Archive for October, 2012

Dear Danielle: How Do I Price My Services?

Dear Danielle:

I am an established contracting company but shifting my business into administrative consulting geared for building contractors. I am unsure how to price my services as this is a new approach to business for me. Any guidance you can offer would be appreciated. —LS

That’s wonderful that you already have your target market figured out. And oh, we have LOTS of resources for you!

The first place to start is to download the free ACA Income & Pricing Calculator. Once you complete the fields, it will automatically calculate a baseline for what you and your business need to earn. This is often quite eye-opening for those who go through the exercises.

Pricing is also a frequent topic of conversation here on my blog for obvious reasons—it’s integral to the financial health, well-being and sustainable of our businesses, not to mention part of our marketing. How you price is a vital part of your positioning statement. That is, what your pricing is telling potential clients and what kind of clients it attracts.

Be sure and read the back posts on these blog categories:

Pricing
Posting Prices
Positioning

I also teach people how to implement value-based pricing in their businesses to get off the billable hour trap and be able to serve clients better. You can learn more about my value-based pricing training and why billing by the hour (selling hours) is killing your business here. (Be sure to watch the video, too!).

Hope that helps!

Get Paid to Market Your Biz with Info Products and Multi-Layered Revenue Streams

Do you want retained clients, but aren’t sure how to get them? If a roster of well-paying clients who pay you an advance monthly fee for your administrative support and expertise is what you long for, your entire website and marketing message must be geared toward that goal.

You want to think of your whole website as a sales page with a singular goal: to get those retained clients. From there, it’s a bit of a dating process that happens a lot like this:

  • You catch your prospect’s eye somewhere (through your marketing and networking).
  • They observe you from the across the room (by visiting your website and taking a look around).
  • They like what they see and hear and ask you out (by requesting a consultation or more information).

At this point, it’s important to understand that most people aren’t going to hire you right off the bat any more than anyone is going to be proposing marriage after one date.

Relationships develop and transpire over a course of time and interaction. Different prospective clients will have varying comfort levels initially.

This is the where most people aren’t sure how to proceed. Clients want them to “audition” by trying them out with small projects.

The problem with that, however, is when you fritter away your limited time and energy on nickel and dime projects, you are chasing after pennies instead of hundred dollar bills.

That small project might buy dinner that night, but it does nothing to help you achieve your long-term goal of achieving a well-earning practice. It only distracts you from building your real business and the work and focus needed to establish a retained roster of clients.

Some folks think: “Yes, but if I do a good enough job, maybe the client will eventually hire me on a retained basis.”

That almost never happens.

Your business and income can’t depend on hopes and maybe’s. You’ll never build a roster of well-paying monthly retained clients by chasing after penny-ante “sample” projects and letting the wrong prospect lead you around by the nose. To get a commitment, you must expect one.

On November 29, I’m holding a class to show you how to do just that by offering products and services that support your overall goal and marketing message to get retained clients AND create multiple revenue streams for you at the same time.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Nurture those prospective client relationships and lead them toward the retainer commitment;
  • Eliminate auditioning and the need to chase after penny-ante project work and carrots on a stick so you can stay focused on building your retained client roster;
  • Provide selective demonstrations and “proof” to prospects of your skills and expertise that they seek;
    Create passive income streams;
  • Establish you as an authority and expert in your field;
  • Set a more respectful tone for the relationship where prospects and clients treat you as a trusted advisor, not a cost to be managed or some kind of gopher;
  • Create an easier business to operate that affords you more time and space for your support work to happen;
  • Provide the foundation for a more flexible and freedom-filled lifestyle and business;
  • Get PAID to market your business!

Join us! Click on the link below to get the class details and secure your registration:

Get Paid to Market Your Biz with Info Products and Multi-Layered Revenue Streams >>

Marketing Tip: Don’t Call Yourself a WAHM Anything

Marketing Tip: Don’t call yourself a WAHM anything.

(For those who don’t know, WAHM stands for work-at-home-mom.)

No one cares that you “work from home” or that you are “mom.”

It’s completely irrelevant and (worse) detracts from the kind of professional image that allows you to command respect, credibility and professional level fees.

Business is business. Your parental status and where you happen to work is of no import to anyone else whatsoever.

Not that there is anything wrong with either of those things.

The problem is one of connotation.

What people picture when they hear the term WAHM is someone distractedly sitting around in her pajamas with a squalling kid on each  hip rather than a competent, highly skilled professional and expert who is working in a committed business.

You wouldn’t go to a job interview in your sweats, would you? The image that would project would not be at all suitable and would not show that you took the matter very seriously.

Well, the words and terms you use to to market your business are the same thing.

They are your dress in print and need to reflect and elicit the kind of image in clients that they can trust and feel confident in.

Instead, focus the attention on the needs, goals and challenges of your clients and their businesses.

Dear Danielle: Can I Use Content from Your Site?

Dear Danielle:

The templates I purchased from your site have been, and continue to be, very helpful. I’m working on my website and I wonder what the policy is for using information from your site if credit is given with a link to your site. There is soooo much useful and helpful information and if I may use some of it (with appropriate credit) then I would be most grateful! —MB

I’m so happy you are finding everything so helpful to you, and I really appreciate you letting me know that!

I’m afraid, however, using our content (or anyone else’s, for that matter) is a BIG no-no.

(It’s also the quickest way to get on my bad side. 😉 )

The idea is not to copy other people. Whether you give them credit or not, simply taking content from someone else’s site to use on your own is copyright infringement.

Only the content owner gets to decide who may use what content, if any. Likewise, the content owner may not want her content used in a particular way or on a particular site.

You don’t want to be a copycat anyway. Nor do you want to get into legal hot water because you have used their content or made derivative use of it.

(“Derivative use” is a legal term that basically means plagiarism. It’s where someone takes someone else’s content and changes words or things around a bit to disguise the use. But that’s still copyright infringement and it’s illegal.)

If you want to educate the marketplace with our content, the only way I allow that is by placing a membership button on your website so that those who are interested can follow the link and read our content on our site.

(By the way, as a side note, we have things coded so that the link opens in a new window and doesn’t take your visitors away from your website).

Ultimately, it’s not your job to educate the marketplace about Administrative Consultants. The ACA site already does that.

You need to speak for your business. Your job is to educate your target market on how you do things and how you help them.

Plus, we don’t need an industry where everyone is all using the same words. Clients actually hate that and it frustrates them to no end.

You do nothing to differentiate yourself from the crowd and help them choose YOU by using someone else’s content and repeating the same tired, boring, ineffective industry script that everyone else in the industry is reciting chapter, line and verse.

And think about it… imagine what it would be like if I let everyone use our content.

If I gave one person permission, everyone else would expect to have favors and exceptions made for them as well. That doesn’t do anything to help Administrative Consultants be original and stand on their own two feet as business owners, and we’d have a sea of websites all saying the same thing (like there is already).

Giving people content and doing all their thinking and work for them is against everything I stand for. Without going through those exercises for themselves, they do not gain the important lessons and insights necessary to succeed on their own in business and marketing.

It’s sort of like this:  I’m not here to do the math (or the work) for you, which teaches you nothing. I’m here to give you the knowledge, know-how and tools so you can do the “math” for yourself and be unique.

Everything I do is about encouraging and helping people come up with their OWN content, in their OWN voice. I even have a product to help you do that:  Articulating Your Value: How to Craft Your Unique, Irresistible Marketing Message to Stand Out from the Crowd and Attract Well-Paying Clients Who Can’t Wait to Hire You (GDE-38).

You Do Not Have to Take the “Good with the Bad”

I want to emphasize this:

You never, ever, ever have to settle for anything less than ideal in your business or “take the good with the bad.”

It saddens me to no end that anyone would have that defeatist, hostage mentality.

You will never live your best life believing that.

Business IS personal.

So I want you to know that you never have to do business with anyone you do not personally care for or who doesn’t treat you right.

You’re not a Walmart. And even they have the right to refuse service to anyone they choose.

You always, always have the right to choose who you work with, no matter what you do.

Your business success depends on you working with your most ideal clients. To work with anyone else is folly and will have you circling the drain faster than you can blink an eye.

And there’s this, too:

Be in integrity for your life and your needs as well as those who come to you.

You can not serve anyone well or honorably that you do not have good feelings toward and it is unethical to take their money.

Remember to DO IT!

Learn, learn, learn… then DO!

All the learning in the world isn’t going to do you any good if you don’t get out there and put things into practice.

At a certain point, you have to stop thinking, stop perfecting and start doing so that everything you’ve invested your time into learning has a chance to kick in.

Practice is the only way you will ever truly “get it” and get good at it.

Come to the Table with Proper Preparation and Manners

If you can’t be bothered to make an effort and have the respect, good manners and professionalism to put your best foot forward when you ask others to expend their time, attention and expertise helping you, you should expect the same level of effort and interest in return. 😉

A few quick tips:

1. Be clear. Write/speak in complete words and sentences (e.g., don’t grunt at me or expect me to waste my time trying to decipher your meaning.)

2. Get my name and the name of the organization right. Demonstrate that you are observant and attentive to details. You don’t give me anything to work with if you are so oblivious you can’t even get a name or term right.

3. I don’t care about typos here and there, but do demonstrate that you at least know how to spell and punctuate properly. If you can’t, you shouldn’t be in business.

4. Have the right attitude. Don’t act like you are owed my or anyone else’s time and attention.

5. Do your own homework first. (It’s obvious when someone hasn’t bothered to read anything or done any research whatsoever.)

6. If certain procedures are requested that you follow first, then follow those procedures and instructions.

7. Your mama didn’t raise you like that. Remember your manners and say thank you, always. It matters.

Dear Danielle: What Bookkeeping Software Do I Use?

Dear Danielle:

I would like to offer basic accounting services through my administrative business. I want to offer accounts payable/receivable, payroll, maintaining vendor and customer files, cash management, reconciling bank statements, generating financial reports, etc.  I would like to know if you think it is acceptable to gain knowledge in the above areas utilizing free software and simply offer to learn a prospective client’s accounting software since not all businesses use Quickbooks or Quicken. I really want to make my company marketable in this area, and, thus, the reason I am seeking your professional opinion. Thank you in advance for any assistance you can offer me! P.S. Love your FB posts and your attitude toward life!! ~ : ) —GM

Hi, GM 🙂

Glad to have you with us!

Bookkeeping is an entirely different/separate profession from Administrative Consulting.

And because it is a business that comes with even more legal liabilities and pitfalls (because you’re dealing with clients’ finances and their reporting, filing, budgeting, etc., relies on your expert knowledge and accuracy in recording things properly), it’s important to direct those questions to that industry and their communities for the very best, most knowledgeable and authoritative advice.

Several years ago, I used to have a bookkeeping division to my business.

It grew too fast and wasn’t work I ever really intended to be in the business of doing anyway so I eventually got out.

I only ever got into it because I thought it would be a good additional service to provide to clients.

What I didn’t fully grasp at the time is that bookkeeping is a business in and of itself, and trying to run too many businesses at the same time is a recipe for failure and overwhelm.

When you divide your time and distract your attention amongst too many diverse things, you become effective and expert at none of them.

At some point, you have to consciously decide where your true interests lie and focus your energies in developing excellence there.

All that said, when it comes to bookkeeping, I would never, ever take shortcuts with your software. Using the right professional tools is paramount.

For a professional business providing bookkeeping services, Quickbooks Pro is an industry standard and the only option in my book.

Quicken is a shortcut tool more suited for simple, personal accounting, not providing professional bookkeeping services to clients as a business. It doesn’t have the level of capabilities you will need to provide the bookkeeping functions you mention.

Same thing pretty much with Quickbooks Simple Start.

Quickbooks Pro is full-featured, professional-standard software that provides all the capabilities to professionally provide bookkeeping services to clients with all the bells and whistles, including extensive reporting, costing, budgeting and forecasting tools.

Plus, you can’t dumb down your business for clients who insist on working in the dark ages (don’t work with them). They aren’t bookkeepers. They don’t necessarily know what the right software is to use or how to use it properly.

Your job is to work with the right clients who want you to empower their businesses to grow up, not down.

When they come to you for those services, you need tell them what software they need to be using, not changing your tools for each client to suit them.

(Think about it. We hire professionals for their expertise and to do a proper job. Is a contractor going to let clients tell him what tools to use and allow his reputation to be sullied because he used ineffective, sub-par tools that elicited shoddy workmanship? Of course not! He’s going to use the proper tools to do the best job.)

If you don’t, you’ll be dooming your business to ineffective, unproductive, unprofitable operations and forever chasing your tail and pulling your hair out.

Just my six cents. 😉

You DO Need a Certain Level of Income to Be Happy and Healthy

I was listening to some radio program several weeks ago that referred to a study that supports the idea that you only truly need so much money in life to be happy. Past a certain point, more money doesn’t make you any happier.

So true!

I’m not interested in being a millionaire because I’m not interested in the lifestyle or work it would take to get there. I’m also not interested in the least in the KIND of business I would need to be in to make that kind of money.

And I LIKE having work and purpose in my life and things to strive for. I don’t want it all to come TOO easily, funny as that might sound.

That said, I DO think it’s important to have a six figure business. BUT, it’s important to clarify what kind of six figures we’re talking about.

There is a HUGE difference between a $100-200k biz and a $500k biz, let alone a $1 million biz, in terms of the work involved, what kind of business it is and what it needs to focus on. Very, very different models and machinations involved.

You can live a very happy, rich life (and I mean LIVING) with only a $75k income. That said, it’s important to understand that for you to personally earn $75k, your business generally needs to bring in a revenue of at least $100k.

This is always the kind of “6 Figure Business” I’m talking about in relation to our administrative support businesses.

And this is a VERY modest and completely doable goal that gives you a benchmark of financial ease, solvency, sustainability and profitability that encourages you to strive without making money the focus or driving force and without forcing you to have a completely different kind of business model and life.

There’s nothing to feel guilty about in earning well, no matter what your financial goals are, be they modest or grand.

But make no mistake, there is a minimum amount of money you do need to make in order to stay in business and be able to serve clients well.

You earning poorly, and merely surviving instead of thriving, does no one any good whatsoever.

I originally posted this musing on our Facebook page, but I thought it related wonderfully to what I’m always trying to help you do:  which is to earn more, working less and more strategically.

While $100k a year is an excellent financial goal to strive for, that doesn’t mean it will be easy to achieve working entirely one-on-one with clients.

And a bigger business (in order to achieve that goal) is not necessarily better. Bigger businesses come with more work, more administration, more costs, reduced profit, more people managing and more room for problems, communication issues and errors.

There IS, however, an alternative way to increase your revenues and that’s by leveraging your knowledge and turning it into DIY info products for your potential clients and site visitors.

Not only do these products allow you to demonstrate your expertise without requiring your personal one-on-one time, you’ll essentially get paid to market your business and grow that all important know, like and trust factor.

The crazy thing is almost NO ONE in our industry is doing this for their prospects and clients! You don’t have to be one of them.

On Thursday, November 29, I’m conducting a class where I will show you all the ins and outs of creating info products and multi-layer revenue streams in your business. This is a brand new class that I’ve been “threatening” to do for several months and next month is finally it!

See the registration for more information and to secure your spot >>

I’ll see you there! 🙂

How to Properly Juice Up Your New Laptop Battery

From the “you learn something new every day” file:

Maybe you all know this, but I just learned how I should be using my laptop battery and how to charge it properly the first time.

  1. When you first get the battery, don’t charge it and don’t plug in the power cord. Instead, immediately snap it on the laptop and use it until it runs out of life completely.
  2. THEN, plug in the power cord and recharge the battery in full. As soon as it’s fully charged, unplug the power cord.

I was told that if you’re going to use your laptop, use either battery power OR electrical power, not both together. Big no-no!

When you do that (which I’ve always done in the past, bad laptop user that I am, lol), it destroys the battery cells and you won’t get as long a life of use from it.

That means, if you’re going to use electrical power, you should remove the battery whenever you have the power cord plugged in. And vice versa: If you’re going to use battery power, unplug the power cord from the laptop entirely.

With my laptop batteries being relatively pricey to replace, I’m definitely going to follow this advice from now on.

I did get a good two or three years worth of use from my last 10-hour extended life battery, though, so not too bad! But I plan to take better care of my next one.

Hope this is helpful to you!