Archive for the ‘Starting Your Biz’ Category

Dear Danielle: Do I Need to Move If I Want Clients in Another City?

Dear Danielle: Do I Need to Move If I Want Clients in Another City?

Dear Danielle:

Thank you so much for the Pricing calculator you sent me to download. I have been travelling a bit between Cape Town and Johannesburg. Herein lies my dilemma. My entire family apart from my eldest son lives in Johannesburg. So do I set up in Cape Town or in Johannesburg. I do believe that business prospects are better in Johannesburg but don’t like Jo’burg very much! I have already lined up two clients in Cape Town (the plot thickens). What to do…what to do….? I absolutely love your blog and find it incredibly useful and informative. Thank you so much for all the effort you put in to educate. Kind regards. —L. W.

Hi L.W. 🙂

Thanks for letting me know how useful the ACA resources are to you. I’m very glad to hear it.

Even though we live in two different countries (I’m in the U.S. and you’re in South Africa), the great thing about our kind of business is that a) the principles of business are pretty universal no matter what country you’re in, and b) business laws in developed countries around the world are quite similar.

This is of great benefit to us because it makes speaking the same business language pretty easy.

And, since the administrative support business is an online business, that means you don’t work with clients or even have to meet them in person.

Not that you can’t get clients from meeting them locally. It’s just that due to the nature of the business being online, you aren’t restricted to your geographic or local physical location when it comes to finding and getting clients.

The world is literally your oyster as far as clients go, if that’s your preference.

Although, I will say, my clients and I find a lot more ease in understanding, communication and working together by being in the same country or state. As far as business goes, I personally don’t have any desire or need to work with international clients.

But different strokes for different folks. If you aren’t able to find all the clients you need in your general vicinity, you have the entire rest of the world to prospect at your fingertips.

All that is to say, you don’t have to live in Johannesburg to get clients from there.

As far as what city you are legally allowed to claim as your business’s official operating address, that is something you will definitely want to research as there may be legalities and business/registration rules and requirements involved particular to your local area.

Some relevant questions might be:

  • What city do you reside in officially/most of the time? What address do you currently use on tax returns?
  • Are you a sole proprietor/operator or is your business incorporated?
  • If your business is incorporated, are you allowed to register it in any city you like?
  • What are your preferred city’s business registration/taxing requirements? Must you actually reside there to register/incorporate/operate there?
  • What are the (federal/state/county/local) laws/rules about where you must reside for your business to be registered there?
  • If you legally have the option to choose one city or another, are there benefits to registering in one over the other?
  • What are the business registration fees/requirements in each?
  • What are the taxing requirements in each?
  • What kind of reporting does each require?

Getting answers to these questions from the proper governing agencies in your area will help you decide where your business is to be based/registered.

Beyond that, as far as getting clients from Johannesburg or anywhere without having to resort to the time and energy-consuming analog ways of meeting them (i.e., in person), what is going to be of tremendous help to you is to narrow things down to a target market.

A target market is simply an industry/profession that you cater your administrative support to.

Once you decide who to focus on, you can then figure out all the online ways and places to begin connecting and interacting with people in that field, getting to know them, and allowing them to get to know you through your active presence and participation.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to download my guide on How to Choose Your Target Market. It elaborates more on this topic and has some exercises that will help you immediately begin to start connecting with potential clients.

Let me know if this helps you or if you have any further questions. I’m happy to shed more light on this topic.

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.

Freelancing IS Running Your Own Business

See, it’s phrasing like this that is troublesome:

“If you have previous experience freelancing or running your own business…”

Freelancing IS running your own business. It’s not an or; it’s the same thing.

Phrasing like that makes people think it’s something different and separate, which is incorrect.

That’s why we have so many people in the industry who don’t realize that they are not employees, that they are running their own business, that it IS up to them to set the contracts and dictate the rules, etc.

It’s also why you should never use the term “freelancer.” Because it gives everyone the wrong idea all the way around.

How Can They Have It So Wrong?

It’s astounding to me that there is an entire organization based wholly on a misunderstanding of the law.

While Freelancer’s Union has its heart in the right place, they are utterly wrong about its most basic premise.

Freelancers are not part of the workforce. Freelancers are not “workers.” Freelancers, by definition of law, are self-employed BUSINESS OWNERS.

With articles like this, Freelancers Union is actually perpetuating the idea to employers to continue to disregard and abuse employment laws.

People who are “self-employed” are just that: self-employed. They are not employees or “workers” nor part of the “workforce.” (Those are terms of employment, not business, and have no place in a business-to-business context.)

They are running their own business providing a service. And when you are running your own business, it is up to you — and only you — to provide your own agreements and determine and dictate when, where and how you work, what you charge and everything else that goes along with being self-employed.

If you’re going to combat the problem, THIS is the education you need to be having with the self-employed who don’t understand these legal distinctions.

Freelancers Union could do more good by abolishing the idiotic word “freelancer” because it does nothing to educate the self-employed about their role as a business owner and how to run their business like a business and not work with clients like an employee.

That right there is responsible for nearly 100% of their nonpayment problems. As it is, all they are doing is creating more victims.

How NOT to Choose Your Clients (and What to Do Instead)

How NOT to Choose Your Clients (and What to Do Instead)

One of the best investments you can make in the long-term sustainability of your business, happiness and peace of mind is choosing your clients wisely.

As you grow in your business, your selection process will evolve and your discernment skills will improve.

No matter how young or inexperienced your business is, though, having clients meet at least some minimal criteria before you allow them on your roster will always serve you well.

That’s because choosing to work with shady or otherwise unideal clients will come back to bite you in the butt, one way or another, either sooner or later.

I was reminded recently of a colleague who reached out to me after being approached by a client who raised all kinds of red flags with her.

Being new in business, she asked me what I thought she should do, and I gave her the advice I always give in this situation: trust your gut.

And she, as new people often do, ignored her own wise counsel and all the telltale signs indicating that this was a bad idea and took the client on anyway.

While she found this client’s honesty and integrity questionable, she wanted the experience and was too eager and impatient for clients to let this first one go.

She rationalized this decision by telling herself that it wasn’t her place to judge, that everyone deserves benefit of the doubt, that she would just put blinders on and do whatever honest work she was given and not involve herself in anything beyond that, and that it wasn’t her place to question things.

She wouldn’t engage in anything illegal, unethical or dishonest, she told herself, and what she didn’t know beyond that wasn’t any of her business.

But here’s the thing: It IS your business to question things. You are deluding yourself if you think you can keep it separate and not be complicit.

Well, long story short, this did come back to haunt her, as all her instincts about this client (the ones she chose to ignore) turned out to be accurate.

It came to light that this client was engaging in some disreputable and unethical practices and ended up being sued by several parties.

She was forced legally into all the drama which caused her a lot of stress and anxiety, not to mention diverted her time, attention and energy away from her own business.

Ultimately, this client lost his business and because she had put all her eggs into this one basket, she was left with no client and no income at all. Back to square one.

These were very painful lessons she learned from this experience that caused her serious damage and could have been avoided.

It took her more than a year to start over. But I don’t think she ever gained any confidence back in herself, and it wasn’t long before her enthusiasm for her business petered out and she closed up shop.

The takeaways I hope people can glean from this are:

  1. You can’t separate your values and principles from your business. They are each a reflection of the other.
  2. You can’t associate with dishonest, unscrupulous people and expect to come out unscathed.
  3. You can’t afford to work with shady or otherwise unideal clients. It will cost you in far more ways than you realize with potentially disastrous results you may not be able to recover from. It’s an unwise, unshaky platform on which to build your business and reputation.
  4. All good things come to those who wait. Don’t be so desperate to take on the first client who comes along if they are not a good fit.
  5. Always trust your gut. It won’t ever steer you wrong.
  6. It’s okay to make mistakes. Just be aware that the damage bad clients can do to you can sometimes be devastating. Walk away from any client, immediately, who doesn’t seem like a good fit.
  7. Maintain an abundance mindset. This is not the last or only client in the world. Walking away from problem clients opens you up to attracting better, more positive and ideal ones.
  8. Never put all your eggs in one basket. A good rule of thumb is that no one client should make up more than 20% of your business and income.

What can you do to avoid this trap in your administrative support business?

  1. Sit down now and list the values, standards and principles that are important to you in life. The act of writing things down formalizes these standards and makes them more concrete and tangible. Continue to add to this list throughout the life of your business. Then devise your policies, protocols and procedures around these standards and values.
  2. Create ideal and unideal client profile lists. These lists, again, are extremely useful tools that help you formalize your intentions around choosing ideal clients and avoiding bad ones. As you go along in your business, use these lists to note those traits, behaviors, conditions, etc., that are and are not a fit for you. This will help you be more and more conscious about who you do and don’t want to work with. Any time you are tempted to ignore your standards and gut instincts, pull these lists out for a jolt back to reality.
  3. Always conduct a thorough, formal consultation with each and every client. Don’t take shortcuts with this process. It’s an incredibly important and useful step in helping you identify and choose the most ideal clients for you and your business. (And if you aren’t sure how to conduct a good consultation, you can get my complete, step-by-step guide that will show you exactly how to do it as well as beef up blind spots and make improvements to your existing process.)

You’ve heard some version of the fable of the scorpion and the frog, I’m sure. The bottom-line is this: A slippery eel is a slippery eel. Don’t let one sweet-talk you out of your better judgment.

How about you? Have you ever taken on or been tempted to take on a client you had reservations about? How did it turn out? How did you resolve to do better the next time around? What insights do you have to share with others on this topic?

Reaching for the Heights

AHMAHGAHHHH, this is so cute!

Also, I can’t help but think how perfectly this resembles building our businesses:

We start at the bottom, often knowing little or nothing about business, looking up at what seems like an insurmountable height, and s-s-s-t-r-e-t-c-h-h-h-h ourselves to reach upward, outside of comfort zones, attaining new knowledge, growth and confidence at every next stage, one foot after the other.

It’s why I always say: slow and steady, with everything in its due time and course, wins the race.

When you are impatient, try to cut corners and take shortcuts, you miss out on vital, necessary foundational learning and understanding that is going to help you succeed in rising to the next level.

Stay the course. You can do it!

Delete “Self-Employed Worker” from Your Business Vocabulary

Delete "Self-Employed Worker" from Your Business Vocabulary

Do you want clients who treat you like their beck-and-call employee or as a trusted business professional delivering a valuable expertise?

If it’s the latter, then delete the words “self-employed worker” from your business vocabulary.

When you are self-employed, you’re not a worker, you are a business, period. (That’s a legal distinction, not an opinion.)

This all goes back to properly educating clients about the correct nature of the relationship.

If you set the perception that you are some kind of little worker bee, that’s exactly how they are going to think of and treat the relationship.

The first place you nip that in the bud — so that you can get more ideal clients who properly treat and understand the relationship as a business-to-business one — is through the language and
terminology you use.

How to Get Clients

How to Get Clients

Getting clients is a process, not an event.

You aren’t going to get them by selling your service like you were hawking a Shamwow.

Drop the tiresome, disingenuous, robotic “elevator speeches” as well.

No one likes being sold at. All that does is make people feel like you’re looking at them like they’re your next meal.

It certainly doesn’t foster any real, meaningful connection (and they won’t be able to get away from you fast enough).

There is more finesse involved in marketing a professional service-based business and developing honest rapport with potential clients.

It’s also not that difficult to do:

  1. Decide on a target market. A target market is simply an industry/field/profession you cater your administrative support to. This will give much-needed focus and direction to your administrative solutions, website marketing message, and marketing efforts. In turn, this will make you more interesting, memorable and compelling to potential clients. To learn more about target marketing and how it will help you grow your practice more quickly and easily and make more money, get my free guide on How to Choose a Target Market.
  2. Always be learning and studying your target market’s industry and work nearly as well as your own, almost as if you were going into that business yourself. It will help you understand them and their common needs, goals and challenges more intimately. This will naturally elevate your conversations, marketing message and solutions, making you more attractive to potential clients and raise your value to them.
  3. Network with your target market. This simply means putting yourself out there and talking to the people in your target market (these are your would-be clients after all), contributing to their conversations, adding your ideas, being helpful and making friends. Comment on their blogs. Join their online and offline forums and groups. Attend their business conferences. Read their publications and look for opportunities to get in front of their audience (e.g., Do they have newsletters you can publish or advertise in? Can you interest them in articles or a guest column written by you? Can you purchase ads?).
  4. HAVE A WEBSITE!!! It’s not enough to only have a Facebook page or LinkedIn profile. People want to learn more about you on their own before they will ever contact you for a consultation. Your business website is that vital link that connects your networking and marketing to the next step in the conversion process: pre-educating prospective clients, setting proper expectations and understandings, and prequalifying your ideal clients while organically weeding out those you don’t want. You want to let your website speak for you at this stage. It’s job is to inform your site visitors and potential clients in more depth about who you are, what you do, who you do it for, and how you help them (i.e., how you improve their business and life). Not only will this help you get more consultations, the people who contact you will be more ideal and informed in the way you need them to be and far more likely to go on to become actual clients. If you need help building your website, implementing a proven client-getting process, and crafting your marketing message to get more clients and consultations, get my step-by-step guide, Build a Website that Works.
  5. Direct everyone and everything to your business website. Put the link in all your online and print marketing collateral. If anyone you converse with wants to learn more about what you do, send them to your website. Instruct your friends, colleagues and associates to send people to your website (not give out your email or phone number) when they want to refer someone to you. Provide useful resources your target market will find of value and interest (e.g., a report, a guide, an instruction manual, some kind of e-learning), and invite them sign up from your website to receive those items.

Is the haphazard hunting-and-pecking, trying to reach anyone-and-everyone method working for you?

No? Give these steps a try then and see how much faster and easier you can grow your  practice and get clients.

There Is No Secret to Marketing

There Is No Secret to Marketing

There is nothing magical about marketing.

There’s no closely guarded secret still waiting to be revealed to you.

There are no heavenly curtains to part and rain clients down upon you — if only you could find the draw cord.

A lot of people also waste huge gobs of time trying to cobble DIY SEO together.

They think if they can just crack the SEO code, millions of clients are going to mystically materialize out of the airwaves, and they won’t have to lift a finger to get them.

I’ve got news for you: That’s not going to happen.

And, your least qualified client candidates will be those who accidentally stumble upon your site on the internet.

SEO is the last thing you need to be concerning yourself with.

Here are the straight-up facts:

It’s true that there are some foundations you need to have in place first before marketing, such as your website, which is THE single most important conversion tool for your business.

BUT your website can’t be set up any ol’ haphazard way.

To get results (i.e., consultations and clients), it needs to instill trust, rapport and credibility.

To do that, there are some presentation basics you must follow.

You also have to understand the conversion process and have an intentional system in place to educate site visitors, in the right way, about what you do and who you do it for, organically prequalify your ideal prospects, and then move those folks to the next step in the process: the consultation.

Build a Website that WORKS!My Build a Website that WORKS guide shows you exactly how to do this.

Beyond that, you are simply going to have to get out there and TALK TO PEOPLE.

This is the ONLY “secret” to marketing and getting clients.

You can’t hide behind your computer and be silent. Nothing is going to magically do that work for you.

Choose a target market (which is simply an industry/field/profession that you cater your admin support to) so you can focus and hone your message.

​And then get out there (online and/or in person) and interact with them:

  • Join their groups (online and off).
  • Learn their business/industry/profession.
  • Ask questions.
  • Ask more questions.
  • Inquire about what their common goals and challenges are in their business/industry/profession.
  • Read and comment on their blogs.
  • Pay attention to the kinds of topics and conversations they have in their industry forums.
  • Write articles/blog posts for them and their topics of interests.
  • Find out what their industry associations and publications are and think about the ways you might be able to get published or in some other way get in front of their audience (e.g., can you take out an ad in their trade journals? Can you interest them in guest articles/blog posts?).

It is THESE interactions that will bring people to your website, which then should be set up to do the job of moving the right ones to the next step: the consultation. (My guide shows you how.)

At its core, marketing is very simply like making friends: introducing yourself, asking about others and being interested in them, and partaking in conversations and being curious and sociable (not salesy). No miracle marketing tonic needed.

Dear Danielle: Should an Administrative Consultant Have One Specialty?

Dear Danielle: Should an Administrative Consultant Have One Specialty?

Dear Danielle:

In your opinion should an Administrative Consultant have one specific specialty, or should you specialize across a few specialties to maximize profitability. My idea is to focus on providing admin services to local small bankruptcy law firms, who may not have a paralegal on staff, as I have extensive work experience as a paralegal. Any insight on this would be most appreciated. Thank you an advance for your help. —TR

Thanks for the question… because it’s something I see a lot of people confused about in the administrative support industry at large.

In an Administrative Consulting business, you already have a specialization: administrative support.

What you’re in business to do is already your specialization.

What I see a lot of people not understanding is that administrative support is a specialization in and of itself.

They confuse being an administrative assistant when they were an employee (who very often had everything-and-the-kitchen dumped on them without any say-so or proper additional compensation) with administrative support as a business.

One is a role of employment while the other is a specific expertise. They are not one and the same thing.

And what you don’t want to do under any circumstances is run your business and work with clients as if you were their employee.

First of all, it’s illegal. Second, because it’s unprofitable and unsustainable.

When we talk about specialization in the Administrative Consulting business, we’re talking about having a target market, which is simply a field/industry/profession you cater your administrative support to.

You provide a good example: Bankruptcy attorneys is a target market.

Generally speaking, attorneys is a target market and the practice area of bankruptcy attorneys specifically would be called your “niche” or “specialization.”

My target market is attorneys as well, but specifically intellectual property/entertainment law attorneys.

See what I mean?

The reason this is the useful thing to focus on is because (in the case of our example of attorneys), one practice area can do such drastically different work from another practice area, that the administrative support would be completely different as well.

The marketing message you would need to come up with if you worked with estate law attorneys would be very different from the one you’d create if you were speaking to criminal law attorneys.

I have a number of blog posts that elaborate on this topic. Dig around in the Target Market category and I think you’ll find some that hit this right on the nose for you.

As far as profitability goes, I would need a bit more information about what you are worried about. I think it does, however, pinpoint a fear that a lot of people new to business in our industry have.

They think if they focus on a target market they’ll miss out on opportunities. In fact, focusing on a target market makes marketing your business and getting clients vastly easier.

That’s because instead of being a meandering generality, they become a meaningful (and more compelling and attractive) specific.

The market expects to pay those with a specific expertise (like that of administrative support) much more than those they perceive as merely gophers and jacks-of-all-trades (e.g., the person who will do anything just to make a buck, from whose website it isn’t clear what exactly they do, whose marketing message is all over the map).

Plus, there is so much constant mental switching of gears when you try to be this, that and the other. That in itself is unprofitable (Been there, done that.)

So I would tell you: focus your business on the one thing. You’ll be perceived as someone with a specific expertise (in our case, the expertise of administrative support), your business will be easier to run and the work easier to do (which makes it more profitable), you’ll get clients much more easily, and you’ll be able to command higher fees that allow you to make more money working with fewer clients.