VAs are organised, efficient and used to planning ahead to avoid problems. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you plan, things go wrong in business. Here are
- two of the most common problems that VA’s have told us they have with clients
- tips to help you avoid them!
(1) Work that you do but don’t get paid for
Work you don’t get paid for is a common problem for all businesses who provide a service. I call it the “can you just?” problem. It goes something like this
- Your client asks you to do some work (like work on a database or post 15 posts onto Twitter. You agree how long it will take or give a fixed price
- You do the work
- The client comes back in a panic with something that’s needed urgently. They say, “can you just…?” For example, “can you just add this into database by 3pm today please?”.
- You do that extra work
- You can do one of two things
- Invoice the client who asks why there’s an extra hour on their bill. You then have to spend time explaining (justifying it) or
- You decide not to invoice the client. For example, you don’t invoice because “they are a good client “ or “it didn’t take long” or “I cannot explain this addition again and add more stress into my life”.
Either way, you’re doing work that you don’t get paid for.
In business we all accept that (very occasionally), there may be a situation where you will work for free. Otherwise, the only unpaid work that you should be doing is the work to market and manage your own business. You have the skills and produce great work so why shouldn’t you be paid? What can you do in this situation?
- Make sure that you agree with the client exactly what work you will do before you start work. Then, confirm what you agreed in writing. So, for example, remind the client that you’ve agreed 10 hours a week or a fixed price for the job. A great way to do this is to use a Work Schedule which details the important things about the job. Something that you can easily email to the client. If you’d like to download a free Work Schedule checklist, email [email protected] quoting free Work Schedule checklist in the header.
- Make it clear that you will charge the client for any “extra” work. A great way to do this is in your Business Terms and Conditions which you include (attach) to every Work Schedule. It’s less formal than a big legal contract document but it still creates a legal agreement between you and the client anyway
- If your work means you’ve agreed to work a set number of hours (e.g. 10 hours a month), keep a record of the exact time that you spend. There are some great tools available. Many of the tools are completely free or at least have free trials) so make the most of them. If you do this you’ve got something you can easily print out and email to your client if you need to. We love Toggl.com for this.
- Let the client know when you have completed the work that’s agreed. Something like “this now completes the work I agreed to do on this spreadsheet”. This will save any misunderstanding.
(2) When the client doesn’t give you everything you need to get the job done
Another common problem for service businesses is being delayed because your client hasn’t given you everything that you need. It goes something like this
- Your client asks you to do some work. For example, they ask you to add data into a spreadsheet. You agree how long it will take or give a fixed price
- You both agree when the work must be finished. For example, you agree that the work should be completed by the 15th of the month)
- The client gives you some of the things that you need to do the work, but not everything. So, for example, the client gives you the spreadsheet, but only some of the data you need to complete the work
- You email the client three times to ask for the data
- The client emails you the data you need at 10pm on the 14th
- You work until 2am on the morning of the 15th to finish the job.
This means that
- You’re finishing the work at the last minute
- Your own schedule is messed-up
- You’re left feeling stressed
- Make sure that your client is clear about what they need to do so that you can complete their work done. For example, if you need them to give you a spreadsheet and data – include exactly that in your Work Schedule.
- Set a deadline so the client knows when and how you need everything. Again, include it in your Work Schedule.
- Make it clear that you’re not responsible if your client doesn’t do what they agreed to. A great way to do this is your Business Terms and Conditions. You can include
- Include response times to emails. So, for example, you can say that the client must respond to emails within 3 working days otherwise all deadlines are suspended. This will also save you sending lots of emails (unpaid time again!) chasing the client
- Make it clear that you will never be responsible for missing a deadline because the client (or anyone else) doesn’t do what they are supposed to.
No matter what you do, things will go wrong. You may think that completing a Work Schedule and having business terms is a waste of time – until something goes wrong! Then it’s too late! Here at Law Hound we provide VAs with terms and conditions that work. Talk to us about how we can help you and look here at some of our VA document templates.