Archive for the ‘Mentoring’ Category

If You Do Nothing Else, These Are Words to Live By

I was reading Brit Marling’s article about Harvey Weinstein yesterday morning. In the first paragraph, she relates some powerful wisdom her mother imparted to her when she was a little girl:

“To be a free woman, you have to be a financially independent woman.”

It’s akin to something Suze Orman always reminds women of: “A man is not a financial plan.”

This is one of the most important reasons I work to help other women in this business earn better, to better understand the economics of business and how the business-to-business relationship with clients works, and teach them the important business skills that are integral to being able to ask for and get professional fees and how to navigate those business conversations: the consultation, pricing, your marketing message, chief among them.

Even if you are not your family’s primary breadwinner, life can change in an instant.

Divorce, illness, death, accidents, acts of nature… there are any number of unforeseeable events that can befall any of us at any moment and put us in the position of having to be the sole provider. Being a single mom is perhaps one of the most important reasons.

This is why my goal is to always show other women how to build a business that can take care of itself, to show them how to create the kind of income they can actually live on whether they are or need to be or should become the primary breadwinner; to establish a business that runs like a business and can scale at any point in time, even if right now you only want to work with one or two clients.

Being financially independent and creating a business that can take care of you and your family if need be is one of the best things you can do for yourself and those you love.

Final Hours: Opportunity Knocks

FINAL HOURS: Take 25% off now through midnight tonight only!

COURTESY REMINDER:

Today is the last day to get 25% off everything in the ACA Success Store. After midnight tonight, there won’t be another chance.

I’ll be launching something brand new soon, and it’s pretty darn awesome, if I do say so myself.

This will be a getting back to basics of sorts and it’s going to fit the needs of both new and already started administrative support business owners.

And don’t worry. What it will NOT be is yet another huge program that is going to cost a small fortune. In fact, a large part of it is going to be completely free.

BUT (and this is the important thing), you are going to need all the pieces of my administrative support business system in order to participate. As with any education, there are required school supplies and materials you need to get. Same idea.

So, toward that effort, I’d like to give you a little leg up in the meantime:

From now until midnight tonight, take 25% off all  Success Store products with this code: opportunityknocks

Simply paste that code into the discount field when you checkout and it will give you 25% off your purchase price.

If you’ve followed me long, you know that I don’t do sales and discounts. These are top-level professional-quality business materials and information. So, this is rare opportunity you don’t want to miss out on because it won’t be offered again.

Plus, we have hundreds of reviews from colleagues like you who love the products they’ve purchased and are so happy they chose the ACA to support them in their business journey.

Head over to the Success Store and place your purchase now.

I hope you’ll avail yourself of this chance so you’ll be ready to partake in something amazing!

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.

It’s My Birthday (and There’s Something for You, too)

It's My Birthday (and There's Something for You, Too!)

It’s my birthday today, the big 5-0. Happy birthday to me, lol!

And you know what would absolutely make my day? Letting me know how I’ve helped you in your business, how my products have helped you, and what you’re most excited about in your business from the help and guidance you’ve received from me and the ACA Success Store products.

Better yet, if you would tell others. I can’t reach others without your help and your recommendation is the best gift you could give me! I’ve got some big plans this year (plans that include traveling the country and meeting my ACA peeps all over the U.S.) and that means I have to get serious about promoting the ACA Success Store.

AND, I want to give YOU something in return. I’ve been trying to think of what I could do for you who are so supportive of me and my products, the help I give to people in growing and bettering their business and acumen, and the work I do in our industry.

What I came up with was INSTANT commissions on your referrals/recommendations! So instead of having to wait a whole month for payment of your affiliate commissions, they will be processed immediately within 24 hours.

Now, obviously, I only want you to give your endorsements and recommendations if they truly come from the heart and your own personal experience with the ACA products you’ve purchased.

Even if you haven’t purchased anything yet, you’ve surely gained valuable information and knowledge from the expertise and experience I share here on the blog, or on Facebook, or the free products you’ve downloaded. You are getting something valuable and worthwhile from my insight, otherwise, you would have left my mailing list and community a long time ago, right? And that’s value and quality that you can absolutely recommend in integrity to others.

So, if you share your praise, reviews, recommendations, testimonials (whatever you want to call it) with your friends and colleagues in the industry (on your blog, ezine, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, email, mailing list, wherever makes sense and will reach lots of people) and give them your affiliate link to the ACA Success Store, I will send you your 25% commissions on every sale that comes of it “instantly” within 24 hours.

I mean, if someone wanted to hand you a hundred dollar bill, would you turn it down? You can always use cash in your business, right? So I thought this would be an excellent way to give back to you for the all the love, support, referrals and recommendations you make.

I do need to mention, this is an experiment and right now, the instant commissions are for this week only. That’s because they have to be processed manually by a live human. We’ll have to see how it goes. If it goes well, I might just keep doing it beyond this week!

Oh, and if you’re not currently signed up for the ACA Affiliate Program, be sure and do that so you can get an affiliate link to share. Here’s the sign-up page: ACA Affiliate Program

My biggest, heartiest hugs and love to you! Thank you for letting me share in your business journey, for being part of my community and for being one of my online friends and colleagues! And thanks for making my big 5-0 day (and every day) great!

Dear Danielle: How Do I Obtain Financial Backing?

Dear Danielle: How Do I Obtain Financial Backing?

Dear Danielle:

Do you have any advice on how to secure financial backing? —Anonymous by request

What kind of financial backing do you mean or think you need?

Because these aren’t the kind of businesses that you’re going to be able to find “financial backing” for.

The great thing about our kind of business is that while all businesses require at least some investment of time and money, it costs relatively little to start up an administrative support business.

Best to bootstrap, build up your own capital for launch, make use of whatever resources you already have, and be putting your business foundations solidly in place before launching.

If you’re still working, that’s a great time to do all of that.

Thanks, Danielle. I’m pretty much set up. I have my equipment and such. So perhaps I am good to go. I keep seeing websites, though, that state I need to have a mentor and that it costs X amount of dollars for their insight. So that’s why I was thinking that I need to get a fianancial backer. What do you think?

I think you’re good to go.

Business learning is something that will be ongoing throughout the life of your business. You’ll always be learning.

And no one is going to give you money to get mentored so it’s really a non-issue.

Beyond that, as far as mentors go, you find people to follow who make sense to you and take advantage of their at-large mentoring.

For example, the ACA website and my blog here are where I mentor the industry as a whole with my blog posts, resources, etc.

As you go along, that’s when you might find you need some some personal coaching/advising/guidance here and there when you get stuck, and then you just pay for that when/where/if you need it.

How to Get Help When Starting Your Administrative Support Business

Here’s a little pet peeve of mine: leaving a Voicemail with no message other than your name and a request for me to call you.

I rarely return those calls. Almost every time, the folks who do this always want far more from me than I can provide them with in an unscheduled telephone conversation.

Once in a great while, I’ll make an exception and phone back one of these mystery callers. And nine times out of 10, it turns out they want me to personally walk them through all the ins and outs of starting an administrative support business.

I then kick myself in the butt for calling them back.

I resent being hijacked like that. It’s rude, plain and simple. It shows a complete lack of regard for the other person’s time and interest. What makes you think I don’t have other things to do except sit by the phone waiting to help you start your business… for free?

Of course, it’s my fault for answering or calling back. So these are reminders for me to honor my own boundaries and self-care.

Seriously. I get a jillion of these calls every week. I can’t help everyone individually. I have my own business to run, and my own life and priorities about who and what I give my time to.

Everything I can help them with is already here on the blog and the ACA website in the free resources and the business tools and guides I offer. I’m able to help many more people at once through these channels.

So, if you want help in starting your administrative support business, here are some tips to help you avoid any faux pas:

  1. Don’t hijack people. You will be more likely to get help if you leave a full message with not only who you are, but WHY you are calling. Don’t be evasive or trick people into calling you back (yes, I’ve actually had people do this!). They aren’t likely to want to help you when you do underhanded, manipulative things like that.
  2. Better yet, email first. Be upfront and direct about why you are writing. Knowing your intentions, the person at the other end can decide whether or not to give their time and better schedule something in advance. Be yourself and let your personality shine through; it’ll certainly make you much more noticeable and interesting. I’m a real person and I appreciate real, unpretentious people who don’t put on airs. But do remember to put your most professional written foot forward at the same time. Be specific and state your question or request clearly. I can’t (and won’t) spend my time trying to decipher incoherent thoughts and poor communication. I am always happy to answer clear, focused, specific questions on my blog here, but no one can help you with, How do I start an administrative support business? That’s what my blog, classes and business guides are for.
  3. Think of the other person, not only yourself. Consider the fact that someone who is knowledgeable, successful and in a position to help you is most likely in high demand from hundreds of people, all wanting the same thing as you. If they can’t help you personally, accept that graciously. Be respectful of their time and appreciative when they are able and willing  to give it to you. Your good attitude about this may even warm them up to you and help you make a personal connection where they are more inclined to take an interest in you. The worst attitude you can have is one of self-entitlement. No one owes you their time and attention.
  4. Be prepared to pay. Really think about this. Why should someone who doesn’t know you from Adam set aside their valuable time to give you a personal tour and advice in starting your business? It’s really self-centered to think like that. People like myself offer a TON of free info and advice to help folks. But if you want my personal time and guidance beyond the things that I already provide, I charge for that.
  5. Do your own homework first. No one is going to do everything for you. I never, ever help people who I see have not lifted a finger to help themselves first. Read everything. Apply critical thinking. Take the first steps yourself. If you can’t narrow your questions down, you haven’t done enough reading and research on your own yet. The person who has specific questions has obviously done this. The kind of questions they ask make it very clear to people like me how much legwork they’ve done already and how serious they are about their business. Those are the folks I enjoy helping because I see the wheels turning and they’ve made some level of commitment. They’re easier to help, and there is more satisfaction in helping them because they really apply themselves and the advice given to them. When it comes right down to it, I just simply like those people more. NO ONE likes an ask-hole. 😉
  6. Give back. I’ll let you in on a little secret… those who contact me and the very first thing they express is that they understand that I may or may not be able to help them personally… those are the folks who get my attention. Because to me, that shows a person of character and awareness about the needs of others, not just their own. Those people are givers, and I enjoy helping them most. I have no use for self-absorbed takers who want to suck your brain dry (for free, of course), but then can’t be bothered to say thank you . Which leads me to the point of this bullet, how you can give back to those who help you. First, always, always, always, always remember to say thank you. Let them know how they have helped you. Then, remember the time and knowledge they gave you and when they ask for feedback, input, testimonials or contributions to a discussion, give that to them! Those are things people in my position really, really appreciate in return.

Where Do You Get Stuck in Your Consultations

Wouldn’t it be great if all we had to do was network, have business owners immediately want to work with us, and instantly sign on for our retained support without any questions?

The reality is getting to actually work with retained clients takes a bit more effort.

You have to get at least some small idea about the new client’s business.

You have to gain some insight into their needs, goals and challenges so you can figure out whether and how you can help them.

You have to be able to articulate your value in a way that makes sense to them so that they aren’t asking you, “Why should I pay you $X when I can pay bozo over there $5/hr.

Am I right?

So I’m curious about where colleagues are having trouble spots in their consultation process.

Do you have any particular stumbling blocks when it comes to conducting consultations?

Are there any areas of the consultation process you’d like to be better at?

Or maybe you feel like you do well in your consultations, but the clients aren’t signing on or calling back. Is that the case for you?

Whatever the issue is in your consultations, I really, really want to hear from you. Post in the comments or send me an email and let me know where you’re getting stuck and what you’d like to improve.

It’s Not About the Price!

As someone in the administrative support business, if your only selling point is how little you cost or how much cheaper you are than an employee, you’ve already failed in business.

I get it… many people are new to business. They don’t have the faintest clue how to market themselves properly.

They see what everyone else in the industry (who also don’t know any better) is talking about on their websites and think that’s what they should be talking about, too.

Little do they know that most of those people they are mimicking are themselves struggling, making very little money and attracting all the worst kinds of clients (think cheapskates and nitpickers, the kind that do not make for a happy or profitable business).

Let me ask you:

  • Is it your rate that improves the businesses of your clients?
  • Is it your rate that does the skilled work that allows clients to move forward?
  • Is it your rate that streamlines their businesses and helps them run more effectively?
  • Is it your rate that creates more precious time in their lives?

No?

Why then do you continue to focus clients on nothing but your price?!

Surely there is more reason to work with you than the fact that you charge so little or that you are “affordable” or “cheaper than an employee.”

Isn’t there?

For that matter, why on God’s green earth do you think that that value (i.e., skills, expertise, knowledge and all the host of solutions and benefits that clients reap from those traits) should cost nary a thing?

Sure, you might have clients beating down your door (client’s are no fools; they know when there’s a schmuck to be taken advantage of), but are they the right clients?

Are they the kind of clients you will enjoy working with?

Can you build a real, sustainable business and make an actual living from the amount of money the cheap-seekers want to pay?

How long do you think it will take before you resent not making enough money or burn out before barely breaking even?

If you don’t work to understand this dynamic and the economics of business, you are going to forever be stuck on a hamster wheel chasing down clients, attracting the worst kind, and still never making any money.

You won’t be in business long if clients are the only ones who benefit. It has to benefit you as well. Otherwise, you don’t have a business.

I encourage you to keep thinking about the real value you bring to the table.

How exactly does your support put your clients in a better place in their business than they were before? What do they gain from working with you? How are their circumstances improved? What do they benefit from?

(Hint: It has nothing to do with how much you charge.)

Write these things down and use them in your marketing message. Take out every mention of how cheap and affordable you are on your website.

Go do this. Now.

Dear Danielle: Is Training Necessary?

Dear Danielle:

I am  currently  writing my business plan as I want to become a Virtual Assistant. I have been working in the Administration field as an administrative assistant since I graduated from college in 2000. My question to you is: does one need to enroll in a specialed training to persue a career as a virtual assistant. –PV

Depends on what you mean by training. Are we talking about skills training or business education?

As far as skills, you don’t necessarily need training to go into the administrative support business. If you feel you have the background and the skill level that qualifies you to do this work, then go for it. You’re going to be acquiring new skills and improving upon others all the time and as you work with more and more clients.

Of course, skills training is never a bad idea. Anytime you can improve your skills or your business knowledge, that’s only going to increase your value to clients. And this is a competitive market. Clients won’t shell out their hard-earned money to folks who don’t have a masterful, professional level of administrative skill and know-how. If you have little or no skill level, you’re going to have a very difficult time in this business.

Now, I do want to point something out to your attention because it’s going to be critical to your success in this industry. Spelling, grammar punctuation… all of it is very, very important.

I notice in your question, you have what I presume is a typo (“specialed”), an incorrect capitalization (“Administration”) and a misspelling (“persue”).  I’m personally not concerned so much with a typo here and there. That happens to the best of us. We’re not perfect and we’re not robots. We can check and double-check our work and still miss one or two occasionally.

However, grammar, spelling, punctuation, proper capitalization… those things are critical because it indicates a level of literacy that is going to be important in everything you do as an administrative support provider and business owner.

Your work and skills are a reflection on you and your business as well as on your clients when you are working on their behalf. There is simply no room for a less than stellar command of the written word.

It’s important because: a) clients don’t want the work you do for them to have these kinds of errors, and b) everything you write and type is a reflection of your competence.

If you don’t demonstrate competence in all that you do, it’s going to cast you in an unprofessional/unskilled light and undermine your ability to establish trust and confidence in your would-be clients.

Clients will see these errors and assume that the work you do for them is going to be subject to typos, misspellings and incorrect usage.

So if written (and oral, for that matter) communication is where you lack proficiency, then I would definitely encourage you to do whatever you need to do to improve in that area.

What most people lack when they enter this profession is business knowledge.

A lot of it you will learn from trial and error in the School of Hard Knocks.

That’s okay. It will be a much longer, harder road, but you will learn some very important, valuable business skills and lessons from those kind of experiences.

You will learn some good things from your colleagues who have been in business longer.

At the same time, you will also learn some not so good things from people who don’t have any more knowledge or experience in business than you do, nor achieved any kind of track record of established business and financial success, but seem to think that their opinion or guesses somehow qualify as smart business advice.

So be smart about who you take advice from. Try not to be the blind person following other blind people. ;)

Are You a Giver or a Taker?

Couple quick thoughts to share…

I can’t count the number of times I’ve extended myself to help someone out, both strangers and those I know, and never once received a thank you.

Some would say, when you give, you should be giving without any expectations in return.

And I wholeheartedly agree with that on one level.

At the same time, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with expecting a simple thank-you.

Everyone wants a little acknowledgement, even if they try to fool themselves into thinking they don’t.

It’s part of “being in this together” and building relationships. It’s about giving back to those who have given to you. And it’s just good breeding.

If we are all trying to be better people, I think it’s good to do take a personal audit every now and then and ask ourselves, Am I a giver or a taker?

Do you sign up for things just to mine other people’s stuff?

Do you join forums and then lurk around… making active, contributing members  feel uncomfortable, like there is a stranger in their midst who is eavesdropping on their conversations and whose intentions are unknown… who is just taking and benefiting from their input without contributing anything in return?

Do you use people to get what you want, but don’t consider what those who have helped you might need or appreciate in return?

When someone goes out of their way to help you when they don’t have to, do you acknowledge that? Do you remember to say “thank you?”

Those two simple little words go a long way.

Do you publicly acknowledge their help so others know?

This extends to your client relationships as well. You never want to take their business for granted.

One small little gesture I make that clients of mine have told me means so much to them is that when I receive their payment (even if I’m the one processing it to pay myself), I always, ALWAYS, email them and tell them ”thank you.”

Every single time.

Some might think after the first few times you wouldn’t need to bother. But it’s the small things and paying attention to seemingly insignificant details that are often make the most meaningful, memorable impact.

So don’t be a user. Don’t be a taker.

Give back as good as you get.

Remember to say thank you to your clients for their business (and payments) and to all the colleagues, mentors and others along your journey who help you, each and every time.