What do I do if a client needs something from me urgently when I'm not usually available?

Yvonne wrote to ask a question as a follow-up to this post in which I talk about how you can fall into a situation of being too available to your clients, and what I did when that happened to me.

Yvonne asked: I too love the front seat. And in that particular instance there wasn’t a question or a problem…but what if there had been? Who navigates the bus while we’re off duty?  Will there be instances when we do need to break our standards to respond to a true problem?

A remarkable question, that one, Yvonne! Its something to have a truly-strong standard around. See, clients aren’t paying for you to be always available, even when something urgent comes up. You’re not on call, and you shouldn’t be the solution they reach for unless it’s during your work hours and they know you’re around. Even then, they can’t count on instant availability from you, no matter the reason. That’s just not how this VA thing works.

If you decide that you work during your business hours and never on evenings, weekends, holidays, and any other time you’ve stipulated that you’ll be away, then the person on duty when you’re not is, most often, going to be the client. It’s the client’s bus, and she should be driving it at all times, not just when it’s easy and convenient.

You make that possible by being communicative about when you’ll be away, and making sure that the client has access to all policy and procedure docs, and that those docs lay things out in a way that the client can step through handling anything she needs to in your absence.

In my view, there should be such a distinct break between your work and life that if a client tries to reach out when you’re not working, you won’t even see it. Pretend that “Yvonne has left the building,” and make it so that there’s no way to reach her.

Only then can clients learn to leave you alone, even when things get tough for them.

Hope that helps!