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

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

Dear Danielle:

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

Hi KP 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Have Clients Help Promote Your Business

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

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

***

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

There Is No Place in this World for Hatemongering Racist Terrorists

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

ADDENDUM 8/16:

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

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

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

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

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

#RESIST

How to Get Clients

How to Get Clients

Getting clients is a process, not an event.

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

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

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

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

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

It’s also not that difficult to do:

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

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

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

Where to Find the Hidden Timer in Outlook (Video)

 

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

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

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

And that’s it, easy peasy!

A couple quick thoughts on task timing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There Is No Secret to Marketing

There Is No Secret to Marketing

There is nothing magical about marketing.

There’s no closely guarded secret still waiting to be revealed to you.

There are no heavenly curtains to part and rain clients down upon you — if only you could find the draw cord.

A lot of people also waste huge gobs of time trying to cobble DIY SEO together.

They think if they can just crack the SEO code, millions of clients are going to mystically materialize out of the airwaves, and they won’t have to lift a finger to get them.

I’ve got news for you: That’s not going to happen.

And, your least qualified client candidates will be those who accidentally stumble upon your site on the internet.

SEO is the last thing you need to be concerning yourself with.

Here are the straight-up facts:

It’s true that there are some foundations you need to have in place first before marketing, such as your website, which is THE single most important conversion tool for your business.

BUT your website can’t be set up any ol’ haphazard way.

To get results (i.e., consultations and clients), it needs to instill trust, rapport and credibility.

To do that, there are some presentation basics you must follow.

You also have to understand the conversion process and have an intentional system in place to educate site visitors, in the right way, about what you do and who you do it for, organically prequalify your ideal prospects, and then move those folks to the next step in the process: the consultation.

Build a Website that WORKS!My Build a Website that WORKS guide shows you exactly how to do this.

Beyond that, you are simply going to have to get out there and TALK TO PEOPLE.

This is the ONLY “secret” to marketing and getting clients.

You can’t hide behind your computer and be silent. Nothing is going to magically do that work for you.

Choose a target market (which is simply an industry/field/profession that you cater your admin support to) so you can focus and hone your message.

​And then get out there (online and/or in person) and interact with them:

  • Join their groups (online and off).
  • Learn their business/industry/profession.
  • Ask questions.
  • Ask more questions.
  • Inquire about what their common goals and challenges are in their business/industry/profession.
  • Read and comment on their blogs.
  • Pay attention to the kinds of topics and conversations they have in their industry forums.
  • Write articles/blog posts for them and their topics of interests.
  • Find out what their industry associations and publications are and think about the ways you might be able to get published or in some other way get in front of their audience (e.g., can you take out an ad in their trade journals? Can you interest them in guest articles/blog posts?).

It is THESE interactions that will bring people to your website, which then should be set up to do the job of moving the right ones to the next step: the consultation. (My guide shows you how.)

At its core, marketing is very simply like making friends: introducing yourself, asking about others and being interested in them, and partaking in conversations and being curious and sociable (not salesy). No miracle marketing tonic needed.

Dear Danielle: Should an Administrative Consultant Have One Specialty?

Dear Danielle: Should an Administrative Consultant Have One Specialty?

Dear Danielle:

In your opinion should an Administrative Consultant have one specific specialty, or should you specialize across a few specialties to maximize profitability. My idea is to focus on providing admin services to local small bankruptcy law firms, who may not have a paralegal on staff, as I have extensive work experience as a paralegal. Any insight on this would be most appreciated. Thank you an advance for your help. —TR

Thanks for the question… because it’s something I see a lot of people confused about in the administrative support industry at large.

In an Administrative Consulting business, you already have a specialization: administrative support.

What you’re in business to do is already your specialization.

What I see a lot of people not understanding is that administrative support is a specialization in and of itself.

They confuse being an administrative assistant when they were an employee (who very often had everything-and-the-kitchen dumped on them without any say-so or proper additional compensation) with administrative support as a business.

One is a role of employment while the other is a specific expertise. They are not one and the same thing.

And what you don’t want to do under any circumstances is run your business and work with clients as if you were their employee.

First of all, it’s illegal. Second, because it’s unprofitable and unsustainable.

When we talk about specialization in the Administrative Consulting business, we’re talking about having a target market, which is simply a field/industry/profession you cater your administrative support to.

You provide a good example: Bankruptcy attorneys is a target market.

Generally speaking, attorneys is a target market and the practice area of bankruptcy attorneys specifically would be called your “niche” or “specialization.”

My target market is attorneys as well, but specifically intellectual property/entertainment law attorneys.

See what I mean?

The reason this is the useful thing to focus on is because (in the case of our example of attorneys), one practice area can do such drastically different work from another practice area, that the administrative support would be completely different as well.

The marketing message you would need to come up with if you worked with estate law attorneys would be very different from the one you’d create if you were speaking to criminal law attorneys.

I have a number of blog posts that elaborate on this topic. Dig around in the Target Market category and I think you’ll find some that hit this right on the nose for you.

As far as profitability goes, I would need a bit more information about what you are worried about. I think it does, however, pinpoint a fear that a lot of people new to business in our industry have.

They think if they focus on a target market they’ll miss out on opportunities. In fact, focusing on a target market makes marketing your business and getting clients vastly easier.

That’s because instead of being a meandering generality, they become a meaningful (and more compelling and attractive) specific.

The market expects to pay those with a specific expertise (like that of administrative support) much more than those they perceive as merely gophers and jacks-of-all-trades (e.g., the person who will do anything just to make a buck, from whose website it isn’t clear what exactly they do, whose marketing message is all over the map).

Plus, there is so much constant mental switching of gears when you try to be this, that and the other. That in itself is unprofitable (Been there, done that.)

So I would tell you: focus your business on the one thing. You’ll be perceived as someone with a specific expertise (in our case, the expertise of administrative support), your business will be easier to run and the work easier to do (which makes it more profitable), you’ll get clients much more easily, and you’ll be able to command higher fees that allow you to make more money working with fewer clients.

Shaping the Relationship with Your Words

I never use the word “outsource” or “delegate,” and I don’t let clients use that kind of terminology with me either.

They aren’t delegating or outsourcing to me any more than they “delegate or “outsource” to their attorney or accountant or designer, etc.

I’m not their lackey. I’m a professional they engage so that they can benefit from my valuable expertise (in our case as Administrative Consultants, that is the expertise of administrative support).

We work together collaboratively (together being the operative word here) on administrative work and goals they have entrusted to me.

This kind of languaging changes the flavor of the relationship in the way I need for clients to see and understand it: as their business peer, administrative expert and trusted advisor.

Clients come to you with varying degrees of understanding about what you do, how you work together, and what the nature of your relationship will be.

Many may not have the faintest idea about what we do.

Others might have some vague notion that it’s like having an employee only you work from home for them (which would be wrong).

Others may have read an article filled with all kinds of misinformation and come to the table with the wrong preconceived ideas and expectations entirely.

This is why it’s always your job to educate and inform clients when they come to your website in the way you need them to be, so they have an accurate understanding about these things and approach you with the appropriate mindset and manner.

This makes for far more ideal client candidates and getting and working with those clients much easier.

The words you use are setting perceptions and expectations in clients, painting a picture for them of how to understand the relationship.

How are you educating yours?

Something for Nothing

This kind of thing makes me cringe…

I popped into LinkedIn today and immediately came across a colleague’s post where she was sharing some client praise. Her client wrote:

“I’ve had 10 times more response from your social media design than I have from the one a graphic designer did for me and charged me 3 x the price.”

From the apparent value this client got, this colleague should have charged 3 x what she did. 😉

This is what I mean about people using our industry as cheap substitutes.

It’s so insulting for clients to rave about how little they paid, particularly when they know good and well what properly professional fees cost.

What this client said was the equivalent of shouting to everyone:

Hey, everybody, we’ve got a sucker over here! She practically gave away something that’s making me money and growing my business that I would have paid anyone else 3 times more for.

I have no doubt this colleague will eventually realize the value of her talents and start charging a more commensurate rate for the value that clients receive from her work… particularly if she keeps hearing “praise” like this.

With devaluing clients like that, who needs to earn a living from their work? 😉

Are You Feeling the Squeeze?

Are You Feeling the Squeeze?

A question people commonly ask in our business is “What hours do I need to be available for clients?”

They ask this question because they’re still thinking in assistant-mindset.

Here’s the thing:

You’re in business to provide a service. You have (or will have) several clients to take care of.

You simply cannot be instantly available to each and every client at the drop of a hat.

In fact, trying to do so will negatively affect your quality of work and client satisfaction.

You therefore need to understand that in business, when and how you and your clients work together is necessarily going to be very different from when you were an employee filling a position working for one employer.

This is the reason that “full-time” and “part-time” and what time zones you and your clients are in are completely irrelevant.

Instead of hours, what you need is a plan — a system — for managing your workload and requests.

This frees you from being chained to your desk 9-5 and having to be an “instant assistant.”

A system gives you the structure you need to handle everything in a timely manner without being rushed and squeezed and stressed.

It also gives clients a framework they can depend on without forcing you to be at their constant beck-and-call — which, by the way, is a business-killer because as your business grows into a viable income you can live on, that is not a promise you can sustain.

You NEED space to do great work for clients.

In the early years of my practice, I went through all these same growing pains.

I ended up with clients who thought I was their assistant (because, stupidly, that’s what I called myself back then).

Eventually, I had over 10 monthly retainer-paying clients — and I thought I was going to lose my mind.

That’s because those clients expected me to be at their immediate beck-and-call, just like an assistant.

I tried, heroically, to live up to those expectations, right up until the day that I realized how utterly miserable I was and what a mess my business had become.

Instead of doing good work, work that made a difference in my clients’ businesses, I was spending all my time in communications and jumping from fire to fire.

I didn’t have a business I loved, I didn’t have a business that supported my life. I had a business and clients who ran me.

That was not what I had envisioned for myself whatsoever.

That’s when it dawned on me that where I had failed was in not being in charge of my own business; by letting clients decide how things would work in my business (instead of the other way around).

I had let them make the rules by abdicating that authority in my own business.

I had not set any policies, practices or protocols in my business with any intention or forethought whatsoever.

I was under the misinformed delusion that that was what customer service was all about: jumping to attention the instant the client commanded.

I thought all I needed to do was give great service, which at that time to me meant: rush to respond quickly to everyone and get work done as fast as possible.

Oh, what a silly, naive girl I was!

Thank goodness I realized what utter nonsense that thinking was and came to my senses relatively quickly after “only” a few years of suffering.

Good service is so much more than that and involves a much bigger picture.

Many, MANY hard lessons were learned during that unhappy period.

Thankfully, my business survived (most are not so lucky), but not without shaking things up and completely overhauling how things work in it.

I had to get conscious and intentional about what I wanted from my business, how I wanted to work, who I wanted to work with, and what my values were around my work and serving clients (also known as standards).

This helped me then begin to set simple, but clear policies, procedures and protocols for operating my business and working with clients that supported those standards.

It was only then that I was able to begin creating the happier, more joyful, fulfilling business I had always wanted all along and that I enjoy today.

Now, I no longer have to work with so many clients (10 retainer clients was WAY too many, and I was WAY undercharging at that time as well).

I don’t have clients sweating me any longer because now I have a system for how work requests are managed and carried out that gives me the stress-free space I need to do the work well without being crowded.

The best thing is that I have far happier, more satisfied clients now than I ever did when I was trying to be that “instant assistant.”

And because they know exactly how things work upfront (all part of my system), working together is so much easier and more peaceful.

I also have the added benefit that I have a lot more ability to move things around to suit my life.

If something comes up and I decide I need an afternoon off or to take a day off in the middle of the week for something special, my system allows me to do that without my clients experiencing any hiccups.

I share this system I’ve developed in my own practice and have used happily and successfully for over 15 years now with all my clients in my guide: Power Productivity & Practice Management for Administrative Consultants.

If you are early on in your administrative support business, this is the perfect time to put a system like mine in place because it’s easier to on-board new clients in the ways you want than it is to retrain them after they’ve been spoiled by unsustainable practices.

However, even if you’re already established, but are feeling the squeeze and realize that something needs to change in your business, my guide shows you how to transition existing clients into new policies and procedures.

It’s never too late to improve your life and business. 😉

Be Your Own Superhero

There’s nothing “kickass” about being a “sidekick.”

Women with real moxie proudly claim their role as administrative expert and capable leader of their own business.

You’re not the hired help. You’re an expert clients turn to for your administrative expertise and guidance.