Archive for the ‘Virtual Assistants’ Category

Dear Danielle: We Loathe the Virtual Assistant Term. Is There Something Else We Can Call Ourselves?

Ask Danielle!Hey Danielle! Happy New Year!!

I was talking to a few friends in the Admin Support industry here in Australia today and the topic of what we call ourselves came up. Now all three of us LOATHE the virtual assistant title (so we’re on a good start here!) however in Australia, consultants (of any kind) are not viewed very favorably. Have you come across this in the US? Do you have any thoughts on a more accetable term that us Aussie admin chicks can use? Thanks heaps! —Cathy White

Ooo, I love this question. Good to hear that you all detest it as well, lol. So funny. But yeah, it’s such a counterproductive term for those who are trying to build real businesses with well-paying clients who take them seriously.

(And to be clear, I detest the term, not the people. I think the world of the people in our industry!)

When you say consultants are not viewed very favorably, it sounds like the same sentiment the general population over here has about them. Sort of along the lines of how people in general feel about attorneys.

Attorney and consultant jokes abound and “everyone” hates them… until they need one, lol.

So here’s my thing… first, I’m not trying to figure out a million different terms. We settled on Administrative Consultant a long time ago.

As a new industry, it’s helpful for us inside that industry to have one unifying term so that we can easily find our peers to create community.

However, when it comes to clients, you market with a message, not a term. You want your message to be all about the client, what you do for him and how you help improve his business and life.

What you call yourself comes after all that, simply for the purpose of giving people something to call you and categorize your business with—a mental coathook, if you will—which is very important. Psychologically, people just need that in order for there to be understanding.

At the same time, you want your term to be one that doesn’t create negative, problematic perceptions, expectations and understandings (like the VA term does) or it will defeat your purposes and make things more difficult.

As I always say, when you run a business, you aren’t anyone’s assistant. Assistant is a term of employment and when people think you are an assistant, they want to pay and treat you like one. Their perception—due to that term—is that you are a subordinate order taker, not a peer, expert and trusted advisor.

The other important thing is that you aren’t marketing to the general population so it doesn’t matter what their general opinion is of certain words/vocations.

You are marketing to business people who have a need for the solution you’re in business to provide. With a proper marketing message educating them about what you do and how you help them, they will understand the benefit and value of working with you in the same way that the clients of attorneys and consultants understand why they need them.

If everyone truly had very little opinion or need of attorneys and consultants, they wouldn’t exist. And, like I say, general opinion is simply irrelevant in our context.

I see conversations here and there where it’s clear some folks in our industry don’t understand our use of the term “consultant.” They think all consultants do is advise.

We use the term “consultant” in a hybrid sense of the word, not the traditional definition.

So what I explain to peers and prospects is that while I am first and foremost an administrative implementer providing support, as an administrative expert, I’m also in a position to give clients guidance and advice on their administrative systems, set-ups, tools and organization. That’s the advisor part of it.

Hence:  Administrative + Consultant. See?

One other thought to add… you also want to make sure you aren’t focusing solely on the “consultant” aspect. Because we aren’t consultants in that sense.

The reason I mention this is because I notice some folks naming their business/domain something like “Such and Such Consulting” or “Jane Doe Consulting.”

They are completely missing the administrative part which is THE most important information to relate, not the consultant part.

Those folks are the ones who are going to confuse their audience and make people think they are something they aren’t.

So you don’t want to use just “consulting.” You need to include “administrative” in there to provide the proper context and understanding. Otherwise, people will be confused and get the wrong idea.

Another Hypocritical Article…

Kiss My Ass

Another stupid, hypocritical article: http://www.alibrown.com/blog/2013/11/14/“5-signs-it’s-time-to-hire-an-assistant”-by-ali-brown/

If you’re going to hire an assistant, an assistant is an employee (whether they work from home or at a desk next to your office) and you better damn well expect to follow the employment laws that everyone else has to abide by— including paying taxes and not paying under the table.

If you don’t, not only are you a scofflaw, you’re a thief—stealing from those men and women their rightful wages and benefits they are due by law (i.e., Social Security, Medicare, etc.).

If you’re going to hire a professional, on the other hand, they are running a business:

1) They are not your assistants, and

2) They charge PROFESSIONAL fees.

This woman purports to be a champion for women in business—except when it comes to paying them, obviously.

No one in our industry can have a sustainable, profitable business charging a mere $20/hour. Ridiculous!

That’s an employee wage, not the fees that an independent professional charges who has done the proper business math and expects to have a sustainable, profitable business they can actually make a living from.

Someone telling your marketplace to expect those kind of fees is someone who is not in your corner. That’s someone who respects everyone but you as a business owner.

But you see where this comes from right? The term “assistant.”

When people think you are some lowly assistant (no matter how much they deny otherwise), they expect to pay you lowly wages as well.

You’re running a business, not working under the table for cheapskates who want to devalue and take advantage of you. You deserve more than that in your business and life.

Don’t you?

Want Better Clients? Do These Two Things

Want Better Clients? Do These Two ThingsWant better clients? Raise your rates.

The worst clients, the ones who create the majority of the problems, are the loudest whiners and least appreciative, are the ones who pay the lowest rates.

When you raise your fees (or simply charge properly professional fees period, not cheap employee level wages), you will get a whole other (higher) caliber of clientele.

Want better clients? Stop calling yourself a virtual assistant.

Assistant is a term of employment. And people who think you are an assistant are the ones who expect the cheapest rates.

That’s because they do not see you as an independent professional in the expertise of administration. They see you as their little “virtual worker” and expect to pay you like one.

Continuing to call yourself a virtual assistant is like calling yourself a teapot. You have keep explaining that even though you call yourself one, you aren’t one.

How much sense does that make?

Why make your conversations and relationships more difficult than they need in the first place by calling yourself:

a) something that you aren’t (and as a business owner, you aren’t anyone’s assistant), and

b) that sets all the wrong perceptions, connotations and expectations that make it harder for you to get the respect you want and the professional level fees you need?

Here’s what else happens…

When you stop calling yourself an assistant, you also begin to stop thinking like one.

It’s the beginning of a huge mindset shift that occurs and you begin to start thinking more like a business owner, administrative expert and leader in your own business.

That shift in your own self-perception and identity is what also leads you down the path to better clients and higher earning.

The Difference Between an Assistant and an Administrative Consultant

There’s a difference between an assistant and an Administrative Consultant.

An assistant is a gopher who is told to do anything and everything. Being an assistant is a role, not an expertise.

An Administrative Consultant is someone who specializes specifically in the art and expertise of administrative work.

You can tell people that you’re a business owner until you’re blue in the face and not their beck-and-call employee, but if you call yourself an assistant, people will always think of you as an assistant, consciously or subconsciously. So stop calling yourself one.

Don’t buy into the idea whatsoever that clients should be able to come to you for anything and everything. It’s utter BS in business and will bury you in muck work and rabbit holes. You’ll never be able to build a flexible, freedom-filled practice if you make yourself stuck being an assistant/gopher to clients. And I’m telling you this as someone who actually DOES this work and runs a business as an Administrative Consultant, not someone sitting in an ivory tower who hasn’t run a support business in over 15 years.

Teaching people how to be assistants except that they now work from their own office instead of sitting outside the boss’s office is not a new paradigm whatsoever.

Being an Administrative Consultant IS a new paradigm because it’s about specializing in the expertise of administrative support, not being anyone’s assistant, not being their gopher, and not being their personal valet or servant.

As an Administrative Consultant, clients come to you specifically for administrative support in the same way that they go to their lawyers for their legal expertise, their accountants for their financial expertise or their designers for their visual and technological marketing expertise.

When you run your business in this way and focus on your specific expertise, not on being anyone’s anything and everything assistant, you can command higher fees, have more freedom and flexibility and more time for your life instead of being chained to your computer.

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

Dear Danielle:

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

Hi Chrissy! Thanks so much for the question. :)

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

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

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

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

See what I mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Danielle: How Do I Transition from Virtual Assistant to Administrative Consultant?

Dear Danielle:

I’ve been following you for a long time and am a big fan of what you are doing!! I realize that after two years of “just barely” making it, that it’s time to make some changes to my business. I was considering changing to an OBM, but that doesn’t really fit what I do either. I can see that being an Administrative Consultant more clearly defines what I am and what I really want to be doing. So, how do you make the transition from a virtual assistant business to an Administrative Consultant business? MD

Rather than having this question languish any longer in my To-Do list, I thought I would do a quick video for my answer.

Okay, I knew I had more to say on this, lol.

To summarize, the quick answer is that there’s nothing complicated or involved about transitioning from virtual assistant to Administrative Consultant. You don’t need to go through anyone’s course or buy “certification” from anyone’s diploma mill. It has more to do with definition and mindset.

Obviously, just changing your title isn’t going to turn things around in your business. It’s the attendant thinking patterns and changes in self-perception (as well as the changes in perception by clients) that go along with this new way of thinking and operating an administrative support business that have the most significant impact. How you see and understand yourself greatly affects your professional self-esteem, your marketing message and how you operate and go about the process of helping clients. Those shifts in perception, even if subtle and underlying, have a HUGE direct link to your business success.

There are many problems with the virtual assistant term that have very real negative impact on people’s businesses and marketing:

  1. The word “assistant” is a term of employment. There are both legal and practical implications in using that word.
  2. It focuses on a role, rather than an expertise. And when you are in business, you aren’t anyone’s assistant and you can’t be.
  3. People using the VA term view themselves more as assistants and have a much more difficult time getting over employee mindset. Consequently, they end up operating and working with clients in employee-like ways that aren’t sustainable, that prevent them from growing and earning better, and that actually keep them from helping clients better.
  4. People only understand the word “assistant” one way—that of employee. So, potential clients come to the table right from the get-go misunderstanding the correct nature of the relationship.
  5. Every day we see examples of just how prevalent the idea is that VAs are remote employees, which is why they only expect to be paying them the same wages as an employee. This is the disconnect the word “assistant” causes in the marketplace.
  6. The word “assistant” automatically puts you in a subservient position. It’s why you have such a hard time getting clients to see and treat you as a business owner and independent professional, not their personal assistant.
  7. If you are a collaborative partner and work WITH clients, not FOR them, you are NOT an assistant. And if you are an assistant, you are not a partner.
  8. It instantly creates wrong or misaligned understandings and expectations in clients and prospects that you then have to spend time correcting and setting right.
  9. It’s a vague, generic, ambiguous term that doesn’t impart any kind of clarity or helpful, proper connotations, understandings or perceptions whatsoever. It actually creates more  difficulty in your marketing, consultations and conversations overall.
  10. The VA term has become the generic, garbage dump term for anyone doing anything and everything. It has absolutely no meaning or definition. It’s why clients constantly come to the table thinking you are going to be their do-anything-and-everything-at-my-beck-and-call assistant. That’s a big problem because when that’s the perception, people only see you as a gopher. And people do not expect to pay someone they view as merely a gopher or lackey the “big bucks.”
  11. The VA industry has become branded as the cheap labor pool of flunkies, and this is the expectation it is setting out there in the marketplace. This makes your job marketing your business and expecting to be paid as a professional doubly difficult because it is juxaposed against everything prospects have overarchingly come to associate with the term. Why align with a term that only makes it that much more difficult to attract properly educated, well-paying clients to your business?

So, when it comes to definition, what we’re saying is that administrative support as a business is a specific expertise and specialization in and of itself, not a role. It’s also not “anyone doing anything and everything.” It is a very clear and distinct category of business. If you are specifically in business to provide the art and expertise of ongoing administrative support, you and your business are better served marketing-wise and income-earning wise by using the term of Administrative Consultant.

There are entirely different connotations and mindsets created when you use the term Administrative Consultant, for you and your clients. This has huge positive impacts on your view of yourself (“I’m an expert in the art of administrative support. I’m not some mere assistant; I have EXPERTISE!”) that will show up in your marketing and how it creates more positive and aligned understandings and expectations in clients. AND because they aren’t seeing you as merely an assistant, but someone with real and specific expertise, they are much more willing (and even expect) to pay professional level fees.

I hope that helps provide some clarity to things for you! Feel free to keep the conversation going in the comments. :)

Last Chance: This Price Ends Forever at Midnight Tonight

Just a quick reminder that today is your last chance to get huge savings at the Success Store. Purchase The Whole Shebang by midnight tonight and get it for $100 off automatically (for a total savings of $327). New products are being added soon and I will never again be offering our complete business foundations and systems at this price.

Check it out and see everything that’s included!

What’s In a Name, You Ask?

It’s interesting how many administrative assistants are confused about the difference between them and a Virtual Assistant. Someone sent me something from some administrative assistants listserv (those who are working in jobs) and it’s very clear they do not understand that a VA is NOT someone who is telecommuting, but is in business. They don’t seem to understand that an administrative assistant and a VA are not the same thing whatsoever.

Here again, this is due in large part to the vague and idiotic “virtual assistant” term. People who are running businesses are not assistants, much less employees. They are providing a professional service, and the way they operate and work with clients is by necessity very different from how one provides administrative support as an employee.

This mass delusion and confusion never ceases to astonish me. And underscores the point that words educate (or miseducate, as the case may be), and that’s why what you call yourself is important to your marketing and educating of clients. It is either going to set a tone for the right understandings, expectations and preconceptions or it will do the opposite.

Ignore the morons out there who are always shrilling about “it’s the name of the industry” blah blah blah. Your business and marketing has nothing to do with that at all. It’s about positioning and how you want your market to view you. Do you want to be viewed as an assistant and gopher who they think should be at their beck and call and doing whatever they throw at you (and expect to pay you peanuts for at the same time), or do you want the kind of clients who clearly understand the expertise you are in business to provide, view you as a skilled professional and administrative expert who can really help them improve their businesses, and therefore are more willing to pay for that valuble support and expertise?

If so, then you must understand that this is about shaping perceptions, expectations and understandings and positioning yourself as an expert, not a gopher.

By the way, the morons out there shouting that are the also the ones who don’t know how to do it any differently. ;) And listening to people like that is keeping you in the poorhouse. Let them keep their idiotic industry. Worry about the financial wealth and success of your own business.

Consider this, too…

How many times have you followed a coach or business expert and all their business building and financial success advice seems to apply to everyone–until it comes time to pay their VAs. It’s such a clear example of how they devalue VAs because they don’t put them on the same level as other business professionals and expertse.

And guess why? Guess who did that to you? Yup, the “industry.” That’s because it has  branded itself as the cheap labor pool of flunkies and gophers… as assistants, not experts.

The industry at large is not doing you any favors whatsoever. So who cares if “the industry” wants to be called “virtual assistants.” That doesn’t mean you have to call yourself that if you want to do better financially in business and attract better clients, clients who aren’t cheapskates, clients who happily pay, clients who “get it” and view you as important to them and their business as their attorney and their accountant and their web designer, etc.

See, the “industry” has spoiled those people and certain marketplaces. They have been trained to think they are getting what basically amounts to employees they don’t pay taxes on.

But if you want to do better financially in your business, not to mention to actually create a business and not merely a telecommuting job, you have got to do things differently. And that really does start with what you call yourself because it affects not only their perceptions and understandings, but your perceptions about yourself as well.

You Are Not an Assistant

From both a legal and practical standpoint, the fact is when you are in business, you are not anyone’s assistant.

The term “assistant” is a term of employment, not business, and shouldn’t ever be used in your business relationships and conversations.

When you stop calling yourself an assistant, you’ll get less pushback from clients when it comes to your fees.

People automatically equate “assistant” with employment. So when you call yourself an assistant, you predispose clients to balking at your fees because they don’t understand why they would pay you more than they would any other in-house employee/assistant.

You can talk until you’re blue in the face about your standards and boundaries and that you are a biz owner, that you have your own taxes and expenses to pay, yada yada yada–but you negate all of that when you call yourself an assistant.

It’s all about positioning and using the right words to pre-set proper expectations and mindsets–all for vastly easier conversations and more successful relationships with clients. You’ll always have more problems when you call yourself an assistant.

When you frame yourself instead as an expert in the art of administrative support, it’s a whole other ballgame. People EXPECT to pay experts professional fees. Instead of looking at you as an employee they don’t pay taxes on, they view you as a professional who is hired for a particular expertise that will help them meet a solve, solve a problem and move forward and improve their businesses–in our case, that’s the expertise of administrative support and guidance.

Another reason to stop calling yourself an assistant is to reduce the likelihood of the IRS (or your country’s similar governing agency) determining you are an employee and going after the client for back taxes and penalties for misclassification of employees.

This is one of the many, many reasons we as an organization moved to the term Administrative Consultant.

If you’re not comfortable with the word “consultant,” call yourself an administrative partner or administrative expert or administrative specialist… ANYTHING but assistant.

Help! I Would Have No Clients If I Didn’t Rollover Hours

I’m holding a class on Consultations that Convert! on October 25 & 26, 2011. One participant writes:

“My consults seem to go great, but they are not resulting in actually getting the client. I struggle with actually asking for their business. I leave them to think about it, no pressure. I would like to learn how to effectively ask for business and how to fill my practice with more monthly paying clients rather than hourly. This has been a long-running isue in my business. Making this type of transition has been very difficult for me. It’s been a struggle to find clients who are willing to pay my rates. I have several clients who prefer my model of hourly rates in which unused hours rollover. If I didn’t offer this, I would like have no clients. The rollover model has been most appealing to clients, but I have to continue to seek out new clients just to make my expenses each month.”

There are two things going on here:

  1. You are telling yourself a self-fulfilling prophesy–that you would have no clients if you didn’t rollover hours. But the problem isn’t that clients wouldn’t retain you if you didn’t rollover hours–the problem is in how you framing your fees in your conversation with them. I can just about guarantee that the way you are talking about fees, you are selling hours to clients instead of the value and results you will bring to their business. We need to change your message and how and when you are talking about fees and that’s going to change the game for you entirely.
  2. The other thing that’s going on, as you recognize, is how you are following up (or not, as the case may be). We are going to delve deep into this during the class. There are definitely specific steps you should be taking upon conclusion of your consultations and we’re going to cover those in class. You may be surprised to know that there are also certain things you need to be doing before a client ever contacts you that will definitely affect your success in following up and getting the client’s business.

If you struggle with similar issues in your business when it comes to consultations, I invite you to join us for my Consultations that Convert class on October 25 & 25. It’s gonna be a lot of fun AND most importantly, you’re going to learn LARGE. Love to have you there!

PS: Since we still have seats left, I’m going to extend the registration deadline to October 21, which means there’s still time for you to join us!