4 Common Mistakes New Virtual Assistants Make and how to avoid them

Mistakes are easier to avoid when you know what they are before you make them as a new virtual assistant. 

It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of sending a proposal and landing a new client! In order to have a great relationship with your new client, you’ll want to be sure to avoid these common mistakes both before you start with a client and during the contract period. 

Experience level misrepresentation mistakes

That first discovery call with a client who you really gell with is just the most magical feeling ever as a new virtual assistant. You’ve truly hit it off and feel like you would be able to work together very well. And then you ask the client the question…which apps and programs do you use most frequently that I will be expected to use? 

And the client names some random app that you’ve never touched before! Internally, you’re cringing in disappointment, outside you are nodding and saying you’ve used that program before, right? 

No. No. You should not do that. 

When it comes up that you have no skill with a certain program or app – you should be honest and optimistic. 

If it is an app that you feel is similar to one that you already know or one that you feel confident you could learn you should say :

I’ve not worked with that specific app before but can see that it is similar to xxx and feel confident I could learn it very quickly. 

If it is an app you don’t have a clue about you’ll want to say something like: 

I’ve never worked with that app or that type of app. Would you mind if I take a closer look at it before we decide whether we should move forward? 

Most potential clients will be impressed with either response. They will appreciate your transparency and even if they decide to pause talking you will stick out in their mind for a referral. 

The mistake of unclear boundaries

It’s very tempting to be available for anything a client needs and want to go the extra mile and a half to keep the new client satisfied. 

By the start of the contract, you should have made clear your working hours, a preferred method of communication, and how soon to expect a response from you. 

This should be sent once the contract has been signed and the invoice paid, prior to any work starting.

Imagine starting with a new client and within two days the client is texting you at all hours, demanding to know why an email wasn’t replied to within an hour, and why you aren’t responding to their text messages. 

If you had sent your boundaries prior to work starting, your client would be clear on the fact that you only communicate through email, that you work evenings only, and that they can expect a response within 24 hours, not two. 

Obviously, there will be exceptions, and I’ve listed some of them here, but generally, you should stick as closely as possible to the boundaries you established when the relationship began. 

Unclear expectations of working with a freelance or independent contractor

Independent contractors are not exactly a new concept but there are a lot of people who have never experienced working with one.  And many business owners are not very clear on the relationship between client and virtual assistant either due to the amount of misinformation out there about using virtual assistants and remote independent contractors.

You can see that by reading this article which obviously blurs the line between employee and independent contractor. And considering it is being published by an agency…well even some virtual assistants don’t understand what they are. 

The expectations should be clearly laid out prior to a discovery call and you definitely don’t want there to be any confusion about the difference between an employee and an independent contractor. 

Employees are given a W-2, the employer tells the employee when to work, and what the wages are. 

Independent contractors, or freelancers, pay their own taxes and are given 1099 at the end of the year. They also name their own working hours and wages. 

You should clarify what type of hours your client believes they will need assistance, what their budget is, and that they are clear on what their responsibilities are when it comes to taxes. 

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is taking on a client who needs you to be available more than you are or one who expects to treat you like an employee as opposed to a business peer. 

Lack of transparency about client load can be a mistake

Once you’ve established yourself as a virtual assistant you’ll find that you might have time to take on two or three clients at a time. This is a good thing! 

For example, some clients might need you for only a handful of hours per week and if you are available for up to twenty hours per week – that’s a lot of time to fill. Most virtual assistants take on a couple of clients at a time once they have their time management down. 

The one mistake you can make when speaking with potential clients is not being honest about your “bandwidth”. Your bandwidth will be amount of hours you are available per week. 

A new client will need to know that you will be sticking to your 10 hours per week work with them because you have other clients that you work for. You don’t need to share any other information but be sure you are not breaking any type of non-compete or NDA agreement. 

For example, if you have one health and wellness client who is selling vitamins and supplements, it might be sticky doing the exact same work for another client who specializes in the same thing.

All of these mistakes can be avoided by keeping communication open, being transparent, and having an awareness of what clients believe virtual assistants are responsible for.  And, luckily, most of these can be rectified by opening communication and being apologetic. They are a lesson that is hard-learned, yes, but will set you up for success later as you move forward. 

Have you made any of these mistakes with your first few clients?