To be able to take that much needed holiday away from clients, laptops and task lists, you’ll want a support system in place to cover your work and respond to client queries.
Many successful VA’s have one or two Associates in place to cover those times. And because they’ve worked together over a period of time already the handover is generally smooth and there’s no anxiety that their business will suffer during the time they are away.
However, what if you don’t have an Associate that you’ve worked with before? What if you’ve reached a point where you’d like to take time off and not have to check your smartphone every few minutes?
This is the nerve racking bit. Finding someone you can trust to run your business whilst you’re away.
First and foremost, read our article Ten Tips for Hiring Smart Subcontractors for help with the initial hiring process.
Of course even when you do find someone, there are still a number of questions that can arise to increase your anxiety levels further. How do you know they won’t try to steal your clients? How do you know the work they do will be up to your high standard? How do you know how they will treat your clients? And so on …
So the first piece of advice would be to try and get an Associate in place before you want to physically head off on holiday. Give them a few standard client projects and work alongside them to check their ability. If they have any questions, which they are likely to have, then you’ll still be around to answer them.
For more tips on this you can refer to another article we’ve written Top Tips for Working with Associates.
OK, so now you’ve found the perfect Associate, you’ve worked with them on a few projects, you feel they will be a good fit for your business, what’s next?
The briefing process. It’s important to get this right for your Associate’s sake, as well as your own. It’ll be the difference in you having a relaxing enjoyable holiday, worry-free, or not.
1. Setup email and grant access.
You won’t want your Associate using their own business email to contact your clients’ on, so set one up for them. Make sure it’s been thoroughly tested so you know they are receiving emails, and they can send emails out.
Give them access to any client information they may need to refer to. This includes templates, user login information, schedules, client contact details, task lists, etc. If you’re worried about them have complete access, then create a new folder with the essentials they will need and only allow access to that.
2. List each client and the tasks you perform.
Write down in an overarching document all your clients and the work you carry out for them.
It will help your Associate if you can also give a little background information on each of your clients’ here as well. For example, the way they prefer to be contacted, any specific requirements in the way you work with them, or their preferred availability, timescales, etc. Anything that will help your Associate understand them a little better.
3. Provide the specifics.
Next go into detail for each one of the tasks that your Associate will most likely have to undertake for your clients.
Be logical here and think about how each of the tasks are accomplished. This may seem obvious to you, but everyone has their own way of working and you know your client, your Associate does not. By being thorough you’ll alleviate any doubt and both parties will feel less anxious.
4. Consider any challenges.
If something has cropped up to do with a certain task or client in the past, think about what was needed to resolve it. Provide that information along with the standard ‘how to’ info to over all angles and ensure the transition goes smoothly. After all, you don’t want your clients’ to notice any change, except to whom their addressing.
5. Give deadlines.
For ongoing project work, make sure you’ve clearly noted when the deadlines are. Your Associate is likely to have her own client workload and whilst covering your clients also, will need to manage their time effectively. If they have a good idea of deadlines for your clients, they will be able to schedule their time better.
6. Schedule a chat.
Once you’ve got all the documents and information above completed, it’s time to schedule a chat to go through it in detail. This is the time for your Associate to get useful insights from you and to ask questions.
My advice is to schedule a first chat a few days or even a week before you go, with a follow up the day before or morning of your departure in case anything has cropped up since your initial contact.
7. Contact your clients.
A week or few days before you go, contact each of your clients letting them know you’ll be away but that you have an Associate in place who has been briefed on all their requirements and who they are to contact during that period.
Copy your associate in on these emails, but also provide their full details (name, phone number and email address) in your email to the client so they don’t have to go searching for it.
It’s also worth mentioning that your absence will not affect them at all, so they feel confident in your choice of cover.
8. Out of Office.
If you don’t have a generic email in place that will go to yours and your Associate’s inbox e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org, then it’s worth placing an out of office on your own email and phone number giving details of who they can contact in your absence, and of course your date of return in case the query can wait until then.
9. New business.
Make sure you are clear in your instructions to your Associate what they should do if you are contacted about new business.
You’ll have a contract in place so there’s no need to be worried from a business perspective, but it’s important you have given exact directions on how you would like them to deal with any that do come in.
Last but certainly not least, go and enjoy your holiday! Switch off the smartphone, leave the laptop behind and relax.
If you’ve covered all of the above points, you really should have no need to worry.