2017 was the year I embarked on a new challenge to set up my own business as a Virtual Assistant. It’s been a remarkable journey; full of highs and lows but overall, it’s been a huge success and I’m incredibly proud of The Virtual Assistant UK.
I work with some wonderful clients who run amazing businesses and I’m proud to say that I support each of them and help them to find that work-life balance that most business owners and entrepreneurs strive for.
Reflecting on my first six months in business, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way:
It’s good to ask for help.
When I first embarked on my journey, I thought the life of a Freelancer may be a bit lonely and so I prepared myself for this but it couldn’t be further from the truth. The Virtual Assistant industry is one the most supportive industries I’ve come across. You can find invaluable information on; VIP VA, The VA Handbook and How to Be a Virtual Assistant websites and their subsequent Facebook groups. The social media groups are full of friendly and knowledgeable VA’s that are not afraid to offer advice, provide feedback or share knowledge.
Networking really is the key to building relationships.
I was terrified by the thought of networking. Standing in front of a room of people was my worst nightmare but, it’s never as bad as you first think. I signed up for multiple networking events in the local area of Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted and attended lots of events until I selected the networking groups that I would benefit from the most, both personally and professionally.
I am now a proud member of the WIBN Berkhamsted (Women in Business Network) and really enjoy meeting monthly with the ladies from the group to chat and learn from each other.
I am also a member of the Berkhamsted & District Chamber of Commerce who meet for a Champagne networking breakfast and arrange a variety of events in support of the local community and local businesses. I was delighted to recently be asked to join the Committee and will be managing their social media channels from November!
Attending networking events has been my main source of gaining clients. I regularly attend other non-member networking groups and love to meet other VAs at Virtual Assistant networking groups such as the ladies of Vibrant VA, Powerful PA who meet at the most amazing Chocolaterie each quarter for a friendly catch up and to share ideas and celebrate each other’s successes.
Blogging every month, and using social media on a regular basis has helped to generate interest and gain clients. People are watching and will notice!
Corporate vs Small Business
Moving from the world of corporate business to small business environments was eye-opening! I have learned that on occasion I can be too professional in my communications and I forget that because I’m the expert, it doesn’t mean that my clients can understand some of the digital marketing jargon that I speak. I’ve learnt to ensure the intention of the message is clear.
I was used to working with expensive software for our social media management, content marketing and email marketing when employed for a big corporate. I only realised when I commenced working for entrepreneurs and small businesses that there is a huge variety of FREE tools and software that provide the same functions, but on a smaller scale.
I experience Imposter Syndrome.
And I’m not the only one who has experiences of imposter syndrome. Many of us experience this feeling on occasion but I found that Facebook groups for business and virtual assistant networking have been a blessing. You will always find someone who feels the same way or there will always be an army of ladies (and men) behind their computers who will encourage you to put your ‘Big Girl Pants’ on and carry on because you’re great!
You have a skill/s that others want/need and so don’t be afraid.
It wasn’t until I had been in business for a few months and received lots of fantastic client feedback that I realised how good I am at what I do. It’s a fantastic feeling when a client tells you that you’ve changed their life for the better and it’s all because of the work you have done for them. If you know that you have the skills and capabilities to support someone and their business then don’t be afraid to tell them how.
Remember to take time for your own self-care.
When I first started my business I was waking up very early to start work before leaving the house to attend a networking event or to meet a fellow business owner for a 1:1. I would return home to spend the remainder of the day working and then maybe, attending another networking event in the evening. I eventually stopped and thought, when was the last time I had a day off? I hadn’t had a break in ages. As business owners, we must remember self-care is important to ensure that we don’t burn out, so don’t be worried about taking the occasional afternoon off or going to meet a friend because we all need a bit of ‘me’ time.
There was lots more administrative work than I expected.
When you operate your own business, you must be organised and methodical. I spend a significant amount of time of my own marketing and administration each month but both are vital functions if you want to build a successful business.
I made some bad decisions.
We all do, don’t we?! What’s important is that we learn from any bad decisions we make and avoid making them again. I have learned not to make decisions without thinking them through first and weighing up the pros and cons.
Trust your instincts and go with your gut.
Pretty simple really – if a business decision doesn’t feel right, trust your gut.
You will always be learning.
This is the best thing about my job! I’m continuously adding to my skill set or looking at ways to improve my skills and provide further value to my clients. You can find FREE training online; free downloads and free webinars or look to invest in your future and consider paid-for training. I took advantage of all the free training I could find until I had been in business a few months and knew where to invest money into training that would benefit both me and my clients. I’m currently completing a business management course and will continue to learn new skills as I progress in my business. Business books can be very helpful when you’re a start-up too. I read Susan Jeffer’s Face the Fear and Do it Anyway and Rob Kelly’s Thrive Programme and both books empowered me and filled me with the confidence to go out there and achieve my goals.
There are opportunities EVERYWHERE.
You could be standing waiting to be served at the Pub and meet your next client so be sure to always take business cards with you wherever you go and nail that elevator pitch so it rolls off your tongue!
It’s OK to say no to a client or project that may not fit your business well.
When you’re a start-up it’s easy to think that you should take on all the work that you’re offered. You don’t! It’s your business and so if you don’t think a client, or their tasks, will suit your remit then it’s ok to say no.
Go for it!
Ultimately if you really want something you’ll work hard enough to make it a success. I know that I will continue to work hard and will enjoy continuing to learn, I will work to develop relationships and enjoy supporting my clients for many years to come. 🙂