Archive for the ‘Working with Clients’ Category

You Are Not Employed by Clients

Short, sweet, but important reminder for you today:

As an independent professional and business owner, clients do not “hire” or “employ” you; they “engage” you.

Using proper business terminology helps ensure clients understand (and respect) the correct nature of the relationship:  one of business and client, not employer to employee.

EXTREMELY important distinction.

This understanding is critical to the success of the relationship. Where the parties do not have a meeting of the minds here, everything that follows is misaligned as well.

Do You Want a Job or a Business?

Do You Want a Job or a Business?

People come into this profession with dreams of a lifestyle different than the normal 9-5 grind, to have more freedom and flexibility in their lives—and then they create a business that allows them to have anything but those things.

One of the reasons this happens is because they’re being taught and advised by training organizations to operate like employees.

The most ridiculous thing I read recently is that in managing client expectations and helping them establish trust in you, you shouldn’t “disappear, even for a day or two.”

So let me ask you this:  Do you want a job or a business?

There are lots of ways to manage expectations and instill ever-growing trust in clients.

None of it requires you to operate like an employee.

When you read books like Gerber’s “The E-Myth Revisited,” you learn that the idea is to create a business that operates by system and doesn’t necessarily require you to be the one doing the work.

However, there’s nothing wrong with you being the one doing the work.

Many (perhap even most) people go into self-employed business to practice their craft for reasons beyond money.

It has just as much to do with soul. They get a kind of deeper personal satisfaction they just can’t experience in any other situation. Doing work they love and enjoy brings them a richness of meaning, purpose and spirit in their lives.

Even the wealthy will tell you, you can make all the money in the world and not have to work another day in your life, but it’s an empty, joyless existence without the purpose and fullfillment of actual, meaningful work.

God bless those who love to pull up their sleeves and make their living in a more direct, one-on-one, hands-on way!

But that doesn’t mean they have to sacrifice the desire to have the same kind of freedom and earning potential that other businesses strive for.

There’s a way to be a solopreneur where you can do the work, but do it in a way that doesn’t require you to be at the daily beck and call of clients. You just have to make some mental shifts in your thinking and understanding about what you are and how you work with clients.

The first of these shifts is getting out of the thinking that the only way you are valuable to a client is if you are there to deal with their every need, every whim, day in and day out.

You have to get out of the stuckness that says your value lies in being in daily, constant contact with clients.

There’s a word for someone like that: it’s called employee. And you DON’T have to operate like that.

If you are operating no differently than the secretary who sits outside the boss’ door, only virtually, you’re going to be in for one rude awakening.

Because not only will you drastically inhibit your earning potential, you’ll learn (the hard way) just what a predicament you’ve created for yourself and your clients.

Eventually, when you want to enjoy the fruits of your labor and get away from the office on a whim, you realize you’ve created a dynamic, no matter how loudly you shout about standards, that just doesn’t leave you much, if any, room to do that.

And funny thing about standards… they have to work well in actual, practical application. They can’t be some lofty theory dreamt up by someone who isn’t doing the same work you do every day of the week.

Stop killing yourself trying to live up to that crap.

Your value is not dependent on whether you don’t disappear for a day or two. That’s crazy!

Who wants to live a life as a business owner and independent professional being held hostage to their phone, desk and clients?

There isn’t a single other solo profession out there that tells its denizens they have to operate like that in order to be of value or service.

You only put yourself in that cage if you believe there is no other way to operate or be of service and value.

Your value isn’t in doing everything for clients. Your value isn’t in being an “instant assistant” and being at their beck-and-call day in and day out.

Your value isn’t how much you do, it’s how much what you do selectively for clients helps them grow, move forward and keep their businesses humming along smoothly.

None of that inherently requires you to be in daily contact or to take on the whole kit and kaboodle to do that. You can be of tremendous value and service taking on just a very specific cross-section of the administrative load that clients carry.

I’m also not sure what makes people think that you can’t have a close, personal, connected relationship with clients without being at their on-demand beck and call day in and day out.

Attorneys do it. Accountants do it. Millions of other solo practitioners have real, meaningful, exceptionally trusting and connected relationships with their clients without being joined at the hip on a daily basis. And so can you.

The trick is to:

  1. Establish policies, systems and processes that give you lots of room to move around and not be at the beck and call of clients, and
  2. Only take on clients and work that are the best fit for those policies, systems and processes.

Part of putting order to chaos and managing client expectations is setting up a system and a promise for how things work consistently and reliably so that clients know what to expect ahead of time, each and every time.

Don’t create expectations that will fence you in and that you can’t sustain. You want to set expectations that you can realistically, consistently and reliably live up to. It’s really as simple as that.

And setting those expectations does not have anything to do with nor require you to be under any client’s thumb on a daily basis.

This is what allows you to build freedom, flexibility and space in your practice which in turns truly does serve clients much better.

By taking even just a few specific tasks or areas of work off their plate, you are allowing them to grow their business, move forward and get things done. That isn’t dependent on whether they hear from you each day or not. It’s all in how YOU decide what expectations to set and how YOU want things to work in your business. You can do all of that without being forced to be at your desk, in your office, each and every cotton-picking minute of every day under the thumb of clients.

Let me tell you how I do that in my practice:

First, when I consult with clients, one of the things I discuss with them is the nature of the relationship. I need to make sure they are 100% clear that they are not hiring an employee, that they are hiring an independent professional no different than if they were hiring an attorney or accountant (which is exactly how I want them to view the relationship and how we’ll be working together). I point out that how and when we work together and my availability to them will necessarily be different than working with an employee.

So, that’s setting expectation #1—making sure the client understands the nature of the relationship, how it’s going to work and how it’s not going to work (i.e., I’m not going to be their secretaryor personal assistant sitting outside your door only virtually).

Next, for setting expectation #2, I talk about how our communications will work. They are free to email any time of day or night, but I let them know upfront what my formal business hours and days are (so that they respect this as a business relationship and don’t expect that I’m going to be dealing with anything outside those times or on days that I am closed) and when to expect a reply.

I promise that they’ll get a response to every communication they send me within 24 business hours, even if it’s just a “received” or “gotcha” or “will do.”

And then I follow-through on that promise. That way they aren’t left scratching their heads wondering if I got the message and it keeps the line of communication flowing. It’s that kind of consistency that grows trust.

I explain that all work requests must be in sent via email because that is the sytem which best allows me to track and prioritize and schedule things. They can use whatever tools they need to in order to submit their requests as long as they result in an email in my IN box.

And if a client doesn’t like any of that, if he or she doesn’t care to communicate by email and prefers another method? They’re not a fit and I don’t work with them. Simple as that.

You gotta stop investing so much in clients who can’t go with your flow. Work with and focus only on those who can.

For setting expectations #3, I explain my 3/7 guide. My 3/7 guide is how I set their expectations with regard to turnaround time.  Within that framework, simple tasks that can be accomplished easily are done within a 3-day turnaround.

Most often, things are done far more quickly than that, but I don’t want clients to start expecting that I’m going to instantly respond to each and every thing immediately. That’s not an expectatation that anyone can promise and deliver consistently, and I don’t want to live or work that way. It’s a recipe for unhappiness and unsustainable promises.

The “7″ part of my guide is for larger, more complex or ongoing projects and work. This is where the client and I regroup every 7 days at our regularly scheduled weekly one-hour meeting. During this meeting, I give them status updates, we talk about progress, new goals, brainstorm, you name it. Sometimes we just shoot the breeze.

I think it’s important to note that I only do client meetings on the same day each week. I don’t hold them willy-nilly throughout the week. Like any other professional, this is how I’ve decided it works in my business.

My business, my schedule. It gives me the time I need to focus on client work the rest of the week without interruption to my concentration, and gives me the space I need to move around as I need to in order to stay energized.

This system gives clients a tangible, reliable idea of how things will work consistently.

It manages their expectations in a way that leaves me great freedom and space to enjoy my work, enjoy them, and get things done far better than I ever could working lucy-goosey at the whim of clients.

And I end up serving them far better in the process. That constancy, that reliability and predictability is what gains their great trust—all without being joined at the hip.

Throughout this process, clients and I are having all kinds of fun, productive and effective email communications. There isn’t any lack of connectedness, and they don’t get all up in arms if they don’t hear from me for a day or two because they already know how things work in my business.

In other words, they know what to expect. And when they know what to expect upfront, you don’t have to inform them of your every move, every second of every day.

This is what the business concept of “managing expectations” is about. When you set things up like this, you CAN “disappear” for a day or two with ease without any client notification or upset. I do it all the time!

If you need help understanding what setting expectations is really about and how to do that in your own practice, please post your questions in the comments below.

And if you want to learn how to employ my complete practice management and business set-up systems to live a similar lifestyle, I’ve got it all written out for you in my guide, Power Productivity and Business Management for Administrative Consultants.

I’m absolutely happy to help in this area because I think it’s a great disservice to let those in our industry continue to think they have to operate like employees in order to be of value and service, which deprives them of the freedom and flexibility they could enjoy that every other business owner dreams of.

Originally posted February 10, 2009.

Dear Danielle: Should I Offer Inbox Management for Clients?

Dear Danielle: Should I Offer inbox Management for Clients?

Dear Danielle:

Do you recommend doing inbox management as a service offering for clients? It sort of feels a bit too ‘personal assistant’ to me. I did it for a past client and I didn’t enjoy it, but she was the proverbial client from hell and called on me night and day. I’m now molding my business to suit me. And wondering if you know of Admin Consultants who do inbox/email management. I usually suggest setting up auto-responders. But I guess if the compensation was right then perhaps it’s lucrative… I’m on the fence. Thanks kindly Danielle!Lisa Kelly, Admin Guru

Great question! I love any opportunity to elaborate on this as it’s sort of a lynchpin topic.

I don’t do any email/inbox management for clients and never have for exactly the reason you mention.

I’m not in business to be a personal assistant. I’m a strategic support partner.

That means clients and I are NOT going to be working day-to-day in the same way they would with an employee, nor am I going to be available to them (at their beck and call) in the same manner as an employee… because I’m not one.

I tell them to think of me like they would their attorney or accountant because that’s exactly how I want them to understand the relationship and how we’ll be working together.

And I come right out and tell them that if what they are looking for is a day-to-day assistant, then they need an employee.

What I do explain is that I can’t be in business to be their personal assistant for both legal and practical reasons, but that the time I do free up for them is time they can use to better manage their own inboxes (among other things) and feel less stressed and harried.

Of course, it’s also important to point out that I simply don’t have these kind of misunderstandings anymore now that I am an Administrative Consultant. When you don’t call yourself an assistant (i.e., Virtual Assistant), people don’t confuse you with one. 😉

The problem with offering that as a service is because it necessarily forces you to work with clients in a day-to-day assistant-like capacity.

Not only does that make it easy for the IRS to view you as an employee in that dynamic, but more importantly, I’m not trying to have a business that chains me to my desk every day and turns it into a job. Which is exactly what it would do because I’d have to constantly be monitoring inboxes and managing things.

I purposely never provide any kind of support that puts me in that kind of role. And it’s one of the reasons I have so much more freedom and flexibility than most people in our industry.

No one else has to do that to themselves either. You don’t have to offer those kind of services in order to still be of enormous benefit and value to clients.

In fact, one of the reasons I am of HIGHER value to my clients is because I don’t take on those kind of functions and roles. That frees my time and mental space for more valuable, important administrative work that has far greater impact and results in my clients’ businesses.

It’s not about how much you can do for clients that makes you valuable. It’s about how those things you selectively do for clients improve their businesses and lives.

I also wanted to touch on something else that your question brought up. I sense that you are about to step over your own standards. And my hope for you is that you don’t do that. Because it’s a slippery slope downhill from there.

No amount of money is ever enough to make you enjoy work you don’t like or make it worth turning your business (and life) into a drudgery and hell of your own making.

I urge you to stick to your guns about what you want. It’s the only way you will create the life and lifestyle you want for yourself.

The other thing that will benefit you in running your business your way and avoiding clients from hell is to get clear about your standards, boundaries, policies and procedures.

Start writing down how clients are to contact you, in what ways and within what time frames, how they are to communicate work to you (YOU decide that, not them), what your business days/hours are, and whatever information and protocols you need them to know, understand and follow in order to work with you.

Then inform clients of these things. Use your website to prequalify ideal clients. Talk about how things work in your consultations. Document them in a Client Guide that you give to new clients. Institute a new client orientation and go over these things again formally in that orientation.

These steps will go along way in making sure you work with ideal clients and that none of them turn into the clients from hell.

The industry at large is still so completely mired in employee mindset. They simply don’t know how to operate any other way except to keep being assistants.

So these questions and conversations are always an excellent tool to help them stop thinking of themselves as assistants and begin to think more entrepreneurially about administrative support, because it’s then that they start to see how they can operate differently, get better clients and make more money.

You don’t have to be an assistant to provide administrative support. They are not one and the same thing.

I’ll leave that for everyone to ponder. And if you just had an “aha!” moment from this, please let me know in the comments. :)

All my best moving onward and upward, Lisa!

(If you want more freedom and flexibility in your life and business, get my guide Power Productivity & Biz Management for Administrative Consultants (GDE-41) to learn all my systems, policies and standards for workload management and working with clients. One of the best tools you’ll learn in there is my 3/7 Guideline!)

Is the Client Always Right?

Here’s some fodder for conversation:

How do you balance between making things easy/convenient for your prospects and clients and your standards/boundaries around ideal clients? Where do you draw the line between honoring your standards/boundaries and what makes someone an ideal client for you, and being client-centric?

For example, I was reading an article that was telling business owners they should make themselves available in every way possible (phone, email, mobile, IM, etc.) to accommodate everyone’s contact preferences.

I’ve seen this advice a million times over the years and always thought it was crazy.

That might be true for big business, but as a solopreneur/boutique business, I would go insane being interrupted and contacted every which way like that. Which is why my standards around who makes an ideal client include the fact that they are amenable to MY systems first.

If someone only wants to deal with me on the phone and be able to call me any time they like, they are not an ideal client for me because I can’t run my business and do my work under those conditions.

And besides just the operational impracticalities and boundaries, being too available invites disrespect and makes you look desperate. If you don’t respect yourself to have and honor your boundaries, your clients and prospects won’t either.

Another example: I read an article that said to make it easy for clients to remember appointments and other important dates.

If I can automate or systemize that, great. I have no problem doing that.

But, if it this instead turns out to be a needy client who lives in constant chaos and disorganization and has to be constantly reminded and have their hand held all the time, that’s not an ideal client for me and I wouldn’t work with  them. I’m an administrator, not a babysitter, and my ideal clients need to come to the relationship with some responsibility for themselves.

So where do you draw these lines in your business? Do you get similar advice that makes you second-guess or feel guilty for honoring your boundaries and standards around who is an ideal client for you?

Dear Danielle: How Do I Approach Clients About Subcontracting Their Work Out to Someone Else?

Hi Danielle:

My business is at the point where I’d like to outsource some of the tasks I’m doing for my clients to another Administrative Consultant so I have more time to focus on creating information products and other leveraged income projects. Any tips on how to approach my clients so they feel comfortable with the switch? I would make it seamless for them, and continue to be their contact. And any tips for selecting the right admin consultant would also be very much appreciated. Thanks!Deidra Miller, Magic Wing Administration

Why make the switch in the first place? My feeling is if you want to keep the business, never abdicate the relationship.

That one-on-one relationship and the shared body of intimate knowledge and understanding of the client and his/her business that grows from that is, after all, one the the most important ingredients that create value and allow you to achieve the results you do for clients—and why you get paid the big bucks.

That’s not something that can be delegated. And it’s not something you want to delegate if you want to keep the integrity of that value intact.

No one needs a middle man. As a client, I’d be thinking, “If you’re just passing me off to someone else, what do I need you for? Why am I paying you the big bucks instead of just working directly with the person who is actually responsible for the relationship?”

If you want to keep the client, my best advice is to partner (not subcontract) with an Administrative Consultant in the same way that clients retain you.

The dynamic of an ongoing collaborative relationship like that is a lot different than if you were to pass the client off to someone one.

In that kind of context, the relationship with your client can be seamless and continue just as it was before because the Administrative Consultant you partner with is supporting you, not the client.

You’re still the one who has the relationship and direct communication with your clients and the one who directs whatever work is involved. Clients don’t need to know who all supports you in your business so there’s no need to approach them about anything.

If you really do need to pass the client off to someone else, if you simply are unable to maintain that direct relationship, in my book, it’s best to give that business cleanly to someone else. It’s just better for everyone involved, particularly the client.

I created all my info products while maintaing my own practice. Granted, I did have to cut down my roster, but only because I hadn’t found the right Administrative Consultant to fully support me at the time.

Still, I don’t think it’s an either/or proposition. You can maintain your practice without sacrificing the level and quality of the relationship that your clients currently enjoy with you while creating your info products methodically over time.

In my guide to creating info products and passive income streams, besides partnering with an Administrative Consultant, one of my strategies is to focus on one product per month and then reserve time for that product creation on your calendar, either a few hours a day or one day a week.

Thanks for the question! I hope this helps, and if you want to continue the dialogue to gain more clarity about what I’m proposing, feel free to post in the comment. :)

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! :)