Several of you wrote to ask me to explain what standards are, and what the benefit of having standards is, in an easy-to-understand way. I’m always happy to do that, so here goes:

When you created your virtual assistance practice, chances are some of the reasons you did it were: more freedom, more control, more time with friends and family, more choices. In short, you wanted to have your work contribute to your living a terrific life.

Whenever I talk with new virtual assistants, the question on the tips of their tongues is how to get all those things when one has to do what the client wants. The answer is, simply this: you first do what YOU want, and then attract to you the clients who think that’s terrific. You run your business, it doesn’t run you. The tail doesn’t wag the dog. You put standards in place that spell out how you work and what clients can expect of you. This is both what standards are (the rules by which you operate in life and work), and the benefit.

Think of any business in your town (an easy target is your neighborhood grocery store) They have standards around what hours they’re open, the items they’ll sell, pricing, how they interact with customers, etc. And you are, or aren’t, attracted to them based on those standards. If you are, great. And if you aren’t, then you shop elsewhere. And you know what? That’s just fine with them. Because they learned, long ago, what you need to learn as you start your own business. And that, my friends, is this:

Setting Yourself Up For Failure by Trying to be All Things to All People

But, just how do you decide what standards to create for your new business?

First, you understand that standards for your business are the set of rules you choose to work by. You make them up based on the life you want to be living, by honoring yourself, first, and then by deciding where your business fits into the bigger life picture. Once you know that, you can’t really help but create something terrific, and you naturally attract people who are a fit for what you offer.

Having a hard time believing that you can have things your way? Why?

The most common reason I’ve seen is that a new business owner often struggles to really embrace the fact that she/he’s a business owner. If you’ve been an employee for most of your working life, that’s what you know how to do—be an employee and do what you’re told. But if you break free of the “employee” mindset, it’s becomes far easier. Think to yourself: Does the grocery store struggle with that? Does the restaurant down the street struggle with that? Of course not! And neither will you, at some point if you’re smart and take some action in another direction, right now. :)

Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited, talks about the struggle that happens between the business owner (manager) and the technician. In your VA practice, chances are, you take on both of those roles. The problem is that most VAs are expert technicians (doing the work that needs to be done), and novice business owners. And while it’s the business owner who should be setting standards, and not the technician, it’s the technician who most often ends up making the decisions because that’s the role that feels most comfortable to most new business owners. If you want to have a stronger business, focus on learning how to be a stronger business owner.

When you think you need to do “whatever it takes” to make clients happy and to get them to work with you, you end up anything but satisfied, and you end up more of a slave than you ever were in the corporate world, only this time, you’ve done it to yourself through your choices. So take a lesson from where you’ve been. It’s only by learning to be a business owner, and the creation of terrific standards that you reclaim your ability to work and live your life on your own terms. Higher standards attract a higher quality client, and allow you to live a higher quality life.

It’s that simple.