Archive for the ‘Virtual Assistants’ Category

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. 🙂

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!

Help! I’m Shy and Conducting Consultations Is Scary!

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

“I’m definitely a shy one so just getting out there is a big step for me. Also, convincing small business owners that they don’t need to and shouldn’t be doing it all themselves is the other area holding me back. I guess I feel like I need a giant poster to hit them over the head with to show them why a lot of small businesses fail and how not to be one of them by utilizing my services. And then I start doubting mysefl, if I’m really all that. HELP!!!! I know they need someone like me. I know I can do it. So what’s wrong with me?”

Well, first, there’s nothing wrong with you! (But don’t go bonking anyone over the head, lol)

We all go through this when we first start out our businesses. It can be really scary and intimidating to put yourself out there, step outside your comfort zones and talk to what are essentially strangers.

Here are two quick thoughts that will really liberate you:

  1. If you are someone who is shy or introverted, having a plan–a process, a system–for conducting your consultations is going to be a HUGE confidence booster. It’s going to make things really easy and by leading your process, you instill a ton of confidence and trust in your potential clients.
  2. Conducting consultations is not about selling or convincing. It’s about drawing out and bringing to light and clarity that which your potential client struggles with and showing them how you can really help them. It’s all about the conversation. Once you let go of that idea, it will help you have more heartful, human-to-human connection in your consultations.

Of course, there are a lot of details and learning to fill in here which is why, if you struggle with conducting consultations and clients aren’t retaining you, 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 are going to learn LARGE. Love to have you there!

PS: Midnight tonight is the last chance to save $50 on registation so be sure and register now!

Why You Need More than 30 Minutes for Your Consultations

I frequently hear from folks who are having trouble converting prospects into retained clients. Now, there are lots of reasons why they might be having trouble. One of the most frequent (and easily rectified) reasons is that they just aren’t spending enough time talking with potential clients in a consultation. Thirty minutes just doesn’t cut it–at least when you are seeking retainer clients–and here’s why.

A retained relationship is one where you partner collaborative with the client to provide ongoing support on a month to month basis. It represents a much closer, more personal one-on-one dynamic. It has a higher value, and, in turn, requires more of a commitment from clients. Because this is a bigger, different kind of relationship than a simple one-off project, it requires a bigger conversation.

You can’t possibly get any meaningful, detailed level of information and understanding about anything in only 30 minutes. It’s just not enough time in which to ask the right questions, much less listen actively to the answers and mentally process them.

Clients also need context in order to understand your fees. You simply can’t do that in just 30 minutes.

And it takes clients–anyone, really–at least 30 minutes to let their hair down and really start feeling comfortable talking with you, a relative stranger, about something that can be one of the most deeply personal and important things in their lives–their business. The real conversation really doesn’t start until after that first 30 minutes.

A longer consultation is simply mandatory in order to give clients the space to get relaxed and turn what they perceive to be an “interview” into a conversation. And you need longer than 30 minutes in order to glean all the information you need to determine if this is someone you can help and would like to work with. You may even find that it’s better to spread your consultation out across two appointments (one for the initial Q & A and another for the analysis and recommendations).

In my practice, I tell clients to block out an hour and a half. If you get in a groove and really find yourself connecting, I like to stay in that moment and personally find it beneficial to do my consults that way. But I also don’t expend this time for just anyone and everyone. I prequalify potential clients so that I’m only spending my time with the most likely, best-suited client candidates.

You know, I’ve written a guide that consistently gets rave reviews and praise from folks in our industry about how much it has helped hundreds of them improve their consultations and gain retainer clients. It’s called “Breaking the Ice” and it gives you a complete, step-by-step process for navigating the consultation conversation, from the time they arrive at your website until after the consultation (the follow-up).

REGISTER FOR THE CLASS! This is just a tiny tidbit of the learning I will be sharing in my upcoming teleclass on October 25 & 26, Consultations that Convert: How to Convert All Your Prospects into Retained Monthly Clients and Make Boatloads More Money (Not to Mention an Infinitely Easier Business to Run.) If you struggle with how to seal the deal and build a roster of retained clients, I can help you! AND if you register by midnight, October 9, you’ll pay only $97 (a $100 savings). I’d love to have you there!

Consultations that Convert

Do you identify with any of these scenarios?

  • Do you need to earn more in your business and project work just isn’t cutting it?
  • Are you completely worn out with always having to chase after the next projects and more clients even as you struggle to focus on the clients and work already on your plate?
  • Would you LOVE to have a full roster of retained clients who pay a high-level fee for your support each month, earning you a lot bigger, easier money and more dependable cashflow?
  • Do you wish you had retained clients, but find it difficult getting them to sign on?
  • Do you get inquiries, but find they lose interest as soon as you tell them your fee?

Every year the ACA conducts an annual industry survey of those in the administrative support business. And year after year, the results when it comes to earning are really saddening. The overwhelming majority of people are earning less than $10,000 a year. Nobody can live on that alone, much less support a family!

We have all these wonderful, talented, highly skilled people in our industry–including you–who are working themselves to the bone delivering huge amounts of value to their clients and helping them grow and make more money, yet are themselves barely scraping by on what their business brings in. It is my absolute passion to help YOU turn this around!

One of the problems is that while they would like to provide support, most of them are only working project by piecemeal project. And it’s keeping them in the poorhouse. Project work traps you into a constant hamster wheel of chasing after the next projects, the next clients, even as you are trying to focus on what’s already in front you. It’s also not the true definition of support–which is exactly where the bigger, better results are for clients and the bigger, easier money is for you.

Working on a support basis (as opposed to a piecemeal, task-based project basis) will also allow you to create a much simpler, easier business to run and manage with far less marketing involved. And when you have that, you have a lot more flexibility, time for life, and room to grow at your own desired pace.

Ongoing support is a much higher value that comes with a higher price tag and more of a commitment. It necessarily requires a completely different, more in-depth conversation than you would have with project work. There is a very specific sequence and process to follow in order to properly frame things and help clients see that value and commit to paying well for it. And that’s what I’m going to show you how to do this month!

How to Convert All Your Prospects into Retained Monthly Clients & Make Boatloads More Money (Not to Mention an Infinitely Easier Business)

DATE: October 25 & 26, 2011 (1.5 hours each session)
TIME: 12p PT /1p MT/ 2p CT/3p ET
(Need time zone help? Go to: TimeAndDate.com)

For this teleclass, we’ll get together for two sessions, an hour and a half each day. This is going to be a tight, jam-packed informative class where you’ll learn about:

  • How working with a base of monthly retained clients helps you earn more and manage your business more easily while working LESS
  • Why the consultation conversation is so important and how it helps persuade
  • What should happen before the consultation
  • Pre-qualifying clients so your time is spent only with the most qualified prospects
  • How long to spend in consultations
  • How to lead and conduct the consultation
  • What questions to ask and why
  • When and how to talk about fees (and why this order is vitally important)
  • What to do with Yes, No and Maybe clients
  • How to follow-up the consultation and seal the deal!
  • And so much more!

We’ll touch on some marketing aspects of conducting “consultations that convert” as well, including:

  • How to pre-educate clients before the conversation
  • Dealing with client objections
  • How a target market helps attract the right prospective clients
  • Why talking to the right people is so important

You’ll also go home with my client consultation process guide, Breaking the Ice, as well as other materials and a full recording of the entire class.

Plus…

You’ll also receive a personal one-hour coaching session with me to go over any parts of the training that you need additional help with.

Taking this class could very well change the entire direction of your business and fortunes!

If you struggle in this area, I can show you how to stop struggling, lead your consultations with ease and confidence, and seal the deal! I would LOVE to see you there. I am so passionate about this topic and there is so much I can teach you that can change everything around for you.

REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Deadline to register is October 19, 2011, or until all available seats are filled, whichever comes sooner.

COST: The cost of this class is $197, but you can get in for only $97 (a savings of $100) if you register by midnight, October 9.

Register and save your spot today!