How to Converse with a Ninny

How to Converse with a Ninny

Recently, something reminded me of a conversation I had a while back with a colleague.

She was frustrated by an interaction she’d had with someone in a networking group and wasn’t sure what to do about.

The person had asked what she did. She answered that she was an Administrative Consultant and attempted to relate some of the tasks she helped clients with.

The person’s response was “Oh, so you’re a virtual assistant?”

She wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that because she most vehemently did not want to be associated with that term whatsoever.

In all honesty, some people aren’t worth your time. And the person she was talking to was obviously an uncouth ninny.

On what planet does anyone dictate to you what your title or term is, especially after you have just told them?

(That was a rhetorical question. The answer is it is never anyone’s place to call you anything except what you have instructed/informed them to call you.)

However, a big part of the problem was in how she was describing what she did.

At the time, this colleague was resistant to pinning down a target market, and the kinds of things she said she did were so broad, vague, and generalized that it’s no wonder people were confused and wanted to lump her in as a VA.

That term has become a garbage dump for “anyone doing anything.” It’s basically branded itself to mean “cheap gopher.”

She got caught up in reciting lists of tasks instead of having the more abstract conversation about how she helps clients through the expertise of administrative support.

If you’ve found yourself in a similar conversation, and you deign to indulge in it with someone, here’s how you could respond in order to better educate said ninnies:

THEM: “Oh, so you’re a VA?”

YOU: “No, as I mentioned, I am what is known as an Administrative Consultant. That is something different and more specific.”

THEM: “But aren’t you basically an assistant?”

YOU: “No, that’s not an accurate way to understand the business-to-business relationship I have with my clients. Let me ask you this: As a coach/attorney/accountant/designer/(insert their profession here), are you an assistant to your clients?”

THEM: “No, I’m their coach/attorney/accountant/designer/(whatever their business/profession is).”

YOU: “Exactly! That’s how to understand my relationship with clients as well. You and I both run businesses that offer a specific service and expertise. We both assist clients, but that doesn’t make us assistants, right? What each of us does doesn’t matter. The fact that we run independent businesses, each delivering a specific service and expertise is the important thing. For me, I happen to be in the business of providing administrative support. But I’m not an assistant because 1) assistant is a term of employment and I am not an employee to my clients in any way, shape or form, and 2) I don’t act as an assistant to clients. I am a business owner and professional who provides a specific service and expertise to my clients; they turn to me for my expertise in providing ongoing administrative support and guidance. And the term we use for someone in that specific business is Administrative Consultant.”

This is how I have had similar conversations in the past. But what I’ve found is that once you a) stop calling yourself an assistant, and b) stop describing your business and the service you provide and how you work with clients in assistant-like terms, people get it, and you aren’t going to have to deal with too many ninnies after that.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar conversation as this colleague? How did you navigate it?

Take a Moment for New Year Reflection

Take a Moment for New Year Reflection

At this time of year, I like to go somewhere beautiful and quiet in nature, preferably all to myself, where I can just set and be with my thoughts and do some reflecting.

My daughter got a new ultra fuel-efficient car this year and to celebrate, she and a couple of her friends went on a 9-day road trip down the coast, then to Las Vegas for a Halloween party and back. They had put together a fantastic itinerary for the entire journey which included a rustic retreat in South Lake Tahoe, spa pampering, dressing up as the three witches in Hocus Pocus and attending a big Halloween bash, hikes, and sight-seeing.

Last year in January, my daughter and I had done some fun life-mapping diagrams which involve reflecting on your ideal life, what you would like to do/have/be, how you will achieve those things and what activities, actions and choices to involve yourself in to reach those aims.

So before she left, I suggested to her that at some point as part of their hiking plans, they might want to take a moment to be still and quiet with their thoughts and dreams and do some journaling about those things to set the intentions.

When she got back, she told me they did exactly that and what a fantastic exercise it turned out to be for everyone. They hiked to the top of a beautiful vista and then separated from each other to achieve a bit of solitude so they could each think and write.

I’ll be carving out some time myself to do a bit of this. Here are some questions to get the ball rolling if you’d like to do some reflection and productive planning for your new year as well…

  • In reflecting on the past year (or two), what what went well/right? What gave you joy in your work and your life? What would get in the way of doing more of those things? What do you need to do to remove obstacles to that?
  • Who was a delight to work with? What about them made them delightful? How will you make room to work with more of those people?
  • What fears did you face this past year? Did you do some things that made you uncomfortable this year, that were outside your normal comfort levels? Oh, and you still alive and well and reading this? 😉 And what fears do you want to conquer this year?
  • What risks did you take this past year? What were the outcomes? Do you have a different attitude toward taking risks now? Even if it still may always feel scary, do you think you are likely to be bolder and more confident in taking a risk, despite any fears, in the future?
  • Did you encounter some scenarios where you were brave? What were they? Reflect on those. Did you properly acknowledge your bravery and congratulate yourself? Do you feel pride? Do you feel stronger? Are there other situations where you will feel stronger and more confident in next time around?
  • List at least one or two new things you want to try.
  • What do you want to do differently in this new year?
  • What do you want to stop doing because it taxes your energy? What tolerations do you need to zap?
  • What clients do you need to let go of to pave the way for more ideal ones?
  • What policies and practices do you need to examine, reconfigure and improve?
  • What are your money goals for 2018? Is it time to raise your fees? Who do you need to work with to meet those goals? How do you need to be working with them? Do you need to rethink your service offerings and how they are structured? Do you need to let go of some services so that you can focus on providing more excellence and value in the ones that make you more money? How can you be more profitable moving forward?
  • Did you experience any difficult or painful lessons this year? How/why did they happen/come about? What did you learn from them? What will you do differently in the future? Have you implemented/instituted changes to any of your policies/procedures/protocols and/or any other way you go about things as a result?
  • Even when it’s not what we want to hear when we haven’t been able to do or give our best, embracing constructive feedback from our clients is a gift. It may not always be delivered constructively and can make us wince, but when we face it head on, it can be a tremendous boon to our growth. What feedback did you receive this past year that may have been too painful to hear in the moment, but which could possible hold some kernels of truth and helpfulness in making improvements?
  • What do you need more of to generate more happiness, joy, satisfaction, contentment in your life and business? Likewise, what do you need to let go of to have more happiness, joy, satisfaction and contentment?

And always remember, fresh starts aren’t limited to the new year. Each new day is an opportunity to do-over.

I’d love to hear what you’d like to conquer in 2018 if you care to share.

Happy 2018!

Are You Building a Burnout-Proof Business?

Are You Building a Burnout Proof Business?

Good article from Zapier today: 10 Signs that You’re Headed for Burnout

This is why it’s so important to build a business around YOUR needs first, not clients.

Figure that out, formalize it, write it down, and say it out loud. Then, choose only clients, work, and business practices that align with those standards, intentions and values.

When all you do is chase after any clients without discernment, working just for the money, instead of instituting policies, procedures and protocols around the standards and values you want for yourself and your business, and you continue to work with less than ideal clients, that is a fast path to stress, overwhelm, then burnout and exhaustion.

And don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about making clients second-fiddle. Far from it.

It’s actually about the fact that by putting yourself first and building a business that serves YOU and your needs first, you are actually FAR better equipped to a) get better clients, and b) take exceptionally good care of those clients.

A business that doesn’t make you happy ultimately does no one any good, not you and not the clients.

Are You Celebrating Your Victories?

Are You Celebrating Your Victories?

As we near the end of 2017, have you been reflecting on your year and the things you wanted to accomplish?

Were you able to reach certain goals, projects and mileposts you set for yourself this year?

Remember, they don’t have to be gigantic.

Sometimes the most important milestones are seemingly “small,” but that doesn’t make them any less significant!

Each and every step you take in working toward something is an achievement. Even those hiccups and setbacks we all encounter along the way provide us with invaluable learning that helps us grow.

Success (as in moving in the direction you want to go, accomplishing that which you want to accomplish) is made up of hundreds of actions, stepping stones, learning, and small victories every single day.

Celebrate them! Use them as forward momentum! Give yourself credit! You are DOING it!

What are you most proud of accomplishing this year?

Do Your Family and Friends Respect Your Business?

Do you ever have trouble getting family and friends to respect your business?

I know I still do sometimes, even after doing this for over 20 years.

I don’t know that it will ever change when it comes to certain people we have to deal with in our lives.

Here’s an example of what I mean…

So one of the reasons I went into business for myself is to have more control over my own life. To have more say about how I spend my time (and on whom), to get more joy and fulfillment out of the work I do and the gratification it brings seeing how it helps my clients in very immediate and impactful ways.

Most of all, I wanted to be able to be present in my own life, to be able to be there for those I love.

My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about 10 years ago. In 2014, his health took a severe nosedive and he ended up in the ER and then assisted living for a year.

My sister lives in the same city as my dad, but doesn’t drive and works a 9-5 job.

I live about an hour away, but since I am the only one who drives, I’m the one who had to pick everyone up and shuttle them around back and forth.

Since that time, because I’m the only one who drives and because I have a business working for myself and have the flexibility, I’m the one who has scheduled all my dad’s various appointments and run him around to all of them: primary care, neurologist, weekly B12 shots, eye appointments, hearing appointments, cognitive testing, blood draws, etc.

I take him to get his hair cut, his toe nails taken care of (he needs a special appointment for this), runs to the grocery store, the pharmacy, and a multitude of other errands.

I also make sure his house stays clean (especially his bathroom) and check the fridge to make sure anything old and expired is thrown out since my sister, who actually lives mere blocks from him, fails to do any of this no matter how many times I ask.

I’m happy to do it; there also isn’t anyone else to do it so it falls on my shoulders. Someone has to take care of him, right?

While I’m grateful to be able to do it, at the same time, it’s no easy task. It eats up a shit ton of time and energy.

Plus, it’s not all happy, happy, joy, joy. My relationship with my dad has been difficult and strained my whole life.

And doing all of this, making the time to do it, has had negative effects on my business, cost me a lot in very real financial ways, and caused me to lose a whole lot of momentum.

Having to take my dad to what may only be a half-hour appointment ends up eating a whole day of my time and energy and actual work hours.

It disrupts my entire life and business. I’m completely spent and it sometimes takes me a day or two to recuperate and get back into the swing of things.

Yes, I am very fortunate I have the freedom and flexibility to be able to do this for my dad. My dad and my sister are very lucky that I’m in the position I am to be able to do it because if I didn’t, there’s no one else to fall back on.

Still, it really sucks that they take it for granted and don’t consider just how much of a toll it takes on my life and my livelihood.

If my sister had to do this while trying to hold down a job, she’d end up in the loony bin, not to mention fired.

But she’s so cavalier about my time and doesn’t seem to grasp the fact that, um, hey, I work for a living, too!

It’s so easy for people to look at your life and think all you’re doing is sitting around at home playing on the computer.

They don’t see that you are doing real work, important work, for real people who are depending on you in very real and important ways.

Your clients have invested their time and money and faith in you, and you have the privilege and duty to not let them down and manage your obligations to them.

So what’s the solution?

Maybe we need to set more boundaries and make sure the people in our lives honor those boundaries.

Maybe we need to be more respectful of own boundaries and not step over them and make concessions all the time.

Because it’s a slippery slope when we do that, and next thing you know, you have no boundaries at all.

Maybe we need to say “no” more often.

It’s honorable to want to help and to be able to make sacrifices when it’s important and necessary to do so. But we can’t neglect our own self-care.

When you say “yes” too often, people tend to take it for granted.

Don’t let them off the hook so easy. Make them shoulder more of the load.

It may not be easy to say “no,” but I think we are all worthy of looking out for our own health and best interests as much as we look out and care for others in our lives.

Maybe we need to dress our businesses up in more formal, tangible, traditional ways.

Have that professional website up. Have those professionally printed business cards. Establish professional hours. Lay down the law with your family and friends so that they know when you’re working in your business, you are AT WORK.

If this is one of the problems you have, don’t let them just drop in and gab any ol’ time they please. Make appointments. If someone drops in unannounced, politely but assertively turn them away. Let them know what your office hours are and that they need to call or email first to make sure if or when you are free (that’s just basic good manners anyway; their lack of consideration is one thing; you accepting it is another).

Dedicate a room in your home for your office. If you don’t have a room, then a space. And make sure everyone knows that that space is sacred and off limits.

If you live with others, perhaps putting on “work” clothes and getting out of the bathrobe once in awhile (lol) will help them see that you take your business as serious as they take their job.

While we sometimes need to have a straight talk with a client now and then about boundaries (and a lot of times, it’s we ourselves who teach them bad habits in the first place), I think a lot of times it’s our family and friends who are the worst at respecting our businesses and boundaries.

Have you experienced this in some way yourself? What are some of the ways you have dealt with it?

Dear Danielle: Do I Need to Move If I Want Clients in Another City?

Dear Danielle: Do I Need to Move If I Want Clients in Another City?

Dear Danielle:

Thank you so much for the Pricing calculator you sent me to download. I have been travelling a bit between Cape Town and Johannesburg. Herein lies my dilemma. My entire family apart from my eldest son lives in Johannesburg. So do I set up in Cape Town or in Johannesburg. I do believe that business prospects are better in Johannesburg but don’t like Jo’burg very much! I have already lined up two clients in Cape Town (the plot thickens). What to do…what to do….? I absolutely love your blog and find it incredibly useful and informative. Thank you so much for all the effort you put in to educate. Kind regards. —L. W.

Hi L.W. 🙂

Thanks for letting me know how useful the ACA resources are to you. I’m very glad to hear it.

Even though we live in two different countries (I’m in the U.S. and you’re in South Africa), the great thing about our kind of business is that a) the principles of business are pretty universal no matter what country you’re in, and b) business laws in developed countries around the world are quite similar.

This is of great benefit to us because it makes speaking the same business language pretty easy.

And, since the administrative support business is an online business, that means you don’t work with clients or even have to meet them in person.

Not that you can’t get clients from meeting them locally. It’s just that due to the nature of the business being online, you aren’t restricted to your geographic or local physical location when it comes to finding and getting clients.

The world is literally your oyster as far as clients go, if that’s your preference.

Although, I will say, my clients and I find a lot more ease in understanding, communication and working together by being in the same country or state. As far as business goes, I personally don’t have any desire or need to work with international clients.

But different strokes for different folks. If you aren’t able to find all the clients you need in your general vicinity, you have the entire rest of the world to prospect at your fingertips.

All that is to say, you don’t have to live in Johannesburg to get clients from there.

As far as what city you are legally allowed to claim as your business’s official operating address, that is something you will definitely want to research as there may be legalities and business/registration rules and requirements involved particular to your local area.

Some relevant questions might be:

  • What city do you reside in officially/most of the time? What address do you currently use on tax returns?
  • Are you a sole proprietor/operator or is your business incorporated?
  • If your business is incorporated, are you allowed to register it in any city you like?
  • What are your preferred city’s business registration/taxing requirements? Must you actually reside there to register/incorporate/operate there?
  • What are the (federal/state/county/local) laws/rules about where you must reside for your business to be registered there?
  • If you legally have the option to choose one city or another, are there benefits to registering in one over the other?
  • What are the business registration fees/requirements in each?
  • What are the taxing requirements in each?
  • What kind of reporting does each require?

Getting answers to these questions from the proper governing agencies in your area will help you decide where your business is to be based/registered.

Beyond that, as far as getting clients from Johannesburg or anywhere without having to resort to the time and energy-consuming analog ways of meeting them (i.e., in person), what is going to be of tremendous help to you is to narrow things down to a target market.

A target market is simply an industry/profession that you cater your administrative support to.

Once you decide who to focus on, you can then figure out all the online ways and places to begin connecting and interacting with people in that field, getting to know them, and allowing them to get to know you through your active presence and participation.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to download my guide on How to Choose Your Target Market. It elaborates more on this topic and has some exercises that will help you immediately begin to start connecting with potential clients.

Let me know if this helps you or if you have any further questions. I’m happy to shed more light on this topic.

It’s a Traditional Thanksgiving this Year for My Family

It's a Traditional Thanksgiving this Year for My Family

Welp, it’s Turkey Day, otherwise known as Thanksgiving, this Thursday for those of us in the U.S. The big turkey debate in our family has finally been settled (smoked or traditional). This year anyway…

Personally, I’m not that excited about turkey. I wanted a Thanksgiving salmon, but that got shot down immediately. I’m just thankful we don’t have any vegans or all hell would break loose, lol.
(I remember now why I don’t host this holiday more often at my house.)

Just kidding. It’s going to be terrific fun! I don’t know how many more holidays we’ll have with my dad so we’re going all out with the traditional stuff which is what he loves, and he’s really looking forward to it.

I did make sure, though, to get myself a growler of my favorite locally-brewed beer, just in case, lol. And we’ll be playing Cards Against Humanity after dinner which is always a hoot.

Today, I did a dry run of my table setting (that’s it in the photo). I’m not a fan of the usual orange and gold fall color theme. I went with rich jewel tones instead: purple and plum, shiny copper, avocado green diamond-cut crystal, smokey blue glass.

I’ve got chafing dishes set up on the buffet so we can keep the serving bowls on the table to a minimum and keep things warmed at the same time. I also figured out the perfect use for all the bright-colored little pompoms I love to make: glass tags! I tied a different color on each glass so everyone knows which one is theirs.

In all honesty, other than being the hostess with the mostest, I don’t have to do a whole lot this year except make the mashed potatoes and eat. Ha! My daughter’s boyfriend is making the turkey (he’s a fantastic cook) and everyone else is bringing the rest of the trimmings, sides and desserts. Cheers to that!

I wish you and your family a lovely and yummy day filled with tons of love and laughs. And I want to thank you so much for being a part of the Administrative Consultants Association and allowing me to play some positive role in your business journey. I hope I’ve been helpful to you.

If you are using the holiday down-time to put some focused attention on your business skills and foundations, please enjoy this discount code for 10% off anything in the ACA Success Store: THANKS10

And if you already have a few pieces and would like to upgrade to The Full Shebang (Set-03), shoot me an email and I’ll send you a credit code in the amount of all your past product purchases so you can deduct that amount from your purchase. (You can even apply the THANKS10 code on top of it.)

Please note: Codes expire Nov. 26 so you’ll just want to be sure to use them by then.

If you are celebrating, have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!

If You Do Nothing Else, These Are Words to Live By

If You Do Nothing Else, These Are Words to Live By

I was reading Brit Marling’s article about Harvey Weinstein yesterday morning. In the first paragraph, she relates some powerful wisdom her mother imparted to her when she was a little girl:

“To be a free woman, you have to be a financially independent woman.”

It’s akin to something Suze Orman always reminds women of: “A man is not a financial plan.”

This is one of the most important reasons I work to help other women in this business earn better, to better understand the economics of business and how the business-to-business relationship with clients works, and teach them the important business skills that are integral to being able to ask for and get professional fees and how to navigate those business conversations: the consultation, pricing, your marketing message, chief among them.

Even if you are not your family’s primary breadwinner, life can change in an instant.

Divorce, illness, death, accidents, acts of nature… there are any number of unforeseeable events that can befall any of us at any moment and put us in the position of having to be the sole provider. Being a single mom is perhaps one of the most important reasons.

This is why my goal is to always show other women how to build a business that can take care of itself, to show them how to create the kind of income they can actually live on whether they are or need to be or should become the primary breadwinner; to establish a business that runs like a business and can scale at any point in time, even if right now you only want to work with one or two clients.

Being financially independent and creating a business that can take care of you and your family if need be is one of the best things you can do for yourself and those you love.

Educating Prospective Clients Has Nothing to Do with Convincing

Educating Clients Has Nothing to Do with Convincing

You never want to play the “convincing” game in trying to get clients.

“Convincing” is when you waste your time and energy pleading, wheedling, hyping, and otherwise trying to beg and bribe people into working with you.

Talking about how cheap and “affordable” you are and discounting this and giving free that is a form of bribing.

It’s also the way you devalue and debase yourself and reduce the perception of value of the solution you offer in the eyes of clients.

If this is what you have to do to get people to work with you, you’re talking to (and attracting) the wrong audience.

BUT for someone to tell you that you don’t need to educate your prospects about what you do is the height of arrogance and marketing stupidity.

Talk is cheap coming from those who haven’t run an administrative support business in over 20 years. They don’t know the first thing about marketing (much less working with actual clients in the 21st century).

It absolutely IS always your job as a professional service provider to educate your would-be clients.

Educating prospects isn’t about “convincing” anyone to work with you or trying to “sell” them on your solution. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The only people who think that are those who confuse “educating” with “convincing.” That’s because they are marketing illiterate.

Educational marketing or education-based marketing, as this is known in marketing circles, operates on the premise that your clients are intelligent enough to know what they want and make their own decisions. What they need from you isn’t a sales pitch (i.e., “convincing”), it’s information with which they can make an informed, intelligent decision.

Educational marketing isn’t about being invested in the outcome (i.e., getting the client, by any means necessary).

It’s having the healthy professional self-esteem to know that not every prospective client is for you, that you aren’t for everyone, and through an intelligent informational dialogue via your website, you and your right clients will be better equipped to determine fit and choose each other.

Educating your would-be clients and site visitors is about demonstrating an understanding of your target market’s business and industry and the challenges and obstacles they face.

It’s about shedding light on the solutions you offer and the ways you can help them and solve their problems.

It’s about helping them see and understand your solutions in the context of their business, what your support and work together might look like, and how their circumstances can be improved.

None of that is about “convincing” anyone or devaluing yourself and what you offer.

Yes, be a client snob. You only want to work with and invest your time in those who want to work with you.

Those who have a problem you can solve don’t need convincing; they just need to know you understand, how you are unique from anyone else, and why you might be the best choice for them.

This is how educating them in the way I speak of helps them. They crave this information from you, especially in a sea of websites all mindlessly reciting the same, boring thing.

But anyone telling you that you don’t need to educate your market about your solutions knows nothing about marketing.

In fact, educating your market in the right way — educating, not convincing — will help you get more ideal clients and consultation requests.