Archive for the ‘Living Your Best Life’ Category

Are You Trying to Do Everything Without Taking a Break?

Today’s much-needed reminder…

I came across this quote on Facebook somewhere quite serendipitously right when I needed to hear it most.

It’s addressed to creatives, but you can swap “artist” for “Administrative Consultant” or “business owner” and the wisdom still applies.

It is one thing after another caring for my dad. Every time I think I will finally get a breather and be able to focus on my life and business, some fresh new rabbit hole opens up and there I go tumbling down.

And a huge part of the problem is me.

For some reason, I have this idea that I can’t rest when it comes to him, that I have to do everything RIGHT. THIS. SECOND.

And some of it is warranted. When you are dealing with a sick family member, there are things you simply have to take care of immediately, not when you feel like it.

But a lot of it is simply because I have allowed a negative mindset to form in my head where I am always waiting for (expecting) the other shoe to drop.

It doesn’t help when there are outside influences and pressures, people who don’t have any of the burden or responsibility, giving you their “helpful” two cents and otherwise second-guessing you constantly.

It takes constant practice for me to let go and remind myself that I can’t do everything for him and I HAVE to take care of ME, too! Because if I don’t, I won’t be any good to him or anyone else at all.

I have far less trouble with these boundaries in my business because I had a lot of years to figure out and erect those boundaries.

However, I’m finding that the bad habits I have developed when it comes to caring for my dad while neglecting myself have trickled into my business in sneaky ways as well.

For example, I am always wanting to get my dad’s stuff taken care of right away because I want to keep clear as much space as I can before something new piles up on my plate.

And because I don’t want my client work to get backed-up when some new unforeseen disaster erupts with my dad down the road, I find myself doing the same thing in my business, to the point that I have actually done work the same day it is received.

And that is sacrilege according to my own rules because it creates an endless cycle of unsustainable pace and expectations in clients.

So I am having to do a lot of self-work these days on not stepping over my own business boundaries and standards.

You can’t have a life if you are constantly responding to clients instantly.

This is why and how I developed my 3/7 Guide that I share in my Power Productivity & Business Management Guide for Administrative Consultants (GDE-41). It’s a system for managing client work that helps preserve your boundaries and sanity in your business while setting and managing client expectations around those standards at the same time.

All of this is a reminder that it takes discipline in honoring our standards and boundaries and constant practice and vigilance.

If you find yourself backsliding into unproductive, unsustainable ways, you have to give yourself a little kick to get back into gear because you and your business (and your clients, ultimately) will pay for it otherwise.

What Is Your Talent Worth?

What Is Your Talent Worth?

Not sure where I first came across this quote, but it’s a sentiment that always bear repeating.

To an extent, value is relative. Which is why it’s important to work with the right, well-chosen clients, clients who need what you have to offer and will therefore appreciate (i.e., value) it more highly.

That said, at a fundamental level, if you don’t value what you have to offer (and price it accordingly), no one else will either.

Does this resonate with you? I’d love to hear why.

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.

Who Said Positive Change Would Necessarily Be Quick and Easy?

Who Said Positive Change Would Necessarily Be Quick and Easy?

Hello, peeps!

No, I haven’t fallen off the planet, lol.

I’m still dealing with the transition of moving into my dad’s house temporarily and getting things sorted and running again. Plus, I had to move during a heatwave. Thank gawd that is over! But there is soooo much work to do. Oy.

I’ve been here since August 1. My plan is to spend the next 3-5 months getting it cleaned up and put back in order in the hope that there might be some possibility at some point that he could return home and spend his remaining years in his own house with live-in care.

If you are new here, my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about 10 years ago and Lewy Body dementia about four years ago. His health and ability to care for himself and his house took a nosedive in 2014, and he is currently living in an adult care home.

My lease was up at the end of July, and I was seriously in need of some change in my life. It all worked out perfectly for me to not only do this for my dad, but also take my time in finding my next ideal home. I’m currently checking out houseboats (I might even have a custom one built!) and will be doing a little roadtripping in the meantime.

As I get settled in, I am reflecting on the idea that change — even if it’s a positive change — is often painful.

I am someone who tends to zap tolerations very quickly.

I am all about ease, and whenever and wherever I can make things easy (or at least easier) for myself, for my clients, for others, that is exactly what I do.

I front-load work and get the hard stuff out of the way first because it makes things simpler, faster, smoother and/or less difficult/problematic down the road.

And because I am normally really good at making things easy, I sometimes have to be reminded that not every positive change can be made as easily or quickly as I would prefer. There is going to be some “creative destruction” that can be messy and take longer than I would like.

This moving/dislocation process has been a bit traumatic. While being a very positive step towards some much-needed change in my own life, it’s not easy.

I don’t like being in transition, even though I am moving step by step toward a more ideal situation in my life.

My routines are all disrupted and I feel out of sorts. I don’t like the feeling of being in a “temporary” state. I like being settled and everything in their place.

Going through this made me think of a colleague I’ve been chatting with who also started making steps toward some positive change in her business she was desperately ready for and in need of.

Two thirds of her clients took the new standards she was implementing in her business in stride (this is very common, many colleagues are surprised to find).

One is highly resistant and being difficult about it (also very common, and also indicative of a relationship that might need to be severed in order to make way for a more ideal client to fill that spot on her roster).

The reminder is this:

Positive change can be messy and take time. We might lose some things along the way. But the alternative is inertia and living in a rut. And that’s definitely not ideal.

So have faith that even though the process might be tough, might be daunting, might be painful, it is so well worth taking those steps in a more positive direction so that you can love your life, your business, and your clients.

(PS: Wondering what a standing toilet paper holder has to do with this post? It’s an example of zapping tolerations. The bathroom off my dad’s master bedroom is a full bath, but it’s v-e-r-y small, and the toilet paper holder in the wall next to the toilet is extremely awkward to get to. It’s really annoying to wake up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and have to twist yourself into a pretzel reaching backward and blindly feel around for the toilet paper. Oh, no, this is not a nagging annoyance that should be tolerated for one minute! Barring hiring a contractor to fix the problem, I discovered free-standing toilet paper holders in the meantime. Life-changing, lol! At least that one was a quick and easy fix even if other positive changes aren’t.)

Are you looking to make some positive changes in your life and/or business? What kind of obstacles (mental or otherwise) are keeping you from taking action?

I could sure use some conversation with colleagues. Leave me a comment and we can explore and brainstorm! 🙂

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?

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should

Just because you can do everything doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

People who are new in business don’t tend to understand this at first. They are too eager and excited to get those first paying clients.

But once you have more than one client, you begin to get an inkling of this truth: you don’t want to bog yourself down doing too much stuff and trying to do every. single. thing. for clients.

You’re going to come up against a wall of overwhelm real quick if you don’t get clear and focused about what you do (and what you don’t) in your business.

Focus — on who you cater your support to and what you do for them — is key.

I see a lot of people in our industry really enamored with the idea of doing anything and everything.

It’s an idea they are hit over the head with when they first enter the industry at large, almost as if there is something virtuous about it.

NOTE: It’s not virtuous; it’s misguided. In fact, I am here to tell you it is keeping you from providing a superior level of administrative support and service that clients will pay well for. Doing every little thing is keeping you small and under-earning.

Most of the people who come to me for help in our industry are those who fell for the BS of doing anything and everything only to realize later just how much it is keeping them from being able to develop, from making more money, from having time for a life, and from having a business and clients that actually make them happy.

Sometimes there’s a bit of “savior complex” rooted in this notion, which also isn’t good for you or your business (or ultimately your clients).

Sometimes it’s a lack of professional self-esteem (again, common in people who are new in business). They don’t yet have a sense of confidence in their value and think they need to “prove” their worth by offering to do anything and everything.

Most of the time, though, the folks trying to do anything and everything are those who have not chosen a target market (which is simply a field/industry/profession you cater your administrative support to).

That’s how the cycle starts.

When you don’t know who you are talking to, it’s difficult to form a clear idea of specifically what you do and how you help.

That’s because having no clear idea of who you are talking to forces you to think in a manner that is too broad, vague, and generic.

And so they end up offering anything and everything they can think of that might be of value to someone, somewhere (anyone? pretty please?).

What ends up happening, though, is you become a garbage disposal that clients toss any old thing at, making up their own rules and expectations in your business in the process.

This is what Seth Godin calls being a “meandering generality instead of a meaningful specific.”

When you get specific about who you work with (i.e., target market), you’ll be able to more quickly, clearly, and specifically identify exactly what you do and don’t do that helps clients.

(HINT: And that’s NOT everything and the kitchen sink.)

Here’s an example of avoiding the constant busy-ness of certain work that keeps you from really developing your business into a more powerful revenue and freedom-generating machine.

I’ve long advocated that colleagues never manage any client’s email in-box:

  1. You are not their personal, on-call employee/assistant. (What, do they need you to wipe their ass for them when they go to the bathroom, too? Look, there are just some things that grown-ups need to do themselves. You didn’t go into business to be someone’s lackey, did you? You can get a job for that. Just say no to work like that. It’s not the kind of thing you need to be doing in business.)
  2. You have enough of your own emails to manage to take on anyone else’s; and
  3. In-box management is drudge work that will keep you in the reeds on a daily basis, never able to get beyond the busy-ness to work on higher-value, big-picture stuff, both in your business and theirs.

This is a good example of “you don’t have to do everything to be of value” because even though in-box management isn’t something you do, the time you free up for clients by doing the other things you DO do allows them to better manage their own in-boxes.

What you can do instead is share your tips, advice, and guidance with clients on how to better manage their own in-boxes.

You could do that by writing an ezine article and/or blog post, creating an info product for purchase, putting together an instructional video or DIY email training, or perhaps do a paid online class a couple times a year.

(And by the way, inviting people to sign up to your mailing list to get any one or all of these will help you grow your list and continue to keep in touch and nurture those relationships.)

Dealing with it like that, you are providing additional value without bogging yourself down in that kind of work.

You don’t have to do everything to be of value. Let that sink in.

(If you need help finally choosing a target market, get my free tool that helps walk you through the process.)

The Real Skinny on Being a Digital Nomad

The Real Skinny on Being a Digital Nomad

This is a REALLY good article on the “digital nomad” BS, that (once again) internet marketers are trying to cash in on in recent years on by preying on the fantasies of those living in La La Land.

And I say that as someone who is about to embark on some roadtripping where I will be a semi digital nomad, and also as someone who lived in Europe while continuing to run my business.

That shit was hard!

That is, since ours is an online business, it was relatively easy technologically, but difficult from a mental, logistical, and practical standpoint.

I work MUCH better running things from my home office in the U.S. where my regular set-up and all my stuff is located and I have a regular routine and things-in-place.

I wouldn’t trade the experience of living and working in Europe for the world, but I also wouldn’t advise anyone that it’s a good idea to try to escape your life under the misguided thinking that it’s going to solve whatever you are running from.

Let me tell you, it is not all it’s cracked up to be (no matter what kind of rainbows and puppy dog tail pictures the internet marketers try to paint).

Yes, there are lots of unique experiences you can have (maybe… depending on how intrepid you are).

But it can be very difficult trying to do ACTUAL WORK FOR REAL, ACTUAL CLIENTS on the road.

A lot of the work I see many of these so-called digital nomads doing is fluff (mixed with a lot of BS).

The article has what I consider to be a very realistic, no-nonsense list of what is needed for those who might be considering the “digital nomad” life (I even detest the term; so stupid).

I’m going to venture to say that most of us fare better in our lives and businesses when we have a home-base.

I will even say that for most people, you will have more chance of success in your business if you aren’t trying to start and grow it while being essentially home-less and without the structure and stability of a steady home-base.

And you don’t have to be a “digital nomad” to travel and have life experiences.

What might be better is to build a financially solvent and successful business with smart policies, procedures, and systems in place so that you CAN pick up and travel when the urge strikes you.

Ask any traveling business or salesperson. Living out of a suitcase and hotel room (no matter how adorable that AirBnB may be) gets real old and real inconvenient fairly quickly.

Instead, think about having the best of both worlds by setting up your business smartly and profitably so that you can live and travel when and where you fancy while always having a home and community to come back to.

Have you ever thought about living and working on the road? What would be the pros and cons for you?

Interview with Danielle Keister, Founder of the Administrative Consultants Association

Interview with Danielle Keister, Founder of the Administrative Consultants Association

Last month a colleague asked for an interview with me, and I thought I would share my answers with you here as well.

Your Name:

Danielle Keister

Name of Your Business:

I am the founder of the Administrative Consultants Association (ACA), a professional organization for those running administrative support businesses. I also run my own administrative support business supporting solo attorneys who practice in the areas of business, intellectual property and entertainment law.

Years in Business:

I’ve been in business since 1997 when I officially took out my business license; longer if you want to include the years I did this work on the side informally. I originally started the organization now known as the Administrative Consultants Association (ACA) in 2005.

Q1. Tell me about starting your business. Why did you start it?

My husband died without warning in 1995, leaving me a young widow with a daughter to raise on my own. An unexpected loss like that really makes you question life and what you want out of it, how you want to live, what you want for yourself and your children, etc.: Are you living life on your own terms? How happy are you in the 9-to-5 grind? Is my child really getting the best of me if I’m tired and working all the time just to make ends meet? What kind of life am I providing for her? Is this really all there is?

I had previous forays into a few side businesses that I never really took anywhere. It was after the loss of my husband that I decided to get serious about taking the skills I had and turning them into a real business I could make a viable income from to create a better quality of life for myself and my daughter. I didn’t want to be a 9-to-5’er the rest of my life.

Q2. What is your role/job? What sort of responsibilities do you have?

I would say “job” is the wrong terminology to be using here since we are business owners, not employees. Some people may think that is pedantic, but consciously understanding the difference between employment and business ownership and having a business (not employee) mindset begins with using correct terminology.

In all my years of mentoring, what I’ve found is that those who never truly get over employee mindset and continue to work with their clients as if they were still employees don’t survive long in this business.

This is why I continue to clarify the distinction and make sure everyone I come across “gets” it. I want people to succeed in this business, which really starts with developing that all-important business sensibility.

As a solo business owner, I wear three hats: 1) I’m the CEO responsible for the development and direction of my business and making important decisions about the business; 2) I’m the manager responsible for managing all the moving parts and taking care of administration of the business; and 3) I’m the service provider — the craftsperson whose skills are the stock and trade of my business services.

Q3. What is your typical day like?

Very generally speaking, on a typical day, I wake up according to my own internal clock (I haven’t used an alarm clock in years).

Once I get up, I do a little yoga and stretching, eat, and then get cleaned up and dressed for the day. I fully admit to working in my bathrobe every once in awhile if I don’t have any plans to go anywhere that day, lol. But most of the time, leggings or long skirt with a comfy but stylish tee is how I roll.

I don’t like to rush into the day and prefer to check emails and get things sorted in my in-box as the first thing I do.

There is a lot of talk in many online places that discourage this, but I prefer the opposite and find this email clearing and organizing step much more conducive to my productivity for the rest of the day.

I then tend to dive into client work around 10 or 11 am (I always joke with people that my brain doesn’t get juiced up fully until around 11 am).

Depending on what’s on my plate for that day, I may work until between 4 and 6 pm. But it really varies, depending on the day’s workload, what priorities are in the queue, and what else I’ve got going on.

If the work in my queue gets done early, I don’t jump into the next day’s pile. I go enjoy life!

It does take discipline, though, not to fill your free time with work, work, work.

I think for most of us, our first instinct is to get as much done as quickly as we can. But that is really counterproductive and keeps you on a hamster wheel. It’s not good for you and ultimately it ends up not being good for clients.

You have to be diligent about respecting your own boundaries (which in turn trains clients to respect them as well) and give yourself lots of breathing room so you don’t burn out in this business.

At some point around noon or 1 pm I’ll knock off for lunch, maybe go somewhere to eat.

I also try to get a good walk/hike on most days (try being the operative word here lately). Depending on the weather, sometimes that’s first thing in the morning, sometimes it’s around midday, sometimes it’s later in the evening.

It really all depends, and this is the beautiful thing that I’ve created in my business: the freedom and flexibility to be able to listen to my own natural rhythms, structure my business around my life, and do what I want, when I want, while still taking great care of my clients. (I never sacrifice their needs; it’s all a matter of setting proper expectations and boundaries.)

I’ve also created what is essentially a 3-day work week (you can get my entire business management system here):

  • Mondays are my Admin Days where I take care of the admin in my own business or working on my business.
  • Tuesdays are my meeting days that I reserve for telephone meetings and appointments with clients and others.
  • Wednesday through Friday is when I do client work.

For the past few years, my life has been extra stressed caring for a sick, elderly dad. In full disclosure, I’ve really let my own self-care down. I’m beyond grateful I’ve built a business that allows me to do this for my dad, but it’s not easy and still comes with a cost that has taken a toll on me. Making my own self-care a priority again is something I wrestle with on a daily basis and am currently working to improve.

(For a more in-depth snapshot of my typical day, check out this post.)

Q4. What is the best thing about owning your own business?

As touched on above, the freedom and flexibility to live a less rushed/forced life; the ability to live according to my own natural rhythms and internal clock; and the ability to structure my business and its policies, procedures, and protocols so that I have plenty of time for life (or whatever is most important at any point in time; for me, right now, that is my dad).

I never ever want a business where I am living to work instead of working to live.

One of the things I’m always saying to my clients and colleagues is that your business should support your life, not suck the life from you. It took a lot of fits and starts, trial and error, and course correction, but I’m very proud of the business and income I’ve created today.

I also love that my daughter was able to see that self-sufficiency and determination modeled and be a part of my business journey.

Q5. What is the hardest thing about owning your own business?

Well, I’ll be frank with you: business ain’t for sissies, that’s fo sho!

I was extremely fortunate to have had some opportunities come up that gave me the financial means to take care of myself and my daughter while I started my business.

And later I was also fortunate to have a significant other to lean on during the rough spots, of which there were many, make no mistake.

It takes an extreme amount of perseverance, determination, self-motivation — and time —to get a business to a point where it’s actually solvent and sustainable and eventually profitable.

And, of course, everyone’s mileage and set of circumstances will vary. You just take advantage of everything you’ve got going for you, figure out the rest, and if you can get past all that, the rewards are amazing!

Q6. What advice do you have for someone wanting to start a business? What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started?

One of the reasons I started the ACA was to provide others with the knowledge and easier path in starting their own administrative support business that I didn’t have way back when. I did it all without knowing there were others doing what I was attempting to do.

One thing that was pivotal in my success was realizing that a secretarial service is not administrative support.

Secretarial services are project-based businesses where the person does something here and there for drive-by clients.

It’s an inherently volume-driven business, one that requires you to always be on the hunt for your next clients and projects, even while you try to complete the work in front of you.

It’s a plodding, exhausting way to try to make a living and extremely difficult to get profitable.

Once I realized that, instead of project work, I could provide administrative support being an ongoing right-hand to a handful of regular clients on a monthly basis instead of a constantly revolving door of one-time or sporadic clients and rinky-dink projects, that’s when I cracked the revenue code.

But it took me a few years to get to that realization and figure out how to structure things properly.

Now, I base all my training and business education products around that basic tenet so that others won’t waste so many months or years.

I show them how they can build a business based on retainer clients (which is where the bread-and-butter is) while still taking advantage of project work that comes along that is of interest to them (which is gravy).

Another bit of advice I have for folks is not to take shortcuts with the business startup process. Every step helps build your business mindset and sensibility.

People get impatient with the process and want to jump ahead of themselves and it’s really to their detriment and that of their clients.

I’ve seen more businesses shutter their doors because the owner didn’t put the proper foundations in place before taking on clients.

Don’t rush things. There is a little bit of back and forth involved as you figure things out, but beyond that, there is a basic step by step process involved in any business start-up. Don’t skip those parts:

  • Do the business plan.
  • Learn how your local, state and federal taxing and licensing works and what your responsibilities/obligations are.
  • Don’t take on clients before you’ve got at least a basic website up and mapped out a rudimentary set of policies, procedures and protocols. Your website is an incredibly important tool in properly educating clients about the nature of the relationship and bridging understanding so that you attract your right, most ideal clients. You will find that having something there to start with is going to be incredibly helpful in building, growing, and honing your business from there.

These are all exercises that help you create the strong foundations you need to be able to get — and keep — clients. The problems with clients and not getting the right ones happen when those things are absent.

If you were interviewing me, what other questions would you have for me? Let me know in the comments!

Dear Danielle: Client Wants Me to Cut My Fees By $200 a Month

Dear Danielle: Client Wants Me to Cut My Fees by $200 a Month

Dear Danielle:

I recently had a contract client who could no longer afford to pay me the regular contracted amount because of a slowdown in her business so she asked that I drop my price about $200 until she was back on her feet. How should I deal with that? She’s been my client for 3 years and she’s always paid on time and every penny. I agreed to the cut but not sure for how long. Any words of advice? —KP

It sounds like this is a good client with whom you’ve had a happy, healthy business relationship thus far.

It also sounds like this client is paying some sort of monthly fee, if I am surmising things correctly.

And there’s no reason to throw all that away.

BUT there’s also no reason why this client’s financial woes should be your problem. Especially since you aren’t sure how long it will continue.

There IS a compassionate, client-centric way you can offer to help this client out during what I assume is only a temporary predicament without sacrificing your own business needs and well-being.

And it starts with this handy phrase: You don’t get what you don’t pay for.

That’s obviously not very client-centric the way it’s phrased, but the solution in its meaning is, very simply, to take something off the table.

What that means is, if you are selling hours, take $200 worth of hours away from their retainer. Only work up to the number of hours they have paid for.

If they can only pay for 15 hours instead of the usual 20, then they should only get 15 hours of support, not 20.

Alternatively, if you are using my value-based pricing methodology (which is a faster, more effective way to make an impact and give clients more readily apparent, targeted results), take a $200 task/function/role away from the monthly support plan.

Have a conversation with the client, identify what the most important functions are to their operations during this financial lean-time, and then offer to remove/temporarily suspend a $200 value task/function/role that is least necessary and will have the least impact on their continued smooth functioning and profits.

Give them two or three options of what could be removed for $200 less a month, and let them decide which one to sacrifice.

It’s also possible during this discussion that the client realizes even more the value of what you do for their business and decides to find the money to keep paying your full fee for full services to continue.

If this were me, I would also be curious about the reasons for this client’s financial down-turn.

If they were open to sharing, it’s possible I would have some ideas and insights on what we could do and where we could focus our work to create some new/fresh revenue.

Perhaps you even saw this coming, but the client had previously been resistant to exploring your ideas, trying something new, or doing things a little differently than they were used to that might have helped them improve financially. They might now be a bit more receptive to hearing you out.

I would, however, certainly expect to be paid for any additional work/consulting I provided. It’s up to them to decide where their priorities are.

No reasonable client would expect you to work for free.

And despite any client’s best (or unrealistic) intentions, they don’t have a crystal ball no matter what grand promises they make.

So the best policy is to go about things in a way that serves your business interests.

Keep in mind that you have an obligation to safeguard your financial well-being and business profitability not only for yourself, but for your other clients as well.

It doesn’t serve them for you to be giving away time, energy, and work for free to someone who isn’t paying fully for it.

And don’t even think about letting this client pay on credit (a la “I will gladly pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today”).

You won’t be doing them, yourself, or your other clients any favors by letting them go into debt to you.

If they are already in financial straights, owing you or anybody else more money is only going to bury them further.

Remember, you teach people how to treat, value, and respect you.

Lower your fee for this client if you want to help and keep them on your roster; just make sure you also take away an equal amount of work from what you provide them with.

And have another conversation with this client to reset the expectations around what they will and won’t get for the reduced monthly fee.

I also suggest giving the client a definite time limit on this special arrangement.

Give it a month or two and inform the client that you will need to review and discuss things again at that time to determine whether or not it’s still feasible/profitable/in your business interests to continue the arrangement.

If there’s no improvement in sight, you may even decide that, while you wish this client well, keeping them on your roster is no longer profitable for you.

If any of this is helpful, one way you could return the favor is by letting me know in the comments. I would truly value that.

And if you or anyone else has more questions on this, please feel free to ask in the comments, and I’ll be happy to continue the conversation and share my further insights and advice.

Take a Moment for New Year Reflection

Take a Moment for New Year Reflection

At this time of year, I like to go somewhere beautiful and quiet in nature, preferably all to myself, where I can just set and be with my thoughts and do some reflecting.

My daughter got a new ultra fuel-efficient car this year and to celebrate, she and a couple of her friends went on a 9-day road trip down the coast, then to Las Vegas for a Halloween party and back. They had put together a fantastic itinerary for the entire journey which included a rustic retreat in South Lake Tahoe, spa pampering, dressing up as the three witches in Hocus Pocus and attending a big Halloween bash, hikes, and sight-seeing.

Last year in January, my daughter and I had done some fun life-mapping diagrams which involve reflecting on your ideal life, what you would like to do/have/be, how you will achieve those things and what activities, actions and choices to involve yourself in to reach those aims.

So before she left, I suggested to her that at some point as part of their hiking plans, they might want to take a moment to be still and quiet with their thoughts and dreams and do some journaling about those things to set the intentions.

When she got back, she told me they did exactly that and what a fantastic exercise it turned out to be for everyone. They hiked to the top of a beautiful vista and then separated from each other to achieve a bit of solitude so they could each think and write.

I’ll be carving out some time myself to do a bit of this. Here are some questions to get the ball rolling if you’d like to do some reflection and productive planning for your new year as well…

  • In reflecting on the past year (or two), what what went well/right? What gave you joy in your work and your life? What would get in the way of doing more of those things? What do you need to do to remove obstacles to that?
  • Who was a delight to work with? What about them made them delightful? How will you make room to work with more of those people?
  • What fears did you face this past year? Did you do some things that made you uncomfortable this year, that were outside your normal comfort levels? Oh, and you still alive and well and reading this? 😉 And what fears do you want to conquer this year?
  • What risks did you take this past year? What were the outcomes? Do you have a different attitude toward taking risks now? Even if it still may always feel scary, do you think you are likely to be bolder and more confident in taking a risk, despite any fears, in the future?
  • Did you encounter some scenarios where you were brave? What were they? Reflect on those. Did you properly acknowledge your bravery and congratulate yourself? Do you feel pride? Do you feel stronger? Are there other situations where you will feel stronger and more confident in next time around?
  • List at least one or two new things you want to try.
  • What do you want to do differently in this new year?
  • What do you want to stop doing because it taxes your energy? What tolerations do you need to zap?
  • What clients do you need to let go of to pave the way for more ideal ones?
  • What policies and practices do you need to examine, reconfigure and improve?
  • What are your money goals for 2018? Is it time to raise your fees? Who do you need to work with to meet those goals? How do you need to be working with them? Do you need to rethink your service offerings and how they are structured? Do you need to let go of some services so that you can focus on providing more excellence and value in the ones that make you more money? How can you be more profitable moving forward?
  • Did you experience any difficult or painful lessons this year? How/why did they happen/come about? What did you learn from them? What will you do differently in the future? Have you implemented/instituted changes to any of your policies/procedures/protocols and/or any other way you go about things as a result?
  • Even when it’s not what we want to hear when we haven’t been able to do or give our best, embracing constructive feedback from our clients is a gift. It may not always be delivered constructively and can make us wince, but when we face it head on, it can be a tremendous boon to our growth. What feedback did you receive this past year that may have been too painful to hear in the moment, but which could possible hold some kernels of truth and helpfulness in making improvements?
  • What do you need more of to generate more happiness, joy, satisfaction, contentment in your life and business? Likewise, what do you need to let go of to have more happiness, joy, satisfaction and contentment?

And always remember, fresh starts aren’t limited to the new year. Each new day is an opportunity to do-over.

I’d love to hear what you’d like to conquer in 2018 if you care to share.

Happy 2018!