first-hand experience both from my journey as a former VA and now a global business owner with 5 VA’s of my own. It also brings together the collective experience of all my clients and the assistants I’ve matched them with.
- Create a schedule and routine
- Send regular progress reports
- Set up regular meetings with your client
- Anticipate popular client questions
- Honor your contract
- Set your boundaries
- Work with confidence and integrity
Whenever I work with a client or their assistant, I can usually tell within the first few minutes if it will be a sustainable relationship. So the rest of this post is dedicated to all of those things that come up again and again so you can be the one that doesn’t fall into any of these traps.
#1 Create a dedicated work space, schedule, & routine (and stick to it!)
The first step to building a sustainable client-assistant relationship rooted in trust is having a steady schedule and creating a routine around that. As you decide to bring on new clients, map it out in your schedule. So for example, if Betty, your new client, signs you on for 5 hours per week, decide where exactly you want those 5 hours to fall. Is it from 12-5 on a Thursday? Every day from 9-10? This will ensure that you don’t take on too many clients without the time to actually support them.
All of this allows you to prepare for success when working with your new client. By not having this in place, you can be more easily tempted to treat your business like a hobby or a lower priority than it should be. Alternatively, you’ll be able to dedicate the appropriate time to your work and have a physical opportunity to walk away and create all the right positive work-life balance habits before you begin your work.
One of the best ways to help you compartmentalize your work (especially when you’re working from home) is to also devote a space to your work! Having this space paired with your routine will give your client the opportunity to familiarize themselves with things like how and when you work, times you’re unavailable, and the way you work
REAL LIFE CASE STUDY #1
One of the assistants I’ve worked with approached me about her struggles with balancing her schedule between work and family. I asked her if she had dedicated office hours for her work and she said no… So essentially, she kept taking on clients without actually carving time into her schedule that allowed her to do the work she promised to do.
She desperately wanted to be a mom at home with her kiddos and not miss out on anything. Naturally family comes first so she found herself squeezing in 30 minutes here and there throughout the day to work on tasks for her clients. She never actually looked at her schedule and said, “This is when I plan to actually get stuff done.”
Once she and I chatted, she started to see how this was limiting her ability to feel balanced. She decided to write out her schedule day to day and pencil in her office hours so every client knew exactly when she was available and when she would be working. Now this assistant is thriving and her clients feel incredibly supported.
Tip: True balance is not juggling all of the things at once. What if it’s actually letting everything else go while you focus on one thing at a time? When you are in full mom mode, don’t answer work emails from your phone. When you are in work mode, let your family know what that looks like and when so they can plan around your work schedule.
#2 Send regular progress reports
When you first begin working with your client, trust is still being developed. It’s important to encourage transparency to manage you and your client’s expectations. One of my favorite ways to do this is to send regular or weekly reports and updates to your client. This could be via Slack, email, or Voxer: wherever you two regularly communicate! I would do this if you are on hourly, package, or retainer rates.
You can create one template and alter it each week with the new reports or just send the following:
- How many hours did you work that week and how many do you have left?
- What work got done?
- What is in progress?
- What will you be working on in the coming week?
- What roadblocks do you foresee this coming week?
- What questions do you have for your client?
- What things do you need from your client to proceed?
Doing this allows your client to know the status of things without needing to micromanage. Imagine delegating several things to someone and not hearing back from that person for more than a week. Especially if it is a new relationship, you might begin to worry if anything is being accomplished. This is how your clients will feel. By sharing this status report, it establishes that sense of trust that things are in fact being taken care of.
By the way… your weekly reports are your time to BRAG. You heard me. This is your time to show your clients what value you are bringing to their business. So don’t skimp on things here (but also don’t make it the length of a blog post). Bullet points are perfect, but include ALL the things you’ve been doing.
"Your weekly reports are your time to Brag. This is your time to show your clients what value you are bringing to their business."
REAL LIFE CASE STUDY #2
One of my clients came to me feeling that her assistant just wasn’t working out. After talking with the assistant to get her side of the story, it was clear that the missing element was communication. The assistant never provided any updates so the client felt lost and would end up doing tasks she delegated thinking they weren’t getting done. Then the assistant became frustrated that the client was micromanaging and not letting her do the work. Once the assistant started sending these weekly reports, all of these issues vanished.
#3 Set a precedent with weekly (or regular) meetings
Just like you should be sending those progress reports or updates, having a weekly or bi-weekly meeting with your client is a powerful way to keep in contact with each other. Work piles up. Life happens. Before you know it, the week’s already over. But you’ve barely made a dent in the week’s work. These regular meetings prevent that from happening!
One thing I want you to focus on here is preparedness. Create a meeting agenda template that you share with your client each week to really double down on being transparent, organized, and productive. Coming prepared into these meetings will not only do all of that. It also helps you slide into that business owner mindset instead of the employee mindset. Trust me, that’s an important thing to have (since you ARE a business owner). Show up to that meeting as such.
Similarly, if the client starts going on tangents during your calls, redirect them back to the issue at hand. If you need further clarification on something, don’t end the call and wish you had more details. Use that time to really get clear on the details of your tasks so you can immediately jump off the call with all the clarity you need to begin working.
REAL LIFE CASE STUDY #3
One of my clients self identified as a “go-with-the-flow” spontaneous kind of person. She REALLY pushed back on me when I told her she should schedule regular calls with her assistant. She felt she couldn’t plan that far in advance and didn’t want to be tied down to a regular meeting. In fact, she tried to get away with just texting or sending Voxers throughout the week to her assistant. It was no surprise when she reached back out a month later frustrated that things were falling through and she was struggling with her assistant. I got her to commit to having these weekly calls and that was the key to what is now a thriving relationship.
#4 Anticipate your client’s questions
Being able to predict some common or frequently asked client questions is a skill: one you can develop and sharpen over time. Regardless of the actual tasks you do for your clients, think about all of the tools, tech, and tactics required to do them. For a lot of you, you’ll be using things that may pose a few questions for you later down the road.
While you have the time, it can greatly benefit you to at least be familiar with where you can find answers. For example, say you use a project management tool like Asana or ClickUp with all of your clients. I’d bet that your client will end up with ten or more questions about the platform. I wouldn’t recommend spending several hours doing this, but you might want to pre-emptively compile links to ClickUp’s detailed documentation into a convenient place at a minimum. Or join their official Facebook Group where other users can help answer questions you may have.
The more you work and sign new clients, you’ll begin to spot the most popular questions. For those cases, you might want to create a more personalized or visual experience for your clients. You can do this by creating a quick Loom
screen recording tutorial or written instructions in a Google Doc (for those times when that documentation is too confusing for most people to understand).
This can be a great way to impress your clients! It shows you know how to help them, saves them time from Googling it themselves, and positions you in a place of helpful authority. Being their go-to person can sometimes lead to things like higher rates and expanded scopes of work in the future!
Here’s a pro tip.
During one of your first calls together, ask your clients these questions:
- What are the biggest challenges you are facing in your business right now? (These become the things you want to find solutions for ASAP).
- Where do you see your business in 6 months, 1 year, and 5 years? (These are the future projects you want to bring up often and brainstorm with your clients over time).
- What are your greatest goals as you begin working with an assistant? What would signal to you that this was a good investment? (These are your key performance indicators. If these core things are not achieved, your clients may worry it’s not a good fit. So make these your priority).
#5 Honor your client agreement or contract
There’s no point in having a client agreement or contract if you don’t actively honor all the policies and terms you both originally signed. Contracts are the ONE thing I cannot emphasize enough to have. This contract is my absolute favorite
because it really protects both sides (client and service provider). Anytime you or your client approaches an awkward situation (like scope creep or a payment dispute), your contract is your line of defense. It sets the precedent of your client-assistant relationship.
Let’s chat really quick about scope creep. This is where the initial tasks you were hired to do begin to inflate over time. More and more gets added to that list without properly discussing it. Sometimes this can look like taking over social media management and perhaps that is a task you really don’t feel comfortable doing. In this case, it is ever so important that you have an open conversation about the services you do and don’t provide.
When you’ve built up a client-assistant relationship based on trust, it can be so easy for your client to think of you as their go-to person. For everything…. But unless you can confidently learn a task the correct way (and quickly), instead know your capabilities, skills, and boundaries. Scope creep isn’t always a big deal, but when it is, it can create unnecessary tension and expectations. If you can’t do a task or don’t feel confident learning how to do it, VOICE IT.
"If you can’t do a task or don’t feel confident learning how to do it, VOICE IT."
REAL LIFE CASE STUDY #4
One of the assistants I paired with a client of mine was initially tasked to do basic administrative work. Over time, this relationship grew and the client began asking more and more. Oftentimes this can be exciting to see the role evolve, but other times it can be overwhelming. In this case, the client wanted her assistant to build a website (with no prior experience), bring in leads from social media (again, with no experience), and create stunning graphics (with no skills in that area).
The client eventually approached me and said her assistant was no longer working out. When I got to the bottom of things, I was able to help her see that each of these tasks were completely different hires most of the time. We concluded that her existing assistant was doing fabulous work with all the administrative things and the client needed to find additional hires to fulfil the other tasks. Now everyone is working happily together in their respective roles.
#6 Know and set your boundaries and work policies
To expand upon the last tip, I want to mention one of the most critical pieces of that business owner mindset I teased about earlier. Knowing your boundaries is only one half of the equation here. You also have to enforce them!
Just like with most things, boundaries will look different for every virtual assistant. However, here are a few examples to show you what exactly boundaries are or can look like:
- Your working hours are Monday to Friday between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM only.
- Any messages received after that, you will return or reply to the following business day/morning.
- You do not work all major holidays in your country (specify those dates in your contract or in a welcome packet).
- If messages are received on the weekends, you will respond the next business day.
- If you show up to a meeting and the client doesn’t show for 15 minutes, you will still charge for that time and leave the call.
REAL LIFE CASE STUDY #5
I had a sweet assistant divulge that she was incredibly unhappy with her situation as an assistant. She said her client constantly expected her to be “on-call” and did not respect her personal life boundaries. When I asked more questions, I discovered that this assistant had never voiced any of these boundaries to her client and just expected the client to catch on. Once they finally had a heart to heart, they were able to find a healthy communication pattern that served them both. All it took was for them to clearly state their needs. Remember, no one can meet an expectation they don’t know exists.
#7 Work with confidence + integrity
This almost goes without saying, but for heaven sakes, please work with the highest integrity. Here’s what I mean by this:
- Do what you say you are going to do — Period. If you commit to a weekly meeting with your client, the times you reschedule should be few and far between. It should certainly not be the norm.
- Speak up — Your client is not your manager or employer. You’re here to help them and provide them a service. Whenever you have a question, ask it. When you need something, tell the client. But also learn how to say no. Being a yes person will only hurt you (and potentially you if you say yes to something you just can’t do).
- Hold your client accountable — Let’s say you are tasked with creating a newsletter by Monday so it can be reviewed by your client prior to the publish date of Friday. If your client doesn’t look at it until Thursday night, is it your responsibility to go in at the last minute and make all the edits or is it the clients? If you never gave your client a deadline for when he/she needs to review edits by, this one gets tricky. So tell your clients when you need to receive edits by if they expect you to make the changes.
- Take ownership — Mistakes will happen. They are inevitable. Instead of stressing out so much because you’re so focused on not making one, prepare yourself for taking full accountability whenever you drop the ball. Be communicative and spell out the solution with your client.
- Ask for feedback — You won’t know how you’re doing unless you get feedback from your client. Ask for it, so you can know what you’re doing right and what you can improve on. Take feedback with an open heart and please oh please, do not get defensive.
- Under promise, over deliver — This is especially important if you don’t know the full scope of the project you are taking on.
- Know the deadlines — Deadlines are one of the most important pieces in your working process. Whenever you’re unclear about when something is due, ask your client to be crystal clear what the expectations are. If one approaches and something comes up (or you’re unable to accommodate it), communicate that with your client before the deadline passes. If you don’t receive a deadline, ask for one. Seriously.
REAL LIFE CASE STUDY #6
When one of my clients had her first call with her assistant, she described the call as incredibly collaborative and exciting. However, she was concerned when her assistant didn’t start on her tasks until 2 days after the call. I asked this client, “Did you tell your assistant you wanted that project done sooner?” The client's response was, “Well no, I thought it was obvious.”
I had a good giggle inside and helped this client see that this was just a matter of miscommunication. “Urgent” or “ASAP” means something completely different to each person. So if there is a time frame in mind, even if it is fluid, it must be articulated.
This is where you come in as the assistant. ASK for a deadline if you are not given one. Simply say, “When would you like to see this by?” This question will save you an incredible amount of frustration over time.
#8 Assist with appropriate authority
Your client brought you on to their team for a reason. You will likely know things they don’t (or will know more efficient ways to do the tasks that fall into your scope of work that they haven’t thought about before).
Be open to finding a mutual workflow without bulldozing over their existing processes, comforts, and expertise. Whether you’re an expert or a complete beginner, your client needs your help. Assisting with appropriate authority means that you should be able to answer any questions your client has for you in a way that isn’t positioning you above them. As your client’s virtual assistant, you’ll want to work WITH them. Not against them.
Similarly, be appropriately bossy. Emphasis on “appropriately”. When I was an assistant, my favorite compliment was when my client said she loved that I was “bossy”. Know that I was never callus or harsh. I simply took it as my responsibility to remind my client of things she promised to do. If a deadline approached, I would remind her of it before it came and she LOVED that.
See? WOW-ing your client doesn’t seem like such an impossible thing after all. While you may not need them all, a combination of them can help you greatly improve your client onboarding workflow and give you the confidence you need to create a thriving client-assistant relationship. While in some cases it may be too late to save a client-assistant relationship, I know that doing these things will help prepare you to turn things around for your future clients.
If you’re ready to sign your dream clients, I’m the host of a recruiting program where I match assistants with the right clients. Send me a message on my Contact Page, and I’ll let you know if I have a good fit for you at this time. PS: It’s free to you if I refer you to clients who are hiring. Wahoo!
Here’s a testimonial from one the assistants I’ve matched up several times:
“From the very start of my relationship with Megan, it was authentic and warm.
I first connected with her on Instagram and she quickly had me in the process of finding me a client's to work with. The process was fast, streamlined and felt like it flowed seamlessly. Megan provides an amazing value-packed course that leaves you with no questions prior to obtaining work, which I believe is an amazing reference to go back to if need be.
Megan really delves in and honors what you are passionate about and she sources a client that fits your interests best. The clients that Megan has put me in touch with and supported us, I consider my 'ideal clients' still today.
When doing packages for clients nowadays and they ask if I can do ongoing work, I instead recommend Megan to help them find their Assistant as I know that if you are with Megan, you are in very experienced, honest and safe hands.
I feel honored that we connected when we did and she has helped shape my career as it stands today. I definitely recommend working with her if you are seeking a Virtual Assistant or if you're looking for a client! She is the 'go-to!'” - Rach (Australia)
To your life and business success!