One of the most common questions that I get asked about being a virtual assistant is,
“How often do you have to talk to a client?”
The short answer is…always. Client communication is best for you and your client to bond, solve problems, and create a good working relationship. That doesn’t mean you have to talk to them like they are your best friend 24/7. You need to feel comfortable enough to speak to them regularly. In my experience, the number one reason why a client fires their virtual assistant is “bad communication.” Although this is subjective, it is usually because their virtual assistant either doesn’t communicate enough or doesn’t tell them the whole truth about things.
So, what makes good communication? Good communication with clients is structured, frequent, and detailed. Whether you communicate with them through email, voice chat, text, or even a project management system doesn't matter. The same rules always apply.
The first step to improving the communication between you and your clients is to set up a structure. Without it, you and your clients will likely have different unspoken expectations that can lead to upset. For example, your client messages you on your day off. It is reasonable for you to get back to them after that day. Of course, it would be. However, if you didn’t let them know you wouldn’t be in the office that day, they may think you are ignoring them. Another example would be if they email you important information, but you usually only expect communication from them via your weekly meetings. If you aren’t someone who checks their email several times a day, it would be reasonable for you to have missed that message. To your client, you seem unprofessional because you aren’t checking your emails.
This isn’t to say that your client should be able to dictate how you work or when you do so. After all, you are an independent contractor, not an employee. However, if you communicate your boundaries and agree on a communication structure, you and your client can be left upset about a simple misunderstanding.
So, outline your communication early on! Let your client know the days and times you will be reachable to them and how they can reach you. In addition, be sure to send them a quick email if you’re going to be out of the office so they can measure their expectations early on. This will also help you weed out potential clients with unreasonable communication expectations.
Tip: Adding your office hours and the best ways to reach you to your email signature is a great way to remind your clients constantly.
This part can be tricky because every client is different. Some clients prefer you reach out to them regularly as you finish tasks and have questions, whereas others prefer that you save all communication until you meet. By overloading someone with messages and emails, you can start to annoy them. Conversely, someone who prefers that kind of communication will feel anxious if you don’t reach out to them often. The key here is to establish their preferred frequency early on and meld it with your own preferences.
By setting the expectations first, you can avoid unnecessary misunderstandings between you. I like to send a quick update to my clients weekly, at the very least, letting them know the status of each of the projects they have assigned to me, questions that I have, and a reminder of when our next meeting will be.
Tip: If you start a routine update each week, your client will begin to get used to it. So always be sure to have this scheduled to stay consistent.
Details help ensure that you and your client are on the same page. You want to be sure that all your emails, messages, and meetings include detailed client information from you. However, this goes for your client as well! Let’s say your client sends you this message on Monday morning.
“Hey! Can you make me a few Instagram posts for my sale next month?”
That’s missing quite a bit of information. If you were to just roll with it, you may do more or less work than they intended. You could even do the wrong kind of work entirely! So, what do you do? Ask for details, of course! But wait, you need to include details in your question as well. Simply replying with “I need more information.” may leave the client wondering what you don’t understand about their request. Instead, go for something like this.
“Hi! I can definitely do that for you. First, can you give me a bit more information? Approximately how many posts should I create? Do you have a type of post in mind, or would you like a mix (reels, images, carousels, etc.)? Do you have any details on the sale, such as the price and dates of it?”
Asking for details from your clients but not dishing them out yourself can be contradictory. So, always be sure that you practice what you preach. Replying to their vague request with detailed questions gets you the details you need to get started and lets them know the kind of information you will likely ask for the next time they make a similar request. Chances are, they will probably include that information in the future.
Tip: If you know your client is busy, sending a voice or video message may be easier for them. Try introducing them to programs like Voxer and Loom to improve your communication while easing the process for them.
Now that you have all the tools in your arsenal, it's time to talk to your clients! With just a few simple changes, your communication will get much easier. Try these out and tell me your tips on communicating with clients in the comments below.