Archive for the ‘A Message for Clients’ Category

That’s Not How This Works, That’s Not How ANY of This Works

That's Not How This Works, That's Not How ANY of This Works

You know, we always see these articles constantly telling clients who want to get help from those of us in the administrative support business that they need to instruct us on this, tell us how to do that, yada yada yada… as if how the consultation will proceed, how our businesses and processes work, what we do and don’t do and how we do it are all up to them — like they were hiring an employee.

And all I can do is shake my head as I read these confounded articles and think:

“Um, no. That’s not how this works. That’s not how ANY of this works.”

First of all, clients aren’t (or at least shouldn’t be thinking they are) hiring a trained monkey.

Second of all, if a client is talking to anyone who doesn’t have the faintest idea of her own processes in her own business, that is not someone any client should be engaging with.

The client will be pulling her hair out before the month is out trying to elicit any form of independent thought or critical thinking from the person who is waiting to be told what to do every step of the way.

That’s no help to clients in the least little way.

Figuring it all out or having to tell you how to do everything isn’t a burden clients should need to bear.

That’s YOUR job as an independent administrative expert and business owner: to have your own consultation process that you lead clients through that works to elicit the information YOU need to form a picture of the client and their business, develop a plan of support, and guide, recommend and advise clients on where and how you can help them and the best place to start.

Of course, I should clarify that these articles are always written about “virtual assistants,” not Administrative Consultants.

That’s because people only understand the word “assistant” one way: employee.

So it’s no wonder they are confused.

But this is business — not employment — so they need to be disabused of the notion that they’re running things.

One way you do that is by not calling yourself an assistant in the first place.

They’re the client, not the dictator of how our businesses and processes work. It’s not up to them to tell you how things will proceed.

It’s their place to contact you to inquire whether you might be able to help them, and for you to inform them what the next step is in your process of finding that out and then leading them competently through your systems (as any independent business owner would).

Yet another example of why smart people in the administrative support business do not call themselves assistants. 😉

Reminder to Clients: People Are Not Vending Machines

Reminder to Clients: People Are Not Vending Machines

People need human kindness and appreciation. Remember their dates. Don’t grunt requests at them, as if they aren’t worthy of the extra two seconds of time it takes to speak to them in complete sentences. Say “please” and “thank you.” Human beings are not vending machines.

These thoughts arose from a situation in my personal life, but it’s a good reminder for clients as well.

If you find yourself with a client who exhibits any of these disrespectful behaviors, it’s an indication that they may not understand their role in the relationship (namely, that of client, not employer).

Make sure you don’t leave them any room for misunderstanding that. It’s too important to your success in working together and your own personal happiness in your business.

You set the tone for that by marketing yourself as a strategic support partner and administrative expert, not their assistant.

What Do You Love About Your Favorite Client?

What is it about your favorite client that makes him or her your favorite?

My favorite client is easy to work and get along with.

He’s been my willing guinea pig whenever I want to try something new (because he knows his business will end up benefiting in the long run).

He’s funny and easy-going.

He responds quickly to all my emails and never keeps me waiting or guessing.

We have great brainstorming sessions and he readily asks for and takes my advice.

I feel respected as a professional and the administrative expert in our relationship.

We’ve had some ouches along the way, like when he had to pay more money to keep working with me.

In the end, though he might grumble a little at first, he always realizes he makes more money, and his life and business are a lot easier, because of my support and expertise.

We make a great team.

How about you? What makes working with your favorite client a joy?

Get Your Synergy On

One of the independent experts who supports me in my business is my programmer, who has been working with me for about three years now.

My tech guy (as I like to call him) and I are in the midst of several big projects. In working together, it reminds me about how awesome the dynamic is when you work with someone with whom you have an ongoing relationship. Not to mention just being able to hand over work to someone else who knows what they’re doing so that my brain stays free for ideating (to borrow the term from the IBM commercial).

That’s not to say that I just throw work at him and forget it. It’s a participatory process.

I need to pay attention to his questions as they come up, and respond in a timely manner.

I appreciate his skills, attention and responsiveness, and give him the respect of responding quickly when has a question or needs feedback from me.

He is doing work that is important to me, after all, and it would be both rude and wasteful to make him wait on me for an undue amount of time.

The wonderful thing is that there’s a mutual respect that occurs in this dynamic, one that creates a whole other creative level for brainstorming and innovation to occur.

And for clients, it’s like this when you work with an Administrative Consultant as well.

The participatory process that is inherent in the collaborative partnership is why clients are able to accomplish so much more with an Administrative Consultant.

The back-and-forth give-and-take creates a synergy that allows you to work together at a higher, more productive level.

And the longer you work together and get to know each other, the easier and better all of that gets.

You can’t get that kind of dynamic working with someone impersonally or only occasionally on a transactional basis.

It’s something that only comes by working in close, one-on-one partnership with someone over a period of time.

The longer you work together, the more your shared body of knowledge and intimate familiarity grows and the more cohesively and intuitively you are able to mesh, think and work in sync.

The “Frugal” Mindset Will Always Defeat You

I’ve been having an ongoing conversation with a business owner over the past few months.

He had emailed me awhile back outlining ongoing issues he’s had with people in our industry who call themselves virtual assistants.

He stated that he’s hired and fired many and nothing ever seems to work out for him.

Normally, I don’t spend my time and energy trying to convince those who will never get it.

But this was a very nice, genuine fellow, not a crank or someone just emailing to complain.

He was sincerely reaching out for some help and even though he’d had many unsatisfactory experiences, he wasn’t ready to completely abandon all hope of ever finding a competent, reliable administrator to work with.

Plus, I’m always interested in better understanding how business owners think in these cases because it helps me identify areas where those in our industry are giving them inadequate or confusing messages and allowing them to form expectations that will prevent the kind of desired outcomes and mutually beneficial relationships from happening.

So that you have a little bit of context, here are a few excerpts of what he shared with me:

“It’s my opinion there are more virtual assistants who promise the moon and then grossly under-deliver, which disappoints. It’s easy to say I’m patient, but I also run a business. If a VA will charge the kind of rates they want, they should come prepared (and many do not) and also be able to say “I don’t do that part” of the business or task you need accomplished.”

“I have worked with various VAs for five years. Spent a lot of money, didn’t really get too far. I’ve had enough experience where I can say that many VAs do not have the skills they advertise, do not have the expertise with products and resources they say they do; rarely complete work on time; have a difficult time estimating how much will be involved in a project, which slows everything down; suffer from the loneliness factor so when they get someone on the phone, it becomes a gabfest… and I’m paying! They are in constant education mode meaning they spend all weekend getting up to speed on a tool you need them to use (which they professed they had working knowledge of) and so you become their guinea pig. I’ve also found that if you are somewhat flexible in deadlines, a nice guy or easy going, the other clients of the VA will soon take (re-allocate) much of your VA’s prime working time.”

“I had a wonderful VA who was (literally) dirt cheap and fantastic. I’m pretty certain I found her on Guru.com. She charged $10/hour. She was amazing and very trustworthy. Out of the blue one day she called, said she is going to have to drop me because she found someone else who was willing to pay more and give her significantly more work. I would have paid her more, but she then said she would need $30/hr… triple!”

“About a year ago, I interviewed a VA who lived outside Chicago. I swear to God, I would have picked up and moved my entire business to Illinois, she was THAT impressive. She then told me her rate was $75/hr. That ended the entire discussion. She could have been sliced bread (and probably is), but for $75/hr?”

This business owner ended up advertising piecework and projects on Craigslist for $8 and $9/hr, but admitted he has to wade through a lot of wacky replies and still has a boatload of work he puts off daily.

I pointed out that while he was finding some help this way, this obviously wasn’t an ideal alternative since he still wasn’t getting his needs met and unproductively wasting enormous amounts of time and energy on this stuff, which he conceded was the case.

We talked at some length about all of this, with some very clear themes emerging and getting in his own way with this “cheap” mentality.

Besides advising him to hire for support, not piecemeal transactions, and giving him some tools and information for helping him make better choices and weed out those calling themselves VAs who really don’t have the skills and qualifications, part of what I suggested to him was this:

You had a wonderful administrative partner who (in your words) was “dirt cheap and fantastic.” This “‘dirt cheap” thinking will always defeat you. Unfortunately, it’s a personal problem that only you can choose to change or not. All I can tell you is that you simply are not going to get anything worthwhile for “‘dirt-cheap.”

It’s a flawed concept doomed to fail because no business owner can afford to stay in business being “dirt cheap.” Business cannot happen unless both the client and the provider have their needs met. In this case, nobody running a business (including those of us in the administrative support business) can be dirt cheap and have her profitability and income needs met. It forces her to take on more clients in order to make ends meet, which in turn, causes her to become overwhelmed in work. Yet what she’s earning in piling on more clients and more work still doesn’t adequately cover all the time and energy required for her to keep up and provide any reliably consistent level of professional support to anyone. In fact, the more work and clients she piles on, the LESS money she makes exponentially and the less effective and productive she becomes. Ultimately, something simply has to give. It’s inevitable. So what happens is,  once she realizes she simply can’t be dirt-cheap AND fantastic, and begins to recognize her true value, she necessarily MUST increase her fees and move on to clients who recognize the value and are happy to pay her more appropriate professional-level fees — exactly as you experienced with the “amazing and trustworthy” person you lost.

My advice is to stop begrudging this great administrator her fees. If you found these two people who were fantastic and impressive, they are worth every penny for the time, headaches and work they save you from, the ability they give you to get more done and move forward more quickly than you could otherwise, not to mention the ease, convenience and peace of mind you’d have working with someone you feel is competent and trustworthy.

This guy was being cheap, but part of the reason for this was because these women were calling themselves “virtual assistants.”

“Assistant” is a term of employment, not business. When you are in business, you are not anyone’s assistant.

People only understand the word “assistant” one way: employee. That’s because “assistant” is a term of employment, not business. When you are in business, you aren’t anyone’s assistant.

This is why this fellow (and thousands of other clients) come to the table expecting to pay peanuts: they don’t understand the correct nature of the relationship; they think they are hiring some kind of subservient worker instead of a service-based business. This wrong perception — due to the very term “virtual assistant” — predisposed them to the cheapskate mentality.

 

All of this goes for people in our industry as well.

If you are constantly expecting everyone and everything else to be free or cheap, business is going to be that much harder for you.

If you want to attract clients who value you and happily pay what you are worth, you have to value and respect others in the same manner when it is you who is in the client/customer position.

It’s a laws-of-attraction type thing, if that helps you understand this better.

If you are in the habit of devaluing others, you will continue to be devalued by would-be clients as well. If you can’t operate with a value mindset yourself, you aren’t going to be able to attract value-minded clients, must less be able to articulate your value in any meaningful way to them.

You also do yourself no favors calling yourself a “virtual assistant.” That term negatively shapes clients’ understanding about the nature of the relationship and predisposes them to the cheapskate mentality (i.e., when they think you are some kind of employee/worker, they expect to be paying employee-level peanut wages). Changing your terminology will powerfully change these perceptions for the better.

How You Can Afford an Administrative Consultant

You may have heard about Administrative Consultants, and think they’re great.

An Administrative Consultant is someone who is in the business of providing ongoing administrative support to clients they work with in one-on-one, collaborative business relationships.

You totally get it and would love to work with your own Administrative Consultant.

As with anything of value, however, it’s going to cost something.

So you hold off and keep slogging along by yourself wondering how you can afford to work with an Administrative Consultant.

Well, let me show you…

How You Can Afford to Work with an Administrative Consultant

When you work with an Administrative Consultant on an ongoing monthly basis as your right-hand administrative partner, you can get so much more done than you ever could by yourself.

You free yourself up to focus on more important things.

You also get all that extra stuff done in less time.

Which means your business moves forward much more quickly than it would all on your own.

And when you have time and room to take on more clients, and you are accomplishing all those revenue-generating projects and goals you couldn’t get to before, you end up making more money than it costs you to work with an Administrative Consultant.

Let’s recap…

By working with an Administrative Consultant, you:

  • Free yourself to focus on revenue-generation
  • Reduce your own workload
  • Get more done
  • Make faster progress

That extra time you create by working together is time you can use to:

  • Take on more clients
  • Write that book
  • Develop that training program
  • Create those passive income products

All of which increases your revenue. So the question really becomes, how you can you afford not to work with an Administrative Consultant?

Hysterical: Please Design a Logo for Me. With Pie Charts. For Free.

Omigawd, I can’t stop laughing. You HAVE to read this hilarious post by David Thorne:

http://www.27bslash6.com/p2p.html

The whole thing is just beyond witty, but I think my favorite lines are:

“I would then travel several months back to warn myself against agreeing to do copious amounts of design work for an old man wielding the business plan equivalent of a retarded child poking itself in the eye…”

and:

“Usually when people don’t ask me to design them a logo, pie charts or website, I, in return, do not ask them to paint my apartment, drive me to the airport, represent me in court or whatever it is they do for a living.”

Oh, and the graphics… can’t forget the graphics, LOL. So perfect.

Obviously, the post isn’t supposed to be politically correct, and it just wouldn’t be as funny if it were.

But amongst the irreverence, there’s this little nugget of truth (in response to the client’s trivialization of the work and request for what amounts to free services):

“Actually, you were asking me to design a logotype which would have taken me a few hours and fifteen years experience.”

Anyone else find this as hysterical as I do?

Continuity Is the Name of the Game

Here’s an article I wrote for clients and published today in The Portable Business™. 

Administrative Consulting is all about continuity, where ongoing administrative support is the name of the game (“ongoing” being the operative word here).

Administration isn’t a project.

It’s not something that is done once and presto! you’re done.

Administrative support is a collective group of ongoing tasks, functions and roles that keep your business organized and running smoothly.

This is precisely what separates administrative support from piecemeal secretarial services.

Said another way, administrative support is a relationship.

In order for it to work — indeed, for the magic to happen — it requires the active participation of both client and Administrative Consultant.

This means you, the client, are an integral part of the equation. If you are absent from the relationship, it won’t work and you will end up dissatisfied.

Here are three vital ingredients you must bring to the table to ensure you get to experience the most fruitful and rewarding aspects of working with an Administrative Consultant:

  1. Show up and be present. Your participation is necessary. An Administrative Consultant cannot care more about your business than you do. If you disappear for long periods of time and then all of a sudden show up with a flurry of requests you need done “like yesterday,” well, that just isn’t going to work. An Administrative Consultant has other clients to serve who are just as important as you. Don’t expect her to drop everything and disregard her previously scheduled work and commitments; you’ll have to wait your turn.
  2. No dumping. I’m not going to beat around the bush here. Administrative support is not about dumping everything in a heap on your Administrative Consultant and walking away, leaving her with a mess to sort out. Every Administrative Consultant has her own work request methods and management systems. You will be required to follow whatever her process or procedure is for submitting work so that it can be managed effectively and accomplished in the most timely manner possible in a way that is fair and consistent for all her clients.\
  3. Be respectful. An Administrative Consultant is not your hired help. She is an administrative expert and collaborative partner. Business owners who can’t extend common courtesy and mutual respect are not a good fit for working with a Virtual Assistant. You show your respect by:
  • Paying on time without any hassles;
  • Making your meetings and appointments with your Administrative Consultant a priority, showing up prepared, and canceling with appropriate (not last second) notice when you can’t;
  • Answering her questions and returning your feedback and input in a timely manner; and
  • Observing the policies and procedures she has in place that allow her to give great customer service to her clients (all of them, not just you) and make her business (and yours) run smoothly.

RESOURCE: For more information on having a successful relationship with an Administrative Consultant, be sure to check out our free online client guide guide: A Client’s Guide for Getting Your Business Relationship with an Administrative Consultant Off to the Best Start

Communication Is Key

Great administrators love helping their clients.

They put smart systems, policies and standards in place because they know that ultimately these things allow them to deliver greater service to their clients.

They also know that excellent communication is absolutely key to the relationship.

While there are lots of things Administrative Consultants do to facilitate great communication flows, it’s also a two-way street.

Following are some things you can do as the client to help your Administrative Consultant help you.

1. Clearly communicate your goals and objectives. Your Administrative Consultant wants to know why you do what you do and where you’re ultimately wanting to go. She can then be more proactively involved in helping you achieve those things.

2. Provide the big picture. An Administrative Consultants support is limited if you only give her or him a piecemeal understanding of things. Let your Administrative Consultant know how the task or project fits into the whole. She can then make sure all the pieces fit together even better and often will have suggestions you might never have thought of. Two heads are always better than one!

3. Place a priority on meetings. Administrative Consultants who offer telephone meetings to their clients do so as a benefit to them. They know that meeting regularly to talk nurtures the collaborative process and keeps both of you in sync. Your work and goals can only be as important to your Administrative Consultant as they are to you. If you don’t make the relationship a priority, you may find yourself looking for a new Administrative Consultant.

4. Organize your thoughts. The more “stuff” an Administrative Consultant has to wade through, the more likelihood there is for simple human error and having some things fall through the cracks. You can help your Administrative Consultant when emailing work requests by keeping messages limited to one idea, one project or task, at a time, and providing a clear and descriptive subject line.

5. Too much detail is better than too little. Don’t assume your Administrative Consultant can read your mind. We’re good, but none of us is superhuman! It’s better to be overly forthcoming with details, especially when you first begin working together. A confident Administrative Consultant is not going to be defensive. She/he will appreciate your effort to be thorough in providing everything needed to do a great job.

RESOURCE: Administrative Consultants are administrative experts who very much appreciate business owners who extend them the same professional courtesy and respect they give to clients. If you want to be a great client, make sure you understand and honor how Administrative Consultants want to be treated: Working With an Administrative Consultant.

© Copyright by Danielle Keister for the Administrative Consultants Association. You are granted permission to republish this article only if used without alteration in its entirety with this copyright notice, title, article content, resource, and links left intact.

Yes, You CAN Write Articles to Market Your Business

Yes, You CAN Write Articles to Market Your Business

How do you think you will get prospects into your pipeline if they don’t know you’re out there?

Article marketing is one of the simplest and least expensive methods for marketing and promoting your business (often costing nothing but your time).

It’s one of the most effective ways to drive traffic to your website and improve your SEO (search engine optimization) at the same time.

Yet business owners come up with all kinds of reasons to avoid article marketing.

In this article, I’m answering all your objections. No negative self-talk allowed. You CAN do this!

Objection #1: I don’t think I’m a good enough writer.

No one is asking you to be Hemingway. In fact, some of the best articles out there are those that are down-to-earth and from the heart.

All you have to do is be yourself, write conversationally (like you would in real life) to your target market on a subject they care about or a problem or question they want advice on.

Objection #2: I don’t have anything interesting or of value to say (I’m no expert).

You’re a human being, aren’t you?

Unless you are a mannequin, you have thoughts. You have opinions. You have experiences. There are things you are passionate about.

Not to mention, you’re a business owner with some skill and knowledge in your field or else you wouldn’t have gone into business, right?

You have something to offer and that is yourself.

It doesn’t matter that the topic may have been covered a million times before.

No one else can write from your perspective, in your voice, with your personality and your unique insight.

Your right clients need to hear you so they can get to know, like and trust you.

Objection #3: I don’t have enough time; I’m too busy with clients.

That’s great that you have clients. But clients aren’t necessarily permanent fixtures in your business. They move on for all kinds of reasons.

Sometimes, it’s you who outgrows them.

Even if you have more business than you can handle at the moment, it’s always a smart idea to maintain your marketing presence to keep those prospects flowing into your pipeline.

One article a month is completely doable even for the most time-strapped entrepreneur.

Objection #4: I don’t have enough time; I’m too busy trying to get clients.

That’s exactly what article marketing will help you do, silly. 😉

Article marketing is a way to drive traffic to your website, which is what you want prospects to do.

Articles help increase your expert status in the eyes of would-be clients; they see you as an authority in your field.

Articles give them a chance to get to know you, which is what establishes rapport and gains their trust and confidence in you.

Articles also lend to the laws of attraction and intention: your right clients will be drawn to you and want to learn more about how you can help them by clicking through to your website.

Objection #5: I don’t know what to write about.

Here’s my own simple technique: Imagine you’re at a networking function. You’re talking shop with the business owner next to you, getting to know each other.

The business owner, now knowing that you are in the ___ business, asks you about ___.

Your answer to their question is your article!

It really is that simple. So go to those business get-togethers. Write down the questions that current and prospective clients ask you. These are the topics for your next articles.

What to Do Next with Your Articles

  • Post them to your blog.
  • Publish them in your ezine.
  • Post them on LinkedIn.
  • Post links to them on your social media accounts.
  • Shop them around to the professional publications of your target market.
  • Identify the popular expert blogs of your target market and ask to them to guest-post your article.
  • If a particular article topic proves to be especially popular (i.e., gets a lot of feedback and/or comments), expand it into a white paper or guide for your target market that you can use a free or sign-up give-away.

© Copyright by Danielle Keister for the Administrative Consultants Association. You are granted permission to republish this article only if used without alteration in its entirety with this copyright notice, title, article content, resource, and links left intact.