Successful VAs are those who have a roster of clients. The needs of each client are unique, as is the number of hours that you must dedicate to taking care of each one as if they are the only one. Naturally, it goes without saying that time management is critical when managing multiple clients. But there are some additional steps you can take to maximize your efficiency and output.
A server in a restaurant has many tables to take care of at once, plus tasks to address in the kitchen in between. Effective food servers are efficient because they rotate between tables and minimize their steps. As a VA, get yourself into the habit of finding a rotation rhythm. Check emails regularly for each client and respond to requests in the order of urgency and/or ease of getting the task done. Very regular rotation will help clients feel that you have a super response time. Don’t wait three hours to check emails. Look at everything very routinely and set up notifications on your computer to expedite the process.
Each client will have a set of systems they want you to work with and these may be very similar or very customized to other clients you have. Orient with these systems quickly and write all your logins somewhere. You may have clients who set you up with email addresses and accounts that make it look like you are writing from their company. Keep a list of all the login protocols and workflow of platforms, databases, and so forth and spend time going through the platform’s functions to acclimate with greater ease. Create a document with standardized language templates for common written content you need to send for each client. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
It’s important for VAs to build some slush time into schedules so we can be very responsive when a client has an unexpected task that needs to be addressed. It’s not a perfect science. Your client’s emergency may arise when you are not at your desk. But do your best to carve out a little bit of open time to create a better chance of faster delivery of the results your client seeks.
Tracking several clients means managing a giant Lego set of moving parts. Keep lists and notes in whatever way works for you. Pay attention to client deadlines and try to stay ahead of them. Separate project work from time-sensitive task-driven work. Some clients give broader, project-based assignments, others are task-driven, and most are a blend. Master multitasking and the art of re-prioritizing. Be flexible in your work style to be able to hit pause on that big expense report you are working on to jump onto the phone call because your client suddenly needs to move a meeting up by an hour. As you get to know each client and the work they want to achieve, you will gain insight into how to better order priorities.
It may take a little time for you and your clients to build rapport but once that’s established, you can slowly start to make suggestions (best phrased in the form of questions) that get your client thinking about a better way to approach something. Proceed with caution here. Some clients are very fixed in their style and method. This is why framing your suggestion as a question like, “Is doing such and such idea something that we do?” is far less threatening than, “I think we should XYZ,” unless, of course, the client invites you directly to offer suggestions.
Clients who hire VAs are already walking far out on a limb of trust. They barely see their VAs, if at all, and when they do, it’s on screen. Some clients may micromanage slightly more — even unintentionally — than they would if they saw you working at your desk every day in the office. Don’t lose your mind. Listen between the lines and fish out what is really important. Learn to discern between anxiety and necessity. But don’t test the waters too much. Do the tasks in the way your client wants them done. If they are giving you a long speech about how to make a phone call or send an email, listen for the key points about content. Some clients may not have to give instruction to other people often and they are used to working solo. Having a VA is an adjustment. Be patient and ascertain what your client is driving at overall.
You want your clients to feel fully served and appreciated. They should experience a sense that you are truly their assistant. You as the VA have to meet the needs and expectations of all of your clients equally. The phrase under-promise and over-deliver should be your mantra. If you tell your client you will achieve the goal by 4 o’clock, deliver it by 2 o’clock. If you tell them a project will take one week, deliver it in four days. This way, you build in some flexibility for yourself while giving the client the impression of what’s reasonable. If your client is asking for an outcome that you simply cannot deliver for whatever reason, don’t say no outright, but discuss with them what you can provide and create a work-plan that suits both of you. Business is an art form and requires tremendous commitment to communication, honesty, and results.
Submitted by Darcie