What You Call Yourself IS Training Clients How to Treat You

What You Call Yourself IS Training Clients How to Treat You

Something I like to remind people of frequently: When you are a business owner, you are not anyone’s assistant… for both legal and practical reasons.

It’s so funny how threatened the minions in the VA world are by the Administrative Consultant term.

They try every which way to discredit it. They want SO much for you to stay down in the weeds with them. How DARE you think more highly of yourself and what you do and hold it in higher esteem than they who are too scared to call themselves anything other than “assistant.”

Was listening to a long video conversation where someone asked a group of VAs what they thought about calling themselves something like Administrative Consultant and they said things like “I don’t care what they call me as long as they pay me.” “A consultant is someone who only tells people what to do, they don’t actually do the work so no one is going to hire you.” (We are not “consultants”; we are ADMINISTRATIVE Consultants–read the definition.) “My clients don’t care what I am called. It’s how I educate them and set boundaries.”

In the same breath they talk about not being able to charge the fees they want and need, about having clients who think of them as employees at their instant beck and call, about having clients who don’t respect them as business owners, about having to constantly educate and remind clients that they are business owners, not employees, about being treated and spoken to with a lack of respect for what they do, about not being able to get clients period… the list goes on and on.

What you also don’t hear or get to see is that a lot (if not most) of these people are NOT making a lot of money either, much less an amount they can actually live on. They are charging paltry hourly wages and slaving away day after day, week after week, working with anyone they can get just to keep some money coming in.

The fact that they try to malign the term only serves to emphasize its firm, established foothold and growing reach.

They did make one important point: It is about education. And client management and education starts before they ever become clients.

But let me be clear: No amount of education and conversation is going to fix that when you turn right around and call yourself an assistant. You wouldn’t even need to have those constant, tiresome, annoying coming-to-Jesus boundaries and “education” conversations with clients if you didn’t call yourself an assistant in the first place.

And that’s exactly what the Administrative Consultant term is about.

Marketing is about education. And your term is the very first place that you are educating and training prospects–before they ever become clients–that you are a business owner and how they should view you and treat the relationship (i.e., as a business-to-business one, client-to-engaged expert, not as employer-to-employee/gopher).

That then shapes their demeanor and attitude toward you–not as their little assistant there to do their bidding, but as an expert in administration whose work and expertise is valuable and can actually move them forward in their business.

It’s the critical shift in their perception of who you are in relation to them and what you do that makes all the difference in your ability to charge higher fees and not have them balk… because you are an expert in their eyes whom they are hiring to help them accomplish a goal and improve their life and business. And they expect to pay higher fees to pay someone with an expertise.

It’s one of the things that is going to help you get better, more ideal clients.

I could care less about those who want to keep calling themselves assistants. Who cares what they do?

Who I care about is YOU, someone who has matured beyond an entry level sensibility in business and is ready to graduate to a higher level and gain a more sophisticated understanding of business in professional service so you can market better in order to have a better life, get and work with better clients, and charge higher fees and make more money.

That said, here’s what you have to understand if you want to get there: At some point, you are going to have to let go of trying to keep your feet in both worlds. You’re never going to get the buy-in of the people in the VA world who are committed to keeping everyone at their level. Those people don’t get it, are committed to not getting it (because, gasp, that would mean actually learning something new), and are threatened by it (although how they think what you do in your business has anything to do with them is beyond me).

Keeping yourself in that kind of company is going to keep you from growing. Stop asking them what they think. What do YOU think? And if it’s something you’re ready to learn, ask the people who are doing it (like me 😉 ).

I also want to make this clear… really think about this: It would be SO MUCH easier for me to stay on the VA bandwagon. I could be making so much more money off those people feeding them all the same regurgitated crap they copy and parrot off one another.

So why don’t I do that? Why make things more difficult for myself? Why set myself in the gun sights of the VA trolls and bullies? (What’s ironic is that the same people who love to bash me also rip off my stuff at the same time. Such integrity, I tell ya.) Why not just exploit everyone for my own financial gain?

Because it’s garbage. And it goes against every value and belief I have.

I’m not in this to prey on people. I’m here to make a change. Because I am PASSIONATE about helping teach my colleagues how to change their mindset about themselves, how they view who they are and what they do as administrative experts, to hold themselves in higher esteem so they can learn how to change their conversation in their marketing and in turn get better clients and charge higher fees.

And that ALL starts with your language and the terms you use.

Results Colleagues Are Getting Using the ACA Business Training Products

Results My Colleagues Are Getting Using the ACA Business Training Products

It’s always so happy-making to hear of the great results my colleagues get after studying my business training and learning guides from the ACA Success Store.

One of my favorite colleagues, De’Lona Moultrie, who invested in The Whole Shebang, recently shared the fabulous success she has been having after following my consultation process included in that set:

Results My Colleagues Are Getting Using the ACA Business Training Products

As I also told Dee, I can only share my experience and expertise and what I know works. It’s YOU who makes the magic happen in your practice, and she is obviously bringing it!

Thank you for allowing me to share this, Dee. Much love and continued success to you!

10 Tips for Cleaning Up Your Email, Online and Print Document Files for the New Year

10 Tips for Cleaning Up Your Email, Online and Print Document Files for the New Year

How is your new year going so far? Splendidly I hope!

Following up from my last post on prepping your calendar for ease and success, the next thing I do to gear up for the new year is clean out my email, online and paper files.

This exercise helps me clear space for fresh, new opportunities and possibility — both mentally and in practical terms. Maybe some of my tips will help you, too. :)

  1. EMAIL: Organize your email folders according to whatever system you employ. I pretty much always keep my emails organized so I don’t tend to have a ton of work here. How I organize my client emails is by client last name. Under each client, I have folders for each month of the year (e.g., “0116” for January 2016). Labeling them numerically keeps them in sequential order. And because I work with attorneys and we go by client matter, I then have folders under each month for each client matter. It may seem like a lot of work, but when you are dealing with a lot of accounts and information and often having to refer back to different things, this is what works best for me and my clients. The search function, I’ve found, is woefully inadequate, inconsistent and unreliable. I’ve thanked myself on more occasions than I can count for putting in this little bit of effort upfront.
  2. EMAIL: At the end of every month (or on your weekly Admin day), sort your sent and received emails into their respective folders.
  3. EMAIL: In January (this month!), archive your previous year email folders. You can archive the PST file or simply put them into a year folder for each client. For example, create a 2015 folder for each client and move the monthly folders for that year there.
  4. ONLINE FILES: Organize your online file folders similar to your email organizing system. For example, in my practice, each client has a main folder by last name. Under each client, there are matter and subject folders. Under each client matter or subject folder are monthly folders. I use a numbering/dating system that keeps documents organized sequentially. For example: (Matter Number) SMITH 2016 0101 Description. Using this or a similar system, your files will be automatically organized as you work throughout each month so no other effort is required.
  5. ONLINE FILES: In January, create a 2015 folder under each client/matter and move the monthly folders there.
  6. ONLINE FILES: When it comes to documents and files, I try to keep as much electronically as possible. If you’re looking to go more electronic and convert paper documents to PDF, I highly recommend the Fujitsu ScanSnap products as they make quick work of scanning multiple, two-sided pages into PDF. Of course, it’s still very useful to have a flatbed scanner as well and you can get that with a good all-in-one printer. I tend to like HP’s products.
  7. ONLINE FILES: That said, we can’t get away from print documents entirely. For example, I’m not going to tear apart a 100-page health insurance guide and scan it to PDF. That wouldn’t be a good use of my time and when it comes to those kind of things, I prefer them to read them in print anyway. So my tip here is not to get too OCD when it comes converting to PDF just for the sake of going electronic. Be smart about how much time you spend on it and what kind of documents you put the effort into.
  8. PRINT FILES: As far as organizing print files, I have a two-drawer lateral file and hanging files for that. I organize files by subject and color-coded tabs. Clear is for miscellaneous subjects. Green is for clients/income/accounts receivable files. Yellow is for employee/contractor/HR files. Red is for vendors and accounts payable files. And blue is for tax/license/legal/financial files. I tend to keep the green, yellow and blue files all together in their own color sections while I file the clear and red-tabbed folders together alphabetically.
  9. PRINT FILES: In January, create 2015 folders for any subjects that collect a lot of date-related material and archive your documents accordingly. Keep in mind your state and federal rules for how long you are required to keep business files, which generally tend to be 7-10 years.
  10. Add a date and reminder on your calendar to do this again next year.
  11. BONUS TIP: SHRED EVERYTHING! Having been a private investigator in a previous life, safety, security and confidentiality are always concerns of high priority, for myself and for my clients. With that in mind, I keep shredder within arm’s reach of my desk and scanner. If you’re in the market for a shredder, my advice is to ignore the cheap ones. They have smaller feed capacity, get clogged clogged too easily, have their blades warp and burn up their motors too quickly. For just a little bit more money, you can get a better quality one that’ll last for years. I would get one that shreds into little diamonds (not strips) and that has a larger feed capacity (the one I have has a feed capacity of 6 pages at a time).

Power Productivity & Biz Management for Administrative ConsultantsRESOURCE: Get my entire practice management system with more in-depth examples and illustrations over at the ACA Success Store: Power Productivity & Biz Management: The 14 Simple Systems that Will Breathe Freedom, Flexibility and LIFE Back into Your Business and Client Relationships

14 Quick Steps to Prep Your 2016 Calendar for Ease and Success

10 Quick Steps to Prep Your 2016 Calendar for Ease & Success

The new year is two days away and if you haven’t yet, now is a good time to prep your calendar to take 2016 in ease and stride.

One of the ways to facilitate your freedom and success is to be prepared for it. That means taking charge of your time by being conscious about all that you have on your plate and creating space for important actions, events and goals. Your calendar is the starting point for this.

This should take you no more than 30 minutes; if you’re using calendar software, even less time than that.

  1. Block out all holidays for the year. Be sure to block out any extra days as well (e.g., two days for Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s holidays).
  2. Block out all personal days for the year that you plan to be closed (e.g., birthdays, anniversaries).
  3. Block out all known/intended vacation dates (or any other weeks/days that you intend to take off for whatever reason).
  4. Block out any known business events, training, conferences, etc., you plan to attend. Steps 1-4 before anything else is important because taking care of you and your business is always first priority. You can’t take great care of anyone else unless you first take great care of yourself. I’m also an advocate for taking plenty of time off from your business. The more time you take to recharge your energy and creativity, the better your business and clients are for it.
  5. Next, block out your Admin Days for the year. Using the repeat/recurring function, schedule them through January 2017.* An Admin Day is the one day of the week you devote strictly to your business administration and personal development. For example, Mondays are my “business days” where I am officially closed. I don’t do any client work; instead, I focus on taking care of my own business and use that time for administration and planning, research and development, learning, etc. I shade out that time because it makes me conscious about not making any appointments on that day. If you don’t need a full day, block at least half a day (e.g., Mondays from 8a – 12p).
  6. Then, block out your regularly scheduled weekly client meetings for the year. For example, Tuesday is the day of the week I use for my weekly retainer client meetings. Each client gets a one or half-hour time slot, same time each week, with a half hour or 15 minutes of buffer time between meetings. I established this practice when I realized how much more difficult it was for me to dive into work and maintain momentum when I had meetings scattered all over the course of the week. I’m much more productive when I keep them to one day and know I won’t have to interrupt my work and concentration the rest of the week.
  7. Carry over other regular meetings. Review this year’s calendar. If you have regular weekly or monthly meetings, be sure to carry-over and repeat those as well, Perhaps you have a weekly call with your business coach on Tuesdays at 3p and a monthly board meeting at 1p on the third Wednesday of every month. Get all of these regularly scheduled appointments on your calendar for the entire year.
  8. Block out lunches and breaks if you are someone who has trouble remembering to take time away from your desk and computer. This might seem silly and unnecessary, especially since we business owners can eat or take a break any time we like. But if you are someone who has difficulty maintaining boundaries, these can serve as daily reminders to be conscious about taking care of yourself. Taking breaks is super important, not only for your personal health, but the health of your business—you can’t take excellent care of others unless you first take excellent care of yourself. Remember, you want a humanly/sustainably paced business, not a business that leaves you no breathing room and leads to burn-out and overwhelm.
  9. Carry over regular weekly and monthly task reminders and other important to-do’s. For example, downloading and reconciling bank statements.
  10. Mark important dates. Are there client birthdays, anniversaries or other important dates you want to remember on a regular basis? Are there important goal dates and benchmarks you want to be reminded of? Add them to your calendar!
  11. If you have share an online calendar with any of your clients, repeat steps 1-6 there as well so they are aware of when you will be closed/unavailable. Likewise, by adding your weekly client meeting to their calendar for the year (step #6), no one has to spend any further time on scheduling.
  12. Rinse and repeat for your clients (if helping organize their calendars is something you happen to do).
  13. Schedule a To-Do in November to “Prep next year’s calendar.” If you’re using an online calendar, set it with a couple advance reminders.
  14. And while you’re at it, schedule a reminder in December to archive the current year’s documents and emails (more on that in another post).

* This is so that when January rolls around, if you’ve forgotten or been delayed or sidetracked in prepping your calendar in December, you can simply click on each recurring/repeating event and update the end date.

Cheers to a fantastic new year for us all!

May Your Holidays Be Merry and Bright!

Happy Holidays from Danielle Keister & and Administrative Consultants Association

After getting my nails done last Saturday, I fully intended on going straight home.

I ended up shopping until 11:30 pm, all for myself.

Am I a terrible person? lol

In my defense, they had some fantastic sales going on. I got the best pair of jeans for $20. TWENTY BUCKS, people! Just doing my part to stimulate the economy. 😉

Plus, all joking aside, other than shopping for the blankets, socks and outerwear I bring to the homeless shelter every year, my family and I decided we weren’t going to be exchanging tangible gifts this year.

We have no little ones to shop for in the family. (I am having glamma pangs, though, so daughter, Imma need you to get right on that, mmmkay?)

We’re all grown, don’t need anything; anything we really want, we can buy ourselves. And none of us wants or needs more “stuff.”

It’s also been a pretty trying year for all of us with one crisis after another with my dad, who has Parkinson’s disease and increasing dementia related to the disease.

None of us has any desire this year to waste what precious little free time and energy we have getting caught up in the Christmas shopping frenzy.

So, I told my family I was opting out, and they all heartily agreed.

Instead, we decided any gifts we exchanged would be of the time/experience variety: being together and doing things together. That’s what we all truly value and cherish most.

I talked to my family about how important this time we have right now is in creating new, special memories with our dad as a family while we’re still able to, especially since we don’t know how much longer he will be with us, either mentally or physically.

Creating fresh moments and experiences that aren’t all centered around taking care of him (which can be extremely draining and frustrating) will be such a blessing when that time comes. It’s important that those are not our only last memories of him, and to create some happy, joyful ones that are a break from the day-to-day, for him and for us.

We did this on 4th of July. I had everyone over to my house on the beach. The weather was gorgeous. We talked and laughed. We ate delicious food. We sat and walked on the beach and dipped our toes in the water. We watched some Doc Martin. We had a couple beers. We lit our own fireworks, and in the evening we watched the community fireworks all along the shores.

Getting my dad out of the house can be difficult and he tires easily these days so I couldn’t believe he actually agreed to it. But I know he’s so happy he did. We all still laugh and talk about that day. It was so fun and magical and wonderful.

In that spirit, we are going to the mountains for Christmas. When I first suggested it, I really wasn’t expecting dad to want to go and again was shocked that he agreed.

My dad used to collect TR3s when I was growing up and the inn and restaurant we’ll be going to has all kinds of fond memories for him from his car club days when he would pile mom and us kids all in for roadtrips to the mountain.

It’s turned into the perfect plan and we’re all really looking forward to it!

So, dear friends, my heartfelt wish for you is, no matter what difficulties you may be going through right now, that you are able to carve a moment out to tell your loved ones how much you love them (no matter what difficult, conflicted relationship you might have), give them a big smooch and a squeeze, and spend some good, quality time laughing and enjoying each other’s company.

You will be so grateful you did for the rest of your life. Because it’s not the “stuff” you will remember; it’s these expressions of love and memories of time spent together that will lift your spirit.

May your joys be many and your burdens light this holiday season and in the year to come!

xoxo,

Danielle

Dear Danielle: How Can I Turn this Employer into a Client?

Dear Danielle: How Can I Turn this Employer into a Client

Dear Danielle:

I work for a small business and the majority of my job is done offsite and remotely. When I came into the business there were no systems in place, no manuals or training tools available and patients accounts were all out of balance. I have worked to restore these areas in addition to the accounts receivables. I am no longer able to ignore the nagging pull to launch out and begin my own administrative support business. However, I feel that I can retain my current employer as a client. I am costing them more I believe. I have been paid by the hour as an employee and it has been a tremendous cost to get things up and running more smoothly. Now that I understand all the inner workings of the business, offered my advice as well as support, I feel my inside job has come to an end. There are many more factors to list but I don’t want to take advantage of your time. Please tell me your thoughts on this. How I should move forward? —Anonymous by request

Hi Anonymous :)

Thanks for your question.

If you feel you can turn this employer into a client, go for it.

Since you asked me, though, I’m going to let you know why former employers don’t make for the best of clients.

  1. Employers tend to want to keep working with you in the same old ways. That’s a problem because when you are running a business, there is necessarily going to be a difference in when and how you work together. You can’t be at their instant beck and call the way you were when you worked for them as an employee. They had your undivided time and attention because you were their employee, being paid to be dedicated solely to them 9-5. But as a business owner, you have other clients to serve, other important duties to attend to (or you will have, and you have to operate and plan your business around that eventuality). You simply are not going to be able to work with them in the same way as you did when you were an employee, not if you are going to grow your business and have time and room to work with other clients. And that’s not a transition that many employers are able or willing to make.
  2. Not all, of course, but generally employers are employers for a reason. Many very specifically want employees who are dedicated solely to their interests and to whom they can dictate hours, roles and duties. Likewise, some workloads simply require in-house dedicated staff. Contrary to popular belief, not every business/client is a good fit for what we do. Trying to fit square pegs into round holes is an effort in futility. Why bang your head against that wall when there are others far more suited to (and interested in) being clients rather than employers?
  3. Past employers tend to resist changes. They only know you and the relationship they had with you in one context — employee. This can be problematic and make it incredibly difficult for them to see you in a new and different light, which is necessary if the business relationship is going to be successful. It is absolutely vital that clients understand the relationship in a business-to-business context and that there is going to be an entirely different dynamic at play. But past employers tend to be stuck in employer/worker bee mindset and want to keep you in that box and treat the relationship like that. What that means is, instead of extending you professional courtesy and respect and viewing you as their administrative expert and trusted advisor, many can be stuck in a pattern of barking orders at you and thinking it’s their place to dictate everything. A client who doesn’t understand he is a client, not an employer, has a whole different demeanor in his communication and behavior, and not for the better. And that just does not work in a business-to-business relationship.
  4. Their preconceived notions or relationship with you can limit their thinking and keep you boxed in. When you start a business and consult with fresh potential clients, it so much easier to educate them and manage their expectations in the way you need them to be because you’re working with a clean slate, so to speak.

That said, if you think this employer has good client potential despite the above, there are things you can do to help facilitate a successful new business-to-business relationship:

  1. Have a consultation process. If you don’t have one, you can get that with my Client Consultation Guide.
  2. Never take shortcuts with your consultation process. What I mean by that is, many people think because they already know and have a previous relationship with a potential client (such as the case with a former/current employer) they don’t have to conduct a full and thorough consultation. And that’s a really bad idea. Because part of what the consultation process does (at least if you are following my client consultation process) is it helps give proper context for your new business-to-business relationship with each other. This helps employers-turned-clients understand the new relationship so they can treat it and conduct themselves accordingly. It helps these past employers view you not as their employee/worker bee, but respect you as a business owner, someone who is going to now be their administrative partner/expert and trusted advisor. It also helps them understand that there are going to be necessary and significant differences in how and when you work together.
  3. Have a Client Guide ready to give to new or prospective clients. A client guide is a map, or decoder ring, if you will, written in friendly, positive, client-centric language that informs clients about how things work in your business, what your policies, procedures and protocols are, what your standards and expectations are for working together, and what rights and expectations they may have with regard to the work and results. This is another tool that helps facilitate a successful relationship moving forward and gives former employers/new clients proper context. It helps them see you as a business and no longer their employee. If you don’t already have one, you will get a free Client Guide Template included as a bonus when you purchase Set-01 (the Administrative Support Business Set-Up Success Kit) from the ACA Success Store.
  4. Have a proper business website and direct your past employer/potential client to it. And by “proper” I mean it is set up and populated with content that will inform and educate prospective clients about what you do, how you do it and how it helps them. This is another way you pre-educate clients in the way you need them to be and set and manage proper business expectations and understandings in them, which in turn helps them view and interact with you as a business owner (and not their employee). If you don’t have a website yet or your current website isn’t getting good results, be sure to check out my Build a Website that WORKS guide. This guide tells you exactly how to create a business website that gets results — i.e., more consult requests and ideal clients.
  5. Always use a contract. This is another area where people do themselves a huge disservice by taking shortcuts. They think just because they already know the person, they don’t have to go through those motions. But here again, a contract is another tool the use of which extends far beyond its mere practical application. Besides making sure the terms of the relationship are clear and in writing, just having a contract and going through the contract signing process helps former-employers-turned-clients understand the new business-to-business context, which helps ensure a successful working relationship moving forward.

There was something else I wanted to address that is a common misstep for new business owners: thinking your value is all about being cheaper than an employee.

Let me say this loud and clear: your job is not to be cheap.

Your job as a business is to deliver a service that improves the life and business of the client. And that costs whatever it costs.

Value, in the context of a professional service business, is not about discounts and savings and two-for-one specials.

Value is about how the results of your work improves their circumstances and makes business and life better and easier for the client, how it helps them achieve their overall goals and objectives.

This is a frequent topic on my blog so I have a little bit of homework for you. I want you to read these blog posts to help you overcome the scarcity/poverty/employee mindset that new business owners are so commonly susceptible to:

In fact, I have a whole category on my blog on this topic that is extremely eye-opening and empowering for everyone: Value Is Not About the Money

And remember that you are not your ideal client. You can’t base your business decisions and fees on what you would pay or could afford to pay.

Because that’s not how your ideal client thinks or operates, and you’ll never build a financially solvent, sustainable or successful business if you stay stuck in that mindset.

Your ideal client is one who is quality-minded and can well afford professional services. This client values administrative support because he understands this is the work that will help achieve his big picture goals and objectives. This client therefore wants a highly-skilled administrative expert and partner (not an order-taker) who will lead, guide and advise him in the administrative process with a view toward results.

As Seth Godin so elegantly put it recently: “You are not a task rabbit. You’re a professional doing unique work that matters.”

Are There People Around You Who Want to Keep You from Growing?

Are There People Around You Who Want to Keep You from Growing?

I was listening to This American Life this weekend on the radio as is my usual Saturday morning ritual.

One segment, Mon Ami Ta-Nehisi Coates, had me reflecting about how your life and world-view changes when you are in business, and how some of your relationships can change (or even end) as you grow and perhaps make more money and become more successful in your business and life.

In the segment, producer Neil Drumming talks with his long-time friend, Ta-Nehisi Coates, about Coates’ newfound fame and their friendship in that new context.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, for those who don’t know, is a celebrated American writer and journalist who has been hailed as the next James Baldwin. With the publishing of his latest book, he found himself suddenly famous and rich, which doesn’t always set well with those who “knew you when.”

The overarching take-away I got from their conversation was Drumming’s discomfort with Coates success and improved financial circumstances.

It seemed to me he felt that Coates “newfound” tastes and interests were pretentious, that he was getting a bit uppity simply for enjoying the fruits of his success, that since he came from more modest roots, that’s exactly where his tastes and interests should stay.

But whose problem is that? Is it Coates’ or Drumming’s?

Think about that.

Whether Coates’ success was something he methodically sought to achieve or came as an unexpected surprise, why shouldn’t he be interested in and partake of experiences he now has access to?

If the shoe were on the other foot, wouldn’t Drumming (and anyone else) do the same?

Or would he deprive himself of all this life and success now afforded him just to please other people’s sensibilities of who and how he should be in the world and what status level he should keep himself at? Why should he do that?

I see this dynamic at work in our industry as well.

Those in my circle have grown a more sophisticated sense about business and our place in the business world.

As a result, we ditched the “assistant” moniker long ago because it held us back in our business dealings and earning potential by keeping us mired in employee/less-than/subservient mentality, even in ways we weren’t fully conscious of.

Business owners aren’t assistants; the word isn’t even a term of business so it has no place in our vocabulary.

It also negatively influenced clients, causing them to think of the relationship more in terms of employer/worker instead of (correctly) a business-to-business one.

So, we grew in our esteem and understanding of ourselves in relationship to our clients. We weren’t their assistants or little worker bees. We are their skilled administrative experts and trusted administrative advisors.

But there are others in the world who are threatened by that view.

They fear taking a bigger, leading role in their business and in their relationships with clients. They want to stay in comfort zones that are easy and familiar, that don’t rock any boats, that don’t challenge themselves or others too much.

They are fine with settling, for not asking for “too much.” Because, to their thinking, who are they to desire something more or better or stand any taller than anyone else? They aren’t able to imagine anything more or better or different for themselves; they daren’t. Because that would mean stepping away from the herd.

And that’s okay if that’s where they’re at and want to stay.

What’s not okay is for them to want and insist that you hold yourself back and stay at their level if you are yearning to grow, to have a happier business, to get better clients, to make more money, to have more life, to place a higher value on what you do and how you help clients, to learn how to charge more for that, and to call yourself something that better respects your role as a business owner and sets better expectations and understandings in your clients.

How about you? Can you think of a few people who are a negative, detrimental influence in your pursuit of your business dreams and growth? A friend or family member who belittles them and consciously or unconsciously sabotages your efforts?

Maybe you’re hanging around in groups and surrounding yourself with others who keep you from thinking bigger about what you do, who don’t know any better.

I’m not even saying it’s necessarily intentional or conscious on their part. That just seems to be the nature of herd mentality: keeping the status quo, nurturing mediocrity, attacking anything they don’t understand (yet). It’s instinctive.

But if you are going to grow in your business, if you are going to get better clients, if you going to ever learn how to ask for and get higher fees, to believe in and understand the higher value you offer and how to provide the context that conveys those things to your would-be clients, it’s going to require you to break away from the herd.

Too Bad, So Sad

Too Bad, So Sad

Seen around the Internet:

Hi All! I would appreciate your input and opinions on my current scenario.
 
I have a potential new client starting next week who is guaranteeing me 20 hours of work per week. Because he is guaranteeing 80 hours per month, I’ve reluctantly accepted a rate that is less than my typical hourly rate.
 
I operate on a monthly prepaid retainer that’s worked into my contract, as most of us do. The client is not willing to prepay and would rather pay “immediately via Paypal at the end of each week for hours worked”.
 
I’m having a hard time accepting this. How would you respond? Would it be fair to respond by asking for prepayment for each the week? (rather than at the end of the week)
 
I don’t want to lose the opportunity but I do need to hold strong on my policies. I should mention that this client was referred to me by someone I trust and who also works with him.

Fuck that guy. 😉

Seriously.

All snarkiness aside, you’ve answered your own question: “I do need to hold strong on my policies.”

So what’s the problem? Why are you trying to talk yourself into stepping over your own standards?

This is a bad client waiting to happen.

And by acquiescing when you’ve already made your policy clear, you are teaching this client that you will simply roll-over at the first hint of objection. Hell, you already let him put you on the sale rack in the bargain basement. Not a good precedent to set in the relationship whatsoever.

Stop letting clients tell you what to do in your own business.

You simply tell him pleasantly and matter-of-factly, without any angst, anger or apology, “This is how I work with clients… This is how things work in my business… This is who I’m looking to work with, who is a fit for my practice… This is who I do my best work for and who gets the most out of working with me… If that works for you, great. If not, I’m afraid we won’t be able to work together and I wish you well.”

(HINT: And who is it you work best with? People who don’t try to bargain down your fees and who pay upfront according to your billing policies without trying to haggle and dicker and argue with you over them.)

Period.

If you want a business that makes you happy and doesn’t cause you a bunch of problems and headaches, stop letting wrong-fitting clients talk you into things you don’t want to do.

Stop talking yourself into doing them and being a self-sabotager.

Even if you decide (or rather, talk yourself into being okay with) getting paid upfront each week instead of each month, and assuming this prospective client agrees to that, you’d be making an exception in your business that is only going to make more work for yourself by complicating your business and billing—for this one client with whom you’ve never worked before and who hasn’t earned any reason for you to be bending over backward to twist your policies and administration into pretzels for him.

There are PLENTY of clients in the world… ones who will happily and easily work with the standards and policies you’ve set for your business.

Focus on that fact and those clients.

Because if you keep yourself stuck in poverty/scarcity mindset, all you’ll ever have are un-ideal, pain-in-the-ass clients, and you will forever be held hostage by them in your business (and your life).

I want you to sit down right now and start a list of all the traits and characteristics that make up an ideal client for you. Every time you work with a great client, update this list. Do this throughout the life of your business.

HINT: Working easily with the standards and policies you’ve set in your business should be item #1. Being ready, able and willing to make the commitment to working together in whatever way you’ve decided works best for you (e.g., upfront monthly retainer) should be item #2.

Then, start a list of all the characteristics of an UN-ideal client for you. These are all the red flags that tell you when you are dealing with someone who is going to be a PIA. And write down WHY those traits and characteristics make for an un-ideal client. Every time you work with a less than ideal, unhappy-making, pain-in-the-ass client, update this list. Do this throughout the life of your business. This exercise makes you more conscious of all the red flag signals your intuition starts waving at you when you find yourself dealing with someone who is not going to be great to work with.

Then, next time you are tempted to step over your standards and be your own worst enemy, pull these lists out to remind yourself why it’s not a good idea and why it’s always better to hold out for what you want in your life and not settle for anything that is less than ideal.

Of course, the other way to really learn this lesson is to take on every client who comes your way without barrier, without discernment, without any thought or prequalification for whether or not they are ideal or un-ideal for you. Let each of them individually dictate how you run your business and what your standards and policies will be.

You’ll find out real quick why it’s not a good idea to step over your standards and ignore what your gut is telling you.

See also: Dear Danielle: I’ve Lost All Boundaries; Is this Relationship Salvageable?

(You also would get some serious benefit from my pricing and packaging guide, which also teaches you how to present support plans and talk about fees and navigate that whole conversation around getting paid.)

Is There Room for LIFE in Your Business?

Is There Room for LIFE in Your Business?

Came across this article about how Sweden shortened their workday to six hours.

Hear, hear!

Germany is similar, with basically a 7-hour workday.

All of Europe really has a much more humanistic approach when it comes to work.

Many businesses are closed on Sundays. Many will close for several weeks during the holiday season. And they take longer lunches with time to actually eat slowly, enjoy their meal, and recharge.

The U.S. has a lot to learn from them because for all the time off people have over there, they are more productive, healthy and well-adjusted.

In my business, there are naturally some days here and there where I am nose-to-grindstone all day doing client work. And I enjoy those occasional balls-to-wall challenges.

But those are the exception, not the rule.

It wouldn’t be humanly sustainable for very long otherwise, and the service and quality of my work to clients would suffer as a result.

That’s why, in my business, I generally have a four to five hour workday.

It’s like that for several reasons.

First, I don’t operate an “assistant” business model. That means I don’t work with clients like a day-to-day assistant (like in the employment world).

I don’t take on work that inherently requires me to be chained to my computer all day, every day, or that can only be done within certain client-imposed hours.

And I don’t provide instant/same-day turn-around on client work requests. I only take on work that can be scheduled within my work management system.

If it’s work that can’t be done within a three-day window, then it’s not work I take on, and the client has to either do it themselves or plan ahead better and provide more lead time in the future.

That’s because it’s a standard in my life to operate my business around my life, not the other way around.

I firmly believe that your business should support your life, not suck the life from you.

And it’s important to me that my work and business be structured in a way that gives me plenty of breathing room so I can do great work and take fantastic care of clients while also having time and space to take care of me.

(Remember, ultimately, taking care of you is taking care of clients. Someone who is overworked, stressed and unhappy is no good to anyone.)

It’s also why I don’t do what I call “wipe your ass” work such as making appointments, answering phones or managing anyone’s day-to-day calendar or inbox.

Never have and never will and my business and income haven’t suffered one bit (in fact, I make more money and command higher fees because of it).

That kind of work is what “assistants” do, and as an Administrative Consultant, I’m not an assistant. Clients need to manage their own calendars, inboxes and personal appointments.

When you take on that kind of work (answering phones, managing client calendars and inboxes), you put yourself into on-demand/same-day timing because that’s what so much of that work entails. When you do that, you end up creating a business that has you working like an employee and requires you be attached at the hip to your computer and email every single day.

Leaving you very little of the freedom and flexibility you went into business to have.

Don’t buy into the BS that you have to be anyone’s personal assistant to also provide admin support and be of value. They aren’t the same thing and are not inextricably entwined.

Those people who think that have only ever known how to work with clients like an employee and don’t know how to think more entrepreneurially about themselves and how they offer their service.

The more you know your target market and their business/profession, the better you can identify and focus on the more important and actual administrative work that moves their business forward, helps them accomplish their goals, and creates real, tangible results.

Beyond that, I let clients do their own ass-wiping. 😉

If they need someone to work like an employee/assistant to them each and every day, then that’s who they need to hire, not me. Those aren’t the clients I work with.

Because I’m not in the assistant business. I’m in the administrative support business. Two completely different things. 😉

Power Productivity & Biz Management for Administrative Consultants (GDE-41)If you’d like to finetune your own administrative support business and work with clients in a way that gives you more freedom and flexibility in your life—which, I might add, also allows you to be more productive and take far better care of them in the process—I share my exact business model and management systems and how to implement them in my guide, Power Productivity & Business Management for Administrative Consultants (GDE-41). Check it out.