The biggest client mistake I ever made

The biggest blunder of my VA career

Today I’m going to share a MASSIVE blunder that I made with one of my main clients just so you can see that it isn’t so much the mistake that’s the problem, it’s how you respond and deal with that mistake that matters to the client. And hold on to your hats and hide behind your fingers, because this was a pretty big and rather embarrassing error!

I’m writing this because I know that one of your biggest fears is that you might make a mistake with one of your clients. You think the client will burn your house down, the world will implode, the sky will fall and it will be the end of days.

But that’s not actually what happens.

This is the story:

My client and I had recently been sorting out her Gmail as there were a lot of messages and filters and we wanted to condense and refine her inbox.

She was on holiday and had decided to spend a few hours sorting some of it herself. After around three hours work she asked me via a Twitter Direct Message if she could delete a certain label and, because I was busy working on something else, I gave it less than a minutes thought and said yes.

The client deleted the label and 6000 emails went into the bin.

Yup – I’d ballsed it right up.

The client understandably immediately freaked out but had left it too long to ‘undo’ the action. I’m completely and utterly mortified but I told her I will fix it immediately.

(I was working in the cafe at the David Lloyd gym when this happened and my boyfriend at the time said I just stood up and loudly shouted “FUUUUUUCK!” at nobody in particular. Apparently, some small children were rather startled.)

I spent the next three hours sorting it out by creating a new folder, moving nearly 10,000 emails from the bin into that folder and then re-filtering to get everything back where it was supposed to be with the right labels and in the right folders – although to be honest I can barely remember what steps I took as I was so utterly traumatised by what I’d done.

But I fixed it, my client was extremely relieved and said the fact I attended to it so quickly was the most important thing.

My (now ex) boyfriend is hired for his freelance services and he also hires contractors and he told me (when I had calmed down obvs) that owning the problem is always the most important thing to a client – not that you messed up.

I’d never made a mistake like this before so I didn’t know this.


So my point is, you’ll never be perfect and even those of us who are used to doing work and dealing with clients can still cock things up.

But it’s what you do after you make the mistake that matters the most.

This is also not the first mistake I’ve made in my freelance career either. I’ve messed up a few times – some were my own silly fault and some were misunderstandings, but the client didn’t drop me and we both just moved on.

Clients know you’re not perfect and, yes they might be annoyed at the time and you may even lose them as a customer, but I can’t stress how highly unlikely this will be. They just want you to fix the error as quickly as you can.

You can’t turn back the clock, so it’s how you deal with your mistake that’s important.

Although you should always have insurance (this protects you in case you really mess up), what may feel like a total disaster at the time usually isn’t that bad at all. What you do AFTER you make the mistake is far more important than the fact you made the mistake in the first place.

Over to you – have you ever made a colossal error with a client and how did it turn out?



The fear of making a mistake is what keeps stopping me. At my day job they know me and know that I am a good employee but a new person won’t know that.


Good to know that even experienced VA’s make mistakes too. Makes me feel less of a dimwit for messing up from time to time.

Janice Horner

I love your honesty because this is how most people would react to a big error on their part, and that word often spills out of my mouth at work (only quietly). You have a great style of writing, and I enjoyed your post very much; not to mention the big tip!

I am thinking of starting a virtual assistant biz, because I am retiring age, fed up of the traveling but still require an income. I will bookmark your blog.

Joanne Manville

Once again a very refreshing post and great that you’re willing to share this experience! I haven’t made any blunders yet, but I’ll remember your blog when I do – as it will happen!


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