Sharing my Business Journey
I started my work-at-home business journey when I was laid off from my corporate job back in 2010. I’ve been through so much since being my own boss and working online. There have been highs and lows, times when I was ready to just give up.
I’ve always been a hard worker, giving 110% at any job, but working for myself; I work twice as hard. And it’s definitely worth it!
So, I’ve been thinking about the lessons I’ve learned along the way since then. I’ve decided to share them with you, so you understand my why and a little bit about my decision to start the VA to the ResQ Academy.
Maybe something I say in these lessons will resonate with you. It would be awesome if you said, “Me too”!
Maybe it will help you avoid a pitfall or see something in a different light. Or maybe something in these lessons will inspire you to really go for it and make your business what you want it to be.
Whatever it sparks in you, I hope you’ll enjoy the following lessons from my business journey.
My History in the Business World
First, a little background history. Before I even started thinking about a business of my own, I had been researching on the internet about how to be a better assistant at work. There was always talk about layoffs, but I never thought it would ever hit our department.
When it did happen, I had been with the company for 10 years. I was, of course, devastated, I worked with my co-workers for most of those years together, and they were like family to me.
After trying for months to find another job with no success, I decided that I needed something to do to keep from going stir-crazy. So, after thinking long and hard with no job in sight, I made the decision to start my own business. My husband had his own business for our entire married life, so I was no stranger to what it was like to be self-employed.
When I was a stay-at-home mom with my 2 kids, I was the one to answer the phone and take messages from the many people that called to hire or discuss business with him. I was really good at it, too; I guess that’s where my natural customer service skills came from. It wasn’t long before I was doing his customer billing, scheduling appointments for him, doing our taxes, and all the many things that business owners do.
My skills also came from what I learned in high school because I always thought I wanted to be a secretary. But, my life turned directions, and that’s a whole nother story.
Now, let’s get on to the lessons:
Overnight success just doesn’t happen
When I started my online business journey, I spent three to four months researching and hoping to find a real work-at-home opportunity. I spent another few months figuring out that the virtual assistant industry was the way to go for me.
I ended up purchasing a course to teach me how to set up a successful virtual assistant business. After the course came setting up a website and getting it up and running. And of course, it was a DIY website, and I had NO CLUE what I was doing.
Once I had my website “live,” it took about another six months to get my first client. Even with that first client, it’s not like the floodgates opened and a never-ending stream of clients flowed in. I had to work hard to make connections and market my business.
I took a ton of “expert advice” on what to do and how to do it. I downloaded every freebie I could get my hands on. When you see other people online doing what you want to do, and you think they’re successful, know that they probably worked really hard to get there and that it didn’t happen overnight.
Stay in Your Own Lane
Speaking of other people, let me tell you something important–please don’t worry about how other people run their businesses. Run yours how it works for YOU!
Yes, find people that look like YOU’D like to be. But know that your circumstances aren’t identical. You are your own person with your own story, your own set of challenges, weaknesses, and strengths.
So, learn from people who are further along the path than you, but take what you learn and make it your own. That’s what will attract clients to you.
They will want to work with you for your particular skill set and the way that YOU do things.
If you’re still feeling afraid of putting yourself out there, read this article.
At some point, you have to stop learning all.the.things, researching all.the.things and buying all.the.things, and you have to start DOING something.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, done is better than perfect. Get the website up. Talk to that potential client. Slap a price on your services.
You can always tweak things later. Just get yourself out there. You’re going to make mistakes–but that’s part of learning and growing. The right mindset, planning, and taking action will propel you forward.
We learn A LOT in the doing of things.
Choose services and clients that you love
Otherwise, you will come to resent them and your business. This is YOUR business—so do what makes you happy! I know when you’re first starting out, the temptation is there just to get a client. Any client. Just one person who will pay you some money.
But if you put yourself out there and say you will do just about anything for anyone, you aren’t going to attract ANYONE. People need to “see” themselves in your marketing. They need to resonate with you. They need to know that YOU specifically can help them with exactly what they need.
The best way to do this is to specialize in either what you do (services) or who you do it for (target market). This will help you to make more money and be more successful.
But choose services and people that you enjoy.
And it’s perfectly okay to change your mind over time. Remember, this is YOUR business journey, and you should love what you do!
Build your business around your life–not the other way around
Being in business for yourself has so many benefits. A big one is the ability to leave time for the things that are important to you in life. Weave your business around and through what you want to do. If you’re just going to box yourself into a 9-5 schedule, work every night and all through the weekend, then why bother leaving the “regular” job that you hate, if that’s the case?
- Maybe you have a family, and you want to spend more time with them.
- Maybe you have kids, and you want to make it to more of their school functions.
- Maybe you enjoy volunteer work.
- Maybe you love to travel.
You can do all of that and run a successful virtual assistant business.
Remember the things that are important to you in life and build your business around those things.
Break it down
As you’re building your business, there will be times when you’re going to feel quite overwhelmed. There’s so much to do on the back end of setting up your business. You must think about a business name, a website, taxes, a client intake process, and marketing.
And then, when you get those clients, you must figure out how to juggle client work with continuing to build and market your business. It never ends! Make sure that you’re having the best business journey that you can possibly have.
When you feel overwhelmed, break things down.
Instead of having 50,000 thoughts swirling around in your brain, 3 lists, and 25 sticky notes, simplify it all and break it down.
Here is a process that will help:
- Think about your goals and what’s most important to accomplish.
- Look at your schedule in blocks of time. Mark off blocks for personal time, business building time, marketing time, client work, etc.
- Take those bigger goals that are overwhelming and write down all the things you need to do in order to achieve them.
- Use that list and turn them into to-do items that need to be accomplished in order to achieve that thing or goal.
- Then, take those to-do items and schedule them into your time blocks.
Doing it this way will really decrease the overwhelm.
Whenever there are too many things, or you have a goal so big you don’t know how you’re ever going to achieve it, keep breaking it down into smaller and simpler pieces. And then schedule those things on your calendar.
It takes a little while to get used to scheduling things if it’s not something that you’ve done before. But if you’re looking at a busy life with client work, marketing, things you need to take care of on the back end of your business, plus everything else that’s going on in your life, having some type of schedule that works for you will save your sanity.
No person is an island
Doing this whole entrepreneur business owner thing by yourself is hard. And it can get lonely. You’ll have times when you second-guess yourself. And times, when you might miss having co-workers and talking to other people, live and in person.
But just because you’re running a business by yourself doesn’t mean that you must be alone. Get out there and network with other business owners like yourself. This can be at in-person networking meetings where you live. It can be online virtually.
First, it makes you feel less lonely. But it also shows you that other people “get” it and go through the same things that you do. Sometimes you just need a sounding board. And sometimes you need advice on how to handle a particular situation. It can also help create some accountability.
Finding online or in-person networking groups of fellow VAs and business owners is a great way to get that help. You never know what you’ll get out of it. Maybe you’ll get a new referral partner. And maybe you’ll get a new best friend. It’s the best way to have an awesome business journey.
Find yourself a Good Mentor
Also, if you’re looking for guidance or a way to stay on track and really move your business forward, consider getting a mentor.
When I first started out, I didn’t know anyone online at all. And I didn’t have much money to invest in myself or my business. (But I quickly learned the importance of doing so.)
Before that, I found some online forums where I could talk to other VAs. Then I became friendly with someone who became my mentor in a Facebook group. It made a huge difference in my business and how I went about things.
You can work with mentors one-on-one and in group settings. You can get something valuable out of each situation. Whatever way works best for you right now, connect with people who can support you, hold you accountable and guide you.
And, in turn, be there for others. If you’re in a forum or a group and you can answer a question or help someone out, do it. Remember that you were just like them at one point, wishing someone would extend a hand and help you out. It feels good to pay it forward.
If you’re looking for some guidance and support, to be with a group of other people who “get it” and can help move you forward, I’d love you to consider joining my Facebook group.
Thank you so much for reading. I’m sure you’ll get there with your business too! Just relax and do what’s most important for you.
Happy Business Journey! And GOOD LUCK!