When you’re a Virtual Assistant, you’re a business owner. That means when you work with clients, they are not your employers. You’re allowed to set some business boundaries!
This confuses new VAs sometimes because they’re used to the employer/employee relationship at their jobs. Because of this, they feel they need to follow the clients’ rules instead of making their own. And when they do this, they find there can be problems like late payments or clients calling them any time, day or night.
Since you’re the CEO of your business, you need to create some boundaries based on your needs as a business owner and introvert. This is exciting because it means you have control over things you didn’t with your regular job.
In this post, I’ll cover 4 important policies you need to have in place before you take on any clients. I’ll also discuss what to do if a client is pushing those boundaries or if you didn’t create any before working with a client and you’re discovering you really need to.
4 BUSINESS BOUNDARIES FOR VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS
BUSINESS BOUNDARY #1: THE DAYS AND TIMES YOU WORK
One of the cool things about being a VA is that you can choose when you work.
If you have a job but are starting your business on the side, you can work mornings, evenings, or weekends. If you’re not a morning person, like me, you can start working in the late morning or early afternoon. If you’re someone who likes to get up early and get things done early in the day, you can do that.
You just need to communicate this to your clients before working with them so that they’re aware. They may have meetings at certain times with their team that you’ll need to join, or they might need someone who works Monday through Friday.
If their working times don’t line up with yours, you’ll at least know beforehand, and you can find a client whose hours do line up. What I’ve found is that most clients are flexible with the days and times you work.
BUSINESS BOUNDARY #2: HOW CLIENTS CAN CONTACT YOU
Some VAs think that they need to put their phone number on their website or that it’s normal for clients to call them anytime during the day when they have a question or want to talk about a project.
Well, good news, introverts! This is not normally the case.
I’ve never displayed my phone number on my website, and if a client had my phone number, we would only talk on meeting days, not anytime. If they had a question between meetings, they could reach me through email, Voxer, or a project management app, depending on the client.
Some VAs, maybe even extroverts, are okay with giving out their phone numbers, but just know it’s not something you have to do. I’ve found that some brick-and-mortar or local businesses need to be trained when it comes to talking on the phone. They are used to having a business phone and talking to clients that way, but as a Virtual Assistant, you are not required to do this.
If you’ve told a client the phone is not how you communicate, yet they don’t listen, it’s time to let them go. And don’t allow clients to “hop on a call real quick” to discuss something. Once you do, they’ll keep asking.
I’ve found that extroverted clients like to do this, and it’s draining for introverts. You have to stop what you’re doing, talk to someone, and then recharge after. This takes up a lot of time that you could be focusing on your work.
BUSINESS BOUNDARY #3: HOW QUICKLY YOU RESPOND TO QUESTIONS
If you don’t tell clients your response time to questions sent through email or chat, they might expect an answer right away.
As a VA, you’ll have several clients and tasks or projects going on at once. So a client who emails you a question and emails you again 15 minutes later asking why you didn’t respond can cause lots of anxiety and stress. This is why it’s important to communicate how quickly you respond to these sorts of things.
If it’s not urgent, it’s okay to tell them you’ll respond in 24 hours or less, Monday through Friday. If you’re working on a project together, this may look different. For example, I use WhatsApp with my VA, so if we’re working on a project at the same time, we can communicate quickly with each other. Again, this is your business, so you get to set the rules. Decide what’s best for you and help your clients stick to those rules.
BUSINESS BOUNDARY #4: YOUR PAYMENT POLICIES
If you have retainer clients or clients you work with every month, you can invoice them each month on the 1st. If clients purchase a block of hours whenever they need it, you can require them to use those hours within 3 months, or they’ll expire. If a client is late paying their bill, you can refuse to work until it gets paid.
These are all examples of payment policies. Be sure to tell your clients when they’ll be invoiced and the consequences if they don’t pay. You don’t want to spend your time or energy trying to hunt down payments or, worse yet, not get paid at all.
So how should you communicate these business boundaries, or how do you set them with clients?
The answer is through your contract. Every client should receive a contract that outlines your policies. That way, the client sees them and signs their name as assurance they read and understood them.
What if you have a client that’s pushing your boundaries?
👉 What if you communicated your boundaries when you started working with your client, and they’ve since decided not to pay on time or something like that? What do you do then?
The answer is it’s time to reinforce your policies. A big part of setting boundaries is also upholding them.
If someone pushes past them, you need to speak up. I know this can be really difficult, I totally understand. Introverts don’t typically enjoy rocking the boat or pissing people off, especially a paying client, but you created your policies for a reason.
Letting clients bend the rules only gives them permission to keep bending them or to bend more rules. So if a client isn’t following your rules, write them an email and outline your policies again.
Remind them that these policies were in your contract that they originally signed. Of course, be professional and keep the tone of the email light. You don’t want them to feel like you’re scolding them. You just want to let them know that you want to stick to your original policies as agreed upon previously.
👉 If you took on a client without expressing your boundaries first, and they’re causing stress and anxiety, it’s time to make some boundaries now.
Maybe you didn’t communicate any policies upfront because you were excited to just have someone pay you to do some work for them, or maybe you didn’t realize you needed to have rules in place.
It’s okay, it’s not too late to set some boundaries. Decide on your policies using the 4 I covered today and email them to your client. If they get mad and leave, well, adios! You don’t need a client who doesn’t respect you.
There are plenty of people out there who won’t walk all over you. You have to protect yourself. Clients that don’t listen can have a negative effect on your mental health and energy levels. You need to know what helps you thrive as an introvert.
Pretty powerful, right?
This goes for everyone in your life. How are you allowing people to treat you? Is it how you want to be treated? If not, it’s time to speak up.
What if you want to bend the rules for a client?
The answer is you can if you want.
Let’s say you have a policy that you only communicate through email between Zoom meetings, but you have a client that would be easier to communicate with through Voxer. Give it a try. Let them know you’d like to try it out, and if it doesn’t work, you’ll stop.
Sometimes you have to be a little flexible, and that’s okay. The issue is when you don’t want to be flexible, and someone is pushing you to do something you don’t want to do or walking on you.
Business boundaries are important for running your business smoothly, reserving your energy, reducing anxiety and stress, and mental health.
Plus, they help you develop harmonious working relationships with your clients.
If you don’t have clear policies, you risk the chance of working on days you don’t want to (like weekends), working hours you don’t want to (like early in the morning or late at night), and putting up with things you shouldn’t (like a non-paying client).
Every business is different and will have its own set of unique policies.
Just get clear on your policies, and be sure to communicate them with your clients before working with them. If you have clients bending the rules, remind them of them. And if they don’t listen, let them go and find a client who respects you.
If you need more help with your business boundaries or policies, or creating your contract, check out my membership the Introvert VA Club. We have a Client Contract Kit with everything you need, including contract templates you can edit and send to clients.