Archive for the ‘Earning’ Category

Do You Understand the Difference Between a Project-Based vs. Ongoing Admin Support Business?

Do You Understand the Difference Between a Project-Based vs. Ongoing Admin Support Business?

When I started out (and didn’t really understand the concept of providing administrative support as a business), I was what is correctly termed a secretarial service doing one-off projects here and there where I could find them.

Someone would hire me to do their resume, make a flyer or brochure, type some documents, that kind of thing.

It’s equivalent to the business model of a print shop for example.

A customer might be someone who only ever uses you once or it could be someone who is a repeat customer, but still on only an as-needed basis—occasional and sporadic.

The problem as I discovered was it was a paltry income, nothing I could actually live on. It was pocket money at best, and I still needed to work a full time job to pay the bills.

Okay, I thought, how do I make a living at that?

There is no recurring or consistent income when a business is project-based. You never know where your next meal or client will come from or when.

In order to make a living in a project-based business, it inherently requires that it be volume-driven, which comes with its own set of problems.

In a project-based, volume-driven business, you have to CONSTANTLY be marketing and networking and ever on the hunt for your next project, that next not one but five clients, all while you still have work in front of you to do.

It was EXHAUSTING.

It was a huge amount of work just getting those projects and clients I did have coming in here and there. It was this never-ending hamster wheel that left me little time to breathe.

And to have to multiply all those efforts 20-fold? No way. That was NOT the kind of business I wanted.

You also can never make up for in volume what you really need to make a living, not as a solo/boutique business.

The answer would seem to be add more people doing the work.

But that wasn’t a solution that worked for me either because:

  1. I never set out to be nor do I ever want to be in the people management business, which is exactly what I’d have to do if I added more people;
  2. I would make even less money because my profit margins would be reduced with all the additional expenses and my business would be much more complicated and less easy with all the added administration; and
  3. it would turn the work into an assembly line which is NOT what I want in my business or my life. I believe in artistry and craftsmanship in work product and that’s the quality I want to give to my clients. Churning work day in and day out as fast as possible (which is what you are forced to do in a volume-driven business) is NOT how I want to do things.

It’s not that a volume-driven project business can’t work. But it’s a much bigger and more difficult business to build and sustain. And it’s simply a different business model altogether, one I had not the slightest interest in.

That’s when I started realizing that the way to make better money and more consistent income was to provide support as an ongoing RELATIONSHIP, not a one-off, piecemeal transaction.

Once I got conscious about that, I started building a retainer-based practice where clients paid me in advance on the 1st of every month for ongoing administrative support in their business, not a project here or there. I took on specific areas and roles that were ongoing in their business.

It was a lot more money—money I could actually LIVE on.

It was consistent, recurring CASHFLOW.

AND it didn’t require the constant merry-go-round of chasing after new clients and new work every minute of every hour of every day.

I could live and work in a much more relaxed, sustainable, breathable pace, growing my roster slowly one client at a time.

But I still had a lot of things to learn in my early years. I was still operating with the poor professional self-esteem that many in our industry suffer from: that I wasn’t enough, that admin support wasn’t enough.

Part of the problem was I still didn’t really have a target market.

And without that, I couldn’t really envision, much less paint a picture for prospects, about what admin support could look like in the context of their business and how it could help them in anything except the vaguest, most general (and uncompelling) terms.

So I thought I needed to offer a lot more. I thought I had to DO everything, BE everything, and be ANYTHING a client tried to twist me into at their whim in order to be of value.

First, I added web design.

And then I thought bookkeeping would be a good service to also offer because who doesn’t need bookkeeping?

What I failed to realize is that these are separate businesses in and of themselves.

It’s a full time job to just to provide bookkeeping to a roster of clients.

And design work requires a whole other part of the brain. It requires a switching of gears and lots of creative space that are simply too crowded when you are trying to do too many other things.

Eventually, as I got busier and busier (without really ever getting too far in anything much less making any better money), I realized that I needed to focus on ONE thing, be in ONE business, not multiple businesses.

Trying to be too many different kinds of businesses not only was keeping me from earning well, I wasn’t able to fully commit to any of them and was constantly distracted and pulled in different directions due to too many multiple focuses.

That’s not a recipe for doing your best work for clients.

I also realized that by focusing on ONE business (I got out of the bookkeeping business and then later discontinued doing any kind of design work completely), I did far better, more high quality work for clients, built my business faster, and ended up with far more discretionary time (i.e., freedom and flexibility) as a byproduct.

All of which ultimately benefited my clients in a multitude of ways.

I also realized (and look back now at how foolish I was back then) that if I had just gotten clear about being in ONE business earlier, I would have built my business and made more money so much faster.

Because once I did, I also soon realized that by focusing on the ONE business (admin support), I didn’t have the time or need to do anything else.

So now I’m VERY clear about what I’m in business to do and what I’m not.

If a client needs something I’m not in business to do (e.g., you wouldn’t ask a plumber to fix your car), I point out that they need to talk to the professionals who are in those other professions. If I happen to know someone good, I will refer them.

But I don’t bend over backwards making it my job to find them someone any more than it would be my doctor’s job to find me a lawyer. The only people who think that’s their job are those who are operating their business like an employee (or being trained to).

Don’t Confuse Quantity with Quality

This post came about from a great conversation I was having over on our ACA LinkedIn Discussion Group with a colleague who was struggling with her target market.

I see a lot of people in our industry erroneously thinking that the only clients who can afford them are large companies.

But the size of a business (i.e., the number of people involved) has nothing to do with how much money it makes.

There are hundreds of thousands of solos and boutique business owners earning multiple six and seven figure incomes while there are millions of bigger companies that are barely scraping by.

What people fail to understand is that big companies don’t need us. They have the kind and level of workloads that simply require in-house, dedicated staff.

Even if they are remotely interested in our type of solution, it’s typically only to get it as cheaply as possible. And you can’t afford to be in business to be broke.

So there is a fundamental mismatch of values and priorities and needs.

Being a solopreneur/boutique business owner is a lifestyle choice. It has no bearing on how much those businesses can and do make so don’t make the mistake of focusing on the wrong market.

If you do, you are missing out on finding the RIGHT fit with those who actually VALUE what we do because they have more need for it, value the one-on-one relationship and, thus, are far more ready, willing and able to PAY WELL for it.

The Simpletons Can’t Help You

It’s not difficult whatsoever to get clients when you charge peanuts.

The problem and real difficulty (extremely so) is dealing with the KIND of clients you get when you charge peanuts and being able to achieve a sustainable, profitable business, one that you can actually earn a healthy living from (as in, not just hand-to-mouth).

To be able to charge (and earn) more and get better clients requires more in-depth learning and understanding about marketing and human behavior and psychology.

And you aren’t going to get that from the simpletons and copycats.

Because if it were as easy and simple as they would have you believe (because that’s how they get into your pockets), everyone would already be millionaires (or at least earning well into six figures).

And we all know that’s not the case.

Is It Time to Start Earning More in Your Business?

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Do you hate tracking and reporting time to clients? Would you be excited to know of an easier, more profitable way to charge that clients also love? If so, you’re not alone.

Tracking hours is a HUGE administrative burden that eats into your profitability and takes time away from life. And clients hate being nickeled and dimed on minutes and hours.

If you’ve been in business any amount of time, you have at least some idea of the problems with selling time instead of your solutions, results and expertise. What you may not realize is just how much billing by the hour is killing your business and keeping you from earning better.

  1. It focuses clients on hours and reporting. When clients think they’re buying hours, that’s what they zero in on to the exclusion of just about everything else that’s more important.
  2. It measures time instead of results. Is that really how you want clients judging the quality of your support, by how long things take instead of how you actually help them?
  3. The faster you work, the LESS you make. When you charge by the hour, you’re penalized financially for being better and faster at what you do. How much sense does that make?
  4. The better you are, the harder you must work to make the same amount of money. That’s because the more you can do in an hour, the more you have to fill up that hour.
  5. And how do you track time for all those intangible, incidental things you do for clients, like thinking, reading and replying to emails and making calls? Are you really going to stop and punch the clock every second you lift a finger? How practical is that? And what happens when you forget?
  6. It puts you and the client’s interests and motivations at odds with each other. When you charge by the hour, clients want things to take the least amount of time possible, and you only make more money the longer things take. Instead of being focused on the goals and objectives the work is in support of, you end up playing a tug-of-war with hours.
  7. Most importantly, billing by the hour is keeping you BROKE! You automatically limit your earning potential when you tie it to how many hours you have to sell.

Your time is the least valuable thing you have to offer clients. It’s your skill, knowledge and expertise that make things happen and help them move forward in their businesses.

And be honest, aren’t you sick and tired of tracking and reporting time to clients like you were some little employee?

You’re in business to help clients, right? Well, how helpful is it to them when you have to stop work right in the middle of things because they’ve run out of hours?

Wouldn’t you rather offer your support in a way that allows you to get things done and serve clients better without discounting your fees or having your hands tied by a ticking clock?

The trick is to price the solution, NOT the hours. You want for both you and the client to be in alignment of interests and motivations. So the question becomes, how do you do that? How do you price the solution, how do you set parameters, when time is not the unit of measurement?

This is EXACTLY what I show you how to do in my value-based pricing guide, How to Price and Package Your Support Based on Value and Expertise—NOT Selling Hours.

Charging by the hour is keeping you from earning AND serving clients better. If you struggle to earn well even though you have clients; if you feel like there’s no room for you to grow based on how you’re charging and doing things now; if potential clients balk when you tell them your hourly rate, I can show you how to change ALL of that in your business!

This self-study course shows you how to create a simpler, easier business to run, where your earning potential is hugely expanded because it’s not tied to how many hours you have to sell.

Clients find it much easier to say YES to working with you, and, best of all, you’ll be able to toss those time sheets out forever!

I’ve been studying value-based pricing for over 10 years now and use this methodology that I’ve uniquely adapted especially for the administrative support business in my own practice.

In this guide, I show you the exact methods I use to earn more in a month with just one of my retained clients than most people in our industry are making with 5 to 10 (or more!) clients. I have far more freedom and flexibility to live life. And clients LOVE this way of working together because it’s easier to pay, easier to work together, and they see results more quickly and clearly because we’re focused on the goals and objectives the work is in support of, not the time it takes.

If you, too, would like more life, more money and more freedom in your business while serving clients BETTER, click here for more product details.

Want Better Clients? Do These Two Things

Want Better Clients? Do These Two ThingsWant better clients? Raise your rates.

The worst clients, the ones who create the majority of the problems, are the loudest whiners and least appreciative, are the ones who pay the lowest rates.

When you raise your fees (or simply charge properly professional fees period, not cheap employee level wages), you will get a whole other (higher) caliber of clientele.

Want better clients? Stop calling yourself a virtual assistant.

Assistant is a term of employment. And people who think you are an assistant are the ones who expect the cheapest rates.

That’s because they do not see you as an independent professional in the expertise of administration. They see you as their little “virtual worker” and expect to pay you like one.

Continuing to call yourself a virtual assistant is like calling yourself a teapot. You have keep explaining that even though you call yourself one, you aren’t one.

How much sense does that make?

Why make your conversations and relationships more difficult than they need in the first place by calling yourself:

a) something that you aren’t (and as a business owner, you aren’t anyone’s assistant), and

b) that sets all the wrong perceptions, connotations and expectations that make it harder for you to get the respect you want and the professional level fees you need?

Here’s what else happens…

When you stop calling yourself an assistant, you also begin to stop thinking like one.

It’s the beginning of a huge mindset shift that occurs and you begin to start thinking more like a business owner, administrative expert and leader in your own business.

That shift in your own self-perception and identity is what also leads you down the path to better clients and higher earning.

Is Money a Dirty Word?

Is Money a Dirty Word?

My sense is this might hit some nerves and be controversial to some, but it’s an interesting topic to me so I’m just going to throw this out there:

People have a lot of ambivalence, guilt and negative associations around money. There are so many hot buttons it touches on including issues of self-worth and confidence, conformity, peer pressure, social class, even religion and spirituality.

We need it, but feel somewhat shameful about that.

We need it, but feel guilty charging well (or even properly).

Some people are ashamed if they have too little.

Others feel guilty if they have too much.

Some think those who have a lot of it are inherently evil or came about it dishonestly.

Then there are those in the world who have so little personal self-esteem and wholeness that they gauge their worth (and the worth of others) based on how much of it they have.

I’m human. I’m not immune to some of these pitfalls. I sometimes feel guilty charging. I sometimes play down instead of helping people rise to the occasion and take responsibility for themselves and their circumstances. That doesn’t help, it only keeps people playing small.

What’s the alternative? We become monks or go live in a yurt and divest ourselves from needing or wanting money or enjoying any material pleasures so no one can say we are bad or evil or selfish?

We see how poverty affects people and communities in the world in all its manifestations:  violence, crime, disease, addiction, unwanted children, suffering, exploitation, limited life options and choices… any number of things.

In this world, we need money to live. We need money to thrive. To have choice. Heck, just to take good care of ourselves, our loved ones and give our kids options and opportunities in life.

With money, we can do more good in the world and help more people because we have more resources, opportunities and abundance available to us.

With more money, we can share more.

With more money, there is more ease and less struggle. This leaves you room for more high-minded thoughts and endeavors that can actually change the lives of others.

It’s difficult (if not impossible) to do those things when you are living a hard-scrabble life just trying to survive and scratch out an existence. There’s nothing left for anyone or anything else.

And you certainly are not helping clients if you are struggling financially because that struggle keeps you distracted, preoccupied, unfocused and (let’s be honest), unhappy in a lot of ways.

Back in the day, I used to be more involved with artistic types of people. You’ve heard the term starving artist, I’m sure. They always had grand ideas, but never the money to execute or sustain. The things they did start would inevitably fail and fizzle in short order because they wanted everything to be free and felt guilty charging. So many of them literally feel they are being sell-outs if they charge or earn a good living from their art, that it’s only art if they suffer and live an impoverished life.

And I’ll tell you what I always told them:

The BEST thing you can do for these people and ideas and the art you love so much is TO CHARGE PROPERLY and make money. You will not be around long enough to have any impact or do any good and keep something going if you don’t bring in the money.

If you want to create something that lasts, that’s going to stick around for a good long while for people to enjoy and benefit from, you’ve got to charge and make money and be profitable. With more money, you can live an even more interesting life, have even more valuable, interesting, mind-expanding experiences and personal growth that you can bring to your art and share with others.

Money is not a dirty word. Money is a tool.

I have so many questions on this topic:

What kind of feelings do you have around money and charging and earning well? Is guilt around money something that’s been a problem for you? What other kinds of feelings and emotions do you have around money?

If you are stuck in poverty-mindset, what kind of clients do you think you are attracting? What do you think holds you back from earning and/or charging better? Do you lack the conversation skills to command the kind of fees you’d like to charge?

What kinds of things do you need money for? How do you see having more money and earning better improving your life, your family’s life and the lives of your clients and others?

How Billing by the Hour Is Killing Your Business (and What You Can Do About It)

Here’s a video I made a few years ago to help people understand how billing by hour (selling hours) is keeping them broke and killing their business.

This can be a difficult concept to understand at first. For many folks, it’s not until they’ve been in business for a bit that they realize the dilemma. It’s usually then that things finally “click” and they get it.

Then, there are people who understand the problem immediately and want to avoid it altogether in their practice.

Whatever camp you’re in, my Value-Based Pricing and Packaging Toolkit will show you how to stop selling hours (and selling yourself short) and learn how to price and package your value and expertise instead.

I’ve been practicing and studying this methodology since the 90s and been teaching it to our industry since 2004. I introduced the concept and adapted the methodology for our industry and I’m really the only person in our industry uniquely qualified to show you how to implement in your practice.

Get Paid to Market Your Biz with Info Products and Multi-Layered Revenue Streams

Do you want retained clients, but aren’t sure how to get them? If a roster of well-paying clients who pay you an advance monthly fee for your administrative support and expertise is what you long for, your entire website and marketing message must be geared toward that goal.

You want to think of your whole website as a sales page with a singular goal: to get those retained clients. From there, it’s a bit of a dating process that happens a lot like this:

  • You catch your prospect’s eye somewhere (through your marketing and networking).
  • They observe you from the across the room (by visiting your website and taking a look around).
  • They like what they see and hear and ask you out (by requesting a consultation or more information).

At this point, it’s important to understand that most people aren’t going to hire you right off the bat any more than anyone is going to be proposing marriage after one date.

Relationships develop and transpire over a course of time and interaction. Different prospective clients will have varying comfort levels initially.

This is the where most people aren’t sure how to proceed. Clients want them to “audition” by trying them out with small projects.

The problem with that, however, is when you fritter away your limited time and energy on nickel and dime projects, you are chasing after pennies instead of hundred dollar bills.

That small project might buy dinner that night, but it does nothing to help you achieve your long-term goal of achieving a well-earning practice. It only distracts you from building your real business and the work and focus needed to establish a retained roster of clients.

Some folks think: “Yes, but if I do a good enough job, maybe the client will eventually hire me on a retained basis.”

That almost never happens.

Your business and income can’t depend on hopes and maybe’s. You’ll never build a roster of well-paying monthly retained clients by chasing after penny-ante “sample” projects and letting the wrong prospect lead you around by the nose. To get a commitment, you must expect one.

On November 29, I’m holding a class to show you how to do just that by offering products and services that support your overall goal and marketing message to get retained clients AND create multiple revenue streams for you at the same time.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Nurture those prospective client relationships and lead them toward the retainer commitment;
  • Eliminate auditioning and the need to chase after penny-ante project work and carrots on a stick so you can stay focused on building your retained client roster;
  • Provide selective demonstrations and “proof” to prospects of your skills and expertise that they seek;
    Create passive income streams;
  • Establish you as an authority and expert in your field;
  • Set a more respectful tone for the relationship where prospects and clients treat you as a trusted advisor, not a cost to be managed or some kind of gopher;
  • Create an easier business to operate that affords you more time and space for your support work to happen;
  • Provide the foundation for a more flexible and freedom-filled lifestyle and business;
  • Get PAID to market your business!

Join us! Click on the link below to get the class details and secure your registration:

Get Paid to Market Your Biz with Info Products and Multi-Layered Revenue Streams >>

You DO Need a Certain Level of Income to Be Happy and Healthy

I was listening to some radio program several weeks ago that referred to a study that supports the idea that you only truly need so much money in life to be happy. Past a certain point, more money doesn’t make you any happier.

So true!

I’m not interested in being a millionaire because I’m not interested in the lifestyle or work it would take to get there. I’m also not interested in the least in the KIND of business I would need to be in to make that kind of money.

And I LIKE having work and purpose in my life and things to strive for. I don’t want it all to come TOO easily, funny as that might sound.

That said, I DO think it’s important to have a six figure business. BUT, it’s important to clarify what kind of six figures we’re talking about.

There is a HUGE difference between a $100-200k biz and a $500k biz, let alone a $1 million biz, in terms of the work involved, what kind of business it is and what it needs to focus on. Very, very different models and machinations involved.

You can live a very happy, rich life (and I mean LIVING) with only a $75k income. That said, it’s important to understand that for you to personally earn $75k, your business generally needs to bring in a revenue of at least $100k.

This is always the kind of “6 Figure Business” I’m talking about in relation to our administrative support businesses.

And this is a VERY modest and completely doable goal that gives you a benchmark of financial ease, solvency, sustainability and profitability that encourages you to strive without making money the focus or driving force and without forcing you to have a completely different kind of business model and life.

There’s nothing to feel guilty about in earning well, no matter what your financial goals are, be they modest or grand.

But make no mistake, there is a minimum amount of money you do need to make in order to stay in business and be able to serve clients well.

You earning poorly, and merely surviving instead of thriving, does no one any good whatsoever.

I originally posted this musing on our Facebook page, but I thought it related wonderfully to what I’m always trying to help you do:  which is to earn more, working less and more strategically.

While $100k a year is an excellent financial goal to strive for, that doesn’t mean it will be easy to achieve working entirely one-on-one with clients.

And a bigger business (in order to achieve that goal) is not necessarily better. Bigger businesses come with more work, more administration, more costs, reduced profit, more people managing and more room for problems, communication issues and errors.

There IS, however, an alternative way to increase your revenues and that’s by leveraging your knowledge and turning it into DIY info products for your potential clients and site visitors.

Not only do these products allow you to demonstrate your expertise without requiring your personal one-on-one time, you’ll essentially get paid to market your business and grow that all important know, like and trust factor.

The crazy thing is almost NO ONE in our industry is doing this for their prospects and clients! You don’t have to be one of them.

On Thursday, November 29, I’m conducting a class where I will show you all the ins and outs of creating info products and multi-layer revenue streams in your business. This is a brand new class that I’ve been “threatening” to do for several months and next month is finally it!

See the registration for more information and to secure your spot >>

I’ll see you there! :)

Dear Danielle: I Have No Confidence in Charging What I Need to Charge

Dear Danielle:

I have found your information on how to be an Administrative Consultant helpful and informative. I have a question for you regarding rates for my support. I have been trying to see what others are charging, just to see if I’m in the same range and not charging too much. I did the calculation from your Income & Pricing Calculator and my baseline is $50/hour. The challenge I’m having is feeling comfortable with my per hour rate. Is there any way to overcome this? —RD

I know everyone does this when they’re new, but the last place you need to be looking when it comes to determining your pricing is your colleagues’ sites.

Hear me loud and clear on this:  It does not matter what anyone else in the industry is charging. (In fact, most are earning poorly because they aren’t charging enough whatsoever).

The only two important ingredients in determining your pricing are:

  1. you and what you have to offer in relation to
  2. your target market and their needs, goals and challenges.

When you deeply know and understand those things, you’ll find it much easier to command your fees without flinching.

Charging poorly can have detrimental, even devastating, effects on a young business.

Your goal in business is to provide value (not cheapness) to your clients and earn very well for yourself so that you can stay in business. You can’t take great care of clients unless you take great care of yourself first and that means charging profitably.

Looking at what (little) others may be charging as your guide will keep you in the poor house, potentially put you out of business, and contribute nothing toward increasing your confidence and savvy as a business owner.

The other thing I would want to tell you is not to charge by the hour.

Billing by the hour is an archaic, UNbeneficial way to bill that cheats both you and the client.

In fact, you actually make less money billing by the hour.

Instead, learn how to price and package your support by value.

It’s a WHOLE lot easier for you, it’s more convenient for clients and makes it vastly easier for them to say yes to working with you (all of which are outlined in the guide).

Lastly, confidence is a journey.

Your confidence will absolutely affect how you valuate your fees.

What you feel comfortable charging at the start of your business will be much different a couple years down the road. That’s because when most of us start out in business, we tend to be stuck in employee mindset to one degree or another.

Many new business owners aren’t aware that when they were an employee still working a job, their employers actually paid far more than what they saw on their paycheck.

They don’t realize all the other costs involved. They don’t understand that business and employment are two completely different animals, and that in business, it’s a whole other dynamic with entirely different standards, protocols and mechanisms involved in pricing.

And because they aren’t sure of themselves or how clients will respond, and still think of themselves as an employee rather than an expert, they are timid about pricing confidently and boldly.

Eventually, though, they begin to develop certain realizations. Their view of themselves changes. Their professional self-esteem increases. They get an inkling that they aren’t charging enough when they are slaving away ‘round the clock and still not making enough money. They think taking on more clients is the answer—until they see that they end up making even less than before!

Some people are confident right out of the gate while others take a bit longer to get there. The good news is that the longer you’re in business, the more your confidence will increase. As you work with clients, the more you begin to recognize the value of the work you do when you see how it improves their businesses and helps them move forward, overcome challenges and achieve their dreams. Your confidence in charging more professionally will grow from there.

Whatever your confidence level is right now when it comes to pricing, it’s perfectly normal.

At the same time, I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone. Experiment. Take a risk in your pricing and see what happens. Most people find that clients don’t bat an eye and wish they’d stepped up in their business a lot sooner.

Oh, and one more thought: the idea that you need to charge less just because you are new in business is complete and utter rubbish!

You might have a learning curve when it comes to successfully running and managing a business, but that doesn’t make your administrative skills and years of experience any less valuable. And a business simply requires that it be solvent and sustainable.

So while my goal for you is to price boldly and profitably, I realize that sometimes there is a bit of a journey involved in getting there.

That’s okay.

I’m gonna keep educating, coaching, encouraging, urging and reminding you, keep you thinking on your toes, and sometimes even chiding you and giving you a little kick in the pants now and then. 😉

You’ll get there!