Dear Danielle: Client Thinks He Shouldn’t Be Billed for Time on the Phone

Dear Danielle: Client Thinks He Shouldn’t Be Billed for Time on the Phone

Dear Danielle:

Do you bill your clients for time that you speak with them on the phone? I have a client who wants to have phone meetings twice a week. A phone meeting with him can run from 15 minutes to an hour. Yet, he feels that I should not bill for that time. Instead, I should only bill for the time that I am “actually doing work.” (His words…not mine.) —Anonymous by request

Warning, this may be a little ranty, lol

And just to be clear, it’s no way directed toward the person asking the question. I give them all the props in the world for having the courage to ask. That’s how we get help, by asking.

What gets my dander up is more about the ridiculous, ignorant information that continues to be spouted out by business morons that create this kind of thinking in clients and colleagues in the first place.

The idea that in this day and age people in our industry are still asking questions like this as if they need permission from anybody about what they’re allowed to do in their business tells me there’s still an insane amount of employee-mindset going on.

NEWSFLASH: Talking with clients IS part of the work.

When you talk with clients on the phone, that’s part of the service product you’re providing to them.

You are expending business resources (your time) and that time comes at a cost to your business.

You are being a brainstorming partner and sounding board. You’re also presumably offering your own input, ideas, opinions, feedback and expertise in those conversations, which are service products and value your client is benefiting from.

So, um, yeah, you should be charging for that. And it’s not up to ANY client to dictate what you do or don’t charge for or how you charge. If he doesn’t want to pay for it, then he shouldn’t be given it.

Now, all that said, this question points out a few things that are going on in this person’s business that need to be addressed.

  1. This client sounds like he thinks you’re some kind of employee. That means YOU haven’t done a proper job of educating him before ever working together about the fact that you are an independent professional—ahem, a BUSINESS—providing a service and expertise, no different than if he were to hire an attorney or an accountant or a coach, etc. You have GOT to set your prospects and clients STRAIGHT about this right from the get-go (which means you have to get this straight first yourself). You are not an employee. Period. End of story. That’s not how business works. There is no such thing as a 1099 employee. When clients are operating under no delusions about this, they approach the relationship with a more appropriate professional demeanor and respect, and they expect to pay for services they are provided.
  2. You haven’t defined your policies and procedures and your boundaries and parameters thoroughly. This is really business planning 101, which makes me wonder if you’ve done any of that. If you haven’t, go back now and do that. It’s important if you want happy clients and a happy, profitable and long-lived business! How you bill; what you bill for; what is included in the service and what is not; how many phone calls a client is allowed each week; what time limit they get per call; whether or not phone calls are by appointment only and need to be scheduled or not; how regular communication is to be conducted (e.g., email only)… these are just some of the things you need to clarify in your business. And then put all that information in a Client Guide to be given to every new client at the start of the relationship. (By the way: Set-01 The Administrative Consultant Business Set-Up Success Kit in the ACA Success Store includes a New Client Welcome Kit guide and Client Guide template to help you get this sorted in your business.)
  3. The fact that this client is complaining about being charged for phone calls now tells me you did not properly inform him upfront, before working together, how things work in your business. Of course, when you haven’t set your policies and procedures in the first place, how can you inform them upfront, right? Which is why you have to get clear about them first (see #2). You want to eliminate any misunderstandings and surprises as much as possible because those all too frequently become relationship killers.

And while it’s not any client’s business to tell you how to run yours, this does point to several of the reasons I don’t advocate selling hours as a billing methodology:

  1. It puts your interests at odds with each other. You only make more money the more hours you charge, and clients don’t like what they view as being nickeled and dimed.
  2. If you work fast, you are penalized financially while clients are getting the value and benefit of that speed without paying for it.
  3. Everything becomes a transaction which becomes the focus instead of the results, goals and objectives that together you wish to achieve.

Learning how to price, package your support, and talk about fees with clients is an area of business education in and of itself—part art, part science. There is a way to make sure you are paid for the time and value of the service you provide to clients without using time as the measurement and without clients feeling like they are being nickeled and dimed.

I teach a methodology called Value-Based Pricing that unties your earning ability from the hands of the ticking clock, and brings you and the client’s interests back into alignment so you can begin working more truly together with the same goals, intentions and motivations.

The fantastic byproduct of this methodology is that clients never again complain about being charged for this or that because it’s all part of the package.

You can learn more about all that and get my Value-Based Pricing and Packaging self-study guide here >>. (Be sure and watch the video!)

If you have any questions about any of this, please post in the comments and I’m happy to keep the conversation going there.

Hope this helps! (And if you have your own question on a different topic for me, please feel free to submit it here.)

How Do I Deal with a Client Who Constantly Misses Appointments?

How Do I Deal with a Client Who Constantly Misses Appointments?

A good question came up on one of the LinkedIn groups I belong to about a topic that is a frequent source of vexation for people in our industry:

“I have a client that is continuously scheduling my time and then when it’s time to “meet” she is otherwise engaged with family, etc. I understand “things come up,” however this is becoming a pattern. She is not very versed in the world of business and I’m not into giving my time away. This has happened three times now. I plan to begin billing for this time moving forward and want to put a policy in place. Thank you in advance for any guidance or words of wisdom you can share with me!!”

This falls under the category of “we teach our clients how to treat us.”

If a client normally respects your time and keeps their appointments with you, it’s easy to be understanding when life gets in the way and they are unable to give you sufficient notice when they need to cancel or reschedule a meeting with you.

However, once you recognize a pattern, and it’s causing you wasted time, irritation and resentment, that’s when you need to nip things in the bud.

Here are a few ways to help prevent this problem in the first place, as well as what to do when it does occur:

  1. Work with ideal clients. It’s fine to add a policy for the sake of clear understanding and communication (and you would not legally be able to impose fees if that language isn’t in your contract), but there’s something else to consider here: why would you want to work with the kind of clients who would only respect your time under threat of penalty? And what if the added charges don’t deter or change the behavior? You’d still have a PIA (pain-in-the-ass) client causing problems and negative energy in your practice. Examine whether that client is really worth continuing to work with.
  2. Run your business like a business. That means having a professional web presence, proper email and signature lines, formal business policies, documents and procedures, etc. The more you present yourself as a business, the more clients will respect it (and you) as such.
  3. Always have clients sign a contract. A contract isn’t just for legal purposes. It’s also to help clients take you and your business seriously, to view your business as a business. People who see you as a professional are more likely to respect your time.
  4. Include a section in both your contract and your New Client Guide that talks about the importance to the relationship of respecting each other’s time, what your expectations are of them (and that you will extend the same to them) and what the policies are around canceling and missed appointments. For example, how much notice do you ask clients provide if they need to cancel an appointment (this is common courtesy and respect)? Do you charge for missed appointments, and if so, how much? How long will you wait for a late-arriving client before you will no longer meet with them for that day? By informing them upfront what your policy is on this, you are indicating the value and respect you place on your time (as well as that of your other clients and priorities). Personally, I wait no more than 10 or 15 minutes; after that, they will need to reschedule their appointment for the following week. So, this is the other thing that contracts are for: formalizing what your expectations are for each other and the relationship and informing clients how things work in your business.
  5. Don’t be so quick to always instantly respond to clients. I know this sounds counter-intuitive because you want clients to feel you are responsive, but there is such a thing as being a too-eager beaver. When that’s the impression clients have, they think you have nothing better to do than sit there waiting for them to tell you to “jump.” You undermine your own authority in that way. Establish a communication standard in your business of 24-48 hours turn-around time in your replies, whether you have other clients or not. This helps set proper business expectations and clients will respect your time more appropriately.
  6. Don’t let clients slide. As soon as you realize you’ve clearly got a client who has no regard for you or your time, you’ve got to have a conversation about what is going on. Be prepared to fire any client who continues to abuse your time after this conversation. Because by letting them continue to do so, you are teaching them that your word, your time and your value mean nothing and they are free to do as they please and you’re just going to keep taking it. If you don’t respect your boundaries, clients won’t either.
  7. Re-examine your business, your standards, and who you are choosing as clients. If you have clients who continuously abuse your time there are two things going on: a) you are not working with ideal clients (and starting an Ideal Client Profile list is going to help you tremendously), and b) there are areas in your business, how you are presenting it and how you are working with clients that is contributing to this problem. This presents you with a good opportunity to improve your business, who you accept onto your client roster, how you might better communicate your needs and expectations of clients, and how to identify and get better, more ideal clients. Because if you are working with clients too informally, too loosey-goosey, and not being selective about who gets a place on your roster, those are definitely underlying root causes.

I’m Back from my Sundance Festival Road Trip!

I'm Back from My Sundance Festival Road Trip!

I’m back from my Sundance Festival road trip and it was amazing!

I had so much fun and packed so much stuff into a short time frame (left on January 26 and got back Feb 2).

I posted pix of my explorations on our ACA Facebook group. Come join us there if you’d like to take a look. (Note: If you request to join and your profile doesn’t provide any info about your administrative support business, be sure you also message me either on Facebook or by email.)

I just LOVE road trips. Travelling by car is my favorite way to travel because you can go at your own pace, stop when you feel like checking something out, and see cities and countryside up close and personal that you haven’t before.

It’s a much more intimate way to travel and see and explore places that would be bypassed in any other mode of travel.

Some of my road trip highlights:

  • Um, attending the SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL!
  • Meeting and talking with all kinds of interesting industry people from actors to a film composer to filmmakers and others who work behind the camera.
  • Having Robert Redford walk past me so close we actually touched. And yes, he is handsome as ever.
  • Also, walking past George Lucas as he was exiting one of the many celebrity Suburbans that began showing up later in the day on Main St.
  • Shopping for souvenirs and gifts.
  • Having an amazing pedicure in Park City.
  • Getting restaurant recommendations from locals and eating at some amazing places including some fantastic greasy spoons. (For anyone not familiar with the term, a greasy spoon is a high honor. It’s the kind of establishment that is usually locally/independently owned where typically fresh/home-cooked type food is served. These are often the BEST places on the planet for amazing down-home breakfast served any time of day.) I highly recommend No Worries Cafe in Park City.
  • Seeing the Great Salt Lake in person for the first time (I’ve only ever seen it by plane other than that).
  • Seeing country in Oregon, Washington and Idaho I’ve never been to before.
  • Oh, and lots of new souvenir travel magnets to commemorate my travels and explorations!

I'm Back from My Sundance Festival Road Trip

And it was scary crazy how everything worked out so perfectly. This was a totally spontaneous decision to go. I hadn’t actually registered for Sundance this year, didn’t know if I’d be able to even see any films (and if I didn’t, I was okay with that; it was enough just to go), and I thought there was no way in hell there would be any hotel rooms left, especially not without any advance reservation (and if there were, they’d cost a million dollars; most rooms start at $500 during festival week and go up into the thousands.).

I just left and trusted that everything would work out the way it was supposed to. And it did!

Everyone I talked to could not believe how lucky I was. When there were still hundreds of people on waiting lists for tickets, for some reason I scored seats. And the first hotel I called actually had a room available. For some inexplicable reason, they put me in a $500 room and only charged me $129/night (I stayed two nights). The only thing I can think is that I really hit it off with the gal I spoke to on the phone. She loved how I had just hopped in the car and took off.

This trip was also one of personal growth as well as it was the first time I’ve traveled such a distance (3 states!) all by myself.

Since I’d never done anything like this before alone, it was scary to me in a lot of ways.

And I aced it! Not one bit of anxiety being that far from home by myself and not one pang of homesickness (other than being ready for my own comfy cozy bed after a week).

I gained a huge sense of accomplishment and empowerment. It was a reminder to me that the world is my oyster and I can do anything I set my mind to do (and have).

And while I do love travelling with a partner, I also enjoy my own company and meeting and talking to new people immensely.

This trip was a precursor to a bigger plan I’ve had brewing for several years, which is to travel the U.S. (first) and some parts of Canada, meeting my members and colleagues, and seeing the country by car.

I’ve sort of kept it on the down-low because I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. I’m also not one of those people who benefits from putting plans out there as a way to make me accountable to myself. The minute I do that, I get blocked, so I just don’t. And life also simply got in the way.

First, we moved to Europe for a couple years. Then six months after we returned to the U.S. for good, I left my man of 12 years which was a huge, life-changing decision. Then I wasn’t sure how to even undertake something like this all by myself. And then my dad’s health took a turn for the worse and I had to put him first and help care for him.

Once we got dad’s health stabilized in January, I decided to make this trip to do something for me to recharge and renew.

I'm Back from My Sundance Festival Road Trip

I’ve long been a lover and devotee of independent film so it was perfect timing and the festival gave me a great destination focal point.

And besides being a business networking/writing retreat, I had also wanted to try to meet a few colleagues along the way. This trip was pretty much a spur-of-the-moment decision and since I announced it so last minute (like, the day I was leaving, lol), by the time I had heard from three Portland area colleagues, I was already near Idaho.

So, I did learn a lot of things in this first trip which are going to help me in my next member/colleague meeting travels:

  1. After a certain point, you have to stop planning and trying to identify every little detail and JUST DO IT! There’s no way you can figure everything out upfront and too much planning can easily become a procrastination vehicle.
  2. One of the things that was stopping me before was trying to figure out how I was going to accomplish a full cross-country trip. What I realize now is that the best way I’m going to accomplish it is doing it in different legs, not all in one shot. For example, I’m thinking my next trip will be down the Pacific coast and/or I5 corridor through Oregon and California and than maybe over to Nevada with a turn-around for the return leg of the trip in Sedona, NM. I haven’t completely figured out how I’ll work any midwest and east coast and southern legs, but I’m thinking for those trips, it might make sense to fly somewhere once I’ve mapped out that particular travel route, and then rent or lease a vehicle there. Anything west of the midwest states, I can use my own car.
  3. I love to travel and I can and have continued running my business and taking care of clients on the road (even in a different country). However, I do work best from my main command center (my home office, lol) and the luxury of my big main computer. I do not prefer working on a laptop. I can and have, but it’s not how I do my best work. In recognizing this, I can plan accordingly. And all the more reason why I will benefit from doing these trips in mini-stages instead of one long stretch. That way, I can come back to home base, regroup and then go on the next leg of the journey at a time that’s optimal for me.
  4. I need to figure out how to monetize the venture so that besides the expenses being a business write-off, it also funds itself instead of just being an expense. That includes putting more focus and attention on sales from the ACA Success Store. I’m thinking that in addition to just meeting up with my industry mentors and colleagues, I could offer some paid in-person, day or half-day consulting and coaching spots for those who want to take advantage of the opportunity while I’m in their city or town.
  5. There are people who are super smart about getting sponsors and things like that for trips like this. I would love to learn more about that, but currently I’m not one of them and I’m okay with that about myself right now. And the thing is, I don’t really want to make a huge production out of things. Because once that becomes the case, for me, it takes the joy out of it and then I don’t want to do it. I can’t let not having sponsors to make these trips pay for themselves be the thing that stops me from doing it.
  6. I need to find the balance between being spontaneous (which is what “does it” for me) and not having everything turned into a big production, and planning and making announcements with enough advance notice that people CAN have enough time to plan on meeting up when I’m in their city. What I know about myself, bad or good, is that I am commitment phobic, lol. Not about taking care of clients or anything like that. I don’t know where it comes from (though it does seem to be something I developed when my first/late husband passed away nearly 20 years ago). I just know that the minute I have to RVSP to something is the second I absolutely, positively don’t want to go. I know, it’s crazy. But that’s just me. Therefore, I know I wouldn’t do well making a big deal out of planning a meet-up, securing a specific venue or conference room, yada, yada, yada. Yuck! I hate that stuff! I like to keep things casual, informal, personal. What I envision is letting my peeps know (on the blog, via the ACA mailing list, etc.) that I am close to their city and inviting them to contact me to meet up. Then when I hear from someone, asking them where a great spot would be to get together, a fun restaurant or pub or something, and once we decide that, inviting others in the area to join us. Casual, see?

I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t know how it will all work out. And I don’t have any specific time frames right now. But that’s where all the magic, fun and adventure of it is!

If I was to come to your area, would you like to meet up for a meal, do something fun together, or maybe be my tour guide for a day? What do you like to do for fun and/or what would you show me in your city? I’m game for just about anything. (Except skydiving. I have no desire to skydive and I’m okay with that, lol.)

Would you love an opportunity for private, one-on-one, in-person business consulting and guidance if I came to your city? I’m exceptionally gifted at identifying where people need help in their business, but tell me, what areas of your business would YOU like more help with?

Whether You Think You Can or Think You Can’t, You’re Right

Whether You Think You Can or Think You Can't, You're Right

This quote stuck out to me after reading (yet another) a post on a business forum by someone who wanted to start her business, but had just lost her job, had no money, lived in a rural area… and so on and so forth.

She had every excuse in the book about how there was absolutely nothing she could do about her circumstances.

I wanted to point out to her, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right.” ;)

Whether You Think You Can or Think You Can't, You're Right

She was looking at all the negatives and resigning herself to her circumstance—and victimhood—instead of focusing on what she COULD do, what opportunities she COULD find or create for herself, what circumstances she could change and which actually had more options available to her than the ones she was resigning herself to if she just put her mind to it.

I’m not saying certain challenging circumstances don’t exist. I’m no Pollyana when it comes to facing facts.

There IS a difference, however, in taking stock of what IS and acknowledging those things, and staying stuck in self-pity and creating self-fulfilling prophesies.

How you deal with the hand you are dealt and what you do to make optimum use of that hand is going to determine your success not only in business, but in life.

Instead of lamenting about everything that is wrong, focus on what is RIGHT and how you can go about making lemonade about of whatever lemons you’ve got in your basket at the moment.

Put on your thinking cap and you can always create new possibilities for yourself and your life.

May not be easy, it may even be incredibly difficult (who said it was all supposed to be easy anyway?). It might be something you’d rather not have to do (and don’t have to do forever), but there is ALWAYS a way forward, a way out, a way around, a way up.

It all depends on your own outlook.

Headed to Sundance Today! Wanna Meet Up?

Headed to Sundance! Wanna Meet Up?

I am on my way to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah today!

Anyone live near my route? I’ll be going through Portland, Oregon, then east through southern Idaho, and then south to Park City, Utah.

Maybe we could meet up along the way either on my way there or on the way back.

Give me a shout on Facebook or shoot me an email. I’d love to meet you!

Download Your Free Copy

How to Choose Your Target Market

Happy Sunday! :)

I just completed an updated version of my guide How to Choose Your Target Market.

Clarified some concepts and instructions that I think will help people more easily wrap their brains around target marketing and how to choose the right one for them.

Even if you already have this guide, this is a new and improved up-to-date version so you’ll definitely want to grab your copy (it’s still free!).

You will build your business, get clients and make more money more quickly and easily with a target market.

Having a target market makes EVERYTHING easier in your business.

Here’s the link: How to Choose Your Target Market

How Do You Know If a Potential Client Will Be a Good One?

How Do You Know If a Potential Client Will Be a Good One?

Someone on one of the LinkedIn groups I belong to asked this question not long ago:

I have a client that I really don’t think can handle a virtual work situation. She doesn’t communicate well, doesn’t want to set aside time that I can ask questions about work. She expects me to understand everything the first time she tells me. I could go on. I want to learn from this situation and compile some questions I can ask future potential clients to determine if they can work virtually with me. Any ideas?

My advice to her?

Run away, lol.

You already see the red flags. This is not someone who is likely to make for a good client, and will probably end up making you pull your hair out.

Start a list called Unideal Client Profile. Then, list each characteristic you’ve listed in your post.

Whenever you are tempted to step over your standards and ignore when your gut is telling you someone is not a good client candidate, take that list out to remind you why you don’t want to take on any client like that.

Unideal client are far too costly and unprofitable to work with. They cost your business far more than you realize, and not just monetarily.

The psychological toll they take is not anything you can afford.

Every unideal client takes up 3-4 times the space in your practice that an ideal client does because an unfit client generates huge negative energy that drains you while ideal clients create positive reciprocal energy that invigorates you.

You also want to start your Ideal Client Profile and add the opposite of these characteristics to that list.

Every time you realize a positive or negative attribute of a prospect or client, add those to your lists. This is an exercise you should conduct throughout the life of your business.

These lists help you get conscious and intentional about the clients you choose by documenting and formalizing your standards around who is the best fit for you—and who isn’t.

You never want to take on any ol’ client just for the money. That’s where 90% of problems start in the first place.

And you can’t serve well and do your best work for any client who simply isn’t a good mutual fit. It would actually be unethical to take that kind of client on.

The other part of this is using your website to prequalify prospective clients.

So in the course of your website content and marketing message, you want to make clear the kind of clients you’re looking to work with, who you work best with, what kind of clients benefits most from working with you and this way of working together (this is your ideal client) as well as who doesn’t (your unideal client, the client who isn’t a good fit for working with you). These Ideal and UN-Ideal Client Profiles help you with that.

There’s a whole host of other ways you can prequalify clients, but this is a start.

These steps will help you avoid wasting precious time in conversations and consultations with people who don’t fit that initial level of qualification as a good client candidate.

(And if you want to save yourself all kinds of angst and wasted time, money and effort and start getting more ideal clients and more action from your website, check out my Build a Website that WORKS guide.)

It’s My Birthday (and a Special Deal for you Today Only)

It's my birthday (and a special deal for you today only!)

It’s my birthday! I’m eating cake today and no one is going to stop me, lol.

In honor of my birthday, I have a special deal for you:

Today only, you can get my Build a Website that WORKS marketing guide for half off!

Just type this code into the discount field when you check out and you’ll get this guide for only $74.50: itsmybirthday

One of the biggest problems in our industry is a proliferation of websites all saying the same things. Here’s how this happens:

When someone is new in business, they have no idea where or how to start crafting their website and marketing message.

So what do they do?

They look around at everyone else in the industry, see what they are doing and saying, and just imitate that (or worse, straight up copy and plagiarize).

They think, “Oh, this is what everyone else in the industry is doing and saying. That must be what I’m supposed to be doing and saying on my website, too.”

And then that’s exactly what they do.

So this is a common practice, but it’s not a good one when it comes to putting together your website and crafting your marketing message in a way that gets you results–i.e., CLIENTS.

The problem with this is they are assuming the masses know something they don’t.

What they fail to realize is those people did exactly the same thing as they are doing now, without any more knowledge or understanding–or success.

It’s this crazy, self-perpetuating cycle of monkey-see, monkey-do with people copying people who aren’t doing any better than they are.

On top of that, all copying what everyone else in the industry is doing and saying does is make you and your business that much more invisible in the marketplace. You need to stand out, not blend in.

In fact, websites that all do and say the same thing is one of the top complaints I hear year after year from clients who contact me. It’s completely frustrating to them.

And when you don’t give prospective clients any reason to see you as different, they always resort to price-shopping. Because all you are to them then is another box on a shelf… a commodity (the kiss of death).

You have to keep in mind: you are not your ideal client. And our own industry is not your prospective client or target market. You can’t look at things through your eyes or the lens of our own industry.

So now you might be thinking, “Well, if I shouldn’t do that, what DO I do? How DO I figure out how to write my own marketing message in a way that differentiates me and resonates with those I’d like to be my clients?”

That is exactly what you get with my guide, Build a Website that WORKS!

You don’t even need to be a good writer (which is another myth people believe).

Not only do I share with you my own conversion system and exactly how to implement it on your own website in a way that is unique to you, I walk you step by step by step through the process of writing your own unique, compelling marketing message that speaks your target market’s language.

With my original patented, proprietary plug-n-play tool, your copy will practically write itself. There is no easier way to put together a website and craft your marketing message anywhere that I’ve seen.

So check out Build a Website that WORKS!, and if it’s for you, be sure to take advantage of this one day half-off offer. It’s gone tomorrow so act now.

(Have some cake today, too!)

Until Further Notice, Celebrate Everything!

Until Further Notice, Celebrate EVERYTHING!

May you have a joyful holiday full of wonder, beauty and, most of all, love.

And if I don’t “see” you until 2015, may your New Year be merry and bright.

I’ve been running myself so ragged this past month taking care of my ailing papa that I got a darn cold and will celebrating Christmas in bed this year, (which maybe isn’t such a bad thing, lol).

So, if you have sweet or funny stories to share from your holiday, I’d love to hear them!

And until further notice, celebrate EVERYTHING!

xoxo

Danielle