Archive for the ‘Best Biz Practices’ Category

Dear Danielle: What Is the Best Approach to Physically Obtain Quality Clients?

Dear Danielle: What Is the Best Approach to Physically Obtain Quality Clients?

Dear Danielle:

I am very new to the Administrative Consulting business although I have almost 20 years of experience supporting senior-level executives. I agree with you that we are so much more than “virtual assistants” and I would like to attract customers who understand that and value what we bring to the table, if you will. Therefore, my question to you is now that I’ve created a website and all other social media accounts, what is the best approach to physically obtain quality clients? Eventually, I may narrow my target but for now, my target is Small Business Owners. Thank you. —ND

Hi, ND. Welcome and thanks for reaching out. :)

Sounds like you’ve got the perfect background and a solid body of experience to offer clients. Wonderful!

Of course, there’s much more to business than simply knowing how to support clients and do the work, as you realize.

Learning how to run, manage and market a business and get actual clients (much less good ones) is a whole other skillset and area of education in and of itself.

This is why your question is more of a training one, rather than something that can be answered in a simple blog post.

It requires a more in-depth, systematic process of learning to understand the components, dynamics, and psychology involved.

To get that kind of knowledge and learning, I will refer you to my step-by-step self-paced training guide I created specifically for that purpose: How to Build a Website that WORKS!

This guide is centered around your website because your website IS the critical link in connecting your marketing and networking to actually getting clients, and not just any clients, but the kind of clients you want to reach: quality clients who understand your value.

This involves pre-educating your site visitors so they are in the right mindset, setting the right expectations, and prequalifying clients to help ensure you are productively spending your time in consultation with your most ideal and likely client candidates.

In the process of going through the steps and exercises, my guide also gives you a crash-course in inbound marketing because the two go hand-in-hand. You can’t set up an effective website and conversion system that gets results unless you understand all the components and mechanics involved.

Another thing I show you how to do in my guide is how to articulate your value and write your marketing message (and I have a clever system that helps you do that, no writing talent required; couldn’t be easier).

This is where having a target market is absolutely vital.

If there are any “secrets” in business and getting clients (and there aren’t), this is it.

And that’s because it’s not so much a “secret” as it is an area of misunderstanding and resistance for so many people.

You mention that right now your target is “small business owners.” But that isn’t a target at all, you see.

“Small business owners” is merely a demographic, and a very vague, general one at that which isn’t going to be helpful to you in any meaningful way whatsoever in creating a compelling marketing message and getting those ideal clients who value what you do.

It’s like saying “people” are your target market. That’s literally anyone and everyone in the world — which is the opposite of a target market (which by definition is a specific market).

A target market is simply an industry/field/profession that you cater your administrative support to. That’s it. However, it’s a vitally important component in getting those quality, ideal clients who understand your value that you wish for.

And this is where people struggle because they resist the idea that they actually expand their attractiveness and opportunities if they narrow their focus to one specific group.

Because here’s the thing: you can’t articulate your value in any truly meaningful, compelling way until you know who it is you are providing that value to. And that requires you to decide what industry/field/profession that will be.

Because it’s all relative.

Your value — what you provide, the solutions you offer, how you deliver those solutions and the results you create — all depends on who your audience (i.e., target market) is: who they are, what their commons interests, needs, challenges and goals are, what work they do in their profession, how their businesses are run, who their clients are, how they get those clients, and so much more.

You have to decide who it is you specifically intend to help in order to identify, understand and articulate your value in a way that speaks to these things as it relates to them. Otherwise, all you’ll ever accomplish (by trying to create a message for anyone and everyone) is being generic and forgettable.

To stand out, to create real meaning, to get focus and direction for your message and your marketing, you need specificity.

That specificity (i.e., deciding on a target market to cater your administrative support to) is what is not only going to get you more ideal clients who value what you do, it’s also going to make your business and marketing easier, you’ll have an easier time charging higher fees and making more money, and you’ll be able to get more clients more quickly and easily.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to download my free guide on How to Choose Your Target Market.

Start there, decide on a target market and then get my marketing/website guide, and you’ll be well on your way to getting those ideal, quality clients who absolutely understand how valuable you can be to them.

Dear Danielle: Client Is a No-Show, What Should I Do Now?

Dear Danielle: Client Is a No-Show, What Should I Do?

Dear Danielle:

I’m sitting here waiting for a local client to show up in my office to pick up their “rush” job that they wanted me to drop everything for yesterday. I worked on this project for them until well past midnight. They said they would be here to collect my work at a certain time. I’ve been waiting now for over three hours with no sign of them, much less a phone call. I’m fuming! And this isn’t the first time this has happened. How should I handle this? –NT

What I don’t understand is why people in our industry seem to think “local” has to mean “in-person.”

Why treat local clients differently than you would clients in any other part of the world?

It shouldn’t matter where the clients operate or how you initially met them.

None of your business and transactions require you to have an office or do anything in-person. All of your business, local and otherwise, can be conducted “online” (i.e., via email, shared file drive, Skype, delivery, etc.).

I would even tell you it should all be done that way if you want to manage the business efficiently and have more time available for billable work and clients.

Think, really think, about just how much of your business resources are used up doing anything in-person for one client: the scheduling time, the travel to and from, time preparing, time spent getting professionally presentable, the time it takes away from your other clients and paying work, the loss of concentration and interruption of workflow…

In-person work and meetings cost vastly more in any business, even more so ours, because they take up much more time and energy. You can work with 10 x the number of clients — and make more money — in one hour of online time vs. one-hour of in-person time with one client.

If you’re going to do anything in-person with clients, you can charge a MUCH higher premium because it is a special service and consideration outside your normal operating procedures.

Doesn’t matter if a client is local. I don’t allow them to come to my home/office to drop off or pick up documents.

That’s what couriers, delivery services, the mail, and online shared document drives are for.

And I set those expectations upfront before I ever work with them.

I accomplish this by having a client intake/onboarding process.

This involves giving them a New Client Welcome Kit that explains things work in my business and what the policies and procedures are for working together, and then going over these things with them in a new client orientation meeting (which is done over the phone or Skype).

I certainly wouldn’t allow a client to continue to disrespect and abuse my time. Remember, we train people how to treat us. Trust me, you and your business will benefit greatly by nipping this practice in the bud.

So here’s what I would do:

  • Be direct and let this client know that you have an expectation that your time is respected in the same way you respect theirs.
  • Discontinue this ill-conceived idea of doing in-person work and transactions.
  • Draft a letter to your local clients and let them know that you’re implementing new policies and procedures in your business that ultimately allow you to serve them better. Point out that you are discontinuing the policy of office pickups and drop-offs, and that anything that can’t be sent back and forth electronically or via online shared directory in some way, may be couriered (or mailed, or whatever) to and from your office.
  • Adopt a special rush fee policy and get that into your contracts (this is already included in our contract templates from the ACA Success Store).
  • Send an official communication out to all your clients that rush projects may incur extra fees at your discretion.
  • Alternatively, you can also make it a standard in your business not to accept any rush work and require clients to plan ahead within your specified guidelines. (That doesn’t mean you can’t still help out a great client in a pinch if you so choose, but you want it to the exception, not the rule.)
  • Reevaluate your clients and consider firing the bad ones who can’t get with the program and consistently demonstrate a lack of appreciation and respect for you. Just because you have a policy to penalize bad clients doesn’t mean you should keep working with them. They are demoralizing and de-energizing to your business and exact a heavy toll that none of us in solo practice can afford. 😉
  • Start an Ideal Client list and an Un-Ideal Client list. Write down all the traits and characteristics of an ideal client for you (e.g., has no problem working together virtually, respects my time, follows my policies and procedures). Then write down all the traits and characteristics of all the bad clients you’ve had (e.g., disrespects my time, doesn’t show up or follow through when they say they will, is constantly disorganized and in a rush, always wants me to do rush work, but then doesn’t appreciate it when I do, wants everything yesterday…). You get the idea. Keep updating and honing these lists throughout the life of your business. Pull them out anytime you need to remember why you are in business for yourself and what you want for your life and happiness, and any time you are tempted to step over your standards and take on a client who exhibits any of those red flags.

Multitasking is Out, Unitasking Is In

Multi-tasking is Out; Uni-tasking Is In

I’m a die-hard proponent of unitasking (perfect term!) and have been since day one.

You simply can’t focus on anything well and be fully present when you’re trying to focus on a million other things all at the same time.

(By the way, this goes for target markets, too. You can’t be super relevant, compelling, interesting and irresistible — and offer truly meaningful solutions and results — trying to be all things to all people.)

One of the things I love so much about being a business owner is that I get to set the quality standards, conditions and pace of my work and say “no!” to anything that compromises that.

No more bosses telling us “I need that 100-page proposal perfectly proofed and edited in 5 minutes, and, oh, answer the phones while you’re at it.”

Check out this study confirming what us uni-taskers have known all along:

Media Multitaskers Pay Mental Price, Stanford Study Shows

Still buying into the employer-driven myth and impossible standards of multitasking? Take this free multitasking test, and see how you do:

The Myth of Multitasking Revisited

(This article originally posted August 10, 2010 and updated for 2016.)

How to Talk About Mistakes with Clients Before They Happen

How to Talk About Mistakes with Clients Before They Happen

You are going to make mistakes.

I can tell you this right now with absolute, 100% certainty.

It’s just a fact of life as a human being.

They may not be convenient. They are often messy and untidy, but mistakes and imperfections are the patina of life.

At the very least, you have to accept this. You might even embrace it and have it work in your favor.

Talking about mistakes with clients before they happen and how those situations are handled can be really useful in any truly authentic consultation discussion.

In fact, as crazy as it sounds, talking frankly about mistakes actually puts clients at ease.

They trust you more because you aren’t making far-fetched promises they know in their heart simply aren’t feasible.

Someone who says they never make mistakes is full of it (or delusional).

No matter how attractive fantasies and wishful thinking are, we all recognize this at a very basic level.

And so you become someone much more trustworthy and believable in their eyes when you admit the truth of the matter.

That’s not to say you should be telling clients, “Yeah, I’m gonna make mistakes left and right, all day long.”

You wouldn’t be a competent professional worth paying if that was the case.

The point is that while you should absolutely be at the top of your game and always giving your best to clients, there are going to be occasions when a mistake happens.

You might misunderstand something or lack information. It’s also not always clear when you need clarification and you proceed with what you think is the complete picture.

Whatever the case, there are simply going to be occasions (and they should occasions, not the norm) when either external or internal factors foul you up.

When it comes to conducting consultations with prospective clients, you want to get a feel for how they will handle those situations as well as be upfront and clear about how you expect to be treated in any circumstance.

Talking about these situations before they come up lets new clients know how to behave if/when they occur. At the same time, it helps you weed out potentially wrong-fitting clients and bring everyone’s attitudes and expectations to a more conscious level of awareness and mutual understanding.

This is what is formally called in business as “managing client expectations.”

What I like to tell prospective clients is basically this:

“I am exceptionally good at what I do. I can absolutely, confidently declare this. I’m also human and once in awhile, I am going to make a mistake. I very much need and want to know if/when that happens so I can fix it and work to ensure it doesn’t happen again where that’s possible. I welcome your input and feedback. To make sure our relationship remains happy, mutually respectful and most importantly, helpful to you, I look to work with clients who aren’t so quick to be upset, but rather will trust and have confidence in the fact that I will make things right once it is brought to my attention. And I will always strive to earn and maintain that trust and confidence. At any time that I fail to maintain your trust and confidence in my service and abilities, I would fully expect that you’d want to end our relationship. In any situation, I always, always expect to be treated and spoken to respectfully, with the same courtesy, respect and professionalism that it is my standard to extend to you and all my clients.”

This, of course, is always delivered conversationally, but those are the main points I like to cover.

We then have a discussion about their thoughts on the subject. Based on their tone and responses in this discussion, I can usually tell (or at least simply decide) if someone seems like he or she would be a good client to work with, one who will be likely to maintain calm composure, respect and professionalism towards me in the event a mistake is made.

[Important Side Note: You naturally want clients with whom you can have great relationships. Plain and simple, it’s just not profitable or energizing to work with poor-fitting, abusive clients. And so you choose clients well as best you can. That’s all any of us can do, and it’s one of the important reasons to conduct thorough consultations. But if it turns out a client isn’t so great to work with, you always have the option of ending the relationship. You are never stuck. Always remember that.]

Unrealistic expectations are often rooted in impossible ideas of perfection. In talking about mistakes when I conduct consultations with clients, and how they should be viewed, I like to use proofreading as an analogy.

I explain that the value of a proofreader is not that he or she is going to be absolutely perfect 100% of the time. That’s unreasonable and humanly impossible. We should never proofread our own work because we can’t see our mistakes much of the time. Even if you give that work to five other people, each of those five people is going to miss something, guaranteed. So while all of us (including clients) might work and strive for perfection, we always need to keep in mind that it’s not “perfectly” attainable. Likewise, the value in great proofreading is not that the proofreader will never, ever miss something. Even if they are pretty darn close to being perfect, their true value is that they have a firm command of the language and rules of grammar, punctuation and usage to know what to look for in the first place. Skill is important, but without that knowledge and sensibility at the core, there would be no skill.

So this is the part of the conversation I have with clients during our consultation to help shape their expectations and feel them out with regard to how they deal with mistakes (or any other situation for that matter) and what ideas they may have about perfection.

The more you conduct consultations, have these discussions and work with clients, the more you’ll develop your own green and red flag intuitions for deciding who is likely to be a great client, and who is more likely to be a demoralizing soul sucker with unreasonable standards of perfection.

(Hint: Prospects who have realistic expectations about mistakes and give all indications of being able to maintain an even keel and professional demeanor towards you tend to make for better, more ideal clients. 😉 )

Breaking the Ice: Your Complete, Step-by-Step System for Confidently Leading the Consultation Conversation and Converting Prospects into Well-Paying Monthly Clients Who Can't Wait to Work with You (GDE-03)

If you are looking to grow a practice of ideal clients who pay you a monthly retainer fee for your administrative support, check out my guide on successfully conducting client consultations: Breaking the Ice: Your Complete, Step-by-Step System for Confidently Leading the Consultation Conversation and Converting Prospects into Well-Paying Monthly Clients Who Can’t Wait to Work with You (GDE-03). In this guide, I share with you my entire, fool-proof system—based on 20 years successful experience in this business— for getting every client I want, every time.

Wearing a Stethoscope Doesn’t Make You a Doctor

Wearing a Stethoscope Doesn't Make You a Doctor

So I see this question come across my Google Alerts:

“I have a client who wants to get more calls with potential clients and she wants me to create a plan for this. Any ideas?”

I find these kind of questions irritating when they come from people who are supposedly in the administrative support business.

Why are you even entertaining this kind of request? Oh, are you a marketing consultant/lead generation expert now, too?

It’s exactly like if a customer were to ask their plumber to fix their car.

Plumbers don’t fix cars. That’s not their expertise or the business they’re in. If someone needs their car repaired, they need to go to an auto mechanic.

Just because a client requests something doesn’t mean you are the proper professional for them to be asking or that you need to accommodate it.

This person doesn’t know what business she’s in or where to draw the line.

Her client needs to be informed that this is not administrative work and they need to consult with the correct professional who is actually qualified and in that kind of business (which in this instance, as mentioned, would be some kind of marketing consultant and/or lead generation expert).

(And this client very likely knows this; he/she is just trying to take advantage of someone who doesn’t know any better than to let cheapskate clients who don’t want to pay proper professionals lead her around by the nose on wild goose chases.)

You are needlessly complicating and muddying the waters of your business scope and distracting yourself from that focus.

And contrary to popular belief, trying to be anything and everything, taking on anything and everything, actually keeps you from earning better in your business. (It’s also the dead give-away of a rank amateur. Experts focus.)

Likewise, if you are asking your colleagues for their “ideas” on how to do something, that’s the first clue you don’t have the proper knowledge, background or qualifications, and have no business taking on that work. It’s unethical.

Just because you own Illustrator doesn’t make you a designer any more than owning a camera makes you a professional photographer or wearing a stethoscope makes you a doctor.

There is industry-specific knowledge, education and training, experience and talent that qualify someone for a specific expertise, which is also what defines and distinguishes industries/professions from each other.

Stop wasting clients’ time and money.

You do them a far better service by clearly educating them about what you ARE in business to provide and informing them that they need to consult with the proper professionals in X industry when they need something that is not what you are in business (nor qualified) to do.

And PS: doing so will garner you infinitely more trust, credibility and respect when you do.

Dear Danielle: Should I Choose a Name Looking to the Future of My Business or Just Go with Virtual Assistant?

Dear Danielle: Should I Choose a Name Looking to the Future of My Business or Just Go with Virtual Assistant?

Dear Danielle:

I’m just starting out in this adventure and I’m having trouble choosing a business name. I’ve read your blog on Administrative Consultant and I’m intrigued, BUT I’m just starting out and will be doing anything and everything from answering phones to data entry.  Should I choose a name looking to the future of my business or just go with virtual assistant? I appreciate your help with this. — Karen E.

Hi Karen :)

I see you that you did notice the name of this organization. That’s good. Because I do need for people to understand that this is NOT a virtual assistant organization. This is an organization for Administrative Consultants.

What that means is if people want to ask me questions, I’m happy to help, but they need to pay attention to details (which is an important qualification in this business) and respect the proper terminology used in this organization.

Here is our position on the VA term: “Virtual Assistant” is a term of employment and has no place in any business owner’s vocabulary. It most certainly has no place in our organization or conversations.

I’m here to help people put on their big girl business britches, not perpetuate detrimental, employee mindsets.

That starts with encouraging them to hold themselves and what they do in higher esteem and not use terms of employment to describe themselves, which is counterproductive to every single effort they must make in starting and growing a business successfully.

Any why? Because your choice of words and terminology directly impacts everything in your business from getting clients, the kind of clients your marketing and terminology attracts, their correct or incorrect perceptions and expectations about the nature of the relationship, the demeanor and attitude with which they approach the relationship, your ability to command professional level fees… EVERYTHING.

Are there folks out there who aren’t ready to think bigger about themselves and what they do? Yes, of course.

There are also people who aren’t really focused on being anything specifically in business, who are better described as gophers. They are more in business to be this, that and the other and letting clients dictate their roles and what they are in business to do.

For them, the VA term is actually the better fit.

But that’s not who this organization is for. We don’t cater to those folks or old ways of thinking and operating.

Our interest, and who this organization is for, are those who are specifically focused on the business of providing administrative support.

The people who are attracted to the ACA tend to have a more sophisticated view of business and the administrative work they do. They are ready to gain deeper understandings and engage in new ways of thinking and doing things in order to continue to more positively grow their business, strengthen their business skills, get more ideal clients and make more money while operating in a way that allows them to still have plenty of time for a great life.

So, with that understanding in place, here’s my advice:

What will help you answer these questions for yourself is going through the exercise of completing a business plan.

You have to decide for yourself what kind of business you want to be in, what you want your work to consist of and what you want your days to look like.

One question that really helps is asking yourself, why do I want to be in business for myself? What am I hoping to achieve? Is this just to earn a little side money or do I want/need my business to be financially sustainable and profitable enough that I can earn an actual living from it?

And then build your business around the answers to those questions.

It’s not enough to “just want to make some money from home.” Because being able to do that is not as simple as that.

It takes intention and thoughtful preparation and foresight in setting up the business, creating standards around what you want for yourself and from the business, and what kind of work and clients will bring and sustain happiness and joy in your business so you can both do your best work for them AND remain in business for a long time to come.

As far as naming your business, I have a category on my blog called Naming Your Business that will give you excellent some guidance and helpful insights and advice. All of the articles in this category are very important in gaining deeper understanding about the importance of how you name your business and will raise your consciousness around that task.

And then this one specifically will give you some practical tips for coming up with a unique and differentiating name for your business: How to Name Your Business for Success

I would like to address something else as well.

You mentioned answering phones. This idea tends to come from people thinking that being in this business will be the same as being an employee/administrative assistant and nothing could be further from the truth.

I try to get people to understand that how and when they support clients is not the same as when they were an employee and is going to look much different once they are in business for themselves.

For both legal and practical reasons, you can’t be someone’s administrative assistant in the same way you were as an employee. They are just two completely different animals and trying to do so will keep you from creating a real business that has room for enough clients that you can actually earn a real living.

I personally have never answered phones for any client, and I wouldn’t dream of taking on that work because it would keep me tied to a phone day in and day out, which is NOT what I went into business for.

I’m not saying you have to do what I do, but in my experience, most of the people who think they are going to act as their clients’ receptionist really haven’t thought that idea all the way through about what their business and day-to-day life would be like being chained to a phone and computer all day long answering calls for clients.

Most of them, once they really think about it, realize that’s not what they really want to do. It’s more simply that they don’t know what else they could be doing for clients so they can only think in the most general, generic, traditional terms.

So, I always ask people who bring it up: Is answering phones what you really want to be in the business of doing? Have you really considered what that would actually be like and how it would impact your goals and ideals and what you envision for your business and life? Take a moment and try to picture what your days would look like doing that work.

It’s okay if that is work you want to do (you can always change your mind later if you realize it isn’t and chalk it up to a learning experience). Just make sure you are going into it consciously and intentionally with eyes wide open. Because answering phones can very quickly and easily turn you into a receptionist with little time or concentration to do anything else.

And you don’t need a business to do that. You can get a telecommuting job answering phones and still work from home if that’s your aspiration. When it comes to that kind of work, there are businesses already set up to do that work and get clients and you could simply apply for an employee position with them.

There are four posts on my blog in the category Answering Client Phones. Check those out as I think you’ll find them very illuminating on the whole topic.

Which leads me to my next point:

The one thing that is going to help you plan EVERYTHING more easily in your business and with greater intention, clarity and detail, is by choosing a target market.

A target market is very simply an industry/field/profession that you cater your administrative support to.

For example, in my administrative support business, I work with solo attorneys in business, intellectual property and entertainment law. This specificity allows me to very precisely identify in more depth, detail and clarity exactly what kind of work is needed to best support my clients and, thus, structure my offerings more specifically and meaningfully as well.

Deciding on a target market will help you plan, market and get clients so much faster and easier in your business. With a target market, you’ll be able to better identify with more depth and detail the specific kind of administrative support those clients need, what will have the most meaningful impact and results for them, and cater your offerings around that so that you can be their trusted administrative expert, advisor and strategic support partner instead of their receptionist with a ball and chain around your neck.

Next step: Download my free Income & Pricing Calculator and How to Choose Your Target Market guides.

These two exercises will get you thinking more critically about your administrative support business and what you want out of it.

And then I recommend you check out the resources in the ACA Success Store, one of which is the business plan template geared specifically for the administrative support business. These things are going to help you immensely in getting on the right track toward creating a more ideal, profitable,  happy-making business.

I would like to know how all of this lands with you and if you’ve found it helpful so please let me know in the comments. And if you or anyone has further questions on the topic, we can continue the conversation there as well.

You Don’t Get Clients by Sending Them PMs; Here Is What to Do Instead

You Don’t Get Clients by Sending Them PMs; Here Is What to Do Instead

You don’t get clients by mass-messaging people who don’t know you.

You’re going to waste a lot of time and energy (and annoy a lot of people) that way.

There are far more effective methods that will have people come to you of their own accord and interest.

In the professional services business, it’s not about soliciting strangers and indiscriminate cold-calling.

In our business—the administrative support business—the name of the game is trust and credibility.

And that is established through relationship-building and nurturing the know-like-and-trust factor: allowing a group of people to get to know you and come to you after becoming interested in how you might be able to help them.

When I was having this conversation on LinkedIn, someone asked me:

“I was just thinking about this today! I want to let everyone know about me venturing out on my own, but I don’t want to annoy people either. I thought about sending out an email with some very brief information and then asking them if I can send them more information. Is this a good approach or would you advise a different way?”

This falls in the same category of soliciting people that you don’t know are even interested. It’s a waste of your time, money and effort when 99.99% of these people are just going to toss your letter in the round file.

Instead, I have a Business Letter of Introduction that does this job in the right way so it doesn’t look like you are desperate and begging for business, which turns people off. This letter comes as a free bonus with my Administrative Support Business Set-Up Success Kit (Set-01 in the ACA Success Store).

Beyond that, here are some basic steps to make getting clients faster and easier (and this is where I would have you focus your time and efforts more productively for more fruitful results):

  1. Choose a target market. A target market is simply a field/industry/profession that you cater your administrative support to.
  2. Learn about your target market inside out as much as you can. When you know your market intimately, you can better and more easily identify their problems and pains and cater your solutions accordingly.
  3. Get out there and interact with the people in your target market, online and off! When you have a target market, it also makes it vastly easier to figure out where to find them.
  4. In all of your marketing communications and networking conversations, direct everyone to your website. This is the vital link that educates your site visitors about what you do, who you do it for and how you help and moves those who are actually interested further in the process so that you are wasting your time willy nilly on every Tom, Dick or Harry who isn’t going to ever be a client.
  5. Make sure there is a lead capture system on every page of your website. What this means in simple terms is give your site visitors a gift in exchange for their email address. It could be a free how-to guide, a free report, some free DIY training, a form or e-book, you name it. It just has to be highly compelling and of value and interest to your target market (which is another reason to have a target market: it’s easier to identify what will be of great, specific interest to them.). This is so you can get them on your mailing list and continue to keep in touch with them and nurture the relationship. This is where an autoresponder/list management service like Aweber comes in; it automates this process and allows you to send out personalized messages to thousands of subscribers all at once.
  6. Keep in touch with your subscriber list of client prospects on a regular weekly basis. Consistency is critical here. If you are irregular or there is too much time between communications, they’ll forget who you are and why they are hearing from you. You want to allow people to get to know you so this frequency is very important in keeping those on your mailing list subscribed and interested.

What next? The best place to start is to get my free guide on How to Choose Your Target Market.

Dear Danielle: Do You Use PayPal?

Dear Danielle: Do You Use PayPal?

This was a question posted in my private Facebook community last November. With Intuit Payment Network (IPN) ending next month, it seems like a good time to revisit the topic.

Dear Danielle:

Do you use PayPal for invoicing and payments in your business? Do you recommend them? —GB

Yes, I use PayPal as a payment processor, but I invoice clients with my customized invoice in Quickbooks Pro (which is the comprehensive software program where I do all of my bookkeeping).

I’ve been using PayPal since 2000 and have never had a single problem. It’s super easy to use, integrates quickly and easily with web coding, and it’s established and trusted.

A merchant account is an alternative to PayPal, but I’ve always found them more complicated to use, and not necessarily any cheaper, and in my experience, you don’t get the same level of tech support that PayPal provides.

Personally, I could never be bothered with using them, and when I was still in the web design business way back when, I hated trying to integrate their coding onto websites. So convoluted and difficult and they don’t necessarily care about providing more than a superficial level of support.

Maybe that’s changed. And of course, I have  programmer now that I let handle that kind of work when it comes up.

The other payment processor I use is IPN which is Intuit Payment Network:https://ipn.intuit.com/.

IPN only charges $0.50 per transaction, which is far less of a fee than others including PayPal charge (although personally, I never sweat those kind of fees, they are pennies in comparison AND they are tax deductible business expense that you get to write off at the end of the year which lowers your tax experience).

The only caveats with IPN are:

1) If you are billing a client over $1,500 on an invoice, they will need to be on IPN as well (you can bill guests up to $1,500 though).

2) You need a checking account with unlimited withdrawals and deposit; and

3) To get approved you will need from 3 – 6 months of consecutive bank statements showing an ongoing minimum balance, the amount of which depends on what you expect to bill out via IPN each month. So, for example, let’s say you will be billing $2,500 a month via IPN. To get approved for an IPN account, you will need to keep a minimum balance of at least $5,000 in that checking account for 3-6 months. The minimum balance they’re looking for all depends on the amount you intend to bill and they have different tiers that you’d have to call them directly to find out what your amount would be specifically. But once you get approved, you don’t have to keep that minimum balance anymore because they don’t monitor your bank account.

UPDATE: Intuit is discontinuintg their popular IPN (Intuit Payment Network) come April 2016. The company is encouraging users to move over to their Quickbooks-integrated merchant account product, Quickbooks Payments. There are two plans to choose from to fit your business, and you can also get mobile credit card processing if that’s of interest to you.

Personally, I probably won’t be switching over as PayPal meets all my needs. It’s easy, I trust it, and the costs are comparable.

Rant: I Have Never Seen Bigger Crybabies

Rant: I've Never Seen Bigger Crybabies

Rant warning here. This has been brewing for a couple months now, and I just have to get it out of my system, lol.

There is this crybaby series of articles that Freelancers Union puts out that have been driving me a bit nuts.

Every ezine issue, they feature some sob story from a freelancer about how a mean, evil client stiffed them hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Omg, I’ve never seen a bigger bunch of professional victims.

And now they’ve got this ridiculous “Freelancing Isn’t Free” campaign to get some new laws on the books to protect freelancers from deadbeat clients, as if they themselves play no role in why they aren’t getting paid.

The one thing, the ONE SINGLE PROBLEM at the root of all of this is that these people can’t seem to grasp or get it through their thick skulls that as freelancers they are in business for themselves.

And business owners decide how things work in their relationships with clients. Business owners choose who they work with and who they don’t. Business owners determine what they are paid, when they are paid and how they are paid.

Business owners can either run their business like a business, or they can be morons. The choice is theirs.

What contributes to this mindset of idiocy and victimhood is the word “freelancer.” That word needs to be abolished.

In society at large, people don’t understand that freelancer is merely another word for business owner.

It doesn’t matter if you have a day job and do a little work on the side. When you are doing that side work, you are being in business for yourself and wearing the hat of business owner. There is no in-between classification. It’s either/or. One or the other. That’s it.

So when you’re working your day job, you’re wearing your employee hat and all the rules, laws and taxes that apply to employment are in play.

And when you work for yourself and hire yourself out to people, you are wearing the hat of business owner. Doesn’t matter if it’s part-time, full-time or just a little here and there; doesn’t matter if you use the term freelancer, independent contractor, self-employed or whatever—these are all terms for the same thing: BUSINESS OPERATOR.

The sooner you get that through your head, the better off you will be because THEN you can start running your business like a business the way you should be.

Let Me Demonstrate

There are some common themes running through all of these stories. Here’s an example from the most recent victim article. This “freelancer” says:

“In 2015, I agreed to do some editorial work for a client. The agreement was verbal and, because I trusted her to some extent, we did not have a contract. Shortly after I completed the agreed-upon work, she slightly altered the work I produced, claimed everything as her own intellectual property, and failed to pay the $500 she owes me.”

Her first mistake was not formalizing the agreement in writing with a proper business contract. Whose mistake is that? It’s not the client’s job to do that, it’s hers. And she made the choice not to use one.

While a verbal agreement is still a legally binding agreement, it does make it more difficult should you have to take things to court. So, when you are a freelancer, you are in business, and that means conducting business properly and using proper legal business contracts — upfront, every time, with every client, no ifs ands or buts.

The other problem here is that this freelancer’s client seems to assume that their business arrangement was a work-for-hire one.

This is another reason you always, always use a proper business contract. It’s why I always rail against work-for-hire agreements as well, which is different from a business contract.

When you blindly and ignorantly enter into a work-for-hire agreement you can be giving away all your intellectual property, which you may or may not have bargained for.

The work you do and the ownership of a creative work are two separate legal values. This is why they are stipulated and charged for separately. And ownership of a work cannot be given away without express legal written permission.

If you don’t know what you are doing, are using the wrong kind of contract, or haven’t had an attorney draft or approve your business contacts, you could be signing away all rights to the creative works and proprietary intellectual property that you created!

Because of these critical distinctions in the law, it’s imperative as a business owner for you to get yourself some basic intellectual property education.

For example, let’s say as a business, I have a client with a particular need. I end up developing a tool for that need that ends up being useful for any number of my current and future clients. I realize that I could license use of this tool to others and add a lucrative additional revenue stream for myself, and decide to put it out to market.

However, if I entered into a work-for-hire agreement with a client, that tool could actually be owned by them automatically. Meaning, they could be free to sell it or do anything they want with it, including telling you that you may not sell it or use it with anyone else, and that it belongs to them because you were in a work-for-hire agreement and anything you create in the course of working with them belongs to them.

How would that sit with you?

As a business, I am damn sure not going to hand over ownership of my creative works, inventions and intellectual property or proprietary processes lock, stock and barrel. That would mean I couldn’t continue to profit from them, use them with others, or in any other way adapt them for other uses.

Even if I was a mind to do that, I wouldn’t be giving away that ownership for free. Oh, hell no!

But there would be nothing you could do because you were the fool who entered into a work-for-hire agreement instead of a proper business contract and didn’t set the terms properly.

This is why it’s so important to NEVER blindly enter into any blanket work-for-hire agreement, or ANY kind of work-for-hire agreement in my opinion, and to use proper business-to-business legal contracts that contain the proper languaging and terms when it comes defining the relationship and who owns intellectual property.

Here’s another excerpt:

“Although $500 may not sound like much, I’ve put together many small deals for less than a thousand dollars. If all my clients were to behave this way, my life would be a constant nightmare of living in fear of being shortchanged. Though it may seem disadvantageous to go through the stress of chasing down a couple hundred dollars, that couple hundred dollars could cover my electricity bill, or even groceries for a couple weeks.”

Wahwahwah. Then don’t do things that way. You act like you were prevented from doing things any other way.

Wrong. You made a choice.

On top of running your business like a business and using proper business contracts, upfront, every time, as a business you also have the CHOICE about who you work with.

Vet your clients properly. Put them through a consultation process so you have at least some idea of who you are doing business with and what they may or may not be like. You get to screen and prequalify clients as a business owner.

A proper consultation can help alert you to red flags that indicate someone may not be worth working with.

Stop rushing or bypassing these vital and important business protocols which also, by the way, help clients understand the CORRECT nature of the relationship and give it proper professional respect. These steps play a big role in setting the stage to make sure you get paid, in full and on time, every time. HUGE!

Likewise, who says you have to wait until work is done to be paid? You can charge the full fee upfront if that’s what you want to do. It’s a perfectly usual, legal, established standard business practice and option.

You can also split a project into phases with the payment for each phase due upfront before beginning work on any next phase. Or, you can charge a deposit or a percentage upfront.

Mitigate your losses if you are taking a chance on a client you don’t know and have never worked with before by getting some kind of payment upfront. Likewise, they’re going to take the business more seriously when they have skin in the game.

There Don’t Need to Be Any New Laws

There are already laws on the books to protect you in these matters and you’ve always had the choice to avail yourself of those recourses.

The problem is being a business moron and not conducting business according to how business is conducted.

It’s that YOU don’t understand that as a freelancer you are a business, and that YOU define these things in your contract that you should have been requiring clients to sign upfront.

You’re not a temp, you’re not a “contract worker.” (Tip: A contract worker is an employee, not an independent self-employed business owner.)

Stop letting clients tell you how things work in your business.

And stop accepting “positions” with companies that should be paying you like an employee but instead are stealing from you by illegally classifying you as an independent contractor. (Hint: Business owners don’t work in positions; that’s an EMPLOYEE.)

If that’s what they are doing, turn their asses in to the IRS and your state Department of Revenue and Employment Security Department.

Because if you really are an employee (which is determined according to the federal laws that define these two distinctions and which employers don’t get to just decide arbitrarily), then they are stealing from you your rightful wages and employer-paid share of taxes and benefits.

By not understanding these distinctions, by not educating yourself, by willfully disregarding these things, YOU are equally guilty of perpetuating the problem of deadbeat clients.

Stop being a bunch of wishy-washy, crybaby pushovers who whine about being victimized all the time. You have the power and the choice to do things differently!

Sure deadbeat clients are shitty people; there’s a special place in hell for them. But guess what? You allowed them to treat you that way by all the choices you made.

No one can take advantage of you without your permission. Stop acting like a victim and like you had nothing to do with it, and start running your business like a business.

Take responsibility for the choices YOU made to not run your business like a business, rushing processes, not conducting proper consultations and due diligence, choosing crappy clients, not using contracts, and not getting at least some money upfront. It’s really simple.

Until you take responsibility for that, nothing in your business and life will change.

And listen, I don’t mean to be picking on anyone personally.

It’s one thing to be new in business and learning the ropes and making newbie mistakes. There’s a learning curve. We’ve ALL been there.

Beyond that, though, there is just too much information out there any direction you look to remain ignorant long. These aren’t people who are new making these dumb choices; these are people who knew better and what they should have done and chose not to do it.

I’m equally annoyed with organizations like Freelancers Union that don’t do their job as a professional organization which should be to properly educate their members and the marketplace, so the stupidity continues.

Because 99% of these problems wouldn’t exist if these people understood how business works, how it is properly conducted between two businesses, and that as freelancers they are business owners (not “contract workers” or employees).

I’m sick to death of all these whiny articles collectively because they don’t empower anyone, they just keep them acting like victims who blame others for their problems and many of whom are going to keep doing the same bone-headed things over and over.

Want More Dissections?

Here’s another example:

“Because I knew and trust my contact in NYC, I went ahead and started work without a contract, though I did send my salary requirements and scope of work via email for their records. I was told the contract was in the works.”

Same ol’ song and dance. You don’t do business without a contract and you don’t start work until that contract is signed and everything is agreed upon.

The other problem here is this freelancer uses the phrase “salary requirements.” Um, business owners – which again, is what freelancers are — are not paid a salary. EMPLOYEES are paid a salary. Someone who is in business for themselves charges a fee or rate and tells the client what, how and when they are required to pay, not the other way around.

And another:

“I proceeded to organize vendors, source supplies, find caterers, etc. There was some drama around whether to have the launch party in the office or at a venue nearby. They changed their minds about 6 or 7 times. The indecisiveness was alarming, but I rolled with it and did my work. The entire time I kept asking for the contract.”

You should haven’t kept asking. You should have stopped working and told them that the contract was required before any work was to begin or continue. Period.

This also hints that there was either no consultation conducted or it was a sloppy, not very thorough one. Otherwise, you could have established all the specifications about how the work and decisions were going to be made, who the ONE contact person was that you would be dealing with, etc., and avoided all their internal drama. There is no reason you needed to be part of that.

Moreover:

“Finally, the week of September 21, the majority of the folks from Europe came to town. I had a few meetings and eventually received the contract. The rate was correct, but the terms and conditions were way out of line. I wasn’t about to agree to a six-month non-compete and 90-day payment terms. It just didn’t make sense for the scope of my work! So I redlined the contract and sent it back.”

So let me get this straight, you let them write your contract for you? Ridiculous!

You’re the business owner; your contract is YOUR job. You don’t abdicate that responsibility to clients. Your business requires YOU to set the terms. Clients have only to agree and sign or suggest changes. Or you don’t do business together, simple as that.

Instead, you let the client treat you as if they were your employer and it was their role to call the shots here. WRONG. And stupid. NOTHING should have moved forward until the terms were finalized and YOUR contract signed by the client.

And:

“At this point, I was told that I was only hired for the month of September and not October. They hired an office manager and I was to give her a download on everything I had set up, which I did without complaint. I was now a week out of the job and still hadn’t received payment. When I followed up, I was told there was an issue with my invoice and that the company wanted a work log. I had never been asked to submit my hourly tasks and my rate was a day rate. Furthermore, I had clearly stated overtime fee after an 8-hour day.”

This person clearly doesn’t understand that she is not an employee. She uses employment terminology, lets the client operate as if they were her employer and isn’t understanding how she herself is allowing the lines of employment and business to be blurred.

You aren’t “hired” by clients, you are “engaged” by them. And you don’t get “overtime” as a business owner. Overtime is something employees are entitled to, not business owners.

Instead, business owners stipulate IN THE TERMS OF THEIR BUSINESS CONTRACT BETWEEN THEMSELVES AND THE CLIENT when late, rush or after-hours fees and charges will be incurred.

If you don’t want to be in business for yourself, and you are working with a client as if you are an employee, then you ARE an employee, and they legally need to be putting you on payroll and adhering to employment laws.

On the other hand, if you do want to be in business (which you are, automatically, if you work for yourself at any time), then you have to run your business like a business. There just isn’t any way around this.

But here again, this is yet another freelancer who doesn’t understand that they are a business owner and is letting a client operate with the mentality that they are some kind of employer and dictating things to her, which they have absolutely no legal right to do. She abdicated her own business responsibilities and now that she’s having problems with them is her own damn fault.

I know YOU are going to be smarter in your business, right?

PS: If you want to save yourself these problems and learn how to conduct business properly, be sure to also read my article How to Avoid Getting Stiffed on Payment

Rushing the Process Is a Recipe for Failure

Rushing the Process Is a Recipe for Failure

I have no clue why this article on Target Canada’s last days piqued my interest, but it is an interesting read.

Who knew that a company as big, established and successful as Target could do anything but succeed. And yet, fail it did — big time — for the dumbest and most avoidable of reasons: rushing the process.

One thing that is underscored for me, as any of my clients would tell you, I’m a stickler for detail, for doing things the right way, for dotting i’s and crossing t’s. Because it matters, even if the correlations and implications aren’t readily apparent.

My motto is “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” It’s a discipline that serves well in every situation.

Sloppiness, laziness and inattention cost you, somewhere, somehow, at some point down the line. It’s what leads to cutting corners, shoddy work and service, and taking shortcuts with standards, values, integrity and ethics.

It’s fascinating to me that someone has to pointedly tell this generation that accuracy is important:

Excerpt: There was never any talk about accuracy.

Of course it’s important! Why would you enter any old thing; someone is paying you to NOT do a job right?

If it weren’t important, you wouldn’t need to be doing the work in the first place. Someone needs to tell you that?

By the same token, the leaders did not provide the time or environment that would allow those they hired to be accurate.

Rush work is always sloppy work. And part of doing things well, of creating the environment that allows you to do your best work for clients, is building in proper lead time so you have the breathing room to be thorough and accurate, to think critically and creatively, and not be rushed, stressed and sweated.

It’s what facilitates strong foundations and proper infrastructure. You set it as a standard in your practice, institute policies and protocols for work and communication accordingly, and then educate and inform your clients about how things work in your practice (thereby setting and managing expectations for a successful relationship).

It’s a standard I have for my life and the work I do, and a model I hope to help clients achieve in their life and business as well.

I have a very relaxed pace in my business. It can definitely get fast-moving at moments, but not in a stressed or rushed kind of way. Clients don’t sweat me, they don’t rush me, they don’t try to tell me how things work in my business. And that’s because I don’t allow it.

Power Productivity & Biz Management for HOW I do that, what standards, policies, protocols and expectations I set up that allow me to do great work is what I share in my Power Productivity & Biz Management guide for those in the administrative support business.

If you are someone who is struggling with being rushed all the time, has clients frequently telling you how things work in your business, who feels the pinch and stress of responding to everyone’s requests, demands and inquiries instantly and finds yourself making regrettable, avoidable mistakes because you’re allowing external forces set the pace in your business, be sure and check it out.

My guide will help you avoid burnout and overwhelm by instilling policies and practices that give you plenty of breathing room so you can do your best work for clients while working at a humane and humanly sustainable pace with lots of time leftover for your life. Instituting these steps and measures will ensure you love your business, clients and work for years to come!