Archive for the ‘Virtual Assistants’ Category

A Brief History of the Administrative Support Business

A Brief History of the Administrative Support BUSINESS

A while back, one of my new-at-the-time colleagues asked me this question:

I guess I’m too new to the industry so I’m lost with the concept “team VA” or “multi-team VA.” And “partnering with clients?” It sounds interesting though, could you define for the benefit of the clueless (me)? Thanks!

To understand these terms and concepts, it’s helpful to know the evolution of our industry. With that in mind, here’s a quick history of the administrative support industry.

Originally there were secretarial services. That industry had been around for decades, since at least the 40s or 50s and probably earlier.

However, secretarial services were sort of like a print shop: where someone would go, for example, to get a quick typing or desktop publishing job completed by someone on an ad hoc/incidental basis.

Think of it sort of like a drive-through typing service. It was project-based and there was no deeper role of the secretarial service in a client’s business or consistent relationship than that.

Then, in the late 80s/early 90s, the concept of administratively supporting clients remotely as a business became more formally realized. This new business model differed very distinctly from secretarial services in that the idea was to:

  1. provide a spectrum of across-the-board administrative support to clients (not simply typing or data entry), in
  2. an ongoing, collaborative, partnering relationship (as opposed to the ad hoc/incidental/occasional/sporadic/project-based nature of the secretarial service business model).

In the early 90s, a life/business coach by the name of Thomas Leonard coined the term “virtual assistant” that this new industry adopted in large part to describe this new and distinctly different kind of administrative support business.

What’s funny/interesting is that when the secretarial service industry was first introduced to this idea of an administrative support/partnering business, it was met with cold-shouldered resistance and disapproval (much as most “newfangled” things are met by people who don’t yet understand them).

After a few years, however, more and more these same secretarial services who sneered at the idea started calling themselves “virtual assistants” even while they were still operating as project-based secretarial services (clearly only adopting the term without understanding the concept).

More and more people started using the term “virtual assistant” without understanding the original business concept around it. Which is no wonder: it’s an ambiguous term and one that those in our business didn’t even coin themselves.

Then there came onto the scene people whose thinking was “I know! I’ll make money having a business where I don’t do any of the work (perhaps don’t even have the expertise or administrative background myself), I simply outsource it to third parties, preferably at cheap, third-world rates.”

At the same time, there were others who wanted to have a one-stop-shop kind of business where they had colleagues and others who did things they did not. In this way, they could say (for example) they did web design when really all they were doing is having someone else do that work.

Both of these distinct groups began calling this sub-genre a “multi-VA/team-VA” business.

The problem with this term, however is that:

  1. legally speaking, unless these people are your employees, they are not part of your team, and using that terminology will cause the IRS to think you are engaging in illegal misclassification;
  2. it’s not a collaborative/partnering relationship as defined by the administrative support business concept; and
  3. there is already a term for that kind of relationship between colleagues who are not employees of each other. It’s called “subcontracting.” 😉

In the early 2000s, there also began to be discussions around the aptness of the “virtual assistant” term. Too many people who were not running actual administrative support businesses were co-opting the term, bastardizing it for their own purposes, and confusing the marketplace.

Another problem with the term is that clients commonly do not understand the relationship. They mistakenly think it is one of employer/employee and treat it (and devalue it) accordingly.

It erroneously shapes their expectations and perceptions in negative ways that cause people in our industry problems. That’s because people only understand the word “assistant” one way: employee. Which is why calling themselves assistants was causing a whole host of misalignments in expectations and understandings.

Therefore, a large contingent of people in the administrative support industry began having a conversation around moving away from the “virtual assistant” term and adopting/coining a new term for those of us who were very specifically running ongoing administrative support businesses where we work with clients in actual collaborative partnering relationships.

That’s when our group ultimately landed on the term Administrative Consultant and the benefits have been multi-faceted:

  1. It’s a term WE chose for ourselves, not one that was foisted upon us and defined by a client (who at the time when he was working with his own VAs acted like he thought he was their employer, not their client).
  2. It more clearly denotes our BUSINESS OWNER/CONSULTANT (i.e., NOT employee) status and the fact that our business is specifically administrative in nature.
  3. It isn’t ambiguous and leaves little room for misinterpretation.
  4. It sets better expectations, understandings and perceptions in clients about the correct nature of the relationship (business-to-business, not employer/employee).
  5. In turn, this improves our consultation conversations, the demeanor with which potential clients approach us (i.e., professionally rather than like an employer seeking a worker bee), and our ability to command proper professional-level fees (not employee slave wages).

To be clear, the Administrative Consultant term was never intended to replace the “virtual assistant” term. Many of the people using that term are not running administrative support businesses so our term does not apply to them.

Our term is only meant for those who are specifically running administrative support businesses and who work with clients in true collaborative, partnering relationships. If that’s the kind of business you are running, we encourage you to use the Administrative Consultant term because it is going to help improve how clients view and understand your business and how they treat you as a fellow business owner.

Dear Danielle: I’m Not Sure the Administrative Consultant Term Fits, but Neither Does VA

Dear Danielle: I'm Not Sure Administrative Consultant Fits Me But Neither Does VA

I had a short, but meaningful conversation on LinkedIn with a new colleague who was wanting to get away from the VA term, but wasn’t sure Administrative Consultant was right for her either.

It’s important to understand the correct underlying definition of a term (not merely the surface words that it is composed of) in order to determine if it is apt and appropriately applies to your own situation.

If you are at the same crossroads, maybe this interaction is helpful to you as well. (I’ve kept the colleague anonymous for privacy.)

COLLEAGUE:

Dear Danielle, I have just had chance to read your LinkedIn summary properly and oh yes I agree. I know I have been calling myself a VA, but I would like to get away from this (it doesn’t feel comfortable with me) as I don’t think it actually says what I do, and I think business owners don’t really understand the potential. It is a descriptive word to bulk us altogether. Although the word consultant I don’t think fits in with what I do either. I have this idea that a consultant comes into a business, suggests ways to improve, and leaves. I’m more of an implementer, but that doesn’t sound right to promote this either. I did speak to a “mentor” once (only once) and he suggested I charge quite low as people won’t pay more for an admin assistant. That was right to begin with, mainly to get me the confidence to work for myself, but now it is a lot different. Anyway, lovely to make acquaintance with you and look forward to hearing further from you.

ME:

Nice to make your acquaintance as well.

Yes, that “mentor” was no mentor at all. No business mentor who knew anything about business (especially a professional service business) would tell you to charge quite low because rule #1 in business is that it must be profitable (or you don’t have a business, you have a hobby).

You can’t be profitable undervaluing yourself (which in turn attracts clients who don’t value you or what you do).

You also see how calling yourself an assistant wrongly influenced his perceptions, right? This is exactly why it doesn’t do anyone in business any good using terms of employment (which is what “assistant” is) to describe themselves.

Have you been to the ACA website? The home page further explains our definition of Administrative Consultant. After reading that, you might find that it does fit for you after all.

For example, the people in our group aren’t just implementers because as experts in administration, our clients also come to us to guide and advise them on their administrative set-ups, operations and workflows. So, in that respect, we are consultants.

Administrative Consultant is the marriage between someone who provides both administrative support AND guidance and expertise on best practices with regard to systems and operations.

Even if right now you still might feel that you are only an implementer, after a few years in business and working with clients, I’ll bet you’ll see yourself differently.

The best clients naturally don’t see you as just their little worker bee (and if that’s all they think of you, they will only want to pay peanuts). They see you as their administrative expert and will look to you for your advice, guidance and recommendations on these matters.

It’s the natural progression of the relationship, which is also exactly what makes us Administrative Consultants.

Either way, I’m sure you’ll find a whole lot of useful insights and confidence-building resources on the ACA website. Check it out here.

COLLEAGUE:

And yes! Just looked at your website and video and that is exactly what I’m doing for one of my clients. Your explanation of Consultant I like for the “all inclusive” role. I will start moving away from the VA term, as I do prefer to work with someone on a long-term basis. Thank you for providing me the explanation and the confirmation I was really looking for.

ME:

Wonderful!

On the topic of confidence and learning how to command professional fees, you might find this category on my blog helpful.

I very much appreciate our conversation today. I know it’s something a lot of people in our industry feel as well, but aren’t sure how to articulate or ask about it. Thanks for reaching out!

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

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

Greetings, Danielle:

My name is Lourie Perry, solopreneur of a new business. I am new to your acquaintance and I have to say you have inspired me! I have since changed the title of my position on social media. I already had business cards made before changing my title of “virtual assistant.” I love the Administrative Consultant title because it sets me apart from the rest (my first goal to achieve), it’s a professional title that demands respect and (to be) taken seriously as women in business. My question is how can I transition from a virtual assistant to an Administrative Consultant? For example, while at a networking event I introduce myself as an Administrative Consultant, but they look at the business card and see “virtual Assistant.” By the way, I have changed from Virtual Assistant to Administrative Consultant on my website, as well! Your help will be appreciated! Thanks from saving me from the sea of normal! —Lourie Perry, A Nyvybe Virtual Office.

Hi Lourie :)

That’s so great! You’ve done yourself a huge favor in business that you won’t regret.

So, this is sort of an easy one:  toss the old business cards and get new ones. These days, you can get a small stack for basically pennies on the dollar.

The reason is that consistency is super important. Everything needs to match.

Because if you call yourself this here and that there and yet something else somewhere else, or you try to use every term you can think of all together, all that does is create confusion and disconnect in your prospects.

And as the business adage goes: A confused mind says no.

They’ll walk away and put you right out of their mind because you’ve made it too difficult for them to understand who and what you are.

Better yet, don’t invest heavily in business cards or much of any printed marketing collateral. You just don’t need it.

Instead, I want you to read my post about how business cards should really be used and what to give people instead that is going to have far more impact on those you want to remember you and take interest: Are Business Cards Dead?

The other thing I wanted to relate for you and anyone else who is new reading this is that you never want to lead any conversation with your term. Your term is not for marketing purposes (I’ll explain its real importance later).

If people ask what you do, instead of saying “I’m an Administrative Consultant,” tell them what kind of problem you solve or a result/benefit you provide and who you do it for (this is your target market).

So mine, for example, is (and this is my tagline as well and no, nobody can “borrow” it. You gotta come up with your own):

I help IP and entertainment law attorneys do more wheeling and dealing from the beach.

(The beach being a metaphor for whatever they’d rather be doing and wherever they’d rather be than stuck in an office all day long.)

See how it clearly indicates who I work with and a benefit/result they get?

People are typically intrigued and want to know more (“How can I have more time for the beach?!”) and I’ll further explain that I provide administrative rescue for these solos without ever stepping foot in their office.

When they want to know how that works, that’s when I explain how I partner with my clients to provide them with strategic relief and rescue from the administrative burdens that suck up their time and energy and keep them stuck at the office.

I then tell them a story (a verbal case study) of how my strategic administrative support helped one of my clients reduce his workload, streamline and automate his operations, multiply his revenues and how he gets to travel extensively now while still running his business (which he loves).

See how I never even used my term of Administrative Consultant in conversation? They’ll see what to call me on my biz card, my free giveaway, on my website, and all the other places where my name appears.

That said, your term IS important for two reasons:

  1. You need to give people something (ONE THING) to call you and with which to categorize your business—a mental coathook, if you will.
  2. It needs to clearly convey what your expertise is while setting proper, respectful perceptions and expectations.

In our industry, the problem we’ve historically had is that by (formerly) calling ourselves assistants, we created wrong perceptions and understandings in our clients. Since we called ourselves assistants, that’s what they wanted to treat us (and pay us) as. It caused a misalignment of interests and understandings right from the start and, in turn, serious problems in the relationship.

So we’d constantly have to deal with prospects and clients who didn’t understand the nature of the relationship, who would tend to treat us like under-the-table employees they didn’t pay taxes on, who thought we were supposed to be at their beck-and-call like employees, and who would balk at paying proper professional fees (because when they think of you like an employee, they want to pay you like one as well).

And because it was such a vague, ambiguous term that focused on a role (assistant), not an expertise (administrative), clients thought it was their place to twist you into whatever kind of pretzels they pleased.

These are all problems caused by the term “virtual assistant.” It creates wrong expectations, perceptions and understandings right from the get-go.

This is why those us who are in the expertise of administrative support are Administrative Consultants. We don’t want clients thinking we’re their assistants, treating the relationship as such and wanting to pay peanuts—because we aren’t.

We want clients who approach us as professionally and in the same manner they would approach an attorney, an accountant, a web designer or any other independant professional.

The Administrative Consultant term creates an entirely improved perception and demeanor in our prospective clients. They are more respectful and understand the correct nature of the relationship. Instead of approaching us as subordinate order takers, they instantly view us as trusted administrative advisors and business peers.

And because of those changed and improved perceptions, we are able to get better clients and command higher (proper) professional fees.

It’s all about setting and managing expectations and creating better, more accurate and respectful perceptions with the words and terms we use, in this case Administrative Consultant.

(For more on this topic, read my post Dear Danielle: We Loathe the Virtual Assistant Term; Is There Something Else We Can Call Ourselves?)

Since you’re here, I also couldn’t help but notice your business name. I know you didn’t ask, but I feel it would be a disservice not to mention something that I think may be very important to your success.

I always highly encourage people to delete the word “virtual” from their business vocabulary. This post explains all the reasons why: Dear Danielle: Should I Use the Word “Virtual” in My Biz Name?

The thing I’m also concerned for you about is the spelling of your biz name: A Nuvybe Virtual Office.

I fear the esoteric spelling and syntax is going to make it extremely difficult for people to remember and find you (which is the opposite of what you intend).

That’s because no one is going to know how to say or spell it. And trust me, they aren’t going to go to extreme lengths to figure it out. They’ll just move on.

I know you value being different. I certainly appreciate that. And we all should be striving to continually clarify for ourselves and our prospective clients what our unique value propositions are.

Stand out in your marketing message, your service levels and skilled delivery and work product. However, beyond that, there are certain things in business that you just need to conform to or you’ll defeat your purposes. Choosing a business name that people can easily read, spell and remember is one of them.

Check out my Naming Your Business category here on the blog. I’ve got several posts that I think you’ll really find helpful on this topic.

Even if you were to simply change to New Vibe Administrative, that would be an incredible improvement for your prospective clients and those who refer you. That’s because its spelling is something that makes sense to people, they’ll easily be able to say it in their head and, thus, remember it and find you again, and it clearly conveys what you do in business.

I hope you find all of this helpful, Lourie. If you have any questions on anything here and want me to elaborate, please feel free to post in the comments and we’ll keep the conversation going.

I’m very happy to meet you and glad you found us. Welcome to the Administrative Consultant community!

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 she 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 not 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 are 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. :)

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