How NOT to Choose Your Clients (and What to Do Instead)

How NOT to Choose Your Clients (and What to Do Instead)

One of the best investments you can make in the long-term sustainability of your business, happiness and peace of mind is choosing your clients wisely.

As you grow in your business, your selection process will evolve and your discernment skills will improve.

No matter how young or inexperienced your business is, though, having clients meet at least some minimal criteria before you allow them on your roster will always serve you well.

That’s because choosing to work with shady or otherwise unideal clients will come back to bite you in the butt, one way or another, either sooner or later.

I was reminded recently of a colleague who reached out to me after being approached by a client who raised all kinds of red flags with her.

Being new in business, she asked me what I thought she should do, and I gave her the advice I always give in this situation: trust your gut.

And she, as new people often do, ignored her own wise counsel and all the telltale signs indicating that this was a bad idea and took the client on anyway.

While she found this client’s honesty and integrity questionable, she wanted the experience and was too eager and impatient for clients to let this first one go.

She rationalized this decision by telling herself that it wasn’t her place to judge, that everyone deserves benefit of the doubt, that she would just put blinders on and do whatever honest work she was given and not involve herself in anything beyond that, and that it wasn’t her place to question things.

She wouldn’t engage in anything illegal, unethical or dishonest, she told herself, and what she didn’t know beyond that wasn’t any of her business.

But here’s the thing: It IS your business to question things. You are deluding yourself if you think you can keep it separate and not be complicit.

Well, long story short, this did come back to haunt her, as all her instincts about this client (the ones she chose to ignore) turned out to be accurate.

It came to light that this client was engaging in some disreputable and unethical practices and ended up being sued by several parties.

She was forced legally into all the drama which caused her a lot of stress and anxiety, not to mention diverted her time, attention and energy away from her own business.

Ultimately, this client lost his business and because she had put all her eggs into this one basket, she was left with no client and no income at all. Back to square one.

These were very painful lessons she learned from this experience that caused her serious damage and could have been avoided.

It took her more than a year to start over. But I don’t think she ever gained any confidence back in herself, and it wasn’t long before her enthusiasm for her business petered out and she closed up shop.

The takeaways I hope people can glean from this are:

  1. You can’t separate your values and principles from your business. They are each a reflection of the other.
  2. You can’t associate with dishonest, unscrupulous people and expect to come out unscathed.
  3. You can’t afford to work with shady or otherwise unideal clients. It will cost you in far more ways than you realize with potentially disastrous results you may not be able to recover from. It’s an unwise, unshaky platform on which to build your business and reputation.
  4. All good things come to those who wait. Don’t be so desperate to take on the first client who comes along if they are not a good fit.
  5. Always trust your gut. It won’t ever steer you wrong.
  6. It’s okay to make mistakes. Just be aware that the damage bad clients can do to you can sometimes be devastating. Walk away from any client, immediately, who doesn’t seem like a good fit.
  7. Maintain an abundance mindset. This is not the last or only client in the world. Walking away from problem clients opens you up to attracting better, more positive and ideal ones.
  8. Never put all your eggs in one basket. A good rule of thumb is that no one client should make up more than 20% of your business and income.

What can you do to avoid this trap in your administrative support business?

  1. Sit down now and list the values, standards and principles that are important to you in life. The act of writing things down formalizes these standards and makes them more concrete and tangible. Continue to add to this list throughout the life of your business. Then devise your policies, protocols and procedures around these standards and values.
  2. Create ideal and unideal client profile lists. These lists, again, are extremely useful tools that help you formalize your intentions around choosing ideal clients and avoiding bad ones. As you go along in your business, use these lists to note those traits, behaviors, conditions, etc., that are and are not a fit for you. This will help you be more and more conscious about who you do and don’t want to work with. Any time you are tempted to ignore your standards and gut instincts, pull these lists out for a jolt back to reality.
  3. Always conduct a thorough, formal consultation with each and every client. Don’t take shortcuts with this process. It’s an incredibly important and useful step in helping you identify and choose the most ideal clients for you and your business. (And if you aren’t sure how to conduct a good consultation, you can get my complete, step-by-step guide that will show you exactly how to do it as well as beef up blind spots and make improvements to your existing process.)

You’ve heard some version of the fable of the scorpion and the frog, I’m sure. The bottom-line is this: A slippery eel is a slippery eel. Don’t let one sweet-talk you out your better judgment.

How about you? Have you ever taken on or been tempted to take on a client you had reservations about? How did it turn out? How did you resolve to do better the next time around? What insights do you have to share with others on this topic?

Paypal Instant Transfer Is Here

Paypal Instant Transfer Is Here!

YAY! I am so excited about instant transfer on Paypal, I can’t even TELL you!

If you use a regular Paypal personal account, you should see the instant transfer option in your Wallet. The standard one-day transfer is still free, but if you’d like to transfer and have your funds available more immediately, you now have that option for a very nominal $0.25 fee.

They have already started the roll-out so if you don’t see it in your account now, you should very soon.

If you have a Paypal Business account (like I do), though, it may appear that you don’t have the instant transfer capability. You do, but there’s a little bit of a work-around to go through.

That’s because the instant transfer was mainly built for consumers, not business.

To make this easier for you, here are the steps for making an instant transfer if you have a Paypal business account:

  1. Go to your Paypal account and add your bank debit card (if you don’t already have it in there).
  2. Download the Paypal consumer app to your smartphone (if you don’t already have it there). The regular consumer app will say simply “Paypal.” If you have downloaded the app that comes up as “Paypal Business,” that’s the wrong one.
  3. Open the app. Go to the balance page. Click on “Manage Balance.”
  4. In the lower right, you should see an option for “Transfer to Bank.” Click on that.
  5. On the page that opens, type in the amount you want to transfer. NOTE: Paypal will deduct the $0.25 fee from any amount you transfer so if you want an even number, be sure to add in the fee. Example: If you want to transfer $1.00, make the transfer amount $1.25.
  6. Once you’ve entered the transfer amount, click “Done” and then “Next” on the page after that. This will bring up the page to choose where you want to transfer the money to. In the event that you already have your bank account linked to your Paypal account, you will see it listed here. DO NOT choose your bank account. That’s because if you have a Paypal Business account, you can’t do instant transfers to bank accounts. Let me rephrase that: You can transfer to your bank account, but it will take the regular 1-day processing time (which is free). The work-around is that if you want to do an instant transfer from a Paypal business account, it has to go to your bank account’s debit card. So, next to your bank account, you should see an option to “Choose.” Click on that and then scroll right on the images until you see your bank debit card listed. That is the one you want to choose if you want an instant transfer. Select that and away you go!

When I did my first test transfer of $1.25 and it took mere seconds for it to show up in my bank account.

I then transferred a larger, more significant amount, and it also showed up in my online bank account nearly instantly. So it’s very fast!!!!

I also confirmed that you can do as many transfers in a day as you like (no limits). The dollar limit per transfer (or maybe it’s per day?) is $10,000.

It used to take 3-4 days for my transfers to go through, which meant I didn’t have access to those funds until the process was fully completed, which is inconvenient.

If I wanted my money sooner and needed it in an account from where I could (for example) make payments to my credit cards, I would have to make a special trip to withdraw the funds I needed, then go to the bank and make a deposit.

What a waste of time and gas. (Not to mention the nuisance ATM fees we’re often charged, grrrr!)

This is going to add so much more ease and convenience and speed to our banking and accounting processes!

Be sure and let your clients know also as many of them use Paypal, too. This may open up additional options and convenience for them in billing their clients and moving funds around more quickly.

Have you tried Paypal instant transfer out yet? Are you excited to try it out? What do you think?

Reaching for the Heights

AHMAHGAHHHH, this is so cute!

Also, I can’t help but think how perfectly this resembles building our businesses:

We start at the bottom, often knowing little or nothing about business, looking up at what seems like an insurmountable height, and s-s-s-t-r-e-t-c-h-h-h-h ourselves to reach upward, outside of comfort zones, attaining new knowledge, growth and confidence at every next stage, one foot after the other.

It’s why I always say: slow and steady, with everything in its due time and course, wins the race.

When you are impatient, try to cut corners and take shortcuts, you miss out on vital, necessary foundational learning and understanding that is going to help you succeed in rising to the next level.

Stay the course. You can do it!

Bargaining for Your Value Is Doing Nothing for Your Business

Bargaining for Your Value Is Doing Nothing for Your Business

You aren’t going to convince clients to pay your fees because you have taxes and bills to pay.

And telling them you are more affordable because they don’t have to pay for breaks and lunches is not compelling either.

(When is the last time you heard any other business professional use that kind of bargaining to market their expertise?)

All that does is put them even more in cheapskate mentality.

Calling yourself an assistant results in the same.

Your value also has no relation to what you or they charge per hour (and by the way, it’s high time you stopped charging by the hour anyway).

Your value isn’t in how little they pay (stop making that argument or you’ll forever be stuck with cheapskate clients who want everything for little to nothing).

Your value is in what they gain by working with you:

How many more clients are they able to work with? How much more marketing and networking are they able to engage in? How much more are they able to get done in a day, a week, a month? How much more free time do they have to brainstorm, develop their business, or plain live life?

Are they able to get those projects done that have been on the back-burner for forever? Are they finally able to write that book, complete that training program, or write that signature talk they’ve been dreaming of? How much have their revenues increased or have the potential to increase as a result? How many more dollars per year does that represent?

How do they profit in their life from working with you beyond money? How much easier and stress-free are their life and business?

How much are those results and accomplishments worth to them?

THESE are the things to be talking about, not “you only pay for time on task and don’t pay for office equipment, lunches, breaks or vacations.”

Do you see how silly and pedestrian the latter is in comparison?

Which do you think will excite potential clients more and fill them with the sense of abundance and possibility?

Use This Phrase Instead of “General”

Use This Phrase Instead of "General"

Some folks use the term general when they talk about administrative support as a business.

But administrative support is not “general.”

Administrative support is a skillset, expertise and profession in and of itself. It’s the very backbone of every business in the world.

That is anything but “general.” That is something very specific.

Administrative support is also an ongoing relationship with a client; it’s not a one-off project here and there sporadically.

It’s about being an active right-hand in the client’s business and taking on specific areas of work and support for them.

Using the word general to describe your business relegates it to something menial, unimportant, homogeneous (as in same basic humdrum as everybody else), and of not much value.

That’s because general is code for menial which is code for cheap and mundane.

And when clients think of something as menial, they expect to pay paltry fees for it as well.

If you are struggling to get clients who recognize the work you do as valuable, important and beneficial to them, it could be because you are using language that is attracting un-ideal clients and/or putting potential clients in the wrong (i.e., cheapskate) mindset.

When marketing your business, you want to use words that position your business and portray it as something invaluable, not general.

Here’s an alternative to better articulate your value:

If you’re trying to get across the idea that you support clients across the board, instead of using the word general (and I advise anyone who wants to get more well-paying clients to banish that word entirely from your business vocabulary), use the phrase full service.

It has much better connotations about your value proposition and will have a much better impact on your marketing and the client perceptions it sets.

Take a look at your website today. Examine the conversation you are having with clients and the words you’re using.

Will you be making some changes?

Delete “Self-Employed Worker” from Your Business Vocabulary

Delete "Self-Employed Worker" from Your Business Vocabulary

Do you want clients who treat you like their beck-and-call employee or as a trusted business professional delivering a valuable expertise?

If it’s the latter, then delete the words “self-employed worker” from your business vocabulary.

When you are self-employed, you’re not a worker, you are a business, period. (That’s a legal distinction, not an opinion.)

This all goes back to properly educating clients about the correct nature of the relationship.

If you set the perception that you are some kind of little worker bee, that’s exactly how they are going to think of and treat the relationship.

The first place you nip that in the bud — so that you can get more ideal clients who properly treat and understand the relationship as a business-to-business one — is through the language and
terminology you use.

Dear Danielle: Client Won’t Stop Calling Me Her Assistant

Dear Danielle: Client Won't Stop Calling Me Her Assistant

Dear Danielle:

Hi there! I am looking for your advice on a matter. I quite often will attend meetings or business functions with my clients. They tend to introduce me as their “assistant,” even though I have brought it to their attention that I am not an “assistant.” What would you suggest I have them introduce me as? Or how to go about ensuring it doesn’t continue to happen? —KP

Hi KP 🙂

Good question. It’s one I get a lot from people who are trying to transition away from the “assistant” model to administrative business owner.

The first thing you can do immediately is add a component to your Client Guide and new client orientations that instructs clients on exactly what to call you and how to introduce you to others.

In my own practice, I tell clients to refer to me as their administrator (for short) or Administrative Consultant (for more formal situations).

Next, put together a form letter/email and send it out to all your current clients so everyone is equally informed and updated at the same time and no one is singled out.

The side benefit to this kind of communication is that seeing it come from your business as a general communication helps underscore the fact that they are working with a business, not an employee.

Which leads us back to the original question: what to do about a client who continues to call you this when you have repeatedly asked them not to.

On the one hand, it could be an innocent mistake.

It is sometimes difficult to rid clients of old habits when they’ve been with us awhile. In which case, a heart-to-heart conversation with the client would be in order.

You could start the discussion, for example, with something like this:

“We’ve talked a few times about what I prefer to be called and how I ask my clients to refer to me when introducing me to others. This is something that’s important to me and my business. I’ve noticed that you still call me your assistant in those situations. Is there a reason why? What can I do to help you remember how to introduce me?”

I would very intentionally incorporate use of the words “client” and “business” to help this client understand the nature of the relationship. Because it’s also often the case that they simply haven’t been properly educated about that (which is on us, not them) and so they very innocently, but still mistakenly, may think you are an assistant.

And then listen to what they have to say and work toward a solution.

Of course, if you have a client who doesn’t give a good darn about your feelings and wishes, you have to ask yourself, “Is this a client who respects me? If there’s no mutual respect, is this someone I should be working with?”

Here are some blog posts that expand on this topic further that I think you’ll find helpful:

Dear Danielle: How to You Introduce Yourself to Clients and Prospects?

How to Have Clients Help Promote Your Business

Dear Danielle: This Client Is About to Ask Me to Pose as His Employee

Thanks for the question, KP. Let me know if this was useful to you. 🙂

***

Have you ever been in this situation? How did you handle it? Do you think my tips will help you better educate your clients and navigate this in the future?

There Is No Place in this World for Hatemongering Racist Terrorists

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

What is happening in our country right now is something we cannot sit idly by and watch happen. Those who are silent are complicit. I want everyone to know where I stand on this issue.

Nazis and the virulent hate and racism they spread are not welcome in our country (or in my group).

There is no place for you here, and regardless of the dimwit and his equally nitwitted, racist cohorts we have in office right now, we will stand united against you.

Our predecessors did not give their lives fighting Hitler and white racism for this to be tolerated in any way, shape or form now.

Please take a moment to read this article over on Lifehacker from Lauren O’Neal of Activism for Non-Activists. If you want to take action and be part of the solution, but are at a loss as to what to do, it has some very good ideas:

Six Things You Can Do in the Wake of the White Supremacist Attacks in Charlottesville

ADDENDUM 8/16:

It’s been very heartening to hear from people who feel the same since I posted this originally on my Facebook business page.

It’s hard to know what to do in these situations. We catch SO much flak from people if we get the least bit “political” or controversial or take a stand on important matters. (Although, to be clear, I don’t consider this political whatsoever. This is about fundamental right and wrong and I will ALWAYS stand and speak for what is good and right and loving in this world.)

People at large want to keep you vanilla. And they can be vicious in their attacks against you when you say something that is contrary to what they believe. It takes a lot of strength to go against that and do and say and stand for what you believe anyway in the face of that. I’m also dealing with a sick and aging parent that zaps all my energy these days. There’s not much left to help brace me against the vicious hyenas I often have to deal with. But this is too important. I can’t in good conscience NOT say anything.

It’s time for all of us to take a stand and declare what side of history we’re on and to SPEAK AGAINST and CONDEMN the despicable, ugly actions and hatred being perpetrated by white supremacists. We cannot let history repeat itself or allow this country to go backwards.

This is OUR country, all of us of every color and creed. We cannot allow racist hatemongers to destroy it.

#RESIST

How to Get Clients

How to Get Clients

Getting clients is a process, not an event.

You aren’t going to get them by selling your service like you were hawking a Shamwow.

Drop the tiresome, disingenuous, robotic “elevator speeches” as well.

No one likes being sold at. All that does is make people feel like you’re looking at them like they’re your next meal.

It certainly doesn’t foster any real, meaningful connection (and they won’t be able to get away from you fast enough).

There is more finesse involved in marketing a professional service-based business and developing honest rapport with potential clients.

It’s also not that difficult to do:

  1. Decide on a target market. A target market is simply an industry/field/profession you cater your administrative support to. This will give much-needed focus and direction to your administrative solutions, website marketing message, and marketing efforts. In turn, this will make you more interesting, memorable and compelling to potential clients. To learn more about target marketing and how it will help you grow your practice more quickly and easily and make more money, get my free guide on How to Choose a Target Market.
  2. Always be learning and studying your target market’s industry and work nearly as well as your own, almost as if you were going into that business yourself. It will help you understand them and their common needs, goals and challenges more intimately. This will naturally elevate your conversations, marketing message and solutions, making you more attractive to potential clients and raise your value to them.
  3. Network with your target market. This simply means putting yourself out there and talking to the people in your target market (these are your would-be clients after all), contributing to their conversations, adding your ideas, being helpful and making friends. Comment on their blogs. Join their online and offline forums and groups. Attend their business conferences. Read their publications and look for opportunities to get in front of their audience (e.g., Do they have newsletters you can publish or advertise in? Can you interest them in articles or a guest column written by you? Can you purchase ads?).
  4. HAVE A WEBSITE!!! It’s not enough to only have a Facebook page or LinkedIn profile. People want to learn more about you on their own before they will ever contact you for a consultation. Your business website is that vital link that connects your networking and marketing to the next step in the conversion process: pre-educating prospective clients, setting proper expectations and understandings, and prequalifying your ideal clients while organically weeding out those you don’t want. You want to let your website speak for you at this stage. It’s job is to inform your site visitors and potential clients in more depth about who you are, what you do, who you do it for, and how you help them (i.e., how you improve their business and life). Not only will this help you get more consultations, the people who contact you will be more ideal and informed in the way you need them to be and far more likely to go on to become actual clients. If you need help building your website, implementing a proven client-getting process, and crafting your marketing message to get more clients and consultations, get my step-by-step guide, Build a Website that Works.
  5. Direct everyone and everything to your business website. Put the link in all your online and print marketing collateral. If anyone you converse with wants to learn more about what you do, send them to your website. Instruct your friends, colleagues and associates to send people to your website (not give out your email or phone number) when they want to refer someone to you. Provide useful resources your target market will find of value and interest (e.g., a report, a guide, an instruction manual, some kind of e-learning), and invite them sign up from your website to receive those items.

Is the haphazard hunting-and-pecking, trying to reach anyone-and-everyone method working for you?

No? Give these steps a try then and see how much faster and easier you can grow your  practice and get clients.

Where to Find the Hidden Timer in Outlook (Video)

 

I want to share with you a little-known feature in Outlook that you might not be aware of: it’s a task timer!

It’s a little out of the way so I’m going to show you where to find it.

  1. First, go down to your Outlook task bar in the lower left and click on those three little dots.
  2. This brings up some expanded navigation options. Click on “Folders.”
  3. You’ll see there are now some additional folders along the left side navigation list. From there, click on “Journal.”
  4. This brings up the Journal timeline. This is where your journal entries are saved and appear.
  5. When you’re ready to use the timer, click on “Journal Entry” there in the top left. This is where you find the hidden task timer!
  6. Now, fill in the details of your task or activity. First, select an entry type. I tend to use “Task,” but you have several options to choose from.
  7. Then give your entry a good description.
  8. You’ll see that the date and start time are already filled in for you. There’s a big note section below that where you can type anything you like. There’s also a company field where you might want to type in a client name (or, alternatively, you can start your description with the client name like I prefer; either way, you can play around and do whatever works best for you).
  9. Once you’re ready to begin whatever it is you want to track the time on, simply click “Start Timer” and away you go.
  10. When you wish to end recording, click on “Save & Close.” This will stop the timer and save the entry to the Journal timeline.
  11. To check the recorded minutes, go the timeline and click on the entry to open it. The total minutes recorded appear in the “Duration” field.

And that’s it, easy peasy!

A couple quick thoughts on task timing…

If you’ve followed me long, you know that I’m an advocate for ditching the timesheet, stopping the clock-watching and task-timing, and selling value-based solutions instead of hours.

So, in sharing the Outlook timer with you, I’m not suggesting you start tracking all your time and tasks for clients.

That just creates bigger administrative headaches, makes your business and billing more complicated and time-consuming, and limits your earning potential on top of everything.

However, there are certain instances when timing things is useful.

Sometimes, for your own internal use and frame of reference, you want to get an idea of how long certain common tasks or activities take you on average.

You also might want to track time when you are doing work that is separate from and not included in a client’s support plan.

For example, I work with attorneys and charge them a flat monthly fee for a body of administrative support. However, there are limitations to that support, one of which is litigation.

One of the activities that is sometimes (not always) needed in litigation is transcription.

A lot of times, an opposing party will provide pleadings in an uneditable format that a client must respond to.

If we can’t get them to send us an editable version (like Word) and OCR conversion won’t work or would be too time and labor intensive to clean up (quite often it’s easier and takes less time to simply retype something from scratch), that’s when transcription is needed.

However, transcription times can vary greatly, obviously. So, for work of that nature, that is outside the normal scope of a client’s regular monthly support plan, I use the Outlook Journal and timer to keep track of these additional activities so I can bill for them at the next invoicing.

So, I’m curious… did you know about the timer in Outlook? If not, do you think it will come in handy now for you? Let me know in the comments!