5 Hard Truths of Entrepreneurship
Virtual Assistants (VAs) come from all walks of life. Some of us have extensive experience as entrepreneurs and running our own businesses, and some of us have skills in marketing, accounting, or other disciplines, but don’t know the first thing about making a sale.
In our first few years of being VAs, we hopefully thrive and learn more about ourselves and other people than we ever could have doing anything else. But there are also many tough truths to learn. Here are five we’ve learned from running our own practices, as well as Virtual Assistant Studio.
1) The path to success is never straight…
It’s winding, with lots of ups and downs. The key is to remember that although your path won’t always appear clear, you can pivot and keep moving.
From starting your VA business to developing your mission statement and finding your niche, you’ll encounter challenges you’ll have to conquer before you can move forward, but you shouldn’t let that prevent you from taking the first step.
When Sandra started as a VA, she was excited but terrified. There was so much she felt she didn’t know. For a while, she felt lost and worked long hours. But she decided she enjoyed being her own boss, and that she wasn’t going back to working for someone else. So she took a course for freelancers and small business owners at a local coworking space that ended up teaching her a lot about life and business, then put the lessons into action and continues to achieve her goals today. And it’s all because she believed in herself and took those first few brave steps into the unknown.
2) Risk is a necessity
A lot of the articles, books and blog posts you read about entrepreneurship will tell you that we’re all natural risk takers and adrenaline junkies who thrive on “making deals” and getting people to sign on the dotted line. But this is becoming less true as more of us without a traditional business background start to work for ourselves. Each of us is at a different place on the risk tolerance spectrum, but we can learn to overcome our anxiety to accept the inherent risk in investing in our businesses, publishing that blog post and calling prospects. We have a choice: We can either work for an employer and help them build their dream, or embrace the risk in charting our own path. Every day, it’s up to us to make a conscious decision to put in the effort that drives the results we hope to see.
We see that in action every day as we build Virtual Assistant Studio. When we started, we were two VAs with complementary skills and experiences. We knew there was demand out there from potential students with very similar stories to ours; they wanted to build successful VA practices, but had no idea how to do it. We knew we didn’t want them to have to learn themselves and make the same mistakes we did, so we took the risk to create and market a high quality training course, in-depth podcast and blog with free, valuable content. We took a chance, and we’re so glad we did, because we love every minute of it.
3) Not everyone will love you
We all like to be liked, to feel that everyone needs our services, and that we can help every prospect we talk to. Although we know intellectually that this just isn’t possible, it can sting when someone we’d love to work with doesn’t see the value in what we offer, or our personalities don’t mesh effortlessly.
You’re not for everyone, and that’s okay. It’s even a great thing! Here’s why: It leaves more room for the clients and partners who will love you, inspire you and challenge you. It affords you more opportunity to look for the people you can bring the most value to. And it gives you more time to pursue your own passion projects, partnerships and promising ventures that drive your future success.
That said, finding those amazing people you love working with doesn’t happen by accident; you’ll need to put in some hard work on your end to find your ideal client, take consistent action to move your business forward and keep your existing clients happy. Should you come across any challenging clients, there are also specific measures you can take to build a productive relationship with them and ensure they’re satisfied.
4) You’ll need help, and it’s okay to ask for and accept it
None of us achieves success on our own. Ask any respected professional how they do it and they will always rattle off a list of people who have helped them along the way. From mentors to partners, clients, vendors and other stakeholders (including friends and family!), you’ll need the help of possibly hundreds of people over the lifetime of your business.
This is yet another way entrepreneurship humbles us; as good as we are at our craft, we can’t do everything ourselves. We need others’ time, talents and assistance. And that’s a good thing, because doesn’t it feel great when you feel needed and valued? As long as you ask politely and express your deep appreciation for their help, most people are happy to lend their time and expertise to someone in need, within limits.
For example, you might look to turn a client into an advocate or find an online community to engage in, then network with specific people who have valuable connections to introduce you to them.
Bonus tip: Know when to ask for help or look for talent to hire onto your team. Do you have one question, or do you need extensive, long-term help in a specific area? For example, if you have a simple question about which security plugin to use on your website, pose it in an appropriate Facebook group or on Twitter. If you need ongoing website maintenance or training someone else would have invested time to learn, it’s time to hire a knowledgeable professional.
5) Sometimes things will fall apart…
…But there will be times when everything will magically come together in a series of serendipitous events. The key is to stay positive, because positivity (and putting in the hard work mentioned above!) begets positive results.
As you grow your practice, there will days when you’ll receive abruptly worded emails, pull an all nighter to hit a deadline or have to solve a technical glitch when you have a million other things to do. But it’s important to remember to have compassion for, and be patient with, ourselves. Especially on those tough days, caring for ourselves mentally and physically is essential, and there are processes we can put in place over time that leave us feeling more relaxed, organized and reduce the opportunity for mistakes. Implement them and you’ll see a big difference.
Building a business will always come with a series of unknowns and ups and downs you’ll need to successfully navigate. It can be a wild ride, but as long as you stay committed to believing in yourself, always bringing value to others and remembering to keep pushing yourself, things will usually work out.
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