Every week, I hear from at least one virtual assistant who struggles with how she’s managing multiple clients, to-do items, and deadlines. I get it—I really do.
Even if we don’t look at my leading AssistU, with all the people we train to be virtual assisstants, and our community members and clients who want to work with them, and we look just at my coaching practice, I have 22 private coaching clients, so that’s 22 businesses I’m working with, 22 relationships, 22 people, each with needs, priorities, and challenges. So I feel ya, sister. Juggling is absolutely something to master.
People ask me how in the world I cope with all of the people and moving parts. Oddly, it seems, I’m a person who thrives in doing this. I’m awesome at shifting priorities. I move quickly, and easily between clients, issues, and different workflows, but I believe with my entire heart that the reason I thrive here easily is because I have high standards, run my practice smartly, and I’ve found my way. My way. The way that works for me. And I absolutely understand not everyone is like me. The best news is that no one in the world has to be like me to have the business of her dreams. You just have to find your way.
The wonderful truth is that there are many different ways of being, and at least as many different ways of managing everything. What’s inherently difficult is that finding your way often takes a lot of time and effort, as well as experimenting with different systems and ideas, and many, many tools (folders vs. binders, for instance)—but the end-result is absolutely worth it, because when you find it, you’ll be set.
Unfortunately, that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Two other important pieces are capacity, and standards.
You need to know what a smart practice, or the perfect practice, looks like for you, and create the standards that will allow you to have that. Everyone has the capacity to manage some number of clients, with all their work, expectations, and needs. But how many that is for you may be more, or less, than another VA. You need to know what your capacity is, and then work within it (standards make that possible).
For instance, the most common juggling reality I hear from VAs is that they’re great at managing the work and all the moving pieces that come with each client, but really struggle when it comes to managing a lot of different relationships.
If you resonate with that, then an immediate way to make things better for yourself is to reduce the number of clients you work with. To do that while maintaining your revenue goals, consider making the end-game for your practice one in which you work with fewer clients, each on bigger retainers. Or, fewer clients, for more money. Or maybe fewer clients, bigger retainers and higher fees (love that idea!!).
When you have one of those in place, you’ll make the income you want/need, while having fewer people (and their expectations) to manage, and less to juggle, overall. And you’ll have greater ease because of the standards. Ease is good, no?
Other ideas for creating more juggling ease in your practice:
1. Stop working with pay-as-you-go clients. Work on retainer only.
2. If you currently have a retainer for fewer than 10 hours, ditch it. Work with people willing and able to commit to 10 (minimum) hours/month. If you want to change what’s happening in your practice more quickly, require 20+ per month, minimum.
3. Don’t permit countless overages. If a client uses more than the retainer for three straight months, require her to raise the retainer to one that’s appropriate (meaning that the retainer covers what she uses).
4. Raise your standards. Be willing to let go any clients who won’t fit the standards you create. The ones who stay, and new ones you get, will be easier to work with.
5. Whether you like to block time or schedule minutely, plan and schedule everything. You cannot manage things that don’t correspond to a date on the calendar and a time on the clock. “I’ll have that for you in a few days,” does nothing to help you organize, plan, or juggle priorities, because “in a few days” isn’t a date or time you can point to or plan for. It also doesn’t allow you to manage client expectations through explicit agreements. The person who controls the time controls the work. The person who makes explicit agreements controls expectations. In both cases, let that be you.
6. Learn to be fully present in everything you do. Contrary to popular belief, multi-tasking isn’t a good thing, and decreases your productivity and quality of work. To be fully present, learn to be mindful. If you want help learning to do that, I heartily recommend this book: Staying Focused in the Age of Distraction. It’s not easy to find a copy, but well worth the effort if you can. Otherwise, there are countless other wonderful books about mindfulness, or dealing with distraction, or increasing focus.
7. A good course for managing multiple projects and deadlines is offered by Fred Pryor seminars. You can get info about it and see if it’s coming to your area, here. I’ve taken it, and it was very much worth the time and money I spent.
The perfect, smart practice with ease and great flow is attainable. You just have to be willing to do the work to find the way to make it happen for you. You’re willing, right? :)