I think the idea that very commonly travels around our circles that we should be “one-stop” shops is dangerous.
Dangerous in that it sets you up for failure and mediocrity.
Dangerous because it’s rooted in employee mindset.
Dangerous because it stems from an underlying lack of healthy professional self-esteem that who you are and what you do is ENOUGH.
And dangerous because it teaches clients and others to devalue the expertise you ARE in business to provide.
It is ENOUGH to be in one business, not a million different businesses at once (i.e., administrative support… not administrative support AND web design AND graphic design AND bookkeeping AND marketing AND social media AND writing/copywriting, and any and every other hat you can find to put on).
That BS is something employers pulled on their admin staff because they could get away with it (i.e., dumping every kind of work and role onto them beyond their job description without any promotion in title or pay).
You don’t need to carry that wrong and negative influence over into your business. And you shouldn’t.
Because you are not a human garbage dump.
Because business and employment are not the same thing.
And because running your business and working with clients as if you were still an employee keeps your business from really flourishing.
It is ENOUGH to keep your eye on your one focus and discipline.
In that way, you beat mediocrity and can be the very best you can be at the particular thing you are in business to do.
Trying to diversify and be all the things to every body keeps you unfocused and dilutes the time and energy needed to do any one thing particularly well.
People who specialize in mediocrity don’t make the big bucks, are tired and scattered all the time, and never gain traction in their businesses.
You DON’T have to solve ALL problems for clients. You only have to solve the problem your business is set up to solve.
You DON’T have to be all things to every body.
I 100% agree and 100% have no idea how to make it over the mental hurdle that you’ve described. This is me to a T. Harder still b/c not only do clients ask for it, and I love saying “YES!” both to please and because I like learning new things and taking on challenges. But oftentimes it’s been more of a problem than anything else.
“It’s more of a problem than anything else.”
Exactly. And what it also does is teaches clients and others to devalue the thing you ARE in business to do, that you went into business to do.
There are a few things that help get over the mental hurdle:
1. Understand that you are in BUSINESS, not employment. Clients don’t get to dump any ol’ thing they think of on your lap.
2. Know WHAT business you are in. What I mean by that is if you are a plumber, it makes no sense for someone to ask you fix their car. So if you don’t know what you’re in business to do, clients aren’t going to be clear about that either.
3. For the same reason as above, NEVER call yourself an assistant. All that does is categorize you as “gopher” in the minds of clients. That’s because people only understand the word “assistant” in one way — employee. It’s the first disconnect that invites clients to think you are a kitchen sink disposal where they can dump anything and everything on you.
4. This one takes a bit more personal work and is something we all have to practice, and that is saying “no” to thing you are not in business to do and sending clients in the right direction (e.g., if they need web design, send them to the web design industry).
Here are a few more blog posts on this topic:
Why Are You Asking a Plumber to Fix Your Car?
Wearing a Stethoscope Doesn’t Make You a Doctor
Dear Danielle: Do You Ever Provide Writing Samples?
Dear Danielle: How Do I Handle Requests Outside My Expertise?
Check them out and let me know if they help in any way with the mental hurdle.
I could not agree more! This holds true for employed Executive Assistant as well. Too often, this role seems to be the “catch all” or “as other duties required.” As with other management positions, the role of the Executive Assistant is to be a true partner – freeing up his/her executive to focus on business needs. Why should that focus be any different for the EA?
Just what I need to hear.
This came at the right time for you, Wilma? Tell me more. Is this an issue you have been struggling with in your business?
Actually I stumbled on your blog when I started thinking about setting up a business in admin. I have been working in admin for some years and I am quite tired of the 8 to 5 job. I live in Ghana and outsourcing admin work is not a thing out here. I am thinking about it nonetheless because that is what I have been doing for years. While drafting a business profile (having put it of for sometime now, I got back to it just today!) I found myself trying to set myself up for just about anything I thought I had capacity to deliver but I have been having doubts about the scope of work I should be delivering as a business particularly since I will be starting this solo. And you are right about the fact that so many things are thrown at admin staff at the work place. Your blog on “one stop shop” is BS just got me to realize I need to do a rethink of what the business should be offering. I’ll be happy to get any pointers.
Thank you so much.
Hi again, Wilma 🙂
I actually hear that very frequently (“outsourcing is not a thing where I live”). Here is how I try to get people to see this from a different angle:
It’s not about “outsourcing.” That word is on my “Ban These Words from Your Business Vocabulary” anyway. Don’t use it.
ALL businesses need administration. Administration is the very backbone of every single business in the world. Agreed?
Therefore, it doesn’t matter where you live, whether “it’s a thing” there or not, or whether they’ve ever even heard of Administrative Consultants or the industry you’re in.
None of those things are relevant or necessary to your ability to provide solo/small businesses owners with the help and support they need to run and succeed in their businesses.
Here are a couple of blog posts for you to read that touch more on this that I think will help give you the perspective you need to move forward:
Dear Danielle: Do I Need to Move If I Want Clients in Another City?
Dear Danielle: What If Our Term Is Not Well Known in My Country?
I think about this a lot. I like doing many things but I want to specialize in one thing. I’m not sure what that is.
There are lots of things I like to do as well. For example, I really love video production and editing. BUT I don’t have time to do that kind of work in addition to all the administrative support I provide to my clients. It’s too much switching of gears that would slow my primary business down.
If that work were going to be profitable for me to divert the kind of time and energy it required, I would have to go into that business. But that’s not the business I want to be in or that I have set up to be in so any work I do of that nature is for my own pleasure and gratification.
This is why being in business (if you’re going to be financially successful at it) requires smart decision-making about where you put your time, focus, and efforts.
There’s a line in the movie The Cider House Rules that always come to my mind when I have these conversations where Delroy Lindo’s character says “What business are you in, Jack?”
It’s an intense scene, but to my mind it’s such a great, albeit dramatic, metaphor. It’s that we all have a choice to make in business: We can either be trifling and lackadaisical (which means we aren’t that serious about it) or we can be explicitly clear about what business we choose to be in and INTEND to be in.
The first is being nothing more than a gopher, which people don’t expect to pay much for and expect to be order-takers.
The second is what breeds clarity, excellence and financial success.
Danielle, this post is right on time for me. Over the past week or so I have become very frustrated with certain aspects of my business and I need to make a change very soon, before I burn out. Most of my clients are utilizing me for very simple tasks and I am not feeling fulfilled with my career at the time. I take part blame because I agreed to assist in these ways, but under the pretense that we would revisit the type of work that I really want to do once I streamlined and organized certain immediate needs. It seems like I have become more of a Virtual Assistant than an Administrative Consultant. Some my clients have even outsourced some things that I could very well do and would prefer to do. I feel like I need to clean the slate and start over soon or I won’t enjoy what I do anymore.
Hi Shemeka 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing this. I went through something similar in the earlier days of my business and I basically wiped the slate, fired all my old clients, and started everything fresh.
One of THE most important things I did that changed everything was choose a specific target market.
In looking at your website, I don’t see that you have one.
(A target market is simply a specific field/industry/profession that you cater your administrative support for.)
One of the hugest things that having a target market does is it helps you get totally clear and more specific about the work and the ways you can help support. The more specific you are, the more compelling your marketing message and content will be.
That, in turn, helps you attract more ideal clients.
If you were asking for my advice, it would be to choose a single field/industry/profession. Once you have that, knowing who you are talking to specifically is going to help you improve your message around what you do and how you can help them.
Let me know if that helps or if you have any questions. 🙂