Archive for December 30th, 2011

Dear Danielle: Do Clients Need to Know If I Am PT or FT?

Dear Danielle:

I am launching soon, but still have to work 9-5 to support myself so I don’t have to take a paycheck from the biz right away. I will cut back to part-time and give more time to the biz ASAP on my way to full-time with it. In the meantime, I don’t want to be thought of as someone unreliable, distracted, or who can’t get back to people in a timely fashion. Any ideas about minimizing how obvious it is that I am just starting out part-time? –JN

Ah, this is the beauty of making sure you don’t think of nor market yourself as an assistant, something I’m always preaching here.

I want to talk about that some more, but first here are some practical tips for being timely and professional in your business, whether it’s full-time or part-time (and really, anyone could tell you these):

  1. Only take on retained clients you can support or projects you can complete timely and professionally.
  2. Establish a communication turn-around policy and display that policy on your website (e.g., “I will return your call or email within 24-48 hours.”)
  3. Do what you say you will. This is a form of being consistent, and consistency is about reliability and dependability. So, if you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you say you’re going to do something by a certain date/time, do it by that date/time. Things come up and exceptions happen, but make sure they are RARE. Yes, life happens and by all means you are allowed and you should immediately communicate when you aren’t able to honor a commitment you made. BUT you WILL still be viewed as an unreliable flake if you constantly use that as an excuse or crutch. The solution–only make commitments that you are 99.999% sure you can keep.
  4. Along those lines, give yourself PLENTY of space to honor your commitments. Where people go wrong with making promises and commitments is that they allow clients to have wrong or unrealistic expectations and simply don’t give themselves enough room and time. Don’t box yourself into a corner. Manage expectations in clients by setting conscious, specific policies in your business when it comes to communication, work requests/management and turn-around times.

Now, let’s talk about some conceptual things that will really change the entire ballgame for you and how you approach your business.

Let’s first clarify the terms “part-time” and “full-time.” When I refer to part-time and full-time, it has nothing to do with the number of hours you put in or are available in a day or week. When I refer to part-time and full-time, it has to do with whether your business is your sole livelihood (“full-time”) or whether you are still working a job to support yourself (which makes your business a “part-time” effort/livelihood).

When you call yourself assistant, clients come to the table with the mindset that you should be doing assistant-like things for them and be at their on-demand beck-and-call.

That just doesn’t work in business (that is, if you are trying to create the kind of business where you can both earn AND live well without having what amounts to a J-O-B and having to take on hundreds of clients just to break even).

If you create a business like that and allow those kind of expectations, your daily PT or FT availability will be an issue. You don’t want your value to be dependant upon that.

So how do you change expectations around that and how you are able to operate your business in a manner more like a professional and not an assistant? It starts with not calling yourself an assistant. 😉

If you don’t want part-time or full-time status to matter, then you want to instead frame yourself as an administrative expert, not an assistant. As an adminstrative expert, you focus clients on the fact that your expertise and skills are all about administrative work, not in being an assistant. These are two completely separate concepts.

When you frame yourself in this manner, you begin to see your role in your business very differently. You begin to understand that like any other kind of professional who is hired for a specific expertise and talent, the fact that you “assist” clients doesn’t make you an assistant.

When you decide to be an administrative expert and not an assistant, you then realize that you do not need to operate and work with clients nor be available to them in the same manner as an assistant. Since you aren’t an assistant, you aren’t working with them for specified hours in a day or week.

And because you aren’t trying to be an “assistant,” clients don’t need to know whether you have a full-time or part-time business. The point becomes moot because you aren’t selling your availability of hours, you are providing a partnership of administrative expertise.

The other thing here that will change the game entirely is to sell your value and expertise, not your hours. Your value is about how your work and expertise ultimately helps clients grow and move forward in their businesses to accomplish their goals and overcome obstacles. If you keep trying to sell your time (hourly billing) or packages of hours, you will keep yourself enslaved to the clock, which will automatically put a lid on your earning potential.

When you make these shifts in your thinking about who you are and what you do in your business, you are freed from all kinds of burdens that those who are trying to be assistants find themselves saddled with. When you are not an assistant, you do not need to accept on-demand kinds of work and roles that others are enslaved by. (I always say, if a client needs an assistant, then they need to employ one. 😉 )

As an administrative specialist, you can instead choose to take on only work that can be scheduled and where you can give yourself plenty of space to complete. This is the kind of business model I teach folks how to build. When you operate this kind of business, whether you are full-time or part-time in your business becomes irrelevent because you aren’t marketing yourself like someone who is going to be available to clients like an assistant and you aren’t selling hours.