In the world of a VA, relationships with clients are KEY. You don’t need to know every sordid detail about their lives, but you do need to have a good working and more than likely, a good personal relationship built up. After all, they are putting their trust in you and the skills that you possess to help alleviate their business to the next level. You can’t honestly achieve this goal without that relationship.
I’m not suggesting you call or email your clients on a daily basis, per se, but I AM suggesting you check in with them. For me, I reach out via email and via telephone every two weeks or so. It lets my clients know that 1) I haven’t forgotten them, 2) that I truly am working on their particular projects and 3) that they matter.
I come from a corporate background where most of the time, I was in a micro-managing type of situation. How can anyone honestly get their work done with someone always breathing down their necks??? For me, I found that I excelled better when I was left with both the instructions and the deadline for the project; nothing more. In this type of environment I was able to utilize my resourcefulness however I saw fit to get the project completed. Not only that, I had plenty of time to do a great job on it and complete it on time because I did not have to check in all day long. This type of environment doesn’t work for everyone and it’s ultimately up to you as a business owner to figure out how you work best. Especially if you are thinking of working for yourself or already do.
You cannot, however, rule out connecting with your clients altogether. It has to be done. It’s human nature to want to know how things are coming along, especially if your reputation is counting on it! So, I found a great compromise. I communicate more efficiently and more often via email than I do via telephone, but I do recognize not everyone else does. We all have our preferred ways of working and communicating and it’s up to us as business owners to really find out from your clients what they prefer. Now, I’m not saying to “cater” to your client’s and all of their demands. You have to remember that you work for yourself and have entered into a “partnership” with your client. Both sides have to come to an agreement for the partnership to work. This is where your listening skills come in. For me, that means actually picking up the phone, since none of my clients are local to my area, and talking with them. On these types of calls I may find that my client wants to move in a different direction on a project than was previously discussed, be asked for advice on how to handle a particular administrative situation, have additional tasks added to my list of projects, or perhaps find out that my name was passed on to another individual who was looking for a VA. I wouldn’t have known any of that if I hadn’t picked up the phone to check. I also use these calls for any questions that I have that have not been answered yet via email. If I am waiting on an answer from a client in order to complete a task, it’s better that I touch basis via the phone instead of waiting around. I want to be seen as being proactive not reactive.
Today was my designated day for client calls. It was enlightening as well as productive. I did find that there were slight changes to certain projects, additional tasks to be added, a death in the family and a referral was given. In addition, because I took the time to call them individually, they know I do care about them and their businesses and therefore, our personal relationships become stronger as well.
So, when you interview a potential client (or for current clients), make sure to really listen to what they need from you and how often. Ask about communication preferences, like email vs telephone or maybe even instant messenger and if they want reports. Some clients like a daily summary of where your time was spent others like it done monthly before their next billing cycle. And my all means, make sure to stay connected!