My biggest strengths are written and verbal communication, research and word processing. Can I still be successful, or do I need to know things like 1shoppingcart, website design, and desktop publishing to even have a prayer of getting any clients? —KT
I’m going to be annoying and not really answer your question directly. And the reason is because there are several aspects to consider. In pondering those things, you will end up answering the question for yourself.
My first question to you is: Do you know what business you are in (or considering being in)?
Being in business first has to be something you want to be in, want to be doing, enjoy doing and have the qualifications to do.
I mean, it wouldn’t serve you to wake up one day and decide to be a plumber if you have zero interest in pipes and sewage. And it certainly wouldn’t serve any customers you got if you didn’t have the training, experience or qualifications to be a plumber, right?
For this reason, you have to get really clear and cognizant of exactly and specifically what you want to be in business to do.
In this case, you may want to ask yourself: Am I in business to provide administrative support or am I in business to sell individual services?
Because there is a big difference between delivering ongoing administrative support (which is a business category and service offering in and of itself) and selling individual, piecemeal services (which is not support; that is what is called secretarial services).
When you are selling line-item services, the focus is on the individual project and the transaction. But if you are in business to provide administrative support, the product you are really offering is an ongoing, right-hand relationship. The relationship is the focus, not the transactions or individual tasks.
The reason this clarity is important is because it makes all the difference in how you market, articulate your value and attract exactly the right clients who have a need for what you are in business to offer.
Which brings us back to your original question, and the answer to that is: it depends.
It depends on what you are in business to do, who has a need for what you offer and who you want to work with.
You can be an administrative expert and not have to also be a website designer and a graphic designer and a bookkeeper, etc., etc., if that’s not what you want to do.
Your value isn’t in trying to be every single kind of professional under the sun or to know how to do everything in the world. In fact, it’s really silly to and ineffective to try to do that because you can quickly distract yourself from your focus, spread yourself too thin and dilute your strengths and expertise.
You’re in the driver’s seat. You get to set the expectations and craft your marketing message in a way that attracts exactly who you want it to attract. If you don’t want to do any of those other things you mention, focus clients on the thing you do do and how that helps them in their business.
Now, I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t do any of those other things. If you want to work with online business owners, knowing HTML and being able to draft up web pages, etc., is something that will add value to what you offer.
Additional divisions and complementary layers of support in your business (such as technical support for 1shoppingcart, for example) are also ways you can add more revenue streams by offering them as stand-alone services or at higher priced support packages.
At the same time, there are plenty of clients doing real-world work and running non-virtual businesses who aren’t going to care a whit whether you know 1shoppingcart and don’t need you to know graphic design because they already have a talented graphic design house they use, thank you very much. They just need you to be focused on administrative support, and, really, that’s plenty as it is!
They certainly wouldn’t turn to you for legal advice if you weren’t an attorney, and they wouldn’t ask you for financial guidance if you weren’t an accountant, right? Of course not. So focus clients on exactly what you are in business to do and explain things so they know, as clear as day, exactly what kind of expert you are and what you are in business.
The trick is to get clear about what you want to be in business to do and then target a market that has a need for exactly that. The more clear you are, the more you’ll attract exactly the right clients.
PS: I think you’d find my business plan template and my Value-Based Pricing & Packaging Toolkit specifically for administrative support businesses very helpful in sorting all this out. It’s not only a template that shows you how a professional business plan should be structured and formatted, it’s also designed to get your thought juices going with regard to these kinds of questions, figure out exactly what kind of business you want to be in and how you can create a multi-layered administrative support business with multiple revenue streams.