Archive for the ‘What Services Do You Provide?’ Category

Dear Danielle: What Services Do You Provide?

Everyone is asking such great questions this week!

In response to my last post regarding how I structure my typical work week and day, several people have asked about services. Here’s an example:

Dear Danielle:

I am considering starting up my own Administrative Consultant business and was browsing through your website. I read what your typical work day looks like, but I have a quick question for you. What services do you provide for your clients?

This is always a tricky question for me to answer because it’s coming from the wrong perspective. I’ll do my best to try and clarify for everyone.

The problem with this question is that it’s thinking too transactionally. See, the first thing you need to understand is the difference between selling tasks/projects and providing support. Two completely different business models.

When you are in the business of support, you aren’t selling individual services or tasks because administrative support IS the service. Companies that are in the business of providing piecemeal tasks and services on an ad hoc basis are called secretarial services. That’s not the same thing as providing ongoing administrative support.

Ongoing administrative support is about providing a relationship and a body (or collection, if you will) of support areas all wrapped up into one. It’s not any one particular task or line-item service because the service that an Administrative Consultant provides IS administrative support. What that administrative support is comprised of is going to depend on your own target market. Do you see?

The best way I have come up with currently to describe administrative support is that it is the collection of tasks, functions and roles that keep a business organized, humming along smoothly and moving forward.

I created this video to help illustrate what that means (by the way, feel free to use it on your own website as it’s very helpful in educating clients in how you as an Administrative Consultant and expert help them):

Given that understanding, you can easily see that there is no way to come up with any kind of comprehensive listing of individual tasks and services that make up a body of administrative support because that support is going to be different for each and every one of us depending on each of our individual target markets. What I do for my clients administratively is not necessarily going to be the same thing you do for your clients, particularly if we have different target markets.

So, the more useful thing for you to be focusing on is determining who your target market is going to be and then learning all that you can about them. (A target market is simply a specific profession/field/industry that you plan to cater to.) How are their businesses run? Who are their clients? What kind of work is involved? What are their common goals, objectives and challenges?

Once you start answering these questions (by talking with them, surveying them, interacting with them online and off), you can begin deciding on what administrative support areas you can best help them with and tailor your offerings accordingly.

Let me know if you have more questions on this in the comments and I’ll be happy to elaborate a bit more. 🙂

PS: Pricing and structuring your packages is something I teach extensively on in my Value-Based Pricing & Packaging Toolkit. I also include so much more than just pricing and packaging–because these things affect just about everything else in your business:  how it is structured, your policies and procedures, marketing… everything. So not only do I teach you the foundational stuff and how to best frame and articulate your value in this self-study guide course, I also show you how to you map out your business to best frame your offerings, create additional revenue streams and make more money. Check it out!

Dear Danielle: How Should My Client Market?

Dear Danielle:

I have a client who only sells wholesale products with an occasional retail customer. I have convinced him to think about sending a mass email marketing campaign/newsletter for his wholesale customers since his previous website designer never even introduced this idea to him. His response was that he only sells to wholesale customers and is not sure what to send to them.  My suggestion was to send loyalty rewards, small one-time bonus, or a small gift thanking them for their business. Do you have any suggestions for a marketing campaign from a wholesale company to its customers? –LN

Nah, I don’t get into advising clients on how to market their businesses. That’s not administrative support and marketing consulting isn’t the business I’m in.

I might offer my views and suggestions from an administrative standpoint. I might also provide them with some of the administrative support related to executing and implementing many of their marketing activities and initiatives.

But beyond that, how they market their business is up to them. Or between them and their marketing consultant.

I think too many administrative experts are pressured into thinking that they have to fill ALL these other roles in their clients’ businesses. And that’s just not the case. The ONLY role you have to fulfill is the one you are in business to fulfill—administrative support. You will burn yourself out really quick trying to be all things, do all things, for clients, not to mention greatly diminish your effectiveness with all the constant switching of gears.

I mean, would you ask a plumber to fix your car? Of course not. They’re completely different kinds of expertise and lines of work.

Have opinions. Share ideas, resources and suggestions. Being a partner to clients means they get the benefits of your experiences and input. That’s definitely of value and they might learn or hear about something new because of that that they wouldn’t otherwise. But don’t feel like you have to take on roles you aren’t in business to take on and that aren’t your responsibility to take on.

And definitely don’t expend your time and energy being more invested in helping with something that the client isn’t even interested in. You can’t care more about their business than they do themselves.

Why Are You Asking a Plumber to Fix Your Car?

If you’re a plumber, you wouldn’t expect people to ask you to fix their car, right?

You’re someone who deals with plumbing, pipes and fixing toilets, not someone who works on cars.

So if people are asking you to fix their car, then you are not making it explicitly clear exactly what business you are in and what your expertise is.

Or, let’s say you are both a plumber AND a mechanic.

Would anyone with a properly working brain think that plumbing and auto repair are the same thing?

Of course not.

They’d expect to be charged and processed separately for each because they are two completely different things.

Just because you might do both things doesn’t make them the same thing.

Get clear about what you are in business to do. Distinguish the one main thing from other, differing things you might offer as well.

Because “anything and everything” isn’t a business category or a profession, much less an expertise.

HINT: Administrative Support is a niche, profession, business category, specialty and expertise all its own. You might also do web design, bookkeeping and any number of other things, but that does not make all those other things the same thing as administrative support. ;)

Dear Danielle: What Is “the Work?”

Dear Danielle:

I am just starting my administrative support business.  I am networking and setting things up, but I have a question (hope it does not sound silly)… If you could, please list and/or explain some of the duties/work you in real terms. I hear everyone talk about “the work,” but I want to know the details. What kinds of things do people hire you to do? —AC

Not a silly question at all. Although I can’t say it’s the easiest to answer.

That’s because the administrative support that one Administrative Consultant provides to her clients can be completely different from what another Administrative Consultant provides.

It’s impossible to create any kind of comprehensive list because the work we do is so much more than that. More importantly, there’s no way to do that because no two clients, businesses and professions are the same. There might be some general similarities and overlap, but overall “the work” all depends on the clients, the industry they are in, the work they do and what their goals, objectives and challenges are.

So like me, for instance, I work with attorneys and business consultants. HUGE amounts of document work involved in both. I also have a lot of contact with their clients in various capacities, such as interviewing, doing intakes, making calls… I also have to interact with the courts, JAs and use the various filing systems. That’s just the teeniest tip of the iceberg.

What I do for my clients, given the professions they are in, is VERY different from the work of an Administrative Consultant who, for example, works with more online-based business owners. Those two markets do completely different things, have completely different interests and motivations, and the work, therefore, is vastly different.

Instead of trying to identify “the work” in only the most general sense, I would instead have you look at things from a different perspective.

1 You can’t be in business to do everything. So YOU have to define what you are in business to do. How I look at things is that administrative support is a skill, expertise and specialty all its own. As a business owner, I am not anyone’s assistant, personal valet or gopher. I am in business to provide administrative support to clients who need that expertise in their business.

2. Once you know what you are in business to do, you will have a better idea and focus about the kind of work you provide for clients. But that’s not the end of the story…

3. You also want to define what administrative support means to you. The best way I have to explain administrative support is that it is the collection of ongoing tasks, functions and roles that keep a business organized, running smoothly and moving forward. Where a lot of people get confused is thinking that administrative work is simply paperwork.

And administrative support isn’t just about administration (the back-end running of the business). Administration is only one area of a business where administrative support is provided. Administrative support encompasses work in ALL four areas of a business–administration, business development, marketing and networking, and working with clients.

Take a look at the quick video below and see if that doesn’t help you understand a bit better.

4. You also want to define a target market. For the same reason that you can’t be in business to do anything and everything, it is also impossible to try to work with anyone and everyone and create any kind of unique, meaningful, resonate and compelling message at the same time.

As Seth Godin says, “You can be a wandering generality or a meaningful specific.” Once you know who it is you are intending to work with, that right there is going to hugely allow you to identify and define “the work” you want to do with and for clients and separate it from different categories of project work you may want to charge separately for.

(And by the way, when you work with a very specific target market, the work and running your business becomes INFINITELY easier.)

5. Beyond all that, EVERYTHING depends on the consultation. Everything. You can’t begin to know how to support someone or what work is involved until you have spoken at length to the client to learn more about them, their business, their values, goals and the challenges they face.

If you want to get REALLY good at doing consultations and know EXACTLY how to proceed with them (what to talk about when, questions to ask, how to ask, what to look for, etc.), then I highly recommend you get my Client Consultation Process, “Breaking the Ice (GDE-03).” It covers everything from before, during and how to follow-up afterward.

What Does an Administrative Consultant Do for Me, You Ask?

Here’s a client education video for you.

Feel free to use it on your website to help explain to clients what you do and how you help them as someone who is in the administrative support business.

Good Question: Should I Provide Training to Clients on Top of Admin Support?

A member asked a great question today. I thought I’d share it here as well since it’s excellent food for thought.

This member has been asked by clients on occasion if she would come to their offices and teach them how to do this or that so they can do it or manage it themselves.

She wanted to know if this was a good opportunity or something to avoid, and if she did offer it, should the rate be significantly higher. Here’s my advice to her and you:

First, you want to decide if training is the business you want to be in.

It’s one thing to be in the administrative support business; entirely another to be in the training business (as well as going onsite, for that matter).

I’m not sure why any client would assume that, and even if they do, you get to decide whether you are or not. Don’t let clients try and twist you into any pretzels they please.

Know what business you specifically intend to be in and then keep your focus there because if you let yourself be led down every rabbit hole that anyone can take you, your real business and other clients will suffer from your distraction and the time they eat up.

Of course, if you do decide to provide training for this client, I advice you to offer it at a substantially higher fee due to the on-site, personal one-on-one training and attention.

Anytime you have to leave your office, it puts stress and strain on your normal systems and operations, especially if that’s not the thing you are normally in business to do.

That time and energy away creates a significant expense for the business and takes away from other work and clients: time-wise, availability-wise, space-wise, energy-wise and money-wise.

So yes, I would definitely offer that at a considerable premium fee to make it worth your while.

Doing so also creates an additional layer to your top-tier offerings and signifies to clients that this is a special, premium service.

Whenever you get into work that takes you out of the office, it creates significant impact on your profit margins and to the time you have left available to you and your other clients.

As solopreneurs, this is a particularly important consideration for us in the administrative support business.

What you might want to consider offering instead are online training classes (webinars). That way, you can conduct them from your own office (thus reducing the expense to produce and conduct them) and teach several clients all at once, thereby making more money.

That is, IF it’s something you want to be doing/offering. It’s perfectly okay to tell clients, “that’s not what I’m in business to do.”

Dear Danielle: Do I Have to Know This and This and That, Too?

Dear Danielle:

My biggest strengths are written and verbal communication, research and word processing. Can I still be a successful Virtual Assistant or do I need to know things like 1shoppingcart, website design and desktop publishing to even have a prayer of getting any clients? —KT

I’m going to be annoying and not really answer your question directly. And the reason is because there are several aspects to consider. In pondering those things, you will end up answering the question for yourself.

My first question to you is: Do you know what business you are in (or considering being in)?

Being in business first has to be something you want to be in, want to be doing, enjoy doing and have the qualifications to do.

I mean, it wouldn’t serve you to wake up one day and decide to be a plumber if you have zero interest in pipes and sewage. And it certainly wouldn’t serve any customers you got if you didn’t have the training, experience or qualifications to be a plumber, right?

For this reason, you have to get really clear and cognizant of exactly and specifically what you want to be in business to do.

In this case, you may want to ask yourself: Am I in business to provide administrative support or am I in business to sell individual services?

Because there is a big difference between delivering ongoing administrative support (which is a business category and service offering in and of itself) and selling individual, piecemeal services (which is not support; that is what is called secretarial services).

When you are selling line-item services, the focus is on the individual project and the transaction. But if you are in business to provide administrative support, the product you are really offering is an ongoing, right-hand relationship. The relationship is the focus, not the transactions or individual tasks.

The reason this clarity is important is because it makes all the difference in how you market, articulate your value and attract exactly the right clients who have a need for what you are in business to offer.

Which brings us back to your original question, and the answer to that is:  it depends.

It depends on what you are in business to do, who has a need for what you offer and who you want to work with.

You can be an administrative expert and not have to also be a website designer and a graphic designer and a bookkeeper, etc., etc., if that’s not what you want to do.

Your value isn’t in trying to be every single kind of professional under the sun or to know how to do everything in the world. In fact, it’s really silly to and ineffective to try to do that because you can quickly distract yourself from your focus, spread yourself too thin and dillute your strengths and expertise.

You’re in the driver’s seat. You get to set the expectations and craft your marketing message in a way that attracts exactly who you want it to attract. If you don’t want to do any of those other things you mention, focus clients on the thing you do do and how that helps them in their business.

Now, I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t do any of those other things. If you want to work with online business owners, knowing HTML and being able to draft up web pages, etc., is something that will add value to what you offer.

Additional divisions and complementary layers of support in your business (such as technical support for 1shoppingcart, for example) are also ways you can add more revenue streams by offering them as stand-alone services or at higher priced support packages.

At the same time, there are plenty of clients doing real-world work and running non-virtual businesses who aren’t going to care a whit whether you know 1shoppingcart and don’t need you to know graphic design because they already have a talented graphic design house they use, thank you very much. They just need you to be focused on administrative support, and really, that’s plenty as it is!

They certainly wouldn’t turn to you for legal advice if you weren’t an attorney, and they wouldn’t ask you for financial guidance if you weren’t an accountant, right? Of course not. So focus clients on exactly what you are in business to do and explain things so they know, as clear as day, exactly what kind of expert you are and what you are in business.

The trick is to get clear about what you want to be in business to do and then target a market that has a need for exactly that. The more clear you are, the more you’ll attract exactly the right clients.

PS: I think you’d find my business plan template and my Value-Based Pricing & Packaging Toolkit specifically for administrative support businesses very helpful in sorting all this out. It’s not only a template that shows you how a professional business plan should be structured and formatted, it’s also designed to get your thought juices going with regard to these kinds of questions, figure out exactly what kind of business you want to be in and how you can create a multi-layered administrative support business with multiple revenue streams.

Being On Demand Is Not a Sustainable Promise

Let’s say you promise on-demand, employee-like support to clients.

You market your business promising clients that it will be just like having their own administrative assistant, just like back in their corporate days, only virtually.

Let’s say one of the things you tell prospective clients is that you can manage their email box every morning.

You tell them, “Imagine waking up every day to an IN box that’s already been sorted through for you!”

So you get one client and it’s easy enough to keep up with this, right?

Then you get another client who also wants their email box sorted through every morning.

And you get another client who wants that as well.

Pretty soon, you’ve got a handful of clients, all of whom you’ve promised to sort through and manage their email IN boxes every morning.

Now, the first thing you have to do every morning of every day is deal with all your clients’ email boxes.

It begins to take up a fairly significant part of your morning each day. And that’s not counting all the other work you have on your plate for all your various clients each day.

A couple clients complain that you are starting to take too long to manage their email boxes in the mornings, they need it done quicker so that it gets done before they start their day. But you’re already working as fast as you can.

You try to prioritize clients and put them in some kind of order based on need, but three of your clients are in the same timezone that is three hours ahead of you, meaning, you’d have to get up extra early in order to beat them to their IN box before they start their day.

On top of this, you are beginning to feel trapped and chained to your desk. You can’t get away when you want because you’ve promised these clients this service and allowed them to expect it every day.

It doesn’t matter that you’ve had to tell them that there are going to be days when they will have to handle this on their own. They still complain and grumble and are dissatisfied because they’ve been led to expect that this was something you would do for them every day, just like an in-house assistant.

Sure, it would probably be better to just let them go, but you need the money. It was a lot of work to get their business in the first place. You feel like you’re letting them and yourself down.

You’re wishing now that you’d done things differently, not created such unsustainable expectations.

But now you’re stuck and it’s causing you to procrastinate, to dread your own IN box.

When you’re working, you feel stressed and harried, like someone is breathing down your neck.

You find yourself making silly, dumb mistakes you’d never make under any other conditions. You’re a highly skilled administrative expert and that’s just not you! You don’t know what to do or how to start over.

You’re now wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into.

You’re burnt-out. You don’t feel like working like this day in and day out. You feel like a slave and have no freedom.

Wait, this is just like the J-O-B you used to have, only now, instead of working for one employer in one business with one dedicated workload to manage, you’ve now got a handful of “bosses” all in completely separate businesses and with completely separate workloads to manage! What?!

Is this what you imagined business would be like?

Have you thought through how all the things you promise clients will actually play out and work in real life, practical application?

Have you thought through what your daily life and actual work with clients will be like if you offer your administrative expertise and support in an on-demand, instant-assistance-like manner?

How many clients can you expect to work with like that?

What might the limit be to your income potential operating like that?

Don’t you want time to actually be able to breathe and also enjoy the freedoms that can come with owning your own business?

Can you imagine that there is a different way of operating an administrative support business that doesn’t require you to offer your support in any on-demand, instant assistance kind of way?

Dear Danielle: Should I Provide Bookkeeping or Not?

Dear Danielle:

I purchased some of your business products this week and Love Them. One question, in the price section of services and throughout some of the contracts it states this contract does not include bookkeeping. Is it normal to charge more for the bookkeeping service? —IK

There’s no “normal” way to do things. The great thing about being in business is that you get to decide whether or not you want to include something in your administrative support.

What I wanted to do by separating bookkeeping in the contract template was bring it to your attention that bookkeeping is a different service, skillset and business altogether from administrative support.

You see, a lot of people in our industry (dare I say, most of them) struggle to earn well. A lot of times that’s because they don’t understand what they specialize in (i.e., administrative support).

And what they do when they don’t understand this is they lump everything together.

By not differentiating that administrative support is a skill and value that is separate from other categories of business, they deprive themselves  of the opportunity to create another stream of income in their business.

So you can decide whether or not you want to provide bookkeeping in with your administrative support.

Maybe you decide that bookkeeping is a category of training and knowledge (and value) that is completely separate from administrative support and therefore warrants a separate charge to clients for that work.

You might even decide to offer a completely separate retainer or add-on fee for that work.

On the other hand, you might not be a bookkeeper at all and decide not to provide it whatsoever (it does require special knowledge, skills and training and there’s a great deal more liability when you are dealing with someone’s money and finances after all).

In that case, you would simply let clients know that bookkeeping is a separate industry/profession from administrative support and refer them to some fabulous bookkeeping experts you know of (it’s always a good idea to connect with experts in other fields so that you can refer clients to each other).

Hope that helps!