Swamped – How To Manage Client Overload

It all happens so fast. You set out on your new career as a virtual assistant. With hard work and an indestructible Internet connection, the clients start showing up. You realize this is the perfect job for you and you’re really good at it.

Your clients take notice of this, too. And they start referring clients.

Then those clients start referring clients. You keep taking on clients because… it’s business! You want to take all the business you can get, right?

The trouble is, you’re working night and day to keep up.

Remember when you knew what day and time it was? What year? What planet this is?

Don’t worry, it’s happened to all of us. You are officially swamped.

Ideally, you don’t ever want to get to critical with your workload because a) it sucks and b) it’s really stressful. The bad news is –  there’s only one way out of this mess. You’ve taken on projects that you have to suck it up and finish them.

The good news is –  you’ll be so zonked after you’re done that you’ll never want to get overloaded again.

There will always be times when there are urgent or bigger projects and you’ll have to put in the hours for a client. That’s not unreasonable. But if your workload is out of control all the time, you’ll burn out and start to lose the clients you’ve worked so hard to retain.

It’s important to understand your limits, especially when you work in a role when you are essentially your own manager. The key is to schedule your workload so you can be productive without becoming overloaded.

Here are some tips on how to recognize your limits for work, correct an overcommitted schedule and maintain a healthy workload. Achieving a work life balance is something to strive for everyday but it requires constant vigilance, especially if you work from home.

Know Thyself

Think about your best work week ever. How many hours did you work? At what times of the day were you the most productive? What was it about the work that made you feel energized?

Now, look over your client roster and the work assignments. This is where you need to make some tough decisions. If you have clients that are taking up too much of your time but you are overqualified or disinterested, it’s not fair to you or the client. Apply the “best week ever” questions and decide which clients can be reassigned to virtual assistants who can devote the time and enthusiasm to their tasks.

When you take on a new client, schedule an introductory meeting to discuss the role and expectations. This is so important to avoid client overload!

A client may say “social media” and mean a few posts a week. Or they may want you managing all of their platforms. Those are two very different projects, with a very different scope. If you’re almost at full capacity, managing a full social media roster for a client is virtually impossible, unless you plan to never see your spouse… or children… or daylight… ever again.

Toggl Your Existence,  For A Week

Developing an awareness of how long it takes to do certain tasks is a must when you’re a virtual assistant. You’d be amazed at how certain tasks take way longer than expected.

Toggl, unfortunate name aside, is a suh-weet tool to gauge your workflow. It’s going to hurt, but for one week, Toggl all your work tasks. That means you’ll literally be timing every single client task you are doing. You may already have a timer such as the one we use in our organization, TeamWork. If so, go with what works for you.

At the end of the week, create a report of your tasks. Take notice of more time-intensive tasks and reevaluate your workflow. For example, if you’re spending hours on email management, consider automation or canned responses for clients. Make sure all your tasks are being completed in the most efficient way possible. Network with other virtual assistants to learn their shortcuts and learn to use automation tools such as Zapier.

Unless writing or video are niche skills for you, these are major time suckers. You can take on transcription projects, but if you don’t type 90 wpm, it’s going to be a long day. Again, here’s where Toggl will illuminate what you’re working on and how long it’s taking.

Build A Community

Want to make friends fast in the VA community? Refer clients to other virtual assistants.  If you don’t like Excel, there are armies of virtual assistants who do. Networking promotes your skills and builds relationships with other virtual assistants that can take on referrals.

This is especially important when you work on tasks with hard deadlines. You don’t want to inconvenience clients or delay assignments. It’s important to have a back up in case of illness or if you want to take a vacation. A solid virtual assistant that can provide coverage for your clients not only makes you look professional but will put your mind at ease. That’s another reason to manage your workload – if you have too many clients and too much work, any delays from the constant catch up game will only set you back further. Eventually, you’ll start missing things and lose clients.

We’re always encouraging our clients to delegate but it’s something we need to do for ourselves, too.

Learn To Say No

You’ve handed off clients, reorganized your workflow and life is good.

Now it’s up to you to say “no” when large, impossible projects are offered to you. The client is nice… now. But they won’t be when you screw up their presentation or forget about it entirely. Like I mentioned earlier, the way to avoid overload is to make sure you don’t get to that point in the first place.

Look at it from the client perspective – wouldn’t you rather have a dedicated, focused virtual assistant that’s totally stoked to work on your project? In the long run, handing off a client to an assistant that does competent work generates goodwill and possible networking opportunities in the future.

In the age of the Internet, where everything is forever, losing a client can have long-term consequences. Not every client is going to work out; that’s life. But reckless decisions that jeopardize a client’s business? That’s on you. If you can’t do it, say so.


As virtual assistants, client satisfaction and their referrals are what sustain our livelihood. When we have a full roster of clients, it’s satisfying, but it’s also a time to start evaluating bandwidth.

How to stay on top of things? Know your limits, be realistic about your work style and don’t be afraid to say no.

If you’re a virtual assistant in demand, congratulations! You’re great at your job. Keep up your street cred by providing consistent, excellent service to the clients you have, right now.

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Virtual Gurus offers virtual assistant support packages that work for your business. Need a skilled professional to tackle that email inbox? We offer competitive pricing packages and excellent administrative support. Contact us today for a hassle-free consultation.

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