Archive for April 24th, 2012

Dear Danielle: How Do I Transition from Virtual Assistant to Administrative Consultant?

Dear Danielle:

I’ve been following you for a long time and am a big fan of what you are doing!! I realize that after two years of “just barely” making it, that it’s time to make some changes to my business. I was considering changing to an OBM, but that doesn’t really fit what I do either. I can see that being an Administrative Consultant more clearly defines what I am and what I really want to be doing. So, how do you make the transition from a virtual assistant business to an Administrative Consultant business? MD

Rather than having this question languish any longer in my To-Do list, I thought I would do a quick video for my answer.

Okay, I knew I had more to say on this, lol.

To summarize, the quick answer is that there’s nothing complicated or involved about transitioning from virtual assistant to Administrative Consultant. You don’t need to go through anyone’s course or buy “certification” from anyone’s diploma mill. It has more to do with definition and mindset.

Obviously, just changing your title isn’t going to turn things around in your business. It’s the attendant thinking patterns and changes in self-perception (as well as the changes in perception by clients) that go along with this new way of thinking and operating an administrative support business that have the most significant impact. How you see and understand yourself greatly affects your professional self-esteem, your marketing message and how you operate and go about the process of helping clients. Those shifts in perception, even if subtle and underlying, have a HUGE direct link to your business success.

There are many problems with the virtual assistant term that have very real negative impact on people’s businesses and marketing:

  1. The word “assistant” is a term of employment. There are both legal and practical implications in using that word.
  2. It focuses on a role, rather than an expertise. And when you are in business, you aren’t anyone’s assistant and you can’t be.
  3. People using the VA term view themselves more as assistants and have a much more difficult time getting over employee mindset. Consequently, they end up operating and working with clients in employee-like ways that aren’t sustainable, that prevent them from growing and earning better, and that actually keep them from helping clients better.
  4. People only understand the word “assistant” one way—that of employee. So, potential clients come to the table right from the get-go misunderstanding the correct nature of the relationship.
  5. Every day we see examples of just how prevalent the idea is that VAs are remote employees, which is why they only expect to be paying them the same wages as an employee. This is the disconnect the word “assistant” causes in the marketplace.
  6. The word “assistant” automatically puts you in a subservient position. It’s why you have such a hard time getting clients to see and treat you as a business owner and independent professional, not their personal assistant.
  7. If you are a collaborative partner and work WITH clients, not FOR them, you are NOT an assistant. And if you are an assistant, you are not a partner.
  8. It instantly creates wrong or misaligned understandings and expectations in clients and prospects that you then have to spend time correcting and setting right.
  9. It’s a vague, generic, ambiguous term that doesn’t impart any kind of clarity or helpful, proper connotations, understandings or perceptions whatsoever. It actually creates more  difficulty in your marketing, consultations and conversations overall.
  10. The VA term has become the generic, garbage dump term for anyone doing anything and everything. It has absolutely no meaning or definition. It’s why clients constantly come to the table thinking you are going to be their do-anything-and-everything-at-my-beck-and-call assistant. That’s a big problem because when that’s the perception, people only see you as a gopher. And people do not expect to pay someone they view as merely a gopher or lackey the “big bucks.”
  11. The VA industry has become branded as the cheap labor pool of flunkies, and this is the expectation it is setting out there in the marketplace. This makes your job marketing your business and expecting to be paid as a professional doubly difficult because it is juxaposed against everything prospects have overarchingly come to associate with the term. Why align with a term that only makes it that much more difficult to attract properly educated, well-paying clients to your business?

So, when it comes to definition, what we’re saying is that administrative support as a business is a specific expertise and specialization in and of itself, not a role. It’s also not “anyone doing anything and everything.” It is a very clear and distinct category of business. If you are specifically in business to provide the art and expertise of ongoing administrative support, you and your business are better served marketing-wise and income-earning wise by using the term of Administrative Consultant.

There are entirely different connotations and mindsets created when you use the term Administrative Consultant, for you and your clients. This has huge positive impacts on your view of yourself (“I’m an expert in the art of administrative support. I’m not some mere assistant; I have EXPERTISE!”) that will show up in your marketing and how it creates more positive and aligned understandings and expectations in clients. AND because they aren’t seeing you as merely an assistant, but someone with real and specific expertise, they are much more willing (and even expect) to pay professional level fees.

I hope that helps provide some clarity to things for you! Feel free to keep the conversation going in the comments. 🙂