Archive for the ‘Clients’ Category

How I Helped One of My Clients Love Her Business and Clients Again and Make More Money

Recently, a colleague shared an excellent article about saying no to unnecessary meetings and respecting our own time more overall. (You can read the full article here.)

I definitely share the author’s sentiments and have written versions of the same message myself many times over the years. (This, for example.)

It’s so important to remember that as service providers, we are running businesses. We are not gophers for clients to do with as they please.

In fact, we have a duty to protect and preserve our important business resources (e.g., our time and energy) and use them most efficiently and effectively so that we can continue to help clients and do our best work for them. A business won’t survive otherwise.

As such, it is up to us to set our own policies and expectations in clients around how and when meetings work as well as what the communication protocols shall be.

Those aren’t things that are up to clients to dictate, and they should not be expecting that as a matter of course.

It reminded me of the time I ran across someone who was very young (no work, business, or life experience to speak of) and brand new in our industry whose first client had her attending all “team” meetings by phone every single morning.

At the time she defended it and could not be convinced otherwise that it was not her role as a business owner to have clients require her to attend their regular daily internal meetings.

Eventually she wised up and learned (the hard way) that business owners are not employees and it’s most certainly is not any client’s place to “require” you to do anything. 😉

I was also reminded of one of my early clients whose belief that “the customer is always right” was killing her. She came to dread working with her clients because of this unhealthy belief system, and it was creating an existential crisis in her life.

How could she make her living (she was a solopreneur making over $1 million a year) if she was beginning to hate dealing with her clients? She loved her work, just not everything they were “requiring” her to do, particularly when it came to endless meetings.

So I thought I would share the story of how I helped her shed this mindset and the steps we took to turn things around in her business so she could enjoy working with her clients again and not quit her business.

It’s a good example of how we, as Administrative Consultants, are so often in a position to guide and advise clients in addition to providing them with administrative support.

Perhaps it will inspire some ideas in your own Administrative Consulting practice on how you can further help clients.

This client was a high-end gala designer who conceptualized, produced, and executed the theme and experience of major fundraising events (think multi-million dollar budgets for $5,000+ a plate balls).

One of the pitfalls of her business was that she was constantly being sucked into endless group meetings with the local boards of these events, sometimes two or more times a week.

And she absolutely hated it.

These meetings were such an unnecessary time-suck and complete waste of productive time.

They ate up far more in travel time and preparation than the meetings themselves, which would sometimes last over two hours.

And more often than she’d prefer, they turned out to be merely bickering sessions between board members who couldn’t agree on anything. What did they need her there for?

Worst of all, attending all these meetings utterly stifled her creative energy—the very thing she was paid big bucks for!

This client was amazing at what she did. It’s a unique form of art in and of itself.

But while she knew what she was doing when it came to her talent, she had no previous business experience or training so dealing with clients, setting boundaries, and managing expectations was all new territory for her.

Since she had no frame of reference, she just assumed, like a lot of new business owners, that the “customer is always right” and whatever they want or ask is how she should be doing things.

One day as she was getting ready and lamenting to me over the phone about having to go to yet another one of these dreaded “dog-and-pony shows” as she referred to them, I asked her, “So why do you keep going? Do you realize you can say “no” to these meetings? YOU are the artist, not their employee. If they want to work with you, they need to conform to how YOUR service works, not the other way around.”

This was an epiphany to her!

She was this amazing, sought-after designer, and it had never once occurred to her that she could refuse to indulge in these endless, ridiculous wastes of her time; that it was, in fact, imperative for her to do so from that moment forward or she wouldn’t be good to anyone, least of all herself.

How could she do her best work for these clients if she allowed them to deplete her?

And if she didn’t put her foot down and start respecting her own time and energy, they certainly weren’t going to either.

Having done this in my own business and having helped a couple other clients by that time in this area as well, I outlined some of the things that could be done that would make a dramatic, positive difference in her business and how she worked with clients.

She resolved right then and there that she simply could not go on as she had been and asked me to help her.

First, since this was project-based work above, beyond, and different from (i.e., not included in) the monthly retainer she paid for my administrative support, I determined an upfront monthly flat fee for my consulting services. I estimated that we would need 3-4 months to fully implement everything.

Through a series of weekly phone calls, we explored and documented the specific issues she wasn’t happy with in her business. During these calls I provided suggestions and helped her see how we could rectify the issues she was experiencing by clearly identifying her standards (e.g., what values were important to her around money, work, clients; what she wanted for her business, for herself, and for her clients) and then implementing policies and procedures and creating tools that worked in support of those standards.

Our work together involved:

  • Making a list of the problem issues that were making her miserable and inhibited her creative flow.
  • Creating a picture on paper of what she wanted her business to look like, how she ideally wanted things work.
  • Formalizing her standards and values around these things on paper.
  • Helping her visualize and map out her client and creative processes and the practical steps involved, and charting this out on paper.
  • Fleshing out and formalizing new and improved policies and procedures and incorporating them into her client contract.
  • Creating a “client bible” (a/k/a Client Guide) that shared with clients her values around the whole client experience and preserving her time and creative energy with smart policies and procedures so she could do her best work for them. This guide worked as a tool that further educated and informed clients and set and managed their expectations about how she worked with clients, her communication protocols, the different stages of her design process, the specific kind and number of meetings that would be involved in her process, as well as what was expected from the clients themselves. For example, with regard to the dreaded meetings, the new protocol that I suggested and she agreed would be perfect was that beyond the initial consultation or two, she did not work or meet directly with boards or committees once she was engaged. She required clients to appoint one to three people that she would be working directly with from that point forward, with one of those people being her primary contact and liaison. This required boards and committees to work out their ideas and disagreements among themselves first on their own dime. This saved her a lot of angst and was a much more efficient and effective process for all involved.

Besides needing to stop the cycle of endless meetings she had allowed her clients to expect, we also identified that how and when they were expecting to communicate with her the rest of the time (i.e., ringing her any time of day and night!) was another one of her problem areas.

Here again, she had the misguided and detrimental belief that she had to be constantly accessible to clients on demand. She thought it would make them “like” and appreciate her more.

But being too available, she realized, was backfiring and actually had the opposite effect of causing them to have no respect or regard for her, which definitely was not her intention.

We set that right by establishing formal communication standards, policies, and protocols that clearly informed clients about her client hours and what forms of communication were acceptable and when.

This was something she hadn’t done before whatsoever!

Going through this process helped her see even more clearly how she was not respecting her own time and value and, therefore, clients weren’t either.

She realized where she was being too informal when it came to certain polite boundaries, and too lax in charging for certain things, as well as simply not charging more profitably overall.

It helped her see where she could be charging higher fees and more intentional in how she worked with clients and doing things in a way that worked with HER creative process.

Toward the end of this realigning/re-centering process, we identified areas where my monthly administrative support could be further utilized to help ease even more of her burdens.

For example, with the newly identified and mapped out client-onboarding process we put together, we could clearly see steps that I could take on for her that would free up more of her time and attention such as the contract-signing and payment process, dissemination of the client guide, answering initial client emails and questions, and setting up and administering client files and accounts.

(This increased workload, of course, warranted an increase in my monthly administrative support fee.)

By engaging in the effort to change what wasn’t working for her, she took a stand for:

  • her own self-care,
  • doing work that was up to her professional and artistic standards, and
  • what she needed from clients in order to accomplish those objectives.

She learned that by setting clear boundaries and parameters, she wasn’t saying no to clients (something she was extremely averse to doing previously), she was actually saying yes to providing them with the best experience and outcomes possible.

When clients had a better understanding of the boundaries and protocols expected, they became much easier and happier to work with, and were much happier with her and what she created for them.

The consequence of our work together was literally life-changing for her:

  • She realized that “being nice” and forever agreeable to meeting after meeting was not benefiting her or her clients.
  • She hadn’t realized before that clients only had meeting after meeting because they didn’t know any better either. Her taking charge of her own business and processes gave them the leadership and guidance they needed and unknowingly craved from her as the professional in the relationship. The happy, unexpected byproduct was that they saved themselves all that wasted time and energy as well.
  • By better respecting her own time, it helped her also gain more respect for the value of what she created for clients.
  • She ended up having more time to take on more ideal projects and do even better work for the clients she served.
  • She increased her fees and kept better account of work and value for which she should be charging.
  • Because she wasn’t stuck in endless meetings any longer, she had more time to go on the soul-enriching trips around the world that fed her creativity which, in turn, benefited her clients.
  • And, perhaps most importantly, her joy and happiness returned which further fueled her creativity and excitement for the work.

I hope this helps you see how you, as the person who provides your clients with administrative support and expertise, are in such a perfect position to also be of help to them in improving and growing their businesses.

I have worked with and observed far too often consultants who simply don’t have the administrative skill and expertise to execute their ideas for clients (much less had anyone like you who could help them do that, hint hint).

As someone who is intimately involved in and familiar with your clients’ businesses, you can be so much more effective in not only sharing advice and ideas for improvements, but also implementing those changes and incorporating them into the administration of the business overall.

It’s why we are Administrative + Consultants. 😉

I have a LOT more to teach you on this.

When you learn how to do all these things in your own business, you can also do them for your clients.

One blog post isn’t going to do it, though; it’s just not an adequate medium for that kind of learning.

My best advice is always to get my entire system because each piece is an integral part of the overall picture. You can’t fully learn one area with the absence of the others.

If you are only able to start with one piece, however, my Pricing & Packaging Guide will show you how to understand and map out different work and revenue streams in your business and how to present and provide that kind of additional support to your clients (and how to make more money yourself doing it!).

Any questions, shoot me an email. I’m always happy to help where I can. 🙂

Here Is Another Good Question to Ask in Your Consultations

Here Is Another Good Question to Ask in Your Consultations

Self-care is a big theme in my life this year due to having to manage the care of my elderly father for the past five years who has Parkinson’s Disease and Lewy Bodies dementia, on top of trying to manage my business and client work and have some semblance of personal life left.

Life happens, and you will thank yourself to the moon and back for putting smart policies and processes in place now that honor your boundaries, standards, and needs in your business.

Along that vein, choosing clients well plays a huge role in taking good care of yourself, your business, even your other clients—because one bad client causes a host of problems not only for you, but for them as well, in all kinds of direct and indirect ways.

One of the traits to look for in your ideal clients is that they are easy to work with. Clients who are easy to work with are amenable to your systems and processes (because those are what allow you to work well together successfully), and open to doing things in new and different ways than they may be used to doing them on their own.

This, therefore, is a vital topic to address in your consultations if you are seeking to connect with the best-fitting clients possible.

You could frame the question something like this:

“Similar to how you have certain ways of doing things in your business, I also have specific methods, protocols, and systems in place that allow me to best manage my various client workloads and create optimum efficiency. Any new clients I accept onto my roster need to be amenable with these methods and systems and open to some new ways of doing things in order for us to work together effectively. For example, I may need you to adopt a certain format for email subject lines and be consistent about that. Is this something you feel you can do and are open to?”

Something like this will open up an exploratory conversation that can also give you some good indications as to how easy or difficult a prospective client may be to work with.

If they think they are too important, “too busy” to pay attention to details like that, or if they are otherwise resistant or dismissive of what you need from them, that is a red flag you should heed.

They need to understand that in order to work together and for the relationship to work, there are simply some things you are going to need from them in order to do your best work and run a sane and happy practice (which benefits everyone).

If they can’t fulfill that end of the bargain, those are people you should think twice about taking on.

Clients who make you pull your hair out are just not worth the headaches they create in your business and your life.

PS: Implementing a thorough, well-thought out consultation process is one of the BEST things you can ever do for yourself and your business as it will help you get more ideal clients who say YES! to working with you and weed any with whom you don’t wish to work.

Here Is What Constitutes a Bad Client

Here Is What Constitutes a Bad Client

This year, I’ve been focused on removing anything in my life that is a PIA, that rubs the wrong way, that no longer serves my interests. My self-care demands it.

After caring for a sick parent, I have zero time and energy for any kind of BS. It’s always a good time for you to be thinking about this, too.

Identifying and weeding out bad clients is an exercise in self-care and making your business sustainable and profitable.

For a while now, I’ve been observing the results of someone working with what I would deem a bad client.

The situation has gone from bad, to very bad, to really, REALLY bad.

For the life of me, I have never understood what they see in this client, what could possibly be worth all the hair-pulling problems and extra work, annoyance, and difficulty this bad client causes.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost, and it emphasizes the cold hard truths I and others have always expounded on when it comes to taking on un-ideal clients: DON’T DO IT!

  1. You may see the prospect of big financial returns, but I guarantee you, it is nearly never worth all the time, trouble, and energy it costs you in the end (and that’s IF you ever do see the kind of money you thought they represented).
  2. Bad clients are FAR more work than they are ever worth.
  3. Bad clients like to make grandiose claims and big promises that almost never come to fruition.
  4. IF they do hit it big (that’s a big IF), bad clients easily/conveniently forget the promises they made to you when they needed your help.
  5. Bad clients are hopelessly, endlessly disorganized. They resist and make difficult any and all attempts by you to create some semblance of order, making it next to impossible to work with them.
  6. Bad clients live in a constant state of chaos, and their chaos becomes your chaos.
  7. Bad clients like to keep everything in their head. They don’t listen when you remind them that they are no longer working alone and thus, there simply MUST be systems put in place for working together.
  8. Bad clients are always late. They do everything at the very last minute, leaving you little to no time to do a proper/thorough job. They expect you to then drop everything and deal with the consequences.
  9. Bad clients create 10 more problems for every one that you solve. Instead of getting more efficient and organized, they only get worse. They make everything more difficult than it has to be.
  10. Bad clients are arrogant. They always think they are smarter and know more than everyone else. They brush off your advice, recommendations, and suggestions (even when they have solicited you for them!). When they do take a suggestion you have offered, they act like they thought of it themselves.
  11. Bad clients are constantly cutting corners and playing stupid games, thinking they can outwit the law, the system, the “man.” This nearly always ends in disaster and only causes more work and headaches for everyone involved. (TIP: It is FAR more work and difficulty trying to cut corners and game things than it is to simply do things correctly, honestly, in the first place. As Judge Marilyn Milan says, “The cheap comes out expensive.)
  12. Bad clients are sloppy and pig-headed. They will cut their nose to spite their face, spend $10 to save a penny. They’re always trying to take shortcuts and think properly dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s is for sissies. This creates a house of cards that ends up biting them in the ass one way or another. There is a reason there are commonly accepted standards of business practice. Anyone who shrugs them off as unimportant is a huckster, not a proper businessperson.
  13. Bad clients are petty and selfish. They withhold praise, rarely express appreciation, and are always devaluing others and looking to take advantage whenever possible. They want ALL the credit and will steal it even when it’s not theirs to be taken or given. The only person they value and think about is themselves.
  14. Bad clients are greedy. They think the ends always justify the means. Ethics and integrity are afterthoughts (if they are considered at all). It’s one harebrained, questionable scheme after another with them.
  15. The problems that bad clients cause spill over into your other client relationships.
  16. Bad clients cause your work quality to suffer all the way around. They are so needy and demanding and their work, in turn, so arduous and time-consuming, it unfairly deprives your other, more ideal (and easier to work with) clients from your equal time, attention and best efforts.
  17. Bad clients want everything for nothing. They will gladly pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today (and tomorrow never comes soon). You can’t pay your bills with IOUs.
  18. Bad clients think everything they do is worth millions and everything you do is worth pennies. That is to say, they devalue, demoralize, and degrade (in turn, eroding your confidence) and don’t appreciate all that you do for them.
  19. Bad clients constantly pay late, if at all. They’re always making excuses and trying to string you along. (Of course, you have some culpability here. It’s up to you to put your foot down the first time this happens and to fire the ass of anyone who continues to disrespect you in this way.)
  20. Bad clients ruin all the good work you have done for them on their behalf. For every gain you make, they do something that causes twenty steps back.
  21. Their poor integrity can besmirch YOUR reputation and integrity. God forbid you should rely on them for referrals; you’ll just get more of the same type of bad client.
  22. Bad clients never take responsibility for their poor habits and practices and are the first to blame YOU for the problems they caused/brought on themselves.
  23. Bad clients are also the first to report you to the BBB or the bar or whatever governing/overseeing agencies you are accountable to. They are incapable of taking responsibility for the problems and conditions they themselves create.
  24. Bad clients cannot be saved from themselves and will bring you down with them. Bad clients who don’t run their businesses properly or ethically can be and often are sued. And guess who can get dragged into that mess whether they like it or not? Yeah, you and everyone else who has worked with them.
  25. Bad clients are the quickest path to poor health, stress, overwhelm, and burnout.

Never take on any client just for the money. I can’t emphasize this enough!

There must be a fit. You have to genuinely like them and what they do (and vice versa).

They must be honest and ethical and do things in a way you can respect.

They must treat you with dignity, honor, and respect.

And they have to be willing to let you do what you do without making it more difficult. If not, you have nothing to discuss and there can be no relationship.

Bottom line: Be a client snob. Don’t accept anyone and everyone who comes along. Be choosy and selective about who you work with and have a process in place for vetting clients. You’ll be happier and richer for it.

There Is No “Perfect” Client

There Is No "Perfect" Client

Perfect is not the same thing as ideal.

There is no such thing as the perfect client. These are people we’re talking about here, and people are nothing if not imperfect.

Still, it’s vital that you choose clients wisely and with intention from your ever-increasing knowledge about the kind of person you enjoy working with most, who gets the most from working with you, who makes working together easy, and who values and appreciates what you do for them and allows you to do your best work, and to never ignore any red flags that set off your spidey senses.

Because clients who are not a good fit — or un-ideal — will cost you dearly in time, money, energy, morale, confidence, and joy — far more than they are paying you to ever be worthwhile and far more than you can afford, I can tell you that.

Have you ever had clients who weren’t ideal? What kind of negative impacts did working with them have on your business? What measures did you take to create to improve/change this situation?

Sometimes It’s the Little Things that Make the Highest Impact

Sometimes It's the Little Things that Make the Greatest Impact

My target market is solo attorneys (specifically, those with a practice focus on business, intellectual property, and/or entertainment law) and believe it or not, even lawyers get writers block.

Pretty much everything they do involves writing so that can be a real business-killer.

And do you know what my clients tell me over and over is one of the most useful things I do for them?

Crazily enough, it’s simply starting a draft document or letter for them.

I set my clients up with their own branded templates for everything in their business: letterhead, envelopes, labels, pleading form, etc.

They could easily just open a template and start it themselves.

But quite often, because they can have so much other stuff on their plate at any given time, that simple step is too much for them to even begin and they get blocked.

So, whenever they need to start a complaint, write a motion response, reply to a letter, etc., they ask me to get the ball rolling. (Or, when I know one is needed, I just start one without being asked.)

And that simple assist of taking care of the back-end details so they don’t have to is what helps them break through the stuckness.

This is an example of why having an administrative partner is so useful to clients.

It’s not that they couldn’t do all or most of what we do for them themselves.

It’s that the mind plays tricks. It runs out of bandwidth when it tries to juggle too many details all alone.

With us as their administrative partner, we create a back-and-forth volley that helps them move through things step by step to keep their mind from getting overburdened and too ahead of themselves.

So it’s quite often the simplest of things we do that can have enormous positive impact and value for our clients.

How NOT to Choose Your Clients (and What to Do Instead)

How NOT to Choose Your Clients (and What to Do Instead)

One of the best investments you can make in the long-term sustainability of your business, happiness and peace of mind is choosing your clients wisely.

As you grow in your business, your selection process will evolve and your discernment skills will improve.

No matter how young or inexperienced your business is, though, having clients meet at least some minimal criteria before you allow them on your roster will always serve you well.

That’s because choosing to work with shady or otherwise unideal clients will come back to bite you in the butt, one way or another, either sooner or later.

I was reminded recently of a colleague who reached out to me after being approached by a client who raised all kinds of red flags with her.

Being new in business, she asked me what I thought she should do, and I gave her the advice I always give in this situation: trust your gut.

And she, as new people often do, ignored her own wise counsel and all the telltale signs indicating that this was a bad idea and took the client on anyway.

While she found this client’s honesty and integrity questionable, she wanted the experience and was too eager and impatient for clients to let this first one go.

She rationalized this decision by telling herself that it wasn’t her place to judge, that everyone deserves benefit of the doubt, that she would just put blinders on and do whatever honest work she was given and not involve herself in anything beyond that, and that it wasn’t her place to question things.

She wouldn’t engage in anything illegal, unethical or dishonest, she told herself, and what she didn’t know beyond that wasn’t any of her business.

But here’s the thing: It IS your business to question things. You are deluding yourself if you think you can keep it separate and not be complicit.

Well, long story short, this did come back to haunt her, as all her instincts about this client (the ones she chose to ignore) turned out to be accurate.

It came to light that this client was engaging in some disreputable and unethical practices and ended up being sued by several parties.

She was forced legally into all the drama which caused her a lot of stress and anxiety, not to mention diverted her time, attention and energy away from her own business.

Ultimately, this client lost his business and because she had put all her eggs into this one basket, she was left with no client and no income at all. Back to square one.

These were very painful lessons she learned from this experience that caused her serious damage and could have been avoided.

It took her more than a year to start over. But I don’t think she ever gained any confidence back in herself, and it wasn’t long before her enthusiasm for her business petered out and she closed up shop.

The takeaways I hope people can glean from this are:

  1. You can’t separate your values and principles from your business. They are each a reflection of the other.
  2. You can’t associate with dishonest, unscrupulous people and expect to come out unscathed.
  3. You can’t afford to work with shady or otherwise unideal clients. It will cost you in far more ways than you realize with potentially disastrous results you may not be able to recover from. It’s an unwise, unshaky platform on which to build your business and reputation.
  4. All good things come to those who wait. Don’t be so desperate to take on the first client who comes along if they are not a good fit.
  5. Always trust your gut. It won’t ever steer you wrong.
  6. It’s okay to make mistakes. Just be aware that the damage bad clients can do to you can sometimes be devastating. Walk away from any client, immediately, who doesn’t seem like a good fit.
  7. Maintain an abundance mindset. This is not the last or only client in the world. Walking away from problem clients opens you up to attracting better, more positive and ideal ones.
  8. Never put all your eggs in one basket. A good rule of thumb is that no one client should make up more than 20% of your business and income.

What can you do to avoid this trap in your administrative support business?

  1. Sit down now and list the values, standards and principles that are important to you in life. The act of writing things down formalizes these standards and makes them more concrete and tangible. Continue to add to this list throughout the life of your business. Then devise your policies, protocols and procedures around these standards and values.
  2. Create ideal and unideal client profile lists. These lists, again, are extremely useful tools that help you formalize your intentions around choosing ideal clients and avoiding bad ones. As you go along in your business, use these lists to note those traits, behaviors, conditions, etc., that are and are not a fit for you. This will help you be more and more conscious about who you do and don’t want to work with. Any time you are tempted to ignore your standards and gut instincts, pull these lists out for a jolt back to reality.
  3. Always conduct a thorough, formal consultation with each and every client. Don’t take shortcuts with this process. It’s an incredibly important and useful step in helping you identify and choose the most ideal clients for you and your business. (And if you aren’t sure how to conduct a good consultation, you can get my complete, step-by-step guide that will show you exactly how to do it as well as beef up blind spots and make improvements to your existing process.)

You’ve heard some version of the fable of the scorpion and the frog, I’m sure. The bottom-line is this: A slippery eel is a slippery eel. Don’t let one sweet-talk you out of your better judgment.

How about you? Have you ever taken on or been tempted to take on a client you had reservations about? How did it turn out? How did you resolve to do better the next time around? What insights do you have to share with others on this topic?

Dear Danielle: Client Won’t Stop Calling Me Her Assistant

Dear Danielle: Client Won't Stop Calling Me Her Assistant

Dear Danielle:

Hi there! I am looking for your advice on a matter. I quite often will attend meetings or business functions with my clients. They tend to introduce me as their “assistant,” even though I have brought it to their attention that I am not an “assistant.” What would you suggest I have them introduce me as? Or how to go about ensuring it doesn’t continue to happen? —KP

Hi KP 🙂

Good question. It’s one I get a lot from people who are trying to transition away from the “assistant” model to administrative business owner.

The first thing you can do immediately is add a component to your Client Guide and new client orientations that instructs clients on exactly what to call you and how to introduce you to others.

In my own practice, I tell clients to refer to me as their administrator (for short) or Administrative Consultant (for more formal situations).

Next, put together a form letter/email and send it out to all your current clients so everyone is equally informed and updated at the same time and no one is singled out.

The side benefit to this kind of communication is that seeing it come from your business as a general communication helps underscore the fact that they are working with a business, not an employee.

Which leads us back to the original question: what to do about a client who continues to call you this when you have repeatedly asked them not to.

On the one hand, it could be an innocent mistake.

It is sometimes difficult to rid clients of old habits when they’ve been with us awhile. In which case, a heart-to-heart conversation with the client would be in order.

You could start the discussion, for example, with something like this:

“We’ve talked a few times about what I prefer to be called and how I ask my clients to refer to me when introducing me to others. This is something that’s important to me and my business. I’ve noticed that you still call me your assistant in those situations. Is there a reason why? What can I do to help you remember how to introduce me?”

I would very intentionally incorporate use of the words “client” and “business” to help this client understand the nature of the relationship. Because it’s also often the case that they simply haven’t been properly educated about that (which is on us, not them) and so they very innocently, but still mistakenly, may think you are an assistant.

And then listen to what they have to say and work toward a solution.

Of course, if you have a client who doesn’t give a good darn about your feelings and wishes, you have to ask yourself, “Is this a client who respects me? If there’s no mutual respect, is this someone I should be working with?”

Here are some blog posts that expand on this topic further that I think you’ll find helpful:

Dear Danielle: How to You Introduce Yourself to Clients and Prospects?

How to Have Clients Help Promote Your Business

Dear Danielle: This Client Is About to Ask Me to Pose as His Employee

Thanks for the question, KP. Let me know if this was useful to you. 🙂

***

Have you ever been in this situation? How did you handle it? Do you think my tips will help you better educate your clients and navigate this in the future?

Something for Nothing

This kind of thing makes me cringe…

I popped into LinkedIn today and immediately came across a colleague’s post where she was sharing some client praise. Her client wrote:

“I’ve had 10 times more response from your social media design than I have from the one a graphic designer did for me and charged me 3 x the price.”

From the apparent value this client got, this colleague should have charged 3 x what she did. 😉

This is what I mean about people using our industry as cheap substitutes.

It’s so insulting for clients to rave about how little they paid, particularly when they know good and well what properly professional fees cost.

What this client said was the equivalent of shouting to everyone:

Hey, everybody, we’ve got a sucker over here! She practically gave away something that’s making me money and growing my business that I would have paid anyone else 3 times more for.

I have no doubt this colleague will eventually realize the value of her talents and start charging a more commensurate rate for the value that clients receive from her work… particularly if she keeps hearing “praise” like this.

With devaluing clients like that, who needs to earn a living from their work? 😉

What We Mean by “Partnering” with Clients

What We Mean By Partnering with Clients

Partnering is a word we use often in our industry.

Sometimes people (both in and outside our industry) don’t know what we mean when we use that word in relation to administrative support. They don’t understand why a partnering relationship is useful to them.

We’re actually talking about a few things when we use the term partnering:

  1. We’re referring descriptively to the personal, one-on-one, ongoing relationship between two people (as opposed to an occasional, impersonal one where the work is a one-time or sporadic series of transactions with no deeper relationship than that).
  2. We’re referring to fit and chemistry.
  3. And most importantly and beneficial to clients, we’re talking about the sympatico, intuitive, shared body of knowledge and understanding that occurs when a client works with an administrative support partner in an ongoing relationship.

This is the only way to get to know and understand a client and his/her business at any deeper level.

The benefit and value of this, of course, is that clients get someone who “learns” them: who they are and how they think, how they like things done, what their frustrations and annoyances are, what their challenges and obstacles are, what their idiosyncratic workstyle is, and what their bigger picture goals and aspirations are.

It’s only in that kind of personal, ongoing relationship that an administrative partner can learn to anticipate her client’s needs in a variety of ways. As they get to know each other more and more, an administrative partner can work and think more independently on behalf of her client and complete work with that “big picture” context and understanding of the client’s business in mind.

The client then doesn’t have to repeat him/herself over and over to every different person and can feel more confident and at ease in letting go and allowing things to get done on his/her behalf.

This makes the client’s life infinitely easier, and he/she has more time to focus on other things.

By investing in the relationship for the long-term, clients eventually get someone who is always working in a way that supports their needs, their interests, their ways and their objectives in mind, just as the client would themselves.

The longer they work together, the more that knowledge and understanding grows, and the easier it is to work and do more together.

But that only happens within an ongoing, one-on-one relationship.

A cog in a wheel is just that — a cog.

A cog’s ability to think critically and act independently (which is of huge benefit to clients) is extremely hindered. The left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing (or only knows a very limited or isolated part).

Working in that context requires a lot more effort from the client, which can add to their exhaustion and overwhelm and burden.

It certainly doesn’t free up more of their time because they have to oversee and micro-manage all the myriad moving parts.

If they had an administrative partner, on the other hand, someone who takes on certain roles and functions accordingly, that is tremendously freeing for clients.

It’s important to keep in mind that clients don’t know everything and are often too close to their own businesses to see the forest for the trees (as we all are).

As someone who is able to get to know a client’s business nearly as well as they do themselves, by virtue of that deeper, ongoing relationship, an administrative partner can be immensely helpful and valuable to the client by being able to see and bring to attention those things which the client might not know or see from their perspective.

That said, we shouldn’t expect that clients already know and understand this value. They might think, I just need someone who will do what I tell them to do.

But that is a cog, a trained monkey — not an administrative partner.

That’s why it’s always our job as Administrative Consultants to help our potential clients understand how administrative partnering and working in a long-term, continuous — not transactional — relationship can be tremendously valuable to them.

Like any of us, so often it’s the case that they simply don’t know what they don’t know. So the more you develop and lead the client through your own processes, the more you define the roles and functions you can take on for them, the easier you make it for them to see and understand that value.

Flunkies and gophers are a dime a dozen. Their value and usefulness is also extremely limited. Clients don’t expect to pay them much more than that either. 😉

But that’s not what you are as an Administrative Consultant.

As Seth Godin so elegantly puts it: You are not a task rabbit. You’re a professional doing unique work that matters.

RELATED ARTICLE: I’m Not Your Partner?

RESOURCE: If you want a bit of extra help articulating to clients the value and benefits of working together, you can also direct them to the ACA Client Guide.

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What has been your experience with this? Do you ever have trouble articulating your value to clients? Do they ever have trouble “getting” it?

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. 😉