Are You Celebrating Your Victories?

As we near the end of 2017, have you been reflecting on your year and the things you wanted to accomplish?

Were you able to reach certain goals, projects and mileposts you set for yourself this year?

Remember, they don’t have to be gigantic.

Sometimes the most important milestones are seemingly “small,” but that doesn’t make them any less significant!

Each and every step you take in working toward something is an achievement. Even those hiccups and setbacks we all encounter along the way provide us with invaluable learning that helps us grow.

Success (as in moving in the direction you want to go, accomplishing that which you want to accomplish) is made up of hundreds of actions, stepping stones, learning, and small victories every single day.

Celebrate them! Use them as forward momentum! Give yourself credit! You are DOING it!

What are you most proud of accomplishing this year?

Do Your Family and Friends Respect Your Business?

Do you ever have trouble getting family and friends to respect your business?

I know I still do sometimes, even after doing this for over 20 years.

I don’t know that it will ever change when it comes to certain people we have to deal with in our lives.

Here’s an example of what I mean…

So one of the reasons I went into business for myself is to have more control over my own life. To have more say about how I spend my time (and on whom), to get more joy and fulfillment out of the work I do and the gratification it brings seeing how it helps my clients in very immediate and impactful ways.

Most of all, I wanted to be able to be present in my own life, to be able to be there for those I love.

My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about 10 years ago. In 2014, his health took a severe nosedive and he ended up in the ER and then assisted living for a year.

My sister lives in the same city as my dad, but doesn’t drive and works a 9-5 job.

I live about an hour away, but since I am the only one who drives, I’m the one who had to pick everyone up and shuttle them around back and forth.

Since that time, because I’m the only one who drives and because I have a business working for myself and have the flexibility, I’m the one who has scheduled all my dad’s various appointments and run him around to all of them: primary care, neurologist, weekly B12 shots, eye appointments, hearing appointments, cognitive testing, blood draws, etc.

I take him to get his hair cut, his toe nails taken care of (he needs a special appointment for this), runs to the grocery store, the pharmacy, and a multitude of other errands.

I also make sure his house stays clean (especially his bathroom) and check the fridge to make sure anything old and expired is thrown out since my sister, who actually lives mere blocks from him, fails to do any of this no matter how many times I ask.

I’m happy to do it; there also isn’t anyone else to do it so it falls on my shoulders. Someone has to take care of him, right?

While I’m grateful to be able to do it, at the same time, it’s no easy task. It eats up a shit ton of time and energy.

Plus, it’s not all happy, happy, joy, joy. My relationship with my dad has been difficult and strained my whole life.

And doing all of this, making the time to do it, has had negative effects on my business, cost me a lot in very real financial ways, and caused me to lose a whole lot of momentum.

Having to take my dad to what may only be a half-hour appointment ends up eating a whole day of my time and energy and actual work hours.

It disrupts my entire life and business. I’m completely spent and it sometimes takes me a day or two to recuperate and get back into the swing of things.

Yes, I am very fortunate I have the freedom and flexibility to be able to do this for my dad. My dad and my sister are very lucky that I’m in the position I am to be able to do it because if I didn’t, there’s no one else to fall back on.

Still, it really sucks that they take it for granted and don’t consider just how much of a toll it takes on my life and my livelihood.

If my sister had to do this while trying to hold down a job, she’d end up in the loony bin, not to mention fired.

But she’s so cavalier about my time and doesn’t seem to grasp the fact that, um, hey, I work for a living, too!

It’s so easy for people to look at your life and think all you’re doing is sitting around at home playing on the computer.

They don’t see that you are doing real work, important work, for real people who are depending on you in very real and important ways.

Your clients have invested their time and money and faith in you, and you have the privilege and duty to not let them down and manage your obligations to them.

So what’s the solution?

Maybe we need to set more boundaries and make sure the people in our lives honor those boundaries.

Maybe we need to be more respectful of own boundaries and not step over them and make concessions all the time.

Because it’s a slippery slope when we do that, and next thing you know, you have no boundaries at all.

Maybe we need to say “no” more often.

It’s honorable to want to help and to be able to make sacrifices when it’s important and necessary to do so. But we can’t neglect our own self-care.

When you say “yes” too often, people tend to take it for granted.

Don’t let them off the hook so easy. Make them shoulder more of the load.

It may not be easy to say “no,” but I think we are all worthy of looking out for our own health and best interests as much as we look out and care for others in our lives.

Maybe we need to dress our businesses up in more formal, tangible, traditional ways.

Have that professional website up. Have those professionally printed business cards. Establish professional hours. Lay down the law with your family and friends so that they know when you’re working in your business, you are AT WORK.

If this is one of the problems you have, don’t let them just drop in and gab any ol’ time they please. Make appointments. If someone drops in unannounced, politely but assertively turn them away. Let them know what your office hours are and that they need to call or email first to make sure if or when you are free (that’s just basic good manners anyway; their lack of consideration is one thing; you accepting it is another).

Dedicate a room in your home for your office. If you don’t have a room, then a space. And make sure everyone knows that that space is sacred and off limits.

If you live with others, perhaps putting on “work” clothes and getting out of the bathrobe once in awhile (lol) will help them see that you take your business as serious as they take their job.

While we sometimes need to have a straight talk with a client now and then about boundaries (and a lot of times, it’s we ourselves who teach them bad habits in the first place), I think a lot of times it’s our family and friends who are the worst at respecting our businesses and boundaries.

Have you experienced this in some way yourself? What are some of the ways you have dealt with it?

Dear Danielle: Do I Need to Move If I Want Clients in Another City?

Dear Danielle: Do I Need to Move If I Want Clients in Another City?

Dear Danielle:

Thank you so much for the Pricing calculator you sent me to download. I have been travelling a bit between Cape Town and Johannesburg. Herein lies my dilemma. My entire family apart from my eldest son lives in Johannesburg. So do I set up in Cape Town or in Johannesburg. I do believe that business prospects are better in Johannesburg but don’t like Jo’burg very much! I have already lined up two clients in Cape Town (the plot thickens). What to do…what to do….? I absolutely love your blog and find it incredibly useful and informative. Thank you so much for all the effort you put in to educate. Kind regards. —L. W.

Hi L.W. 🙂

Thanks for letting me know how useful the ACA resources are to you. I’m very glad to hear it.

Even though we live in two different countries (I’m in the U.S. and you’re in South Africa), the great thing about our kind of business is that a) the principles of business are pretty universal no matter what country you’re in, and b) business laws in developed countries around the world are quite similar.

This is of great benefit to us because it makes speaking the same business language pretty easy.

And, since the administrative support business is an online business, that means you don’t work with clients or even have to meet them in person.

Not that you can’t get clients from meeting them locally. It’s just that due to the nature of the business being online, you aren’t restricted to your geographic or local physical location when it comes to finding and getting clients.

The world is literally your oyster as far as clients go, if that’s your preference.

Although, I will say, my clients and I find a lot more ease in understanding, communication and working together by being in the same country or state. As far as business goes, I personally don’t have any desire or need to work with international clients.

But different strokes for different folks. If you aren’t able to find all the clients you need in your general vicinity, you have the entire rest of the world to prospect at your fingertips.

All that is to say, you don’t have to live in Johannesburg to get clients from there.

As far as what city you are legally allowed to claim as your business’s official operating address, that is something you will definitely want to research as there may be legalities and business/registration rules and requirements involved particular to your local area.

Some relevant questions might be:

  • What city do you reside in officially/most of the time? What address do you currently use on tax returns?
  • Are you a sole proprietor/operator or is your business incorporated?
  • If your business is incorporated, are you allowed to register it in any city you like?
  • What are your preferred city’s business registration/taxing requirements? Must you actually reside there to register/incorporate/operate there?
  • What are the (federal/state/county/local) laws/rules about where you must reside for your business to be registered there?
  • If you legally have the option to choose one city or another, are there benefits to registering in one over the other?
  • What are the business registration fees/requirements in each?
  • What are the taxing requirements in each?
  • What kind of reporting does each require?

Getting answers to these questions from the proper governing agencies in your area will help you decide where your business is to be based/registered.

Beyond that, as far as getting clients from Johannesburg or anywhere without having to resort to the time and energy-consuming analog ways of meeting them (i.e., in person), what is going to be of tremendous help to you is to narrow things down to a target market.

A target market is simply an industry/profession that you cater your administrative support to.

Once you decide who to focus on, you can then figure out all the online ways and places to begin connecting and interacting with people in that field, getting to know them, and allowing them to get to know you through your active presence and participation.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to download my guide on How to Choose Your Target Market. It elaborates more on this topic and has some exercises that will help you immediately begin to start connecting with potential clients.

Let me know if this helps you or if you have any further questions. I’m happy to shed more light on this topic.

It’s a Traditional Thanksgiving this Year for My Family

It's a Traditional Thanksgiving this Year for My Family

Welp, it’s Turkey Day, otherwise known as Thanksgiving, this Thursday for those of us in the U.S. The big turkey debate in our family has finally been settled (smoked or traditional). This year anyway…

Personally, I’m not that excited about turkey. I wanted a Thanksgiving salmon, but that got shot down immediately. I’m just thankful we don’t have any vegans or all hell would break loose, lol.
(I remember now why I don’t host this holiday more often at my house.)

Just kidding. It’s going to be terrific fun! I don’t know how many more holidays we’ll have with my dad so we’re going all out with the traditional stuff which is what he loves, and he’s really looking forward to it.

I did make sure, though, to get myself a growler of my favorite locally-brewed beer, just in case, lol. And we’ll be playing Cards Against Humanity after dinner which is always a hoot.

Today, I did a dry run of my table setting (that’s it in the photo). I’m not a fan of the usual orange and gold fall color theme. I went with rich jewel tones instead: purple and plum, shiny copper, avocado green diamond-cut crystal, smokey blue glass.

I’ve got chafing dishes set up on the buffet so we can keep the serving bowls on the table to a minimum and keep things warmed at the same time. I also figured out the perfect use for all the bright-colored little pompoms I love to make: glass tags! I tied a different color on each glass so everyone knows which one is theirs.

In all honesty, other than being the hostess with the mostest, I don’t have to do a whole lot this year except make the mashed potatoes and eat. Ha! My daughter’s boyfriend is making the turkey (he’s a fantastic cook) and everyone else is bringing the rest of the trimmings, sides and desserts. Cheers to that!

I wish you and your family a lovely and yummy day filled with tons of love and laughs. And I want to thank you so much for being a part of the Administrative Consultants Association and allowing me to play some positive role in your business journey. I hope I’ve been helpful to you.

If you are using the holiday down-time to put some focused attention on your business skills and foundations, please enjoy this discount code for 10% off anything in the ACA Success Store: THANKS10

And if you already have a few pieces and would like to upgrade to The Full Shebang (Set-03), shoot me an email and I’ll send you a credit code in the amount of all your past product purchases so you can deduct that amount from your purchase. (You can even apply the THANKS10 code on top of it.)

Please note: Codes expire Nov. 26 so you’ll just want to be sure to use them by then.

If you are celebrating, have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!

If You Do Nothing Else, These Are Words to Live By

I was reading Brit Marling’s article about Harvey Weinstein yesterday morning. In the first paragraph, she relates some powerful wisdom her mother imparted to her when she was a little girl:

“To be a free woman, you have to be a financially independent woman.”

It’s akin to something Suze Orman always reminds women of: “A man is not a financial plan.”

This is one of the most important reasons I work to help other women in this business earn better, to better understand the economics of business and how the business-to-business relationship with clients works, and teach them the important business skills that are integral to being able to ask for and get professional fees and how to navigate those business conversations: the consultation, pricing, your marketing message, chief among them.

Even if you are not your family’s primary breadwinner, life can change in an instant.

Divorce, illness, death, accidents, acts of nature… there are any number of unforeseeable events that can befall any of us at any moment and put us in the position of having to be the sole provider. Being a single mom is perhaps one of the most important reasons.

This is why my goal is to always show other women how to build a business that can take care of itself, to show them how to create the kind of income they can actually live on whether they are or need to be or should become the primary breadwinner; to establish a business that runs like a business and can scale at any point in time, even if right now you only want to work with one or two clients.

Being financially independent and creating a business that can take care of you and your family if need be is one of the best things you can do for yourself and those you love.

Educating Prospective Clients Has Nothing to Do with Convincing

Educating Prospective Clients Has Nothing to Do with Convincing

You never want to play the “convincing” game in trying to get clients.

“Convincing” is when you waste your time and energy pleading, wheedling, hyping, and otherwise trying to beg and bribe people into working with you.

Talking about how cheap and “affordable” you are and discounting this and giving free that is a form of bribing.

It’s also the way you devalue and debase yourself and reduce the perception of value of the solution you offer in the eyes of clients.

If this is what you have to do to get people to work with you, you’re talking to (and attracting) the wrong audience.

BUT for someone to tell you that you don’t need to educate your prospects about what you do is the height of arrogance and marketing stupidity.

Talk is cheap coming from those who haven’t run an administrative support business in over 20 years. They don’t know the first thing about marketing (much less working with actual clients in the 21st century).

It absolutely IS always your job as a professional service provider to educate your would-be clients.

Educating prospects isn’t about “convincing” anyone to work with you or trying to “sell” them on your solution. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The only people who think that are those who confuse “educating” with “convincing.” That’s because they are marketing illiterate.

Educational marketing or education-based marketing, as this is known in marketing circles, operates on the premise that your clients are intelligent enough to know what they want and make their own decisions. What they need from you isn’t a sales pitch (i.e., “convincing”), it’s information with which they can make an informed, intelligent decision.

Educational marketing isn’t about being invested in the outcome (i.e., getting the client, by any means necessary).

It’s having the healthy professional self-esteem to know that not every prospective client is for you, that you aren’t for everyone, and through an intelligent informational dialogue via your website, you and your right clients will be better equipped to determine fit and choose each other.

Educating your would-be clients and site visitors is about demonstrating an understanding of your target market’s business and industry and the challenges and obstacles they face.

It’s about shedding light on the solutions you offer and the ways you can help them and solve their problems.

It’s about helping them see and understand your solutions in the context of their business, what your support and work together might look like, and how their circumstances can be improved.

None of that is about “convincing” anyone or devaluing yourself and what you offer.

Yes, be a client snob. You only want to work with and invest your time in those who want to work with you.

Those who have a problem you can solve don’t need convincing; they just need to know you understand, how you are unique from anyone else, and why you might be the best choice for them.

This is how educating them in the way I speak of helps them. They crave this information from you, especially in a sea of websites all mindlessly reciting the same, boring thing.

But anyone telling you that you don’t need to educate your market about your solutions knows nothing about marketing.

In fact, educating your market in the right way — educating, not convincing — will help you get more ideal clients and consultation requests.

Freelancing IS Running Your Own Business

See, it’s phrasing like this that is troublesome:

“If you have previous experience freelancing or running your own business…”

Freelancing IS running your own business. It’s not an or; it’s the same thing.

Phrasing like that makes people think it’s something different and separate, which is incorrect.

That’s why we have so many people in the industry who don’t realize that they are not employees, that they are running their own business, that it IS up to them to set the contracts and dictate the rules, etc.

It’s also why you should never use the term “freelancer.” Because it gives everyone the wrong idea all the way around.

What Is Your Favorite PDF Program?

The one I use the most is Power PDF Advanced from Nuance.

It does pretty much everything that Adobe Acrobat does (for example, working with attorneys, I often need to use the Bates numbering capabilities, among others), but I find it easier, more intuitive to use and figure out than Adobe Acrobat.

I also like that I don’t have to pay a subscription; I can just pay the one-time license fee.

It’s a simple fee of $149 for the software license and you don’t have to pay again until such time as you wish to upgrade to a newer version.

I find I don’t really need to upgrade to new versions more than every 3 years or so.

How Can They Have It So Wrong?

It’s astounding to me that there is an entire organization based wholly on a misunderstanding of the law.

While Freelancer’s Union has its heart in the right place, they are utterly wrong about its most basic premise.

Freelancers are not part of the workforce. Freelancers are not “workers.” Freelancers, by definition of law, are self-employed BUSINESS OWNERS.

With articles like this, Freelancers Union is actually perpetuating the idea to employers to continue to disregard and abuse employment laws.

People who are “self-employed” are just that: self-employed. They are not employees or “workers” nor part of the “workforce.” (Those are terms of employment, not business, and have no place in a business-to-business context.)

They are running their own business providing a service. And when you are running your own business, it is up to you — and only you — to provide your own agreements and determine and dictate when, where and how you work, what you charge and everything else that goes along with being self-employed.

If you’re going to combat the problem, THIS is the education you need to be having with the self-employed who don’t understand these legal distinctions.

Freelancers Union could do more good by abolishing the idiotic word “freelancer” because it does nothing to educate the self-employed about their role as a business owner and how to run their business like a business and not work with clients like an employee.

That right there is responsible for nearly 100% of their nonpayment problems. As it is, all they are doing is creating more victims.

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 of 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?