From the very start of my business in 1994 I determined that I would not let my family be used as an excuse for not getting things done. I came from the corporate world and at that stage home-based workers were seen as ‘backyard operators’ or ‘shonky dealers’. I knew of people who ran legitimate businesses at home but they were few and far between and they never let their clients know because of that attached stigma to their place of operation.
Today things are very different and a lot of very reputable fields are operating from home bases, such as lawyers, barristers, accountants, conveyancers, graphic designers, website designers and many more. And so it is with Virtual Assistants too.
However, just because you work at home and have a family to care for (which is often the main reason why we choose to work at home) your family daily needs are not the business of your clients and I feel it is very important that you do separate the two in your mind. I’ve never used my family as an excuse for not getting something done and if clients ask me about my availability I’ve always let them know when I am or am not available.
Anything that is family related and not negotiable is entered into my diary and I just let the client know I’m not available at that particular time. I usually say I have an appointment or something of the kind.
For a long time many of my clients didn’t even know I worked in and at my home and they would ring me to see if they could come to my office periodically and if I agreed and gave them the address they would turn up extremely surprised. I would get comments like ‘oh, it’s a real office!’ like they were expecting something else. duh! I operate a professional business and I’ve always made sure that my work surroundings are professional too.
These days the question about family commitments never comes into the equasion when clients ask about my availability. Perhaps it’s the way I speak with them, perhaps it’s the feeling of confidence I give them. Maybe it’s because I don’t have young children or animals in the background when talking on the phone. Whatever it is, I have kept the same profile all these years as my reputation and ability to service clients has been very important to me. My business has never been treated like a hobby – a fill in whilst the kids were young. I had always planned to be doing this long-term and so I started with that mindset.
I encourage you too, whatever you do and wherever you are, if you’re operating a home based business, think about the image you are projecting to your clients and consider whether your family is really something the client needs to know about.Â I know some clients are naturally curious and friendly and want to get to know you; others just want the work done and really don’t think beyond that.