As a VA, you’re looking to build a business where you don’t have to worry about paying your bills, right?
For most VAs, this means taking on multiple clients (in fact, we’ve spoken to many of you and most have between three and eight clients apiece).
The pros of having multiple clients are many, including spreading your risk if someone doesn’t pay or decides to let you go for one thing, then of course having more hours you can bill out.
Or do you? One of the frequent challenges we hear from VAs is that taking on multiple clients can also be a big time-sink. Sometimes you’re adding 4 billable hours to your week, but losing another 2 or 3 as non-billable hours with calls or administrative tasks.
How are savvy VAs keeping time management together? We’ve got a few ideas:
Everyone has their own preference for how to organize their work day, but batching tasks has proven to be an effective way to make better use of your time. If you often go through your day in a “reactive” manner (for example, jumping to attention every time your inbox pings or your phone rings), then this could be a solution for you.
Did you know that every time you get distracted it takes you an average of 15 minutes to get back on track? Batching is a good way for you to add some focus to your day and get through the tasks you really need to have done.
How does batching work?
Batching means grouping together those tasks which are similar or require similar resources so that you can devote more focused attention to the job and aren’t jumping around between different tasks. It is inefficient to do so because you need to refocus or use different resources each time.
For example, say you have to set up a client’s newsletter as well as add some new links into their autoresponder emails, batching these tasks makes sense as you can do all of them while you’re in the email account.
Sometimes for VAs, you might find that batching work by client is efficient for you, especially if you’re having to switch mindset for each client. If you work off billable hours rather than a retainer, it’s also much easier to calculate and bill blocks of time rather than picking out bits throughout the day. Adminja has been designed to help you manage those workflows for clients better and take back some of your time.
Need a good time management tool?
Grab our free guide here!
What about those distractions?
Glad you asked! Batching doesn’t stop your inbox from pinging, but you can find that it is easier to ignore if you know you’re on a batch for a finite period of time. For example, you might close your email tab knowing that you’ll re-open it again once you’ve finished your batch and that there’s no need to become anxious over responding to emails in that (relatively short) period of time.
A technique that many remote workers swear by is the Pomodoro Technique. This is a time management strategy devised in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo and involves doing short bursts of work (usually 25 minutes) with a timer. This is followed by a short break of about 5 minutes, however, every 4 “pomodoros” take a longer break.
The idea is that you learn to work with time rather than against it. You train your brain to be very focused for short bursts of work which helps to ensure that you’re productive overall for longer periods of your day.
Set Times for Calls
Do you find random client phone calls are eating into your day? You should be aiming to regularly get with clients and keep them updated, but having some kind of discipline over when calls happen is a much better way of saving your time and keeping your focus.
Rather than take calls all over the place, try setting up a specific weekly call with each client and set the expectation of this from the start of your relationship. You could always let them know that if they need more calling time outside of what you’ve both agreed, they can email you to let you know. That way you’re not getting distracted by your phone!
Choose Your Clients Carefully
If you’re relatively new to the VA scene, you don’t always have the luxury of picking and choosing your work, but it’s definitely better for your time to do so once you are able.
For example, you will always find that there are clients who take up a lot more time than others and not necessarily in a way that gets you paid (especially on retainer).
If you have clients who are more “difficult”, tend to want a lot of extras, take up your time because you have to chase them for payment or they constantly want multiple changes to work, these should be at the top of your list when you’re looking to drop any clients.
Besides any clients who are more difficult to manage, you might want to consider whether taking on clients who want smaller amounts of work is worth your time. There is always administrative time associated with every client, so sometimes the extra admin is not worth the small amount of work.
Don’t Undersell Yourself
If you’re trading time for money, there’s only so much you can do in a day, right? So you want to make sure you’re not working every hour possible in order to make ends meet.
Setting your rates at a fair level in the first place can help you buy back some time. It also helps you to be able to be a bit more choosy with clients as previously suggested. No one wants to be working 24/7, so do the math about what you need to be earning and how many hours you have available before coming up with an appropriate rate.
(Look out for an upcoming post around setting your rates and talking money without things getting awkward!)
There are so many possible distractions during your work day, however there are some great tools available to help you with limiting some of them. (Word of caution: don’t let “too many tools” become another time-sink! Pick and choose those which will actually save you time overall)
Here are some tools which could be helpful for limiting your distractions:
Freedom – Can’t help checking Facebook or scrolling your Twitter feed? Freedom is an app for iphone, ipad, Mac and Windows which can be installed across different devices (so no cheating by getting on your phone!) Freedom enables you to block apps and distracting websites.
Rescue Time – How exactly are you spending your time? It’s a good idea to know so that you can plan to avoid distractions. Rescue Time allows you to track and create reports of your activity. From there you can block websites for set periods and monitor your “productivity score.”
Focus Lock – If you can’t stop checking your Android phone when you should be working, this is the app for you. Set the apps you want to block and it will prevent you from accessing them for set periods of time. The default timing follows the Pomodoro technique, with 25 minute blocks for work followed by 5 minute breaks where it will be unlocked.
Time Out – If you are a Mac user who falls into bad habits with not taking breaks, Time Out is worth a try. There are two things it accomplishes by reminding you to take breaks: 1. It’s bad for your health to sit for long periods without a break and 2. It is proven that taking breaks, even short ones can boost your clarity and productivity.
Need a good time management tool?
Grab our free guide here!
Part of your bread and butter as a savvy VA is to be able to manage your time well, though it’s often easier said than done when managing multiple clients.
What you need are some strong time-management strategies which you can develop as daily work habits. For example, try batching your work, having set times for calls, choosing clients carefully to avoid time-suckers, setting appropriate rates and limiting or blocking distractions.
Taking back your time gives you options, what will you do with yours?
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