Establishing procedures for how and when you work will give your clients a clear understanding of your availability. Procedures help you set boundaries for your clients to follow, and also give them information about how to communicate with you. Here are some tips on how to set up effective work boundaries.
Set regular office hours. Whether you work full time or part time, it's important to make sure that your clients are aware of when you are available. Setting regular hours will also allow you to fit your personal schedule into your work schedule, or to fit your work around your personal commitments. It will also be clear to your clients when you are working and when you are not. Tip: To avoid confusion, don't communicate with clients outside of these hours unless absolutely necessary.
Let your clients know if you will be out. Once you have set your normal office hours, try to schedule your personal appointments outside of those times. If you must be out when your clients are expecting you to be working, be sure to let them know, just in case they try to get in touch with you and can't. Tip: Also let your clients know when you are back in your office.
Set up a communication strategy. When you begin working with a client, be sure to establish the ground rules for communication. Determine whether you prefer email or phone communication, whether you use instant messaging systems or texting. Don't forget to include response rates for each form of communication, so that everyone is on the same page. If you only pick up email a few times a day, your clients need to be aware of that. Tip: This is a strong boundary, so be sure to honor yourself when you set it.
Have a backup plan. If you need to be away from your office, be sure to have a plan in place so that your clients are still taken care of. The plan could be as simple as using your mobile device and wireless internet, or as complex as having a backup in place to handle your client work when you need it. Again, it's important to discuss this backup plan with your clients so that they know how you will take care of their work. Tip: Set up your backup plan before you need it!
Plan for emergencies. Whether you have an emergency or your client does, be sure that you each know how the other person will handle this. What constitutes a business emergency, and how they should contact you are two keys here. Tip: Keep your client and colleague phone numbers on your mobile, so you always have them handy.
Setting up a set of procedures for how you will work together is an important part of building a successful business. It helps you develop routines and regularity, but it also helps you build great relationships with your clients. Whether you are new or have been in business a long time, be sure to set communication rules and boundaries for your clients. You will both be happier when the rules are clear!
By Tracey D'Aviero
Image by Yanik Chauvin
Tracey D'Aviero is a successful Virtual Assistant as well as a VA coach and mentor. She helps new and aspiring Virtual Assistants build solid foundations for their businesses by teaching them how to put procedures and plans in place for success and growth. Pick up a copy of Tracey's free eBook "How to Get Started as a Virtual Assistant" at http://www.yourvamentor.com