Archive for December, 2011

Dear Danielle: Do Clients Need to Know If I Am PT or FT?

Dear Danielle:

I am launching soon, but still have to work 9-5 to support myself so I don’t have to take a paycheck from the biz right away. I will cut back to part-time and give more time to the biz ASAP on my way to full-time with it. In the meantime, I don’t want to be thought of as someone unreliable, distracted, or who can’t get back to people in a timely fashion. Any ideas about minimizing how obvious it is that I am just starting out part-time? –JN

Ah, this is the beauty of making sure you don’t think of nor market yourself as an assistant, something I’m always preaching here.

I want to talk about that some more, but first here are some practical tips for being timely and professional in your business, whether it’s full-time or part-time (and really, anyone could tell you these):

  1. Only take on retained clients you can support or projects you can complete timely and professionally.
  2. Establish a communication turn-around policy and display that policy on your website (e.g., “I will return your call or email within 24-48 hours.”)
  3. Do what you say you will. This is a form of being consistent, and consistency is about reliability and dependability. So, if you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you say you’re going to do something by a certain date/time, do it by that date/time. Things come up and exceptions happen, but make sure they are RARE. Yes, life happens and by all means you are allowed and you should immediately communicate when you aren’t able to honor a commitment you made. BUT you WILL still be viewed as an unreliable flake if you constantly use that as an excuse or crutch. The solution–only make commitments that you are 99.999% sure you can keep.
  4. Along those lines, give yourself PLENTY of space to honor your commitments. Where people go wrong with making promises and commitments is that they allow clients to have wrong or unrealistic expectations and simply don’t give themselves enough room and time. Don’t box yourself into a corner. Manage expectations in clients by setting conscious, specific policies in your business when it comes to communication, work requests/management and turn-around times.

Now, let’s talk about some conceptual things that will really change the entire ballgame for you and how you approach your business.

Let’s first clarify the terms “part-time” and “full-time.” When I refer to part-time and full-time, it has nothing to do with the number of hours you put in or are available in a day or week. When I refer to part-time and full-time, it has to do with whether your business is your sole livelihood (“full-time”) or whether you are still working a job to support yourself (which makes your business a “part-time” effort/livelihood).

When you call yourself assistant, clients come to the table with the mindset that you should be doing assistant-like things for them and be at their on-demand beck-and-call.

That just doesn’t work in business (that is, if you are trying to create the kind of business where you can both earn AND live well without having what amounts to a J-O-B and having to take on hundreds of clients just to break even).

If you create a business like that and allow those kind of expectations, your daily PT or FT availability will be an issue. You don’t want your value to be dependant upon that.

So how do you change expectations around that and how you are able to operate your business in a manner more like a professional and not an assistant? It starts with not calling yourself an assistant. ๐Ÿ˜‰

If you don’t want part-time or full-time status to matter, then you want to instead frame yourself as an administrative expert, not an assistant. As an adminstrative expert, you focus clients on the fact that your expertise and skills are all about administrative work, not in being an assistant. These are two completely separate concepts.

When you frame yourself in this manner, you begin to see your role in your business very differently. You begin to understand that like any other kind of professional who is hired for a specific expertise and talent, the fact that you “assist” clients doesn’t make you an assistant.

When you decide to be an administrative expert and not an assistant, you then realize that you do not need to operate and work with clients nor be available to them in the same manner as an assistant. Since you aren’t an assistant, you aren’t working with them for specified hours in a day or week.

And because you aren’t trying to be an “assistant,” clients don’t need to know whether you have a full-time or part-time business. The point becomes moot because you aren’t selling your availability of hours, you are providing a partnership of administrative expertise.

The other thing here that will change the game entirely is to sell your value and expertise, not your hours. Your value is about how your work and expertise ultimately helps clients grow and move forward in their businesses to accomplish their goals and overcome obstacles. If you keep trying to sell your time (hourly billing) or packages of hours, you will keep yourself enslaved to the clock, which will automatically put a lid on your earning potential.

When you make these shifts in your thinking about who you are and what you do in your business, you are freed from all kinds of burdens that those who are trying to be assistants find themselves saddled with. When you are not an assistant, you do not need to accept on-demand kinds of work and roles that others are enslaved by. (I always say, if a client needs an assistant, then they need to employ one. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

As an administrative specialist, you can instead choose to take on only work that can be scheduled and where you can give yourself plenty of space to complete. This is the kind of business model I teach folks how to build. When you operate this kind of business, whether you are full-time or part-time in your business becomes irrelevent because you aren’t marketing yourself like someone who is going to be available to clients like an assistant and you aren’t selling hours.

New Year’s Special: This Price Ends Forever on Jan. 3

I hope you had a wonderful holiday and are looking forward to the New Year!

Now is the time to renew and reinvigorate your excitement about your business and invest in the tools and learning that will help you get where you want to go, whether that’s in starting up your administrative support business or moving forward in more financially successful directions.

Which is why I want to let you know about the New Year’s Special in our Success Store.

From now until midnight, January 3, 2012, get The Full Shebang Complete Biz Success Pack at $100 OFF for only $397.

This set includes every single tool, template and guide in our store along with all the free bonuses. This system is normally priced at $497, which means you’re going to get a total savings of $327.

This complete system gives you everything you need to set-up or improve upon your Administrative Support business foundations. Here’s what Judy Reyes of Reliance Admin had to say about her purchase of The Whole Shebang:

“The Whole Shebang is a package deal that may seem a bit steep in price, but it’s an investment in your business. If you have just been “winging it” as an Admin Consultant, you’ll find the tools and instructions will provide a structure for you. Danielle Keister has done a fabulous job sharing her know-how about how to build a thriving Admin Consulting business, and I look forward to using The Whole Shebang as my business develops and grows.”

I have some new products and updates coming out in January and will never again offer our complete administrative support business system at this price. So if you’ve been putting off buying from our Success Store, now is really the time.

How to Raise Your Rates in 2012

It’s time to raise your rates for 2012! I know lots of people cringe at doing this, but honestly it’s much easier than you think. So here’s what you do…

First, send out 30 or 60 day notices to all your clients giving them a heads-up that fees will be increasing. I would wait until January to do this rather than right now in the middle of the holidays. (And ideally for next year, plan on doing this in October/November instead of January.)

Not sure how to word your notice? Simple is always best. Here is a sample script you can use:

Dear [CLIENT],

This letter is to let you know that the fee for your support plan will increase to $[NEW FEE AMOUNT] per month effective [DATE].

It is such a pleasure working with you, and I really love watching you grow and move forward in your business through our work together. [HERE, INCLUDE TWO OR THREE MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND GOALS YOU’VE HELPED THE CLIENT ACHIEVE. USE FACTS AND FIGURES, ESPECIALLY DOLLAR AND PERCENTAGE INCREASES, AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE].

I look forward to continuing our wonderful relationship and helping you achieve your goals and dreams!

Sincerely,

[YOU]

You notice that in the second paragraph, you should bring up a few of the significant accomplishments and goals you’ve helped that particular client achieve through your work together. You should include facts and figures whenever possible.

If you aren’t yet, start trying to track and identify dollar and percent increases that your work and support is directly or indirectly responsible for (e.g., how many more clients have they been able to work with? How many hours of time were you able to put back in their pocket? How much more money have they made since working with you? How much have their profit percentages increased since then?).

These things serve as a reminder of your value (in terms of how it relates to them and their business) and why they continue to work with you. This is the WIIFM (“what’s in it for me?”) factor.

Just remember, you don’t need to offer excuses or drawn out explanations. You’re not asking for their permission because you’re not an employee and it’s not up to them. It’s YOUR business and you don’t answer to clients when it comes to those decisions. You being profitable and making sure you are stable, secure and growing financially actually helps clients because if you aren’t doing well, you will not be able to help clients as well as you could be.

If you have any other questions around the topic of raising fees, please do post in the comments and I’ll try to help. ๐Ÿ™‚

If you REALLY want to learn how to earn better in your business for 2012, in ways that are WAY more client friendly and attractive, get my pricing and packaging guide: “How to Price and Package Your Support Based on Value and Expertise–NOT Selling Hours!” Click here to check it out!

What’s In a Name, You Ask?

It’s interesting how many administrative assistants are confused about the difference between them and a Virtual Assistant. Someone sent me something from some administrative assistants listserv (those who are working in jobs) and it’s very clear they do not understand that a VA is NOT someone who is telecommuting, but is in business. They don’t seem to understand that an administrative assistant and a VA are not the same thing whatsoever.

Here again, this is due in large part to the vague and idiotic “virtual assistant” term. People who are running businesses are not assistants, much less employees. They are providing a professional service, and the way they operate and work with clients is by necessity very different from how one provides administrative support as an employee.

This mass delusion and confusion never ceases to astonish me. And underscores the point that words educate (or miseducate, as the case may be), and that’s why what you call yourself is important to your marketing and educating of clients. It is either going to set a tone for the right understandings, expectations and preconceptions or it will do the opposite.

Ignore the morons out there who are always shrilling about “it’s the name of the industry” blah blah blah. Your business and marketing has nothing to do with that at all. It’s about positioning and how you want your market to view you. Do you want to be viewed as an assistant and gopher who they think should be at their beck and call and doing whatever they throw at you (and expect to pay you peanuts for at the same time), or do you want the kind of clients who clearly understand the expertise you are in business to provide, view you as a skilled professional and administrative expert who can really help them improve their businesses, and therefore are more willing to pay for that valuble support and expertise?

If so, then you must understand that this is about shaping perceptions, expectations and understandings and positioning yourself as an expert, not a gopher.

By the way, the morons out there shouting that are the also the ones who don’t know how to do it any differently. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And listening to people like that is keeping you in the poorhouse. Let them keep their idiotic industry. Worry about the financial wealth and success of your own business.

Consider this, too…

How many times have you followed a coach or business expert and all their business building and financial success advice seems to apply to everyone–until it comes time to pay their VAs. It’s such a clear example of how they devalue VAs because they don’t put them on the same level as other business professionals and expertse.

And guess why? Guess who did that to you? Yup, the “industry.” That’s because it hasย  branded itself as the cheap labor pool of flunkies and gophers… as assistants, not experts.

The industry at large is not doing you any favors whatsoever. So who cares if “the industry” wants to be called “virtual assistants.” That doesn’t mean you have to call yourself that if you want to do better financially in business and attract better clients, clients who aren’t cheapskates, clients who happily pay, clients who “get it” and view you as important to them and their business as their attorney and their accountant and their web designer, etc.

See, the “industry” has spoiled those people and certain marketplaces. They have been trained to think they are getting what basically amounts to employees they don’t pay taxes on.

But if you want to do better financially in your business, not to mention to actually create a business and not merely a telecommuting job, you have got to do things differently. And that really does start with what you call yourself because it affects not only their perceptions and understandings, but your perceptions about yourself as well.

Dear Danielle: What Kind of Gifts Should I Get Clients for the Holidays?

Dear Danielle,

What kind of gifts do you get for clients? I know this is last minute, but I’m really stuck; my clients are new, and this is my first Christmas working with them. Any ideas would be welcomed!ย  —Donnamarie Needle, Time Saving Concepts

Great question with Christmas fast approaching! Whatever holiday you or your clients celebrate around the holidays, this is a great time of year to let them know how much you appreciate them. Here are some of my suggestions:

1. Get gifts that they personally will enjoy. As we get to know our clients, we tend to become more familiar with their personal lives and tastes. For example, one of my clients has recently gotten really into juicing. He loves it, but doesn’t have any juice “recipes” and has mentioned several times how he just grins and bears the taste because he knows how healthy and worthwhile it is. Knowing this, I decided to get him a beautiful juice “recipe” book so he can make all kinds of healthy concoctions that taste great as well.

I’m always jotting down clues to my clients’ tastes on their Client Profile Sheet throughout the year so when gift time comes around, I’ve always got ideas at the ready. (I know your clients are new so this advice might be more apt for next year after you’ve had time to get to know them personally a bit more.)

2. Give an experience. I’ve always preferred to give an experience rather than “stuff” whenever possible. People always remember experiences (and those who gave them those experiences) way more than things (that often end up at the Goodwill or otherwise being regifted if not chosen with love and thought).

The bigger the client relationship, the bigger the experience should be (e.g., retainer clients vs. one-time or occasional project clients). Remember, they’ve invested a lot in you and your service so give the kind of gift that is proportionate to that (or said a bit more bluntly–don’t be chintzy lol). Some ideas: special seats to the theater or sporting event. Membership to a museum, club or zoo. Dinner for two at a swanky or exotic new restaurant. A day at the spa or a book of massage certificates. With all the things to do in the world, the list is endless! The more you know your clients, the more you’ll be able to give just the right experience for each.

3. Buy your clients’ products or services to give to others. Years ago I used to work with the local retail market which included restaurants and clubs, hair salons and gift shops. I would often buy items or gift certificates from one client’s business to give to my other clients. I really loved supporting my clients’ businesses this way! Perhaps you have clients who aren’t necessarly in the retail market and in professional services instead? What kind of services, training or products do they offer that you could buy for other clients that will help them in their business and they’ll truly value?

4. Shy away from food gifts. You might be sabotaging someone’s diet or not know of their food allergies. If you do decide to give a food gift (the ol’ box of chocolates for example), at least make it uncommon. I absolutely adore giving chocolates from Christopher Elbow as each piece is little work of art. Every client I have ever given a box to has positively raved.

Another example: One year I was really into French food so for all my project clients, I made up little gift bags with an ink stamp of the Eiffel tower on them. Inside I added a package of my favorite Crepe batter mix, a wooden crepe rake and three recipe cards for both sweet and savory crepes. The clients I gave these to were delighted! And remember that creativity doesn’t need to cost a fortune–it cost me less than $10 each to put these crepe gift bags together.

One other thing I think bears mentioning is to refrain from giving your company s.w.a.g. (e.g., calendars, pens and other promo items with your company name and biz info printed on them). This is the tackiest! It’s so impersonal and self-serving, I can’t think of a worse kind of gift to give or receive. The holidays are a time to share your heart! Think of what the client might truly like and enjoy–not what will help promote your company (which actually will have the opposite effect if you give gifts like that).

How about you? What kind of gift ideas do you have to share? Please post in the comments!

Expensive is a Relative Term

I have no illusions that people will stop thinking like this any time soon, but I still want to throw this out there… “expensive” is a relative/subjective term.

Folks say something is “expensive” when what they really mean is “I can’t afford it.”

Just because they can’t pay for something at the moment doesn’t necessarily mean something is expensive or overpriced. It just means they don’t have the money. Not the same thing.

Because something that is “expensive” can actually be a bargain if that something has the potential to improve your life and business or increase your knowledge, growth, income and circumstances beyond its mere cost.

If you are interested in building a well-earning business (and by “well-earning” I mean whatever your financial goals are, whether that is to create wealth or simply to be able to earn enough to live well and support your family comfortably and without struggle), I want to challenge you to rethink your approach when it comes to spending in your business–whether it’s on a product, service, training, supplies, whatever.

If something is worth its salt, it needs to be priced according to its value. You have to honor that. Would you want clients who want you price your service at less than what you’re worth? How smart are those clients who hire someone merely because they were cheap?

The laws of the universe are in play here as well. When you operate out of cheap/poverty/lack mindset, you attract those very same kind of clients to you.

I’m not saying everything has to be “expensive” to be of quality, but it’s the wrong word and thinking to even be focused from.

When it comes to investing in a business product, tool, service, provider, training, etc., find the right quality for you and then do what it takes to get it or make it happen (which may even mean you simply have to save up for it).

Don’t expect that service, provider, training, product, etc., to be “cheap” so that you can get something for nothing. You devalue others when you do that, and you know what they say:ย  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If you want to be valued in the marketplace, you need to treat, honor and respect others likewise.