Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

Want to Be a Lean, Mean, Client-Supportin Mo-Chine?

All the money in the world is no good to you if you’re working all the time to earn it and have no time left with which to savor and experience life and LIVE.

Guess what? You don’t have to work from sun-up to sundown just to earn a living.

Let me show you how you can have a financially successful business with breathing room AND time for a rich life working a 3-day week. I’ve just released the self-paced, “home” version of my latest class Power Productivity and Biz Management for Administrative Consultants.

But don’t let the name fool you. This is NOT another “how to stuff more hours and more work into your already over-stuffed, over-crowded, overwhelming day” productivity courses.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Instead, I show you how to do LESS so that you can not only provide BETTER support to your clients and earn better doing it, but also how to have more time for your own life.

One of the reasons I gave the class originally and subsequently now provide it as a self-study system is because over the last year I was hearing from countless people in my Laser Mentoring Sessions about how they were working round the clock, often with tons of clients, yet still barely earning a living.

And life? What’s that? lol. They had absolutely nothing left for themselves much less time to live or experience any of the reasons they went into business in the first place.

The strategies, concepts and step-by-step systems in my new guide are the same ones I use in my own practice and teach others about in my laser mentoring sessions.

Just the other day, I heard from one woman I started working in my Laser Mentoring Sessions several months ago:

“I wanted to connect with you and let you know that because of you, I am a much happier person. You remember how ragged, tired and worn out I was when we had that interview a few months ago? Well, I am now working about 1/3 the time, if that, and making more money (not at 6 figures yet, but have that goal in the forecast). I am more confident (still have a ways to go, of course), but I am seeing some successes and feeling great about the direction that my business is taking! I have goals and plans to do more, but I’m baby-stepping for now. Don’t want to take on too much, too fast, and wind up right back where I was. I hope you can feel how appreciative I am!”

You, too, can get the simple systems which you can implement QUICKLY and EASILY to transform your business into a lean, mean, client-supporting mo-chine that takes better care of clients and creates more value while allowing you to work only 3 days a week, making more money and having more time for life.

Check it out here >>

How to Achieve Your Standards, Values and Desires in Your Business

It’s all well and good to be told that to be successful in your business, you should have incredibly high standards, you should refuse to compromise them for anyone, you shouldn’t move too fast, and you should do your best work.

Easier said than done, particularly in the administrative support business!

And what do we mean when we talk about standards? Standards are boundaries, desires and values you have for your life, your business and what you want for your clients.

It can help to look at standards in view of some of the issues we run up against in our businesses that we want to avoid or solve:

  • Clients thinking you’re their beck-and-call substitute employee;
  • Becoming overwhelmed or disorganized with the workload;
  • Being so bogged down and crowded in the work that you aren’t able to do your best work; reacting and scrambling instead of being proactive and having the space to apply critical thinking and creativity (creativity is KILLED by crowding and overwhelm);
  • Working beyond normal business hours into the nights and weekends has become the habit in order to keep up with work and deadlines;
  • Never having time to take proper care of yourself;
  • Having so much work or working so much for one client that you don’t have time or room for anyone or anything else;
  • Living to work; not having enough time for your own life.

Most of us want to do a great job for our clients AND we also want to have plenty of time to enjoy our lives, right? These are two of the most basic standards we all have for being in business.

So how do you avoid these kind of pitfalls I’ve mentioned so you can achieve those standards? How do you ensure you are able to meet those goals and live up to the values you have for yourself, your business and how you want to take care of clients?

With a system!

And what is a system? A system is a method, plan or series of steps involved with the goal of streamlining or reducing work, improving efficiency, instilling consistency and dependability, and creating the circumstances that allow you to do your best work, all the time.

So a system becomes a plan, a roadmap, a tool for being able to achieve certain results, uphold your standards and values, and accomplish your objectives for your life, your business and your clients.

Without a system for being able to uphold your standards and boundaries, for managing the workload and client expectations, for working in a way that allows you to earn well without sacrificing quality of work and service, you will always feel a downward pull and drag that works against you in your business.

This, in turn, directly impacts your earning ability and income potential.

  • You NEED to avoid being crowded in the work so that you can do your best work, all the time, for all your clients.
  • You NEED the right conditions and operating policies and procedures in place so that you can work with your right number of clients and earn well in the process (business success is no success if you are not profitable and earning well in terms of both money AND discretionary time).
  • You NEED to have time for your life or you will become unhappy and resentful of your clients and the work, and won’t be able to serve either well.

This is what my class on August 22 is all about… teaching you my simple, unique, insanely easy-to-implement systems, policies and methods for achieving these kind of results in YOUR business.

This Wednesday, August 15, is the VERY last day to register and I don’t want you to miss out. These systems will change your life.

Check it out here >>

Dear Danielle: How Do I Handle Requests Outside My Expertise?

Dear Danielle:

Hi! I often get asked by clients how to put together a “media kit” to get the word out for their events and what-not. While I am good at some marketing things, this stumps me with the overwhelming, not so helpful examples and opinions on the Internet. If you can, please shed some light on this brain thumper for me. Thanks so much! —Chrissy Ford, Organized Resources, Etc.

Hi Chrissy! Thanks so much for the question. 🙂

Rather than getting into the ingredients and mechanics of what goes in a media kit, I want to talk about some business concepts and mindsets involved in this kind of situation.

As you mention, marketing is not your field of expertise. And of course it’s not. Because you’re an ADMINISTRATIVE consultant, not a marketing consultant.

So the first concept this brings up is the idea around hiring the right professional for the job.

What I mean by that is, for example, if you’re a plumber, it’s not your job to become a mechanic just because a client needs his car fixed. You’re a plumber. Fixing cars is not the business you’re in and not your field of expertise.

See what I mean?

Now, people aren’t going to be calling a plumber when their car breaks down because they know what a plumber does and what a mechanic does. We all understand the distinctions.

But the problem in our industry, particularly for those who call and market themselves as “assistants,” is that these distinctions are not as clear. And that’s because people see and understand assistants as gophers, not as experts in one particular anything.

For those calling themselves assistants, this is why they not only have a much more difficult time commanding professional fees (because gophers are not highly valued experts and people accordingly don’t expect to pay them well), but it’s why they are frequently asked to do things that have nothing to do with administrative support.

So the second concept has to do with business mindset and understanding that you are not a gopher, you are an administrative expert. That is your field of expertise. You need to lead and focus on a clear-cut definition of what you’re in business to do and what your expertise is so that clients easily see and understand what your professional role is.

This also entails that you stop calling yourself an assistant. If administrative support is the business you are in, call yourself an Administrative Consultant instead and see just what a difference it makes!

These concepts also directly relate to managing your business and productivity as well. You can’t be in business to do anything and everything. Those who try are spread really thin, really quickly, all the time. If you want to have a productive business that leaves you plenty of time for life, you can’t let yourself be led down rabbit holes by taking on work that you consider outside your field of expertise or is not the type of thing you’re in business to do. Let clients hire the right professionals for those other things.

So when you are asked by clients to take on something that isn’t your role in your business to do, you can handle it one of several ways:

  1. You could decline the request, indicating to the client that it’s not your field of expertise, and that they would be best served by a [INSERT TITLE HERE] professional/consultant because that’s the kind of thing they are in business to do and are experts at.
  2. You could accept the request, letting the client know that it’s not your area of expertise, that you know as much as they do about the topic, and if they are okay with that, while you’ll do your best, it’s not going to be the same level or kind of expertise as they’d get by going to the proper professional.
  3. If you accept the request, you could let the client know that their request is a special project and not something included in their administrative support plan, and that you charge separately for special projects of that nature.

I know that doesn’t answer your direct question, but I hope it brings up some other ideas that are helpful to you in your business. If you have further questions on any of this, please do post in the comments. I’m happy to continue the conversation. 🙂

How Your Biz Space Contributes to Your Success

How Your Biz Space Contributes to Your Success

I was conducting my productivity and business management class when a colleague who was attending mentioned that one challenge she faces is a very small office space (roughly 8.5 x 6.5 feet).

She explained that her area is 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 better for her.

I agreed that her plan was a fabulous idea 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), giving it the care and attention it deserves 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. No matter what space you have available, even if right now it’s a corner in the bedroom or part of the kitchen table, the important thing… the thing that will contribute to your overall 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 dress 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 tender loving care into your space as you want your business and clients to give back to you!


Do You Never Have Time for Your Life? Want to Stop Being a Substitute Employee?

If you are so deeply involved and entrenched in managing your client’s day-to-day business, you will never have time for your own life, much less your own business and working with other clients.

Even if you’ve been conned into believing that’s the only way to charge higher fees, who gives a crap if you will never have the kind of freedom and flexibility to enjoy it!

The thinking that you aren’t valuable enough being an administrative expert and strategic partner to clients (and not a substitute employee they don’t pay taxes on) arises from a deep-seated lack of professional self-esteem. The sharks in our industry who want you to buy into their certification programs and clients who want to take advantage exploit these self-sabotaging beliefs for their own gain.

But you don’t need to take on a bigger role to be valuable (especially roles that aren’t your place to be taking on anyway as an independent professional).

What you need is to improve your professional self-esteem, learn to better understand and articulate your value, and for God’s sake, stop working with clients who are just trying to turn you into an employee they don’t pay taxes on. (The coaching, Internet marketing and real estate industries are notorious for this.)

You’re probably thinking “that sounds wonderful, but how on earth can I stop working with clients at their daily beck and call and still HAVE clients and make money?”

Oh, my dear, you’ve been fed such a load of BS by this industry. What I could show you will spin your world right around!

It all starts with how you manage your business and workload. Let me show you how you can work with clients as a strategic partner ( NOT a substitute employee), take fantastic care of them AND have more time for your life while doing it.

My class on August 22 will show you exactly how to manage your clients and workload so the right understandings and expectations are set right from the get-go, and you have more space around the work and more time for your life on a daily basis. Check it out here.

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). 🙂

Power Productivity and Biz Management for the Administrative Consultant

Okay, gang, class is ON!

I’m holding the Power Productivity and Biz Management for the Administrative Consultant intensive clinic on August 22, 2012. This will be a one day, two hour session where I’ll share with you all my tricks and tips for effectively managing a full retained client practice for FANTABULOUS client care and greater freedom, flexibility and time for your own LIFE.

Registration is $147, but register now and you’ll pay only $97.

Check out the registration page for the full details!

Being of Service

What does being of service really mean?

So often, I see Administrative Consultants thinking it means being “instant assistants” and working with clients as if they were employees. They make unrealistic (and ultimately undeliverable) promises of “24 hour” and “on-demand” service.

Being of service—true service—means being able to deliver consistently and dependably at a humanly sustainable pace. Listen, you aren’t going to be of service to anyone running around like a chicken with its head cut off, all stressed out and making mistake after mistake due to being hurried and harried and not giving yourself enough “space” to breathe and think clearly.

That’s exactly where you’ll end up attempting to be an “instant assistant,” bending over backwards trying to impossibly meet every constant demand. That thinking lacks foresight, business sense, and just plain doesn’t work.

What does work is being intentional in your business. What does that mean? It means examining your business, bringing every process, system and action to conscious thought, and making sure each contributes to your ability to deliver long-term, value-rich, purposeful, consistently reliable service.

Why are you doing things the way you do? What are your systems? How do your processes facilitate your workflow? In the big picture, do they allow you to run a dependable, sustainable practice? Do they contribute to your service and consistent dependability to clients? What systems, policies, processes and flows will? What ineffective policies and processes do you need to say “no” to in order to deliver bigger value and superior long-term service?

Being a great service provider doesn’t mean killing yourself. Being a great solo professional service provider means being a conscious business owner and effective (not instant) manager of your client workload.

(originally posted February 24, 2007)

Dear Danielle: This Client Just Won’t Change

Dear Danielle:

I’m wondering if you have any ideas on how to work with clients who are resistant to the changes you want to implement. I have a great client (also my biggest client) who seems to want to stay on an hourly model where I feel like an employee (which we all know is not the ideal arrangement). I keep trying to implement systems to make billing more efficient so I don’t have to hunt down piecemeal information from him on a constant basis just to generate some client invoices for him. He just will not do it. Aside from that, we have a really great rapport so even though he’s getting to the stage where he will need to hire an in-office assistant, I’d like to keep our relationship for the bigger items that help him run his business efficiently. I just can’t seem to find a way to get him to see my point. —KI

Omigosh, I can so relate to your question. I’ve had clients like this myself. I think we all have at one time or another. The signs aren’t always obvious, no matter how well we conduct our consultations. Sometimes, it just takes working together a bit before this kind of issue becomes more clear.

This is an issue that really boils down to growth, fit and working with ideal/unideal clients.

If you will indulge me for moment, I’d like to muse just a bit.

When we’re new in business, we often take on any clients we can get.

As we grow in our business, we begin to learn and become more clear and conscious about what we like and what we don’t like, as well as who we like to work with (and work best with) and who is… uh… more challenging, shall we say, lol.

As a result, the clients we take on later in our business look very different from the clients we had back when we were just starting out.

Sometimes those early “starter” clients stay and grow right along with us through the years. This is always awesome!

And then there are some clients we outgrow for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s because we brought them on with unsustainable practices and expectations and as we improve upon our operations, policies, standards, boundaries and raise our rates to be in more alignment with our value and financial needs, those clients balk, resist and leave.

That’s perfectly fine. I like to call those “practice clients” and they really did help you learn more about yourself and your business and to grow. So bless them and let them be on their way (or, ahem, be proactive and politely show them the door) because when you hang on to clients who no longer fit, they take up double, even triple, the space and prevent your more ideal clients from coming into your life.

This client is sounding like someone who is no longer a fit, no longer ideal for you. I have had clients like this myself. They say they want and need the help and are open to your ideas, but then never want to implement any of them or refuse to make any necessary changes. This, of course, makes things more difficult and time-consuming (not to mention, frustrating!) when they abjectively refuse to use better or even proper technology tools or make shifts in how they do things.

As a consequence, they also just never seem to grow or evolve. It’s extremely difficult to be or stay energized with clients like that. They just keep doing the same old things and getting the same old results.

If you continue working with that kind of client, it really just becomes an exercise in treading water, going through the motions. You lose all motivation for looking out for improvements or contributing ideas for their business because they have shown that they just aren’t interested. Why should you keep wasting your time and energy, right? It’s de-energizing and demoralizing and you get no joy or satisfaction when you are deprived of being able to contribute in these ways.

It’s always a delicate dance we have with clients. We want to care and help our clients do amazing things or make amazing strides. We’re just wired like this. But you can’t care more about their business than they do themselves. We can offer ideas and make suggestions, but ultimately, it’s the client’s business, not ours, and they are the ones who get to decide what they want to do and what they don’t. If someone is just not interested in changing how they do things, there isn’t anything you can do to change their mind. And it’s just not worth the aggravation trying, trust me.

And, to be clear, these aren’t awful people. Like you say, you two have a great rapport. It’s entirely possible to have a client with a great personality and with whom you get along great, beyond their stubborn inability to make improvements or do anything differently. I’ve had clients like that as well. What we didn’t have was a business relationship that energized me and made it a joy to work with them. It’s not all about the money, as we all know.

This is why it’s always a good idea to choose clients carefully through our consultation process and to let clients go if/when they are no longer a fit.

So, you have to let go of the idea that you are going to change this client. It just isn’t going to happen. And you need to decide if you are okay with that and working in your current “comfortably numb” going-through-the-motions kind of way. If it wasn’t bugging you, though, my guess is you wouldn’t be writing this question to me. My guess is you also need or are afraid of losing the income, which is why you haven’t nicely let this client go yet.

It’s all well and good to tell people to let go of clients who are no longer a fit. And that’s absolutely my best advice. But I know that it’s easier said than done. You have bills to pay and mouths to feed, after all. I get that. So here’s a practical way to grow toward that conclusion if that’s the direction you want to take.

  1. Continue to formally document and get conscious about your standards, policies, boundaries and ideal/unideal clients. Put those things in writing. Keep honing and adding to them (this will be ongoing throughout the entire life of your business). AND be sure to INFORM clients what those rules, boundaries, policies and procedures are. This is where your New Client Welcome Guide comes in.
  2. As you grow, you can implement those new standards and policies incrementally. Send out a blanket email to all your clients, informing clients as soon a possible about any change. People do much better with change when they are kept informed. But do not overly explain or have belabored personal conversations with each individual client. Simply inform and let them know you look forward to continuing to work and grow together. The choice is theirs beyond that. When you take out the invitation to conversation, clients actually react better to these changes and accept them as a matter of course. It’s when we think we need to overly explain things that they (perhaps unconsciously) get the idea that your changes are open for debate.
  3. Whenever you up your game, elevate standards and make changes, expect that you will lose some clients. You will never grow if you stay stuck doing things or working with people who don’t energize you. What may surprise you is that many of your clients will congratulate you and wonder why you hadn’t done this sooner. 😉
  4. When it comes to things like pricing, give clients plenty of notice (30 to 60 days days minimum). This gives you time to gauge which clients might be considering leaving, and put additional effort in bringing on new clients to replace any outgoing ones. And, of course, bring on all new clients at your new fee levels, standards and policies.
  5. Fear-based decision making is never a good idea or good advice. But that doesn’t make it any less of a reality. So in a worst case scenario, when you absolutely can’t risk losing the income and you have the room, there is always the option to maintain the status quo with current clients and instead put all your focus and energy into bringing on new, ideal clients at your new standards and rates. This will put you in more of a position of financial choice. Then, for each new client you bring on, let go of an unideal client. Do this one by one until you have replaced your roster with more ideal, better-fitting clients.
  6. I also suggest you purchase my Value-Based Pricing & Packaging Toolkit. In the videos and the workbook, I show you how to talk about value-based fees and what to point out to clients so they see and understand the benefits to them of working this way.

And moving forward:

  • Stop calling yourself an assistant. Another of the benefits I’ve found since using the term Administrative Consultant is that there’s more of an immediate respect, openness and even an expectation for my ideas and directions. As a consultant, people inherently understand that you have expertise and therefore expect that your suggestions are valuable contributions to make their business better. It’s a completely different framing and context they have as opposed to how they view you when you call yourself an assistant. And as a business owner, you aren’t an assistant anyway. 😉
  • Along with being a business owner and not an assistant, understand that there are some things in your business that you get to tell clients. You can’t be in business to use old, ineffective, archaic methods and technology or do things in the most difficult, time-consuming, inefficient and complicated ways. That’s counter-productive to your business and the other clients you serve. So remember, that you always get to inform clients that, no, that’s not how you do things in your business or for clients. There are going to be some tools or ways of doing things that aren’t negotiable, that you get to direct. For example, does a client get to walk into a print shop and tell them what tools they are to use, how to do the work or what information they will supply? Of course not. Every business, including yours, has ways of doing things, has certain information they need from clients, certain current methods, systems and technology they use to be most productive, efficient and effective and so they can do their best work and achieve the best results. You can’t start working in the dark ages just because one client can’t adapt. Clients can either get on-board with progress or find someone else. 😉

Remember, too, that your growth in business is always a good thing for clients because ultimately it helps you help them better. And your positive growth in your standards, policies, systemization, etc., is actually a model and encouragement for those clients who are stuck themselves in their businesses.

A Snapshot of My Typical Workday

In our industry, conversations about combating feelings of isolation are not uncommon. While I’m certain there are people who experience and are more prone to feelings of isolation, I’ve never really felt isolated in my work or business so it’s hard for me to relate.

I’d wonder, don’t they have friends? Family? Other interests? Don’t they do anything else,  go anywhere? I’m sure they do… I know they do!

What I suspect is really going on in a lot of these cases isn’t so much isolation, but that they have structured their businesses and are working with clients in ways that lead to burnout, overwhelm, and turn the work into a grind. This is when people feel the need to escape. Hence, the feelings of isolation.

So, I thought I would share with you what my typical work day looks like. Maybe it will help you rethink how you view your relationship with clients and give you some ideas on how you might restructure things in your own administrative support business so that it can become or remain a joy rather than a daily drudge.

First, here’s what my work week looks like:

Monday: Closed/Admin Day. This is the day I reserve each week to take care of administration and bookkeeping in my own business, work on my own business projects, perhaps attend or review online classes… those kind of things.

Tuesday: Closed/Meeting Day. This is the day I use each week for weekly client meetings (although, my clients have been with me so long at this point, we only meet on the phone about once a month. I always recommend you meet with new retainer clients once a week for at least the first three months of your ongoing relationship. It really helps nurture and cement the relationship and get to know each other. At the three-month point, you can evaluate together how often to continue meeting on the phone each month).

Wednesday: Work Day

Thursday: Work Day

Friday: Work Day

Saturday: OFF

Sunday:  OFF

As you can see, I effectively have a three-day work week, four if you want to count the Tuesday meeting days. That doesn’t mean I might not work here and there on any of the other days (and only by my choice), but this is the formal infrastructure and systemization I have put in place in my business to help it flow smoothly.

A system is really a routine. And systematic routines are what allow you to provide consistency and reliability to clients, which not only improves your quality and service, but also, ironically, gives you greater freedom and flexibility.

A quick note about my Client Meeting Day… Long ago, in a business galaxy far way, lol, I would hold client meetings whenever it was convenient for the client which could be any day, any time of the week. That was all well and good for the client (on the surface, at least), but it wreaked havoc on my concentration and ability to settle back into the work and get things done. My work and service suffered as a result. (Numerous studies since have shown how much interruptions negatively impact our concentration and productivity.)

Establishing a standard by setting a regular routine for meeting clients on the phone one day of the week (same day/time each week per client) is what saved my sanity and ultimately my business and the level and quality of work I provide to clients. It is perhaps the single-most important policy that I instituted in my practice that is responsible for allowing me to triple or quadruple my productivity.

Typical Work Day

  • I wake up according to my internal alarm clock, which most of the time is around 5ish or 6ish in the morning but sometimes can vary between 6 to 9 a.m. depending on my sleep cycle or how late I went to bed.
  • Make breakfast, drink my first bottle of water for the day and dink around on the computer doing my first sweep of emails. Anything I can respond to quickly, I do.
  • I open that day’s folder in Outlook and begin working on client work. I like to get the quick and easy stuff out of the way first because it pares down the to-do list for that day and stops those little things from niggling at the back of my mind when I’m trying to work on the bigger stuff.
  • It’s important to mention here that all communication with clients is by email. This is a requirement for working together in my business. I do not take phone calls from them or anything else. For me, email is the very best tool for managing the workload. It provides a “paper” trail and documentation and with my folder system, I can easily prioritize and move things around as necessary. So, whatever they need taken care of, the request gets sent to me by email. Period.
  • At some point in the morning, generally before 11am, I go on my daily hike/run. I like to get this in first thing in the morning because I come back really energized and invigorated, it beats the heat in the summertime, and I can save my shower for afterward.
  • Lunch around noonish.
  • I tend to work on bigger work and projects that require more time and concentration in the afternoons.
  • Officially, I have a policy of checking emails 3 times a day (morning, afternoon and evening). Unofficially, depending on how busy I am with work, I do monitor emails. Any client emails that come in throughout the day are put into the next work day’s folder (I have a folder for each working day of my week). This is another key policy I instituted in my business years ago. I do not do any on-demand or same-day work for clients. They are informed of my work policies and procedures when we consult and begin working together so they are fully informed of how things work ahead of time. I don’t take on any work or roles that require me to check-in on any kind of daily basis with them (like managing their calendar or emails, for example). And I only provide business-related support, not personal support (i.e., “No, I’m not going to shop for your wife’s gift or schedule your hair-cut. You can get a concierge service for that.”) This is another way I save myself from getting bogged down in work I have no interest in doing and that I’m not in business to do because I’m not an assistant, I’m an Administrative Consultant. Anything that needs to be done immediately, they need to do themselves. It’s really as simple as that. Because they aren’t hiring an assistant and I don’t let them think of me like that. If that’s what they need, then they need to hire an employee. This is one of the great keys to my success and how I’m able to live a very flexible, freedom-filled life where I still love my work and clients after 15 years of doing this.
  • Throughout the day, whenever I need a little mental break and want to interact with others, or if I have thoughts or ideas I want to share that occur to me, I’ll pop into our Facebook group or post on my blog or check out forums I belong to. For me, these have always been great ways to reach out when you need a little company. I think interaction and participation is key, though. You can lurk, but you just aren’t going to get any real feeling of connection unless you actually talk to people by posting your thoughts and comments, contributing ideas or asking questions. A lot of times people will wonder how I have time to post on these forums and I have to chuckle because they don’t know what I know. First, it only takes a few seconds to post your thoughts. I’m not spending hours and hours in these places (like I’m sure many folks are doing). And second, and perhaps more importantly, I don’t operate my business or work with clients anywhere close to how they are doing it. They’re trying to be assistants instead of strategic administrative support partners. They have turned their business into a job and that’s not how I do it. Which is why I do have a bit more time to blog or check in with people on Facebook here and there:  I’m not working as a slave or indentured servant to clients. I’m an expert they partner with for administrative support, not a personal  assistant. I run my business on my own terms and that’s to their benefit.
  • My official work day ends at 5 pm. But you know what? Yeah, I sometimes do work in the evenings. Every once in a great while, it’s because I need to. Other times, it’s just because I’m on a roll or otherwise having fun and enjoying my work and don’t want to stop. That’s okay, people!!! You just want it to be on your terms, your choice, and NOT because you have set poor policies and standards and are working with clients in ways that are forcing you to work long into the evening and ignore your family, friends and other life needs. That’s a sure-fire way to kill your business.
  • Another thing I should mention is that I get out when I need to. I listen to my body, my heart, my spirit, and if they tell me I need a change of pace that day, then that’s what I do. Sometimes that means taking the laptop somewhere I love, settling into a comfy booth and ordering something yummy and healthy to eat while I get work done. Sometimes it means not working during the day, but saving what can be done for the evening. Sometimes it means not working at all (as long as there are no pressing, important needs or commitments).
  • Which brings me to another key to my success that I touched on earlier. I don’t do any same day work requests. When a new request comes in, it automatically goes into the next day’s work folder. I never get overwhelmed because I’m only handling the current day’s folder of requests. Everything else is put out of my mind because it’s already handled by being put in the next day’s folder. In my practice, I use what I call a 3/7 guideline. That means, only work that can be done within a 3-business/work day window from the time of request is work I will handle for clients. If they need it sooner, they need to do it themselves. That’s the 3-day part of my work management system. And let me tell you, people, you NEED to give yourself space like this around the work. You folks who are scrambling to get things done the minute they come in are putting out TERRIBLE work product a lot of times because you’re too rushed, too stressed and making mistakes, and you’re creating expectations in clients that set you up for failure. I guarantee you! The “7” part of my 3/7 system is where the client and I touch base on larger, key or ongoing projects during our weekly meeting (i.e., every 7 days). For some things, this is also managed through our online collaborative office suite where they can log in and see for themselves where things are at on those larger/key/ongoing projects.
  • Another little tool I use to manage expectations and keep our relationship resentment-free is the feature in Outlook that allows me to schedule when my reply email is sent to the client. For example, there are occasions when I will attend to client work on a day when I don’t normally/officially work or if I’m ahead of things, I will start work on the next day’s workload. But that doesn’t mean I want the client thinking, “Oh, she’s working on that day now” or that I’m now doing same-day work requests. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I have absolutely no patience for having to constantly remind clients of my standards or policies or protocols. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell them how something works, as soon as you make an exception, they start thinking that’s the rule. Even the most ideal clients do this (there is no such thing as the perfect client because we are all flawed human beings). But it still drives me insane because I like grown-ups to be grown-ups and not little children constantly trying to test or needing to be corrected. So rather than try to change them (which doesn’t work), I just don’t ever email them back the same day. I schedule my reply email to be sent the next business/work day. So, I’m getting it done and out of the way and they’re getting the confirmation email that something has been handled or completed, but they never get the impression that I’m working on weekends or evenings or doing same-day requests. From their perspective, everything is flowing normally and consistently just as my workload policies and schedules have been presented to them.

I hope this is useful to you. Structuring your business like this does require you to get out of assistant-mindset. When you do, you start to view and understand your business, your role, your expertise, from an entirely new and different perspective. It’s an incredibly freeing way to live and work. If you have any questions, please do ask in the comments. I’m happy to help. 🙂

Power Productivity & Biz Management for Administrative ConsultantsRESOURCE: Get ALL my practice management systems with more in-depth examples and illustrations over at the ACA Success Store: Power Productivity & Biz Management: The 14 Simple Systems that Will Breathe Freedom, Flexibility and LIFE Back into Your Business and Client Relationships