As soon as an email comes in, don’t put pressure on yourself to answer right away. #vatip Gotta Tweet!
We set boundaries by setting business hours. #vatipGotta Tweet!
Have set hours when you check your email and phone messages. #vatip Gotta Tweet!
When thinking about this week’s episode, so many different ideas and topics were coming in my head and I brushed them off, different things like that. I usually either write things down or I’ll think about it a second, yes or no, really quick. But it’s like when I know the topic is right for this week is usually when I get it and I’m like, oh my gosh, I’ve got to get to my computer fast, got to get to it fast, and that’s how this week’s topic came about, to talk with you about boundaries.
Sometimes as a virtual assistant, we feel like we should always be available, especially if you’re brand new, just getting started.
I’ll share with you, when I started on Elance, I felt like I did need to be available all the time, but fortunately I was working full-time so I wasn’t able to respond as soon as a message came in. This applies whether you are getting messages on Elance, Upwork, or your email inbox. As soon as an email comes in, don’t feel like you’ve got to answer, you’ve got to answer, you’ve got to answer within two seconds of it getting into your inbox. Don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself.
First of all, if you are working a full-time job, you shouldn’t be checking your business email anyway, so you won’t see it. So maybe you see it before work, during lunch, and then after work, which means you should have set hours as to when you check your business email. I know most of our communication with clients happens through email, and we want to be available. We want to get the information, but it’s not possible to be there every single second.
If you’re working your business part-time because of a full-time job or other obligations, it’s good because you already have a forced scheduled. Whereas, if your time was wide open for your virtual assistant business, then you may feel like, oh, well, I’m doing my business all day so I should be in email all day, and that is not the case.
This is how we set boundaries – set business hours.
Let’s say you’re the virtual assistant that has a full-time job. So you have a block of time in the morning before work. It may require you get up early. This is your business, whatever it takes. So you check email before you go to work, check email at lunch, and then check email when you get home or after work, however it is. But those could be the times that you’re checking email as opposed to all day, or even thinking about it all day. Sometimes stuff can be our head, we’re thinking about it over and over again, and that takes up space in our minds.
So having exact times when you check email is perfect because that way you’re able to turn on, turn off when you need to and give whatever it is that’s in front of you the proper attention that it needs at that time. So setting business hours, setting hours when you check your email.
Your phone – you, of course, want to have your phone number on your website, and that phone number should either be a Google Voice number or a Skype number. It should not be your personal home or cell phone number. These days, you don’t need a business line in your home. We have Skype. We have Google Voice as options for us. This way you’re not getting business calls on your personal phone.
Way back, 2008, I was using my personal phone number, my personal cell number. I didn’t know. I didn’t know that clients would call me after hours. I had hours in my head, but they weren’t published anywhere. They had a phone number. It was the phone number I gave them. They don’t know if it’s a work phone, a cell phone. They don’t know. It’s just a number for me, right.
What quickly turned around my attitude about my phone number and who I give it to and how to change it was when I got a call on a Sunday evening. I did not answer the phone. It went to voicemail and I was really shocked that I was getting this voicemail on a Sunday evening. In fact, I’ll be honest. It pissed me off because I’m thinking this is Sunday. It’s the weekend. Why am I getting this phone call?
I immediately went to Skype, got me a personal phone. I’m saying personal, but you know how you have a custom number on Skype. Got a custom number on Skype, immediately changed it. So first thing on Monday, I let the client know that this is the new number for the business, you know, this is my new business number. I didn’t say, “Oh, you called my cell.” I didn’t go into any of those details. “Just want to make sure you have the new phone number.”
Now, I can control when that number gets answered. This means she could call on Sunday evening and I won’t even know because it’s a Skype number. It’s not my personal cell. I don’t have to look at it and decide whether to answer. It’s going straight to voicemail, so Skype number.
Recently, I’ve started using Google Voice because I need several different numbers, one for my virtual assistant business, another for my direct sales jewelry business. That way, you know, again, I’m not using my personal cell phone number. But I need those numbers, and Google Voice, I do have that forwarding to my cell phone, but I save the number in my phone as a contact so I know when I’m getting a business call and when I’m getting a personal call, so I know when to answer which call. You can see how it could easily get all mixed up if everybody has your one phone number because now you don’t know whether you should answer it. Is this personal? Is this business? I don’t know.
In addition to the phone number, is having a set time as to when you take calls. This is what I like to do is scheduled appointments. The reason why, and I emphasize it, scheduled appointments, is because I am working during the day. I’m working my virtual assistant business during the day. I’m serving clients during the day. I’m creating trainings during the day. I’m doing different things, and if I stop to answer the phone every time it rings, you know what happens.
Even if you’re at home, and say you’re cleaning up, and the phone rings, it gets you off. Then you have to remember, what was I doing? The phone rang, right. It gets you off. If you were all geeked up about what you were doing before the phone rang, and the phone rings, it can totally change how you’re feeling about what you were doing before.
You set the boundary on the phone by either answering it or not. Let it go to voicemail. That’s what voicemail is for. Let voicemail be your personal assistant, taking the message, and you check it just like email. Check it during those times. During your email timeslots, check your phone voicemail so that there is some control there.
I don’t like phone tag. Oh, I do not like phone tag. The way you eliminate phone tag – scheduled appointments. I mean, it’s one thing if I’m calling my mom and I leave her a message, and she calls me and has to leave me a message. I mean, that’s totally different from a client trying to get me. I’m trying to get them. Oh, back and forth. It’s crazy. It’s crazy.
Value your time and have scheduled appointments. Now, when you talk to them on the phone, it is their scheduled appointment time. They have your undivided attention.
I’ve probably said this before, but I’m going to repeat it again in case this is the very first time you’re listening to this podcast, and I want to thank you so much for being a first time listener if that’s the case, or second time, or third time, or if you’re a regular listener, I want to just thank you so much for that.
Set days and times that you take your appointments so you’re not all over the place and taking appointments any and every time. Imagine if you had a set day and this was the day to do calls, and maybe you like them back-to-back or an hour break in-between, or a 30-minute break in-between, doesn’t matter. These are your days that you do your calls. It makes it easier for you to even know, okay, Thursdays are my call day. Let me see, what calls do I have? It sets you up, gets you prepared for those calls that are coming. It lets you know when you don’t have any calls as opposed to it being a random time.
Like I know to schedule a phone call appointment on a Friday is pointless for me because on Friday, guess where my mind is? The weekend, and what does the weekend mean for me? Oh, that’s when I do like fun, creative things, doing something fun with family, with friends, or doing my own personal special projects around the house or on the computer or whatever. It’s my personal time regardless of who I choose to spend it with. So my mind is there Friday afternoon. It’s just gone. It just happens. Anything said to me on Friday afternoon needs to be put in an email to be reread on Monday or something like that. Guess what? I stopped scheduling appointments on Fridays. It’s been, oh gosh, a long time since I did that.
If you listened to I think it was last week’s episode, I was talking about having themes for your day. So my call days are Mondays and Wednesdays. Those are the better days for me as far as calls and even trainings and stuff.
That’s the boundary with your phone number. That’s the boundary with your email. Now, social media – sometimes people will call you, they don’t get you on the phone first. Guess what they do? Hop over to social media and send you something. To me, that’s being pushy because if you’ve left me a message seems like you should wait until I return the message, right? Wouldn’t you think I was being kind of pushy if I called you and then I emailed you and then I text you. It’s just too much.
Now, if you’re cool with it that is fine. We all have different limits. We all do. My boundaries may not be the same as yours. The point is here for you to know that YOU are in charge. YOU set boundaries for yourself, for your own business. YOU decide how you want that to be and what you want it to look like. These are examples for you to use, to go by, to tweak, to make it yours so that things are happening the way you like for it to happen.
If you’re not one for having calls all hours of the day, then you turn it off using the different ways I’ve talked about with having the Google Voice or the Skype number, and having set times that you respond back, and having those scheduled appointments.
I like to be prepared for the people that I’m talking to because if you’ve ever called somebody, you know they’re busy. They’re like, “Oh no, it’s a good time,” and then you hear them doing other things, and you don’t want that. You don’t want your clients to experience that. You want to give them all of you, and I’ve found the best way to do that is with those scheduled appointments. If you were a business coach, you wouldn’t be taking client calls all over the place. You would have a set schedule for that.
That’s the point for us is to treat our business as a business.
I always understood why people didn’t like to use the term virtual assistant, but it’s like we know that people search for us looking for that term. That’s why at the beginning of the show I’m like, you know, whatever you call yourself, we’re all virtual service providers. But I get why people don’t want to use it because it’s misconstrued. Some people think it means you get to be their private secretary, and that is not the case. No, it’s not.
Maybe it’s good to use it for SEOs so the people can find us, but when it comes to how we behave in our business and the boundaries we set and how we treat our business, we’ve got to step it up a notch and it can’t be just, oh, I’m just an assistant. I’m just a small business owner. I just work at my kitchen table. It can’t be like that. We’ve got to step it up. Do you hear me? Step it up. We’re professionals. We’re business owners. You didn’t get into this just to be, oh, just, you know, I love to help people. Yes, I love to help people too, but I also don’t like to be taken advantage of.
The last area I want to talk about is your money, getting your money.
Have you ever experienced where a client gets all of your emails until the email for the invoice comes? Then all of a sudden they’re not getting your emails. It’s kind of crazy and it’s frustrating. Now, you might be caught between a rock and a hard place. You need this client. You’re just getting started. Take note of those things and hustle your tail off to get more clients so that you can let them go if you feel like they are treating you like you are the help.
You are not the help. You are a partner. You are helping them in the sense of getting things done, but you’re not the help. Y’all have seen that movie The Help. You’ve seen that movie The Help, right? At your beck and call, you can treat me any old kind of way. Uh-uh, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, absolutely not. That’s not what we would do. If we were in person, they would have more respect.
Because we are virtual, it’s up to us to draw the line and demand that respect by setting boundaries, by not being overly available, and by treating our business like a business.
I’m going to climb down now from the soapbox. You can see why I had to jump on and record this episode. This is just heavy, heavy, heavy on me, really heavy, and I know it’s not just me. I know it’s somebody else. I know it’s at least you.
Be the professional that you are in your business and rock their socks off. Give service like nobody’s business. Attract clients that deserve you and that appreciate you and that value you and that understand what you bring. It may not look that at first, but now you know some ways that you can establish yourself. Draw the lines in the sand for yourself, and then slowly start eliminating people that don’t fit.
I’ll tell you just one more thing and then I’m going to get out of here. When I said eliminate people that don’t fit, it came to me about how when you give somebody the initial instructions on how you work and what to do to schedule their appointment. When they don’t follow the step one, that is an indication of what it’s going to be like to work with them.
I was talking about calling on the phone and then they email. I had a situation where I got two phone calls and two emails within 30 minutes, a new person interested in my services. So during the times that I check email, sent her an email, you know, I’m always thankful that they’re interested in our services and I sent a link where she could schedule an appointment with me so we don’t have email back and forth, back and forth, on scheduling a date or a time and all that stuff.
I use Calendly for scheduling. It’s a wonderful service. It looks good on a mobile phone, and it makes it very easy for scheduling.
Anyway, I’ve talked long enough this week. Again, it’s all about setting boundaries for yourself. If you don’t do it, nobody’s going to do it. They’re just going to walk all over you and think it’s all right and it’s not.
Thanks so much for tuning in. If you like what you heard, stay tuned. We’ll be back. Tell me what’s going on with you. Come on over the Facebook page: facebook.com/tiffanyparsonbiz, or if you prefer a little shorter message, come on over to Twitter: @tiffanydparson.
See you next time.