As freelance business support professionals we work really closely with our clients, and whilst having the skills to support them is one thing, we also need to gel with them. There is nothing worse than working with a client who can’t connect with, or whose communication style is the polar opposite of yours.

This is why our industry is so diverse and why so much collaboration happens – I know many of our members refer work to each other when I client isn’t the right fit and this is great.

However, how do you cope when you start working with a client and then find that you are the wrong fit? Mastermind member Rachel Locke of Arlo Private PA has recently shared her story with us:

“I lost a client last month.  He was a new client too.  No sooner had the rush of new client excitement worn off, I was solemnly dragging his folders into my “Archived Clients” directory.  I was gutted as we’d only been working together for a couple of weeks.

I know there’s nothing I can do to change the situation so I need to move on and learn from it One door shuts, another opens.  

When you start out as a VA, it’s tempting to say yes to everything, whether or not you a) have the necessary skills or b) want to do the task.  There are some tasks I really don’t enjoy doing, nor would I say I am very good at them – so when clients ask me if I can help, my answer is a reluctant ‘no (but I know someone who can)’  And I really hate to say no – what sane self-employed person wants to turn work down?  You do however, need to be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses and let those guide you in the tasks you offer.  

Getting to know your client’s personality (and vice versa) can be tricky too!  Clients are fellow humans at the end of the day and if you don’t “get each other” then working together can be an uphill battle.  A lot of my work is onsite so we usually figure out pretty quickly whether we will get along but this isn’t always so obvious when you’re working virtually.  The tone of emails can be read in so many different ways and it’s easy to misunderstand each other.  

The relationship with my new client ultimately broke down as he decided he wanted someone physically in-house who would be able to work reactively.  That’s fine but not for me!  It seems that our expectations were clearly very different.

It is really important to have confidence in yourself and your abilities: confidence to walk away when it’s not right, confidence to move on and make new contacts and confidence to give that next client your best shot!”

So if like Rachel you find yourself in a situation where the clients’ expectations don’t meet yours, what you can do?

  1. Take a step back and don’t take it personally – this isn’t as easy as it sounds!
  2. Reflect on where the issues are – can they be resolved?
  3. Think about your network – is there another VA you know who would be a match for this client?
  4. Have a conversation – yes an actual real conversation over the phone or video call, be honest about your concerns and listen to theirs.
  5. If it is time to move on, do it gracefully, learn for the experience and share it (if appropriate) with others.

Remember you aren’t always everyone’s cup of tea and that is fine!