One way to be a digital nomad / location independent is to work as a virtual assistant. A big part of VA’s job is managing clients’ schedule. The key to managing a busy or high profile client (or a multiple clients) is to be methodical and meticulous. Here are a few tricks of the trade:
Know Your Clients’ Preferences
No calendar management system can survive without establishing rules beforehand.
Talk to your clients about their day to day. Find out what your clients prefer.
Stay within their parameters no matter what because you are their gatekeeper. This can include things like
- Times: Ideal work/meeting times. Maybe, no meetings or calls before 10AM or after 5PM.
- Phone meetings: Call preferences (conference line vs. mobile vs. office line). Do they prefer to call or be called?
- Call duration: Should calls be scheduled in 15 / 30 / 60 minute increments?
- Buffer time: Ask how much time to allow in between back to back meetings.
- Color coding (red for holds, green for travel, etc.
- Lunch time: Block off time for lunch.
Keep track of and update their preferences in a handy client profile like this one. Feel free to download it, save a copy to your Google Drive and make it your own!
The first thing I do every morning (after a cup of coffee, of course) is look at my clients’ calendars.
- Prioritize client meetings over internal meetings. Usually, internal checkins or meetings can be pushed to another time. Pushing a client’s external meeting and risking their latest partnership deal? Not so much.
- Never assume anything. When in doubt, ask your client if you don’t have enough information to make the decision yourself.
Busy clients’ calendars tend to fill up weeks in advance, and a trip can throw a wrench in the plans. Because of this, I usually prioritize travel-related tasks over others because it can affect things that were previously on the calendar.
- Once the trip is booked, I include all details in their calendar.
- Include 2-3 hour blocks both before and after travel to account for time to and from the airport, train station, etc.
- Move all other calendar events that conflict with the travel plans.
That being said, no matter how much you plan and organize, you may suddenly get an email from a client saying, “Urgent. Meeting running over. Cancel my 2 o’clock.” You glance at the clock, and it’s 1:57pm, because, of course it’s 3 minutes before the meeting. In cases like this, drop whatever you’re doing and
- Move the details of the meeting you’re canceling to your personal calendar.
- Look for “Calendar” above the description box and select your name from the dropdown menu. Now you don’t have to replicate the details at a later time.
- Remove all guests from the meeting invite. This automatically sends a cancellation notice to all attendees.
- Immediately follow up with an email to the party you’ve just canceled on and bcc your client so they know it’s being handled.
- Offer alternative times and include a note like, “Thanks in advance for your flexibility,” or “Apologies for any inconvenience.” A little nicety goes a long way.
Create Efficient Meeting Invites
Now that you’ve cleared conflicts for the day and handled urgent needs or last minute changes, you’re free to start booking low-priority meeting requests.
Clarity and conciseness are your two best friends when it comes to meeting invites.
When your client cc’s you on an email and asks you to set it up, bump your client to bcc when you reply. No client needs nor wants to be on the entire email chain. They simply need to know you’re handling it and move on.
I like to provide 3-4 options to whomever I’m scheduling with. This really helps expedite the process.
- Offer concrete options like, “Wed, Jan. 4th at 3:00pm EST.”
- Always include the time zone your client is currently located in.
- Be sure to block off the times you’ve offered on your client’s behalf on their calendar.
- I like to label my blocks with quick info like “Block for XYZ.” This helps cut down on accidental double-bookings.
- Color code your holding blocks. This is a simple, yet effective way to visualize how your client’s day is shaping up.
- When you confirm a meeting, remember to remove the other blocks.
Once the event details are finalized, it’s time to send out a meeting invitation. I like to use a standard template, one that my clients can easily understand at a quick glance.
- Untitled Event: Always start your subject with the type of meeting:
- [Meeting] 3rd Party Name (Company) <> Client name (Company)
- [Call] 3rd Party Name (Company) <> Client name (Company)
- Event Details: Select the appropriate date, time and time zone. Include either the exact meeting location or important details like “Client to call XYZ at 555.555.5555.”
- Description: Include the full name, title, mobile number of all attendees and an agenda, if applicable.
- Attachments: Utilize attachments, if applicable. Add boarding passes, PDF maps to conferences, contracts that are to be discussed in a meeting, even lunch menus. If there’s a relevant electronic copy of something my client is discussing, I include it within the calendar for easy access.
- Event color: Color code so it’s easier for you and your client to understand the calendar at a quick glance..
- Notifications: I like to set the standard “10 minute pop up” for all events. All events with an active notification will push an alert to both your calendar, as well as your client’s calendar.
Once you send the meeting invitation, immediately follow up with an email to the person you’re scheduling the meeting with. Include all details in writing that are included in the calendar details.
It can be as simple as, “I’ve just sent details for your meeting with ‘Client’ on Thursday, Feb. 9th at 10:00AM PST at Dot’s Diner.” This is a very effective way to ensure that the meeting invite was received and that all details are correct.
With this article as your guide, you will rock your clients’ calendar needs without even breaking a sweat. Best of all, your clients can rest easy knowing that their time is valued, well-protected, and organized.
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Here’s a quick checklist you can use to improve your calendar management skills: