Archive for May, 2012

Nervous About Networking? Here’s How to Do It

Nervous about networking? Wanna know how to do it better?

Well, the first step is to stop being a Stepford marketer, shoving your business card in everyone’s faces, and reciting your elevator pitch at them like a drone.

Sorry to be harsh, lol, but sometimes it’s the only way to snap folks out of their zombie spell.

Business networking isn’t any different than making friends. And how do you make friends with anyone? You strike up a conversation, right?

If you’re shy and want improve your confidence, try practicing this way:

Go to a restaurant or grocery store. Your sole purpose is to strike up a conversation with a stranger. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just MAKE yourself do it.

Rinse, lather, repeat. Pay attention to the little mental tricks you find yourself using to initiate those friendly conversations.

After a week or two, keep practicing with this exercise, but now make it the conscious focus to learn one new thing about each stranger you talk with. Nothing too intrusive, obviously; the point is to engage them as opposed to just exchanging uninteresting pleasantries and talking about the weather, lol.

What you have done with this exercise is gain some confidence in talking to strangers and become more comfortable with it, figured out some little tips and tricks that work uniquely for you in starting conversations, and taught yourself how to draw people out by engaging them. They become interested in you (and find you more interesting) by your interest in them.

Now, instead of the grocery store or restaurant, go to the next local business event you can find and practice your conversation starting there.  Make the first move. Say hello to someone. Ask for their thoughts, opinion or experience on a topic. Find out something about them and let the conversation lead you from there, keeping it natural, not forced.

When the conversation turns to business, rather than a business card, have a free give-away of something useful that you can gift to those who are interested, such as a guide on a common business problem or need and your how-to advice or solution for it (branded of course with your letterhead, contact info and a call to action).

A lot of things in business are counter-intuitive and go against conventional wisdom. You don’t want or need to always be on the business “make.” In fact, just losing the business agenda can actually improve your business agenda. See, counter-intuitive. 😉

Lose the business cards and elevator speeches (in fact, you should be asking for cards rather than being focused on giving them out). If you get the impression that people are only being polite, it’s because that’s exactly what they are doing. They know you aren’t being a real person and instead are “pitching” at them. Stop that.

Don’t market. Don’t pitch. Don’t angle. Leave the business agenda at the door.

Loosen the collar. Let down your hair. Have fun. Be yourself. Make friends.

Dear Danielle: How Do I Prequalify Potential Clients Financially

Dear Danielle:

I am just starting out in my own business. I have crunched the numbers and know what I need to charge. I have researched my target market and need to know where in the industry to focus my attention. In other words, who can afford to pay for my services? I’ve seen you use the example for the pre-qualifying process that clients must make a minimum of $75,000. How do you arrive at this number? Is there a formula for this; like a percentage of income for administrative services? I know what my bottom line is. How do I figure out where their bottom line is so I can sift through my research and refine my target. —KT

There’s no formula; $75,000 is just a benchmark that I chose. It’s based on nothing but my experience and the “sense” I’ve developed after being in business for 15 years now.

For example, a solopreneur making only $50,000 a year really is only surviving. While I might love to help them, I simply can’t take on any retained client where money is a problem. That is, I don’t want to work with anyone who is really only making enough to pay themselves, much less anyone else. If paying me comes at great difficulty, that inevitably leads to problems and I don’t like feeling like “the other shoe is going to drop” at a moment’s notice. Know what I mean? So, for me, $75,000 is a bare-bones minimum,  a more comfortable income benchmark to be able to afford my support without much difficulty as it’s closer to the $100,000 a year level. It’s just a rough gauge.

You can choose whatever number you want, as well.

When it comes to prequalifying clients financially, there are lots of ways you can go about that. Maybe you come right out and ask them what their income level is in an online form on your website. Maybe you simply state that the clients you work with need to make a minimum of $X annually. You can choose whatever number you want, although the numbers may be relative to the market you’re focusing on. Maybe that’s $75,000. Maybe it’s $100,000. Maybe it’s $200,000. Some people prefer working strictly with 7 figure entrepreneurs.

There’s no right or wrong here. Just pick a number; you can change it later if you want or need to. The goal, obviously, is to focus on your ideal retainer clients who make enough of a comfortable income to where paying you for your administrative support and expertise poses no difficulty.

(Keep in mind, we’re always talking about retainer clients here on my blog, not project work unless specifically indicated as that’s a completely different animal.)

We cover prequalifying clients at length in my client consultation guide, Breaking the Ice: Your Complete, Step-by-Step System to Confidently Lead the Consultation Conversation and Convert All Your Prospects to Retained Clients (GDE-03). This guide will be of enormous benefit to you so I highly encourage you to check it out.

Don’t feel like you have to do everything exactly the same as me or anyone else, or that you have to do everything “perfectly” (like, what is “perfect” anyway, right?). Once you get started, you’ll start getting a feel for what works for you in your business and even that will change over time as you go along. You will have lots of adjustments and course corrections you make throughout the life of your business.

How to Create a Split-Screen Video Call Recording on Skype with Supertintin

I had a bit of a saga trying to figure out how to get a split-screen recording for some video interviews I wanted to do via Skype. To save you some trouble, I thought I would share with you what I learned.

The first thing you need to know is that Skype on its own does not render a two-person video call at equal size, side by side. Only group calls of three or more people work like that on Skype. Instead, what you will see on a two-party video call is the other person in the larger, primary position and you will be in a much smaller video inset.

That’s fine if you are just having an informal video call. But that doesn’t work if you are wanting to record a formal video interview that you want to share with others for one reason or another.

Third-Party Software Needed

In order to record a two-person split-screen video call where both people are on the screen side-by-side at the same size, you need some third-party software. These are the two I recommend:

PC UsersSupertintin ($29.95)
Mac Users: ecamm Call Recorder ($19.95)

Both of these softwares create the dual-screen, side by side video for your interview style format and will record both the audio and video all in one. You won’t need any other equipment or software and they are so completely quick and simple to figure out how to use and operate. You won’t need a phD to use them, lol.

How to Use Supertintin

Supertintin is super easy to use. Here’s a quick video to help you get going quickly with your split screen video call recording:

Other Tools

Below are a couple more options that will give you split-screen recording. These are more expensive because they do a lot more than just split-screen recording, which is probably overkill if all you’re trying to do is obtain a simple one-on-one video call recording. Their interfaces are also a lot more complicated so it will be more time-consuming learning how to use them.


Free Tools

There are lots of services out there that will faciliate video chats. You will find several listed on our Free Software page.

Oovoo is one I’ve used a few times to get that two-person, same-size, side-by-side, split-screen video recording for interview purposes. Personally, I don’t prefer the format, I found it a little glitchy and unstable, and the free version is a little restrictive as far as functionality. However, it will do in a pinch until you are able to get one of paid tools listed above.

Hope that helps!

Dear Danielle: Do You Turn Away Clients and Customers Who Object to Your Policies

Dear Danielle:

I’m curious. Do you ever make exceptions regarding payment of your administrative services, your educational services or products sales, allowing for advanced payment by bank check or money order? Or do you always turn away potential customers if they do not accept your payment policies? I find it hard to believe that I’m the only one you’ve come across that will not use PayPal. I have many clients that would be leery and put off if that was all I offered them for a payment method. I must admit, though, I’m curious if you just turn people away or if you ever make exceptions to your rule? —CS

To be clear, this wasn’t an actual Dear Danielle question, but rather an email conversation I had recently with someone who didn’t want to make a purchase from me through PayPal, which is my payment processing vendor of choice and the service I use exclusively for that purpose. This person reported that she’d had a really horrific experience years ago with PayPal and she is reluctant to go through them for anything since. Perfectly understandable.

She asked if I would contact her if I ever decided to use a more “reliable” payment service and wanted to know my experience with it. While I am very much honored by and appreciative of her interest, and very sorry to hear of her terrible experience, my reply was that PayPal has been a very convenient, reliable service for me (I’ve been using it since around 2000 or so with no problems) and that I didn’t have any plans to move to or utilize any other service.

This prompted her question above and I thought it made for a very relevant business topic for you here on the blog today. As incomprehensible as it is to her that I would turn away money and clients (!), such lack or fear-based thinking is as incomprehensible to me. Because my answer is this:

Yes, I absolutely turn away clients and business that don’t fit with how I’ve set things up in my practice.

You will never have an ideal life or business if you work with unideal clients or accept situations that are less ideal than you’d prefer.

Life is simply too short. I learned that at the ripe “old” age of 30 when my late husband died and left me a widow and young single mother. That kind of experience really makes you reflect on life, what you want for yourself and your children, and how you want to live. It’s what fueled my fire to go into business for myself and have the self-determination, independence and lifestyle that self-employment brings. And it’s why I’m so passionate about sharing and helping others achieve what I have.

You’ve heard the saying, you’ve got to take care of yourself first so that you can take care of others. That is exactly the principle in play here.

One of the most basic tenets for having a successful business AND quality of life is running things in a way that suits your needs first and then working with only those who are the best fit for that.

This is how I run my business and it’s why I have a much more freedom-filled, stress-free life than most other people do in our industry. It’s nothing personal, but I’m not going to upend all my systems and processes for one person (or even a few) when the way things work in my business suits me fine.

I would expect and encourage you to do likewise in your business. When you put your focus on the ideal, you open space and invite more of the same into your life and business.

I consciously engineered my life like this long before I’d ever heard of Seth Godin, but this quote from his book Tribes sums up my life and business philosophy perfectly:

Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”

By focusing on the ideal, I don’t have to spend my time and energy dealing with the extra work, headaches and rabbit holes that making exceptions brings. And that gives me more time for life!

If you want to learn how you can engineer your business for more money, more life and less stress, I’m doing a class on a topic that directly affects your ability to do this:  pricing and packaging your retained support. The methods and principles I teach in this class can be implemented immediately for a simpler, easier business to run. I’d love to have you with us!

Dear Danielle: “God’s Work” is Not Getting Me Paid

Dear Danielle,

I’ve been struggling really hard with determining what target market I would like to cater to with my administrative consulting business. I have gone back and forth about it for awhile now. It is so tempting to take work where you can get it, but I know that is not the correct way to go about building a business. My industry experience has been in working with nonprofits, but for business purposes I would like to target start-up nonprofits because I know how much it takes to get a nonprofit off the ground and I can see how I can easily be retained in this case as well. My concern is that I won’t be fairly compensated for my work. I worked with a ministry and I didn’t get paid a dime because sometimes with entities like this, you get caught up in doing “God’s work.” Can you please give me some guidance with this issue? I would really appreciate it. —JS

Thanks so much for submitting your question. I would love to help give you some guidance on this.

First, I want you to download my free guide, Get Those Clients Now!  When it comes to getting clients more quickly and easily, it’s all about the target market. This guide will help you get more clarity around that.

It’s great that you have an idea of who you want to target. Now, you just want to do your homework about viability. Nonprofits can be tricky. While it sounds like you’ve got a great background perfectly suited to support them, you’d just want to make sure you are targeting a niche that actually has money. Because if they can’t afford professional fees, all your wonderfulness isn’t going to help you if they simply can’t pay. I’m not sure how financially secure and solvent start-up nonprofits will be, but that, of course, will be your homework to research and find out.

That said, if you can determine there’s a viable niche in there for you, your marketing message can make all the difference in the world. If you can help them understand how your strategic administrative support will actually help them operate more cost effectively and profitably, and how it will help them accomplish a whole heck of a lot more than they could otherwise, that’s half the battle.

So download the guide; it’ll help you go about that whole process.

Now, may I give you just a little bit of tough love? Please know it’s said with hugs and a heartfelt desire to help you turn things around.

You mention being concerned about not being fairly compensated. Maybe it was just poor phrasing on the fly, but the way it was worded made me wonder if you were maybe taking too passive a role in leading your own business.

Because, it’s not up to clients whether you are “fairly compensated.” YOU are the one who decides what you will charge, how you will be paid and when you will be paid. Your job is simply to inform clients how it all works. If they had gone through a proper consultation process and signed a contract, how did they not know they were a client and were supposed to be paying for your services?

So, if clients were manipulating you into working for free, you want to realize that they didn’t do that to you; you allowed that to happen.

To change that, what you want to do is get more intentional about your business and consultation processes as well as who you take on as clients. Be sure to clearly separate business from any volunteer work you are doing. So, for example, if you had gone through your normal consultation process with this ministry, they should have been clearly informed that you charge a fee for your work, and how and when and what you will be paid for that work. If there was any misunderstanding or ambiguity there, that’s a sign that you need to improve those processes and communications in your business. None of that happens without your passive or active consent. You see?

So if we need to tighten up and intentionalize (my made-up word, lol) your consultation process, I highly recommend you check out my client consultation process guide.

I hope that helps! Let me know in the comments if things improve for you with this advice moving forward. 🙂

Wanna Be Part of the Community?

In case you didn’t realize it, the ACA uses its Facebook page as a community forum. It’s where I share wayyyy more mentoring and guidance beyond the blog here, and where our members and friends can ask questions and add their voice to the conversation.

I’d love to have you join us there! And if you’re not there, you’re missing out on a TON more conversation, fellowship and learning.

See you there!

ACA Facebook Community


Are You on Sale? Stop Giving Yourself Away for Free

Stop giving yourself/your work away for free.

Because that’s all you’re doing by working in unpaid “internships.” You’re just giving someone else free labor and delaying the start of your REAL business.

The best way to gain confidence and learn how to run your business? By working with your own clients, not someone else’s. It’s the only way you’ll hone your own consulting skills, define your own policies, standards and boundaries, and figure out who your ideal and unideal clients are.

The truth is most of these unpaid “internships” are not in compliance with labor laws. And of all the unpaid “internships” and the conversations around them I’ve observed online and in the forums and listservs I belong to, people really are offering these as a way to get free labor: “Want help in your business? Get some unpaid interns!” They don’t even realize that what they are proposing is illegal.

As one unpaid intern who ending up sueing stated, “This culture of expecting to be able to get free labor if you slap the title intern on it has become so pervasive that people don’t question whether it’s ethically wrong or legally acceptable.”

Even in our own industry, people like to pretend (even to themselves) that they’re somehow doing a favor for the interns, but really, they’re just taking advantage of those who are new, naive and don’t know better.

The NY Times did a piece on this topic recently: The Unpaid Intern: Legal or Not?

In the article, acting director of the Labor Department’s wage and hour division Nancy J. Leppink states: “If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law.”

There are 6 federal legal criteria that must ALL be met for an unpaid internship to be legal:

  1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in a vocational school;
  2. The training is for the benefit of the trainee;
  3. The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under close observation;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees and, on occasion, the employer’s operations are actually impeded;
  5. The trainees are not necessarily entitled to employment at the completion of the training period;
  6. The employer and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

From the Warshanksky Law Firm in New York:

“These are very strict criteria that effectively bar most unpaid internships, which are intended to benefit both the intern and the company; otherwise, why would the company offer the internship in the first place? Yet the Wage and Hour Division has stated unequivocally that a company may derive ‘no immediate advantage’ from the internship. The upshot is that if an intern performs any useful work, however simple or menial or clerical in nature, the intern must be treated as an employee, subject to all applicable labor and employment laws. Failure to comply with these laws can result in liability for back wages, back taxes, and other civil and criminal penalties.”

People who want you to work for free are taking advantage of your newness, eagerness and naivete.

Everyone who starts a new business is unsure of themselves and lacks confidence to some extent. But there’s an important distinction I want you to understand:  just because you are new to starting and growing a business does not mean you are new to the work. Just about everyone who starts a service-based business does so because they already know how to do the work. They just need to grow their business skills.

If you need to gain confidence in getting your business off the ground, you can get mentoring, encouragement and know-how from people like me and my blog here, and by joining our forums and Facebook groups, etc. And you don’t need to work as an unpaid employee to get them. 😉

Want to Know How to Get Clients?

This is the single most frequently asked question in business.

And the answer is surprisingly simple. There’s still work and effort involved, of course.

But the “secret,” if you want to think of it like that, is really and truly simplicity itself.

Download our new free tool to learn the answer to this age-old question and get the 3 simple steps to getting those clients for your business!