Archive for the ‘Working with Clients’ Category

Dear Danielle: Client Is About to Ask Me to Pose as an Employee

Dear Danielle:

HELP! I have a new client I am trying to sign who I think is about to ask me to pose as an employee. Their first project requires us to meet with one of their clients in person tomorrow. I received an email saying they wanted to set me up with an email under their domain and wanted to talk before tomorrow’s meeting. I know my gut says this probably isn’t the best for my company, but I really can’t tap into why exactly. In other words, it seems wrong, but I don’t know what to say when they call as to why. On their end I know that they deal with sensitive data from their client so they probably want to present a united front and not make it seem like this client’s data is in the hands of a third party, but it is. Thoughts? —Anonymous by request.

First off, I want to to validate your feelings. Anything that a client requests that does not sit well with you is nothing to second-guess yourself about. It doesn’t matter if they don’t like it or if anyone else disagrees. If something in your gut is saying, “no, this doesn’t feel right” then it’s not right for you.

What you are feeling that you can’t quite put your finger on is the fact that, whether they realize it or not, a) this client is basically asking you to be is a liar and b) asking something that’s inappropriate of an independent professional (which deep down makes you feel disrespected as a business owner).

They need some additional conversation and education about the fact that you are not a substitute employee.

The best policy is to be firm, clear and upfront.

You might say something like, “Oh, I see there is some misunderstanding about how we work together. Since I am an independent company from yours (rather than an employee), I use my own email address when I deal with people on behalf of my clients.”

If they need further clarification, explain the fact that when people work with vendors and independent professionals, those are companies that are independent of theirs. As such, and for their own protection, there cannot be any appearance that those vendors and independant professionals with whom they work are employees.

Likewise, along with the privilege of being a business owner, you also have a responsibility to operate ethically and legally according to those business protocols and guidelines that are laid out for us under the law.

Hopefully, that will be sufficient, but if they press you a bit further, you could have them consider this:  Would they be asking their attorney or their accountant or their whatever to use an email address through their domain?

Of course not! It would be a highly unusual and inappropriate request. I don’t think it would ever cross their mind to ask.

Well, as an independent professional, you are no different. So why do they think it’s okay to ask you to do that? If they want an employee, that’s who they need to hire.

This is not a common dilemma for Administrative Consultants, but it is for those who are still calling themselves virtual assistants.

People equate the word “assistant” one way—employee. And the virtual assistant industry has miseducated the public to view VAs as under-the-table substitute employees.

This is why what you call yourself is an important part of setting the right understandings, expectations, perceptions and context.

Moving forward, this could be a good time to review your website, marketing message and other client-educating materials (e.g., Client Guide).

Make sure prospects and clients are getting thoroughly and properly educated so there are no misconceptions or confusion about the nature of the relationship.

In your consultations, have a frank discussion about the relationship and how it will be different from working with an employee.

And of course, never refer to yourself as an assistant. When you are a business owner, you are not anyone’s assistant. You are an independent expert who specializes in administrative support.

Here are a couple other posts that may be helpful to you on this topic as well:

Dear Danielle: Should My Client Say I Am Part of His Team?

You Are Not an Assistant

Are Virtual Assistants Employees or Independent Contractors

Of note from the US Tax Aid article:

You may have an employee if you:

Provide training — If you provide training to your workers, this is a good indication that they are really employees.

Pay them for their time – An independent contractor simply does work in his or her own way. There is little need for meetings, especially team-building ones, except for progress reports.

Instruct on minutiae – Don’t tell your IC how to do his job. I know you spent a lot of time developing your step-by-step procedures, but requiring your IC to follow them means you have an employee, not an IC.

Require certain hours –You cannot require that an IC be “open” or “available” during any specific hours that they are not paying you.  The IC should have her own system in place to track time if she’s charging hourly instead of by package.

Furnish software or supplies –Do not provide any software, supplies, cell phones, or even a special email address in which to conduct business or the IRS could decide that you have an employee. It is tempting and I have done it myself, but I am second thinking this due to this rule.

Assign a title  Don’t list your ICs on your website, office door, or anywhere that indicates they are part of your business.

Contracts Have Nothing to Do with Being a Hardass

Danielle KeisterContracts are not merely for legally enforcing “rules and regulations” on clients.

Their first function is to memorialize (in writing) your promises and understandings to each other.

Memories fail. Things are conveniently “forgotten.” Your contract serves as a written memory of what you both agreed on to each other.

The other role your contract plays is in outlining your standards and helping set proper understandings and expectations for the relationship.

With your contract, you are saying, Here is how I expect to be treated with courtesy and respect. And for my part, here is how I will treat you with courtesy and respect as a client…

So it’s just dumb for anyone to tell you to take anything out of your contract that you may or may not enforce legally.

You might as well not even bother with a contract at all then because if that’s the logic, more than half the standard terms and conditions that need to legally be in a contract to be enforceable would get taken out.

And why stop there. There’s no point then in putting anything in writing if you think the only reason for it is whether you’re really going to sue someone or not if they don’t comply.

Shoot, just let clients do whatever they want and dictate everything to you. Because again, by that logic, anything else would be being a “hardass.”

There’s nothing hardass about informing clients that when you are working on retainer, you expect them to give you 30 days notice if they intend to terminate the relationship. (I actually recommend 20 days, which is what I do in my practice.)

The reasoning is that you have reserved space for that client and dedicated priority to them. If they decide to terminate at a moment’s notice, that leaves you in a lurch without being given a courteous, reasonable amount of time with which to try to refill that slot.

It’s like the policy of requiring 24 or 48 hours notice if someone needs to cancel an appointment. By stating it in your policies, you are telling people how you expect to be treated and respected, that your time is valuable.

And that clause (at least in the ACA contracts) works both ways. You are saying to them, I’m not going to leave you in a lurch either. If I determine that our relationship needs to end, I’m going to give you X number of days notice as well.

It has nothing to do with being a hardass or whether or not you would even take them to court if they didn’t honor the agreements they made to you.

It’s about good business, having and honoring your standards, and informing clients upfront what is expected.

Who Ever Said You Have to Conduct Consultations In Person?

Who ever said that you have to conduct consultations in person just because a potential client is local?

You don’t.

You might meet people locally in person, but that doesn’t mean you have to conduct your actual consultations with them that way.

In fact, there are lots of reasons to conduct all your consults by phone, regardless of location. For example:

  • In-person consultations cost double the time and energy.
  • Managing expectations is an important part of successful relationships. If you conduct a consult from your home office, prospective clients may get the wrong idea once you begin working together, whether it’s thinking (wrongly) they can drop in any time they please, having clients show up at your doorstep unexpectedly, or having clients always wanting to meet in person after that once you’ve set that precedent.
  • Conducting consults outside your home office (e.g., local coffee shop), can be distracting and you may not be able to stay focused and concentrate and do as effective a job of the consultation in that environment.
  • Likewise, in that environment, a client may not open up to you as much in a public place as they might if you were both enjoying the privacy of your own personal offices and meeting over the phone.

YOU get to inform prospects how you do things, not the other way around. ;)

Working Together Successfully

I have a brand new article that I’ve added to the ACA Client Guide.

For those who don’t already know, the ACA Client Guide is an online guide intended to help educate clients about Administrative Consultants, how they help them and how to work together successfully.

What I’m looking for are:

  1. Typos or other errors;
  2. Suggestions on order (i.e., Should any of the items be moved to another position in the list so it flows better?); and
  3. Did I miss anything? Is there any other topic that you’d like to see addressed that relates to setting proper expectations and understandings, thus helping ensure the relationship gets off to the most successful start?

Here’s the article:

Working Together Successfully

Everything you need to know to get your business relationship with an Administrative Consultant off to the best start!

Following are the key ingredients you must bring to the table to ensure you experience the most fruitful and rewarding benefits of working with an Administrative Consultant.

  1. Understand the nature of the relationship. The relationship you have with an Administrative Consultant (or ACE for short) is similar to that which you have with an attorney or accountant or other independent professional. She is not your employee or “hired help.” She is an administrative expert, collaborative partner and trusted advisor. Respect her opinions and concerns. Be open to her input and advice. Your best interests and success are her priority.
  2. Collaborative partnership. Relationships are a two-way street; your participation is required. In order for it to work—indeed, for the magic to happen—and for you to get the very best experience and outcomes from it, you, as the client, are an integral part of the equation. If you are absent from the relationship, it won’t work and you will end up dissatisfied.
  3. Tech-savvy. Just like your attorney or accountant, an Administrative Consultant works from her own offices. Heck, you may never even meet in person. Meetings and consultations are typically held by phone or video chat (e.g., Skype) and email is the primary form of regular communication. You don’t need to be a whiz (and you’ll learn of all kinds of amazing tech tools and services from your ACE should you work together), but you do need to be comfortable with computers, technology and communicating by email in order to work with an Administrative Consultant.
  4. Be present and timely. One of the most important relationships you have in your business is with your Administrative Consultant. The administrative engine she is determined to help you with is critical to your business’s success and smooth operations. In order for her to accomplish those objectives, it’s vital that you answer questions and provide requested information and materials in a timely manner so that it doesn’t hold up your business and objectives or hers.
  5. Communication is key. This is especially important in this kind of tech-driven, remote working relationship where we primarily communicate by email. Like you, an Administrative Consultant is not a mind reader. We can get really good at anticipating your needs, tastes and preferences the longer we work together; still, we can’t guess or make assumptions. It is better to err on the side of over-communication and be forthcoming with details and expectations. Your Administrative Consultant may have further clarifying questions to make sure everything is understood.
  6. Make meetings with your Administrative Consultant a priority. Do everything in your power to keep your appointments, show up prepared and cancel with appropriate (not last minute) notice when you can’t. Mutual respect of each others’ time is a necessity.
  7. No dumping. If you disappear for long periods of time and then suddenly show up with a flurry of work requests that you need done “yesterday”… well, that just isn’t going to work. An Administrative Consultant has other clients to serve whose needs are as important as yours. Every Administrative Consultant has her own policies and protocols. To work together successfully, you will need to plan ahead, give plenty of lead time (as specified by your Administrative Consultant) and follow her procedures for submitting work so that it can be managed effectively and accomplished in a timely manner to the highest standards.
  8. Practice the Golden Rule. Administrative Consultants expect to be treated with the same human dignity and respect with which you expect to be treated. We are deserving of civility and complete sentences. We expect to not be yelled at, grunted at or have orders barked at us. We appreciate “please” and “thank you” as much as you. Clients who are unable to extend common courtesy and mutual respect are not a good fit and will be let go with haste.
  9. Maintain professionalism. Difficulties, dissatisfaction, conflicts and misunderstanding can arise in any relationship. Your Administrative Consultant is always interested in your constructive feedback and being given the opportunity to improve or make things right. When communicating upset or complaints, just be sure to keep things professional, not personal. Continue to treat and speak to each other respectfully and humanely. This will go a long way in facilitating communication, being heard and finding resolution.
  10. Pay on time without any hassles. Respect cannot exist in the relationship where there is chronic late or nonpayment. You can expect one (or all) of these things to happen when that is the case: a) All work will cease until your account is paid in full; b) you will be required to pay in full up front for all work in the future; and c) you may be let go as a client.
  11. Own your business. An Administrative Consultant cannot care more about your business than you do. Nor is it her job to ensure you make money; that’s your job. She wants to help and support you in achieving your goals and dreams, and she can if given the opportunity. However, the success or failure of your business is always your responsibility.
  12. Vacations and closures. It’s important to understand that an Administrative Consultant is not a temp or employee and, thus, does not provide that level of administrative support on a daily basis. What we provide is strategic support in specifically defined support areas. And just as your attorney or accountant (or any business for that matter) is closed on occasion for holidays, vacations, emergencies or other reasons, so, too, will your Administrative Consultant’s business. Your ACE will give you plenty of notice so that you can plan accordingly. Just know that if you are so dependent upon support that you are unable to take care of things yourself during these intermissions and your entire business comes to a screeching halt without us, what you really need is an employee, not an Administrative Consultant.
  13. Proper expectations. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither will all your administrative needs, burdens and challenges be solved overnight. Recognize that this will be a process. And boy-oh-boy, will it be fun to see these things whipped into shape bit by bit as you continue to work together!
  14. Be generous and forthcoming with your praise, feedback and referrals. An Administrative Consultant is a business owner who takes pride and joy in her work and helping clients like you succeed. She’s also a person, like any other, who appreciates recognition, a good word and a pat on the back for a job well done (not to mention your referrals and recommendations). She may also ask for your formal feedback at specific intervals throughout the year. This is for your benefit as well as hers and gives you an opportunity to let her know how she’s doing, voice any concerns and offer suggestions on how she can better serve you.

You DO Need a Certain Level of Income to Be Happy and Healthy

I was listening to some radio program several weeks ago that referred to a study that supports the idea that you only truly need so much money in life to be happy. Past a certain point, more money doesn’t make you any happier.

So true!

I’m not interested in being a millionaire because I’m not interested in the lifestyle or work it would take to get there. I’m also not interested in the least in the KIND of business I would need to be in to make that kind of money.

And I LIKE having work and purpose in my life and things to strive for. I don’t want it all to come TOO easily, funny as that might sound.

That said, I DO think it’s important to have a six figure business. BUT, it’s important to clarify what kind of six figures we’re talking about.

There is a HUGE difference between a $100-200k biz and a $500k biz, let alone a $1 million biz, in terms of the work involved, what kind of business it is and what it needs to focus on. Very, very different models and machinations involved.

You can live a very happy, rich life (and I mean LIVING) with only a $75k income. That said, it’s important to understand that for you to personally earn $75k, your business generally needs to bring in a revenue of at least $100k.

This is always the kind of “6 Figure Business” I’m talking about in relation to our administrative support businesses.

And this is a VERY modest and completely doable goal that gives you a benchmark of financial ease, solvency, sustainability and profitability that encourages you to strive without making money the focus or driving force and without forcing you to have a completely different kind of business model and life.

There’s nothing to feel guilty about in earning well, no matter what your financial goals are, be they modest or grand.

But make no mistake, there is a minimum amount of money you do need to make in order to stay in business and be able to serve clients well.

You earning poorly, and merely surviving instead of thriving, does no one any good whatsoever.

I originally posted this musing on our Facebook page, but I thought it related wonderfully to what I’m always trying to help you do:  which is to earn more, working less and more strategically.

While $100k a year is an excellent financial goal to strive for, that doesn’t mean it will be easy to achieve working entirely one-on-one with clients.

And a bigger business (in order to achieve that goal) is not necessarily better. Bigger businesses come with more work, more administration, more costs, reduced profit, more people managing and more room for problems, communication issues and errors.

There IS, however, an alternative way to increase your revenues and that’s by leveraging your knowledge and turning it into DIY info products for your potential clients and site visitors.

Not only do these products allow you to demonstrate your expertise without requiring your personal one-on-one time, you’ll essentially get paid to market your business and grow that all important know, like and trust factor.

The crazy thing is almost NO ONE in our industry is doing this for their prospects and clients! You don’t have to be one of them.

On Thursday, November 29, I’m conducting a class where I will show you all the ins and outs of creating info products and multi-layer revenue streams in your business. This is a brand new class that I’ve been “threatening” to do for several months and next month is finally it!

See the registration for more information and to secure your spot >>

I’ll see you there! :)

Dear Danielle: Should My Client Say I Am Part of His Team?

Dear Danielle:

A client of mine has just asked me if I would agree to put my name and picture to be published in a paper magazine as a member of his team. He is a solopreneur and apparently he wants his company to be included in a directory of the industry to be published in the magazine. He doesn’t want to show he works alone (in fact, he doesn’t as I collaborate with him) so he wants my picture and contact info (which is the email address I use with his company’s domain) to be included. Do you see any issues if I accept his request? Thank you in advance, Danielle!Mirna Majraj, MB Asistencia Virtual

Hi Mirna :)

I know you’re in a different country, and I’m not sure what the laws are there, but in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Ireland and the U.K., and many of the European countries, the laws concerning the distinctions between employees and independent contractors (i.e., business owners) are all very similar.

And that is, essentially, no one is part of your business team unless they are an employee. If this is true in your country as well (you’ll want to consult with a lawyer to be clear), you want to avoid any appearance that you are one because there are legal consequences involved.

Here’s how I help people to understand this:  Are they going to include their attorney, their accountant, their designer and every other professional they are a client of in the listing as well? No? Then you shouldn’t be included either.

Your relationship with him is no different than the one he has with any other independent professional who is not an employee, but is a separate business.

If it doesn’t make sense to include them, it doesn’t make sense to include you in that manner either. It’s not the truth and it’s misrepresenting the correct nature of the relationship.

Here’s a blog post that talks a bit more about this (see the comments in particular): What You Need to Know About Subcontractors.

Some might be wondering what the big deal is.

Well, here’s the thing. Forget about legalities; it’s important and worth our while to maintain these boundaries because too often it becomes a “slippery slope” when we don’t.

Every time you allow clients to take liberties when it comes to your standards and boundaries, you’re chipping away at the integrity and foundation of the relationship.

These seemingly inconsequential concessions ultimately lead to detrimental effects in the relationship. Pretty soon, you’ve got a client who seems to think you’re his employee.

If you’re going to be successful and sustainable, for legal and practical reasons, you need to preserve those boundaries and not allow them to become muddied, blurred or misconstrued.

Plus, (and I’m sure he’s innocently not realizing this), it’s just dishonest to allow him to portray you like that.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of in being a solopreneur. In fact, you could be doing him a huge service by helping him see how he can promote that as a competitive advantage, that the fact that he IS a solopreneur who works with key strategic partners and experts allows him to be more agile, flexible and responsive in meeting his clients’ needs. (Suggest he even use that as a script if you want.)

There are an infinite number of ways it can be worded so that he can still include you, but with a more truthful, accurate depiction about who you are in relation to his business (i.e., his Administrative Consultant and one of his key independent experts).

Plus, I’m a firm believer that ideal clients, if they truly value you, are willing to help you as well. And it certainly doesn’t help you to dishonestly pretend that you are part of his “team.” If he thinks about it, he will probably see that he’s asking you to compromise your ethics. And it’s not polite to put you in that position.

That being the case, suggest to him that if he would like to include you in the article or listing, the best way he can help you and your business (and what you must insist upon since you are not an employee) is by including your full name, the name of your business, the link to your business website and/or your contact info.

You’ll be helping him stay in integrity (and maintaining your own) while giving him the opportunity to support your business at the same time.

PS: At the start of your relationship with any client, be sure there is discussion about the nature of the relationship so there is no misunderstanding moving forward. Also, inform clients how they should refer to you and introduce you to others:  as their Administrative Consultant or even simply Administrator. It’s not up to them what to call you and by informing them, you ensure they don’t come up on their own with something that you don’t prefer. The last thing you need is a client introducing you to others as his secretary or assistant.

Want to Be a Lean, Mean, Client-Supportin Mo-Chine?

All the money in the world is no good to you if you’re working all the time to earn it and have no time left with which to savor and experience life and LIVE.

Guess what? You don’t have to work from sun-up to sundown just to earn a living.

Let me show you how you can have a financially successful business with breathing room AND time for a rich life working a 3-day week. I’ve just released the self-paced, “home” version of my latest class Power Productivity and Biz Management for Administrative Consultants.

But don’t let the name fool you. This is NOT another “how to stuff more hours and more work into your already over-stuffed, over-crowded, overwhelming day” productivity courses.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Instead, I show you how to do LESS so that you can not only provide BETTER support to your clients and earn better doing it, but also how to have more time for your own life.

One of the reasons I gave the class originally and subsequently now provide it as a self-study system is because over the last year I was hearing from countless people in my Laser Mentoring Sessions about how they were working round the clock, often with tons of clients, yet still barely earning a living.

And life? What’s that? lol. They had absolutely nothing left for themselves much less time to live or experience any of the reasons they went into business in the first place.

The strategies, concepts and step-by-step systems in my new guide are the same ones I use in my own practice and teach others about in my laser mentoring sessions.

Just the other day, I heard from one woman I started working in my Laser Mentoring Sessions several months ago:

“I wanted to connect with you and let you know that because of you, I am a much happier person. You remember how ragged, tired and worn out I was when we had that interview a few months ago? Well, I am now working about 1/3 the time, if that, and making more money (not at 6 figures yet, but have that goal in the forecast). I am more confident (still have a ways to go, of course), but I am seeing some successes and feeling great about the direction that my business is taking! I have goals and plans to do more, but I’m baby-stepping for now. Don’t want to take on too much, too fast, and wind up right back where I was. I hope you can feel how appreciative I am!”

You, too, can get the simple systems which you can implement QUICKLY and EASILY to transform your business into a lean, mean, client-supporting mo-chine that takes better care of clients and creates more value while allowing you to work only 3 days a week, making more money and having more time for life.

Check it out here >>

Dear Danielle: What Contact Management Service Do You Recommend?

Dear Danielle:

I wonder if you’ve any experience or recommendations for contact management services, something that could be used online collaboratively with clients to help them manage their contacts. I’m thinking in general terms of keeping track of folks that one might meet at networking events where they exchange business cards and want a central place to access them later. Ideally, there would be a way to tag them to sort them later (i.e., potential client, supplier, colleague, etc.). I know Salesforce offers this service. I just wondered if you were aware of anything else out there. Thanks in advance! —BL

This is always a tough kind of question for me answer because I don’t keep track of that kind of thing as I don’t do that work for clients per se. Stuff like this, without reason or intention,  too often falls into the category of mindless busy work that I don’t want my business or my day bogged down with. I have to save my energies and focus for the more substantive work that I do for clients.

It’s one of those topics that is hard to answer generally because to give more useful direction, it depends on your own target market, how the information will be used, what are they storing it for (what do they want to do with it later), and whether there is truly a useful, purposeful reason to keep track of that kind of info.

The reason I say that is, just collecting business cards and contact info is not good networking. It’s also against CAN-SPAM laws (and just plain old marketing etiquette period) to harvest emails like that. If the intention is to use the information for marketing purposes, it’s really a form of cold-calling which people absolutely detest. It’s poor, ineffective methodology that creates wasteful effort.

I am aware of Saleforce and the people I hear from who use it think it’s pretty darn nifty. I do think it’s a tad more suited to sales types of businesses (hence the name, lol), but it is built for systemization and automation which is useful for all kinds of scenarios. I don’t work with sales types at all so I don’t have any personal experience with it beyond that.

If you’re just looking for a place to enter business card/miscellaneous contact info, most all of the online collaboration suites have shared contacts. I use this function in Airset to store commonly used contact info. For example, I work with attorneys, so it’s useful to enter their clients’ contact info into the shared contacts database on matters we are working on as well as the contact info of the courts, court services and vendors, opposing counsel, etc.

There are also card readers that can be purchased where the biz cards can be fed into it and it scans the info and transfers/stores it into a database that you specify. As I mentioned before, personally, I wouldn’t ever do that work for clients, and if they were intent on mindlessly storing their biz cards just for GPs, I would tell them to get one of those.

But for marketing and networking purposes, I steer clients toward using a list builder, management and dissemination service like Aweber, and get them to start building an opt-in list. The idea/methodology is that they offer their site visitors and contacts something of useful, meaningful interest and value—for free—that they can obtain by signing up with their email address.

This way, it’s voluntary and fully compliant with CAN-SPAM laws. And by them opting in, you already have an indication of their interest and consent to continue to keep in touch with them after that, which is not only better, more effective marketing etiquette, it also establishes who the client’s warm/hot prospects are so that their best efforts can be more focused.

So, I don’t really have any services I can recommend in answer to your specific question (maybe others will chime in), but I hope some of the business thinking is useful to you. All my best!

The Difference Between an Assistant and an Administrative Consultant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Danielle:

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

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

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

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

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

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

See what I mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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