In any profession there are good workers and there are bad workers. Even in the virtual world, bad habits can sneak in and undermine your efforts to run a successful home-based business. Here are some things to avoid so you do not end up a virtual casualty.
Show up late / leave early. A common misconception many virtual assistants have is that they can work (or not work) whenever they feel like it. Yes, you are your own boss, but that does not mean working only two days a week, three hours a day. Knocking off early to play nine holes of golf may work occasionally, but it should be the exception not the rule.
Blame others. This gives a whole new meaning to, "the dog ate my homework" but the same principle applies to working as a virtual assistant. Take responsibility for your actions. Do not blame the print shop, your computer, or your dog for your own shortcomings. Your clients will respect you more for owning up to your mistakes than trying to pass the buck or, worse yet, lying about it.
Too many personal phone calls. Many virtual assistants experience that awkward moment when they have to tell friends and family that they have a "real job" working from home and are not available to chat all day long. Spending too much time on the phone for personal reasons will derail your day, sending your deadlines into a tailspin. During your business hours, keep it professional.
Too much time on social networking (IM, chat, email, etc.). Just like in the "real" world, spending too much time surfing the web, viewing videos on YouTube, or chatting with friends on Facebook will land you in hot water. During business hours (which you set yourself, remember?), keep your online activities to a professional nature.
Too many sick days. Many of us are guilty of taking a "mental health" day when working for someone else. However, as the owner of your own business, the only one who suffers when you do this is you. Do not shrug off commitments and deadlines simply because it's a beautiful day outside. Clients will not respond well to this attitude, and you may soon find your self with more time on your hands than you would like.
Turn in late assignments. Clients rely on you to complete assignments in a timely fashion. Continually missing deadlines will destroy your credibility and professionalism. The golden rule here is, "Deliver what you promise, and don't promise what you can't deliver."
Turn in sloppy work. Along with turning in late assignments, delivering sloppy work will hurt your business and your bottom line. Most clients would rather wait an extra day for excellent work than accept a shoddy assignment. Remember, your work reflects on you. Do not ruin your reputation by giving less than your best.
Poor communication. Without proper communication, you cannot build rapport with your clients. Keep them apprised of your progress on long assignment through status reports. Ask questions if clarification is needed. If an unexpected delay pops up, let your client know as soon as possible. Do not work in a bubble.
Poor time management. Perhaps the most difficult challenge for a virtual assistant to overcome is poor time management. Especially when working for more than one client, it is extremely important to balance your time in order to complete assignments on deadline. Do not fall into the trap of working 24/7 because you do not know how to plan your days. Ask for help if you need it, and don't burn yourself out. This could mean planning your schedule more effectively or hiring an assistant for routine tasks such as copying or filing.
Enlist the help of under-qualified individuals. Although your spouse or children may be willing to help you meet a deadline, keep in mind that you - and you alone - are ultimately responsible for any work you submit to a client. If you need help, by all means get it. Just be sure the person you hire is qualified to do the tasks you assign.
Avoiding these bad habits will put you on the path to success in your virtual assistant business. Remember, in order to be successful you must work your business like a business, not a hobby. Take yourself seriously, or no one else will either. Now, stop surfing the internet and get back to work!