What If A Client Asks You To Do Something You Can’t Do?

By October 17, 2007 Uncategorized 4 Comments

You wake up one morning and eagerly check your emails. Has that client got back to you yet – the one you met last week who you REALLY want to work with?

Yes! You feel a surge of excitement as you click open the email. To your dismay, it looks like this client wants you to do something you’re not comfortable or familiar with. It could be redesigning a website, setting up a database, creating a flyer – whatever it is, it’s out of your comfort zone. What to do?

I was asked about this recently:

“How often are you asked to do things beyond your skillset? And, in those situations, how do you handle it? Do you tell them that, though you can’t do the work yourself, you can outsource it to someone who can?”

There are a number of options:

  1. Pretend you can do the work, take ages doing it, endure a few sleepless nights, do a bad job and lose the client and possibly your reputation!
  2. Be upfront with the client. Say it’s not within your skillset but that:
    • You can refer it to someone you know who can. This is why it’s a good idea to network with other Virtual Assistants from the start and not view them as competitors! This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll ‘lose’ that client completely. Make it clear that you’re keen to help in other areas and reiterate your skills.
    • You can outsource it to one of your team (if you’re that far down the track)
    • You’re willing to learn on your time or at a greatly reduced rate. This depends on your relationship with the client. This would obviously be more conducive to a good long-term relationship where you and the client are growing together. It also depends on whether you want to develop this particular skill (you may not!) and how urgent the project is!

Sooner or later, there’s a good chance that you’ll come across this situation – most people do. Don’t worry too much about it or let it get you down – you always have options. Focus on what you CAN do. And if the project sounded really interesting – make a commitment to learn that skill for the future.


  • Bill says:

    I quickly provide the spec to one or more of my know subs. I quote my (their) standard rate + 25% / hr.

    If the spec needs to be more detailed, I feed back the info to the client. 1 hour is then added to the project at the same 125% rate.

    Sometimes I am just being “shopped” and sometimes not. My only time invested is in responding to the initial inquiry.

    These situations are just part of life.


  • Donna says:

    I have an opportunity to do data entry for a member of my church that owns a mortgage business. I’ve never done this for someone before and I don’t know how much to charge him. What do you suggest? He said his database is 5000 names and addresses of customers. Should I charge him by the hour: like $12.00 an hour? or $20-30 an hour? Please help.

  • Lisa Taliga says:

    Hi Donna

    I would charge the higher rate because you need to cover your business expenses. $12 an hour is much too low.


  • ade abbey says:

    what exactlly is this VA all about? What are the duties or responsibilities of a VA. What exactlly do they do. orry i asked this question. I dont really know the job they do and how they do it. Can u give me a short or summary of what is all about.

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