Dealing with Difficult Clients

Dealing with Difficult Clients

Do you ever say yes when you really would prefer to say no?

We spend so much time in our Virtual Assistant businesses trying to find clients, we rarely stop to think about what we do if they aren't that great.

You know who I'm talking about ... the clients who make you cringe when you see their name on your phone or in your email.

Our support professional persona almost always contains the 'people-pleaser' gene, and we never really want to say no to people when they ask us to do something for them.

We might put up with behaviour from clients that is not really acceptable - if those clients think of us as their 'help', or their 'staff'. It's not fun.

But who wants to turn away clients and lose the revenue, right?

Dealing with difficult clients is a necessary thing to learn how to do well in your business. It will help you attain longevity and be in business (happily!) for a long time.

You teach people how to treat you.

And it's up to you to teach them to treat you well!

So what is a difficult client? Here are a few behaviours that might be defined as difficult:

Breaks your boundaries.

If you have a preferred method of communication (email) and the client is constantly messaging you or calling you instead, they need to be taught the right way to communicate with you. Don't respond using methods that are not allowed. Tip: If a client texts you, email them back and let them know you got their message but to please use your communication channels so you can keep your paper trail of their work all in one place.

Micromanages your task list.

Your clients are hiring you to help them in their business because of your expertise. You should be the one managing your tasks and your schedule. You get to say what gets done and when - not someone else. You need to work with lead times and deadlines with your clients so that everyone has enough time to fit the work into their own schedule. Tip: Be proactive and communicate well. If a client sends you a task request, acknowledge it and let them know when you will complete it. Part of micromanaging comes from the client not knowing if you got their request, or not knowing when you will do it. So tell them!

Last minute work

We mentioned lead times above but last minute work is really important to address. If your clients are constantly sending you their newsletter the morning it needs to be sent out, you need to stop it. Let them know what lead time you need to get it done properly, and then hold them to it. When you consistently do last minute work, you are developing bad habits that clients will find hard to break. Tip: The easiest way to stop this habit is to simply refuse to do the work. Rush fees rarely speak to clients. But when their work does not get done because they are not organized enough, they will find a way to get organized.

Difficult clients are often just clients that have been allowed to creep boundaries or work scope. Not always, but often.

Don't let anyone treat you the way you don't want to be treated.

Act like a business owner. Treat the clients with respect. Set rules for them and hold both of you to those rules.

Everything will be clearer and your communication and your work together will improve vastly. Promise!

3 Tips to Use Your Schedule to Get More Done Every Day

Why The Calendar Should Be a Virtual Assistant’s Best Friend

Being organized is a quality that a lot of Virtual Assistants bring to the table in their work.

Keeping client tasks organized and getting things done is even a common part of our service offerings.

But sometimes it’s not the way we run our own business.

Or, sometimes when we bring on a number of clients to work with at once, it becomes more difficult to make the decisions necessary to properly prioritize each client’s tasks and get things done.

Are you struggling with getting everything done in a day?

If so, I recommend using your calendar as much as possible.

Keeping a schedule makes all areas of your business better. It not only shows you what you need to get done, but it also helps you to manage your time around each thing.

Here are a few easy ways to use your calendar to get more done:

1. Schedule your business hours

Make sure that your clients and your family know when you are supposed to be working. Having regular business hours can really help everyone. For your family, it lets them know when not to disturb you, and for your clients, it tells them when they can expect to hear back from you. Business hours don’t have to be super long every day (you could have your office open just a few hours a day), but it helps communication with everyone around you, and it makes things run smoother for you.

2.  Schedule blocks of time for work

Use your calendar to block out your day. Jumping from task to task interrupts your brain’s signals too often. If you want to really focus on what you are doing, and become more efficient at it, schedule a block of time anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to work on something specific. That may not sound like a lot of time, but when you are focused during that time you will see just how much more productive you can be. Short blocks also help you to move things around as necessary if you need to. Try it for a week!

3. Schedule your distractions

I know what you’re thinking – how can I schedule something I don’t even know about? I recently came across an awesome suggestion to deal with distractions – it’s called a Distractions List. When you are in the middle of a task, and something distracts you, simply write it down on a piece of paper or in a notebook that you keep beside your computer. Then, schedule time in your calendar to handle the items on that distractions list. If you find that you have a lot of things on your list, you might book in distraction time a few times a day – mid morning, midday and mid afternoon works. Cross the things off your distraction list when you have looked after them, and get back to work!

Bonus tip: When you are scheduling your time, be sure you have a start and end time, so that you know when you are supposed to STOP working on something. If you have ever gone down a research or social media ‘rabbit hole’, you’ll know what I mean. Set a stop time, and stop then. Assess whether you completed your task on time or if you need to adjust the schedule for future.

When you work by yourself like so many VAs do, managing your time is really important. Productivity is really essential to run a profitable business, to practice excellent time management every day. 

Don’t feel that you need to jump when a client (or a family member) needs something. Hold yourself to your schedule, and advise them when you can look after what they need. Put them on your distractions list!

And remember that short blocks of time are more manageable - instead of jamming something new into the middle of your day, see what you can move to another time slot.

Simply put, scheduling works to get more done. Try it for yourself!

For more tips on time management for your VA business, check out my free Virtual Assistant training videos on my Youtube channel.

What You Need to Know About the GDPR (and Why!)

Is your business GDPR compliant?

Unless you've been hiding under a rock lately, you have probably heard about the GDPR.

The GDPR is the General Data Protection Regulations that are coming into effect for people living in the European Union (EU) beginning Friday, May 25, 2018.

Here is what you need to know*:

What is the GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for anyone living in the European Union. (Which countries make up the European Union? Click here). The regulation also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU - so, wherever you live.  The GDPR gives control of their personal data to the citizens of the EU. They have the right  to know who has their data, why they have it, what they are doing with it, who they are sharing it with, and how to access it and delete it.

The GDPR actually came into being in April 2016, but there has been a two-year transition period in place. It becomes enforceable on May 25, 2018.

Why is it important?

The GDPR is important to residents of the EU because of the rights they will now have regarding their own personal data worldwide. It is important to those outside the EU because if you are collecting, processing or holding the data of someone in the EU and they have not consented for you to have it or use it, you could face stiff fines (up to $20 million pounds or 4% of your company's worldwide income). This is a law, and it is enforceable, so that is what makes it so important to understand. 

What kind of data is included?

The regulations include what is called "Personal Data". Basically, the main purpose of the GDPR is to protect the personal data of EU citizens. Personal data is anything that is identifiable to a specific person. It's not just about email addresses. It's about IP addresses of computers, names, addresses, credit card information, and more.

How will it affect my business?

If you are not connecting with or marketing to residents of the EU, you could be safe. However, this doesn't mean that you have EU customers. This includes your customers, your email subscribers, your website and blog visitors, anywhere you have contact with EU citizens is affected. If you are using custom audiences for your Facebook Ads, you will need to be sure your mailing list knows. And if you are using Google Analytics or Facebook pixels on your website, you are collecting cookies and that needs to be made compliant (for EU citizens) as well. 

The GDPR regulations are for data processors and data controllers. , etc. the basis of the GDPR is that it includes data processors and data controllers. The official definitions of these two are:

Data controller:  Article 4 (7) ‘controller’ means the natural or legal person, public authority, agency or other body which, alone or jointly with others, determines the purposes and means of the processing of personal data; where the purposes and means of such processing are determined by Union or Member State law, the controller or the specific criteria for its nomination may be provided for by Union or Member State law;

Data processor: Article 4 (8) ‘processor’ means a natural or legal person, public authority, agency or other body which processes personal data on behalf of the controller;

Data controllers are you, and anyone else who works within your company who has access to the data that is being collected. 

Data processors are the businesses or services you might use to process the data that is being collected.

Simple example: If you have an opt in on your website, and you use Aweber as your email service, and you have Google Analytics activated on your website, YOU are the data controller. Aweber and Google Analytics are the data processors. Make sense? So your data processors are your ecommerce/bookkeeping systems (or services), your email system, etc. 

What do I need to do to comply with GDPR?

Review your processes and update as necessary:

  • Maintain records of the data you are collecting and processing (or having processed on your company's behalf). 
  • Make a list of those who are processing your company data for analytics, mailing lists, marketing, payment processing, online storage systems, web hosts, website, etc.
  • Ensure that you have proof of consent for personal email data (ie mailing list). If you can't prove consent, obtain fresh consent.
  • Implement a system for people to choose the way you can use their data (ie allow them to opt out of any and all forms of retargeting, marketing, segmentation, and communication).
  • Develop a plan to remove stale data from your company's records.
  • Be certain that your business's data processors are GDPR compliant.
  • Educate your employees, subcontractors and partners on your procedures if they are handling your data in any way, or provide a Code of Conduct for them to adhere to.
  • Update your Privacy Policy on your website to include GDPR compliant language (or add a special GDPR addendum to your existing Privacy Policy if you prefer and link it to your existing policy). Add a link to this page on every page of your website, and on your data collection forms (order forms, email opt ins).
  • Update your Terms of Service on your website to include GDPR compliant language. Link your terms page to your Privacy Policy page.
  • If you do use analytics or a Facebook pixel, install a notification (pop up) to tell people their data is being collected when they visit your site.
  • Ensure that your contacts are able to contact you easily if they have they questions about their data that you may be in possession of, or request for their data to be deleted from your possession ('the right to be forgotten').
  • Develop a system to handle a data breach, should it occur.

Get more information:

If you want the whole shebang in plain English, this is the best article we have found to explain it clearly: Varonis (Michael Buckbee): GDP Requirements in Plain English

Suzanne Dibble is a UK lawyer who provides excellent information about GDPR compliance. She has a free checklist here: http://globalava.org/gdpr . She also runs an excellent GDPR specific Facebook group (download her checklist to get an invitation to join it), where you can get specific help.  She also sells a GDPR Compliance Pack that provides all the forms you might need to become compliant, if you want a handy little package (the webinar is very helpful too!) 

The Bottom Line:

Whether you are actively marketing to EU citizens or not, these are good changes to make to your business. It probably won't be long before something like this is rolled out by other countries as well. Data protection is a huge topic of discussion in all areas of business. Don't avoid the whole thing and hope you don't get caught. Do what you need to, to become compliant. Know what data you are collecting, develop good procedures to handle, process and store it, and make sure your connections know that too, and you'll be just fine. 


Disclaimer: The Canadian Assocation of Virtual Assistants (CAVA) is not an official GDPR resource. CAVA is a educational website and blog, and the information contained within this site in no way constitutes legal advice. Any person who intends to rely upon or use the information contained herein in any way is solely responsible for independently verifying the information and obtaining independent expert advice as required to become GDPR compliant.

*Article sources: Suzanne Dibble (UK Lawyer), Information Commissioners Office (ICO), Varonis Systems Inside Out Security, Europa EU, Wikipedia (definitions), 

5 Tips to Manage Multiple Virtual Assistant Clients

 

How do you handle more than one client’s work at a time?

Virtual Assistants often work with many clients at the same. It’s a more common model to have many clients than it is to just work with two or three clients (once your business is established of course!).

How do you handle it when everyone needs something at once?

As much as you are your own boss in your business, the clients are really the ones who fill your time on a daily basis.

So how do you handle more than one ‘boss’ at a time?

Simple ... scheduling, clarity and good communication are the three most important things to get right in your VA business, so you can get your clients’ work done, and keep your sanity!

I have often warned VAs of being ‘at the ready’ with their clients – it’s easy to form an employer-employee relationship with someone that you work closely with, and it’s important to guard those boundaries as a partnership instead.

When you work with a lot of different people, they all have different requirements and different schedules and different deadlines.

Here are 5 tips on how to manage multiple clients better in your virtual assistant business:

 

1. Block time in your schedule to work on a client’s work. 

Gather projects that need doing for the same client, and do several of them at once. This way you can concentrate on (and bill) their work during one time period. It’s not necessary to tell a client when you are working on their pieces, ie ‘Thursday from 10 to 11 am’, but you should let them know when you will deliver the completed task/work to them.

2. Be clear with lead time and deadlines.

It’s up to you to make sure that your clients know how much lead time you need for tasks and projects. Once you do, you must hold them to those deadlines and lead times as much as possible, in order to honor the relationships you have with all of your clients. If you have a client who often sends you last minute requests, it can throw off your schedule for all of your other clients, who may be respecting your deadlines. The more prepared your clients are, the better you can manage your whole workload.

3. Schedule production calls weekly.

It’s important to have regular communication with your clients for the ongoing tasks you have in your schedule for them. By having a quick weekly phone call you can work out any details for the upcoming week, and everyone is on the same page. The remainder of communication can take place through email as required, but that personal touch is really important when you work virtually.

4. Protect your boundaries.

Boundaries are very important when you are working as a virtual assistant. You have to be sure that everyone around you (including you!) protects those boundaries, so that you can get the things done that you need to get done, when they need to get done. If you are like me, your time is precious and you want to maximize it. So be sure to set your boundaries for turnaround times, deadlines, phone calls, or whatever else, and stick to them.

5. Be proactive.

When you are not working on a client’s work, you should still be thinking about them. Be sure to let them know this. The production call is great, but be sure to check in with your clients to see if there are other things they need done. It can be a great way to increase your billable time with them, and build a better client relationship. Working with the same types of clients makes this piece easier – what you are doing for one you can also be doing for others.

Good communication, clarity and scheduling will help you to achieve a smooth schedule and you will be able to handle many happy clients every day. And of course, that will make your ‘boss’ (you!) happy too!

While you need to do all of these things, you also have to find great clients to work with. Get a few ideas about how to do that here.