Hello, wherever you may be!
Let’s start by saying you are absolutely right – as an Australian virtual assistant, you are not an employee, you are a small business owner providing your services to one or several clients on a contractual basis.
Unless your service agreement states or confirms that you will work from a specific location, your clients are not able to restrict your movements or where you work from within the boundaries of ‘common sense’ or a ‘practical understanding’.
For example, if your client engages you as a remote receptionist there would be a practical understanding that you would answer calls in a quiet place in a professional manner, rather than shouting down the phone from a loud bar in Ibiza!
The answer to your question is less about your industrial rights and more about your important relationships, your communication skills, and your business reputation.
There are endless reasons you could be considering a location change:
- Career opportunity
Whatever your reason may be, we can all agree the greatest benefit of working remotely is the ability to work from anywhere that you can power up your laptop and connect to the internet!
While many clients will have no problem with you working whilst travelling, be prepared for some clients to be taken by surprise and have concerns – do not take this personally or act defensively. It’s their job to worry about their business. Remain professional and reassure them that they are still in good hands.
Instead of a defensive…
“This shouldn’t be a problem as I am providing the same services and am not an employee”
“I have planned ahead to ensure I will have a decent internet connection during the hours you have booked my services so that you do not experience an interruption in delivery or a reduction in quality.”
Before you decide to continue working during exactly the same hours you would back home, you should seriously consider whether a more professional approach would be to amend your working hours, or take time off and either leave your role unattended or find an Australian VA subcontractor to cover you.
While the idea of working whilst travelling abroad sounds like the ultimate virtual assistant dream… ask yourself:
Can you be sure you will be just as productive when you miss a decent sleep to remain available during your client’s time zone?
Missing sleep for 1-2 nights to meet a deadline can be invigorating when you are winning and kicking goals … but it is NOT sustainable.
Your quality of work and mental health should not be negotiable. But the hours in which you complete your work could be.
Choose your Own Adventure
Now let’s look at the different scenarios you may find yourself in:
You don’t have any existing clients as yet, and you’re planning to travel or relocate.
Easy! Have an honest and open conversation about your availability and work hours when onboarding your first client. You can also include a disclosure statement in your client agreement that states you are ‘roaming’ and not working from a fixed location or timezone.
You have existing clients, and after working your fingers to the bone, you need a little vacanza (holidays!)
Provide your clients with reasonable notice (minimum 2 weeks, the more the better)
Decide whether you will
a) leave your role unattended
b) work altered hours
c) arrange cover
Once you have made these decisions, you need to notify your client in writing and provide a professional “out of office” for your business and your role in your client’s business.
If it’s not already included, consider updating your client agreement or onboarding process to cover a notice period for planned time away from client work, and your process for managing your role during your absence.
You have existing clients who will be affected by your permanent relocation
Honest and upfront communication is always best practice.
Notify your client in writing that you’d like to have a meeting to discuss the terms of your engagement. This is especially important in the instance where you want to win their trust to continue the arrangement or if you know the relationship will be coming to an end.
Prepare for your meeting:
- Provide an explanation (they don’t need your life story, but a few sentences by way of explanation is always courteous)
- Update them on your new availability
- Discuss the required changes to the existing arrangement
- Discuss your ongoing suitability for the role, based on your new location
- When the new arrangements are agreed upon, be sure to terminate your existing agreement and send a new agreement. Alternatively, create a contract amendment in writing, to be accepted and signed by both parties.
- If the engagement comes to an end, ask whether they would be willing to be or provide a reference for your future endeavours
To maintain a good relationship, you could consider presenting suggestions to assist with the changeover to alternative arrangements or – if you’re happy to continue working for the client – you could personally arrange a temporary solution until you have re-established yourself.
Need to subcontract to another VA? List your Australian VA subcontractor role for free with the VA Lead Network.
You have existing clients who will be affected by your plans to travel to multiple locations, over an extended period of time.
It’s imperative that your entire client base is provided with a consistent explanation.
Avoid the burning desire to send a group email with the subject line ‘Au Revoir’ and the waving emoji 👋 as you step onto the plane or into your combi van. In this instance, group emails are not your best friend.
Template emails, however, are fabulous!
Draft a short and concise note to explain the time has come for you to hit the road and chase rainbows for a while. Ask for a convenient time to meet (don’t provide your booking link, ask them for theirs) to make changes to your current engagement or discuss the handover of your role. Thank them for their patronage and ongoing support because you would love to continue working with them or reconnect in the future should circumstances permit.
When the new arrangements are agreed upon be sure to terminate your existing agreement and send a new one. Alternatively, create a contract amendment in writing, to be accepted and signed by both parties.
If your client is likely to wind up your relationship, be sure you have provided the notice period outlined in your client agreement and ask whether they would be willing to be or provide a reference for your future endeavours.
Running your own business should offer you the flexibility to work around your commitments and choices.
The best way to ensure you have this flexibility is to be clear from the outset.
Ensure your client agreement and/or onboarding process includes disclosure about your location and a notice period for planned time away from client work, and a process for unexpected time away from client work (sick, bereavement, injury etc.). This process should reference whether you will arrange make-up hours, alternative support or reduced fees during your absence.