A very sweet, sincere person wrote to me asking if I ever subcontract any of my work.
She indicated that she has all the experience and qualifications to make the leap to becoming an Administrative Consultant, but hasn’t quite mustered the nerve yet, and was hoping to start off by working with colleagues and for a trusted source first.
Without mentioning names, I share this here to help her and others who are in the same boat.
My answer is that I don’t ever subcontract my clients’ work. I’m highly opposed to that.
I have a couple people who support me in my business, however. We work in an ongoing partnering relationship the same as my clients partner with me, and they pretty much take care of all my needs.
Did you catch the distinction there?
Do you understand the difference between farming your clients’ work out to third parties and having people support you in your business?
If not, please do ask because it makes all the difference between turning your business into just another low-value, commoditized McDonald’s and a high-value partnering relationship where you can command top dollar.
The other thought that pops up for me is that helping others start a business is a little like helping drug addicts.
Don’t laugh; I’m serious, lol.
Because we can only point people to information and resources and give them the right advice, our best advice.
But when it comes down to it, they have to want “it” for themselves (whether that’s sobriety or the self-determined lifestyle of the entrepreneur), and they have to want it bad enough that they just say enough is enough.
So in this case, the lack of nerves, shyness, etc., eventually a person just has to get sick of letting those things hold them back and just charge forward, come what may.
(Does my analogy make sense now?)
In the meantime, here are some other ways to get your feet wet:
- First, it has to be said that the best way you’re going to figure out things in your own business is by working with your own clients. There’s just no way around that. Working for others may help bring in some cash, but it’s not a substitute for building your own business and brand and going through your own processes and trials and errors that go with that. All you’re doing working for others is finding excuses to delay the start of your own dreams.
- Confidence is a journey. It’s not something any of us necessarily has right out of the gate when we start our businesses. It’s something we all struggle with to some degree and/or at some stage or another. It’s completely normal so you’re in good company! What you’re really feeling is discomfort with the unknown. So, as they say, you want to get good and comfortable with feeling UNcomfortable. Because if you let fear and discomfort hold you hostage, you’ll never get anywhere (in business or life). Confidence comes from actually doing. That doing is where you’ll begin to learn and understand. It’s where you’ll have your greatest a-ha moments and figure out what you want in your business and how you want to do it, and your confidence grows from there.
- Even if you haven’t opened your doors yet, go do some local networking. It will be good practice in talking to people and making friends with strangers. Because when it comes down to it, that’s really all it’s about. And that’s how you’re going to get clients, too. When you meet people, you can even be honest and say that your business isn’t open quite yet, and you were just looking to meet other business people and see what kind of administrative needs and challenges they had. That would be a great conversation starter AND you’d be getting some valuable market research at the same time. See, feet wet.
- If you’re dead-set on working for colleagues first to get your feet wet, you gotta be active and let yourself become known. The way to do that? Actively ask questions. Contribute to conversions and discussions. If you never speak up, no one is going to see you, much less get to know you. And that’s how colleagues hire other colleagues when they need help… by getting to know, like and trust them and seeing what they’re about. This is how they get a sense of what your skills and strengths are. That only happens if you’re making yourself visible. (This is the same way clients hire us, by the way.)
- Class matters. This isn’t directly about how to get your feet wet, but it still bears mentioning. And that is, your manners speak volumes about what it will be like to work with you. The person who contacted me was personable while being professional and she thanked me in advance for my time and consideration which she valued. I really appreciated this because it demonstrated a high measure of polish and class and that she wasn’t just thinking about herself and her needs. These traits are going to serve her very well in business.
- The right information will give you more confidence. What I’ve learned from my own journey and what I’ve seen in my 10 years as an industry mentor, when people haven’t gotten the proper information first, when they haven’t gone through the process of setting up proper business foundations, that’s when they have the least confidence and the most fear. Once they arm and back themselves with the tools, information and learning, that’s when their confidence flies, trepidation dissolves and they get excited and can’t wait to get their business started! You can get ALL of this, all the contracts, forms, processes and critical business skill learning guides you need to soar in the administrative support business from the ACA Success Store.
I’m a newbie and delivered new logos to two clients this week. They were referrals from a friend. I let the friend know that I made my own logo, with software that I bought. She liked the look of my logo, that’s why she made the referral. Also by that time I have done a few logos so I was confident about accepting the assignment. However one of the two referrals from my friend is a photographer who knows photoshop and had very specific requirements that I could not meet. I let the client know, and I reached out to an expert for help because I knew that I could not master photoshop quickly enough to make the deadline. The client loved the result and gave me a good testimonial to place on my website. I think that the takeaway is that honesty and communication with the client paid off in this instance. About sub-contracting, I thought that this would be a Plan B for me, but it has not worked out. For me, I feel that while sub-contracting I have to work for two bosses and yet earn a lower rate. I’ve had a few referrals, and fewer opportunities. I personally think that subcontracting is double work. I have had much more success, relatively speaking, getting clients on my own. I’ve been lucky, I can use more clients, but the ones that I have, the ones that I “chose” are ideal fits. (Love your website and your support for administrative professionals. Thank you.)
Hi Sabrina 🙂
Although your examples are project and design work, not administrative support (you understand the difference, right?), you do bring up another good point about subcontracting which I’ve written about before (you’ll find those posts in the Subcontracting category).
When a colleague subs out client work to another colleague, that is commonly done under the auspices of subcontracting. In that type of relationship, the common practice is that the subcontractor accepts the work at reduced fee.
As you pointed out, they are making less money than if they just found their own clients. It’s another avenue for making money if and when you need to, and there are lots of occasions when colleagues will utilize their colleagues for mutual benefit on an ad hoc basis like this.
Then again, when you fill your own practice with your own direct clients who are paying your full fees, you may find you have little time, need or interest in subcontracting (which, here again, builds THEIR brand, not yours).
Another thing to keep in mind is the difference between subcontracting and partnering with a colleague, as I mentioned.
It’s subcontracting when they sub out their own clients’ work on an ad hoc basis.
But when a colleague partners with you to work with them in an ongoing relationship of admin support to support them in their business, they are a client just like any other client and should be paying your full fees.
And that is the kind of relationship I would tell someone new in our industry to seek out instead if they want to get their feet wet because that colleague would be a full client just like anyone else, regardless of the fact that they are a colleague.
It’s in that kind of relationship that there would be actual real potential to experience and process firsthand the things that will help them develop their own real business.