Archive for the ‘Earning’ Category

It’s Not About the Hours

Here’s a question posted on a public forum that came to my attention via Google Alerts:

I have a client who just opened a new business. He wants to utilize our support options, but isn’t sure how many hours per month he would need us. He is asking about buying a bank of hours that could be rolled over to the next month if unused. Also, we bill in 15 minute increments and he is concerned that a lot of time would be eaten up with us replying to emails. Has anyone dealt with a situation similar to this?

This is just one of the many issues you encounter when you price your services based on selling hours. You don’t know how long things will take going in and clients worry about their hours being frittered away and what their bill will be afterwards.

Do you see how the focus is all on the time?

Achieving results for clients should be the focus of your work, not watching the clock, having your hands tied behind your back and having to stop in the middle of things because time has run out.

Guess what? When you learn how to utilize value-based billing in your business, hours don’t matter!

No one needs to know upfront how many hours will be needed or used… because the focus is on accomplishing the work and achieving the goals and objectives it is in support of, not the hours.

With value-based pricing, it doesn’t matter how many emails are sent back and forth with clients or how much time is spent reading them… because they aren’t paying for time and you aren’t selling hours.

EVERYTHING from your conversations with clients, to your work, to your administration is soooo much simpler and more streamlined when you utilize the value-based pricing methodology.

And clients are more attracted to this way of billing and working together. When you utilize value-based pricing, it’s much easier for them to say “yes” to working with you!

This is what I’m teaching this month in my Value-Based Pricing & Packaging class on June 27 & 28: How to Price & Package Your Retained Support Based on Value and Expertise—NOT Selling Hours!

I’m going to show you with step-by-step instruction how to price and create value-based packages custom-built for each client’s unique needs that make working together a breeze (not to mention help you earn better)!

The Early Bird discount is over, but you can still get in on some savings. Register by June 9 and pay the special rate of $147 (a savings of $50).

Click here to register and get more details >>

I’d love to see you there!

Dear Danielle: How Do I Prequalify Potential Clients Financially

Dear Danielle:

I am just starting out in my own business. I have crunched the numbers and know what I need to charge. I have researched my target market and need to know where in the industry to focus my attention. In other words, who can afford to pay for my services? I’ve seen you use the example for the pre-qualifying process that clients must make a minimum of $75,000. How do you arrive at this number? Is there a formula for this; like a percentage of income for administrative services? I know what my bottom line is. How do I figure out where their bottom line is so I can sift through my research and refine my target. —KT

There’s no formula; $75,000 is just a benchmark that I chose. It’s based on nothing but my experience and the “sense” I’ve developed after being in business for 15 years now.

For example, a solopreneur making only $50,000 a year really is only surviving. While I might love to help them, I simply can’t take on any retained client where money is a problem. That is, I don’t want to work with anyone who is really only making enough to pay themselves, much less anyone else. If paying me comes at great difficulty, that inevitably leads to problems and I don’t like feeling like “the other shoe is going to drop” at a moment’s notice. Know what I mean? So, for me, $75,000 is a bare-bones minimum,  a more comfortable income benchmark to be able to afford my support without much difficulty as it’s closer to the $100,000 a year level. It’s just a rough gauge.

You can choose whatever number you want, as well.

When it comes to prequalifying clients financially, there are lots of ways you can go about that. Maybe you come right out and ask them what their income level is in an online form on your website. Maybe you simply state that the clients you work with need to make a minimum of $X annually. You can choose whatever number you want, although the numbers may be relative to the market you’re focusing on. Maybe that’s $75,000. Maybe it’s $100,000. Maybe it’s $200,000. Some people prefer working strictly with 7 figure entrepreneurs.

There’s no right or wrong here. Just pick a number; you can change it later if you want or need to. The goal, obviously, is to focus on your ideal retainer clients who make enough of a comfortable income to where paying you for your administrative support and expertise poses no difficulty.

(Keep in mind, we’re always talking about retainer clients here on my blog, not project work unless specifically indicated as that’s a completely different animal.)

We cover prequalifying clients at length in my client consultation guide, Breaking the Ice: Your Complete, Step-by-Step System to Confidently Lead the Consultation Conversation and Convert All Your Prospects to Retained Clients (GDE-03). This guide will be of enormous benefit to you so I highly encourage you to check it out.

Don’t feel like you have to do everything exactly the same as me or anyone else, or that you have to do everything “perfectly” (like, what is “perfect” anyway, right?). Once you get started, you’ll start getting a feel for what works for you in your business and even that will change over time as you go along. You will have lots of adjustments and course corrections you make throughout the life of your business.

Dear Danielle: “God’s Work” is Not Getting Me Paid

Dear Danielle,

I’ve been struggling really hard with determining what target market I would like to cater to with my administrative consulting business. I have gone back and forth about it for awhile now. It is so tempting to take work where you can get it, but I know that is not the correct way to go about building a business. My industry experience has been in working with nonprofits, but for business purposes I would like to target start-up nonprofits because I know how much it takes to get a nonprofit off the ground and I can see how I can easily be retained in this case as well. My concern is that I won’t be fairly compensated for my work. I worked with a ministry and I didn’t get paid a dime because sometimes with entities like this, you get caught up in doing “God’s work.” Can you please give me some guidance with this issue? I would really appreciate it. —JS

Thanks so much for submitting your question. I would love to help give you some guidance on this.

First, I want you to download my free guide, Get Those Clients Now!  When it comes to getting clients more quickly and easily, it’s all about the target market. This guide will help you get more clarity around that.

It’s great that you have an idea of who you want to target. Now, you just want to do your homework about viability. Nonprofits can be tricky. While it sounds like you’ve got a great background perfectly suited to support them, you’d just want to make sure you are targeting a niche that actually has money. Because if they can’t afford professional fees, all your wonderfulness isn’t going to help you if they simply can’t pay. I’m not sure how financially secure and solvent start-up nonprofits will be, but that, of course, will be your homework to research and find out.

That said, if you can determine there’s a viable niche in there for you, your marketing message can make all the difference in the world. If you can help them understand how your strategic administrative support will actually help them operate more cost effectively and profitably, and how it will help them accomplish a whole heck of a lot more than they could otherwise, that’s half the battle.

So download the guide; it’ll help you go about that whole process.

Now, may I give you just a little bit of tough love? Please know it’s said with hugs and a heartfelt desire to help you turn things around.

You mention being concerned about not being fairly compensated. Maybe it was just poor phrasing on the fly, but the way it was worded made me wonder if you were maybe taking too passive a role in leading your own business.

Because, it’s not up to clients whether you are “fairly compensated.” YOU are the one who decides what you will charge, how you will be paid and when you will be paid. Your job is simply to inform clients how it all works. If they had gone through a proper consultation process and signed a contract, how did they not know they were a client and were supposed to be paying for your services?

So, if clients were manipulating you into working for free, you want to realize that they didn’t do that to you; you allowed that to happen.

To change that, what you want to do is get more intentional about your business and consultation processes as well as who you take on as clients. Be sure to clearly separate business from any volunteer work you are doing. So, for example, if you had gone through your normal consultation process with this ministry, they should have been clearly informed that you charge a fee for your work, and how and when and what you will be paid for that work. If there was any misunderstanding or ambiguity there, that’s a sign that you need to improve those processes and communications in your business. None of that happens without your passive or active consent. You see?

So if we need to tighten up and intentionalize (my made-up word, lol) your consultation process, I highly recommend you check out my client consultation process guide.

I hope that helps! Let me know in the comments if things improve for you with this advice moving forward. 🙂

How Do You Know What a Client Wants?

There’s an interesting phenomenon I’ve observed in businesses frequently over the years that I was reminded of over the past weekend.

It was beautiful weather in my part of the world, and I felt like taking a drive to this little waterfront seafood place located in a more secluded part of town. It’s a lovely area near a public park with a view of the bridge where you can sit outside and watch the boats go by.

Checking out the menu and not remembering if it was the cod or the halibut that was the bit more tender and flaky fish, I asked the server for her advice.

And instead of answering my question, she immediately pointed me to the halibut as being cheaper.

You see the problem, right? She answered a question I didn’t ask.

I didn’t ask what cost less. I wanted what I was looking for regarding flavor, texture and eating experience.

So her answer was irrelevant and didn’t help me in the least. It certainly didn’t help her employer.

It makes me wonder how many people are jumping to conclusions like this server (based on her own life circumstances most likely) without any indication whatsoever that a client is looking for cheap. I certainly see it a lot in our own industry.

If you are doing this, not only are you not really listening and paying attention to clients and instead presupposing what’s most important to them, you are shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to earning well.

Don’t assume that cheap is the first and only thing that clients care about. Write your marketing message to attract those who are more interested in the experience of working with you, how you can help them grow and move forward and how much better and easier you can make their business and their life (and weed out those who are only looking for cheap).

That’s where your value is.

Noble Poverty

We always see little phrases here and there that clue us in to our society’s issues around money and the “noble poverty” mentality. For example, “Oh, I don’t want to get rich from this…” That type of thing.

And sometimes I will hear or pick up on things where it’s almost as if some people don’t feel they deserve to earn well. Sort of like a “This is good enough, it would be greedy to want more.”

Granted, we all have different ideas of what financial “success” is. One person might think it’s making millions; for others, it’s six figures. Heck, I think a lot of people feel if they can just keep a roof over their head, they’re doing fine, lol.

For me, I live a simple life by choice and don’t have much materialistic wants or needs. Not that I don’t have any, but I just have never been the type who yearned for the status of mansions and Bentleys and keeping up with the Joneses. Know what I mean? I value experiences more highly than things. When it comes to things, style and quality is more important to me than how much something costs or whether it has a designer label or is a status symbol.

A six figure income for me is plenty and I live a great life. I think for anyone in a service profession such as ours (where overhead and operating costs are practically nothing, relatively speaking), the $100,000 mark is an excellent initial financial goal to strive for.

Generally (and, again, I’m referring specifically to our kind of service profession), when you are able to get near that mark, you are making a healthy profit to sustain the business and most likely earning far more than you ever did as an employee.

(Side note:  I’m not saying anyone should “settle” for only ever making $100,000 a year if they have higher aspirations. That’s not what I’m saying at all! In fact, those who are able to achieve that first six figure level increase their confidence and business understanding commensurately and go on to earn much more beyond that. But most people in our industry are barely earning $10,000 a year and those are the folks I’m wanting to help.)

It’s a goal that challenges you to up your game and gives you a benchmark to shoot for. It’s an entirely doable and realistic goal with the right guidance and information. And once you start earning into that realm, and not living hand to mouth, there are more ways for you to invest and leverage your money so that it grows from there.

Yet, I hear over and over again the little clues in people’s phrases that they don’t feel worthy of that kind of goal. They “put themselves on sale” as Suze Orman oftens refers to it, practically apologizing for being in business and needing to charge for their services. All the “discount this, save money that” messaging in our industry is a symptom and demonstration of that belief system.

I’m just curious about people’s thoughts on this… where do you think this societal guilt comes from when it comes to money and earning well? Why do people feel guilty charging for their services? Is it a gender thing? What do you think would help people (particularly women) increase their self-esteem and feel more deserving of earning a great living? What would need to happen or change in order for them to feel good about charging better and feel confident in asking for their fees?

Dear Danielle: Should I Post Pricing on My Website?

Dear Danielle:

Quick question. Is it good business practice to place your price list and hourly fees on your website? Talanda Ferguson

It’s always the “quick” questions that are anything but, lol. Whether or not to post pricing on your professional service-based business website is a frequent topic of conversation and debate. It takes a bit more in-depth learning and education to understand why it’s not really a good idea when it comes to professional services.

I write about this topic frequently so I’m going to point you in the direction of a couple of my previous posts that will help you better understand the pros and cons and the reasons I advocate against posting rates:

Price Is NOT the Bottom-Line
Screening the Tire Kickers

Andy Beale, a well-known marketing consultant and blogger at Marketing Pilgrim, also wrote an excellent article on this topic. His article is directed toward the marketing industry, but the advice is relevant to any kind of professional service and consulting business, including Administrative Consulting:

Why Marketing Agencies Shouldn’t Publish Their Fees

I also want to mention that I’m not an advocate for hourly pricing. I didn’t invent the methodology, but I did introduce our industry to the concept of value-based pricing, and I originated the process for how to employ that methodology with ongoing support, which is what I really recommend you look into. You can visit my Value-Based Pricing Toolkit product page to view a video and learn more about why selling hours is actually killing your business.

Let me know if this helps. And do post your comments and questions so we can keep the discussion going. I’m particularly interested in hearing the reasons and concerns any of you have about why you think you need to post your fees. I may be able to shed some light and give you some info to see things from a different perspective that ultimately will help you earn better and gain better clients.

Dear Danielle: How Does the Shaky Economy Affect Us?

Dear Danielle:

What do you perceive will transpire within the VA scene with the upcoming shaky global economy? What would you suggest, especially to new VA’s such as myself? We have not acquired an established clientele yet, we are scratching to get a first client! Thank you. –Marie-Brigitte Souci

Thanks for the question, Marie-Brigitte. 🙂

First, I do want to gently remind that we use the term Administrative Consultants here. I’m not concerned with the VA industry. I answer questions related to those who are in the administrative support business and for many reasons, we do not use the VA term.

I want to encourage you not to be concerned about the economy. First, because things really are on the upswing, and second, because it really doesn’t need to have anything to do with you. You’re looking at things from the wrong angle, and if you’re worrying about clients who are worried about the economy, you’re focusing on the wrong clients.

Here is a post I wrote in 2011 on this topic that I think will help you see that there is a different approach and why the “shaky” economy doesn’t have to relate to your business in any way:

Dear Danielle: How Is the Economy Affecting Out Industry?

Let me know if that helps!

Dear Danielle: Should I Turn Work Away?

Dear Danielle:

I’ve learned a lot from you in regards to Value Based Pricing by purchasing your system. Love it! The only question I have is, do you turn away any admin work that doesn’t fit into your packages? I sometimes have clients ask me to help out with a quick spreadsheet or troubleshoot why a login isn’t working etc. Do you have any tips on how this translates in value based pricing? MD

Thanks for the great question! I’ll do my best to help.

Quick answer: It depends. But let’s examine why and where you may be wanting to take your business.

Personally, at my stage in business, yes, I typically do turn away small ad-hoc project work if that’s what you are referring to. It’s just not worth my time or attention. I make enough from my retainer clients that I don’t need to bother with penny ante stuff like that. And I have more time to devote to my retained clients and more time for my own life because of it.

This is something you begin to realize once you decide that you want to start earning better in your business. Lots of people think they need to take anything they can get, everything that comes their way. And that’s certainly their perogative. If someone is starving and they need to put food on the table, yeah, you’re going to take that work, and any work you can get.

However, continuing to operate in that mode will keep you in the position of what essentially amounts to picking pennies up off the ground. You’ll never create a better, more well-earning business that way. And project work like that will keep you from building a more leisurely paced business–and life. You’ll forever be on a hamster wheel in a business like that.

Getting to a place of higher earning requires intention about the kinds of work and clients you take on. It means saying “no” to certain work in order to focus on getting the kind of work and clients that actually lead you from a hand-to-mouth (or hamster wheel) existence to one where you are earning and profitting well and, in turn, creating the life you want for yourself.

Now, you use the word “clients” rather than prospects so I’m not sure if you meant people who are already retained clients or if you actually meant just random people (prospective clients) who don’t want to retain you, but just want little one-off things.

If it’s retained clients you meant, and they were asking for something outside the scope of their support plan, again it depends. For retained clients, I give the best of my time and attention. If they have a quick, little one-off thing that falls outside the scope of their support plan, a lot of times I will knock that out for them just as a bit of client love. Their long-term business and relationship is more financially profitable for me than a few extra bucks. However, if a pattern begins to emerge (which I will notice in my six-month review of their account) that they really do need ongoing support in a particular area, that’s when we have a conversation about adding that support area onto their plan (and the price goes up accordingly).

But, yes, if it’s just a random person who has found my site and just wants a little project, I turn those away. Just not worth the distraction or my time and effort. One of the reasons I’ve been able to build the practice I have today is by saying “no” to things like that.

If you want to build a retainer based and more well-earning business, you have to say no to any client or work that isn’t in alignment with that goal. I realize there may be a balancing act some folks need to do when they are first starting their business. The caution (and where folks get caught up on) is that if all you ever do is taken on penny-ante project work, it will keep you from building the business that you’d rather have. It just eats up all your time and attention.

I know some people like to say, “But those little projects could turn into retained clients if they like my work.” Again, that’s not building a business based on intention. That’s trying to grow a business based on hope. Doesn’t work. And there’s a better way.

I’m sure you’ve heard me repeat the adage, “You will never get what you don’t ask for.” And this is exactly what this means. If you don’t ask for and expect a commitment from clients, you will never get one. If you don’t ask for exactly the kind of clients and relationship that you prefer to have in your business, you will never get them.

The tail will forever be wagging the dog (the business and clients running you and not serving your needs) and you will never build the business you want unless you ask for it. That means not accepting just any ol’ work and clients. It means telling clients exactly how you work with them (e.g., by monthly retainer) and then only accepting those clients who are ready to work like that. You gotta stop wasting time on everyone else. It’s just delaying and distracting you.

And contrary to all the advice you hear out there on this, I do not recommend you take on a small project so clients can “get a taste of what it’s like to work with you.” Would you go to a home builder and ask them to “just build me this little thing here so I can get an idea of what it’s like to work with you?” They wouldn’t do it (and they’d probably laugh behind your back). It’s just not worth their time to deal with dabblers. And you can’t make it worth your time either or you’ll be doing that the rest of your life.

Focus on the people who are ready to work with you. There are far better ways to allow prospective clients to “sample” you without you being distracted or wasting your one-on-one time. Heck, your entire website should be a “sampling” and demonstration of you and your skills, knowledge and expertise.

I want you to refer back to the Administrative Consultant business model blueprint you received with the Value-Based Pricing Toolkit. This outlines exactly how you can offer them “samples” without letting the “nibblers” take you away from your focus.

Let me know if that helps. 🙂

Dear Danielle: Do You Think Buying a Franchise Is a Good Idea?

Dear Danielle:

I was wondering why you have not considered franchising an Administrative Consultant business? With everything you have in place it seems like something you may have considered. I ask because one of my clients is a franchise person and asked me why I had not considered it. Then I thought… well, if Danielle hasn’t done it, there must be a reason why. Just curious about your thoughts on the subject. –JL

Thanks for such an interesting question! I really appreciate those.

This topic actually has come up before in other conversations with colleagues, but I haven’t ever posted my thoughts about it here on the blog.

To get to the quick of it, I’m against franchising. It’s hard to put into words and explain all the reasons why, but I’ll give it a try.

Fundamentally, I don’t believe buying into a franchise is good for Administrative Consultants.

It might be good for the seller because they make money from it, but I don’t think it’s good for the people buying into them.

Sure, I could package up my branding and sell it as a franchise and make money regardless.

But if my core belief is that it only really and truly benefits me, I would not feel that I was living in truth and integrity.

It would not sit well with my conscience to sell people something that I didn’t believe was actually any good for them.

Here’s why I don’t think it serves you as an Administrative Consultant…

First,  you have to understand that providing a professional service is not the same as making and selling sandwiches for a living (e.g., buying into a Subway franchise).

You can’t franchise personality, chemistry, critical thinking, unique experience, and higher level skill and expertise.

These are exactly the things that make what we do a craft and differentiate one Admin Consultant from another and makes each unique to his or her own ideal clients.

You simply can’t bottle that.

Second, when you apply a cookie cutter approach (which is what franchising does), you turn what is a craft into a commodity.

And when something becomes a commodity, it loses its specialness and uniqueness.

It becomes just another identical product the customer could buy from a million other places.

When everything is the same, when it’s made to look like there isn’t any particular skill or expertise required and it’s not magical and unique, the natural inclination is to look for the cheapest provider.

When that’s the case, you will be stuck competing on price and that’s a death knell for any business.

If you expect to command professional fees and be perceived as an expert with valuable expertise and unique delivery, then you can not allow yourself to become just another commodity.

Third, when you buy a franchise, you are only building and strengthening the value of the franchise’s brand, not your own.

For all the reasons that people buy franchises (they think it will be easier to get started, market, and make money), the opposite happens.

You are not special and different and unique when you are just another bottle on the shelf.

If you want to skip the hard parts in business, then you should resign yourself to earning poorly because it is going to be that much harder for you to differentiate yourself from the rest of the clones and command professional fees — the very things you thought buying someone’s brand franchise was going to do for you.

Plus, if I were to ever franchise my brand, in order to maintain the quality and integrity of the brand and earning power of the franchise, I would have to be really picky about who bought into it.

I’d also have to put resources and mechanisms in place to monitor franchisees to make sure they were observing the terms of the franchise.

All of which would require a lot of time and energy and yet more details and work I have absolutely zero interest in. There’s just not anything in any of that I would derive any positive energy from.

The flip side of that same coin is that if anyone is allowed to buy into the franchise without any qualification, everything those others franchise owners do affects your business and reputation as well.

My personal values affect everything I do in life and in business. I can’t divorce them from my work or relationships.

It’s why I’m simply incapable of doing business with anyone I think is unethical or associating with people or groups I’ve come to learn are dishonest and unscrupulous.

I can’t wrap my brain around how that works for other people.

I mean, I think people are often fooled by false veneers and seduced by pretty words, especially when they are looking for an excuse anyway. But a wolf in sheep’s clothing is still a wolf.

And I think when it comes to self-interest, denial is very handy and makes it easier to rationalize and justify.

But denial requires a level of unconsciousness and I am too highly conscious and uber-aware as a person.

Of course, being highly conscious often doesn’t make it easy to get along in this world.

But no one ever said choosing the right thing over self-interest was always the easy thing to do. (Just musing out loud here.)

At any rate, for me, values and principles aren’t things you can conveniently tuck away in a drawer just because you have an opportunity to make money or someone unethical has something you’d like to take advantage of.

For that reason, I couldn’t ever be in the franchise business when in my heart, I honestly don’t believe it would really and truly serve the people who bought into it.

Sure, I could maybe make more money. But it’s not the kind of money I would feel good making.

For me, making money is pretty much the last consideration.

Not that I have money issues and don’t like making it. Far from it!

It’s just that what energizes and motivates me primarily is the beauty and purpose of the work and engaging in my craft… practicing, honing and mastering it and doing good work for clients that really helps them move forward.

I also value and respect myself and what I do and hold it in high esteem (and charge well for it) and expect clients to as well — or they don’t become clients.

The money part takes care of itself after that.

What I truly think and believe is that Administrative Consultants are much better served creating and nurturing their own strong, unique brand and identity.

Buying into anyone else’s brand or franchise isn’t going to help them do any better, get ahead any faster, or be more successful because skills and the ability to serve clients well and nurture relationships aren’t things that can be purchased or borrowed.

They either can do well on their own, or they aren’t going to make it regardless, which brings us back full circle to the pointlessness of buying a franchise.

Much better for them to invest their time and money in learning more about business and marketing and increasing their skills and knowledge so they can create and succeed on their own merits.

Dear Danielle: How Much Should I Charge This Client?

Dear Danielle:

I have a potential client I am having discussions with right now. He projects giving me various tasks requiring from basic assistance up to project management skills involving analysis and online business management. I have been asked to quote one rate per hour regardless of the complexity of the task involved. I have also listened to your recording of charging value added pricing which makes sense to me. Ordinarily I charge £25 per hour for basic VA services up to £65 per hour for more complex tasks inclusive of research, marketing and analytical tasks. This potential client operates internationally. How much would you charge based on value added pricing? I would truly appreciate your help in this. Thanks and regards —LG

Thanks for the question. 🙂

Unfortunately, due to antitrust laws, I can’t tell you what to charge. That’s really something you have to come up with on your own according to how you value yourself and what your business needs.

I will say though that anytime you start itemizing individual, line-item tasks and assigning a hierarchy of importance, it has the effect of commoditizing yourself and what you offer.

That’s not something you want to do in your business because it comes around and bites you in the rear when you need for clients to understand that the value isn’t in the tasks, it’s in how the tasks help them move forward in their business and what those tasks allow them to accomplish or gain or achieve.

When you understand that perspective, you see that there’s no reason to itemize or value one task as more or less important–they are ALL important to the big picture of the client’s business.

If you haven’t yet, be sure and download our Pricing Calculator and go through those exercises.

This will help you get clarity around what you need and want to earn in your business. Base your decisions around that, not bending over backwards to customize your entire billing structure and business operations for one client. The tail will forever be wagging the dog otherwise (that is, the business and clients running you, instead of properly the other way around). You’ll never build an ideal practice that way.