Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to meeeee! 🎂
Celebrating my 1-year birthday business and I can’t believe it, I mean WOW what a bloody year- I did NOT expect it to go like that. I didn’t expect the positives or the negatives, in all honesty, I didn’t know what to expect. So I thought I would reflect on my past year create my take on the do’s and don’ts of your first year in business- and also to remind myself of what to focus on as I move into year 2!
**Please note I am refusing to talk about Covid-19 Impact here, I will document it but it had such an impact I want these tips to be useful going forwards. I will talk about it soon.
I wasn’t always great at admin, so when I started a Virtual Assistant business people wondered why. They asked me what I was thinking, I wouldn’t suit being stuck at a desk, you need to be surrounded by people- they were all 100% right. BUT what they didn’t know about me is the behind the scenes of ALL of my roles has been admin, organisation, multi-site, communication, motivation, sympathetic ear, the guide, the Hermione to many peoples Harrys.
They didn’t see for instance that when my husband went self-employed he was swamped under paperwork, constantly double booking or missing potential customers and had no marketing or customer care processes in place. He worked weekends to catch up and I supported with the back of house late into the night after work when, frankly, we felt we should have been in the pub, watching a film or eating something decent!
I started maternity leave and with my focus on the business back of house he quickly turned over more cash was able to work 2 days less per week and has been able to hire another member of staff. We can holiday without stress, we can pick our son up whenever we want and we can take days off to relax, recharge or have fun! This was really powerful for me and I knew other small business owners would have the same struggles. So Ministry VA was born!
So let’s dive into my thoughts, with my do not’s of launching a business. I have LOADS more but I thought this made the biggest impact on me, please get in touch if you have any worries that aren’t listed here! Chances are I have had them too!
Think you can do it all yourself. 2 years I did my husbands ‘bookkeeping’- if you can call it that. I didn’t know what I was doing and I was charged a fortune by an accountant who ALSO didn’t tell me OR explain what we were doing or meant to do.
Trust people just because they have ‘qualifications’ or a reputable looking firm. Speaking on the accountant above we paid a fortune and we never had reminders, prompts, information, updates, meetings ANYTHING! We found him on Google and chose him because he was local, had offices across the region and looked like he would be a good bet! (See the DO’s for how to outsource in a much better manner than this).
Spend every hour of every day on your business. You will burnout. You will lose the love and most of all you will rock the boat at home. Yes, you will need to spend some more time in the beginning but setting up good disciplines, systems and focusses which gives you a great discipline moving forwards. I would often bend over backwards for my first client working any hours they asked and jumping as soon as they emailed. When I stopped this, they obviously felt the service level had dropped. When I explained my working hours, they were more than happy and actually ‘told me off’ for working those hours in the first place!
Equally as above, do not ‘doss about’. In the beginning, I didn’t have enough client work to fill my ‘working week’, obviously! BUT I still spent that time at the laptop. Some of it was productive, other times I was overcomplicating things, creating intricate systems of getting hung up on my marketing strategy (was it too simple) or my networking pitch (do I sound business-like enough?). Instead in this downtime focus on setting up good habits for your business and this, ladies, includes good habits for you! Structure your workday, time block your diary and get to those networking events, those workouts, that self-care- more in the Dos!
Let the muggles get you down! I felt I was justifying EVERYTHING. Yes I sat down and watched some TV today, yes I washed my hair, no I didn’t get the cleaning done but I had a 1:1. You have to remember you are the CEO you don’t owe an explanation to anyone because they don’t know what you are doing. Also, in that vein, do not let people drag your motivation down with, “will that work?”, “can’t you get a proper job?” and “your living in a dream world” type comments. Yes I am living in a dream world, a dream where I answer to myself, I have the freedom to come and go as I please and I do something that energises me, makes a difference and changes people’s lives, clients and family!
OK so now,
Invest in the business. Put some money aside to go back into the business. This can be for networking memberships, courses, development (self and business). It can be for coaches, support, outsourcing, advice. You MUST also ensure you have insurances, professional body membership etc all covered! I am not a business advisor, but I know these are key! And I know that if you invest you grow. I completed my VA course with VACT and then 2 months later invested in another 2-day training session, on a weekend in November a 5-hour drive away. I worried, was it too soon, will I look stupid in front of more established VA’s and business owners! This, ladies, propelled my business forward, it made me confident in my abilities, confident to choose the right clients and confident that I knew what I was doing so I tripled my annual target there and then (and I have just reached it at the end of September 47 days before planned!! It works ladies!
Set goals and targets. BIG ONES. I love to have the BIG goals in mind, but they are not on my desk, they’re not my phone wallpaper, they are in my mind so I know every decision I make I am making for that, will it help me get to that, if not it ain’t happening. What is on my desk and in front of my eyes is my vision board, I used this to show what I want my every day to look like, so I know I can be true to myself and make space, time and energy to do what is important NOW. Break your goals down, I like a 90-day focus meself, and then I create them into a to-do list. That’s a simple way but I LOVE simple, simple works!
Chose who you work with and when you do it. If something/someone doesn’t feel like the right fit for you, your business and your values, it will not be right! It is hard, you want that first client or more clients, you want to prove to the haters that you are good, great, successful. BUT the wrong client, environment or group will cost you more in your energy, values and time than it will ever make you in cash! And the likelihood is if they’re not right for you, you’re not right for them. As for the when, make sure you do schedule everything in your diary, the stuff for you, the stuff you are likely to forget this will all help to boost your business! I struggled massively with the idea of self-care and the weeks I don’t focus on it, it shows!
Feel the fear and network anyway. TRUST ME. Networking may seem strange for you if you are new at it but stick at it! It is worth it! And don’t do it with a focus of selling your services, no no no! Do it with a focus of building your tribe, building those relationships that will support your business moving forwards. And will be your business buddies, those other brave strong people who have chosen this life of entrepreneurship, trust me you will need them!
Outsource- but work on making sure it is the right stuff to the right people. Don’t outsource what you are great at and you love doing, but do outsource the things of pain, the things you move from one Trello card to another, the things you avoid doing! BUT make sure they need doing, make sure they will add value. Also, look past the business, what at home can you outsource? Are you ironing for 2 hours a week? Well find a local business who can do that for you- you are not paying for the ironing, that’s a bonus, you are paying for two hours of your time back that you can use to focus in your business either with a client or to drive your business forward, freshly pressed clothes as I said, are the bonus!
I hope they help at whatever stage of business you are at. And if you want to chat about any of them, if you are feeling that pain, strain or stress the entrepreneur rollercoaster gives us, you know where I am!
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Meanwhile, a MASSIVE thank you to everyone who has supported me in Ministry VA’s first year in business! Without a tribe, nothing is possible!