Archive for the ‘The Portable Business Ezine’ Category

Trust and Confidence: Are Your Potential Clients Feeling It?

Trust and Confidence: Are Your Potential Clients Feeling It?

Here’s what you have to always remember about clients looking to hire you: They don’t know you.

You know you, but they don’t know you.

Sure, they might have seen something you wrote–an article or a post on a forum, perhaps–and had their interest piqued.

Or they were given your name by someone they know and whose opinion they value.

But other than that, they don’t really know you.

And so they are nervous, understandably.

It’s a big commitment to decide to work with a business they don’t know.

They have a lot riding on the line. They have a challenge to solve or need to make their business run easier. They dread having to start all over again with someone new and want to make sure their decision is the right one.

This is why they are always looking for evidence.

They want to see clues that demonstrate you actually may be every bit as great at what you do as you say you are.

They want to feel trust and confidence.

So how do you do that? How do you help instill the trust and confidence potential clients are yearning for?

It’s surprisingly simple:

  1. Present a website that demonstrates your competence. What does that mean? Here’s an example: If you say you’re the grammar queen, but your site is littered with misspellings and incorrect punctuation, you can forget about clients thinking you are any good at what you do. No matter what you say you are, it must be backed up visually and in practical demonstration. Even if the thing you do for a living has absolutely nothing to do with spelling, writing or typing, people still buy with their eyes (an analogy coined by Harry Beckwith). They will directly correlate the professionalism and competence of your website (and other marketing collateral) with your actual skills and qualifications for the thing you are in business to do. It all has to match. It’s called walking the talk and looking the part.
  2. Present a website that shows you care. When you care about the presentation of your own website, you are telling your site visitors that you take pride in what you do (a pride-filled service provider is a MUCH better service provider) and that you are invested in their business and the work you want to do for them. Soooo many people think this isn’t important, but it is actually one of the most important things you can do to instill trust, confidence and rapport. If your site shows a lack of effort, if it’s sloppy and lacks any originality whatsoever, what gets communicated is that you are someone who will only exert the least amount of effort possible. That’s not very inspiring, is it?
  3. Give them someone to connect with. Whether you are a solo or the head of a big company, people do business with people. Put your name and face up there prominently so they know who is talking and they have someone to relate to. It’s an instant rapport builder and will make them feel so much safer and more comfortable.
  4. Speak and write like a real person. Corporatespeak is soooo over. Please know I say this in the most loving way, but you really gotta take the stick out of your arse and be a human being! Stop with all the pretensions and being so stiff, formal and uptight. Speak directly to your site visitor as a person, as if you were in a real conversation with him or her. Do this in your writing and in your recordings and videos. Look in their eyes and smile. Let your words be warm and human.
  5. Talk about them, not you. Sure, there’s going to be a sprinkling of “I” and “we” in there, but overall you should be talking about your ideal client and his/her goals, challenges and objectives and what you can do for them. Your copy should mostly be using the words “you” and “your.” If it’s not, go in there right now and turn those sentences around.

CHALLENGE: Today, go through your website. Fix typos and misspellings. Ask someone else to proof. Reword your sentences to focus on “you” and “your.” Make sure all your graphics are rendering correctly and fix any sizing that make them appear wonky. Double-check that all links are active and go to the right pages. A site that is checked and updated regularly is a site that will instill trust and credibility in clients.

(This post originally appeared in The Portable Business ezine on November 22, 2010.)

How to Get Yourself UN-Stuck Creatively

This is an article originally published Oct. 12, 2009, in our old ezine, The Portable Business. Hope it helps you get your mojo back if you’re feeling stuck creatively or productively!

Ever run into a roadblock where you just can’t move forward?

You’re humming along on a project and then, bam—you’re stuck. Big brick wall.

You can’t figure a problem out, you’re not sure what the next step is, or your well of creativity seems to have suddenly run dry. Yeah, happens all the time to (literally) everyone.

Finding yourself in that place can be completely frustrating and stressful, especially when you’re really excited to release the work into the world (not to mention possibly being on that impractical little thing called a deadline).

But never fear, as I always say! Here are some tricks you can pull out that will have you unstuck in no time.

1. Do something else. Take a break from the task that has you stuck and focus your attention on another project entirely, especially if it’s one you can finish without any stumbling blocks. Sometimes the satisfaction of successfully completing something is enough to get your mojo flowing again.

2. Change your scenery
. Sometimes when I get stuck, it’s because I’ve accumulated too much clutter or disarray. That kind of thing can niggle at you, taking up mental space and zapping energy. What helps is taking time out to straighten things up, bring in some fresh flowers and open the windows. Or heck, just get out of the office all together and go sit at a cafe.

3. Go for a walk. Doesn’t matter what the weather is—a jaunt with umbrella and galoshes can be just as fun and invigorating as one in the sun. The point is to get out in the fresh air and get your blood moving.

4. Get someone else’s input. Two heads are often better than one. Ask a mentor or colleague to help you brainstorm or bounce ideas around. A fresh set of eyes can help you see something in a new light or that which may have been in front of you the whole time.

5. Read something inspirational
. Are there books or magazines that never fail to get you pumped? Go hang out with them for a bit.

6. Sleep on it. Sometimes just putting the project to bed for the night does wonders. It’s amazing how often a brilliant new idea or the solution to a vexing problem will appear to you in the light of a new day. One of my little tricks is to tell myself right before shutting my eyes, “Okay, let’s think on this tonight and have a solution in the morning.” It really works!

7. Trust
. Don’t be fooled. You can’t force or rush creativity. It’s controlled by magical forces that only deign to let us harness them at their whim. So try to relax and comfort yourself with the fact your muse will return precisely when and where it is supposed to. And it will, trust me. You just need a bit of faith and patience sometimes. ;)

RESOURCE: I haven’t read it myself, but I have heard so many great things over the years about the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It offers techniques for overcoming writer’s block that thousands of devotees swear by.

How to Name Your Business for Success

Business naming is an area we’ve all struggled with. Perhaps you are in start-up stages yourself and are completely frustrated with where to even begin. So I thought I would round up some advice from a few smart experts, including myself, to give you some much-needed direction.

I love Guy Kawasaki’s down-to-earth, tell-it-like-it-is style (plus, I think he’s a cutie-pie to boot). In his book, The Art of the Start, he advises never to compromise on your business name–it’s that important and will make your positioning much easier. A few of his tips include:

  • Have a first initial that’s early in the alphabet.
  • Avoid numbers.
  • Pick a name with “verb potential.”
  • Sound different.
  • Sound logical.
  • Avoid the trendy (and cutesy).

All great advice. Personally, while I think choosing a name with an initial early in the alphabet can provide some advantages, they are more incidental in the scheme of things. The person who learns how to market and create her own pipelines will never suffer because her business name doesn’t start with the letter “A.”

Harry Beckwith is a marketing expert I can’t get enough of. I have read everything he’s ever written (and you should, too). In his books, Selling the Invisible and The Invisible Touch, he offers some business naming advice we’d all do well to heed:

  • Give your service a name, not a monogram. What he means by this is that people don’t remember acronyms (monograms). They have no memorability because they have “no spirit, no message, no promise, no warmth, and no humanity.”
  • Pick something that stands out. Generic names encourage generic business.
  • Never choose a name that describes something everyone expects from the service. The name will be generic, forgettable and meaningless. Example: Quality Cleaners. Duh, you wouldn’t go to a business named Crappy Cleaners. However, “quality” is such a basic expectation, you’re not saying anything distinctive or memorable by using that word. Plus, with everyone and their brother using “Quality,” you will only blend in with the crowd, which is what your business DOESN’T need to do.
  • Be distinctive and sound it. The mind best remembers names that are unique, sensory, creative and outstanding. An ordinary name implies an ordinary business.
  • Look for a name that people can see, smell, taste, feel or hear (or all four). Names with exceptional memorability are sensory and engage four of the five senses.
  • Start with your own. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with putting your own name on the business.
  • Look for a name that makes the prospect, not you, sound important.
  • Say the name out loud. If it doesn’t roll off the tongue easily or has unintended pronunciations or connotations, rethink things. It should also be easy to spell.
  • Keep it short. It should be no more than eleven letters or four syllables max.

What I will add to all this great advice:

Forget about clever/tricky spellings. It doesn’t make you distinctive. It just makes it hard for clients to find your site or look you up online because they can’t for the life of them figure out how you spelled your biz name.

2. Make it legal. That is, do your due diligence and make sure you do not choose a name (or version of a name) that another company in your industry is already using. It’s just asking for trouble and will cause ill will within your professional community. It’s a really, really, really bad idea.

And don’t argue with this advice. Whatever you think you know about the law when it comes to this, I guarantee ya, you don’t. The best thing you can do for yourself is operate under the assumption that your colleague’s business is as important to them as yours is to you. They have every right under the law to go after you, in whatever way they see fit, if you infringe upon their established trade name. That’s their livelihood after all. You wouldn’t want someone doing that to you, right? You remember what they say about “do unto others,” don’t you? 😉

So here’s what you can do, once you find a name you like, to ensure you are not infringing on anyone else in your industry:

  1. Conduct a search in your industry directories. Make sure no one else is using the same or similar name already.
  2. Conduct a search for the name (or the predominant unique identifier) in several different search engines. Use Google, MSN, Yahoo, Chrome and any others you might think of. Better to be thorough now than sorry later. Example: If you want to use “Dizzy Admin Support,” you should search for “Dizzy Admin,” “Dizzy Administration, “Dizzy Administrative,”“Dizzy Business Support,” etc. If someone else in our industry is already using “Dizzy” in their name, forget about using that word.
  3. Search the USPTO.gov Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). Check to see that no one else is already using the same or similar trade name. Bear in mind that while federally registered trade names have even further protections and recourse, a name does not have to be registered there to be protected. Changing a letter or word is not going to help you if the name can be considered to be substantially the same and/or would still create confusion.

RESOURCE: All the books and authors mentioned can be found on Amazon.com and I HIGHLY recommend you get them–today. As a business owner, it is also imperative you educate yourself about copyright and trade marks. USPTO.gov is a perfect place to start. And having a good Intellectual Property lawyer on your team of professional advisers is always a good idea.

Setting Policies for Responsive (and Manageable) Communication Flows

Everyone talks about providing clients with great service. But think about it… if you are interrupting your train of thought to jump the second the phone rings, how great is it for that client whose important work you just interrupted? So for practical purposes in figuring out how you can actually provide great service to client–smoothly and consistently–you begin to realize that you have to be more intentional about your policies and procedures for communication. These are the things that make things manageable in your business. Because if they aren’t manageable for you, then your quality of work and service to clients becomes compromised and unmanageable as well. And that’s not good business or service.

It’s true to a certain extent that you may lose some prospects by not getting back to them right away. At the same time, you’d never get any work done if you answered every call the second the phone rang. It’s crazy-making to even try. As with most things, instituting smart policies and procedures in your business will help you improve your response times and communications. Following are a few tips to make things more manageable:

  1. Establish communication policies. Set a standard for responding to inquiries (e.g., “within 24 hours”). Decide which inquiries get priority attention (e.g., clients or prospective clients).
  2. Post your office hours and response protocols. Tell folks, on your website and in your voicemails, what days your office is “open” and how soon they may expect your return email or call.
  3. Require clients to follow certain procedures. While it might seem like letting clients call you for anything and everything at any time is great service, doing so will actually create conditions in your business that lead to poor performance and quality of service. To be successful, you need to have some protocols that let you manage work and communication well in your business. Don’t be afraid to tell clients how work requests must be submitted (e.g., you might require that they be submitted in writing by email only) or that phone calls and meetings are done by appointment.
  4. Get a receptionist. If you worry that a happy, informative Voicemail message isn’t enough, but still need uninterrupted concentration time to get work done, you can hire a live Virtual Receptionist service like Ruby Receptionists.
  5. Map out a process for qualifying inquiries. There are lots of ways your website can do this work for you so you can reduce the time you spend on unnecessary calls and emails. You can design your website so that visitors are guided toward one action (e.g., submitting a form to schedule a consultation). If you prefer one method of contact over another, emphasize that method and make it the most visible and prominent. Another way to pre-qualify clients is to have them complete an online form that will help you determine if someone meets your minimum criteria for an ideal client and what your next steps should be with that person. In your Voicemail message, ask callers to be sure and visit your website (if they haven’t yet) and give them the url.

Remember, in order to give great service you have to set foundations (policies, standards, protocols, workflows) in your business that enable you to do that consistently and sustainably.

Giving Is Good Therapy

Being in business is one of the most thrilling, self-actualizing, independance-building rides you’ll ever experience.

Being a business owner can also be one of the most stressful “jobs” you can have when success or failure is completely on your own shoulders.

Women, I believe, have it especially tough. Being the natural-born givers and nurturers that they are, they will often bargain with their value in business—giving freebies, giving discounts… giving, giving, doing and doing until they have nothing left for themselves.

Healthy giving starts with taking care of ourselves first in business. It’s especially smart to never bargain with our value by giving away the very products and services that are the lifeblood of our business existence. So what can those who have the giving gene do that won’t be detrimental to their business health? Lots!

  1. Keep your business out of it. Let’s face it, giving and doing for others just feels great! But that doesn’t mean your giving needs to be in the context of business. Respect the value of your products and services. Save your giving for non-business activities and ways that don’t have you working for free and bargaining away the value of your products and services. As Suze Orman says, “YOU are not on sale!”
  2. Success affords you more to give. Remember, the more successful your business, the more you will be able to give via those other avenues without devaluing or sacrificing the things that earn your living.
  3. Give a gift. Send someone an online gift certificate. Have a coffee or flowers delivered. For no special reason other than to make someone’s day and let them know that someone (you!) is thinking of them and appreciates them.
  4. Do a favor. Know someone who is more harried than usual? If time is something you have to give, offer to run some errands for them. Or maybe you’re a closet chef. Why not send over a home-cooked meal for their family one night?
  5. Say something nice to someone. Acknowledge a trait, talent or effort you appreciate about someone. Tell those who have helped you how much their knowledge and support mean to you. Who knows, they might just really need to hear it that day. Better yet, say it publicly if at all possible so more people can chime in. We can all use those atta-boys and atta-girls whenever and wherever we can get them!
  6. Volunteer at a charitable organization or community service agency. Many run on a shoestring and will appreciate any effort you can give.
  7. Give year-round. Don’t wait until the holidays to help those less fortunate. Your local agencies and churches will be full of ideas about ways you can give or be involved in making a real, meaningful difference in someone’s life.

Create More Desk Space with These Organizing Tips

Piles aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

As long as you are managing them (and not the other way around), they can actually be quite useful.

But if you find that they are impeding your progress instead of supporting it… if you are constantly working around your piles instead of with them, it’s time to gain the upper hand.

First Things First

  • Understand why you pile. Is your workspace really working for you? Do you need a larger area or more storage? A bigger or more efficient desk? Is it a case of needing more consistent, effective habits? Is there something going on in the business that is causing you to drag your feet? Identifying some of the root needs will tell you what your next steps should be.

Create More Workspace

  • Utilize closet storage to keep clutter you don’t need or use every day (such as office supplies) out of eyesight.
  • Install shelving to get books and other resources off your desk.
  • Use binders to group and store certain hardcopy information that can then be shelved.
  • Use stack trays. Assign each slot a particular category of information (e.g., by client or project). Instead of taking up several spots across your desk, you are making more use of vertical air space.
  • Get some wall slots. These are perfect as to-do bins, “In” boxes, or storing active client files. I happen to use magnetic ones that I place on each side of my lateral file drawer. Makes great use of space that would otherwise go unused.
  • Add more drawers. If your desk doesn’t have built in drawers, buy a roll-away file drawer. Drawer space is particularly handy for tickler systems and keeping supplies and info you need regularly at your fingertips, but out of the way.
  • Write on the wall. Well, not literally. But whiteboards and chalkboards (I use a glass whiteboard myself) are great for instantly capturing those ideas and to-dos that flitter across your mind. Once completed, you simply wipe them off. A sure-fire cure for post-it clutter.

Instill More Productive Habits

  • Put things away. Everything should have a place of its own. When you are done with something, put it back, if not right then, at least by the end of the day. Make this a habit.
  • Observe the rule of “3.” When you start to create that fourth pile, you know it’s time to stop, regroup and clear out the clutter. Piles should be a productivity tool, not a default.
  • Reserve piles for active projects. These piles might be comprised of any amount of paperwork, notebooks, reference books, etc., and sorted by project. Piles you aren’t actively engaged with need to be dealt with and dispersed.
  • Don’t let Shiny Object Syndrome get the best of you. By all means, indulge those creative, entrepreneurial ideas. Store them in a hardcopy or online notebook. But better to finish existing projects first than to start new ones that will only add to your piles, overwhelm and inertia. Completion creates a positive forward momentum in and of itself.
  • Use a tickler system. This is a set of hanging file folders numbered 1-31 (one for each day of a month). A ton of desktop paper clutter can be reduced and better managed with this system. Each morning, check that day’s folder. Keep out the work you can do that day. Move any work you can’t forward into the next day’s folder. Store notes and papers with dates and deadlines in the corresponding numbered folders. When that date rolls around, you have everything right there in the folder ready to go.

RESOURCE: Aesthetics are very important to me in my surroundings. I love See Jane Work because they get that business and organization can be both functional and stylish. They always have a large and ever-new selection of binders and desk sets in fashionable colors and designs.

Continuity Is the Name of the Game

Here’s an article I wrote for clients and published today in The Portable Business™. 

Administrative Consulting is all about continuity, where ongoing administrative support is the name of the game (“ongoing” being the operative word here).

Administration isn’t a project.

It’s not something that is done once and presto! you’re done.

Administrative support is a collective group of ongoing tasks, functions and roles that keep your business organized and running smoothly.

This is precisely what separates administrative support from piecemeal secretarial services.

Said another way, administrative support is a relationship.

In order for it to work — indeed, for the magic to happen — it requires the active participation of both client and Administrative Consultant.

This means you, the client, are an integral part of the equation. If you are absent from the relationship, it won’t work and you will end up dissatisfied.

Here are three vital ingredients you must bring to the table to ensure you get to experience the most fruitful and rewarding aspects of working with an Administrative Consultant:

  1. Show up and be present. Your participation is necessary. An Administrative Consultant cannot care more about your business than you do. If you disappear for long periods of time and then all of a sudden show up with a flurry of requests you need done “like yesterday,” well, that just isn’t going to work. An Administrative Consultant has other clients to serve who are just as important as you. Don’t expect her to drop everything and disregard her previously scheduled work and commitments; you’ll have to wait your turn.
  2. No dumping. I’m not going to beat around the bush here. Administrative support is not about dumping everything in a heap on your Administrative Consultant and walking away, leaving her with a mess to sort out. Every Administrative Consultant has her own work request methods and management systems. You will be required to follow whatever her process or procedure is for submitting work so that it can be managed effectively and accomplished in the most timely manner possible in a way that is fair and consistent for all her clients.\
  3. Be respectful. An Administrative Consultant is not your hired help. She is an administrative expert and collaborative partner. Business owners who can’t extend common courtesy and mutual respect are not a good fit for working with a Virtual Assistant. You show your respect by:
  • Paying on time without any hassles;
  • Making your meetings and appointments with your Administrative Consultant a priority, showing up prepared, and canceling with appropriate (not last second) notice when you can’t;
  • Answering her questions and returning your feedback and input in a timely manner; and
  • Observing the policies and procedures she has in place that allow her to give great customer service to her clients (all of them, not just you) and make her business (and yours) run smoothly.

RESOURCE: For more information on having a successful relationship with an Administrative Consultant, be sure to check out our free online client guide guide: A Client’s Guide for Getting Your Business Relationship with an Administrative Consultant Off to the Best Start

Put It on Autopilot

So much to do, so little time to do it. That’s business, right?

We could work 24 hours a day if we let ourselves. There’s always something else to do.

What if you’re looking to see more of life beyond your desk and computer screen, though?

It’s time, then, to automate and streamline a few things…

  1. Use your calendar. Schedule all that can be scheduled. Don’t take meetings on the fly. Follow a basic routine and honor the boundaries you’ve set for your time such as stepping away from the business and into family time at a certain point in the day. It’s much easier to prioritize your work (and your life) when you’ve got control over what’s on your plate.
  2. Organize incoming emails. Utilize whatever tools are provided by your email client to the fullest. If you use Outlook, make use of flags and rules. You can set things up so that emails go straight into particular folders. It’s much easier (and less overwhelming) to sort through and prioritize messages when they’re already organized for you.
  3. Automate your bills. If you have recurring bills each month, set them up on autopay. Whenever possible, pay annually—you may even save a chunk of change that way as well. For other bills, take advantage of the ease and convenience of online Bill Pay, which comes with most checking accounts these days. It will save you the steps and cost of writing checks, addressing envelopes and paying for stamps.
  4. Use an RSS reader. Blog-reading is a great way to expand your business knowledge and keep up with your target market and industry info (not to mention a nice distraction when you need a mental break now and then). But it can also easily turn into a full-time job trying to keep up with all of them. Instead, use an RSS reader to organize all of your blog reading (my favorite is NewsBlur). You can create categories or sort blogs by importance. Tip: Schedule your blog reading into your routine so that you don’t miss a thing, but aren’t being wasteful with your time and energy reserves.
  5. Set your listserv subscriptions to digest mode. Instead of a constant incoming stream of (often irrelevant) messages that you have to spend time deleting, elect digest mode instead. You’ll save time and the threads will come to you already organized. You can then click on just those conversations you’re interested and ignore the rest.
  6. Use a tickler file. This is a system where you have 31 folders representing all the possible days in a month. This is a great way to organize to-do’s and clear paper clutter from your desk. This will free your mind from worrying about anything that isn’t in that particular day’s folder. Weren’t able to take care of something that day? No problem; simply move it forward to the next appropriate day’s folder. TIP: You can do this in your email client as well. Simply set up folders for each day of the week and move messages and to-dos around accordingly.

© Copyright 2009 by Danielle Keister for the Administrative Consultants Association. You are granted permission to republish this article only if used without alteration in its entirety with this copyright notice, title, article content, resource, and links intact.

But I Only Need These Little Things Done

"But I only need these little things done..."

One of the things we in the administrative support business often hear from clients is some variation of the theme on why they keep trying to do everything themselves in their businesses:

“But I only need these little things done… they don’t take much time or effort or skill.”

“It’s just as easy for me to do it.”

“In the time it takes to me to email it, I could have gotten it done already.”

But here’s the thing… all those tiny moments can and do add up to huge chunks of time and energy — resources that are better spent building your business.

You see, the value in having an ongoing administrative support relationship with an Administrative Consultant isn’t in the tasks per se. It’s in what that Administrative Consultant’s support allows you to achieve and accomplish because you aren’t spending your own time laboring over details and implementation.

Think about it.

When you expend your time and effort on the “little things,” you are chipping away at those vital resources you need to tap into your creativity and stay focused and energized.

If you fritter those things away, you won’t have any left to spare. Ideas and products you’ve been meaning to get to languish forever on the back burner.

Plus, all those “little things” take up space in your head. They crowd out ideas and dilute the mental energy you need to take action.

By the time you get done taking care of them, you may not have anything left for the more important stuff.

You give away your critical thinking and brain space by trying to do it all yourself.

Don’t hang on to the “little things” because it’s “easier.”

It doesn’t matter how hard or how easy they may be. The point is to give them away so that you can move forward.

What are you trying to achieve in your business? Where do you want to focus your time and energy? What work or projects are you trying to get done?

The act of giving away the “little things” (along with big things, for that matter) can mean all the difference in (for example) whether or not you are able to work with x number of additional clients per month, create those new passive income streams, complete that program that will represent $x more in additional revenues, or write that new book that will generate more publicity, establish authority in your field and increase your expert status.

And the greatest thing about all this is that you don’t have to remain a prisoner to this thinking.

An Administrative Consultant can unshackle you from your administrative burdens. All you have to do is let go. It really will set you free to soar in your business.

RESOURCE: For more about what you can gain by working with an Administrative Consultant, be sure and read the ACA Client Guide article, “The Benefits of Support: Why Getting Administrative Support is Critical to Your Business Success.”

© Copyright 2009 by Danielle Keister for the Administrative Consultants Association. You are granted permission to republish this article only if used without alteration in its entirety with this copyright notice, title, article content, resource, and links intact.

How to Turn Business Slow-Down into Opportunity

Business ebbs and flows for all kinds of reasons: seasonal fluctuations, industry shifts, client departures, to name a few.

If you’re currently experiencing a business slow-down, don’t panic. It’s the normal cycle of things. A slow-down can actually be a great opportunity to improve your business and make it stronger and more purposeful moving forward.

Here are some of the actions you can take to leverage the gift of extra time:

Processes & Policies

  • Systemize your processes. For each process in your business, map out the details step-by-step. Besides being a great start on that SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) manual you’ve been meaning to get done forever, the act of diagramming your operations and workflow helps ferret out gaps and inefficiencies you can then fix.
  • Automate repetitive steps. What actions or steps are always the same in a process or workflow? What questions do you answer over and over? What software or online service can be used to manage and deliver certain functions? The idea is to formalize in writing and consolidate with tools so you aren’t starting from scratch or reinventing the wheel every time. Creating an FAQ (frequently asked questions) that you can email to clients in PDF format or direct them to on your website is an example of automation. Using an autoresponder service to grow your mailing list and deliver scheduled follow-up messages automatically is another example.
  • Switch to upfront payments. You don’t do yourself or your clients any favors allowing them to get into debit with you. By moving to advance fees, your cashflow is immediately improved, administration goes down (because you aren’t dealing with payment terms, collection hassles and chasing down monies due), and clients know what to expect and when and can budget accordingly. (Better yet, get them on auto-pay!)
  • Stop billing by the hour. You limit your earning potential when you base your fees on time. Focus on value and results instead (how you improve your clients’ circumstances and what they gain from working with you). Update your support around packages of bundled value, not hours. This way, you won’t be cheating yourself out of being paid for the results and expertise you deliver just because it doesn’t take you as long to get things done.

Clients

  • Clean house by showing bad clients the door. Constant complainers, nit-pickers, late-payers, non-payers, clients who just don’t get it, anyone you dread hearing from or working with… These kinds of clients are unprofitable and cost your business far more than you realize. You have to let go of poor-fitting clients in order to make room and have more time and energy for your ideal, right-fitting ones.
  • Get feedback from your clients. Make a point of soliciting feedback from all your clients on their opinions and experiences working with you. Use a tool to collect client feedback (they’re more likely to be candid). Besides being a great way to capture testimonials and case study details, you’ll also glean invaluable insight into what clients value most and where you can adjust and improve. Be sure to incorporate regular feedback into your client relations as an automatic part of your process.
  • Get to know your target market better. Invite someone to lunch (you pay) and pick their brain about their field/industry/profession and the business they’re in. Find some folks in your target market to interview over the phone. Put an online survey on your website. The point is to always be learning about your target market, what they want, and what their common interests, goals and challenges are so you can craft your solutions to better fit their needs and speak their language.
  • Explore a new target market. If your current target market isn’t floating your boat or is otherwise not turning out to be a profitable path, it’s time to find one more suitable. Just remember that a viable target market must have a need for what you’re in business to do, able to afford you, and be easily found (online and off) so there’s enough of them to find easily (online and off) and work with.

Offerings & Marketing

  • Innovate for your best/current clients. It’s been said that catering to existing clients costs 11 times less than it does to drum up new ones. So ask yourself… are your current clients aware of all the skills, support areas and services they could be taking advantage of that you offer? Do you see a consistent need within your current client-base and market that you can create new offerings around? How can you hone your current offerings to create even more value?
  • Write at least one awesome freebie white paper/report/guide/tool. Create something that addresses a specific problem or question your target market has and allow it to be disseminated freely around the internet. It’s called viral-marketing and it’s a fabulous way to get the word out and demonstrate your expertise, understanding and know-how.
  • Create new and/or passive income streams. You know your target market. What information can you bundle up for them? What simple, stand-alone services can you offer them separately? What DIY instructions or training can you create for those you can’t work with directly or who otherwise aren’t ready to commit to your premium one-on-one retained support?
  • Devise a simple marketing plan. Consistency is key. Focus on just two or three activities and then commit to taking action, following up and tracking results.

Invest in Yourself

  • Brush up or learn something new. Now is a great time to take that class you’ve been putting off. Increasing your knowledge, updating your skills and learning new ones is always smart business.
  • It’s a no brainer — hire your own Administrative Consultant! An Administrative Consultant can take on much of your back-end administrative work and help you implement all of the ideas on this list. You’ll then have more time to do more marketing and networking, strategizing, working with clients and enjoying life.

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Any of these ideas get you fired up? Have some to add? Do share!