You Teach People How to Treat You

Sometimes we take it for granted that everyone knows how to work with a Virtual Assistant. I know I have!

Whether you have been in business a long time, or are just getting started, when you start working with any new client, that relationship is brand new.

We see in the forums so many posts about difficult clients. But is it really their fault that they are being perceived as difficult?

Sometimes, sure.

But if you haven’t put together a set of boundaries, and procedures that you both need to follow in order to work together, then maybe it’s not all on the client.

I constantly tell VAs in these situations – you teach people how to treat you.

If you have a difficult client, first have a look at what you are allowing them to do. Look at the boundaries you have set. Are you letting them cross those? Are you crossing them yourself?

When we start working with someone, we value the client-VA relationship and we want to do anything to make them happy.

But this can quickly turn bad, and it’s not always the client who is the problem.

Here are a few examples of situations where clients seem to be difficult – and how to fix them:

1. They send you all their work last minute. Does their lack of preparation mean your emergency? Of course not! But if you are letting them constantly send you late work and pulling out all the stops to get it done for them, then you are teaching them that this is okay. Ask for longer deadlines or lead times for all work, and simply don’t do the work if they send it in late. Trust me, their preparedness will improve quickly! Some VAs choose to charge a rush fee for late work, but that still leaves you running around last minute. I have always chosen to decline the work if I didn’t want to do it. Either way works.

2. They don’t pay you on time (or without constantly nudging). This is disrespectful in any business. But again, what are you doing in those situations? Are you continuing to do their work even if they don’t pay you? Getting paid in advance is the solution – no work, no pay. But if you get paid after your work is done (it’s your business, you can set the terms!), then you still need a boundary here for what happens, and when. You can not run a business without getting paid, and neither can your client. Everyone knows this, so don’t let it happen.

3. They ask the same questions over and over again. I would look at your communication here. What are the questions about? Do you have procedure documents that you can provide for them – or checklists – so that they know their part in any work you do together? Good communication is vital in any virtual relationship. If someone isn’t clear, either you or them, then mistakes can happen, and time can get wasted. Make sure that you are both on the same page with all work required.

4. They ‘forget’ your business hours or preferred method of communication. If suddenly your client phones you all the time instead of emailing you as you have requested, or they start texting you instead of emailing, or if they start emailing you after business hours and expecting responses, this is a matter of how you are letting someone treat you. If you break your own boundaries by answering the phone when you don’t have a scheduled call with a client, or answering texts all day long, or responding to their emails after business hours, you are teaching them that their behavior is okay. Hold yourself to the boundaries too!

Difficult clients aren’t always all that difficult.

Oh – some are! For sure! And those are the clients that we need to fire, but that’s advice for another day.

But before you considering getting rid of a client, make sure you set clear communication routines, and make sure you are both respecting your boundaries. You will find your working relationships with all your clients improve.

And we all need a reminder of that from time to time!

Tracey D'AverioTracey D’Aviero is a veteran VA and Founder of Your VA Mentor. Tracey trains and mentors professional women and men who are brand new to the VA industry or who have been struggling to make their business successful. Her mission is to educate professionals on how to build and grow successful and profitable virtual businesses in the VA industry by implementing systems and smart principles. Contact Tracey for speaking engagements, group training or private coaching at