Archive for July, 2012

Do You Never Have Time for Your Life? Want to Stop Being a Substitute Employee?

If you are so deeply involved and entrenched in managing your client’s day-to-day business, you will never have time for your own life, much less your own business and working with other clients.

Even if you’ve been conned into believing that’s the only way to charge higher fees, who gives a crap if you will never have the kind of freedom and flexibility to enjoy it!

The thinking that you aren’t valuable enough being an administrative expert and strategic partner to clients (and not a substitute employee they don’t pay taxes on) arises from a deep-seated lack of professional self-esteem. The sharks in our industry who want you to buy into their certification programs and clients who want to take advantage exploit these self-sabotaging beliefs for their own gain.

But you don’t need to take on a bigger role to be valuable (especially roles that aren’t your place to be taking on anyway as an independent professional).

What you need is to improve your professional self-esteem, learn to better understand and articulate your value, and for God’s sake, stop working with clients who are just trying to turn you into an employee they don’t pay taxes on. (The coaching, Internet marketing and real estate industries are notorious for this.)

You’re probably thinking “that sounds wonderful, but how on earth can I stop working with clients at their daily beck and call and still HAVE clients and make money?”

Oh, my dear, you’ve been fed such a load of BS by this industry. What I could show you will spin your world right around!

It all starts with how you manage your business and workload. Let me show you how you can work with clients as a strategic partner ( NOT a substitute employee), take fantastic care of them AND have more time for your life while doing it.

My class on August 22 will show you exactly how to manage your clients and workload so the right understandings and expectations are set right from the get-go, and you have more space around the work and more time for your life on a daily basis. Check it out here.

Delete This Word from Your Biz Vocabulary: Assignments

Another word to lose from your biz vocabulary: “assignments.”

You are reinforcing the wrong perception that you are an employee by using that word in your marketing message and client education.

You’re not a temp. Clients don’t “assign” work to you. They submit and you accept (or decline or refer, as the case might be) work requests.

The language of business and professional respect is required in a business relationship of equals.

POLL: Would you like more free time in your business and life?

I have a new class coming up in August on the topic of biz management and productivity. I’ve set up my business in a way that not only allows me to provide fantastic client support, but I always have time for my life. With rare exception, I’m never working like a slave everyday, I’m not scrambling to get things done or keep up with my workload, and I have a tremendous amount of time for my life, vastly more than I see most other people in our industry having. I make more money than 90% of those in our industry AND I’m not working with clients like a substitute employee to earn it.

So, this class is a way to share with others how I have things set up so that they, too, can have this kind of biz and lifestyle… so they are working to live rather than living to work.

As a follower of my blog, you know that I give a ton of information and mentoring away for free. So I’d like to ask you for a favor in return. Whether or not you plan to attend this class, I’d like to know if this class piques your interest or not and whether it’s a topic you are interested in.

This is a completely anonymous survey so I don’t know who answers what. However, if you wouldn’t mind sharing with me where the trouble spots are when it comes to productivity and managing your biz and client expectations and the like, it would be very helpful to me as well and I would very much appreciate your assistance (I won’t post your comments so you can share freely). 🙂

Would You Give Your Car Away for Free to Anyone Who Asked If They Could Have It?

If your car were to be stolen, would you think it was “a compliment” to you that the thief liked it so much he decided to take it for himself?

Is it a “compliment” when someone steals anything that belongs to you? No? Then stop saying such a completely ridiculous thing to those who have had their content stolen.

Stealing is stealing, whether it’s someone else’s words or belongings. They are both property, the latter being physical and the former being intellectual.

Your content is one of your most prize possessions in business. It’s supposed to be unique to you and you alone. It’s what helps differentiate you from the rest of the field. And clients do not want to see and hear the same things on everyone’s website and copy.

For someone to capitalize on YOUR content is illegal and creates unfair competition. So to those out there repurposing other people’s content, stop being a thief.

I would further advise people, it’s not even cool to ask people to use their content. Have the good manners not to put them in the uncomfortable/awkward position of having to tell you no.

If you do ask and they tell you no, be a grown-up. Just because you ask doesn’t give you any special rights nor is anyone obligated to say “yes” just because you ask.

It’s their property and they and they alone have the right to decide whether or not allow anyone to use their content. And in my opinion, they would be foolish to give that permission because it is not in the best interests of their business to do so whatsoever.

Here’s another way to look at this… are you going to give your car away just because someone likes it and asks if they can have it? That would be completely ridiculous, right? You might SELL them your car if the offer were good enough, lol.

Where do people get this crazy idea that they can just walk up and take content from your site, or that just because they ask, they are somehow entitled to be given your content free of charge? It’s ludicrous!

So maybe you help people realize what they’re asking by replying that you are paid good money for your writing skills, that your unique content is what differentiates you from everyone else and helps earn you business and clients, and that allowing others to copy it would dillute and diminish its power. But hey, if they want to PAY for your content or HIRE you to write them some content, maybe then there’s a conversation to be had.

(Trust me, they want to do neither.) 😉

Power Productivity and Biz Management for the Administrative Consultant

Okay, gang, class is ON!

I’m holding the Power Productivity and Biz Management for the Administrative Consultant intensive clinic on August 22, 2012. This will be a one day, two hour session where I’ll share with you all my tricks and tips for effectively managing a full retained client practice for FANTABULOUS client care and greater freedom, flexibility and time for your own LIFE.

Registration is $147, but register now and you’ll pay only $97.

Check out the registration page for the full details!

What Folks Have to Say About My Value-Based Pricing and Packaging Training

Besides not charging properly, another reason people aren’t earning well in our business is that they are selling hours instead of pricing for solutions. This is called value-based pricing and it’s a methodology I introduced to our industry back in 2004 and have been teaching since then.

I recently conducted this class in June and I wanted to share with you the exciting testimonials I received from some of the attendees:

“Your classes are always fun and informative. I have been on calls before for webinars, and it seemed as if I was the only person on the call. But not with you. You give such awesome information and examples that it is hard not to get excited about how you are going to apply all that you have learned. You make it easy for everyone to ask questions and not feel as if “oh, that was a stupid question.” That is why it is hard to get off your calls. I learn a lot from the other people on the call as well as the information and templates you provide. I now have a clear picture of why I should have packages instead of charging by the hour.” —Tracy Carson, Te L – Us Business Solutions, LLC

Thank you so much, Tracy! I was especially thrilled by Tracy’s feedback because I know she is a very discerning customer and has been disappointed in the past by other teleclasses she’s attended from others, which makes her feedback even more meaningful. I’m so glad I was able to help, Tracy! There is nothing better than that!

“This program is amazing, and I am so glad I was able to participate.  I dreaded spending the time for billing each week because it took up way to much time that I could be spending with my family.  Since participating in the webinar and implementing the pricing plan with two new clients, it has taken all the stress out of billing.  That alone has made this program worth it.  I have advised all my clients that as of the new quarter (August) all billing will be switched over to this program, and even a few are excited about it.  Not having to worry about weekly billing and increments of 15 min they, too, feel it will be less stressful when trying to read their invoices.  I have one client who decided to not wait and we are working on his support plan to get him started right away.  Thank you for sharing you knowledge and simplifying the trials and errors that you have endured to create the impossibly easy billing!  I can’t wait for your next webinar because I will make sure I have signed up for it to attend.” —Teri Williams, Sidekick Assistants

Oh, what wonderful news to wake up to!! This is just so thrilling and I am ecstatic for Teri and her business! What I love even more is that she was fearless, took action right away and just DECIDED to implement things (and didn’t sit around waiting for clients’ permission).

She knew it would help her and she knew it would definitely benefit her clients and help them see that they could both be more focused on the client’s goals and dreams and achieving objectives instead of counting hours. I so LOVE THIS!

Now here’s the bad news… The class I held in June was the last live class I planned on doing on this topic. I have many more new and exciting projects I want to focus on, as well as a big adventure I’m planning to start late 2013 or early 2014.

The good news is that you, too, can get the entire training RIGHT NOW with my comprehensive Value-Based Pricing & Packaging Toolkit.

Click on the link and you will be taken to the product information that will let you know all that is included in the guide, some sample images and a video explaining why pricing by the hour and selling hours is killing your business.

I am proud as punch of this program, and as evidenced by all the testimonials of customers and attendees, it has really and truly transformed the income and businesses of those who have purchased the toolkit!

Why Aren’t You Making More Money?

One of the things our annual survey has shown us year after year is that most people in our industry are not charging enough.

When an Administrative Consultant doesn’t charge enough, it’s difficult, impossible even, to create a profitable, successful practice—the kind that allows you to quit your day job (or in the case of single moms, create the kind of real livelihood that will support their families). When you aren’t earning well, you begin to question your worth. Feelings of resentment arise.

To make more money, many people think the only option is to take on more clients. But that’s not exactly the answer, especially if you’re already managing at capacity. Overwhelm and burnout soon ensue.

Some think the only way to make more money is to turn into a virtual staffing agency or admin mill (where the work is farmed out to cheap, exploited workers, which is not in the best interests of clients). But, again, that’s not the only answer. You have to drum up even more business, be on even more of a hamster wheel, and become more of a people manager in order to create any kind of profit in that kind of business.

You lose significant control over the quality and delivery of service. Your overhead doubles, even triples. Your marketing and networking requirements are multiplied. Your administration increases and becomes more complicated. And the people doing the work don’t work for free, no matter how cheaply you get them to work for you (and honestly, does exploiting others and having them devalue themselves for your benefit really feel good to you?).

So your profit margins become even smaller. And because you are now dependent on an even higher volume of clients and work to make up for these multiplied costs in such a business, you can actually end up earning exponentially even less money than before!

Many Administrative Consultants know they aren’t charging enough, but fear holds them back. They’re afraid if they increase their rates, they’ll lose their current clients.

Sometimes it’s a lack of confidence because they are new in business, not sure of themselves and still carrying over employee mindset (or being told by idiotic “training” organizations that just because they’re new in business they shouldn’t be charging as well as anyone else. WRONG! Not only should they be ashamed of themselves for telling people that, but with advice like that it’s clear they have no business teaching anyone about business.)

I won’t lie to you. It is very true that if you raise your rates, you may lose some current clients. It’s always hard to make change with those who have gotten used to being spoiled and having you devalue yourself. But some loss is a actually a sign of growth, of growing into your strength and standing for your place in the world. You will never grow if you don’t ever upset the status quo in your business and aren’t willing to accept risks.

It’s important to understand that there are always going to be clients that you outgrow throughout the life of your business. And when you do, you make room for the more ideal in your business—those new clients who come into your life having more appreciation for what you do for them and happily pay well for it.

You being poor does not contribute to helping make the world a better place. Nor does helping make the world a better place require you to be financially unsuccessful. In fact, you being financially successful in your business affords you more opportunities and ability to put people first and do good in the world as well as for your clients. 😉

Clients aren’t the only ones who have a right to their dreams—you do, too! But you won’t ever reach those dreams if you don’t step outside your comfort zones and take some educated/informed risks. It may never feel completely comfortable raising your rates. You can be bold or you can take baby steps—either way, it’s all forward growth. So just do it!

The first step in setting these intentions is getting clear about what it really costs to run your business and what you need to earn for your life, so be sure to download the free ACA Income and Pricing Calculator.

Now ask me for some tips and strategies. 🙂

(Originally posted on my old blog on September 14, 2009.)

Dear Danielle: Is It Possible to Start an Administrative Support Business Part-Time?

Dear Danielle: Is It Possible to Start an Administrative Support Business Part-Time?

In view of last week’s Dear Danielle question, here’s another post that I thought would be helpful as well

Dear Danielle:

Is it possible to start a business like this nights and weekends if you are totally self-supporting and work Monday through Friday, 9-5? Thanks for your advice! —JN

Well, anything is possible. It’s just that there are some practicalities and caveats to consider.

First, you want to get clear about your goals and intentions for having a business.

Are you looking to create a real business, one that will earn well, take care of you and your family, and support your dreams, goals, and lifestyle? Or are you just looking to earn a little bit of a side income while you continue to work as an employee?

Either way is perfectly fine, but the former will require some real work, education, and commitment while the other is more of a hobby. You want to understand that running a real business and freelancing on the side are two completely different things.

My advice is always focused on those who are looking to create real businesses. So when that’s the case, the other thing to consider is the client.

  • How much of a commitment do you have to offer clients if you are working part-time?
  • How much time and energy will you have left over for them during the evenings and weekends after you’ve already put in a full work day and week?
  • How long do you think you can sustain that pace?
  • What will you have left over for yourself and your family, friends and other interests?
  • How might the lack of time for self-care impact the quality of your support and ability to grow your business successfully?

I’m not saying it’s impossible. But clients’ stuff is important to them. And it can be really, REALLY difficult, not to mention stressful and exhausting, to provide a professional level of service and care to clients if you are still working a full-time, or even part-time, job. It really depends on how badly you really want this and how smart you go about it.

So here’s what I recommend…

1. While you are still working, set up the foundation of your business. That means, a) getting clear about what you intend to be in business to do and b) who you intend to work with (your target market and ideal client), c) start establishing your policies and procedures and d) getting your contracts and other forms together. All of this will be honed and adjusted over time, but you’ve got to at least get the start first.

2. Start working on your website. The more professional the better. Your business website is THE most important marketing piece in your business so don’t be penny wise and pounds foolish. Clients equate the professionalism of your site with the level of your skill, competence and commitment. If you aren’t the right person to design your professional site, hire a professional to do it.

3. Simultaneously, begin working out your job exit plan. This endeavor will affect your whole family so obviously you’ll want to discuss your decision/goal with any spouse or partner you have and (hopefully) get their blessing and support. There is nothing more difficult than starting a business when you have to also battle a resentful, unsupportive family.

4. Imagine your life while supporting a full roster of clients, what that will look like and how you will establish boundaries for clients, family, and even yourself. The goal is to help everyone understand when it’s business time and when it’s family time. And for yourself, the goal is to honor your standards and boundaries—because we have equal culpability when we resent others by allowing them to step over those things in the first place. So those are going to be really important.

5. Be clear about your finances. At some point, once you have your foundations in place, there will come a time when you simply have to make the leap and decide to commit to the business. But you never want to start broke. Magical thinking doesn’t pay the bills. So you want to figure out now how you will finance the business until it becomes self-sustaining and profitable. Do you have another income in the household you can live on while the business gets established? Do you have savings (or perhaps a severance) you can use to finance the business? Where else can you get capital for the business?

You want to understand that generally it takes any business about 5 years to get there and that most fail in the first three years. This is probably the biggest mistake new business owners make. They don’t calculate what they need to earn and they don’t realize that they MUST not only earn a living, but actually a PROFIT, in order for the business to survive. I can’t stress this enough.

You want to go in with no illusions that you’re going to become a millionaire overnight. Hey, I won’t say that’s impossible (anything is possible, right?); but it’s not likely.

It simply takes time. Go into it with your eyes wide open about that fact and you’ll be far better prepared for your success.

The good news is that the need for what we do as administrative experts has no shelf life. EVERY single business requires administrative support so there will always be a need for what we do, and because the overhead is so low, it’s one of the most inexpensive kinds of service businesses to operate!

The ACA Definition of Success

The ACA definition of success:

YOU earning well financially in a humane, sustainable business that easily supports you and your family without being dependent upon other means of income (e.g., spouse, side job) and which still leaves you PLENTY of time and space for LIFE!

Someone asked on my Facebook page, “yes, but how to achieve that?”

Sweeties, everything I do, from my mentoring and guidance on my blog here, to the products I provide you with in the ACA Success Store, are geared to help you achieve that kind of success!

Dear Danielle: Should I Quit My Day Job to Start My Administrative Support Business?

Dear Danielle: Should I Quit My Day Job to Start My Administrative Support Business?

Dear Danielle:

I am a single mother. I currently work full time, but am actively (and as quickly as possible) working towards becoming a legitimate business. The question (or dilemma) I have is that I am reluctant to just leave my job and go full force into my own business. I have considered a small business loan to help with the transition, but I would rather not go there. Do you have any suggestions or pointers on softening the blow? —Nicole Barton

Thanks for writing, Nicole, and I do have some feedback and advice for ya!

You are smart to be reluctant about starting your business by going into debt.

Even if you wanted to, though, business loans for start-ups aren’t handed out like candy.

New small businesses are one of the highest risk groups there are (90% of new first time businesses fail, and it generally takes a good 3-5 years for those that stick around to really start gaining any kind of traction and financial solvency).

You’d have to have all your ducks in such a fantastic row to even remotely qualify. And if you got yourself to the kind of level they require in order to qualify, you wouldn’t need the loan by that time anyway.

So first, here’s what you want to have realistic expectations about:

It takes most people many months (sometimes even more than a year!) before they get their first client.

Those first clients are more often than not project clients (as opposed to retainer clients), and odds and ends project work simply is not going to give you enough of an income on which to support yourself and quit your job.

Now, that may end up not being the case for you, which would be great, but it’s better to have realistic expectations so that you are better equipped and prepared for the long haul and can plan accordingly than to dive in eyes closed, hoping for the best, and walking away discouraged, disappointed, and broke (or worse, in debt).

While you are employed (and earning an income) is actually a great time to lay the foundations for your new business. What I mean by foundations are things like:

  • Getting all your initial business learning, studying and planning in;
  • This includes getting intention and clarity around what your pricing and income needs.
  • Taking care of business legalities (e.g., registrations, etc.)
  • Figuring out your target market;
  • Coming up with your biz name;
  • Securing a domain name, creating your website and drafting your marketing message;
  • Getting your starting policies and documents in place
  • Purchasing your most important essential business tools/equipment and other necessities (a state of the art computer system and the fastest, most reliable Internet service you can get are the best investments you can make.)

While you are employed is also a good time to start socking away some money to live on and sustain the business for the time when you decide it’s right to finally make the leap.

The good news is that our kind of business is one of the easiest and most affordable to start!

There’s no travel involved, you work from your own home office, the start-up costs and investments are minimal (compared to other kinds of businesses), and it costs hardly anything beyond some basic services in overhead to run your business.

When I started my business, I actually did it for many years on the side while still working my day job.

Then an opportunity came up during another round of company-wide layoffs where I was able to volunteer for lay-off. I received a very nice severance package which I used to fund my new business.

Of course, by that time, I already had my all my equipment and foundations in place so all I really had to focus on at that point was marketing and networking and getting those retained clients as a full-time business.

So don’t be eager to take the leap too quickly, particularly if you aren’t well-prepared for success (you didn’t say where you are at in the process so I’m not sure what that is for you).

Then again, at some point, there will be a time when you have to make the leap in the interests of your business and those of your clients.

Get your foundations in place while employed, perhaps begin to take on some projects and ongoing clients on the side during that time, and then once you’re ready to make the leap and quit your day job, make sure you have some other form of income or savings to live on (e.g., savings, a spouse’s income, unemployment, severance pay, side jobs and project work) while your business is in the early years and you are focused on gaining those first retained clients.

Hope that helps!