Archive for September 26th, 2012

Dear Danielle: Should My Client Say I Am Part of His Team?

Dear Danielle:

A client of mine has just asked me if I would agree to put my name and picture to be published in a paper magazine as a member of his team. He is a solopreneur and apparently he wants his company to be included in a directory of the industry to be published in the magazine. He doesn’t want to show he works alone (in fact, he doesn’t as I collaborate with him) so he wants my picture and contact info (which is the email address I use with his company’s domain) to be included. Do you see any issues if I accept his request? Thank you in advance, Danielle!Mirna Majraj, MB Asistencia Virtual

Hi Mirna 🙂

I know you’re in a different country, and I’m not sure what the laws are there, but in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Ireland and the U.K., and many of the European countries, the laws concerning the distinctions between employees and independent contractors (i.e., business owners) are all very similar.

And that is, essentially, no one is part of your business team unless they are an employee. If this is true in your country as well (you’ll want to consult with a lawyer to be clear), you want to avoid any appearance that you are one because there are legal consequences involved.

Here’s how I help people to understand this:  Are they going to include their attorney, their accountant, their designer and every other professional they are a client of in the listing as well? No? Then you shouldn’t be included either.

Your relationship with him is no different than the one he has with any other independent professional who is not an employee, but is a separate business.

If it doesn’t make sense to include them, it doesn’t make sense to include you in that manner either. It’s not the truth and it’s misrepresenting the correct nature of the relationship.

Here’s a blog post that talks a bit more about this (see the comments in particular): What You Need to Know About Subcontractors.

Some might be wondering what the big deal is.

Well, here’s the thing. Forget about legalities; it’s important and worth our while to maintain these boundaries because too often it becomes a “slippery slope” when we don’t.

Every time you allow clients to take liberties when it comes to your standards and boundaries, you’re chipping away at the integrity and foundation of the relationship.

These seemingly inconsequential concessions ultimately lead to detrimental effects in the relationship. Pretty soon, you’ve got a client who seems to think you’re his employee.

If you’re going to be successful and sustainable, for legal and practical reasons, you need to preserve those boundaries and not allow them to become muddied, blurred or misconstrued.

Plus, (and I’m sure he’s innocently not realizing this), it’s just dishonest to allow him to portray you like that.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of in being a solopreneur. In fact, you could be doing him a huge service by helping him see how he can promote that as a competitive advantage, that the fact that he IS a solopreneur who works with key strategic partners and experts allows him to be more agile, flexible and responsive in meeting his clients’ needs. (Suggest he even use that as a script if you want.)

There are an infinite number of ways it can be worded so that he can still include you, but with a more truthful, accurate depiction about who you are in relation to his business (i.e., his Administrative Consultant and one of his key independent experts).

Plus, I’m a firm believer that ideal clients, if they truly value you, are willing to help you as well. And it certainly doesn’t help you to dishonestly pretend that you are part of his “team.” If he thinks about it, he will probably see that he’s asking you to compromise your ethics. And it’s not polite to put you in that position.

That being the case, suggest to him that if he would like to include you in the article or listing, the best way he can help you and your business (and what you must insist upon since you are not an employee) is by including your full name, the name of your business, the link to your business website and/or your contact info.

You’ll be helping him stay in integrity (and maintaining your own) while giving him the opportunity to support your business at the same time.

PS: At the start of your relationship with any client, be sure there is discussion about the nature of the relationship so there is no misunderstanding moving forward. Also, inform clients how they should refer to you and introduce you to others:  as their Administrative Consultant or even simply Administrator. It’s not up to them what to call you and by informing them, you ensure they don’t come up on their own with something that you don’t prefer. The last thing you need is a client introducing you to others as his secretary or assistant.