When I started my business, my only real goal was getting a paycheck. I had quit my job and moved to a new city with zero job opportunities, and had no idea how I would get my bills paid. I just knew I was excited about change, and the idea of being a Virtual Assistant was thrilling to me.
My lifestyle tends to be nomadic, to say the least. I don't stay in one place for more than a few weeks at a time, and I needed a work life that could handle that. So I put my nose to the ground and launched this thing. I didn't even know what it would be like. I just did everything I could to somehow score a few clients and get some checks in the mail.
In some ways, I think that's the story of a lot of new businesses. We throw together what we can with the limited knowledge and resources that we have, and just make it happen. The great news is that it worked. My business grew and I figured out how to get by with what I had. But now I'm taking a minute to step back.
What would I have done differently?
What would I have told my pre-entrepreneur self?
What would I do more purposefully if I started from scratch again?
So I'm coming clean and writing up the (VERY condensed) list of mistakes I made as a new business owner, in the hopes of preventing any readers from the same struggles!
I didn't do my research (taxes, business filing, etc)
These words still make me cringe. I am a financial INFANT. When I started this business I had no idea about anything related to finances. I hardly even knew what a budget was. I didn't know I needed to have a business license. What even is an LLC? Couldn't tell you. Taxes? I'd prefer not to think about that. I need a contract? Why would I need to prepare for late fees and broken agreements? (hint: because they are inevitable.)
It worked out fine and people helped me a LOT (Thank God for amazing, brilliant, generous people), but I made a lot of mistakes. I saved NOTHING for taxes, so when tax time came I was absolutely done in. I didn't know that Quarterly Taxes was even a thing.
These are things that would have been easy if I had spent more time asking questions and doing research in the very beginning. I could have set a clear plan for my finances and taxes and avoided a lot of stress months down the road.
I didn't set boundaries with clients.
When I first started, my friend and Virtual Assistant guru gave me the best advice (that I quickly proceeded to throw completely out the window.) She recommended that I set clear boundaries with clients. That means: not picking up the phone 24 hours a day, letting your clients know when you will and will not be available, and clocking out completely after work hours.
I thought I was doing well with this until I found myself (THIS WEEK) getting a text from a client at 3am on a Sunday, then spending the next hour working through the issue. 4 AM. On a Sunday.
Here's the thing: it's not my client's fault that I lost sleep. It's my fault for failing to set clear boundaries. As a business owner, nobody will set the culture of your business but you. If you show people that they have unlimited access to you, they will use it! And it's not their problem, it's actually yours.
I didn't invest time making my brand look like ME.
One of the biggest lessons I've learned since becoming a Virtual Assistant is that above all, people want to hire a PERSON, not a service. I thought that people would just want a robot to get all the tasks checked off the list. Instead, I've found that most people are actually interested in the person behind the computer. I'm not selling my talents, I'm actually selling my personality and style.
When I started, I threw together a scrappy website and an amateur logo and went with it. It worked for a while, but I never felt good about the experience I was giving people who visited my site. Now I'm starting to slowly invest in things that showcase who I am. I spent money on a good logo and business cards, and now I feel proud to show my business to people. My business feels like an extension of my style, and that's what people are excited to invest in.
I didn't set any goals
Good LORD this one is my struggle. I am NOT a long-term planner. I fly by the seat of my pants as a rule. But in the business world, that doesn't work. I've found that if I don't set my own goals, other people will set them for me. If I don't decide the direction I'm going in, everyone else will steer me wherever they want me to go.
It's so, SO important to decide where you want to see your business go. Decide early on if you want to stay a one-woman show or if you want to grow beyond yourself. Decide how many hours a week you want to work. Decide what you want your yearly salary to be. Then make your decisions based on THOSE goals! If you don't set goals, you'll have no idea what to say yes to. (and trust me, I'm still preaching to the choir here!)
I said yes to everyone.
When you're just starting out, the idea of saying no to anyone sounds ridiculous. When all I needed was a paycheck, I was going to say yes to every single opportunity that walked through my door (or into my inbox), even if they were WORLDS away from my ideal client or scope of work. It makes sense. You can't be too picky when you don't have any prospects. But if you can, wait it out. If you have that thing inside you telling you that this probably isn't a good job for you, it's okay to turn people down.
This is the difference between being an employee and a business-owner. I never knew what it meant to call my own shots when it came to my work. I just did what the people told me and got paid. Now it's different. Yes, I have clients who get to tell me what to do, but I also get to be selective about what I say yes to. I get to decide if something is within the scope of my work or it's not.
All of these are just the learning curve that most business owners probably walk through. When you're doing something you've never done before, you just put one foot in front of the other and adjust as you go. And there's nothing wrong with it! But maybe someone can benefit from my mistakes and do some better planning in the baby stages of their business!
Are you a VA that needs some help in the baby stages of business? I would LOVE to chat! Fill out the form below and I'll get in contact with you!