Being On Demand Is Not a Sustainable Promise

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you get another client who wants that as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this what you imagined business would be like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Responses

  1. Miguel Mojica says:

    Good points from the veteran. I’m a newbie. Your story just put and end to alot of ideas that now that I’ve read this story they probably won’t work, or at least I will think them through. Thanks

  2. Monique Bruno says:

    Great post! I wished there were another organized way I could do this work, but your story sounds all too familiar. In fact, that’s why I focus now on writing assignments instead of office work. While I have the pressure of meeting deadlines, I don’t have to stick to the same schedule all the time. And my part-time job helps me go on when work is scarce.

  3. Azalea McKinney says:

    Danielle, you are right on the pulse of what’s happening in our world. I am so glad you are doing the upcoming teleseminar. The very same thing happened to me just a couple of weeks ago! I can’t wait til the call. KUDOS.

  4. Danielle, thank you for this post. I counsel ex-corporate employees who start businesses, and one of the first pieces of advice I give them is to hire a VA and to recognize that working with them is NOT the same as having staff! Another is – watch out for the “anchor” client – lining up the big guaranteed client sounds great until you realize the purpose of an anchor is to weigh an object, i.e. you and your business, down. You’ve hit that topic here!

  5. Thank you. FINALLY, a business advisor/consultant who gets it! You’re right, we definitely need to know each other. 🙂

    It’s unfortunate that it’s our own people themselves who are largely responsible for perpetuating these misalignments of understanding and expectation. They have got to stop trying to “sell” clients on the idea that they are going to be the employee they don’t have. Because once they realize that’s not feasible (like when they want to start making more money and be able to work with more people and also have a life away from the computer), they realize they can’t run a real business like that. But by that time, they’ve set up all these unrealistic and unsustainable expectations that are nearly impossible to overcome with existing clients once they’ve gotten used to that.

    I always tell colleagues, stop trying to be someone’s employee, someone’s assistant. You are the best fit for the biz owner who doesn’t have the kind of biz or workload that requires daily, on-demand interaction. You are an ALTERNATIVE for employees, not a replacement for them. If they need a beck-and-call employee, you simply must tell them that they will be better served with an actual employee (or telecommuter).

    They need to also stop using the term “virtual assistant.” Assistant is a term of employment, not business. And when you are a business owner, you aren’t anyone’s assistant. It’s the fundamental communication problem that is also responsible for setting the wrong understandings and expectations in clients right from the get-go. You can’t keep insisting to clients that you’re a business owner, not an employee and yet continue to call yourself an assistant. It’s confusing to them and they only understand that word one way: employee.

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