How can you possibly prepare for the unexpected? This is so important when you’re working at home as a virtual assistant because anything can throw you into a tailspin, causing a crisis in your schedule or your cash flow.

Nothing is for certain. Long time clients can suddenly up and leave you because of a family crisis or lack of income flow in their business. I’ve had this happen to me on many occasions.

You may become sick or injured, limiting your ability to work. I was sick for eight months and couldn’t get a diagnosis. However, I was able to work a limited amount of time on the computer each day.

Your child, a family member or your pet may suddenly get sick or injured, requiring your focus and attention. My dog got very sick with gastritis this past week. I had to take time off work to take him to the vet, and I spent a lot of time following him around the house, cleaning up after him, giving him medications, forcing water into him, and taking him in and out to do his business. Plus I got absolutely no sleep for about three days because I was up with him all night.

Not only did my sick dog require my time and energy, but it resulted in an unexpected vet bill, which I really didn’t need right now. If it hadn’t been a vet bill, it could have been something else. Your car or an important household appliance could break down. For those of you in the United States, it could be an unexpected healthcare bill.

How can you possibly prepare for these unexpected and unwelcome events? Here are a few tips.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

I learned this the hard way. You can’t count on clients to always be there. If you have one big client who is your biggest source of income or you are subcontracting mainly from one person, you need to take a serious look at that. If your working relationship suddenly ends, will you be okay until you can replace them or is it going to put you into crisis mode? Don’t let your biggest basket make you comfortable enough that you slow down your marketing and your efforts to look for new clients. It’s better to turn potential clients away than to be looking for another client in a panic because your income suddenly took a nosedive.

Have Dedicated Savings Accounts

I have savings accounts dedicated for specific things, and these normally don’t get touched unless they are needed for that purpose. For example, I have one for income tax and I have one for my pets and horses. The one I have for my pets and horses is both for their regular care and for emergencies. I put money into this account on a regular basis for not only food, supplements, hoof care, etc., but to also try to build it up a bit in case of an emergency. Thankfully, I had enough in there to cover the vet visit for my dog, and now I don’t have to stress about another big charge to my VISA card. I just have to work on building it back up again.

Have a Backup Plan

What will you do if you find yourself physically unable to work? What will you do if a family member or pet gets sick and they require your time? How will you keep your business running so that clients aren’t negatively affected, and so they possibly don’t even know there is an issue on your end?

It is possible to do this, but it takes some strategy. This may look like having an Operations and Procedures Manual to outline everything that you do in your business and your clients’ businesses so that somebody else can take over if you need them to.

If you have an established business, it may look like having your own virtual assistant to help you out and take over, if needed, or at least establishing a relationship with another virtual assistant that you feel comfortable handing over the reins to in an emergency.

How Flexible is Your Work?

Look at the type of work you are doing. How flexible is it? My clients know they are not my only client and that I don’t sit at my computer or by my phone 24-7.

This week when my dog was sick, I was able to do the bare minimum that needed to be done, and I was able to do it when I could squeeze it into my messed up schedule. Anything that didn’t have to be done this week got set aside. Most clients (those I am not friends with on Facebook) had no idea that my dog was sick or that I was getting no sleep. Their newsletters were still going out. Their social media presence was still going on, as this was prescheduled. Their smaller requests were still being taken care of.

Also, my own marketing didn’t slow down too much. Social media posts were still being posted, even though I was not at my computer. My prescheduled emails went out to my email list.

Conclusion

This is probably one of the biggest benefits of working at home as a virtual assistant – the flexibility it can offer.  However, you still need to do some planning to prepare for the unexpected in case you lose that big client, in case you have that unexpected vet/medical/appliance bill, or in case you or a family member gets sick or injured and you are unable to work. Proper planning allows your business to keep functioning, even if you are not.

If you want to become a virtual assistant and you want to set up your business in a strategic way, including learning how to define your skills, choosing your target market, creating a business plan, how to set your rates, how to manage your time, how to offer great customer service, how to market your business and find clients, and so much more, check out the 12-week Getting Started as a Virtual Assistant Home Study Program.