Scheduling calls is a great way to set boundaries for communication. #vatip Gotta Tweet!
You have to set boundaries by setting office hours. #vatipGotta Tweet!
You shouldn’t be working seven days a week. You need a day of rest. #vatip Gotta Tweet!
It took me about a week to fully recover from a wonderful week away. It’s so funny when we go out of town I don’t say we’re going out of town. It really has a lot to do with my mom. She never wants anybody to know we’re out of town. She thinks if I say it on Facebook then all of a sudden, you know, the house might be robbed or something like that.
It’s so funny because I’m like, well mom, people would have to know where you live specifically and they have to know that you’re with us going out of town, and if they’re going to rob our house they’d have to know specifically where we live anyway.
It’s just always funny whenever she says that. So out of respect for my mom, I don’t say anything. I might have subtle hints like pictures because I just love the scenery if we’re near water. I just love the beach. It doesn’t matter what beach. I love the beach and the water. So anyway, I’ll post little subtle pictures about it.
But it was so funny I got a phone call from one of my business partners in direct sales. You know, I have a jewelry direct sales business that I’m doing, and so one of my partners, she called and I saw that it was her, but I didn’t answer it because when I am away on vacation my mind is not up for a phone call. I’ll be honest, a lot of times even when I’m not on vacation, my mind is not in tune for a phone call unless it’s scheduled, and we’ll talk about that.
But anyway, I saw her calling. I didn’t answer because I’m enjoying vacation, and what I did do was I sent her a quick text. I said, “Hey, I’m away. However I am available via text.” It takes seconds for me to send a text message and I don’t have a problem sending texts while I’m on vacation. But I do have a problem answering the phone while I’m on vacation.
Like I said, it takes a quick second to create your text message and people are very brief in text messages. At least the people I get text messages from, it’s like “hi” and straight to the point. But on the phone, it’s like, “Hey, how are you doing? What’s going on?” Dah, dah, dah, you know, there’s this whole introduction to the reason for the call. But we don’t do that on a text message.
That’s one way I keep boundaries while I’m away on vacation. So that’s an example. Even if that were a personal call, it would be the same thing. I’d let the person know the same thing. I’m away, but you can text me.
Now, when it comes to a scheduled call, when you’re in the office, not on vacation because on vacation no calls, but say you have a client that sends you an email and they’re like, “Hey, do you have some time today to get on a quick call?” Now, this would be based on the situation, so let me set it up for you.
Let’s just say it’s been some days, it’s a regular client you work ongoing every month with them, but it’s been a few days. You haven’t heard anything. They don’t need anything from you, so they’re sending you a message on Thursday, “Do you have time to talk today?”
Schedule the call. Schedule it for not the same day, but another day, your next available day. Have it on the schedule. This way when you’re talking to them, they have your undivided attention. You have mentally prepared for them and the conversation.
Clearly, if you’re in the midst of the project for them, you guys have been talking back and forth every day, whether it’s email or on the phone, totally different situation. That’s not what I’m talking about.
This is a situation where you haven’t gotten instructions for the next thing that they need from you for the month or you’re waiting on content for something of what have you, and there’s an impromptu call. Schedule it ahead of time. You want to be ready. You want to be in mode for that client, and it’s a better conversation when it’s scheduled.
Scheduled calls is another great way to set boundaries for communication for your business.
It is so important to have a separate phone line for your business. Now, back in the day the separate phone line looked like actually having the phone company come in and put in a separate phone line.
Years ago, I used to do in-home art parties, so I had been in direct sales doing art parties a long time ago, and that was back in the day when it was cool to have a fax machine at your house and you have your separate phone line for business.
The latest technology at that time was the phone company made it so that you could have it set up to where one ring was the phone and two rings was the fax machine or vice versa, however it worked. But there was like a secret message based on the number of rings that came through, and that’s how I used to do it back in the day to separate my house phone from my business phone because you couldn’t depend on caller id to say, hey, this is a business call or, hey, this is a personal call.
Fast-forward to today, now we have so many options. We’ve got cell phones. We’ve got Skype. We’ve got Google Voice and, you know, other options that are out there. What I’ve got is Skype. I use Skype for voicemail. Skype is like my answering service.
The number on my website is a Skype number and I put it way low in the footer because I really want clients or potential clients to contact me in writing via email, SpeakPipe where they can record their message, or social media, and that way, you know, get right to the point of what they’re looking for as opposed to being available on the phone.
So Skype is the voicemail and I used to use Skype to make calls that weren’t Skype-to-Skype, and for some reason, I don’t know if it was with our Internet connection or what, but sometimes the calls would go in and out.
Earlier this year, I went out of town and usually when I go out of town this is when breakthroughs happen for, you know, setting some more boundaries. Went out of town and needed to speak with a client. This was new. We were just getting started, so we were in the middle of her project and I had to go out of town.
There are a couple of things I don’t like about Skype. I’m never sure about the WiFi connection, and I am a software person. Like I can figure out, you know, the computer stuff and the code stuff, but when it comes to the actual hardware, like what type of computer and cords and all that stuff, my eyes glaze over. I’m like done, not interested. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
I’m always looking for a simpler solution versus get this cord and do this and, you know, plug WiFi in directly and all that stuff. Okay, what is a better way? This is when I decided to test out Google Voice and how it works. So figured out that Google Voice, I could have my own voicemail, a special number, and I could have it forwarded to my phone.
Now, in forwarding to the phone I needed to know it’s a client calling, so what I did was saved my Google Voice number as a contact in my phone. So when the number rings, I see it on my phone, I know it’s a VHH client. That’s how it was saved in my phone and, you know, it’ll go to voicemail. I have a special voicemail for Google Voice. But this way I don’t accidentally pick up the phone thinking it’s a non-business related call, and it’s a client on the other end.
The minute you start answering so quick and so fast, it will be expected on a regular basis.
The client may never tell you that, but they’ll get used to you being that way, and when you want to pull back they’ll wonder what’s going on. Then you end up resenting that you ever even, you know, started that whole super fast response thing, just because you picked up and answered your phone.
Google Voice lets you have your own number, your voicemail. You can have it forwarded. But here’s the great part in the situation where I was unsure about Skype, is that I could use my cell phone to call from my Google Voice number knowing that my Google Voice number is the one that showed and not my personal cell phone.
This made me change my mind about Google Voice, because there are a couple things I don’t like about Google Voice. Well, one big thing, and that’s that you know how that recording is like telling you they’re looking for the person you’re trying to call or it’ll say something in relation to letting you know it’s Google Voice. I don’t like that.
But this is an emergency situation, technically, for me because I needed a way to call my client and show a business line, not a personal line. Because, you know, you never know when people are going to just call you back based on the last number you called.
The thing with Skype, in addition to me having the connection problem, was it wasn’t showing the local number like it’s supposed to on caller id. For the longest time it had been showing a California number and that confused clients. They know I’m not in California.
Google Voice was a wonderful solution to the call out situation, being able to call out. So Google Voice, put the app on my phone, set up the options on the Google Voice website: google.com/voice and made it so that the Google Voice number shows on my phone so I know, you know, when that contact comes up, I don’t know who actually is calling, but I know it’s related to Virtual Hired Hand. Oh, lifesaver, lifesaver.
So now when I’m having those scheduled client calls, I call them from Google Voice and it works out wonderfully.
Okay. I wrote about two paragraphs in getting prepared, you know, making sure I didn’t forget anything in relation to that, and you can always tell when there’s a tool that I love because I could go on and on and on about it.
But anyway, so that’s the whole setup and setting boundaries for the phone communication, is Skype is the phone number that’s out there on the website because that is like my answering service. It’s the voicemail on there, and I’ve had that number since 2010, I think, maybe 2009. So I just keep that. It works out pretty good.
Then Google Voice, new clients now learn this other number that I have that I use for Google Voice. But I love it because clear reception. I don’t have to worry about a dropped call because of WiFi connection. So anyway, that is wonderful.
Now, let’s talk about answering personal calls during your business hours, and we’ll just go ahead and include business hours in there as well because that is another place that you need to set boundaries.
Business hours – what do you consider your business hours?
Is it broken up in the day? Is it like 10:30 to 12:30 and then 3:30 to 5:30? Is it 8:00 to 5:00, 9:00 to 6:00, or 10:00 to 7:00? What are your business hours, and it’s something that you want to know what they are.
You’ll have hours where you’re working on client projects, or days where you’re specifically focused on client projects, and they’ll be days where you’re specifically focused on your own personal projects.
Now, if you are still working a full-time job, and I like to come from a place where I just assume that you are, because it’s easy to adjust if you’re working full-time, you know, in your business. You can easily adjust what I’m saying, but it gets complicated when you start talking about working full-time and doing this.
Let’s say you’re working full-time, and when I first started as a VA I was working full-time as well, and so I mainly focused on client work from Thursday to Saturday. Sometimes it spilled over into Sunday, which wasn’t good because you shouldn’t be working seven days a week. You need a day of rest.
But Thursday to Saturday was my client work time, and it was in the evening when I got home from work. It was usually like from 7:00 to 9:30 or 10:00, and there are times that I went well over. When I started going over past 10:00 and going into Sunday and sometimes it’s a Monday, I knew it was time to do something else. It was time to move on because I was getting, you know, a lot of work.
But anyway, let’s say you’re doing 7:00 to 10:00. Those are your business hours, the times that you work for clients. If you’re a full-time employee and you’re starting your VA business on the side, then you want to have some set hours. Two hours a day, three hours a day, select days, whatever works for you, but you should know what your timeslots are.
That dictates what type of projects you can do for clients. Your projects would be more deadline focused than based on a specific timeframe. So like if they need email support, that wouldn’t be a good option. I don’t want to even get into that because that’s a whole different episode.
So anyway, setting your hours, let’s say two to three hours a day, and then you set what those are. You may have more ability on Saturdays and maybe you do four or five hours on Saturday.
Whatever it is, you should know what your business hours are.
In that time, you don’t want to be in and out of personal business. Personal business meaning you’re answering personal calls or you’re doing things around the house like, you know, chores or whatever, in-between doing that client work.
For me, I like working a couple of hours, then I’ll take a break, and my breaks might be anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half into two hours, and then I’ll get back into it. Because my mind drifts, I need a break. I need to break it up.
So if it’s a break, then yeah, you know, it’s okay to do your personal thing. But if you say, okay, I’m going to do work on this from 7:00 to 9:00, then from 7:00 to 9:00 that’s where you want your focus to be. Because if you answer the phone, say a friend calls you, you answer your phone, you guys could be talking for an hour and there is your work time gone away because you just picked up the phone.
You have to set boundaries by setting office hours, being strict with yourself on that time.
For my full-time VA business owners, to say that you’re going to work from 9:00 to 6:00 is unrealistic because you’re not working a straight 9:00 to 6:00. I mean, think about when you’re in corporate. Even when you’re on the job from 9:00 to 6:00, you weren’t working every single second from 9:00 to 6:00.
Now, working from home, it’s very easy to get in the mode of where you’re all work, all work, and if you’ve ever gone straight for a day like that without a break, you were probably crazy at the end and it may have taken you two or three days to recuperate, so totally unrealistic in that regard.
Now, setting hours, you’ll have hours where you’re working, that those are your business hours, your working hours, but then you may have a client that wants to know, well, when do you work? Then you have to think about am I going to give them the hours I’ve set where I’m actually diving in and working, or will you have more or less a timeframe as to when you answer email? When they’re asking about when do you work, they really want to know when would I expect a response from you if I’m communicating with you? That’s really where it comes from.
Because if you’re assigned a client blog post and you know it goes out on Thursday, you’re going to set a deadline for them to get it to you by a certain time and then you’re going to do their newsletter. Whether you’re doing it as soon as they send it to you or later that night, depending on how you’re working and whether you need to send a draft to them or whatnot, that’s going to be totally up to you.
But the hours are going to be, for them, when you’re available. When can they expect a response? If they email you on Monday, are they going to hear from you on Monday? So it’s more or less if there’s a day when you’re not available, they want to know. They want to know if you work weekends.
Now, I talked about the VA that is building your business on the side, and I put Saturday in there. Saturday is when you’re doing the actual work, not necessarily responding to client email unless that is a day where you actually respond to client email, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. It’s totally up to you.
What you want to make sure of is you’re giving yourself breathing time, family time, personal time, time to rest, and you’re not overworking yourself.
The whole point is just to set up those systems and boundaries in place so that your time doesn’t get mismanaged and you don’t feel like you’re being taken advantage of because you’ve made it okay because of your quick responses to things.
There’s a blog post I wrote, I think it’s the very first blog post on the website when I first started and getting a feel of how I wanted to do tiffanyparson.com, and it’s called Mistakes We Make As Virtual Assistants. Anyway, I’ll make sure we link to it in the show notes so you can read that.
For those of you looking for show notes, if you go to tiffanyparson.com and then click on Podcasts, you’ll see all the episodes listed there, and you click on that. You can listen from the website. You can read it in words. It’s the complete unedited full transcript so you can read that.
I always love to hear from you, so if you have any questions just reach out to me and let me know.
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