Archive for December, 2013

Dear Danielle: How Do I Obtain Financial Backing?

Dear Danielle: How Do I Obtain Financial Backing?

Dear Danielle:

Do you have any advice on how to secure financial backing? —Anonymous by request

What kind of financial backing do you mean or think you need?

Because these aren’t the kind of businesses that you’re going to be able to find “financial backing” for.

The great thing about our kind of business is that while all businesses require at least some investment of time and money, it costs relatively little to start up an administrative support business.

Best to bootstrap, build up your own capital for launch, make use of whatever resources you already have, and be putting your business foundations solidly in place before launching.

If you’re still working, that’s a great time to do all of that.

Thanks, Danielle. I’m pretty much set up. I have my equipment and such. So perhaps I am good to go. I keep seeing websites, though, that state I need to have a mentor and that it costs X amount of dollars for their insight. So that’s why I was thinking that I need to get a fianancial backer. What do you think?

I think you’re good to go.

Business learning is something that will be ongoing throughout the life of your business. You’ll always be learning.

And no one is going to give you money to get mentored so it’s really a non-issue.

Beyond that, as far as mentors go, you find people to follow who make sense to you and take advantage of their at-large mentoring.

For example, the ACA website and my blog here are where I mentor the industry as a whole with my blog posts, resources, etc.

As you go along, that’s when you might find you need some some personal coaching/advising/guidance here and there when you get stuck, and then you just pay for that when/where/if you need it.

Tell Fear to Take a Hike

Tell Fear to Take a Hike

My members and I were having a very lively, insightful conversation the other day.

A new member who is in the very beginning stages of her administrative support business was considering offering her services pro bono for a limited time.

She asked the group if this was a good idea.

And the group, of course, validated what she herself knew deep down already—that it would only attract those seeking something for nothing.

Those folks almost never turn into real, viable clients. Even on the rare occasion they do, they inevitably turn out to be the worst kind of clients to deal with.

We explored where this idea might be coming from and the new member confirmed that a lot of it was being new to business and not having confidence just yet.

No shame in that.

Confidence is something everyone struggles with to some degree or another, in some aspect or another, no matter where they’re at in their business.

It’s completely normal and doesn’t make you any less worthy of owning and running your own business.

While this might be something you struggle with, what I can tell you for sure is that giving away your services for nothing will not help you grow in your confidence.

In fact, it’ll do quite the opposite and trample all over the professional self-esteem you need to develop in yourself in order to be successful and attract the right kind of clients into your life.

First, in practical terms, here’s why pro bono doesn’t work:

1. It devalues the very thing you are in business to offer and make money from. You never want to bargain with your value that way. If you don’t value yourself and what you have to offer, no one else will either.

2. It only attracts freebie seekers. Trust me, nearly no one ever turned a freebie-seeker into a long-term, retained client. It’s kind of like one-night stands. They just don’t turn into real relationships. And don’t let the one person in the world who is the exception to that rule try to sway you otherwise. Just because they didn’t happen to get killed walking across the freeway doesn’t make crossing the freeway on foot a good idea. 😉

3. It’s a very bad precedent to set in your business. Being a new business owner will require you to hold yourself and the work in high regard. Once you start chipping away at your value, it’s downhill from there in ways you will have never anticipated. Working with folks who are only there to get something for nothing will have you stepping all over your boundaries and standards and prevent you from gaining the healthy professional self-respect you need to survive in business.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free. And that’s exactly what those kind of clients think.

Selling yourself short and giving your work away for free will not help you grow your confidence.

What will increase your confidence is charging appropriately and asking for the fee.

At this point, you may be thinking, “Yeah, that’s all well and good, but I have to have confidence in order to do that!” Right?

No, you don’t.

It doesn’t take confidence to build confidence. All it takes is the self-knowledge that lack of confidence isn’t a place you want to stay in, a desire to grow into greater confidence, and a willingness to stretch beyond your comfort zones.

Charging clients is exactly one of the things that builds your confidence as a new business owner.

Not charging clients just keeps you stuck on a much longer, more draining, demoralizing (not to mention unprofitable) path.

How do you think you’re ever going to get it (confidence, money, respect, you name it) if you don’t ever push yourself to expect it and then practice asking for it?

Fear really is your only roadblock.

The crazy thing about fear is that it is self-imposed.

Sure, it’s real, but your confidence will only grow (and grow most quickly) if you put your foot down and simply decide to suck it up and ignore the fear.

Get angry about it even! Tell fear to get the hell out and don’t let the door hit its ass on the way out!

And then ask for that fee.

Once you pick yourself up off the ground and get over the shock of “Wow! They didn’t bat an eye,” your confidence and belief in yourself and what you have to offer will have just leapt over a tall building.

This is the beginning of your journey into healthy professional self-esteem. You’ll get more and more comfortable (and confident) charging what you’re worth and asking for—and getting—your fee!

Of course, it isn’t always going to be like that. You will get clients who balk at paying. You will get clients who aren’t a fit.

That doesn’t mean you shrink back down, lower your standards and change your business to suit them.

And you aren’t going to handle every experience smoothly. You’re going to be rough and imperfect and inconsistent in the beginning.

But that’s all okay because these are the experiences you absolutely do need.

The idea isn’t to avoid them altogether. They are valuable learning opportunities that will help you grow into your consultation skills and get better and better at articulating your value, honing your message and standing firm in your expectations and standards for yourself and your business.

Don’t let fear win. Don’t cave in. You ARE a hero. Overcoming fear is a success worth striving for and celebrating!

Originally posted June 12, 2009.

7 Easy Steps to Get Your Calendar Ready and Rarin’ to Go for 2014

Get Your Calendar Ready for 2014

Have you gotten your calendar ready for 2014?

It’s not too late. In fact, if today is an admin day for you like it is for me, this is a perfect time to get ‘er done and only takes a few minutes.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Block out all holidays for the year. Be sure to block out any extra days as well (e.g., two days for Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve).
  2. Block out all personal days for the year that you plan to be closed (e.g., birthdays, anniversaries).
  3. Block out known vacation dates (or weeks that you intend to take off).
  4. Block out any known business events, trainings, conferences, etc., you plan to attend. Steps 1-4 before anything else is important because taking care of you and your business is always first priority. You can’t take great care of anyone else unless you first take great care of yourself. I’m also an advocate for taking plenty of time off from your business. The more time you take to recharge your energy and creativity, the better your business and clients are for it.
  5. Next, block out your Admin Days for the year. An Admin Day is the one day of the week you devote strictly to your business and personal development.
  6. Then, block out your Client Meeting days/times for the year. For example, Tuesday is the day of the week I use for my weekly retainer client meetings. Each client gets a one-hour time slot, same time each week. I established this practice when I realized how much more difficult it was for me to dive into work as well as maintain work momentum when I had meetings scattered over the course of the week. I’m much more productive when I know I don’t have any other appointments looming over my head and won’t be interrupted.
  7. Rinse and repeat for your clients (if you happen to help organize their calendars).

How Do I Terminate a Client Who Is No Longer a Fit for Me?

Today’s conversation came from a thought I posted on our Administrative Consultants Facebook page:

Your “mistakes” are a necessary part of your business growth (and I use quotes because they aren’t really mistakes, they are learning experiences). You will take on a lot of what I like to call “practice” clients in the beginning. One thing, though, that has the ability to kill your spirit and morale—and possibly your business entirely—is continuing to work with a bad, unideal client. So, have standards around who is worthy and entitled and a fit to work with you. Choose clients thoughtfully, carefully and deliberately. Do your best to prequalify ideal clients (and weed out unideal one) before you ever begin working together with what knowledge and self-awareness you have at the moment. None of us is perfect or has a crystal ball and sometimes we take on a client who turns out to be not so great later. And sometimes we just outgrow some clients. Either way, never prolong a bad relationship, no matter how much you need the money because the psychological cost is far greater than you can afford. Let those clients go quickly and just feel the weight lifted off your shoulders and that of your business.

And what that means is, you do the best you can with what you have at the time.

You have much more business savvy today than when you first started. And you will continue to learn and grown every day. It’s impossible not to.

That doesn’t mean you won’t make some mistakes, have some missteps, do some second-guessing, and ignore your gut, red flags and the advice of others along the way.

These “mistakes” include clients we choose.

It’s a sure bet that the kind of clients you deem ideal in your business today are not at all the same as those you chose in the beginning. Heck, for most people new in business, any client is a good client.

But then they live and learn. They realize they are not a fit for everybody and not everybody is a fit for them. That’s the beginning of their inklings about standards and getting smarter and more self-aware about who they work best with. They learn through their experiences the kind of clients they want to avoid working with in the future.

In response to this post, Kellye Dash (who permitted me to share the convo with you) wanted to know this:

How do you terminate a client? That’s my challenge. I had a client that questioned every task, every minute billed. She had very little patience too. Every month, I found myself crediting time just to satisfy her. Every month! Yes, I know bad-bad-bad! I let it go on too long and, after several months, the client terminated me! It was not a good situation and I was very upset about it as I felt that I bent over backwards for her. I knew it was bad after about a month in, but felt tied. I wasn’t sure how to end the agreement already in progress in the best possible way. I struggle with how to avoid it from the very beginning. I always meet/speak with potential clients, assess their needs then follow up with the proposal/agreement. How do I decline servicing them if I can tell its a bad match?

So, what Kellye wanted to know wasn’t how to terminate clients, but rather how to avoid bad clients in the first place. And I’ll share with you what I shared with her:

  1. Have a consultation process. And I’m going to plug the ACA consultation guide here because it is the absolute best in our industry and will save you from a WORLD of hurt in the future. A consultation process isn’t just about the phone call itself. There are things that need to happen and be set in place before a client ever contacts you, as well as things that happen in the follow-up that make all the difference in the world in attracting and working with ideal clients and setting the tone for a successful relationship moving forward. My guide lays that blueprint out for you step-by-step, including how to follow-up and what to say in every kind of client scenario:  the ideal client you want to work with, the maybe client, and the unideal client you determine is not a fit and don’t want to work with. Mind you, I don’t just tell you exactly what to do, I explain why these steps are in place so that you gain a really deep understanding and knowledge of this aspect of your business and client psychology.
  2. Get conscious about your business standards and formalize them in writing. This includes clearly outlining your business policies and procedures as they are an important aspect in communicating your standards and boundaries, working more easily with clients and facilitating a more successful relationship. If this is an area you struggle with, my Power Productivity and Biz Management guide can help you. In it, I share my own business policies and management techniques that not only allow me to take exquisite care of my clients, but that also allow me to actually live a very flexible and freedom-filled life (one that most people only pay lip service to, but aren’t actually doing).
  3. Market more like an attorney. It’s a sad fact, but most people in our industry market thesmelves like employees, not independent professionals in a certain expertise. This creates the very first disconnect and misalignment in expectations and understandings. You want clients who treat (and pay) you not only as a peer and administrative expert. Instead, because of your marketing message, you get clients who think you’re merely some sort of substitute employee and want to treat and pay you as such.
  4. Stop making your marketing message all about the money. Besides marketing like employees, the other thing people do in our industry that is causing them problems is making their value ALL about how little clients pay. Think about it. Go to just about any website in our industry and see what the message is. It’s all about how much cheaper they are than an employee, how much the client will save, freebies here, discounts there… Is it any wonder they attract nothing but nitpickers and penny-pinchers? Their own message TELLs clients to think that way. That marketing message is a cattle-call for every cheapskate and freebie seeker out there, the worst kind of clients to deal with. Your value is not in saving clients a dime. Your value is in how much they gain from working with you, how your work and your unique, personal approach improves their business and life and helps them grow and succeed. Talk about THOSE things. (And if you can’t think of anything more valuable about working with you except that you are cheap, then you need to go back to the drawing board.)
  5. Raise your rates! Remember: you are not your ideal client. Price your services according to what your business needs to be profitable and the ability of your IDEAL client to pay, not what you can afford to pay yourself. You can’t afford to work with anyone who can’t afford you. Not charging enough attracts all the worst clients. It is an immutable law of business:  the higher you price, the better kind of clients you attract. This is because your pricing is also part of your marketing positioning. Cheap pricing you get cheap clients.
  6. Stop selling hours and instead price the overall solutions and results. When you use time as the measurement of performance (instead of results), you are training clients to focus on time and so they naturally end up nitpicking your hours. I’m going to point you to my Value-Based Pricing Guide because it is the only one in our industry that can truly teach you how to stop selling hours entirely and instead price and package your support based on value and expertise (the concept and adaptation of this methodology for our industry originated with me).
  7. Use your website as a tool for attracting and prequalifying ideal clients. Your website shouldn’t be just a pretty placemarker on the internet and it shouldn’t be parroting the same industry rhetoric that clients see on everyone else’s website. It should be working to support you in your standards, educating your prospects (to find more fit), setting expectations and understandings for a successful relationship, and prequalifying ideal clients (and avoiding unideal ones). When your site is set up properly for these purposes, you will attract more clients and better, more ideals ones at that. If this is an area you struggle with and your website just isn’t doing much for you, I recently released my proprietary web design blueprint and conversation system for building a website that actually works in our industry. It also includes a plug-n-play process for creating your own unique, compelling marketing message.

Now, all that is about how to avoid bad clients in the first place. But how about when you need to terminate a client? What do you say?

Well, if you use the ACA Retainer Agreement, there is language included that gives both you and the client the option to end the relationship with 20-30 days notice (you decide which).

If you decide that a client relationship is not working for you any longer for whatever reason and you want to end it, you simply exercise your option to terminate the relationship.

I have ended a few client relationships over the years and for me, I’ve found that being honest, to a degree, is the best approach.

What I mean by that is, maybe you absolutely can no longer stand or tolerate a client. Hey, it happens. You chose wrong, ignored red flags and then lived to regret your choice to take on a wrong client.  Does that mean it’s a good idea to tell them exactly how you feel about them? Of course not. It wouldn’t serve you or them.

You don’t have to elaborate or go in-depth. Keep it professional and be heart-felt where/if you can.

There are lots of reasons why a client is no longer a fit, all of which are perfectly legitimate and can be framed in the nicest, most professional way.

For example, maybe they are growing in different directions in their business or you are making changes in yours and you can no longer support or accommodate their needs.

You can even just simply say (particularly if it’s a bad situation), “I feel we are no longer a fit for each other and I think the time has come to end our relationship. I will continue to support you for the next X days according to the terms of our contract.”

And you honor your end of the agreement, do what you can or are willing to do to be helpful and just let them (and all the angst) go. Quickly and cleanly.

Let me know how all this sits with you and any thoughts or questions that come up. I’m happy to continue the conversation in the comments as this is a topic many people struggle with.  🙂