Archive for the ‘Living Your Best Life’ Category

25 Ways to Get Better, More Ideal Clients

baddog

One of the biggest complaints people voice in our industry (the administrative support business) are clients who are a pain in the ass, otherwise known as PIAs, or more gently, unideal clients.

Bad clients are also one of the biggest business killers. One bad client (particularly in a new business) can suck up all your resources and destroy profit—and your morale—to the point of no return.

Despite your best efforts, it’s possible to end up with a rotten apple once in awhile.

Far more often, however, it is we who create the conditions that bring un-ideal clients into our lives in the first place.

You have far more control in this area than you may realize. So, here’s a list that will help you have more ideal, joy-to-work-with clients who won’t tear your business apart:

  1. Own your role. Bad clients don’t happen to you. You’re the one who took them on and continues to work with them. Acknowledge that so you can fix it and start doing things differently from this point forward.
  2. Trust your gut. If you have a bad feeling or see red flags, pay attention. Your instincts will never fail you.
  3. Treat and respect your business like a business. When you do, your prospects and clients will as well.
  4. Have self-respect. Don’t beg, bribe and prostrate yourself to get clients. The only clients who are attracted to desperate people are bad clients.
  5. Don’t be so available. Have a process that prospects go through to become clients. It’s an indicator that you are a professional, successful business, and that is going to attract professional, successful prospects. Anyone who is in a rush and wants to sidestep your processes is never an ideal client. Better clients are willing to wait for the best.
  6. Never take on work or clients just for the money. This is often where at least 75% of the problems start.
  7. Have standards. For example, choosing to work with only honest, ethical people is a standard. What others can you think of? Write them down and hang this list where you’ll see it every day.
  8. Set proper expectations. Remember, you’re not running a mass consumer, assembly-line business like McDonald’s. You’re running a professional service firm where there is a personal, ongoing relationship with each client. Sometimes clients can seem unideal because you haven’t properly managed expectations. They’ve been left to their own devices and so they assumed or made up their own rules. Similar to raising children, if we are too permissive, over-promise, and establish policies that we can’t possibly sustain on a consistent basis (such as 24-hour, on-demand, instant assistance), we can turn clients quickly into spoiled brats who throw tantrums the second you don’t instantly jump at their request. Picture your business with a full roster of retained clients. What kind of turn-around and communication policies does THAT business need to take great care of all your clients, consistently and reliably, now and in the future, without overcrowding and burning you out in the process?
  9. Set policies, procedures and protocols. These are relationship-preservers that bring order to your business, ensure it runs smoothly and gives you the space you need to take fantastic care of all your clients, evenly, consistently and reliably. Without this structure, clients can quickly (and often do) turn into monsters we dread dealing with.
  10. Establish boundaries. Besides helping ensure your business runs smoothly so you can do great work for all your clients, your policies and protocols also establish boundaries. For example, having formal office hours between 9a and 5p is a policy that also sets a boundary that tells clients you are running a professional business that opens and closes at certain hours and they may not expect you to be working past those times. See? Boundary.
  11. Honor your standards, boundaries and protocols. Here again is where we often “do it” to ourselves by taking shortcuts and stepping over our standards and boundaries or allowing clients to. They’re in place to ensure you have a happy business and happy clients. Ignore them at your peril.
  12. Know who your ideal client is. Start an Ideal Client Profile. This is a list of all the traits, characteristics and demographics of the kind of person you really enjoy working with, who you work best with, and who benefits most from working with you. Keep adding to and refining this list throughout the life of your business. This formalizing exercise helps you get more clear, conscious and intentional about who you want to attract and focus on in your business.
  13. Start an UN-ideal Client Profile. Likewise, as you grow in your business, you are going to get more and more clear about who is not the right fit for you, with whom you don’t enjoy working. List these traits and red flags so that you can better recognize those folks when they appear on your doorstep—and quickly and politely send them away.
  14. Work with business people rather those who are employees themselves. Business people get it. Non business people are more often going to be difficult to work with because they aren’t coming from a business context and don’t understand the proper business etiquette and rules of engagement.
  15. Have a target market. A target market is simply an industry/field/profession that you cater your administrative support to. Having one will not only make everything in your business easier, it will also help you get better, more ideal clients.
  16. Have a proper business website. Your website isn’t merely an online brochure. When you have a proper website that informs, educates and markets you like a business, it’s a powerful influence in the clients you attract and how those clients approach you in a proper business context. It helps set expectations and prequalify clients so you get more ideal business people contacting you. The image it presents, the message it conveys, and the process it takes them through set a precedent that is going to attract either ideal or unideal clients to you. If you want better clients, have a better website.
  17. Stop marketing yourself like a substitute employee. Face it, if people are approaching you like a potential employer instead of a client, it’s because you aren’t educating them properly. If you don’t want clients who treat you like their substitute, beck-and-call, under-the-table employee they don’t pay taxes on, then you have to stop marketing yourself like one. Model your marketing message more like that of other independent professionals like attorneys and accountants. You want to position yourself as someone with the expertise of administration, not some order-taking gopher. Reframe the message and you’ll get better clients.
  18. Have a consultation process. And I don’t mean some penny-ante 15-minute chat. That is NOT going to help you or the client whatsoever. I’m talking about a full and proper consultation process that begins before a prospect ever contacts you. Not only does this process help you prequalify prospective clients for mutual fit, it also helps them take your business more seriously.
  19. Always use a (proper) contract. A contract is a relationship-preserver as well in that it helps everyone remember and honor their agreements to each other. A contract helps clients respect you as a business, and a respectful client is an ideal client.
  20. Have a Client Guide. Formalize your policies, procedures and prototols into a written Client Guide that you give to all new and current clients. Part of setting and managing expectations is making sure you are informing clients about how things work in your business. None of us are mindreaders and neither are your clients. If you want your relationship with clients to go smoothly and ideally, you have to inform them of what that means, how things work in your business and what is expected of them (remember, it’s a two-way street; it’s not all about their needs).
  21. Conduct a New Client Orientation with new retained clients before you begin working together to go over and clarify the information in your Client Guide and answer any questions they may have. Do this with existing clients as well whenever your business undergoes significant changes. This further supports your efforts in educating clients about the nature of the relationship, setting and managing expectations, how things work in your business and what the standards, policies, protocols and procedures are for working together.
  22. Issue formal announcements to all your clients whenever there is a change in your business. Whenever you make changes or improvements to your business and how you do things, don’t mention these things in passing. Make it formal. Send out a formal business communication to your clients on company letterhead as well as any ezine and blog you publish. Here again, you’re reinforcing the business aspect of your relationship and treating the business like a business which then influences how clients treat and respect you and the relationship.
  23. Raise your rates. When you’re cheap and there is no barrier to entry for working with you, you get cheap, unideal clients. It’s an immutable law of business that when you raise your rates, you get better, more ideal clients. It’s a way to sort the wheat from the chaff in prequalifying clients.
  24. Face difficult conversations. It will only be worse for both of you the longer you wait. However, the quicker you are to face difficult conversations, the more often those relationships can be turned around for the better. You can learn many new positive things and possibly keep a client .
  25. Let go of unideal clients quickly. They’ll keep you buried in the muck and you’ll never grow or move forward if you continue to work with them. Unideal clients are highly unprofitable to work with and suck up three times the space in your practice compared to ideal clients. They cost your business far more than you realize and you can’t afford the psychological toll they take. You have to let go of the bad and unideal to make room for the better and more ideal.
  26. Bonus Tip: Stop calling yourself an assistant. Who you attract is all about your marketing. Marketing is about educating, setting expectations and creating perception. The words you choose to call yourself influence how clients perceive you and understand the relationship. The fact is, people only understand the word assistant one way: employee. So when you call yourself an assistant, you’re telling them you are some sort of employee. When they think you’re an employee, they want to treat like one. And when you call yourself an assistant, causing their perception to be that you are some sort of substitute employee, you predispose them to balk at your fees because they only expect to pay you like an employee. If you want more ideal clients, it’s not enough to change how you work with clients  and insist that you’re a business owner. You have to stop calling yourself a term that contradicts all those efforts. When you do, you”ll get higher quality prospects and more easily command higher, properly professional fees because you haven’t created a disconnect in their understanding and perception of the nature of the relationship right from the get-go.

Pinch Yourself Today, Right Now

Pinch Yourself Today, Right Now

I was chatting online with a long-time colleague yesterday, someone whom I greatly like and admire.

I asked how business was going for her since we hadn’t had a chance to catch up in awhile.

This colleague has always invested in herself and her business. She’s purchased my entire system of business success products and if I remember correctly, taken all my training classes as well, and she is doing all kinds of fantastic!

I didn’t want to say how proud I was of her (though I am) because that sounds so condescending. So I said I hoped she realized how stinkin’ proud of all that she’s accomplished she should be because SHE did this!

And I hope YOU are taking time regularly for “pinch myself” moments to honor and celebrate all that you’ve accomplished in your business journey as well.

I call them “pinch myself” moments because even having been in this business for nearly 20 years, I frequently marvel at just how fortunate I am to be living this lifestyle that my business affords me. And I “pinch” myself in gratitude that YES, this is REAL, this is my real life and I DID IT!

All anyone (myself included) can do is give you our best help, knowledge and guidance, but it’s YOU who makes it all happen in your own life and business.

So take a moment, right now, to celebrate all your accomplishments, every step you’ve conquered, every action you’ve taken, every fear you’ve faced, no matter how big or seemingly insignificant. Because they are all equally important in your journey.

Every time you learn a difficult lesson, every time you face down something you were scared of, that intimidated you or you felt daunted by, you make progress toward your goals for self determination and independence. And you grow not only in your business, but personally as well.

Do You Want a Job or a Business?

Do You Want a Job or a Business?

People come into this profession with dreams of a lifestyle different than the normal 9-5 grind, to have more freedom and flexibility in their lives—and then they create a business that allows them to have anything but those things.

One of the reasons this happens is because they’re being taught and advised by training organizations to operate like employees.

The most ridiculous thing I read recently is that in managing client expectations and helping them establish trust in you, you shouldn’t “disappear, even for a day or two.”

So let me ask you this:  Do you want a job or a business?

There are lots of ways to manage expectations and instill ever-growing trust in clients.

None of it requires you to operate like an employee.

When you read books like Gerber’s “The E-Myth Revisited,” you learn that the idea is to create a business that operates by system and doesn’t necessarily require you to be the one doing the work.

However, there’s nothing wrong with you being the one doing the work.

Many (perhap even most) people go into self-employed business to practice their craft for reasons beyond money.

It has just as much to do with soul. They get a kind of deeper personal satisfaction they just can’t experience in any other situation. Doing work they love and enjoy brings them a richness of meaning, purpose and spirit in their lives.

Even the wealthy will tell you, you can make all the money in the world and not have to work another day in your life, but it’s an empty, joyless existence without the purpose and fullfillment of actual, meaningful work.

God bless those who love to pull up their sleeves and make their living in a more direct, one-on-one, hands-on way!

But that doesn’t mean they have to sacrifice the desire to have the same kind of freedom and earning potential that other businesses strive for.

There’s a way to be a solopreneur where you can do the work, but do it in a way that doesn’t require you to be at the daily beck and call of clients. You just have to make some mental shifts in your thinking and understanding about what you are and how you work with clients.

The first of these shifts is getting out of the thinking that the only way you are valuable to a client is if you are there to deal with their every need, every whim, day in and day out.

You have to get out of the stuckness that says your value lies in being in daily, constant contact with clients.

There’s a word for someone like that: it’s called employee. And you DON’T have to operate like that.

If you are operating no differently than the secretary who sits outside the boss’ door, only virtually, you’re going to be in for one rude awakening.

Because not only will you drastically inhibit your earning potential, you’ll learn (the hard way) just what a predicament you’ve created for yourself and your clients.

Eventually, when you want to enjoy the fruits of your labor and get away from the office on a whim, you realize you’ve created a dynamic, no matter how loudly you shout about standards, that just doesn’t leave you much, if any, room to do that.

And funny thing about standards… they have to work well in actual, practical application. They can’t be some lofty theory dreamt up by someone who isn’t doing the same work you do every day of the week.

Stop killing yourself trying to live up to that crap.

Your value is not dependent on whether you don’t disappear for a day or two. That’s crazy!

Who wants to live a life as a business owner and independent professional being held hostage to their phone, desk and clients?

There isn’t a single other solo profession out there that tells its denizens they have to operate like that in order to be of value or service.

You only put yourself in that cage if you believe there is no other way to operate or be of service and value.

Your value isn’t in doing everything for clients. Your value isn’t in being an “instant assistant” and being at their beck-and-call day in and day out.

Your value isn’t how much you do, it’s how much what you do selectively for clients helps them grow, move forward and keep their businesses humming along smoothly.

None of that inherently requires you to be in daily contact or to take on the whole kit and kaboodle to do that. You can be of tremendous value and service taking on just a very specific cross-section of the administrative load that clients carry.

I’m also not sure what makes people think that you can’t have a close, personal, connected relationship with clients without being at their on-demand beck and call day in and day out.

Attorneys do it. Accountants do it. Millions of other solo practitioners have real, meaningful, exceptionally trusting and connected relationships with their clients without being joined at the hip on a daily basis. And so can you.

The trick is to:

  1. Establish policies, systems and processes that give you lots of room to move around and not be at the beck and call of clients, and
  2. Only take on clients and work that are the best fit for those policies, systems and processes.

Part of putting order to chaos and managing client expectations is setting up a system and a promise for how things work consistently and reliably so that clients know what to expect ahead of time, each and every time.

Don’t create expectations that will fence you in and that you can’t sustain. You want to set expectations that you can realistically, consistently and reliably live up to. It’s really as simple as that.

And setting those expectations does not have anything to do with nor require you to be under any client’s thumb on a daily basis.

This is what allows you to build freedom, flexibility and space in your practice which in turns truly does serve clients much better.

By taking even just a few specific tasks or areas of work off their plate, you are allowing them to grow their business, move forward and get things done. That isn’t dependent on whether they hear from you each day or not. It’s all in how YOU decide what expectations to set and how YOU want things to work in your business. You can do all of that without being forced to be at your desk, in your office, each and every cotton-picking minute of every day under the thumb of clients.

Let me tell you how I do that in my practice:

First, when I consult with clients, one of the things I discuss with them is the nature of the relationship. I need to make sure they are 100% clear that they are not hiring an employee, that they are hiring an independent professional no different than if they were hiring an attorney or accountant (which is exactly how I want them to view the relationship and how we’ll be working together). I point out that how and when we work together and my availability to them will necessarily be different than working with an employee.

So, that’s setting expectation #1—making sure the client understands the nature of the relationship, how it’s going to work and how it’s not going to work (i.e., I’m not going to be their secretaryor personal assistant sitting outside your door only virtually).

Next, for setting expectation #2, I talk about how our communications will work. They are free to email any time of day or night, but I let them know upfront what my formal business hours and days are (so that they respect this as a business relationship and don’t expect that I’m going to be dealing with anything outside those times or on days that I am closed) and when to expect a reply.

I promise that they’ll get a response to every communication they send me within 24 business hours, even if it’s just a “received” or “gotcha” or “will do.”

And then I follow-through on that promise. That way they aren’t left scratching their heads wondering if I got the message and it keeps the line of communication flowing. It’s that kind of consistency that grows trust.

I explain that all work requests must be in sent via email because that is the sytem which best allows me to track and prioritize and schedule things. They can use whatever tools they need to in order to submit their requests as long as they result in an email in my IN box.

And if a client doesn’t like any of that, if he or she doesn’t care to communicate by email and prefers another method? They’re not a fit and I don’t work with them. Simple as that.

You gotta stop investing so much in clients who can’t go with your flow. Work with and focus only on those who can.

For setting expectations #3, I explain my 3/7 guide. My 3/7 guide is how I set their expectations with regard to turnaround time.  Within that framework, simple tasks that can be accomplished easily are done within a 3-day turnaround.

Most often, things are done far more quickly than that, but I don’t want clients to start expecting that I’m going to instantly respond to each and every thing immediately. That’s not an expectatation that anyone can promise and deliver consistently, and I don’t want to live or work that way. It’s a recipe for unhappiness and unsustainable promises.

The “7″ part of my guide is for larger, more complex or ongoing projects and work. This is where the client and I regroup every 7 days at our regularly scheduled weekly one-hour meeting. During this meeting, I give them status updates, we talk about progress, new goals, brainstorm, you name it. Sometimes we just shoot the breeze.

I think it’s important to note that I only do client meetings on the same day each week. I don’t hold them willy-nilly throughout the week. Like any other professional, this is how I’ve decided it works in my business.

My business, my schedule. It gives me the time I need to focus on client work the rest of the week without interruption to my concentration, and gives me the space I need to move around as I need to in order to stay energized.

This system gives clients a tangible, reliable idea of how things will work consistently.

It manages their expectations in a way that leaves me great freedom and space to enjoy my work, enjoy them, and get things done far better than I ever could working lucy-goosey at the whim of clients.

And I end up serving them far better in the process. That constancy, that reliability and predictability is what gains their great trust—all without being joined at the hip.

Throughout this process, clients and I are having all kinds of fun, productive and effective email communications. There isn’t any lack of connectedness, and they don’t get all up in arms if they don’t hear from me for a day or two because they already know how things work in my business.

In other words, they know what to expect. And when they know what to expect upfront, you don’t have to inform them of your every move, every second of every day.

This is what the business concept of “managing expectations” is about. When you set things up like this, you CAN “disappear” for a day or two with ease without any client notification or upset. I do it all the time!

If you need help understanding what setting expectations is really about and how to do that in your own practice, please post your questions in the comments below.

And if you want to learn how to employ my complete practice management and business set-up systems to live a similar lifestyle, I’ve got it all written out for you in my guide, Power Productivity and Business Management for Administrative Consultants.

I’m absolutely happy to help in this area because I think it’s a great disservice to let those in our industry continue to think they have to operate like employees in order to be of value and service, which deprives them of the freedom and flexibility they could enjoy that every other business owner dreams of.

Originally posted February 10, 2009.

What to Do When You Can’t Decide

What to Do When You Can't Decide

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

They can really stop you dead in your tracks in your business-building efforts.

People make things a million times harder for themselves by agonizing over decisions and being unable to commit to them. They don’t want to make a mistake or get anything wrong. It’s like they think they are being graded or something.

Here’s what you need to know:

There is no secret, foolproof plan to get everything 100% right and perfect in business. None. Nada. Zilch.

Get used to the fact that you WILL make mistakes, have misteps and get some things entirely wrong.

That’s simply the nature of business, or heck, any NEW thing you try.

There’s no way around it. AND it’s not the end of the world. You simply back up and course correct.

At a certain point, you have to stop looking to everyone else for answers.

Other people can certainly help you and give you guidance. Other times, experience is the best teacher.

Sometimes it’s the misteps you go through that make the advice you’ve been given finally click and make sense. We call those “a-ha!” moments when the light finally goes on.

(If I had a dollar for every message someone sent me with, “You were SO right, Danielle! I get it now!” I’d totally be a millionaire, lol.).

If you are struggling with something, look deep down and see what fear or unrealistic expectation might be holding you back. Are you trying to be Miss Perfect? Who are you insanely trying to please? What is the worst that can happen if something doesn’t work out?

Once you identify what that is, it will be miraculously easier for you to break the block, exorcize your demons and move forward.

Fears left in the shadows grow to giant, hairy proportions. Once identified and brought into the light of day, a fear is not as big and scary and intimidating. Faced head-on, you can turn your fear into a little pipsqueak you squash like a bug.

Making decisions is an area where people struggle a lot. They think someone else has the magic formula, the secret answers they aren’t privy to. They want other people to tell them what to do or give them the perfect answer.

But no one can do that for you. YOU are the decider in the end.

If you are struggling with deciding on something, it’s likely there is some fear underlying that struggle. Figure out what it is and I guarantee it will be easier for you to break through and finally move forward.

Other times, making a decision, or rather, not making one, is where you allow yourself to run on autopilot and just sit in the status quo. It’s safer and more comfortable that way.

You think, well, if I don’t do anything, I can’t make any mistakes, I can’t get it wrong.

But that’s no answer either because the decision still sits there, niggling away in the back of your brain, never allowing you to really be free of it.

So inaction is a decision, a choice, as well, but it’s not really an ideal one.

Because how you deal with anything is how you deal with everything. It’s a pattern that will keep you stuck, keep you from growing, and keep you from really living life in so many ways.

When you are stuck in limbo like that, the only way to break free is to just DECIDE, once and for all.

Stop asking others. Stop weighing. Stop gathering facts. Stop going back and forth. You’ve done enough of that already.

Just. Pick. Something.

Don’t worry about whether it’s right or wrong, the best or worst path. If nothing else, flip a coin. It sounds crazy, but I’m totally serious.

You can always course correct later on. In that kind of situation, it’s the only way to get out of your inertia.

I promise. Everything will be alright.

And PS: I tell you all this as someone who’s been there, done that and survived to tell the tale. I’ve been in business a LOT of years now and while I’m in an excellent place now in my life and business, I, too, made every mistake in the book back in the beginning. And I’m still learning! So I speak from experience, not as a perfect, sinless yogi on high. ;)

What Stories Are You Telling Yourself?

What Stories Are You Telling Yourself?

If you think you can’t, you won’t.

If you tell yourself that something is not possible, it will be (impossible).

Self-limiting beliefs are self-fulfilling prophesies.

I say this in the best way possible: You do not know enough and do not have enough business experience yet to be telling yourself these lies. Trust in this process with me.

Who are these people you think are your competition, who are limiting what you think you are able to do or achieve?

Don’t tell me you are limited to charging a certain amount because other people have the market locked up low-balling and undercharging. You don’t know that.

Those are stories you made up and are telling yourself because you are afraid and because don’t know what you don’t know.

Other people are not your competition.

The only dynamic that matters is the story between you and your target market, how well you understand them and what’s important to them, your in-depth knowledge about their business, how it’s run and what their common needs, goals and challenges are.

Forget everyone else. They do not figure into the equation of your success whatsoever.

This is one of the reasons that business ownership is also a journey of self-growth and improvement.

You are forced in so many ways to grow personally, stretch outside your comfort zones and come to terms with self-limiting and self-defeating beliefs and mindsets.

Onward and upward, girlfriend (or boyfriend). ;)

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?

Dear Danielle: How Do You Stay in Shape in this Business?

In this week’s episode of What Would Danielle Say?, a new business owner writes:

Dear Danielle:

I have a crazy question for you. I’ve just started my business and am also a part-time college student. I find that I’m spending a lot of time sitting on my butt. How do you keep in shape while working this kind of business? —DRF

Not a crazy question at all! It’s a real challenge in our kind of work because we are sitting at the computer for long stretches of time.

I love this question because at its foundation, it’s also really a business question, and I’ll tell you why in a bit.

First, let me address the practical question on its surface.

As with anything, we’re going to find a way or make the time for those things we want most.

And I’m no fitness poster child. I’m working on losing a few pounds that I’ve put on over the years of my business myself. So I can only tell you what I did.

I was confronted one year with the fact that I was no longer in  my 20s or 30s, able to eat whatever I wanted and never gain an ounce. What?! When did that happen? lol

On top of that, as we enter our 40s (and I just turned 49 this year), unless you are one of those blessed women with miracle genes, it’s just not as easy anymore to stay in shape and keep the pounds off. It’s not impossible, but you DO have to work harder and be more conscious about your eating and lifestyle.

That’s when I had my awakening and began to get conscious about what I needed to do to be healthier and lose some weight.

I began learning about nutrition and healthier living and eating.

Luckily, I’ve never had any food addictions or bad eating habits like sweets and junk food. I’ve always eaten pretty healthy foods in a mostly raw, local, whole, organic diet. Where I learned to get clear was in portion sizes and knowing my numbers: the amount of calories I needed to both lose and maintain weight and keep within those daily numbers.

Somehow or another I got turned onto Jillian Michaels. To this day, I’ve never seen a video or watched her on TV. But I came across her book Winning by Losing and it really was the turning point for me. And the reason is because she provides the simple math you need to know in order to lose weight and have more control over your weight.

Since I’ve always been a proponent of local and organic, her message also really resonated with me because she’s a huge advocate of that as well.

I don’t deprive myself of all of life’s pleasures and I’m still able to indulge once in awhile BECAUSE I know my numbers.

So I highly recommend you get Jillian’s book if youi want to become more knowledgeable and in control of this area of your life.

She walks you through crunching your numbers, understanding calories and how to count them, and figuring out your metabolic type (whether you are a balanced, fast or slow oxidizer, which is important to know because it tells you what kind of protein/carb/fat ratios you should be eating in every meal and the kinds of foods that are best for your particular type).

I believe her website also has some free online tools to help you do these calculations as well.

The other thing I do in living healthy and staying in shape run/hike/walk at least 3 miles day and do an exercise routine (another thing Jillian Michaels can give you direction with), 5 days a week.

Now, here’s why this is such a great business question.

Because why do we start our businesses? For most of us, our reasons go far beyond merely helping others and making a living. There are other things that are important to us, often having to do with loftier ambitions, having a more fulfilling life, a higher quality life and lifestyle, being able to be more present in the lives of our children and loved ones. All kinds of reasons.

And one of my biggest philosophies is that your business should support your life, not suck the life out of it.

And so this brings us back to the foundations of our business, how we set it up to be able to live life the way we want, to engineer our work so that we have time for those pursuits, interests and pleasures that are important to us.

I would venture to say that for most people, they are going about their business as if it was a job. They work with that first client or two as if they were an employee, never realizing the future implications and unsustainability of that dynamic.

Eventually, they find that because of the way they are working with clients (as well as some of the work they are doing), they have no room to take on others, their income is drastically limited, they have hardly any time for life…. it just goes on and on.

This is why we have to be intentional about the set-up of our business. to be knowledgeable and have foresight in how our foundations (i.e., our standard, policies, procedures, etc.) affect our ability to live the way we want to live.

So, like me, for example, it’s important for me to be able to have time for my run and exercise every day. It’s important to me that I have space around the work and have a methodical and well-intentioned system for how I handle it so that I am not stressed out every day about deadlines. It’s important to me that I don’t have to leap out of bed every day because I’ve got a pile of work that if I don’t get done in an instant will overwhelm and bury me.

And so I’m intentional in the fact that I am not a substitue employee. I provide strategic support, not daily support. I don’t (and never have) offered day-to-day assistance such as telling clients “I’ll manage your INbox everyday!” or receptionist work or managing calendars. I don’t do same day tasks (and I have a whole system for managing requests and turn-around times).

I’d never have a life or have the kind of freedom and flexibility that I do, if I did any of that kind of work or worked with clients in any of those ways. I’d be chained to my desk all day.

Figure out how you WANT your life to look like every day AND figure out what you DON’T want it to be like. These become the building blocks for your policies and procedures, your standards and the intentional way you choose clients, how you work with them and what work you do (and don’t do) for them.

As you go about that process, you also begin to realize that you need clarity about what you are in business and what you are in business to be/do for clients. (I’m pretty certain for most people, that’s NOT to be a beck-and-call employee.)

I now work what amounts to a 3-day week in my business (yes, you read that right) AND I’m able to provide vastly better care and support to my clients in the process. It’s crazy counter-intuitive, and I love showing people how they have a business like that, too.

If you need help in restructuring your business and laying foundations that will help you create a business and life you want, that supports those things that are important you, I’ve packaged up all my systems and knowledge in this area in my guide, Power Productivity & Biz Management for Administrative Consultants.

You Do Not Have to Take the “Good with the Bad”

I want to emphasize this:

You never, ever, ever have to settle for anything less than ideal in your business or “take the good with the bad.”

It saddens me to no end that anyone would have that defeatist, hostage mentality.

You will never live your best life believing that.

Business IS personal.

So I want you to know that you never have to do business with anyone you do not personally care for or who doesn’t treat you right.

You’re not a Walmart. And even they have the right to refuse service to anyone they choose.

You always, always have the right to choose who you work with, no matter what you do.

Your business success depends on you working with your most ideal clients. To work with anyone else is folly and will have you circling the drain faster than you can blink an eye.

And there’s this, too:

Be in integrity for your life and your needs as well as those who come to you.

You can not serve anyone well or honorably that you do not have good feelings toward and it is unethical to take their money.

How Your Biz Space Contributes to Your Success

As you may know, I’m doing a class this month on my unique systems for managing your business and work in ways that allow you to both take better care of clients AND still have a life (you are invited, too!).

One of my class attendees mentioned that one challenge she faces is a very small office space (roughly 8.5 x 6.5′). She explained that it’s very cramped and cluttered at the moment and that she intends to spend some time over the next month culling out materials, reorganizing and making room for new systems that work.

I think this a fabulous plan, because first and foremost, whenever you clear out the clutter and get rid of that which isn’t working for you, you make room for the new and better and more ideal to come into your life.

Plus, besides facilitating happier, more productive workflows and energies, the care and love you put into your space permeates your business overall and translates into the care and respect and love you give to your work and clients.

I love my business. It’s enriched my life so much. It’s what has allowed me to live the life I want to live, and it’s contributed to my personal growth and happiness in huge and unexpected ways.

And so besides creating a space that I enjoy being in, that nurtures my creativity and productivity (because let’s face it, we spend a large part of our lives engaged in our work), putting love and care into my workspace is a reflection of the love, care, seriousness, respect and gratitude I have for my business, my art (my work) and my clients.

Your space doesn’t need to be huge (mine is not much bigger than my attendee’s; only about 10 x 11′). No matter what space you have available, even if right now it’s just a corner or part of the kitchen table, the important thing… the thing that will contribute to your happiness and success… is to dedicate it to the business. Don’t make it share or compete with anyone or anything else. Carve out your little corner and do it up so that it makes your heart smile being in it. Organize it so that your movements can be fluid and flowing. Put as much care and love and respect into your space as you want your business and clients to give back to you.

Here’s a shot of my biz space. If you have a photo or video of your office, please do share in the comments. We’d love to see!

POLL: Would you like more free time in your business and life?

I have a new class coming up in August on the topic of biz management and productivity. I’ve set up my business in a way that not only allows me to provide fantastic client support, but I always have time for my life. With rare exception, I’m never working like a slave everyday, I’m not scrambling to get things done or keep up with my workload, and I have a tremendous amount of time for my life, vastly more than I see most other people in our industry having. I make more money than 90% of those in our industry AND I’m not working with clients like a substitute employee to earn it.

So, this class is a way to share with others how I have things set up so that they, too, can have this kind of biz and lifestyle… so they are working to live rather than living to work.

As a follower of my blog, you know that I give a ton of information and mentoring away for free. So I’d like to ask you for a favor in return. Whether or not you plan to attend this class, I’d like to know if this class piques your interest or not and whether it’s a topic you are interested in.

This is a completely anonymous survey so I don’t know who answers what. However, if you wouldn’t mind sharing with me where the trouble spots are when it comes to productivity and managing your biz and client expectations and the like, it would be very helpful to me as well and I would very much appreciate your assistance (I won’t post your comments so you can share freely). :)