You Don’t Have a Portfolio

You don’t have a portfolio when you’re in the admin support business because admin support is a service, not a tangible, visible product (like design is).

Rather, your “portfolio” is the experience clients get dealing with you.

It’s your service, your communication, your responsiveness, your policies, processes and procedures, your systems, your standards, how your website looks and works, what your testimonials say, your case studies…

These are all demonstrations—samplings and examples—of your expertise, competence, professionalism and the service experience clients will get should they decide to work with you.

And if they are positive, if they are smooth, if they are well-executed, those are the things that instill confidence and trust in your potential clients.

4 Responses

  1. Kenyatta says:

    I agree. One question that my husband asks is why I’ve been taking so long and agonizing over every detail of my website and other materials like my Welcome Kit, forms, stationery design, wording, color schemes, you name it – when it comes to starting my business, which I’m currently working on….still (sigh). I’m designing every aspect myself. I told him that my work speaks for itself and the only work that I have to show (right now) is the work that I’m putting into presenting my business/consultancy. And I think I will need all of this to be at its absolute best so that I can be lucky enough to get testimonials/support/referrals from previous employers. I say “lucky enough”, not because I don’t feel worthy or necessarily need them, but because they may not be inclined to support my efforts in this way. If this (branding/marketing, designing business processes, etc.) is the type of service that I want to offer existing and start-up businesses, then why not be able to say “I developed and designed my own….from start to finish”. Our businesses should stand as our portfolios. My husband thinks that I could put a website with minimal details out there to solicit business, but I explained to him that I need to create an image that will attract the types of people that I want to work with. And I need them to take me seriously. I don’t half-step.

    I bring up those past employers for a few reasons. I’m a military spouse/vet and I have moved a lot. I have had some really great positions where we have been stationed, but always in a support/assistant role. And some of those supervisors, no matter how great our relationship was, how much they really admired my skills, and depended on me, well…they have egos that make me question whether or not will only ever think of me as “assistant” material because they have not been presented with an opportunity to see me in a different light. Why depend on them at all? They know my work better than anyone so I am coming up with ideas to present my business to them and myself as a consultant for two reasons: they hold the keys to other opportunities where consultants are frequently needed in their agency and I’d like the chance to tap into that market and they are well connected and I’d like for them to feel comfortable referring me others. I explained this to my husband and he said that because they know my work they should already feel comfortable referring me. I told him that was not so simply because they see me as an assistant, their assistant, the one they’d always hire again if given the chance, the one that anyone would want on their team – not as an independent professional who walks to the beat of her own drum offering the same, if not better, high level support and stands shoulder to shoulder with them.

    Presenting our practices in a way that is impressive, legitimate, and professional is very important and I think that alone showcases our work (that we put into ourselves) and our standards.

  2. Hi Kenyatta 🙂

    Thanks for adding to the conversation.

    I have a few cautions for you:

    1. Yes, you want a professional image to attract the kind of clients you want. At the same time, you don’t want to be such a perfectionist that it keeps you from ever getting started on your business. You can always be improving upon things—and you will—in your business. My fear for you is that constantly working on these things is going to keep you delaying the start of your business. That’s never what I advise. Here’s a blog post I want you to read:

    2. Contrary to what many people will tell you in this industry, past employers do not often make for good clients for many reasons. First, businesses of a “company” size have workloads of a size and nature that inherently require in-house staff. Thus, they don’t really have a need for the solution we’re in business to offer. When there’s no need, they place no value on it. You really want to be targeting the solos and boutique businesses. Those are the folks who have the best/highest need for what we’re in business to do. When the actual need is there, they place greater value on the solution and are more willing to pay (and pay well) for it. But second because it’s typically more difficult for previous employers to get over the past assistant/employer relationship and view the relationship in its new and proper context: one of business-to-business. Here is a post that elaborates more on this:

    3. It sounds like you might need some more ideas around testimonials for your new business. Here is a post that I think you’ll find helpful:

  3. Kenyatta says:

    As usual…you slapped brought me back to reality and gave me some points to ponder. I will visit and read the posts that you recommend. I get a little anal retentive about some things and that has given way to paralysis of analysis…

    Also, regarding point #2, you pretty much elaborated on my fears. Although I was going to go ahead and put them (past employers) in the bucket for marketing potential, I’ll re-think doing so. I guess because I don’t think they would value or fully understand the type of business service that I am offering, it was one of the reasons that I was trying to make sure that all i’s were dotted and t’s crossed and they had no choice but to look at what I had set out and accomplished to do. Let’s say that I did send this mega-look-at-me-now-will-you-support-my-endeavor-package to them….and then they blow it off with a mere “awww, so cute” pat on the back or no response at all. I’d be a little butt hurt and certainly resentful of a potential condescending or non-response.

    I think I still need to work on my mindset shift. Maybe I’m internalizing some deep-set resentment about always being treated as an “assistant” while doing the work of those above, beside, and beyond me, but not being given a chance to promote. Perhaps I felt I had something to prove and hoped I’d benefit from proving it to them by them kicking some work/referrals my way.

    Thank you!

  4. I’m so glad you found it helpful, Kenyatta 🙂

    If I had you in a laser session, I would tell you that the most productive thing for you to work on right now is deciding on a target market. Have you downloaded my free guide on that? Here’s the page where you can get that:

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