Archive for the ‘Success and Profitability’ Category

Here Is Another Good Question to Ask in Your Consultations

Here Is Another Good Question to Ask in Your Consultations

Self-care is a big theme in my life this year due to having to manage the care of my elderly father for the past five years who has Parkinson’s Disease and Lewy Bodies dementia, on top of trying to manage my business and client work and have some semblance of personal life left.

Life happens, and you will thank yourself to the moon and back for putting smart policies and processes in place now that honor your boundaries, standards, and needs in your business.

Along that vein, choosing clients well plays a huge role in taking good care of yourself, your business, even your other clients—because one bad client causes a host of problems not only for you, but for them as well, in all kinds of direct and indirect ways.

One of the traits to look for in your ideal clients is that they are easy to work with. Clients who are easy to work with are amenable to your systems and processes (because those are what allow you to work well together successfully), and open to doing things in new and different ways than they may be used to doing them on their own.

This, therefore, is a vital topic to address in your consultations if you are seeking to connect with the best-fitting clients possible.

You could frame the question something like this:

“Similar to how you have certain ways of doing things in your business, I also have specific methods, protocols, and systems in place that allow me to best manage my various client workloads and create optimum efficiency. Any new clients I accept onto my roster need to be amenable with these methods and systems and open to some new ways of doing things in order for us to work together effectively. For example, I may need you to adopt a certain format for email subject lines and be consistent about that. Is this something you feel you can do and are open to?”

Something like this will open up an exploratory conversation that can also give you some good indications as to how easy or difficult a prospective client may be to work with.

If they think they are too important, “too busy” to pay attention to details like that, or if they are otherwise resistant or dismissive of what you need from them, that is a red flag you should heed.

They need to understand that in order to work together and for the relationship to work, there are simply some things you are going to need from them in order to do your best work and run a sane and happy practice (which benefits everyone).

If they can’t fulfill that end of the bargain, those are people you should think twice about taking on.

Clients who make you pull your hair out are just not worth the headaches they create in your business and your life.

PS: Implementing a thorough, well-thought out consultation process is one of the BEST things you can ever do for yourself and your business as it will help you get more ideal clients who say YES! to working with you and weed any with whom you don’t wish to work.

Are You Trying to Do Everything Without Taking a Break?

Today’s much-needed reminder…

I came across this quote on Facebook somewhere quite serendipitously right when I needed to hear it most.

It’s addressed to creatives, but you can swap “artist” for “Administrative Consultant” or “business owner” and the wisdom still applies.

It is one thing after another caring for my dad. Every time I think I will finally get a breather and be able to focus on my life and business, some fresh new rabbit hole opens up and there I go tumbling down.

And a huge part of the problem is me.

For some reason, I have this idea that I can’t rest when it comes to him, that I have to do everything RIGHT. THIS. SECOND.

And some of it is warranted. When you are dealing with a sick family member, there are things you simply have to take care of immediately, not when you feel like it.

But a lot of it is simply because I have allowed a negative mindset to form in my head where I am always waiting for (expecting) the worst so I have to hurry and get as much done as possible before the next catastrophe hits.

It doesn’t help when there are outside influences and pressures, people who don’t have any of the burden or responsibility giving you their “helpful” two cents and otherwise second-guessing you constantly.

It takes constant practice for me to let go and remind myself that I can’t do everything for him and I HAVE to take care of ME, too! Because if I don’t, I won’t be any good to him or anyone else at all.

I have far less trouble with these boundaries in my business because I had a lot of years to figure out and erect those boundaries.

However, I’m finding that the bad habits I have developed when it comes to caring for my dad while neglecting myself have trickled into my business in sneaky ways as well.

For example, I am always wanting to get my dad’s stuff taken care of right away because I want to keep clear as much space as I can before something new piles up on my plate.

And because I don’t want my client work to get backed-up when some new unforeseen disaster erupts with my dad down the road, I find myself doing the same thing in my business, to the point that I have actually done work the same day it is received.

And that is sacrilege according to my own rules because it creates an endless cycle of unsustainable pace and expectations in clients.

So I am having to do a lot of self-work these days on not stepping over my own business boundaries and standards.

You can’t have a life if you are constantly responding to clients instantly.

This is why and how I developed my 3/7 Guide that I share in my Power Productivity & Business Management Guide for Administrative Consultants (GDE-41).

It’s a system for managing client work that helps preserve your boundaries and sanity in your business while setting and managing client expectations around those standards at the same time.

All of this is a reminder that it takes discipline in honoring our standards and boundaries and constant practice and vigilance.

If you find yourself backsliding into unproductive, unsustainable ways, you have to give yourself a little kick to get back into gear because you and your business (and your clients, ultimately) will pay for it otherwise.

How about you? How is your self-care going? Are you finding any bad habits slipping into your business? How do you preserve self-care in your business and maintain boundaries?

What Is Your Talent Worth?

What Is Your Talent Worth?

Not sure where I first came across this quote, but it’s a sentiment that always bear repeating.

To an extent, value is relative. Which is why it’s important to work with the right, well-chosen clients, clients who need what you have to offer and will therefore appreciate (i.e., value) it more highly.

That said, at a fundamental level, if you don’t value what you have to offer (and price it accordingly), no one else will either.

Does this resonate with you? I’d love to hear why.

Dear Danielle: Is There a Formula for Raising My Rates?

Dear Danielle,

Happy New Year!  I hope all your dreams will be actualized in 2019! My question relates to raising rates with current clients and if there a formula to follow. In the past I have used the script you provided in your blog post Raising Your Rates, and I must say it has worked like a charm. I love all the advice you provide on the blog in this category, especially about not letting fear get the best of you when you offer high quality service. Over the last couple of years, I have restructured my administrative consulting business. I offer a core service in two niche markets. During this time, I have retained five clients and have had great success. With each new client,I have incrementally raised my rates. This gets me to my question: The first client I retained almost two years ago is THRILLED with my service. Not only did I meet the contractual obligations, but went above and beyond. I really hit the ball out of the park with this client. They are often singing the praises about my administrative consulting firm. Since their two-year anniversary is approaching, I was planning on raising their rates. Is there standard protocol to follow (like tipping a server at a restaurant)? I thought I would raise my rates (REMOVED)%. This is a number I picked because when I see a vendor, utility, or dental plan increase by this amount, I think, “that’s fair,” but any higher, I feel like I am being taken advantage of. Next, I looked up the cost of living increase on Google. It is 3% each year for 2017 and 2018. That makes me wonder, would I be undercutting myself with a (REMOVED)% raise and should I increase to (REMOVED) %? Vacillating to the other end of the spectrum, I am obsessed with client satisfaction. I don’t want to raise the rate so high they feel taken advantage of. We have a dynamic relationship. Would seeing the numbers help? The client’s current retainer is $(REMOVED)/month. As I solicit new clients, they will pay $(REMOVED)/month for this service. However, I am not ready to lose this client. I truly value your guidance in this situation. Thanks again for all you do for our community!Name Withheld for Privacy

Thank you, and happy new year to you as well! And thanks for the great question which I’ve been chomping at the bit to answer for you.

First, congratulations on your well-earned growth and success. That is absolutely wonderful to hear!

I also want to let you know that I am keeping your name anonymous and removed certain info from your question for reasons I will explain below.

The short, quick answer is that there is no formula for raising your fees. I know people love to be given formulas, but it’s not that simple.

It’s also highly illegal for members of a profession/industry to discuss rates or setting standards or minimums or formulas when it comes to pricing as these things violate antitrust laws. Those kind of conversations constitute what is termed “collusion.”

The state and federal agencies that oversee these laws take violations very seriously so we never want to run afoul of them.

It doesn’t matter how big or small a business is, whether they are sole proprietors or big corporations, or how much money they make, we are all subject to these laws.

As they will tell you: ignorance is not a defense. This means you can be prosecuted for violations whether you were aware or not.

This is why I am always trying to educate our industry on this topic. Read this post for a bit more in-depth info: Dear Danielle: Why Can’t You Just Give Us a Ballpark Figure When It Comes to Pricing?

So for all the other colleagues out there, the bottom-line is this: STOP asking others what you should charge!

Not only are you putting yourself in danger, you are putting others as well as our entire industry in jeopardy. Your pricing is for you and you alone to determine.

The good news is that we don’t have to discuss specific numbers to help each other learn and grow in our business smarts and profitability.

Here are the things I would want you to give some thought to:

1.

Don’t compare what you do to a utility. You are not a commodity; you are a professional service provider.

Your value is relative to how you improve the life and business of each of your clients, not how much they pay for a box of cereal on a shelf.

Here are a couple of posts to help people better understand and remember what their real value is to clients (hint: it’s not how much/little clients pay or how much money you save them):

How has your work helped them advance, grow and improve in their business? What goals has it helped them achieve or get closer to? How much more time and freedom do they have since working with you?

When it’s time to raise your rates, be thinking along these lines and taking note of them, not just how much your workload may have increased, although that is certainly relevant as well.

People know that when they get more, they pay more. The benefit of connecting what they have gained by working with you, however, is that it helps keep them in a positive mindset toward fee increases, particularly when they are increased for more abstract reasons (such as cost of living) and not necessarily increased workload.

How you determine your fee increases and how much to increase them by is entirely up to you. There is no right or wrong way to do it.

2.

I’m concerned that you have one-price-for-all.

If you are providing administrative support, you are providing a variety of tasks, functions, and roles for each client, each of whom is unique and whose support areas, needs, levels, and objectives are all going to be different from the next client.

When you are providing a value-based service, there shouldn’t be anything cookie-cutter about your pricing. Each client’s needs and support plan should be evaluated and determined on an individual basis. This is something I show people how to do in my Value-Based Pricing Guide.

It doesn’t tell you what to charge or give you a formula. It will show you what factors to take into account, how to identify/categorize support plan areas and set parameters and boundaries, and give you as systematic an approach as you can get for determining your pricing around your support plans that is fair and profitable for both you and your clients.

3.

Capture their “before” picture at the start of every new client relationship.

When you consult with potential clients and onboard new ones, be sure to include a step where you obtain as complete a picture as you can of their current challenges, difficulties, pain points, and obstacles, as well as their desired objectives and outcomes BEFORE you start working together.

(If anyone reading this doesn’t have a consultation process in place, you NEED one now! Get my Consultation Guide for an easy, step-by-step plan that shows you exactly what to do before, during and after.)

Not only does this help you create case studies/stories for your website, it’s also incredibly useful insight to have when it’s time to raise your fees.

By better identifying what each client actually values and what they’re trying to accomplish through your work together, you can use that information to set benchmarks and emphasize those accomplishments.

They also inspire clients by helping them remember what life was like before they had your support and how far they have come and what a smart decision they made in choosing you.

4.

Survey clients for their feedback and suggestions on a regular, consistent basis.

This is something else that is useful when presenting fee increases as it can help you connect the dots from your work directly to what the client’s values, goals and objectives are.

I recommend getting client feedback at least every year for established clients, and more frequently (e.g., every three to six months) for new clients.

One caution, though: Don’t raise fees at the same time of year that you survey clients for their feedback and suggestions. Do these two things at different times of the year.

5.

Similarly, if you have my Value-Based Pricing Guide, you know that I also recommend reviewing every client’s support plan at regular intervals.

For new clients, you are going to do this more frequently because there is a lot of ramping up and getting to know the work and each other and fine-tuning of things in that first year of working together.

For them, I suggest reviewing their support plan internally every two to three months initially in that first year.

You want to make sure you are honoring the parameters you both agreed to and identifying any scope creep that you have not have taken in account and then adjusting accordingly at the next fee increase.

With established clients, you may decide that an annual support plan review is sufficient for your purposes.

6.

Keep clients informed upfront all along the way with plenty of notice.

Let new clients know that there may be a period of adjustment in the first months/year of working together and that you will be reviewing their support plan every so many weeks or months.

If there are areas that have been or need to be added on or increased (or been eliminated or significantly decreased, for that matter), let them know that the fee they pay may be affected.

And let established clients know that their support plans are reviewed regularly as well (e.g., annually or every six months).

The key is to inform all clients upfront that their support plans are reviewed at specific intervals and that there will be periodic fee increases as you deem necessary or appropriate

You want them to understand that what they pay is relative to the support areas and parameters you have agreed to, and as those change and evolve or increase, you will be examining them and adjusting pricing accordingly.

At a very basic level, all I can say is this: You know your clients. You know what you do for them. You know when you feel like you are doing more than what you are charging for. You know how they are benefiting from your work. And you know when it’s time for raise fees for the profitability of your business and in keeping with the value you are providing.

When you start to feel those nigglings, that is always the correct time to review and adjust.

Always be reviewing and evaluating internally, and then on whatever regular schedule that you determine, implement your fee increases.

For Example

Let’s say you like to go through your annual feedback process with clients around May or June when business generally tends to slow down somewhat for everyone and they have more time to reflect.

You could then time your annual fee increases for January.

Whenever you time these events, I suggest you always give clients 30-60 days’ notice of any support plan adjustments/fee increases.

This gets them used to the idea, gives them time to ask any questions they have, and ensures no one is surprised or caught off guard. That’s the only thing that would really create ill will.

By giving courteous notice, it’s only going to help you adjust things in the best way possible for both you and each of your clients.

The bottom-line: Never surprise clients with things coming out of left field.

Everyone appreciates a heads-up so they can plan and budget accordingly, and your fee increases will be far more well-received.

Dear Danielle: Does This Business Allow for Expansion?

Dear Danielle: Does This Business Allow for Expansion?

Dear Danielle:

I’m a student who has been assigned to research a startup business. As a business administration major, this is something that interests me, so it is more than assignment. Does a company such as this allow for expansion from being one person to expanding with several employees? Thank you for your time. —RT

Hi RT,

Thanks for the question.

A person can create any kind of business they wish. That should go without saying. However, Administrative Consulting is a solopreneur business model, not a “team” or “staffing” one. That’s because the primary value being imparted is the personal one-on-one relationship.

People running this kind of business are not interested in managing employees and all the attendant problems and responsibilities that come with that much less creating a company the size of which inherently requires employees.

Administrative Consulting is a deeply personal and collaborative one-to-one relationship with clients. It’s ideal for people who are interested in a boutique-sized solo business working directly in one-on-one relationships with just a handful of (ideally, well-paying) clients.

You don’t need employees to do that and it would actually make things more unnecessarily complicated, disjointed, and expensive while reducing profit margins.

This is not the kind of business for people who want to turn the work into an assembly line. That is completely opposite to the value that is created when working together in a long-term, ongoing, one-on-relationship with clients.

That said, I have always advocated the idea that being solo doesn’t mean you do literally everything yourself. It simply means that YOU are the product; it’s your unique combination of skills, talent, experience, insights, and know-how that your clients are “buying,” so to speak.

However, in the same way that clients partner with us for administrative support, an Administrative Consultant can and should have her own Administrative Consultant to support her behind the scenes as well, along with having relationships with her own accountant, bookkeeper, business attorney, web designer/programmer, etc.

Most of us also belong to networks of colleagues we can refer to on those occasions when we may need or want to bring in an extra hand or two. But those are incidental instances and provided by people who run their own independent businesses and are not employees.

This kind of business and relationship doesn’t need a lot of chefs dipping their fingers in and ruining the stew, if you understand my analogy. It just needs the leverage of a few key relationships to be successful.

I always say this as well: Anyone who can make it as a solopreneur is better poised to succeed in any larger future business incarnation. Because if you can’t do it as a solopreneur, being bigger is not going to help anything.

Here Is What Constitutes a Bad Client

Here Is What Constitutes a Bad Client

This year, I’ve been focused on removing anything in my life that is a PIA, that rubs the wrong way, that no longer serves my interests. My self-care demands it.

After caring for a sick parent, I have zero time and energy for any kind of BS. It’s always a good time for you to be thinking about this, too.

Identifying and weeding out bad clients is an exercise in self-care and making your business sustainable and profitable.

For a while now, I’ve been observing the results of someone working with what I would deem a bad client.

The situation has gone from bad, to very bad, to really, REALLY bad.

For the life of me, I have never understood what they see in this client, what could possibly be worth all the hair-pulling problems and extra work, annoyance, and difficulty this bad client causes.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost, and it emphasizes the cold hard truths I and others have always expounded on when it comes to taking on un-ideal clients: DON’T DO IT!

  1. You may see the prospect of big financial returns, but I guarantee you, it is nearly never worth all the time, trouble, and energy it costs you in the end (and that’s IF you ever do see the kind of money you thought they represented).
  2. Bad clients are FAR more work than they are ever worth.
  3. Bad clients like to make grandiose claims and big promises that almost never come to fruition.
  4. IF they do hit it big (that’s a big IF), bad clients easily/conveniently forget the promises they made to you when they needed your help.
  5. Bad clients are hopelessly, endlessly disorganized. They resist and make difficult any and all attempts by you to create some semblance of order, making it next to impossible to work with them.
  6. Bad clients live in a constant state of chaos, and their chaos becomes your chaos.
  7. Bad clients like to keep everything in their head. They don’t listen when you remind them that they are no longer working alone and thus, there simply MUST be systems put in place for working together.
  8. Bad clients are always late. They do everything at the very last minute, leaving you little to no time to do a proper/thorough job. They expect you to then drop everything and deal with the consequences.
  9. Bad clients create 10 more problems for every one that you solve. Instead of getting more efficient and organized, they only get worse. They make everything more difficult than it has to be.
  10. Bad clients are arrogant. They always think they are smarter and know more than everyone else. They brush off your advice, recommendations, and suggestions (even when they have solicited you for them!). When they do take a suggestion you have offered, they act like they thought of it themselves.
  11. Bad clients are constantly cutting corners and playing stupid games, thinking they can outwit the law, the system, the “man.” This nearly always ends in disaster and only causes more work and headaches for everyone involved. (TIP: It is FAR more work and difficulty trying to cut corners and game things than it is to simply do things correctly, honestly, in the first place. As Judge Marilyn Milan says, “The cheap comes out expensive.)
  12. Bad clients are sloppy and pig-headed. They will cut their nose to spite their face, spend $10 to save a penny. They’re always trying to take shortcuts and think properly dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s is for sissies. This creates a house of cards that ends up biting them in the ass one way or another. There is a reason there are commonly accepted standards of business practice. Anyone who shrugs them off as unimportant is a huckster, not a proper businessperson.
  13. Bad clients are petty and selfish. They withhold praise, rarely express appreciation, and are always devaluing others and looking to take advantage whenever possible. They want ALL the credit and will steal it even when it’s not theirs to be taken or given. The only person they value and think about is themselves.
  14. Bad clients are greedy. They think the ends always justify the means. Ethics and integrity are afterthoughts (if they are considered at all). It’s one harebrained, questionable scheme after another with them.
  15. The problems that bad clients cause spill over into your other client relationships.
  16. Bad clients cause your work quality to suffer all the way around. They are so needy and demanding and their work, in turn, so arduous and time-consuming, it unfairly deprives your other, more ideal (and easier to work with) clients from your equal time, attention and best efforts.
  17. Bad clients want everything for nothing. They will gladly pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today (and tomorrow never comes soon). You can’t pay your bills with IOUs.
  18. Bad clients think everything they do is worth millions and everything you do is worth pennies. That is to say, they devalue, demoralize, and degrade (in turn, eroding your confidence) and don’t appreciate all that you do for them.
  19. Bad clients constantly pay late, if at all. They’re always making excuses and trying to string you along. (Of course, you have some culpability here. It’s up to you to put your foot down the first time this happens and to fire the ass of anyone who continues to disrespect you in this way.)
  20. Bad clients ruin all the good work you have done for them on their behalf. For every gain you make, they do something that causes twenty steps back.
  21. Their poor integrity can besmirch YOUR reputation and integrity. God forbid you should rely on them for referrals; you’ll just get more of the same type of bad client.
  22. Bad clients never take responsibility for their poor habits and practices and are the first to blame YOU for the problems they caused/brought on themselves.
  23. Bad clients are also the first to report you to the BBB or the bar or whatever governing/overseeing agencies you are accountable to. They are incapable of taking responsibility for the problems and conditions they themselves create.
  24. Bad clients cannot be saved from themselves and will bring you down with them. Bad clients who don’t run their businesses properly or ethically can be and often are sued. And guess who can get dragged into that mess whether they like it or not? Yeah, you and everyone else who has worked with them.
  25. Bad clients are the quickest path to poor health, stress, overwhelm, and burnout.

Never take on any client just for the money. I can’t emphasize this enough!

There must be a fit. You have to genuinely like them and what they do (and vice versa).

They must be honest and ethical and do things in a way you can respect.

They must treat you with dignity, honor, and respect.

And they have to be willing to let you do what you do without making it more difficult. If not, you have nothing to discuss and there can be no relationship.

Bottom line: Be a client snob. Don’t accept anyone and everyone who comes along. Be choosy and selective about who you work with and have a process in place for vetting clients. You’ll be happier and richer for it.

There Is No “Perfect” Client

There Is No "Perfect" Client

Perfect is not the same thing as ideal.

There is no such thing as the perfect client. These are people we’re talking about here, and people are nothing if not imperfect.

Still, it’s vital that you choose clients wisely and with intention from your ever-increasing knowledge about the kind of person you enjoy working with most, who gets the most from working with you, who makes working together easy, and who values and appreciates what you do for them and allows you to do your best work, and to never ignore any red flags that set off your spidey senses.

Because clients who are not a good fit — or un-ideal — will cost you dearly in time, money, energy, morale, confidence, and joy — far more than they are paying you to ever be worthwhile and far more than you can afford, I can tell you that.

Have you ever had clients who weren’t ideal? What kind of negative impacts did working with them have on your business? What measures did you take to create to improve/change this situation?

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should

Just because you can do everything doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

People who are new in business don’t tend to understand this at first. They are too eager and excited to get those first paying clients.

But once you have more than one client, you begin to get an inkling of this truth: you don’t want to bog yourself down doing too much stuff and trying to do every. single. thing. for clients.

You’re going to come up against a wall of overwhelm real quick if you don’t get clear and focused about what you do (and what you don’t) in your business.

Focus — on who you cater your support to and what you do for them — is key.

I see a lot of people in our industry really enamored with the idea of doing anything and everything.

It’s an idea they are hit over the head with when they first enter the industry at large, almost as if there is something virtuous about it.

NOTE: It’s not virtuous; it’s misguided. In fact, I am here to tell you it is keeping you from providing a superior level of administrative support and service that clients will pay well for. Doing every little thing is keeping you small and under-earning.

Most of the people who come to me for help in our industry are those who fell for the BS of doing anything and everything only to realize later just how much it is keeping them from being able to develop, from making more money, from having time for a life, and from having a business and clients that actually make them happy.

Sometimes there’s a bit of “savior complex” rooted in this notion, which also isn’t good for you or your business (or ultimately your clients).

Sometimes it’s a lack of professional self-esteem (again, common in people who are new in business). They don’t yet have a sense of confidence in their value and think they need to “prove” their worth by offering to do anything and everything.

Most of the time, though, the folks trying to do anything and everything are those who have not chosen a target market (which is simply a field/industry/profession you cater your administrative support to).

That’s how the cycle starts.

When you don’t know who you are talking to, it’s difficult to form a clear idea of specifically what you do and how you help.

That’s because having no clear idea of who you are talking to forces you to think in a manner that is too broad, vague, and generic.

And so they end up offering anything and everything they can think of that might be of value to someone, somewhere (anyone? pretty please?).

What ends up happening, though, is you become a garbage disposal that clients toss any old thing at, making up their own rules and expectations in your business in the process.

This is what Seth Godin calls being a “meandering generality instead of a meaningful specific.”

When you get specific about who you work with (i.e., target market), you’ll be able to more quickly, clearly, and specifically identify exactly what you do and don’t do that helps clients.

(HINT: And that’s NOT everything and the kitchen sink.)

Here’s an example of avoiding the constant busy-ness of certain work that keeps you from really developing your business into a more powerful revenue and freedom-generating machine.

I’ve long advocated that colleagues never manage any client’s email in-box:

  1. You are not their personal, on-call employee/assistant. (What, do they need you to wipe their ass for them when they go to the bathroom, too? Look, there are just some things that grown-ups need to do themselves. You didn’t go into business to be someone’s lackey, did you? You can get a job for that. Just say no to work like that. It’s not the kind of thing you need to be doing in business.)
  2. You have enough of your own emails to manage to take on anyone else’s; and
  3. In-box management is drudge work that will keep you in the reeds on a daily basis, never able to get beyond the busy-ness to work on higher-value, big-picture stuff, both in your business and theirs.

This is a good example of “you don’t have to do everything to be of value” because even though in-box management isn’t something you do, the time you free up for clients by doing the other things you DO do allows them to better manage their own in-boxes.

What you can do instead is share your tips, advice, and guidance with clients on how to better manage their own in-boxes.

You could do that by writing an ezine article and/or blog post, creating an info product for purchase, putting together an instructional video or DIY email training, or perhaps do a paid online class a couple times a year.

(And by the way, inviting people to sign up to your mailing list to get any one or all of these will help you grow your list and continue to keep in touch and nurture those relationships.)

Dealing with it like that, you are providing additional value without bogging yourself down in that kind of work.

You don’t have to do everything to be of value. Let that sink in.

(If you need help finally choosing a target market, get my free tool that helps walk you through the process.)

The Real Skinny on Being a Digital Nomad

The Real Skinny on Being a Digital Nomad

This is a REALLY good article on the “digital nomad” BS, that (once again) internet marketers are trying to cash in on in recent years on by preying on the fantasies of those living in La La Land.

And I say that as someone who is about to embark on some roadtripping where I will be a semi digital nomad, and also as someone who lived in Europe while continuing to run my business.

That shit was hard!

That is, since ours is an online business, it was relatively easy technologically, but difficult from a mental, logistical, and practical standpoint.

I work MUCH better running things from my home office in the U.S. where my regular set-up and all my stuff is located and I have a regular routine and things-in-place.

I wouldn’t trade the experience of living and working in Europe for the world, but I also wouldn’t advise anyone that it’s a good idea to try to escape your life under the misguided thinking that it’s going to solve whatever you are running from.

Let me tell you, it is not all it’s cracked up to be (no matter what kind of rainbows and puppy dog tail pictures the internet marketers try to paint).

Yes, there are lots of unique experiences you can have (maybe… depending on how intrepid you are).

But it can be very difficult trying to do ACTUAL WORK FOR REAL, ACTUAL CLIENTS on the road.

A lot of the work I see many of these so-called digital nomads doing is fluff (mixed with a lot of BS).

The article has what I consider to be a very realistic, no-nonsense list of what is needed for those who might be considering the “digital nomad” life (I even detest the term; so stupid).

I’m going to venture to say that most of us fare better in our lives and businesses when we have a home-base.

I will even say that for most people, you will have more chance of success in your business if you aren’t trying to start and grow it while being essentially home-less and without the structure and stability of a steady home-base.

And you don’t have to be a “digital nomad” to travel and have life experiences.

What might be better is to build a financially solvent and successful business with smart policies, procedures, and systems in place so that you CAN pick up and travel when the urge strikes you.

Ask any traveling business or salesperson. Living out of a suitcase and hotel room (no matter how adorable that AirBnB may be) gets real old and real inconvenient fairly quickly.

Instead, think about having the best of both worlds by setting up your business smartly and profitably so that you can live and travel when and where you fancy while always having a home and community to come back to.

Have you ever thought about living and working on the road? What would be the pros and cons for you?

Interview with Danielle Keister, Founder of the Administrative Consultants Association

Interview with Danielle Keister, Founder of the Administrative Consultants Association

Last month a colleague asked for an interview with me, and I thought I would share my answers with you here as well.

Your Name:

Danielle Keister

Name of Your Business:

I am the founder of the Administrative Consultants Association (ACA), a professional organization for those running administrative support businesses. I also run my own administrative support business supporting solo attorneys who practice in the areas of business, intellectual property and entertainment law.

Years in Business:

I’ve been in business since 1997 when I officially took out my business license; longer if you want to include the years I did this work on the side informally. I originally started the organization now known as the Administrative Consultants Association (ACA) in 2005.

Q1. Tell me about starting your business. Why did you start it?

My husband died without warning in 1995, leaving me a young widow with a daughter to raise on my own. An unexpected loss like that really makes you question life and what you want out of it, how you want to live, what you want for yourself and your children, etc.: Are you living life on your own terms? How happy are you in the 9-to-5 grind? Is my child really getting the best of me if I’m tired and working all the time just to make ends meet? What kind of life am I providing for her? Is this really all there is?

I had previous forays into a few side businesses that I never really took anywhere. It was after the loss of my husband that I decided to get serious about taking the skills I had and turning them into a real business I could make a viable income from to create a better quality of life for myself and my daughter. I didn’t want to be a 9-to-5’er the rest of my life.

Q2. What is your role/job? What sort of responsibilities do you have?

I would say “job” is the wrong terminology to be using here since we are business owners, not employees. Some people may think that is pedantic, but consciously understanding the difference between employment and business ownership and having a business (not employee) mindset begins with using correct terminology.

In all my years of mentoring, what I’ve found is that those who never truly get over employee mindset and continue to work with their clients as if they were still employees don’t survive long in this business.

This is why I continue to clarify the distinction and make sure everyone I come across “gets” it. I want people to succeed in this business, which really starts with developing that all-important business sensibility.

As a solo business owner, I wear three hats: 1) I’m the CEO responsible for the development and direction of my business and making important decisions about the business; 2) I’m the manager responsible for managing all the moving parts and taking care of administration of the business; and 3) I’m the service provider — the craftsperson whose skills are the stock and trade of my business services.

Q3. What is your typical day like?

Very generally speaking, on a typical day, I wake up according to my own internal clock (I haven’t used an alarm clock in years).

Once I get up, I do a little yoga and stretching, eat, and then get cleaned up and dressed for the day. I fully admit to working in my bathrobe every once in awhile if I don’t have any plans to go anywhere that day, lol. But most of the time, leggings or long skirt with a comfy but stylish tee is how I roll.

I don’t like to rush into the day and prefer to check emails and get things sorted in my in-box as the first thing I do.

There is a lot of talk in many online places that discourage this, but I prefer the opposite and find this email clearing and organizing step much more conducive to my productivity for the rest of the day.

I then tend to dive into client work around 10 or 11 am (I always joke with people that my brain doesn’t get juiced up fully until around 11 am).

Depending on what’s on my plate for that day, I may work until between 4 and 6 pm. But it really varies, depending on the day’s workload, what priorities are in the queue, and what else I’ve got going on.

If the work in my queue gets done early, I don’t jump into the next day’s pile. I go enjoy life!

It does take discipline, though, not to fill your free time with work, work, work.

I think for most of us, our first instinct is to get as much done as quickly as we can. But that is really counterproductive and keeps you on a hamster wheel. It’s not good for you and ultimately it ends up not being good for clients.

You have to be diligent about respecting your own boundaries (which in turn trains clients to respect them as well) and give yourself lots of breathing room so you don’t burn out in this business.

At some point around noon or 1 pm I’ll knock off for lunch, maybe go somewhere to eat.

I also try to get a good walk/hike on most days (try being the operative word here lately). Depending on the weather, sometimes that’s first thing in the morning, sometimes it’s around midday, sometimes it’s later in the evening.

It really all depends, and this is the beautiful thing that I’ve created in my business: the freedom and flexibility to be able to listen to my own natural rhythms, structure my business around my life, and do what I want, when I want, while still taking great care of my clients. (I never sacrifice their needs; it’s all a matter of setting proper expectations and boundaries.)

I’ve also created what is essentially a 3-day work week (you can get my entire business management system here):

  • Mondays are my Admin Days where I take care of the admin in my own business or working on my business.
  • Tuesdays are my meeting days that I reserve for telephone meetings and appointments with clients and others.
  • Wednesday through Friday is when I do client work.

For the past few years, my life has been extra stressed caring for a sick, elderly dad. In full disclosure, I’ve really let my own self-care down. I’m beyond grateful I’ve built a business that allows me to do this for my dad, but it’s not easy and still comes with a cost that has taken a toll on me. Making my own self-care a priority again is something I wrestle with on a daily basis and am currently working to improve.

(For a more in-depth snapshot of my typical day, check out this post.)

Q4. What is the best thing about owning your own business?

As touched on above, the freedom and flexibility to live a less rushed/forced life; the ability to live according to my own natural rhythms and internal clock; and the ability to structure my business and its policies, procedures, and protocols so that I have plenty of time for life (or whatever is most important at any point in time; for me, right now, that is my dad).

I never ever want a business where I am living to work instead of working to live.

One of the things I’m always saying to my clients and colleagues is that your business should support your life, not suck the life from you. It took a lot of fits and starts, trial and error, and course correction, but I’m very proud of the business and income I’ve created today.

I also love that my daughter was able to see that self-sufficiency and determination modeled and be a part of my business journey.

Q5. What is the hardest thing about owning your own business?

Well, I’ll be frank with you: business ain’t for sissies, that’s fo sho!

I was extremely fortunate to have had some opportunities come up that gave me the financial means to take care of myself and my daughter while I started my business.

And later I was also fortunate to have a significant other to lean on during the rough spots, of which there were many, make no mistake.

It takes an extreme amount of perseverance, determination, self-motivation — and time —to get a business to a point where it’s actually solvent and sustainable and eventually profitable.

And, of course, everyone’s mileage and set of circumstances will vary. You just take advantage of everything you’ve got going for you, figure out the rest, and if you can get past all that, the rewards are amazing!

Q6. What advice do you have for someone wanting to start a business? What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started?

One of the reasons I started the ACA was to provide others with the knowledge and easier path in starting their own administrative support business that I didn’t have way back when. I did it all without knowing there were others doing what I was attempting to do.

One thing that was pivotal in my success was realizing that a secretarial service is not administrative support.

Secretarial services are project-based businesses where the person does something here and there for drive-by clients.

It’s an inherently volume-driven business, one that requires you to always be on the hunt for your next clients and projects, even while you try to complete the work in front of you.

It’s a plodding, exhausting way to try to make a living and extremely difficult to get profitable.

Once I realized that, instead of project work, I could provide administrative support being an ongoing right-hand to a handful of regular clients on a monthly basis instead of a constantly revolving door of one-time or sporadic clients and rinky-dink projects, that’s when I cracked the revenue code.

But it took me a few years to get to that realization and figure out how to structure things properly.

Now, I base all my training and business education products around that basic tenet so that others won’t waste so many months or years.

I show them how they can build a business based on retainer clients (which is where the bread-and-butter is) while still taking advantage of project work that comes along that is of interest to them (which is gravy).

Another bit of advice I have for folks is not to take shortcuts with the business startup process. Every step helps build your business mindset and sensibility.

People get impatient with the process and want to jump ahead of themselves and it’s really to their detriment and that of their clients.

I’ve seen more businesses shutter their doors because the owner didn’t put the proper foundations in place before taking on clients.

Don’t rush things. There is a little bit of back and forth involved as you figure things out, but beyond that, there is a basic step by step process involved in any business start-up. Don’t skip those parts:

  • Do the business plan.
  • Learn how your local, state and federal taxing and licensing works and what your responsibilities/obligations are.
  • Don’t take on clients before you’ve got at least a basic website up and mapped out a rudimentary set of policies, procedures and protocols. Your website is an incredibly important tool in properly educating clients about the nature of the relationship and bridging understanding so that you attract your right, most ideal clients. You will find that having something there to start with is going to be incredibly helpful in building, growing, and honing your business from there.

These are all exercises that help you create the strong foundations you need to be able to get — and keep — clients. The problems with clients and not getting the right ones happen when those things are absent.

If you were interviewing me, what other questions would you have for me? Let me know in the comments!