Working for yourself as a VA can be very profitable. But it can also sometimes feel as if you’re chasing your own tail. Everyone is interrupting you, kids are calling for you, spouses are wanting attention, the phone is ringing and it’s not about working. It seems impossible.
The thing is, everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, but somehow some people are more successful than others.
Why is that? If it’s not the niche, and others are successful, what are they doing differently from you? Working from home as a virtual assistant takes skill, courage, and the ability to create boundaries around your time. Boundaries are healthy and necessary and are not selfish. If you plan to make a living working from home as a virtual assistant, this is not only necessary it’s imperative.
Set a Realistic Family Schedule
I always tell people to use a Google Calendar to set up their schedule. First, put all your family obligations that you cannot get out of in the calendar. Include the fun stuff too. In fact, put everything in there from parent-teacher conferences to lunch with the kids, to movie night with the kids. These are all important and part of the reason you wanted to work from home in the first place. Then, when you see that calendar you can use it to schedule your workday around it.
Set Realistic Office Hours
To make enough money as a VA you’ll have to sell enough time at the right price and you can’t do that if you don’t really know how much time you must sell (to make the amount you want to make) and how much you want to make. Even if you don’t have a single client yet, you should already know how many billable hours, vs non-billable hours you can work each day, week, and year. Then you must set up your schedule to accommodate that goal.
Communicate with Family & Friends About Your Work Schedule
This can be very uncomfortable, especially if you haven’t established an income yet for your virtual assistant business but if you have the type of family who often calls you and interrupts your schedule it’s a necessity.
If you really want to make it special throw a dinner party with everyone to announce your business venture and celebrate starting. At this time ask for help with accountability by asking them to refrain from calling or asking you to do things during the times you’ve set aside. Share your calendar with them all so they can see where they fit in, and where work fits in.
Plan for Fun Stuff Too
This was mentioned when planning the family calendar to put everything including the fun stuff in there, but you are more than work and family. Add things to your calendar that are just for you too.
Everything you do day in and day out including the things like getting a massage, going to an exercise class, taking a class, or reading a book should be included in the schedule so that you can realistically assess your availability when anyone asks you to do anything. I even have listed when I do my laundry and clean certain parts of my home in my schedule.
Request Advanced Notice for Everything That Requires Your Time
For clients, this should be in your contract. As a solopreneur, it’s imperative that you value your time enough to include in your contracts advanced notice for anything out of the ordinary that will take your time. From client calls to extra work, put it in the contract that your clients must give you enough time.
My contacts require 72 hours’ notice for anything out of our package and then I may or may not be able to do it. There is no guarantee unless they’ve purchased extra hours for this type of thing up front. It really is unreasonable in most cases for anyone to expect you to do anything at a moment’s notice including friends, family, and clients. You are just one person.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Today there is a lot of technology that you can use to organize yourself. Most new virtual assistants start out being afraid to spend money. But there is no other business that has such low start-up costs as being a freelance VA does. Project management software can keep you organized and paid file storage and backup solutions can keep all your work and your clients’ work safe from disasters.
A self-hosted WordPress website is easy to make and maintain for a yearly domain name fee (about 12 bucks a year) and a hosting account through Mom Webs for a lot less than you may think. (PS Mom Webs also offers free move-in service for new accounts, so they can move your WordPress site over for you if you want them to, either way, they will install WordPress for you too so that you can get started fast.)
When someone oversteps the boundaries, you have set, you must speak up. So many virtual assistants naturally have a servant’s heart, which is amazing and good, but they can also be easy to walk on. Remember that your clients need you as much as you need them. It’s okay to speak up and redirect them to the contract. It’s okay to remind them of your limitations regarding time.
It’s fine to make suggestions to them about how to deal with things without expecting you to drop everything and work for them as if you’re an employee. You’re not an employee. When you do face these issues, speak up. But, speak up with patience, class, and understanding that you must teach your clients, friends, and family how to recognize your time boundaries. This is especially true if you did not start out with these boundaries.
Realize That No One is Perfect
Everyone backslides. If you’re not used to setting boundaries sometimes you’re going to miss the mark. No one is perfect. It’s okay. When it happens, note that it happened and how it happened so that you can try to avoid it next time. But, try not to back out on things you’ve told people you will do it. It’s better to suck it up and get things done even when you resent it and feel taken advantage of then end up backing out. Just ensure that you don’t keep doing it and you won’t have to face that problem.
Also, remember that children get sick, you may get sick too. Work in space on your calendar to accommodate these unexpected issues so that you still won’t be late for client deadlines or other responsibilities. For example, when you estimate how long something will take always multiply it by 1.5 so that you have a buffer.
While this may make you uncomfortable to set and stick to boundaries, part of being in business for yourself is allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable while working through it. It might be hard to tell your mother not to call you between 9 am and 2 pm because that’s when you are doing client work, she may not understand, but if you don’t do it and stick to it, you will not succeed with your own business. Start the day you start your business so that by the time you really have filled your client roster you’ve set the standards and it’ll be easier to follow through.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."