Archive for September 15th, 2010

Dear Danielle: Do I Need an Address on My Website?

Dear Danielle:

There’s a conversation going on in another forum regarding addresses. Some people think it’s important to have one on your site and others think it’s unnecessary. What’s your opinion? –KH

I’ve spoken on this topic before on more than one occasion. Let me take the slightly longer road in answering because it’s important you understand the psychology behind this.

One of the reasons we talk so much about standards and serving ourselves first in business is because our industry continues to really, really struggle in this area.

A big part of the problem is the term “virtual assistant.”

When you keep calling yourself an assistant, it’s hard to look upon yourself as a business owner.

On top of this, and very often because of it, many people in our industry literally do not understand that they are business owners.

They really do think they are simply assistants, only they are now working from home.

And like good little assistants, they let clients tell them what to do in their own businesses.

They think it’s all about the client and whatever the client wants, needs and demands. <Give that good little girl who knows how to follow orders a pat on the head.>

And that just doesn’t help anybody.

It certainly doesn’t help those colleagues grow successful businesses (and by successful, I mean a business — not a hobby — that is solvent, self-sustaining, and earns them an actual living).

And whether they understand or realize it or not, it doesn’t help clients who much prefer not to have to shoulder the burden of leading everything in the relationship. (That’s what they come to the professionals for.)

But if they aren’t looking at you like a professional, they’re looking at you like a trained monkey (i.e., employee/assistant), which puts us back to square one.

You don’t have a business if you aren’t leading it and aren’t making any money.

Thus, getting over employee mindset, remembering that you are a business owner, having standards and making sure the business meets your needs first and that you get to say how it all works and how it doesn’t, is a constant and necessary conversation we have.

You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t care for others unless you first care for yourself.” That’s exactly what all that is about.

But then there are some folks who get carried away with all that to the point that all they think about is themselves in business.

They declare (and we’ll use the topic of the question here), “Well, I don’t want to put an address on my website. I don’t need to and I don’t have to because I’m virtual!”

To that I say, what on earth does being virtual have to do with anything? A business is a business.

They forget that being in business is about being in a relationship with clients. And a relationship is a two-way street. It’s not all about you (me, me, me, me, me)  and what you want and what works for you.

Yes, you get to say how things work in your business. Yes, you get to have high standards around the kind of work you do, the kind of clients you work with, and the kind of money you charge. You can not truly  and superbly help clients without those things.

At the same time, there are some considerations you must be willing to extend to clients – because you don’t have a business with them. And the bottom line is people are people.

So having an address on your site isn’t about what’s important to you. It’s about what’s important to the clients visiting your site.

It’s about helping them view you as credible and legitimate. It’s about trust, instilling confidence, and helping them feel safe about potentially doing business with you.

It’s not for you that an address should be on your site, it’s for the benefit of your would-be clients, and helping put their minds at ease.

Long story short, YES, it’s absolutely vital to have an address on your website.

It doesn’t have to be a physical address (and if you run a home-based business, I would absolutely tell you NOT to use your home address. It’s unsafe, and you do not want clients or strangers showing up on your doorstep out of the blue).

Get a post office box instead. If a post office isn’t close to you, businesses like Mailboxes Etc. come to mind. Alternatively, you can get a mailing address with a service like Earth Class Mail (which is a phenomenal service, by the way).

I would add that besides an address and phone number, put some kind of photo of yourself on your site, in your email signatures, in your forum profiles.

Get a gravatar so that when you post comments to blogs, people see your smiling face.

Being able to “see” who they are talking with goes a LONG way in establishing trust and rapport and facilitating conversation. It helps folks see you as a person – rather than a nameless, faceless entity – and they’ll remember you much better when they have a face to go with the name.