Dear Danielle: How Do I Approach Clients About Subcontracting Their Work Out to Someone Else?

Dear Danielle: How Do I Approach Clients About Subcontracting Their Work Out to Someone Else?

Dear Danielle: 

My business is at the point where I’d like to outsource some of the tasks I’m doing for my clients to another Administrative Consultant so I have more time to focus on creating information products and other leveraged income projects. Any tips on how to approach my clients so they feel comfortable with the switch? I would make it seamless for them, and continue to be their contact. And any tips for selecting the right admin consultant would also be very much appreciated. Thanks!Deidra Miller, Magic Wing Administration

Why make the switch in the first place? My feeling is if you want to keep the business, never abdicate the relationship.

That one-on-one relationship and the shared body of intimate knowledge and understanding of the client and his/her business that grows from that is, after all, one the the most important ingredients that create value and allow you to achieve the results you do for clients—and why you get paid the big bucks.

That’s not something that can be delegated. And it’s not something you want to delegate if you want to keep the integrity of that value intact.

No one needs a middle man. As a client, I’d be thinking, “If you’re just passing me off to someone else, what do I need you for? Why am I paying you the big bucks instead of just working directly with the person who is actually responsible for the relationship?”

If you want to keep the client, my best advice is to partner (not subcontract) with an Administrative Consultant in the same way that clients retain you.

The dynamic of an ongoing collaborative relationship like that is a lot different than if you were to pass the client off to someone one.

In that kind of context, the relationship with your client can be seamless and continue just as it was before because the Administrative Consultant you partner with is supporting you, not the client.

You’re still the one who has the relationship and direct communication with your clients and the one who directs whatever work is involved. Clients don’t need to know who all supports you in your business so there’s no need to approach them about anything.

If you really do need to pass the client off to someone else, if you simply are unable to maintain that direct relationship, in my book, it’s best to give that business cleanly to someone else. It’s just better for everyone involved, particularly the client.

I created all my info products while maintaing my own practice. Granted, I did have to cut down my roster, but only because I hadn’t found the right Administrative Consultant to fully support me at the time.

Still, I don’t think it’s an either/or proposition. You can maintain your practice without sacrificing the level and quality of the relationship that your clients currently enjoy with you while creating your info products methodically over time.

In my guide to creating info products and passive income streams, besides partnering with an Administrative Consultant, one of my strategies is to focus on one product per month and then reserve time for that product creation on your calendar, either a few hours a day or one day a week.

Thanks for the question! I hope this helps, and if you want to continue the dialogue to gain more clarity about what I’m proposing, feel free to post in the comment. 🙂

9 Responses

  1. Mirna Bajraj says:

    Hello Danielle!
    Very interesting topic and very wise words. I wondered many times how I could get help from another Administrative Consultant without creating noise with my clients. Fully agree with the idea that the intimate knowledge of the client and his/her business is what allows us to build a solid relationship with them and that is something to take care of. In case we need help to carry out our practice then we can partner with a colleague but the client doesn’t need to know this . We’d better keep this behind the scences of our own business. Great question! Great answer! Cheers!

  2. Camille says:

    Very constructive advice.

  3. Deidra Miller says:

    By “outsource” I meant partnering with another AC, not turning my client over to them. It would be seamless for my client, they would still contact me as always. I would just give some of the client’s work to the AC partner, making sure it was done on time and well. I was thinking I needed to let the client know I was doing that, it’s good to have validation that I don’t.

    Part of my purpose for doing this would be to earn some income without actually spending the hours. Do you have any tips on how to structure payment to the AC partner? Pay them a little less per month than I receive for that part of the client’s package?

    Thanks for all your input, Danielle!

  4. I’m not an advocate for short-changing colleagues. Paying a subcontractor to farm out client work is the only time when it’s usual, customary practice for them to accept a reduction to their usual fee. But that’s not what partnering (i.e., retaining) is. You aren’t subcontracting work out, you are hiring someone to be your administrative partner in the same way that clients hire you. When that’s the case, you are a client to that AC and such, her full fees apply. So whatever she charges for her retainers and what you guys work out when you have a consultation with her (whoever that is) is what the fee is. Her fees as a collaborative partner aren’t for you or any clients to decide.

  5. Christina says:

    I’m still not sure what partnering with another AC would look like. Instead of having them work client work, would they work on your work? Such as your administrative work – writing or editing newsletters or blog posts, website admin (if that’s contracted for). Can you give an example? If they’re not doing your client work, what are they doing?

  6. Hi Christina 🙂

    You don’t mention whether you are an Administrative Consultant or not so I’m not sure what perspective you are coming from and whether you understand what an Administrative Consultant is/does.

    If you take a look at this video, this is what an Administrative Consultant is and how one helps clients:

    An Administrative Consultant partners with clients to work with and administratively support them in an ongoing collaborative relationship (not transactional piecework).

    As illustrated in the four quadrants, an Administrative Consultant can administratively support clients with their marketing and networking, the administration and running of their business (the inner workings, back-office type functions), business development, and with clients/customers.

    So as you can see, an Administrative Consultant can certainly help with, aid in, facilitate, take on parts of, etc., the client work that her clients provide for their clients/customers.

    At any rate, what tasks, functions and roles an Administrative Consultant takes on is between her and the client to determine and agree upon. And the point of having an administrative partner is to free time, free mental space and bandwidth, reduce overwhelm, to reduce their own workload so they can have more room to take on more clients or focus on other things, to move forward and make faster progress, to have more time for life… and so on.

    Nothing about that is any different just because the Administrative Consultant’s client happens to be another Administrative Consultant.

    Does that help make things more understandable?

  7. My thinking was that the other AC would be doing some of my client’s work so I have more time to focus on doing other things I need to do to help build my business. What I stupidly left out earlier, which might alter Danielle’s answer, is that what I would want them to do would require giving them the login information to my client’s LinkedIn account and a job board they post to. I assume it wouldn’t be ethical to not get the client’s permission. Again, I would still want to be the client’s contact and just let the other AC know what needs to be done (pretty much all at this point is regular daily or weekly recurring tasks), so I think it would be more a subcontract basis.

    My follow-up question is: Is there a way to determine when it’s appropriate to subcontract and when to enter a partnering relationship?

  8. When it comes to logins and stuff like that, then maybe you want to talk with the client (or even preface this subject generally when you conduct consultations with clients before you ever even work together) and let them know something like this:

    “In the same way that you are hiring me to support you, I also have my own Administrative Consultant who supports me so that I can better support my clients and provide more personal attention and support to them. This is somebody who has been with me for X time and we work very closely together in a right-hand relationship just like you and I do. None of your work is ever outsourced or subcontracted to strangers or outside third parties. There are times I need for her to assist me with carrying out certain tasks, functions and roles. That might include logging into a LinkedIn account, etc., to post information and so forth. Do you have any issues with that? We can certainly be selective on a case by case basis and if you are in any way uncomfortable with that, she can just focus on assisting me with things that don’t require any knowledge of a client’s passwords, etc.”

    In answer to your other question, subcontracting is not partnering. It’s more for subbing out piecemeal project type things.

    And here’s another way to look at it that might help you understand: When a client partners with you for ongoing administrative support, why would you charge them anything less than your full fee/rates?

    So the question becomes, why should any other Administrative Consultant charge you less than their full fees if they are partnering with you like they would any other client?

  9. Oh, by the way, I also have a category here on the blog for Subcontracting. Those posts will be helpful to you on this topic as well: http://www.administrativeconsultantsassoc.com/blog/category/subcontracting/

    🙂

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