Archive for the ‘Starting Your Biz’ Category

Do You Ever Subcontract Your Client Work?

Do You Ever Subcontract Your Client Work?

A very sweet, sincere person wrote to me asking if I ever subcontract any of my work.

She indicated that she has all the experience and qualifications to make the leap to becoming an Administrative Consultant, but hasn’t quite mustered the nerve yet, and was hoping to start off by working with colleagues and for a trusted source first.

Without mentioning names, I share this here to help her and others who are in the same boat.

My answer is that I don’t ever subcontract my clients’ work. I’m highly opposed to that.

I have a couple people who support me in my business, however. We work in an ongoing partnering relationship the same as my clients partner with me, and they pretty much take care of all my needs.

Did you catch the distinction there?

Do you understand the difference between farming your clients’ work out to third parties and having people support you in your business?

If not, please do ask because it makes all the difference between turning your business into just another low-value, commoditized McDonald’s and a high-value partnering relationship where you can command top dollar.

The other thought that pops up for me is that helping others start a business is a little like helping drug addicts.

Don’t laugh; I’m serious, lol.

Because we can only point people to information and resources and give them the right advice, our best advice.

But when it comes down to it, they have to want “it” for themselves (whether that’s sobriety or the self-determined lifestyle of the entrepreneur), and they have to want it bad enough that they just say enough is enough.

So in this case, the lack of nerves, shyness, etc., eventually a person just has to get sick of letting those things hold them back and just charge forward, come what may.

(Does my analogy make sense now?)

In the meantime, here are some other ways to get your feet wet:

  1. First, it has to be said that the best way you’re going to figure out things in your own business is by working with your own clients. There’s just no way around that. Working for others may help bring in some cash, but it’s not a substitute for building your own business and brand and going through your own processes and trials and errors that go with that. All you’re doing working for others is finding excuses to delay the start of your own dreams.
  2. Confidence is a journey. It’s not something any of us necessarily has right out of the gate when we start our businesses. It’s something we all struggle with to some degree and/or at some stage or another. It’s completely normal so you’re in good company! What you’re really feeling is discomfort with the unknown. So, as they say, you want to get good and comfortable with feeling UNcomfortable. Because if you let fear and discomfort hold you hostage, you’ll never get anywhere (in business or life). Confidence comes from actually doing. That doing is where you’ll begin to learn and understand. It the where you’ll have your greatest a-ha moments and figure out what you want in your business and how you want to do it, and your confidence grows from there.
  3. Even if you haven’t opened your doors yet, go do some local networking. It will be good practice in talking to people and making friends with strangers. Because when it comes down to it, that’s really all it’s about. And that’s how you’re going to get clients, too. When you meet people, you can even be honest and say that your business isn’t open quite yet, and you were just looking to meet other business people and see what kind of administrative needs and challenges they had. That would be a great conversation starter AND you’d be getting some valuable market research at the same time. See, feet wet.
  4. If you’re dead-set on working for colleagues first to get your feet wet, you gotta be active and let yourself become known. The way to do that? Actively ask questions. Contribute to conversions and discussions. If you never speak up, no one is going to see you, much less get to know you. And that’s how colleagues hire other colleagues when they need help… by getting to know, like and trust them and seeing what they’re about. This is how they get a sense of what your skills and strengths are. That only happens if you’re making yourself visible. (This is the same way clients hire us, by the way.)
  5. Class matters. This isn’t directly about how to get your feet wet, but it still bears mentioning. And that is, your manners speak volumes about what it will be like to work with you. The person who contacted me was personable while being professional and she thanked me in advance for my time and consideration which she valued. I really appreciated this because it demonstrated a high measure of polish and class and that she wasn’t just thinking about herself and her needs. These traits are going to serve her very well in business.
  6. The right information will give you more confidence. What I’ve learned from my own journey and what I’ve seen in my 10 years as an industry mentor, when people haven’t gotten the proper information first, when they haven’t gone through the process of setting up proper business foundations, that’s when they have the least confidence and the most fear. Once they arm and back themselves with the tools, information and learning, that’s when their confidence flies, trepidation dissolves and they get excited and can’t wait to get their business started! You can get ALL of this, all the contracts, forms, processes and critical business skill learning guides you need to soar in the administrative support business from the ACA Success Store.

Dear Danielle: What If I Don’t Have 5 Years Experience?

Biz Question? Ask Danielle!

Dear Danielle:

I have been a Licensed Massage Therapist and Energy Worker for the past 25 years. It has been a good ride, however, I am ready for the next chapter. For 20 of those years, I was self-employed. Which means I do have some business back ground. I am very focused and pay attention to detail. Recently, I moved from Colorado to Oregon. I took a job working at a dry cleaners and am wanting a bit more from my life. I started looking at becoming a ‘virtual assistant’ when I ran across your web site. I can totally see the difference and I really resonate with what you say with regard to an Administrative Consultant. This is what I want to attract into my life. I also enjoy your sense of humor. So much of what you have to say, I am in alignment with. However, I was reading where you state that you have to have at least five years of administrative experience. I took a few steps back when I read that. As I stated, I do have some business back ground. I also worked on an as needed basis as an event planner. But I do not have the five years background in  Administration. Basically, I am just beginning to look into the idea of working from home in this capacity. I would still need to continue working at the cleaners for awhile. I would love to hear your thoughts on pursuing this as my next adventure. If I do not have the experience you are suggesting that I have, are there courses that you would recommend? I would appreciate your feed back as to how, or if I should proceed forward with this. —Name Withheld by Request

Let me clarify a few points that I think will help you.

First, this isn’t a regulated industry. Meaning, there are no special training or licensing requirements to start an administrative support business.

Anyone can start an administrative support business if that’s what they decide to do. There are no “business police” who are going jump out of the bushes and arrest you.

That said, like any industry, we do have our standards and expectations for those who would enter our ranks.

As a profession, we want to encourage those who are professionally and competently qualified to be in this business.

There are people out there who think all they need is a computer and Internet and anyone can do this work. And that’s simply not the case.

Would you hire a lawyer without a law degree? Or a web designer who had never designed a website before? Or a contractor who’d never built a home before?

But it’s more than mere skillsets. There are certain sensibilities and critical/analytical thinking skills that are only gained from actual experience and can’t learned from a book or a class.

That’s what the five-year actual experience standard is about. It’s more of benchmark.

We want our profession to be respected and to be taken seriously. Those who aren’t qualified end up having a negative impact on the industry’s reputation.

So as a profession, we do have an opinion about who should be in this industry.

BUT no one can tell you that you can or cannot start an administrative support business.

Just go in with your eyes open. Clients are demanding. Their businesses are important to them, rightfully so. They don’t want to be anyone’s guinea pig learning on their dollar. If you’re in business, they expect you to already have a business-level of qualification and expertise.

That said, if you feel that you are competently skilled and qualified and able to support clients at a professional level, then go for it. No one can tell you otherwise.

The question to ask yourself at this point, though, isn’t what YOU want to do, it’s what do other people need that you have the skills to do that they will pay for? That’s where you’ll find a more profitable path for figuring out what kind of business is best for you.

8 Tips for Transitioning to Business from Full Time Work

Tips for Transitioning to Business from Full Time Work

While you’re still working is the best time to get your business foundations solidly in place before opening your business doors:

  1. Become a student of business. Study up particularly in the areas of practice management in a professional services business, marketing of professional services and all things related to the administrative support business industry (starting with the best resource of all, the ACA website and blog here! ;) )
  2. Create your business plan. Going through the exercise of business planning forces you to think through certain aspects of the business and get clear about why you’re going into business, what your goals and challenges are, how much money you want/need to make, etc., and then formalizing the map for how you plan to get there.
  3. Create a business map (not to be confused with a business plan). This is basically a modeling of what the business looks like in a visual, illustrated format and how it earns its revenues and profits. RESOURCE: The ACA Business Plan Template is tailored specifically for those in the administrative support business! It’s not only a business plan; it’s also a visioning tool for how you want your business to support your life.
  4. Get the practical working pieces together. This includes your contracts, ideal client profile, and beginning policies and procedures. This is also the time to begin drafting your Client Guide, which is a basically a formalizing/documenting of your standards, policies, procedures and protocols. This guide is given to new clients for the purpose of informing them how things work in your practice and how to get the most out of the relationship and work together successfully. This is a particularly useful tool because, while it should be written in positive, client-centric language, what it does is help to outline boundaries and inform clients what the “rules” are (for lack of a better term) so that they don’t think it’s their place to be making them up. YOU have to instruct them about how things work in your practice, not the other way around. It sets proper expectations and helps them view and respect you as a business and professional, not their beck-and-call employee. RESOURCE: One of the reasons many businesses in this industry fail is because they never learned how to structure their operations to handle more than one or two clients at a time. This is where my Power Productivity & Business Management guide comes in. In this guide, I give you all my trade secrets, systems and tools for running a six figure practice that scales with the growth of your roster and makes sure you still have room for a life in the process.
  5. Get your website started. This will always be a work in progress. No one is ever “done” with their website, nor should they be. One should always be working to improve and clarify their educational marketing message for clients. And while you are working is a great time to get the framework up and begin the work of crafting and honing your message. RESOURCE: Build a Website that Works. In this guide I show you exactly how to put your website together using my own proven conversion system for more consults and more clients, and how to articulate your value as I walk you step-by-step in creating your own unique, irresistible marketing message so you can get those lucrative, well-paying monthly retained clients. Throughout all this, you’ll get the bonus of a crash-course in in-bound marketing, business modeling and more clearly identifying your offers and how to position them on your website for best results.
  6. Learn those all-important business skills. Getting clients isn’t at all like applying for a job. In this way, going into business is like going back to college because there are several skill you’re going to need to study and learn if you’re going to be successful. These include pricing and packaging your support; conducting consultations with clients; and marketing and presenting yourself among other things. RESOURCE: I’ve been in this business for darn near 20 years and have packaged up every single bit of my knowledge, know-how and expertise into the ACA Success Store. When I say it has everything you need, that’s not some cheesy marketing line. It actually has exactly all the right information and tools you need to set your business up properly and learn the important skills you need to be successful far more quickly and easily than trying to do it (slowly, blindly) all by yourself.
  7. Take on that first client! While you’re still working can often be a great time to take on that first client. Keep in mind, you’ll only be able to handle so many retained clients (possibly only one, maybe two) while still working a job, and you still need to provide a professional, business-like level of quality and care they would expect from any business. Don’t use having a job as an excuse for providing anything less. That said, I often refer to those first clients as “starter” or “practice” clients. That’s because this is a time when we’re getting our business legs and learning about what we like and don’t like in our business, in clients, and how we want things to work. So, it’s quite common that these clients aren’t neccessarily ones you’ll keep for the long-haul (although that is entirely possible as well). Sometimes we’re lucky and have a client who happily and gratefully grows with us. You’ll also find that as your business standards and boundaries change and improve, as you course correct things that aren’t working in your business, there will also be some clients you naturally outgrow and need to let go. And then there will be others who are just plain intractible and not amenable to any change in your business (and probably weren’t a great fit anyway) and  leave of their own accord. Don’t view those clients as losses or failures. They are absolutely not! They provided invaluable growth and learning experiences and helped you better know yourself and improve your business. So, be grateful you had them and remember that when you let the undeal go, you open up space for the more ideal to flow in and take their place. You won’t grow by clinging to that which is not ideal and absolutely happy-making for you.
  8. Start a slush fund. As you’re working is the best time to start socking away operating capital for the business. This is because for most people, there are only so many clients you can feasibly take on while still employed in a “day job” and still have time, room and energy for all the other things you have to juggle in life. So there comes a transition where, if you’re wanting to go into business full hog, you have to make a leap, and most people don’t yet have a full roster of retained clients when they make that leap. So there’s going to be a period of time once you make the leap and leave your job where you’re working to fill your roster with clients. Having that operating capital (or some other means of income) while you get established can be a lifesaver and help ensure you can pay the bills and not make choices out of desperation (which leads to stepping over of standards) until the business becomes profitable and fully self-sustaining.

Hope that helps!

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.

What Is an EIN?

What is an EIN? How do I get an EIN?

For those in the United States or U.S. territories, an EIN (Employer Identification Number) is an identification number you get from the IRS used to identify a business entity.

This number used to be primarily for those businesses that had or intended to hire employees (which is why it was called the Employer Identification Number).

The IRS relaxed that standard in recent years, and it’s used these days as an all-purpose Federal Tax Identification Number.

This is particularly helpful for sole proprietors because they can obtain and use an EIN now instead of their Social Security number on forms they give to clients and others.

You need an EIN if you:

  • Started a new business or purchased a going one;
  • Hired or will hire employees, including household employees;
  • Opened a bank account that requires an EIN for banking purposes;
  • Are a foreign person and need an EIN to comply with IRS withholding regulations;
  • Formed a partnership or corporation; or
  • Had a change in ownership or structure/formation of a business (such as changing a sole proprietorship to a corporation or partnership).

There is no fee required, you do not need to have employees, and you can obtain an EIN instantly right online.

In navigating these matters, always talk with your accountant and visit the IRS website for the most accurate, up-to-date information and advice.

Dear Danielle: Should I Use the Word “Virtual” in My Biz Name?

In this episode of What Would Danielle Say, Lynn wants to know if she should use the word “virtual” in her business name.

Dear Danielle:

My business name is BD Virtual. I read your blog post about What’s In a Name and the part about not having “virtual assistant” or “assistant” in your name. Is it a good idea to have virtual in your name? If not, should I consider admin services consulting like you were talking about. Is BD Virtual okay of a name? —Lynn Smith

Hi Lynn :)

If you follow me for long, you will find that I frequently advise/remind people to delete the word “virtual” from their biz vocabulary (among others).

A business is a business. There’s nothing virtual about it.

Is a business more “pretend” or of less quality if it’s run out of a home office or on the road? Is it more of a business if it’s located in a rented office?

Does an attorney who works from home and conducts most of his meetings over the phone have any less of a legal practice?

Is a doctor or accountant or designer or (fill in the blank for whatever other independent service professional comes to mind) “virtual” just because he works from his own location and/or his clients go to him, he doesn’t go to them?

By that logic, then all businesses are “virtual” in that they perform their services from their own place of operation (regardless of where that may be), not the client’s.

But we don’t qualify those businesses like that so why should you qualify yours in that way?

This is why I advise people to stop using the word “virtual.” It’s a silly word and puts a negative, subpar, “less than a real business” spin on things.

One of the challenges of a professional services business like ours (where we do not have physical storefronts that clients can walk into like brick-and-mortar businesses do) is instilling credibility, trustworthiness and rapport.

Therefore, you want your business to present itself in every way you can as no different from any other professional a client would hire to provide some kind of expertise.

Any word that detracts or qualifies your business as something “other than” or “different from” a real business and professional service like any other makes it more difficult to establish that credibility and trustworthiness.

And this is what the word “virtual” does… it says that your business is not a “real” business, it’s something “other than.”

And why do that? Why qualify it in any way except that it is a real business like any other?

This is what I mean by a business is a business. Where the business is located and/or where you work from is of no relevance or importance to the matter.

Regarding your other question, whether you should call it Administrative Consultant, that depends on whether you actually are one or not.

An Administrative Consultant is not the same thing as a virtual assistant. The terms are not interchangeable.

Where “virtual assistant” has become the proverbial junk/miscellaneous drawer of terms of anyone doing anything and everything, which is not a definition or category of anything, it’s just a gopher basically (what Seth Godin would refer to as a meandering generality), an Administrative Consultant is someone who specifically specializes in the business of providing ongoing administrative support (what Seth Godin calls a meaningful specific). That is their business category and their specialty.

The other distinction is that when you are in business, for both legal and practical reasons, you are not anyone’s assistant. Administrative Consultants are independent professionals (in the same way that attorneys, accountants, designers, etc., are independent professionals) who provide clients with the expertise of strategic administrative support. They are not day-to-day substitute employees or “alternative staff.” They are not staff in any way.

So if your specialization and expertise is administrative support and you view yourself as an independent professional (not a staff member, assistant or outsourced worker), then Administrative Consultant would fit you.

Since it sounds like you are just starting your business and still in the naming phase, be sure to also check out the Naming Your Business category of my blog. I have several posts with information and ideas to help you in that process.

Thanks for the question and I hope this provides you with some understanding and clarity. All my best!

Come to the Table with Proper Preparation and Manners

If you can’t be bothered to make an effort and have the respect, good manners and professionalism to put your best foot forward when you ask others to expend their time, attention and expertise helping you, you should expect the same level of effort and interest in return. ;)

A few quick tips:

1. Be clear. Write/speak in complete words and sentences (e.g., don’t grunt at me or expect me to waste my time trying to decipher your meaning.)

2. Get my name and the name of the organization right. Demonstrate that you are observant and attentive to details. You don’t give me anything to work with if you are so oblivious you can’t even get a name or term right.

3. I don’t care about typos here and there, but do demonstrate that you at least know how to spell and punctuate properly. If you can’t, you shouldn’t be in business.

4. Have the right attitude. Don’t act like you are owed my or anyone else’s time and attention.

5. Do your own homework first. (It’s obvious when someone hasn’t bothered to read anything or done any research whatsoever.)

6. If certain procedures are requested that you follow first, then follow those procedures and instructions.

7. Your mama didn’t raise you like that. Remember your manners and say thank you, always. It matters.

Dear Danielle: Is It Possible to Start this Business Part Time?

In view of last week’s Dear Danielle question, here’s is another post from my old blog (originally posted April 13, 2011), that I thought would be helpful as well

Dear Danielle:

Is it possible to start a business like this nights and weekends if you are totally self-supporting and work Monday through Friday, 9-5? Thanks for your advice! —JN

Well, anything is possible. It’s just that there are some practical things as well as some caveats to consider.

First, you want to get clear about your goals and intentions for having a business. Are you looking to create a real business, one that will earn well, take care of you and your family, and support your dreams, goals and lifestyle? Or are you just looking to earn a little bit of a side income while you continue to work as an employee?

Either way is perfectly fine, but the former will require some real work, effort, education and commitment while the other is more of a hobby. Understand that running a real business and freelancing on the side are two completely different things.

And, of course, my advice is always focused on those who are looking to create real businesses. So when that’s the case, the other thing to consider is the client. How much of a commitment do you have to offer clients if you are working part-time? How much time and energy will you have left over for them during the evenings and weekends after you’ve already put in a full work day and week? How long do you think you can sustain that pace? What will you have left over for yourself and your family, friends and other interests? How might the lack of time for self-care impact the quality of your support and ability to grow your business successfully?

I’m not saying it’s impossible. But clients’ stuff is important to them. And it can be really, REALLY difficult, not to mention stressful and exhausting, to provide a professional level of service and care to clients if you are still working a full-time, or even part-time, job. It really depends on how badly you really want this and how smart you go about it.

So here’s what I recommend…

1. While you are still working, set up the foundation of your business. That means, a) getting clear about what you intend to be in business to do and b) who you intend to work with (your target market and ideal client), c) start establishing your policies and procedures and d) getting your contracts and other forms together. All of this will be honed and adjusted over time, but you’ve got to at least get the start first.

2. Start working on your website. The more professional the better. Your business website is THE most important marketing piece in your business so don’t be penny wise and pounds foolish. Clients equate the professionalism of your site with the level of your skill, competence and commitment. If you aren’t the right person to design your professional site, hire a professional to do it.

3. Simultaneously, begin working out your job exit plan. This endeavor will affect your whole family so make sure you discuss the decision/goal with your spouse or partner and have their buy-in. There is nothing more difficult than starting a business when you have to also battle a resentful, unsupportive family.

Imagine your life while supporting a full roster of clients and how you will establish boundaries for clients, family and even yourself. The goal is to help everyone understand when it’s business time and when it’s family time. And for yourself, the goal is to honor your standards and boundaries—because we have equal culpability when we resent others by allowing them to step over those things in the first place. So those are going to be really important.

At some point, once you have your foundations in place, there will come a time when you simply have to make the leap and decide to commit to the business. But you never want to start broke. Magical thinking doesn’t pay the bills. So you want to figure out now how you will finance the business until it becomes self-sustaining and profitable. Do you have another income in the household you can live on while the business gets established? Do you have savings (or perhaps a severance) you can use to finance the business? Where else can you get capital for the business?

You want to understand that generally it takes any business about 5 years to get there and most fail in the first three years. This is probably the biggest mistake new business owners make. They don’t calculate what they need to earn and they don’t realize that they MUST not only earn a living, but actually a PROFIT, in order for the business to survive. I can’t stress this enough.

You want to go in with no illusions that you’re going to become an overnight millionaire sensation. Hey, I won’t say that’s impossible, but it’s not likely. It simply takes time. Go into it with your eyes wide open about that fact and you’ll be far better prepared for your success.

The good news is that the need for what we do as administrative experts has no shelf life. EVERY single business requires administrative support so there will always be a need for what we do. And it’s one of the most inexpensive kinds of service businesses to operate because the overhead is so low.

Dear Danielle: Should I Quit My Day Job to Start My Business?

Dear Danielle:

I, too, am a single mother. I currently work full time, but am actively (and as quickly as possible) working towards becoming a legitimate business. The question (or dilemma) I have is that I am reluctant to just leave my job and go full force into my own business. I have considered a small business loan to help with the transition, but I would rather not go there. Do you have any suggestions or pointers on softening the blow? —Nicole Barton

Thanks for writing, Nicole, and I do have some feedback and advice for ya!

You are smart to be reluctant about starting your business by going into debt. That’s your intuition telling you not to do that. It’s a really, really, really bad idea.

Although, contrary to popular belief, business loans for start-ups aren’t handed out like candy. In all honesty, you probably wouldn’t get one even if you wanted one. New small businesses are one of the highest risk groups there are (90% of new first time businesses fail, and it generally takes a good 3-5 years for those who stick around to really start gaining any kind of traction and financial solvency). You’d have to have all your ducks in such a fantatic row to even remotely qualify. And if you got yourself to the kind of level they require in order to qualify, you wouldn’t need the loan by that time anyway, lol.

So first, here’s what you want to have realistic expectations about:  It takes most people many months (sometimes even more than a year!) before they get their first client. And those first clients are more often project clients (as opposed to retainer clients), and odds and ends project work simply is not going to give you enough of an income on which to support yourself and quit your job.

Now, that may end up not being the case for you, which would be great, but it’s better to have realistic expectations so that you are better equipped and prepared for the long haul than to dive in eyes closed, hoping for the best and walking away discouraged, disappointed and broke (and worse, in debt).

While you are employed (and earning an income) is actually a great time to lay the foundations for your new business. And what I mean by foundations are things like:

  • Getting all your initial business learning, studying and planning in;
  • This includes getting intention and clarity around what your pricing and income needs.
  • Taking care of business legalities (e.g., registrations, etc.)
  • Figuring out your target market;
  • Coming up with your biz name;
  • Securing a domain name, creating your website and drafting your marketing message;
  • Getting your starting policies and documents in place
  • Purchasing your most important essential business tools/equipment and other necessities (a state of the art computer system and the best Internet service you can find is the best investment you can make!)

While you are employed is also a good time to start socking away some money to live on and sustain the business for the time when you decide it’s right to finally make the leap.

The good news is that our kind of business is one of the easiest and most affordable to start! There’s no travel involved, you work from your own home office, the start-up costs and investments are minimal (compared to other kinds of businesses), and it costs hardly anything beyond some basic services in overhead to run your business.

When I started my business, I actually did it for many years on the side while still working my day job. Then an opportunity came up during another round of company-wide layoffs where I was able to volunteer for lay-off. I received a very nice severance package which I used to fund my new business. Of course, by that time, I already had my all my equipment and foundations in place so all I really had to focus on at that point was marketing and networking and getting those retained clients as a full-time business.

So don’t be eager to take the leap too quickly, particularly if you aren’t well-prepared for success (you didn’t say where you are at in the process so I’m not sure what that is for you). Then again, at some point, there will be a time when you have to make the leap in the interests of your business and those of your clients.

Get your foundations in place while employed, perhaps begin to take on some projects and ongoing clients on the side during that time, and then once you’re ready to make the leap and quit your day job, make sure you have some other form of income or savings to live on (e.g., savings, a spouse’s income, unemployment, severance pay, side jobs and project work) while your business is in the early years and you are focused on gaining those first retained clients.

Hope that helps! Be sure to also check out the free ACA Start Your Biz! guide as well.

Are You on Sale? Stop Giving Yourself Away for Free

Stop giving yourself/your work away for free.

Because that’s all you’re doing by working in unpaid “internships.” You’re just giving someone else free labor and delaying the start of your REAL business.

The best way to gain confidence and learn how to run your business? By working with your own clients, not someone else’s. It’s the only way you’ll hone your own consulting skills, define your own policies, standards and boundaries, and figure out who your ideal and unideal clients are.

The truth is most of these unpaid “internships” are not in compliance with labor laws. And of all the unpaid “internships” and the conversations around them I’ve observed online and in the forums and listservs I belong to, people really are offering these as a way to get free labor: “Want help in your business? Get some unpaid interns!” They don’t even realize that what they are proposing is illegal.

As one unpaid intern who ending up sueing stated, “This culture of expecting to be able to get free labor if you slap the title intern on it has become so pervasive that people don’t question whether it’s ethically wrong or legally acceptable.”

Even in our own industry, people like to pretend (even to themselves) that they’re somehow doing a favor for the interns, but really, they’re just taking advantage of those who are new, naive and don’t know better.

The NY Times did a piece on this topic recently: The Unpaid Intern: Legal or Not?

In the article, acting director of the Labor Department’s wage and hour division Nancy J. Leppink states: “If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law.”

There are 6 federal legal criteria that must ALL be met for an unpaid internship to be legal:

  1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in a vocational school;
  2. The training is for the benefit of the trainee;
  3. The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under close observation;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees and, on occasion, the employer’s operations are actually impeded;
  5. The trainees are not necessarily entitled to employment at the completion of the training period;
  6. The employer and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

From the Warshanksky Law Firm in New York:

“These are very strict criteria that effectively bar most unpaid internships, which are intended to benefit both the intern and the company; otherwise, why would the company offer the internship in the first place? Yet the Wage and Hour Division has stated unequivocally that a company may derive ‘no immediate advantage’ from the internship. The upshot is that if an intern performs any useful work, however simple or menial or clerical in nature, the intern must be treated as an employee, subject to all applicable labor and employment laws. Failure to comply with these laws can result in liability for back wages, back taxes, and other civil and criminal penalties.”

People who want you to work for free are taking advantage of your newness, eagerness and naivete.

Everyone who starts a new business is unsure of themselves and lacks confidence to some extent. But there’s an important distinction I want you to understand:  just because you are new to starting and growing a business does not mean you are new to the work. Just about everyone who starts a service-based business does so because they already know how to do the work. They just need to grow their business skills.

If you need to gain confidence in getting your business off the ground, you can get mentoring, encouragement and know-how from people like me and my blog here, and by joining our forums and Facebook groups, etc. And you don’t need to work as an unpaid employee to get them. ;)