My son turned 7 this May (2017). His birthday this year encouraged me to pause and look back over the last 7 years, both in my business and personal life.
You see, I started my work-at-home journey when I was pregnant with him. So, in a way, it’s also a bit of an online anniversary for me. This got me thinking about all I’ve been through since being my own boss and working online.
There have been highs and lows. I’ve always been a hard worker, giving 110% at any job, but working for myself, I work twice as hard. And it’s sooo worth it!
As I was reflecting over the last 7 years, I started thinking about the lessons I learned—and I just happened to come up with 7 of them! I really want to share them with you.
Maybe something I say in these lessons will resonate with you. Maybe you’ll say, “Me too!” Maybe I’ll help you avoid a pitfall or see something in a different light. 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 my 7 lessons.
Overnight success usually doesn’t happen
When I started my online journey, I spent three to four months researching and hoping to find a real work-at-home opportunity. I spent another two months figuring out that the virtual assistant industry was the way to go for me. Then I spent another three to four months learning how to create a website, and getting it up and running.
Once I had my website “live” it took another six months to get my first client. Even with that first client, it’s not like the flood gates opened and a never-ending stream of clients flowed in. I had to work hard to make connections and market my business. During that time, I did other things to bring in income to my household.
This was my reality. So, 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, I want to tell you something important–don’t worry about how other people run their business. Run yours how it works for YOU.
Yes, find people to model who are where you want 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 to just 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, 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?
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 backend of setting up your business. You have to think about a business name, a website, taxes, client intake process, marketing. And then when you get those clients, you have to figure out how to juggle client work with continuing to build and market your business. It never ends!
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.
- Take that list, and turn them into to-do items that need to be accomplished in order to achieve that thing or goal.
- 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.
If you need more help with this process, click here.
It takes a little while to get used to scheduling things in 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 backend 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 where you second-guess yourself. And times where 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 have to 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.
Also, if you’re looking for guidance or a way to stay on track and really move your business forward, consider getting a mentor or coach.
When I first started out, I didn’t know anyone online at all. And I didn’t have any money to invest in myself and 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 really friendly with someone who became my mentor. It made a huge difference in my business and how I went about things. And, once I could afford it, I hired a business coach. That’s when things really changed for me. Over the years, I’ve worked with coaches one-on-one and in group settings. I got something valuable out of each and every 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.
This brings us to the end of our series!
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 one of my masterminds.
The Startup Mastermind is great if you’re just starting out and you need help setting up the foundation of your business.
The Marketing Mastermind is great if you’ve got some things in place and you’re ready to start bringing in clients that you love.
To celebrate these 7 years, I’m having an anniversary sale–20% off all of my products! But it’s only for a limited time.
Check out the details here: