Do you recommend doing inbox management as a service offering for clients? It sort of feels a bit too ‘personal assistant’ to me. I did it for a past client and I didn’t enjoy it, but she was the proverbial client from hell and called on me night and day. I’m now molding my business to suit me. And wondering if you know of Admin Consultants who do inbox/email management. I usually suggest setting up auto-responders. But I guess if the compensation was right then perhaps it’s lucrative… I’m on the fence. Thanks kindly Danielle! —Lisa Kelly, Admin Guru
Great question! I love any opportunity to elaborate on this as it’s sort of a lynchpin topic.
I don’t do any email/inbox management for clients and never have for exactly the reason you mention.
I’m not in business to be a personal assistant. I’m a strategic support partner.
That means clients and I are NOT going to be working day-to-day in the same way they would with an employee, nor am I going to be available to them (at their beck and call) in the same manner as an employee… because I’m not one.
I tell them to think of me like they would their attorney or accountant because that’s exactly how I want them to understand the relationship and how we’ll be working together.
And I come right out and tell them that if what they are looking for is a day-to-day assistant, then they need an employee.
What I do explain is that I can’t be in business to be their personal assistant for both legal and practical reasons, but that the time I do free up for them is time they can use to better manage their own inboxes (among other things) and feel less stressed and harried.
Of course, it’s also important to point out that I simply don’t have these kind of misunderstandings anymore now that I am an Administrative Consultant. When you don’t call yourself an assistant (i.e., Virtual Assistant), people don’t confuse you with one.
The problem with offering that as a service is because it necessarily forces you to work with clients in a day-to-day assistant-like capacity.
Not only does that make it easy for the IRS to view you as an employee in that dynamic, but more importantly, I’m not trying to have a business that chains me to my desk every day and turns it into a job. Which is exactly what it would do because I’d have to constantly be monitoring inboxes and managing things.
I purposely never provide any kind of support that puts me in that kind of role. And it’s one of the reasons I have so much more freedom and flexibility than most people in our industry.
No one else has to do that to themselves either. You don’t have to offer those kind of services in order to still be of enormous benefit and value to clients.
In fact, one of the reasons I am of HIGHER value to my clients is because I don’t take on those kind of functions and roles. That frees my time and mental space for more valuable, important administrative work that has far greater impact and results in my clients’ businesses.
It’s not about how much you can do for clients that makes you valuable. It’s about how those things you selectively do for clients improve their businesses and lives.
I also wanted to touch on something else that your question brought up. I sense that you are about to step over your own standards. And my hope for you is that you don’t do that. Because it’s a slippery slope downhill from there.
No amount of money is ever enough to make you enjoy work you don’t like or make it worth turning your business (and life) into a drudgery and hell of your own making.
I urge you to stick to your guns about what you want. It’s the only way you will create the life and lifestyle you want for yourself.
The other thing that will benefit you in running your business your way and avoiding clients from hell is to get clear about your standards, boundaries, policies and procedures.
Start writing down how clients are to contact you, in what ways and within what time frames, how they are to communicate work to you (YOU decide that, not them), what your business days/hours are, and whatever information and protocols you need them to know, understand and follow in order to work with you.
Then inform clients of these things. Use your website to prequalify ideal clients. Talk about how things work in your consultations. Document them in a Client Guide that you give to new clients. Institute a new client orientation and go over these things again formally in that orientation.
These steps will go along way in making sure you work with ideal clients and that none of them turn into the clients from hell.
The industry at large is still so completely mired in employee mindset. They simply don’t know how to operate any other way except to keep being assistants.
So these questions and conversations are always an excellent tool to help them stop thinking of themselves as assistants and begin to think more entrepreneurially about administrative support, because it’s then that they start to see how they can operate differently, get better clients and make more money.
You don’t have to be an assistant to provide administrative support. They are not one and the same thing.
I’ll leave that for everyone to ponder. And if you just had an “aha!” moment from this, please let me know in the comments.
All my best moving onward and upward, Lisa!
(If you want more freedom and flexibility in your life and business, get my guide Power Productivity & Biz Management for Administrative Consultants (GDE-41) to learn all my systems, policies and standards for workload management and working with clients. One of the best tools you’ll learn in there is my 3/7 Guideline!)