Dear Danielle: How Do I Handle Requests Outside My Expertise?

Dear Danielle:

Hi! I often get asked by clients how to put together a “media kit” to get the word out for their events and what-not. While I am good at some marketing things, this stumps me with the overwhelming, not so helpful examples and opinions on the Internet. If you can, please shed some light on this brain thumper for me. Thanks so much! —Chrissy Ford, Organized Resources, Etc.

Hi Chrissy! Thanks so much for the question. 🙂

Rather than getting into the ingredients and mechanics of what goes in a media kit, I want to talk about some business concepts and mindsets involved in this kind of situation.

As you mention, marketing is not your field of expertise. And of course it’s not. Because you’re an ADMINISTRATIVE consultant, not a marketing consultant.

So the first concept this brings up is the idea around hiring the right professional for the job.

What I mean by that is, for example, if you’re a plumber, it’s not your job to become a mechanic just because a client needs his car fixed. You’re a plumber. Fixing cars is not the business you’re in and not your field of expertise.

See what I mean?

Now, people aren’t going to be calling a plumber when their car breaks down because they know what a plumber does and what a mechanic does. We all understand the distinctions.

But the problem in our industry, particularly for those who call and market themselves as “assistants,” is that these distinctions are not as clear. And that’s because people see and understand assistants as gophers, not as experts in one particular anything.

For those calling themselves assistants, this is why they not only have a much more difficult time commanding professional fees (because gophers are not highly valued experts and people accordingly don’t expect to pay them well), but it’s why they are frequently asked to do things that have nothing to do with administrative support.

So the second concept has to do with business mindset and understanding that you are not a gopher, you are an administrative expert. That is your field of expertise. You need to lead and focus on a clear-cut definition of what you’re in business to do and what your expertise is so that clients easily see and understand what your professional role is.

This also entails that you stop calling yourself an assistant. If administrative support is the business you are in, call yourself an Administrative Consultant instead and see just what a difference it makes!

These concepts also directly relate to managing your business and productivity as well. You can’t be in business to do anything and everything. Those who try are spread really thin, really quickly, all the time. If you want to have a productive business that leaves you plenty of time for life, you can’t let yourself be led down rabbit holes by taking on work that you consider outside your field of expertise or is not the type of thing you’re in business to do. Let clients hire the right professionals for those other things.

So when you are asked by clients to take on something that isn’t your role in your business to do, you can handle it one of several ways:

  1. You could decline the request, indicating to the client that it’s not your field of expertise, and that they would be best served by a [INSERT TITLE HERE] professional/consultant because that’s the kind of thing they are in business to do and are experts at.
  2. You could accept the request, letting the client know that it’s not your area of expertise, that you know as much as they do about the topic, and if they are okay with that, while you’ll do your best, it’s not going to be the same level or kind of expertise as they’d get by going to the proper professional.
  3. If you accept the request, you could let the client know that their request is a special project and not something included in their administrative support plan, and that you charge separately for special projects of that nature.

I know that doesn’t answer your direct question, but I hope it brings up some other ideas that are helpful to you in your business. If you have further questions on any of this, please do post in the comments. I’m happy to continue the conversation. 🙂

5 Responses

  1. Kellie says:

    Hi Danielle – after reading this I now want to ask what is the role of an administration consultant?
    I have 22 years of working in corporate businesses and an administrator I was asked to do many tasks.
    Another reason I’m asking is because I have recently joined a networking group and they are stumped with my profession. You may be familiar that there can only be one profession in each group and when I offer such services as SEO, social media, website design & maintenance – they have advised I can not promote these services because they are different professions.
    I look forward to your reply on this not so black and white topic.
    So please if you can answer what does an Administration Consultant provide?

  2. Hi Kellie 🙂

    That’s a great question (one I’m asked frequently), although it’s not simple to answer.

    An Administrative Consultant is someone who specializes and is in the business of ongoing administrative support.

    And, of course, “administrative support” can seem like a sort of vague, nebulous thing. Especially combined with the fact that a lot of times, in the workplace, admins tend to be treated like pack mules with everything thrown on their back (and not paid anything extra for it).

    Here is a video of the best way I’ve come up so far with explaining what administrative support and Administrative Consulting AS A BUSINESS is all about:

    I emphasize “AS A BUSINESS” because this is something new business owners stumble on… they start their businesses thinking with an employee’s brain and an employee’s experience.

    But you simply cannot work with clients in the same manner, nor take on the same kind of role, that you did when you were an employee. Not just for legal reasons, but for practical and earning and marketing reasons as well.

    How and when you work with clients as well as what you do for them (and what you don’t do) as an independent professional and Administrative Consultant are necessarily going to be very different from when you were an employee. For business, marketing and productivity reasons, you have to make some very clear distinctions and definitions in your business that delineate these very different services and lines of business from each other. Each could really be considered is own separate business or division.

    So just because you were asked to do work as an employee for your past employers that were completely different professions and skillsets altogether doesn’t mean you should be doing things like that in business. In fact, working with clients that way will keep you from being successful and will only result in people viewing you not as an expert in anything, but more of a gopher.

    The other thing to understand is that just because you CAN do lots of other things doesn’t mean you should be doing anything and everything as a business.

    Said another way, just because you might also do web design, SEO, etc., doesn’t make those things one and the same as administrative support. There are all completely different professions, categories of business and service “products” in and of themselves that each require their own distinct training, experience, talents, skillsets, and processes.

    Hope that helps shed some light!

  3. Kellie says:

    Hi again. This is very much a hard topic to answer – as you have tried to explain but I am still stumped & need to come up with an answer in a couple of days.

    If I put to you [as a business owner with a business owner mindset] I offer monthly packages & are as follows:-

    For my ‘bread and butter’ clients I offer 10 hours of service this may include seo, web maintenance & small projects.

    For my ‘cream’ clients I offer 20 hours of service which can include advertising campaign, email marketing, creation of documents, flyers, newsletters and loads more.

    And finally for my ‘dream’ clients I offer to a niche market as an online tenders coordinator.

    So if I’m not a Marketing Consultant, Graphic Designer, SEO & Web specialist [but am a Tenders Specialist] what am I?

    Please help me to try and understand and let me know which track I’m on.

    Thanks Danielle.

  4. Yes, I can see you’re still not really getting it. You’re having a hard time with this because you’re trying to be a jack-of-all-trades instead of someone who is an expert in one specific thing.

    Maybe this example will help:

    Let’s say you’re an attorney. An attorney is someone who is in the business of law, right?

    So, is an attorney also a plumber, a mechanic, a web designer, an accountant and a what-have-you? Of course not. And if he were marketing himself as all these things, not only would it be completely confusing to clients (and a confused mind says “no”), it would also detract from his professional image.

    People wouldn’t think he was very competent or professional. They would wonder why he was trying to be all these other things instead of just focusing on the law, and they wouldn’t hold him in very high esteem. They’d wonder how on earth can he be an attorney (someone who is supposed to be an expert in the law) when he’s trying to do all these other disparate things at the same time.

    They would also see him as sort of desperate, scrambling to try and earn money any way he can. And desperation does not engender confidence. In fact, it breeds contempt and attracts those who would only devalue and try to take advantage. People do not value gophers and jack-of-all-trades. They accordingly expect to not pay them well.

    Yet, this is exactly how you are framing your business by trying to do all these disparate things. People don’t see you as an anything really, much less an expert, because you’re trying to do and be too many different things.

    People need to be able to categorize your business. But you won’t be able to do that because you aren’t focusing on one specific thing you are in business to do. You’re selling hours and offering yourself up as more of a gopher rather than someone who is an expert in [FILL IN THE BLANK].

    If you were someone who focused on administrative support, than you would be Administrative Consultant. But an Administrative Consultant is not a jack-of-all-trades or a gopher. An Administrative Consultant is someone who is an expert in the art and craft of ongoing administrative support, not anything-and-everything-but-calling-it-all-administrative-support.

    I can tell you, though, that the things you’re describing are not administrative support. What you’re doing is lumping together and dabbling around more in the project-related fields of marketing, web design, SEO, graphic design, etc. (Administrative support is not project work; it’s an ongoing relationship.)

    Unfortunately, this is not something you can get a simple answer to in a blog post. It really entails a more in-depth learning and understanding than that. It’s more of a sense and skill that is developed; not something that is imparted in one pat blog comment.

    You would benefit highly from my Value-Based Pricing & Packaging Toolkit. This topic of identifying and differentiating and understanding the different divisions and types of service products you offer is one of the things I teach about in that product. You can learn more about that here:

  5. Kellie says:

    thanks Danielle – I shall have look into your Value-Based Pricing toolkit a little further.

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