You Are Not an Assistant

From both a legal and practical standpoint, the fact is when you are in business, you are not anyone’s assistant.

The term “assistant” is a term of employment, not business, and shouldn’t ever be used in your business relationships and conversations.

When you stop calling yourself an assistant, you’ll get less pushback from clients when it comes to your fees.

People automatically equate “assistant” with employment. So when you call yourself an assistant, you predispose clients to balking at your fees because they don’t understand why they would pay you more than they would any other in-house employee/assistant.

You can talk until you’re blue in the face about your standards and boundaries and that you are a biz owner, that you have your own taxes and expenses to pay, yada yada yada–but you negate all of that when you call yourself an assistant.

It’s all about positioning and using the right words to pre-set proper expectations and mindsets–all for vastly easier conversations and more successful relationships with clients. You’ll always have more problems when you call yourself an assistant.

When you frame yourself instead as an expert in the art of administrative support, it’s a whole other ballgame. People EXPECT to pay experts professional fees. Instead of looking at you as an employee they don’t pay taxes on, they view you as a professional who is hired for a particular expertise that will help them meet a solve, solve a problem and move forward and improve their businesses–in our case, that’s the expertise of administrative support and guidance.

Another reason to stop calling yourself an assistant is to reduce the likelihood of the IRS (or your country’s similar governing agency) determining you are an employee and going after the client for back taxes and penalties for misclassification of employees.

This is one of the many, many reasons we as an organization moved to the term Administrative Consultant.

If you’re not comfortable with the word “consultant,” call yourself an administrative partner or administrative expert or administrative specialist… ANYTHING but assistant.

16 Responses

  1. Simone Clemente says:

    Danielle, Thank you! I am working on my business plan and am in the planning stages of my own business and was torn between using the proper title for myself. You put this in perspective for me…I am an administrative specialist, NOT an assistant, which is what I want to project to prospective clients. Thank you for your post.

  2. Virginia Lee says:

    I never thought of it from this angle but you are so correct! About a year ago I stopped calling myself a Virtual Assistant and now call myself a Virtual WebPreneurial Specialist since my niche has also changed to providing the technical aspects of website and product launches. Along with that change, my rates were also able to increase!

    Great information!

  3. Queen Wells says:

    Well said Danielle! I have noticed at the point that I changed my title from Virtual Administrative to Administrative Consultant, I have picked up a lot of clientele. A lot of the clientele do not understand the full understanding of the work a virtual assistant or administrative does. However, when you tell them that you are a consultant and show that you are an expert in your field, then they tend to listen to what you have to say. And they also understand that you are more of an asset to them than a liability.

  4. Tammy Bridenbeck says:

    This is the best article ever! Everything you said is true. For some reason control freaks LOVE to “buy” assistants and other slaves and then boss them around, nit pick over minutes, and take liberties that they would never take with a consultant. Calling yourself an assistant puts you in a subservient role and subjects you to people scrutinizing every cent and matching up seconds to the cent.

    Great article!

  5. The beauty of not calling yourself an assistant is that you then attract less of those kind of control freak type clients who are only looking for employees they don’t pay taxes on.

    Another bit of advice I would give folks is to stop billing by the hour. There are all kinds of reasons why billing by the hour is hugely detrimental to your business and client relationships.

    Take a look at this quick video:

    I need to update it, but it will still help you understand why billing by the hour (what amounts to selling hours instead of your value and expertise) is so detrimental to you and how it actually prevents you from earning better.

    Instead, I’d rather see you utilize value-based billing methodologies. This is something I introduced to the industry back in 2004 and I teach you how to do it with my Value-Based Pricing & Packaging Toolkit here:

  6. Odetta says:

    Great Article! I agree 100%. It’s something I’ve never really thought about, but you’re absolutely right, I am no one’s assistant, personal assistant, or any kind of assistant. I’ve learned a lot through trial an error and have finally gotten to the point where I won’t work with anyone who can’t distinguish between “employer” and “client”. I will have to make sure my website clearly refers to me as a consultant, expert, anything else but an assistant.

    Thank you Danielle

  7. Debra Marion says:

    Great article, Danielle! Thank you!

  8. Judy Reyes says:

    I like what Tammy Bridenbeck says about control freaks “buying” assistants. Reminds me of my life as a $16 per hour admin assistant and the little “chores” I had to do such as:
    1. Repackage salads and arrange them on plates, then serve them to clients in the conference room. I was reprimanded for using a salad fork instead of a dinner fork.
    2. Go through the boss’s office to check all of his collection of little clocks (about 25 or more) and then order batteries and change them.
    3. Be on stand-by at all times when he travelled because at any time, he may call because he was “lost” and needed me to give him verbal driving directions. Or, he wanted to change his flights or hotel at moment’s notice.
    Etcetera, etcetera.
    You better believe that I was desperate at that time and really NEEDED a job to put up with that!
    Administrative consultant: Si! Administrative assistant: No!

  9. Great article Danielle, as always! I’m really struggling with how I’m going to make the change, as my company name is Instant Assistant, Inc. (R) and, as you know, I own/moderate the VIrtual Assistant Yahoo Group! I completely understand what you mean about being treated as an assistant and the possible legal implications.

    The hard part is that I’ve spent 12 years branding IA Inc. and almost 10 years building the Yahoo VAN; I am really going to need to rethink a lot of things because I believe in what you’re saying and believe I DO need to make the change! I guess now is the time as I wanted to redesign my webstie and update my marketing plans.

    Thank you for all you do to help our industry, you are a shining example of a true professional!

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to repost this to the Yahoo VANetwork; this is important information I think they need to consider!

    Thanks again!

    Monica 🙂

    Monica Archibald
    Instant Assistant, Inc. (R)

  10. Absolutely, Monica–by all means, please do share. 🙂

  11. Ellen Ward says:

    Great article – I’ve definitely seen this dilemma. I like Queen Wells suggestion of changing to Administrative Consultants.

    Thanks Ladies!

  12. Silvia says:

    Dear Danielle,

    Your article is so great and clear that it is impossible to disagree with you.
    I ask your license to publish it completely in my blog:

    Thanks a lot indeed.

  13. Hi Silvia 🙂

    Yes, you may republish it there. Just make sure it’s not edited in any way and that you give a link back to the original post here.

    All my best!

  14. Tammy says:

    Hey Judy Reyes…I fell out laughing about being reprimanded about the salad fork. I had an admin job one time, too, working for a guy who reminded me daily of Yosemite Same. OMG. He would yell in the other room to call some idiot that he could have easily called on his own speed dial. He had 3 engineering degrees and we were supposed to be impressed. He was impressed with himself. All he needed was a tall hat and two guns. BWAHAHAHAHAHA he still thinks he’s all that, but I’ve been long gone. LOVE it.

  15. Thx for ur article. I stopped saying “assistant” ova a year ago…better response from potential clients.

  16. Mary Servant says:

    Great article and totally agree, I stopped using the title assistant shortly after I started my business when I realized I has to stand out from the general administration as I wanted to help clients with processes and assistant or administrator didn’t seem to cut it so I am a Business Angel we help businesses create mircles. I love it and have been one now for over 10 years and so when I read your article it fell right in line with what your article discussed. Thank you for confirming my instints. 🙂

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