I was talking with one of the attendees of my Pricing & Packaging class last month who mentioned that she wasn’t sure what to do with a couple clients she wasn’t feeling very energized by.
I asked her what the problem was. She related that she much preferred big picture work, and while she enjoyed these two clients as people, they were low-commitment as far as hours go — only 5 hours per month. She said the work always ended up being transactional, sporadic and disjointed, and she never felt like she was really and truly helping them get anywhere other than taking care of busy work and miscellaneous projects instead of actual admin support.
I’ve spoken with hundreds of people in our industry who experience similar issues and feelings.
Those of us in the administrative support business enjoy big picture work because it allows us to understand the client and the business much better.
It IS what we’re in business to do, after all.
In turn, this allows us to apply critical thinking, grow in our knowledge of the business and the work, and thus carry out the work in ways that make much better sense and fit better in the overall scheme of the client’s operations, goals and objectives.
This is so much more gratifying, energizing and stimulating.
But with such a low commitment of hours, it’s incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to gain any kind of big picture sense of the business. It’s verrrry slow-going at best.
So there are a couple choices you can make.
- You can decide that in order to provide the kind of work that allows you to really and truly help clients AND which also keeps you energized, motivated and interested, your ideal clients must make a higher minimum commitment. And then simply decline to work with anyone who can’t make that commitment; and/or
- Take charge of the process by consulting with the client, finding out what one of their most immediate goals or objectives is and then focusing your support exclusively on that particular area.
For example, let’s say the client really wants to get an ezine going. Well, implementing an ezine requires some initial project-related design and set-up. Once you’ve got that going, it requires ongoing management.
So what you could do is charge a flat/project fee for the design and initial set-up and then focus the retainer hours on establishing the publishing schedule, setting deadlines, formatting, editing and proofing articles, uploading issues, managing the delivery platform, scheduling issues for broadcast, not to mention taking care of all the details of managing subscriber lists and utilizing tracking and reporting features.
As you can see, when you sit down and map all the activities that go into implementing and then managing/maintaining a support area, it’s a lot. By focusing that small 5 hour retainer on just that one support area, you can accomplish some meaningful, tangible results for them.
This is exciting to clients!
Commitment requires a measure of trust. And trust isn’t handed over on a silver platter. It’s something that is earned and, like relationships, grows in stages over time.
So, once they see you get one area of support whipped in shape and under control, that’s when you talk to them about taking on another support area and increasing the financial commitment, which they are now more likely to agree to.
You can help clients grow in their trust and esteem of you by taking charge of the support process in this way and focusing the work on an area where you can achieve a more demonstrable result, and then keep growing the support plan with the client from there.
Most clients simply don’t know how to move forward and are unsure of what to let go of.
This is why it’s always you’re job as the business owner and administrative expert to take charge of this process, conduct a thorough consultation, make your support plan recommendations to them, and take that burden off their shoulders.
It’s still ongoing support as it’s not project work or specializing in doing one thing (this is why it’s called a support area). It’s just that it’s a much more focused and intentional way to really help clients move forward in accomplishing the things that are important to them while also growing the commitment.