“The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. Remember, the greatest failure is to not try. Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it.” – Debbie Fields
How hard could it be to start a business? Lots of people do it! This is what I said to myself after being laid off twice in 3 years within the mining industry. There weren’t any other jobs available in mining so I would have to take a large pay cut. If that were the case, I may as well venture out on my own.
I had always wanted to be self employed but it wasn’t in the plan this soon, so what could I do? Well, I had 16 years of administration and coordination under my belt. Surely, l can do something with that!
In the past, I had seen people with their own businesses that worked super hard and super long hours. This didn’t seem fun or fulfilling to me. I had always thought that it would be great if they had someone to take care of the necessary crap tasks of running a business that was taking away from their core competencies. What a fantastic idea! So, this came to mind after I lost my job.
I wondered if it even was a thing…doing administration and coordination from a remote or virtual location. The business owners that needed the most help, in my opinion, worked from home so they didn’t have space or resources to hire an in-house assistant and most administrative tasks could be done remotely these days. At my job, I communicated with people from all over the world…Australia, the US, the UK, India, Mongolia etc. With technology today it was simple. So, I started researching my idea. It turned out it was a thing! There was even a name for it…Virtual Assistant. Sounded fancy…how exciting!
I found an online community in Canada specifically for Virtual Assistants. From there I found a few Virtual Assistants I could get advice and ideas from. One especially helpful VA told me about an entrepreneurship program that was subsidized by the government. This was a wonderful stroke of luck to find this out. I applied and was accepted! The timing couldn’t have been better. My job ended and I had time to go to a yoga retreat then class started the next day!
The course proved to be extremely comprehensive…focusing on out of the box thinking (what happens if your original idea doesn’t work?) to basic bookkeeping, tax stuff and marketing skills. The program also taught me how to be confident in my idea and abilities. I feel like this was the most valuable lesson I learned. Which brings me to my first big learning.
Dealing with rejection.
We’ve all been rejected at some point in our lives. It really sucks but I had been though rejection before and thought I could totally handle it. Boy, was I wrong. When you start your own business it’s all your creation.
When I officially opened in January of last year, I was so excited. I already had a few interested businesses! I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. Work and money was going to flow in. Then the market changed and businesses were adjusting their focus and budgets. Those potential clients all disappeared. Ouch. My feeling of being totally pumped went to feeling totally screwed.
I tried every way to market as cheaply as possible. Then I started spending some money marketing…nothing much came of it. I tried lowering my rate but that only made me feel cheap…and nobody wants to feel like that. I knew what my value was and if some people couldn’t see it, they weren’t my clients.
I was grateful for the few clients I did have (including my parents…thanks Mom and Dad) that mostly came from referrals but I certainly didn’t hit the jackpot. By the end of the year, I realized that rejection is just part of being your own boss and is actually a good thing because at least I was putting myself out there and the more rejection I got the closer to the ‘yes’ I got.
Handling feelings of isolation.
I am an introvert so I thought I had this in the bag. I love being at home and my dog loves it when I’m home. So, out of nowhere the feelings of isolation hit me. Once I was done the entrepreneurship class I was on my own…completely on my own. I love my dog, but she doesn’t really say much.
My program coaches even warned us about the feelings of isolation, but being someone who likes being alone a lot, I thought I was immune. Nope, I wasn’t. I had never been much of a watcher of television but I found myself needing it to keep me company. So…of course…I became addicted to Netflix. Good ol’ Netflix binges. If you want to know which U.K. murder mysteries are good, just ask me.
What this has taught me is I need to work on really loving hanging out with my awesome self, so I’ve been doing just that. Also, it’s amazing not having to go out in -40 degree weather, in the dark and get into a cold car and drive through snow and ice to an office. That being said, I do make an effort to get out for lunch or coffee with friends a few times a week. This helps a lot and it needs to stay a priority.
Reverting in financial standing.
I worked 2 decades for the net worth I had before becoming self employed, only for it to all but be lost in one year. That’s a tough pill to swallow…and not to mention very scary.
Having to start over when you’re in your 40s with a single income is interesting. I felt like I was back in college and had to decide whether to spend that last 5 bucks on a pack of smokes (yes, that’s how much they cost back then) or on booze…or…oh yeah…food. Thankfully, I don’t smoke anymore so I had an easier decision this time around.
When I started out creating my business plan, since I was going to be a service based business, I thought I’d start making money right away! I didn’t have much for start up costs…a new laptop/tablet, some external monitors a new printer and some software. But don’t forget about the website and marketing. Also, business licensing and incorporation costs. All of this would have been fine and dandy if I actually had a full schedule of work. Apparently, people don’t come knocking down your door when you are a Virtual Assistant in Saskatoon. A Virtual what? Which brings me to my next point.
Educating people about what the heck I do.
Some people totally get it. They immediately know exactly what I mean when I tell them I help small businesses with the tasks that take them away from their core business and streamlining processes allowing them to sell more and create more. Some people tell me what a good idea they think it is! And I agree! However, some people look at me like I’m nuts. They can’t quite wrap their mind around how this would work. I think all they can imagine is a receptionist at a front desk with piles of paperwork. At least the education that I’ve been giving people has helped me clarify what I do to myself.
People always tell me, when they find out I work from home, that they don’t think they could stay motivated to work if they were at home. Trust me, it’s not easy. Especially when there isn’t a lot of work coming in. Let’s just say my house is a lot cleaner and my dog gets a lot more walks. Oh, and the afternoon naps increased over the past year as well.
Staying motivated when you’re being told ‘I can’t hire anyone to help me (make my life much easier and less stressful and most likely save me or make me more money 😉 ) right now’, you’re feeling extremely isolated, broke and nobody understands what you do, is difficult to say the least. But I made it through and am still in business. Whew. I’ve also learned that I need to set myself a schedule and stick to it. Oh and no more afternoon naps.
Some people say I’m ‘lucky’ to be my own boss. The only luck that was involved was losing my job when I did…if you can call that lucky. I’ve been working about 10 times harder than I have for the past 2 decades and making about 10 times less. It’s quite the test for the ego but I can say that after a year of being on this emotional roller coaster I call Focus Business Support Inc., I have learned a lot about business and myself.
I’ve also learned I don’t want to be that entrepreneur that never sleeps and is a complete ball of stress 24/7. I want to be the entrepreneur that works smarter not harder, asks for help when needed and shows other entrepreneurs that they can do the same. Making it through this past year made me believe that I can get through anything and I have a lot of exciting plans for 2017 and can’t wait to see how it unfolds.