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Managing problematic clients will be part of your daily work as a Virtual Assistant.

A difficult client can:

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It is therefore important to develop a skill to help you identify and manage the different types of difficult clients.

Remember that as a Virtual Assistant, you will be working with a client and NOT for the client. You need to be proactive by managing the relationship and steering the process like a professional.

Most Virtual Assistants were previously taking instructions from a boss but now they find themselves making the decisions. Without the experience, it is very easy to get messed by a problematic client.

It is important to understand that you are now running your business and taking ownership of it is not optional. However good you are as a Virtual Assistant, if you are unable to manage your multiple clients, you will be in a lot of trouble sooner than later.

How VAs can Identify a Good Client

cheerful man working in a cafeteria
Source: Canva

The moment a Virtual Assistant has worked with several good clients, they will never be able to work with difficult clients. The following are the characteristics of a good client.

  • Communicates clearly, concisely, and respectfully
  • Promptly respond to your emails, providing the information you need in good time
  • Clearly communicate the expectations in a task or project, and give clear deadlines and the budget for the project
  • Have a full understanding of the business‘ long-term and short-term objectives
  • They are easy to get along and work with
  • They treat you like a partner and not as a staff
  • They send you inspiring, enjoyable, and interesting tasks
  • Respect your time and your boundaries
  • Appreciate the fact that you have multiple clients
  • They don’t have this notion that they are your boss
  • You don’t skip a heartbeat every time you see them calling you
  • They pay you on time and at very competitive rates
  • You have respect for them

How VAs Can Identify Bad Clients

Bad clients fall into several categories. They include the following:


Micromanagers happen to be very many in the Virtual Assistant field.

They bully and take advantage of Virtual Assistants by knocking their confidence and making them dependent.

Isn’t that frustrating?

It will be very hard to reestablish the client relationship with them once they start feeling like your boss. However, you can easily spot them using the following tips:

  • Micromanages are control freaks who have an inflated ego. They think they can do everything better than anybody else.
  • For them, everything needs to be done urgently.
  • They go through your work with a tooth comb but haven’t given you enough information to work with.
  • They have no respect for your boundaries. They will call you at odd hours and will not be apologetic about it. After all, you are dependent on them.
  • They keep contacting you even when it is not necessary.
  • They are never happy with your work.
  • Every time you handle a task, they have some rude comments to make about it.
  • They keep questioning your professionalism and skills.
  • Every time you’re talking to them, you feel anxious about your abilities.

Late Payers

These are another common category of problem clients. You are well-advised to let them go the very moment you get a good client because they’ll continue getting you in problems with your creditors.

The following are their characteristics:

  • They always want you to work for free.
  • The use phrases such as “it will take you less than 10 minutes”.
  • You will hear them often say “I could have done this myself but…
  • They will always undervalue your skill set.
  • Before you discuss a project, they want to know how much you will charge them.
  • They often ask you to change your terms and conditions.
  • Instead of paying for standard work, they want the cheapest of everything even if it is going to affect the long-term value.
  • You always get a feeling that you won’t get paid because they are always paying you late.
  • You are anxious from the day you invoice them until you see money in your bank.

The Disorganized Freak

There are some Virtual Assistants who love this kind of clients because they charge them more for organizing and scheduling the work.

However, they might be a problem customer because you often do not know what is expected of you. This is how to identify this category of problem clients:

  • You never get the information you need on time.
  • They are flaky and scatty and disorganized.
  • They will use words like “use your experience to…
  • You often get bogged down by unimportant tasks that don’t bring value to their businesses.
  • Their thought process is all over and you don’t have an idea where to start.
  • They constantly move the goalposts.
  • Even when they know what they want, they can’t communicate it properly to make you understand.

Over-Friendly Clients

While it is good for every Virtual Assistant to have a client who is friendly, an over-friendly client is not good for business.

With these type of clients, you start working on what seems like a small job but soon it escalates into this huge project that is not well budgeted for. You end up working long hours on something that you’re not properly paid for.

Obviously, you’ll soon start feeling that the client is abusing your friendship and the friend-client relationship line starts to blur. The relationship is bound to implode.

Avoid clients who want you to charge them a friend’s rate so that you don’t jeopardize the friendship.

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Katrina McKinnon

I'm Katrina McKinnon, the author behind Small Revolution. With two decades of hands-on experience in online work, running eCommerce stores, web agency and job boards, I'm now on a mission to empower you to work from home and achieve work-life balance. My passion lies in crafting insightful, education content. I have taught thousands of students and employees how to write, do SEO, manage eCommerce stores and work as Virtual Assistants. Join our most popular course: SEO Article Masterclass

1 Comment

  1. Christian Vibar

    Great article, Katrina. I’d also like to point out that making mistakes in working on tasks is common especially for starting VAs. So I think there should be a system for review and feedback that is timely and consistent. Good VAs improve as time goes, but these bumps are to be expected. If a client doesn’t recognize this, then that’s a huge red flag.

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