Are Your Clients Treating You Like An Employee?Apr 15, 2022
If so, it's time to nip it in the bud!
Allowing yourself to be treated as an employee (which as a virtual assistant you're not) is an easy trap to fall into, so don't feel bad.
But if you allow your clients to continue to treat you this way you may just find yourself:
- Working full-time for part time wages ... but without any benefits or paid time off.
- Working reactively and having to drop everything for that one 'demanding' client.
- Working for free without even realising it.
- Feeling like you can't say 'no' and ending up doing work you didn't sign up for.
Whether you call yourself a freelancer or contractor or self employed, the bottom line is that you're no longer in the corporate world with a boss calling all the shots ... so there is no reason for it to still feel like that.
It's up to you to put boundaries in place ... and ensure your clients stick to them.
Let's be honest, some clients need educating and training in how to treat their contractors.
They may be new to the world of outsourcing and don't know any better, or they could be so wrapped up in their own world that thinking about how their actions are affecting others is a foreign concept.
But whatever the reason for it happening, to put a stop to it you need to take back control and have very clear boundaries in place that you ensure your clients stick to.
Here are some examples of boundaries that many virtual assistants don't even realise they have control over:
1️⃣ Payment terms
When do YOU want/need to be paid?
Whether it's 7 days after your invoice is sent or 20 ... it's up to you to set payment terms that suit your business model.
If late payments are an issue, create a late payment fee, and if you're providing packages of work, request a 50% deposit in advance.
If you're offering service plans (x number of hours per month) require these to be paid upfront and in advance.
All of these are best practice payment terms in the business world. You're not being unreasonable expecting your clients to meet them.
2️⃣ Scope Creep
"I've just got a few small amendments ..."
Scope creep when you were an employee was no big deal. Your boss didn't have to think twice about adding extra tasks to your plate - in fact, you expected it to happen.
As a virtual assistant contractor offering packages of work, scope creep often starts small and may not feel like a big deal.
But if you're allowing it to happen across multiple clients it can be detrimental to your business.
The devil is in the detail. Make sure your package/contract is crystal clear as to what is included (and excluded) including the number of drafts/options you'll be providing, amendments you'll be making and the number of catch-ups included.
Having everything laid out for them upfront often prevents scope creep from happening.
3️⃣ Giving away your time for free
This is something you never had to think about as an employee, but now that you're a contractor things like meetings, handovers, catch-ups, responding to emails, thinking time, endless amendments and research are all things that you need to be tracking with your time tracking tool in order to charge the client.
If you don't value your time, your clients surely won't.
4️⃣ Last-minute and out-of-hours 'urgent' requests
We've all had that one 'demanding' client. The one who expects you to drop everything for them. You get lots of last-minute 'urgent' requests from them and they don't hesitate to contact you out-of-hours.
You feel like you have to answer the phone every time they call (no matter what you're already in the middle of) and reply to all their emails immediately. The pressure is on for you to make their work a priority over your other clients.
This is not okay.
It may feel slightly annoying when you only have a small handful of clients, but it's going to be a nightmare to attempt to cope with when you're fully booked.
Set up an automatic email response and voice mail message clearly stating your working hours and the times you check your inbox and messages. Educate them that this is for your clients' benefit, allowing you to be able to focus on client work without distractions.
5️⃣ They want to pay you an employee sized hourly rate
You can't compare the hourly wage you made as an employee to your hourly rate as a virtual assistant.
Your client isn't providing you the benefits an employer does. They don't pay for your annual leave, sick days, equipment, tools, electricity, insurances, stationery, website hosting, marketing costs and taxes.
Know your value. Own your value.
No discounts, no pricing negotiations.
Communication and consistency is key.
If any of this is sounding familiar there are steps you can take to turn things around (and even prevent it from happening altogether).
- All of the above-mentioned boundaries can be very clearly laid out in your contract and during your handover process. Setting out expectations clearly and early on (even if that means having what feels like a yucky conversation) will save you from having even more difficult conversations down the track. Always get your client to sign a contract before you start ANY work.
- Take control and stand firm. Give them an inch and they'll take a mile. Allowing boundaries to blur is only showing them they can continue with this type of behavior.
- Talk to your client about your relationship. A nerve-racking but necessary conversation to have. Educate them professionally and don't play the part of a victim. It may just be they're simply not aware of the difference between a contractor and an employee.
Unfortunately, not every client is going to respect your boundaries and some will be easier to educate than others. If you've tried all of the above and your client still just isn't getting it, then it may be time to say goodbye.
If you don't want to be treated like an employee, then stop acting like one.
Sam + Jo xoxo
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