Archive for December 15th, 2010

Dear Danielle: How Do I Answer Phones for Clients?

Dear Danielle:

I live in New York and have been a VA/Administrative Consultant for a client in Texas for approximately five months now. Everything is going well. I answer the phone with her company’s name right now. However, I would like to expand now and take on at least another two more clients. How would I possibly handle three clients at once with just one phone line and how would I answer the phone for each client. I recently just began saying my name. What do you suggest? –PC

Ah, you are getting an inkling of what a dead-end it is trying to be a receptionist for clients. This kind of work will turn your business into a J-O-B… a prison cell that forces you to become chained to your phone for certain hours a day. Is that really what you went into business to do?

Plus, think about how you’d have to charge clients. If they expect you to be available for certain hours to answer the phone, they should be charged for those hours, not by the call.

And how will answering phones affect your concentration when you are trying to carry out administrative work for your other clients? What about your own business’s phone calls and consultations with prospective clients?

What happens if you need to step away from the office? Are you really going to appreciate having to check in and out with clients? And even if you took the phones with you, how long are you going to like having that intrusion upon your life? When do you think it will eventually take a toll? Would clients appreciate their calls being answered unprofessionally such as if you are in a noisy space or sounding like you’re out shopping?

If you are intent on answering phones, I don’t have any insight for you as I have never provided that service for clients in my practice. However, if you’re open to it, I want to invite you to explore some different thinking:

There is an infinite difference between going into business to bring your administrative skills to clients who need that expertise in their business and going into business to be an assistant. That doesn’t mean you can’t be an assistant as well if that’s what you want to do. I just want you to know that being an assistant and being an administrative expert are two separate things. You don’t have to be an assistant (or a receptionist) if that’s not what you want to be in the business of doing. Your value is NOT dependent upon also being an assistant. Because providing administrative support and expertise is a big enough role and valuable enough work in and of itself.

You may want to do some heavy thinking about what you really want to be in your business because one will enslave you and limit your income potential and one will allow you to be an expert providing skilled, strategic support while still leaving you with lots of freedom and flexibility in your business and your life. Guess which is which?

Likewise, there’s a complete difference between being an administrative expert and being a receptionist. You get to choose which one you want to be. I just want you to be aware that you don’t have to be a receptionist if you would prefer to focus exclusively on being an administrative expert.

What happens is that newcomers to our industry get hit with the idiotic message that they are supposed to be an assistant to clients, a secretary just like they were in the workforce except virtually. It’s a big, fat farce, and it doesn’t work.

That’s why we see so many Virtual Assistants struggling. They create these businesses that have them operating and working with clients in ways that prevent them from earning well and don’t leave them any room to grow, much less think. They don’t know any other way to earn well and so they fall prey to the thinking that the only way they can increase their income is to create a bigger business or go into something else entirely. I see it over and over and over again.

It never needed to be that way for them in the first place, and that doesn’t need to be your lot either. All it takes to change things around or prevent yourself from falling into the same trap are some simple mindset shifts.

If you are running a business, you are not–and can not–be anyone’s assistant. It is absolutely impossible for you to work and be just like that secretary/administrative assistant you were back in the workforce to clients. It will turn your business into a prison and keep you working with clients in ways the absolutely prevent you from making any kind of real money–at a level you could actually live and thrive on just with the business alone.

You can’t be everything to clients. And you have to understand that when you’re in business, how and when you work with clients and what work you do for them is necessarily going to be much different from how they would work with an employee.

Like I say, you can be an assistant or a receptionist if that’s what you want to do. You can also simply choose to be an administrative expert and say “no” to any kind of on-demand, instant assistant type work that requires you to be chained to a phone or desk or checking in on a daily basis.

If clients need a receptionist, you could do what I do and refer them to a virtual receptionist service like Ruby Receptionists. Because this is specifically and exclusively what they’re in business to do, they can provide this service far better and more economically than you ever could. You are then free to focus on being the best administrative support expert you can be to clients–without being chained to a phone.