How often do you set expectations and boundaries right off the hop with people? For most of us, aside from a jazzy contract where we lay out details that are often skimmed over, it’s not very often. We know our own rules; not working on weekends, set turn around times based on our workload, how we handle communication, what we can and won’t do etc. While we lay out many of these important details in our contract, once a consultation happens and everyone is so excited to elevate your clients business, it can be really hard to look back to that contract and say ‘okay, so here’s the REAL timeline’.
We want to please our clients, but we need to remain true to the expectations we set to keep a happy work environment for everyone involved. Setting expectations and boundaries with your clients will keep everyone on the same page, and when everyone is on the same page you, your staff and your clients will work together harmoniously!
Here are our top 3 reasons why it’s important to set expectations…and stick to them!
You’re NOT A Wizard
You may have a wand, a robe, and have watched Harry Potter enough times to know all the spells by heart, but… you’re still a muggle… you ain’t no witch or wizard! When a client comes to you with an idea, it’s easy to become swept up in the magic of what could be! This is when, as VA’s, we tend to begin to overpromise… and then underdeliver.
I’m sure you know what I’m talking about– the moment a dream client comes gracefully dancing into your inbox with a perfectly on-brand email that makes you want to drop everything you’ve ever worked on and say yes to every single thing they desire…
TAKE OFF THE ROSE COLOURED GLASSES AND STEP AWAY FROM THE EMAIL!
Give your head a quick shake, take a deep breath, and look at what is being requested of you. Do you even do Pinterest strategies? Do you have someone on your team who can make epic videos for IGTV or will you need to outsource? Does your design or copywriting team have time for a new big client right now?
Try to keep in mind ‘the grand scheme of things’. Put your current client list up where it is visible from your computer, along with any subcontractors you may have and their hours. When these dreamy emails or zoom sessions happen, give a quick glance to what you have already promised your roster of amazing clients and be sure you aren’t pulling a witchy woman move and saying yes to everything because it ‘would be amazing!’. Honour the clients you do have and only say ‘yes’ when you and your team are ready.
Plan For Success
When a client has a wonderful idea for a launch campaign that requires image creation, designed worksheets or PDF’s, a website re-do, a mailing list campaign and tiles for social media, it’s time to take a deep breath and ask the classic question, ‘when is launch date?’. This simple question isn’t you dashing their dreams, it’s you being able to take into consideration every single detail that needs to be executed with care to ensure the campaign launches with a bang!
You need to PLAN for success. This means you set quarterly campaigns with clients so you can plan out their launches, goals and campaigns months in advance so you have time to get all the moving pieces together. Writing content takes time and edits, as does design and planning a social grid and getting Mailchimp automation set up. Each task needs to be executed with precision– not just thrown together because the client wants to launch a new product in a week.
If a client comes to you with an unrealistic timeline, you have two choices:
1- Suggest a more realistic timeline and emphasize how important it is to have a well thought out and executed campaign to ensure the highest chance of success.
2- Do your best to work with the timeline, letting the client know that next time, you need more time to be able to execute to the best of your ability but you’ll do what you can with the timeline you have.
Let’s be real… do you think your client actually knows a good timeline for a marketing campaign and all the work that goes into it? Most people don’t even realize a good marketing campaign comes complete with targeted ad campaigns, a 10+ email newsletter series slowly enticing people and creating an on-brand design so their demographic trusts them. This takes time. Be upfront and honest with your client about how important it is to plan for success and they will thank you for it!
Boundaries is really another word for Self-Care
In a world where everyone is always available, it’s important to set boundaries with your clients so everyone is on the same page. Setting boundaries doesn’t sound glamorous. It sounds less like becoming BFF’s with every client and more like keeping a client-VA relationship. While you can find what works for you (perhaps landing somewhere in between based on your brand), it’s always good to start with some boundaries in place.
For me, I have never worked on evenings or weekends on client work. Sure, I may lay in bed on a Saturday with my laptop dreaming up the next big thing or working on a blog post but you won’t find me doing client work unless I had to take a day off during the week and fell a bit behind BUT even then, I wouldn’t never let my client know that I was working. I would never send a client email on a weekend or in the evening. You know why? I don’t want to train them to think that I am available around the clock.
Another really important boundary that you can set is all about communication. Do you want clients texting your staff in the middle of the night because they have an idea and they want to share before they forget? Do you want your clients just giving your staff phone calls anytime? This may sound a little crazy to set as a boundary but trust me– IT HAPPENS! I personally make myself available to my clients via text or phone call during the weekday because I love building these personal relationships with my clients. I make sure to let my clients know that, while I may be available in this way, I sometimes won’t respond if I am working on another clients project or my hands are tied. It is important to me to time chunk for productivity so if I am working in the thick of another project with my timer going, I won’t stop to respond.
Our PRO TIP for today is to set timelines that are sent out with a welcome package to each new client. Let them know the turnaround time for tasks. For example, a design task takes 7 business days from the assignment of the task to a designer, to the first draft they send for an edit. This tip saves myself the stress of having to ‘get to everything all at once’ and lets them plan their day, and week, accordingly.
Setting expectations with your clients needs to happen from the very beginning. Setting them, and reviewing them with your clients so they fully understand, is a crucial first step to creating a working relationship that will flourish over time. There are times where you can get a task done super quick, which can lead the client to believe every task can be done that efficiently, so sometimes you’ll need to send reminders on the expectations that were first outlined in the contract.
Expectations and boundaries are really created so everyone can thrive. Your team and clients will thank you when you set expectations and stick to them.
What expectations and boundaries do you set with your clients or staff?