Archive for January, 2012

Dear Danielle: What Services Do You Provide?

Everyone is asking such great questions this week!

In response to my last post regarding how I structure my typical work week and day, several people have asked about services. Here’s an example:

Dear Danielle:

I am considering starting up my own Administrative Consultant business and was browsing through your website. I read what your typical work day looks like, but I have a quick question for you. What services do you provide for your clients?

This is always a tricky question for me to answer because it’s coming from the wrong perspective. I’ll do my best to try and clarify for everyone.

The problem with this question is that it’s thinking too transactionally. See, the first thing you need to understand is the difference between selling tasks/projects and providing support. Two completely different business models.

When you are in the business of support, you aren’t selling individual services or tasks because administrative support IS the service. Companies that are in the business of providing piecemeal tasks and services on an ad hoc basis are called secretarial services. That’s not the same thing as providing ongoing administrative support.

Ongoing administrative support is about providing a relationship and a body (or collection, if you will) of support areas all wrapped up into one. It’s not any one particular task or line-item service because the service that an Administrative Consultant provides IS administrative support. What that administrative support is comprised of is going to depend on your own target market. Do you see?

The best way I have come up with currently to describe administrative support is that it is the collection of tasks, functions and roles that keep a business organized, humming along smoothly and moving forward.

I created this video to help illustrate what that means (by the way, feel free to use it on your own website as it’s very helpful in educating clients in how you as an Administrative Consultant and expert help them):

Given that understanding, you can easily see that there is no way to come up with any kind of comprehensive listing of individual tasks and services that make up a body of administrative support because that support is going to be different for each and every one of us depending on each of our individual target markets. What I do for my clients administratively is not necessarily going to be the same thing you do for your clients, particularly if we have different target markets.

So, the more useful thing for you to be focusing on is determining who your target market is going to be and then learning all that you can about them. (A target market is simply a specific profession/field/industry that you plan to cater to.) How are their businesses run? Who are their clients? What kind of work is involved? What are their common goals, objectives and challenges?

Once you start answering these questions (by talking with them, surveying them, interacting with them online and off), you can begin deciding on what administrative support areas you can best help them with and tailor your offerings accordingly.

Let me know if you have more questions on this in the comments and I’ll be happy to elaborate a bit more. 🙂

PS: Pricing and structuring your packages is something I teach extensively on in my Value-Based Pricing & Packaging Toolkit. I also include so much more than just pricing and packaging–because these things affect just about everything else in your business:  how it is structured, your policies and procedures, marketing… everything. So not only do I teach you the foundational stuff and how to best frame and articulate your value in this self-study guide course, I also show you how to you map out your business to best frame your offerings, create additional revenue streams and make more money. Check it out!

A Snapshot of My Typical Workday

In our industry, conversations about combating feelings of isolation are not uncommon. While I’m certain there are people who experience and are more prone to feelings of isolation, I’ve never really felt isolated in my work or business so it’s hard for me to relate.

I’d wonder, don’t they have friends? Family? Other interests? Don’t they do anything else,  go anywhere? I’m sure they do… I know they do!

What I suspect is really going on in a lot of these cases isn’t so much isolation, but that they have structured their businesses and are working with clients in ways that lead to burnout, overwhelm, and turn the work into a grind. This is when people feel the need to escape. Hence, the feelings of isolation.

So, I thought I would share with you what my typical work day looks like. Maybe it will help you rethink how you view your relationship with clients and give you some ideas on how you might restructure things in your own administrative support business so that it can become or remain a joy rather than a daily drudge.

First, here’s what my work week looks like:

Monday: Closed/Admin Day. This is the day I reserve each week to take care of administration and bookkeeping in my own business, work on my own business projects, perhaps attend or review online classes… those kind of things.

Tuesday: Closed/Meeting Day. This is the day I use each week for weekly client meetings (although, my clients have been with me so long at this point, we only meet on the phone about once a month. I always recommend you meet with new retainer clients once a week for at least the first three months of your ongoing relationship. It really helps nurture and cement the relationship and get to know each other. At the three-month point, you can evaluate together how often to continue meeting on the phone each month).

Wednesday: Work Day

Thursday: Work Day

Friday: Work Day

Saturday: OFF

Sunday:  OFF

As you can see, I effectively have a three-day work week, four if you want to count the Tuesday meeting days. That doesn’t mean I might not work here and there on any of the other days (and only by my choice), but this is the formal infrastructure and systemization I have put in place in my business to help it flow smoothly.

A system is really a routine. And systematic routines are what allow you to provide consistency and reliability to clients, which not only improves your quality and service, but also, ironically, gives you greater freedom and flexibility.

A quick note about my Client Meeting Day… Long ago, in a business galaxy far way, lol, I would hold client meetings whenever it was convenient for the client which could be any day, any time of the week. That was all well and good for the client (on the surface, at least), but it wreaked havoc on my concentration and ability to settle back into the work and get things done. My work and service suffered as a result. (Numerous studies since have shown how much interruptions negatively impact our concentration and productivity.)

Establishing a standard by setting a regular routine for meeting clients on the phone one day of the week (same day/time each week per client) is what saved my sanity and ultimately my business and the level and quality of work I provide to clients. It is perhaps the single-most important policy that I instituted in my practice that is responsible for allowing me to triple or quadruple my productivity.

Typical Work Day

  • I wake up according to my internal alarm clock, which most of the time is around 5ish or 6ish in the morning but sometimes can vary between 6 to 9 a.m. depending on my sleep cycle or how late I went to bed.
  • Make breakfast, drink my first bottle of water for the day and dink around on the computer doing my first sweep of emails. Anything I can respond to quickly, I do.
  • I open that day’s folder in Outlook and begin working on client work. I like to get the quick and easy stuff out of the way first because it pares down the to-do list for that day and stops those little things from niggling at the back of my mind when I’m trying to work on the bigger stuff.
  • It’s important to mention here that all communication with clients is by email. This is a requirement for working together in my business. I do not take phone calls from them or anything else. For me, email is the very best tool for managing the workload. It provides a “paper” trail and documentation and with my folder system, I can easily prioritize and move things around as necessary. So, whatever they need taken care of, the request gets sent to me by email. Period.
  • At some point in the morning, generally before 11am, I go on my daily hike/run. I like to get this in first thing in the morning because I come back really energized and invigorated, it beats the heat in the summertime, and I can save my shower for afterward.
  • Lunch around noonish.
  • I tend to work on bigger work and projects that require more time and concentration in the afternoons.
  • Officially, I have a policy of checking emails 3 times a day (morning, afternoon and evening). Unofficially, depending on how busy I am with work, I do monitor emails. Any client emails that come in throughout the day are put into the next work day’s folder (I have a folder for each working day of my week). This is another key policy I instituted in my business years ago. I do not do any on-demand or same-day work for clients. They are informed of my work policies and procedures when we consult and begin working together so they are fully informed of how things work ahead of time. I don’t take on any work or roles that require me to check-in on any kind of daily basis with them (like managing their calendar or emails, for example). And I only provide business-related support, not personal support (i.e., “No, I’m not going to shop for your wife’s gift or schedule your hair-cut. You can get a concierge service for that.”) This is another way I save myself from getting bogged down in work I have no interest in doing and that I’m not in business to do because I’m not an assistant, I’m an Administrative Consultant. Anything that needs to be done immediately, they need to do themselves. It’s really as simple as that. Because they aren’t hiring an assistant and I don’t let them think of me like that. If that’s what they need, then they need to hire an employee. This is one of the great keys to my success and how I’m able to live a very flexible, freedom-filled life where I still love my work and clients after 15 years of doing this.
  • Throughout the day, whenever I need a little mental break and want to interact with others, or if I have thoughts or ideas I want to share that occur to me, I’ll pop into our Facebook group or post on my blog or check out forums I belong to. For me, these have always been great ways to reach out when you need a little company. I think interaction and participation is key, though. You can lurk, but you just aren’t going to get any real feeling of connection unless you actually talk to people by posting your thoughts and comments, contributing ideas or asking questions. A lot of times people will wonder how I have time to post on these forums and I have to chuckle because they don’t know what I know. First, it only takes a few seconds to post your thoughts. I’m not spending hours and hours in these places (like I’m sure many folks are doing). And second, and perhaps more importantly, I don’t operate my business or work with clients anywhere close to how they are doing it. They’re trying to be assistants instead of strategic administrative support partners. They have turned their business into a job and that’s not how I do it. Which is why I do have a bit more time to blog or check in with people on Facebook here and there:  I’m not working as a slave or indentured servant to clients. I’m an expert they partner with for administrative support, not a personal  assistant. I run my business on my own terms and that’s to their benefit.
  • My official work day ends at 5 pm. But you know what? Yeah, I sometimes do work in the evenings. Every once in a great while, it’s because I need to. Other times, it’s just because I’m on a roll or otherwise having fun and enjoying my work and don’t want to stop. That’s okay, people!!! You just want it to be on your terms, your choice, and NOT because you have set poor policies and standards and are working with clients in ways that are forcing you to work long into the evening and ignore your family, friends and other life needs. That’s a sure-fire way to kill your business.
  • Another thing I should mention is that I get out when I need to. I listen to my body, my heart, my spirit, and if they tell me I need a change of pace that day, then that’s what I do. Sometimes that means taking the laptop somewhere I love, settling into a comfy booth and ordering something yummy and healthy to eat while I get work done. Sometimes it means not working during the day, but saving what can be done for the evening. Sometimes it means not working at all (as long as there are no pressing, important needs or commitments).
  • Which brings me to another key to my success that I touched on earlier. I don’t do any same day work requests. When a new request comes in, it automatically goes into the next day’s work folder. I never get overwhelmed because I’m only handling the current day’s folder of requests. Everything else is put out of my mind because it’s already handled by being put in the next day’s folder. In my practice, I use what I call a 3/7 guideline. That means, only work that can be done within a 3-business/work day window from the time of request is work I will handle for clients. If they need it sooner, they need to do it themselves. That’s the 3-day part of my work management system. And let me tell you, people, you NEED to give yourself space like this around the work. You folks who are scrambling to get things done the minute they come in are putting out TERRIBLE work product a lot of times because you’re too rushed, too stressed and making mistakes, and you’re creating expectations in clients that set you up for failure. I guarantee you! The “7” part of my 3/7 system is where the client and I touch base on larger, key or ongoing projects during our weekly meeting (i.e., every 7 days). For some things, this is also managed through our online collaborative office suite where they can log in and see for themselves where things are at on those larger/key/ongoing projects.
  • Another little tool I use to manage expectations and keep our relationship resentment-free is the feature in Outlook that allows me to schedule when my reply email is sent to the client. For example, there are occasions when I will attend to client work on a day when I don’t normally/officially work or if I’m ahead of things, I will start work on the next day’s workload. But that doesn’t mean I want the client thinking, “Oh, she’s working on that day now” or that I’m now doing same-day work requests. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I have absolutely no patience for having to constantly remind clients of my standards or policies or protocols. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell them how something works, as soon as you make an exception, they start thinking that’s the rule. Even the most ideal clients do this (there is no such thing as the perfect client because we are all flawed human beings). But it still drives me insane because I like grown-ups to be grown-ups and not little children constantly trying to test or needing to be corrected. So rather than try to change them (which doesn’t work), I just don’t ever email them back the same day. I schedule my reply email to be sent the next business/work day. So, I’m getting it done and out of the way and they’re getting the confirmation email that something has been handled or completed, but they never get the impression that I’m working on weekends or evenings or doing same-day requests. From their perspective, everything is flowing normally and consistently just as my workload policies and schedules have been presented to them.

I hope this is useful to you. Structuring your business like this does require you to get out of assistant-mindset. When you do, you start to view and understand your business, your role, your expertise, from an entirely new and different perspective. It’s an incredibly freeing way to live and work. If you have any questions, please do ask in the comments. I’m happy to help. 🙂

Power Productivity & Biz Management for Administrative ConsultantsRESOURCE: Get ALL my practice management systems with more in-depth examples and illustrations over at the ACA Success Store: Power Productivity & Biz Management: The 14 Simple Systems that Will Breathe Freedom, Flexibility and LIFE Back into Your Business and Client Relationships

Clients Don’t Happen by Accident

Marketing is a fact of life in business. Your business will not happen by magic or magical thinking.

Yes, when you examine things so closely, a lot of times it can feel a bit too deliberate or artificial. But that dissection of how things work, how people react and respond to your business and offerings, is necessary for your understanding. There’s nothing icky about that unless you are being inauthentic.

Understanding, intention and action are what make your business and marketing work. You’re going to have a long, tedious, disappointing (not to mention cash-poor) road ahead of you if you expect that your clients are going to “happen” to you by happy accidents.

That’s no way to build a business. Well, it’s a way, certainly, but a very ineffective one. 😉

5 Simple Steps to an Effective Author’s Bio

Ever wonder how to write up a little bio for your “about the author” box? It’s really easy. Here are my 5 simple steps:

1. State who you are and how you help clients. In one sentence, make it clear what you do (your business category), who you do it for (target market) and ultimately what problem you solve for them (e.g., what does the result of your work ultimately provide for clients?).

2. Focus on them, not you. No one cares about your background, what all your professional designations or affiliations are, how many years experience you have, blah blah blah. They care about how you can help them, what you can do for them. This is the WIIFM (“what’s in it for me?”) factor and you always want to write from that perspective.

3. Use “you” and “your,” not “me, me, me.” What I mean is that you want to write using the 2nd person point of view (“you,” “your”). This draws the reader into your message by making it personal.

4. Include a call to action at the end. A “call to action” is a sentence that tells the reader exactly what to do next. This is part of the proverbial marketing funnel that leads readers to your website and onto your mailing list. Example: “For more free strategies for success, subscribe to my Biz Tips ezine at….”

5. Keep it short and sweet, about 3-5 sentences. No one wants to read your life story, and your call-to-action will get lost in the details if you make the reader work too hard to get to the point (i.e., WIIFM?).

Is this post helpful to you? Please let me know in the comments!

Snow and Sledding at Point Defiance Park

My birthday was on January 15 and I woke up to such a nice gift:  snow!

I love snow! It’s so magical and festive to me.

Then today, we all woke to a big bunch MORE snow! By noon it was almost 8 inches and we’re expected to get maybe 6 more tonight. We rarely get snow in my neck of the woods (Tacoma, Washington) so when it happens, it’s such a treat.

Anyhoo, I posted some fun photos and video of our snowy landscape and sledding. If you’re interested, you can check’em out over on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AdminConsultants

Dear Danielle: Would Mass Mailing Work for Me?

Dear Danielle:

First of all, I truly love the no-nonsense style and approach that is offered through your writings. You certainly keep it very real!! Keep on doing what you are doing! I was able to download and digest the Breaking the Ice feature on consultations last night. Of particular note was the diagrams/flow chart aspect–well designed! What are your thoughts on the process of sending out a mass mailing to a) educate prospective clients of what is possible in working together, b) testing the market to see if there is need, and c) you initiating the contact for new business and not waiting for it to come to you? Looking foward to hearing from you. —MM

Well, thanks, MM. 🙂 Glad you like my style because I can only be me, lol.

I definitely like your proactive thinking and you’re mostly on the right track.

Let me try and sort out some aspects for you. We all know that a lot of people in business have a “build it and they will come” mentality. They slap up a website that’s really no more than an online brochure and think clients will be flocking to them overnight.

Yeah, not gonna happen.

So where you’re on the right track is understanding that you need to attract clients to your website, not sit there thinking they’re going to arrive there by magic. The idea is that you want to be drawing potential clients to your website so that it can then do the job of educating them about how you can help them, prequalifying them, and then providing a clear call to action that will guide them to the next step. You want to engage them, entice them, give them a reason to come to you.

However, I want to save you from a lot of wasted time and especially money on ineffective strategies.

You ask about “mass mailing,” but I’m not sure if you mean a mass emailing or some kind of direct mail campaign. If you meant direct mail, that would be a huge waste of your resources.

Direct mail (e.g., postcards, intro letters, anything that is snail-mailed) is a form of outbound marketing, one of the most expensive forms of marketing there is. Direct mail campaigns cost a ton (e.g., printing, postage) and require a huge commitment of repeat mailings. Plus, do you really have the proper knowledge and marketing expertise to design and put together a campaign that would get any results, the kind of results that would make the huge cost worth your while? If not, you’d have to hire someone to do that and probably at a pretty penny.

The ROI just for getting attention is very, very poor (I’ll have to dig up some stats for you later, but research shows that it takes at least 7-10 touches before anyone even remembers your name, much less is compelled to call you or visit your site).

And who are you going to mail this to? Anyone and everyone? That would cost a fortune. I’m fairly certain you don’t have anywhere near the time or money you would need to make direct mail a cost-effective strategy for you.

Relationship building (growing the know, like and trust factor) and employing inbound marketing techniques (where you are drawing clients to you rather than chasing after them) is what has always worked best for professional services. And the great news is that it really doesn’t cost a thing other than your time and a small investment in technology tools and services.

When you draw clients to you (instead of chasing after them), they have already passed the most basic level of prequalification:  interest. This is great because it reserves your resources for those who have already expressed through their action an interest in how you might be able to help them.

When you chase after clients, it’s a very inefficient process because a) not only are you “selling” instead of educating (and people hate being sold to, particularly when it’s unsolicited), and b) most of your time, effort and money is wasted on people who have no interest or need for what you do.

Instead of direct mail, what you want to do is engage in permission-based marketing, which is a form of inbound marketing. This is done by growing your email list. You provide something of interest and value in exchange for people giving you their email address for it. Once they are on your mailing list, you can continue to keep in touch with them, providing them with useful information and resources, and thereby continue to nurture the “know, like, trust” factor.

So what’s involved in this? Let me list out some steps for you.

1. First, you NEED a target market! Knowing exactly who you are talking to will help you craft a vastly more compelling message, figure out where to focus your marketing and networking efforts, and what you can offer them that will get them interested in you. You mention testing to figure out a need, and this is what having a target market helps you do. Once you know who you’re focusing on, it’s much easier to figure out how their businesses are run, what admin work is involved, what their common needs, goals and challenges are, how to speak their language and how to then offer your solutions in ways that will be most appealing to them.

2. Provide a free offer. This can be a report, an e-course, a training guide… anything. The key is that is must be of great interest and value to your target market, enough that they will happily give you their email address for it. A great way to come up with a free offer is to figure out a problem your target market commonly deals with and create an info product that will help them solve or address this problem.

3. Get a list building/distribution tool such as Aweber. Technology tools like Aweber allow you to begin growing your list, create subscribe forms and create and manage email campaigns once you get set-up and you have a free offer to provide.

4. Put your free offer sign up form on your website. Research shows that the best spot for this is above the fold, top right quadrant of the page, either in the header or top right sidebar.

5. Now, get out there and network. Publish a blog and/or ezine. Write articles. Join forums and listservs that your target market belongs to so you can participate and interact with them. As you go about these things, be sure you are always providing a clear call-to-action that directs people to your free offer so they can sign up for it. Put it in your signature lines and “about the author” bios. Be sure your url and “free offer” call-to-action is on your biz cards.

Automate and be consistent and systematic about this and you’ll soon start seeing people signing up for your list! And once they’re on your list, you have a built-in audience who has already expressed their interest in you and what you have to offer. You can then continue to keep in contact with them and stay top of mind—all for only $20 a month if you use a service like Aweber!

Dear Danielle: My Friend/Client Is Balking at My New Standards

Dear Danielle:

My first client came by chance, prior to me making the decision to start a business. They are a non profit organization and the owner is my friend/past co worker. Because of this we started with no clear rules or barriers. Now that I am putting structure in place, the client gets uncomfortable at times. Should I feel bad for adding formality/professionalism where there was none? Patricia, PMB Admin Services

Oh gosh, no! You have nothing to feel bad about. These are normal growing pains and you are doing exactly as you should be—instilling structure, standards and boundaries. These things are critical to the improving health, continued growth and financial viability of your business—and your own self-care, I might add.

This is a very common path for many of us in this industry. We start with a vague idea of being self-employed, come into a sort of accidental business to one extent or another, and become more intentioned and conscious about our business and what we want for it as we go along. Very, very normal.

It’s also very normal to outgrow some clients along the way. As we gain more and more clarity about what we want to do and be in our business and enact standards and improvements around those intentions, there will always be some clients who balk at your growth. A lot of times, it’s because we’ve spoiled them with unsustainable ways of working together in the beginning that ultimately don’t work for us in the long-run. As you’ve discovered, the business and relationship has to work for both you and the client equally, not one or the other, or it just won’t last.

And while we certainly want to be friendly and feel warm-fuzzies toward our clients, there’s also something to be said for keeping somewhat of a friendly-but-professional distance. I have seen (and have had myself) more problems with clients when they get too comfy in the relationship and feel like they are “more than a client, I’m a friend.” This is a slippery slope, and I find most people end up having more trouble keeping and standing up for their boundaries when they find themselves in that kind of a relationship with a client.

It’s one of the reasons that friends and past employers do not often make for good clients.  With friends, there’s a sort of implicit or unconcious idea that they will be given special privileges and exceptions (“Can’t you do it my way, make this exception, just this once, for me? I thought we were friends!“). We hate to disappoint them and often find it more difficult to say “no” when we need to. With past employers, they too often come into the relationship mistakenly assuming that you will be working in the same employee/employer dynamic (which makes a proper, formal consultation even more important).

I’ve been there myself so I know exactly what you’re going through.

When you make changes and improvements in your business, some clients may happily stay and grow forward with you, and some may choose not to. That’s okay. Let those clients go who can’t get on board with how you need for your business to operate or they will stand in the way of your continued growth and evolution. Here are a few things you can do moving forward to help with these growing pains.

1. Start a living Client Guide. I say living because it should be a document that you continue to hone and develop throughout the life of your business. And what is a Client Guide, some may ask? It’s simply a handbook for clients that gives them all the information they need about getting the most out of your relationship and how things work in your business. It should outline your policies, procedures and protocols. It should include your standards and values for working together.  It should let them know how work is handled and how work requests are to be submitted to you. There are a whole host of things you can include and these will become evident as you continue along in your business. Whatever they need to know about how to work with you should be documented in this guide and given to all your clients.

By the way, a free guide to developing a New Client Welcome Kit (also known as the Client Guide) is included in our Whole Shebang and Biz Starter sets.

2. Have a New Client Orientation. Whenever a new retainer client comes on board with you, have a special welcoming meeting (on the phone or video chat) where you give them a refresher orientation on working together (how things work, what procedures they should follow, etc.)

3. Include the topic of standards, boundaries, policies and protocols in your consultation conversations. This discussion is important to finding fit with each other and helps ensure clients go into the relationship with proper understandings and expectations. Let them know that as your business grows and things change, you will always let them know ahead of time. It’s when clients are left in the dark and caught off-guard that they are most unhappy about changes.

4. Always let clients know of changes in your business. Whenever you enact a change in policy or protocol or what-have-you, be sure and let clients know. Depending on what kind of change it is, that can be in a formal letter, an email or your newsletter/ezine. Some may say it’s better to do so “in-person” over the phone. While it never hurts to have a follow-up conversation if clients need more clarification (like in your weekly telephone or video chat meeting), I think it’s important that a formal, written notice go out first to all your clients. Maintaining business formalities and protocols in this manner helps both of you remember that first and foremost, this is a business relationship.

5. Always follow your full consultation process and normal procedures. One of the biggest mistakes I see folks make in our business is taking shortcuts with their processes when it comes to friends, former employers as well as project/occasional clients who now are interested in ongoing retained support. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve had a prior relationship or how well you know (or think you know) a potential client, always, always go through your full, usual processes for consulting with them and bringing them onto your roster. This goes a long way toward helping instill proper boundaries and expectations with those clients right from the beginning so that they respect you and your business as a business. Remember, you might know each other, but they don’t know your business or how you do things in it. That’s partly what your consultation process and orientations are for. 😉

Dear Danielle: What Phone System Do You Recommend?

Dear Danielle:

I have a few clients who want me to answer their phones for them. Is there a phone service that will allow my clients to forward their phones to me and when my phone rings I would know which company I am answering the phone for? –NA

Thanks for the question. Unfortunately, I can’t be of much help with your specific question as I’ve never answered phones for clients in my 15+ years of practice. I refer them instead to Ruby Receptionists, which is a company that is specifically in the business of answering phones for clients.

Since you’ve asked me, what I would encourage you to do before you proceed further with this is just make sure that you even want to be in the phone answering/receptionist business.

The reason I bring this up is because so often new business owners in our industry don’t realize that they have a say in the matter, and then get led down paths that they may not really want or intend, and eventually wish they hadn’t.

They go into the relationship thinking that they’re just supposed to do whatever clients want them to do because they’re still thinking of themselves as a sort of admin assistant rather than a professional service provider.

It’s not until later as they get into things that they realize business is far different from when they were an employee working exclusively for one employer, and how and when they work with clients, as well as what they do (and don’t do) for them, needs to be very different in many ways.

You may eventually find that answering phones for clients is turning your business into a J.O.B. where you are chained to your desk/office/phone system. You may find that it deprives you of the freedom and flexibility that you originally planned for your business. Answering phones interrupts your concentration, which in turn may make it more difficult for you to take on and do a good, timely job for more profitable clients and projects.

Think about how you’d have to charge clients. I know that if a client expected me to be sitting at my desk waiting for the phone to ring for certain hours, I darn sure would be charging for those hours, not the calls, since that is business time they would be reserving and requiring me to be available.

Here are a few other blog posts I’ve written that may also be helpful to you on this topic:

Dear Danielle: I HATE Answering Phones. Do I Have to?

Dear Danielle: How Do I Answer Phones For Clients?

The decision is yours obviously, and I wish you all my best either way. I just want you to know that you do have a say in the matter. In fact, it’s actually very important to your business success that you decide consciously and intentionally what you want to be in the business of and what you don’t.

So always keep in mind that just because a client asks, doesn’t mean you have to provide something if that’s not what you want to be or do in your business. Remember, you are not a replacement for employees; you’re something very different and aren’t going to necessarily do all the same things an employee would do.

Dear Danielle: What If I’m New and Don’t Have Any Testimonials Yet?

Dear Danielle:

What if you are brand new and only have one testimonial for your site? Should I wait until I have more and add that component later? –EB

Heck no! Get ‘er up on your site today. 🙂

You’ve heard the expression “you gotta use what you’ve got.” Well, if you only have one testimonial so far, work it, girl!

So how do you do that? By making it a feature on your site instead of an afterthought. That means using the client’s full name and link to their site. Bonus points if you can add a headshot (people like to see faces with names). Give it a dedicated page, perhaps, and even list the client’s contact information.

(Caveat: Make sure you ask and that the client gives you permission to do this first. Inbound links are always great for SEO so it doesn’t hurt to point that out as well.)

People are skeptical about anonymous testimonials so you never want to use initials or only first names. Prospective clients put more stock in testimonials they can see are from actual, real people.

You also don’t need millions of testimonials, just a handful of quality ones. So the other thing I recommend you do immediately is institute a feedback process in your business. For example, in my business, I solicit feedback from my monthly retained clients every 3 or 6 months and immediately upon project completion from any project clients I work with.

The very best way to get your feedback process going is with my Client Feedback Form which you can get from the Success Store. My Client Feedback Form is designed especially to help you elicit meaningful testimonials and start building great before/after case studies.

Now, what if you don’t have any testimonials yet? There are a couple things you can do.

  1. Use comments/reviews of past employers.
  2. Use comments/reviews from volunteer work you’ve done.

Again, get permission or ask them if they’d be willing to write something fresh for you.

Anyone who can speak to the quality of your skills and professional qualities and how great it is to work with you can provide you with a testimonial. It doesn’t necessarily need to be clients. It’s just better coming from paying clients so work toward replacing those employer/volunteer testimonials as you get established.

Here’s another great little trick you can do that has lots of credibility and “social proof” (which, again, is ultimately what clients are seeking in testimonials)…

If you are using social media like Twitter and Facebook, you can use those positive comments you get as testimonials. Post them on your website. Compile them in a PDF. You can even use widgets to your advantage such as the Twitter Faves widget (really simple: whenever someone says something nice about you, favorite it and it will show up in the widget, which you can place on your website).

Let me know if that helps you, and if anyone else has tips, please do share in the comments!

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