• Paula

The challenge of setting up a small business & learning to think like a business owner!

Updated: Mar 9, 2020

I would have been really stupid if I thought setting up a Virtual Assistant business was going to be a walk in the park!

Or that by simply creating a website and having a multi-channel social media presence would result in hundreds of clients instantly beating my door down in need of SavvyDesk services!

We can all dream, right?

In truth, I knew that learning how to run my business was going to be a steep learning curve bringing many highs and lows along the way.

Time to get real!

I have been lucky enough to work for great companies for all of my professional life with a decent work-life balance and job security to boot. So why take that leap?

I've been thinking about setting up a business like SavvyDesk for a couple of years after a friend approached me to help them with their new business. They wanted my advice, valued my professional experience and offered to pay me for my time, working remotely.

This was probably the first time I had thought about the value of my knowledge and experience.

We rarely get the chance to think about the power of what we know because we are buried in work with little time to reflect or think about future goals. I realised there must be other small businesses out there without the resources to take on full-time staff, struggling to juggle everything in need of experienced assistance. So a seed was planted and I started doing my homework investigating outsourcing trends and considering my target market.

There is never a right time to start a business - so I decided it was now or never!

Fast forward three months, I wanted to reflect on what have I learned so far about setting up and running a small business

Finding a new Horizon

Dispel the myths

Initially, I knew I would have to dispel a lot of myths about the role of a Virtual Assistant, mainly because people are not overly familiar with what a VA does. Those that did, however, viewed it as a bit of a side hustle rather than a serious career choice which I discovered wasn't the case at all. There are a growing number of extremely successful VA's out there challenging the misconceptions of remote working, earning a seriously good living.

The VA's I spoke to told me that it was all down sheer hard work and determination. I realised early on that I was going to have to dedicate twice as much time than anything I had done before - no nipping out to do a bit of shopping, impromptu outings or last minute holidays with the family.

I knew that I wanted to offer something more value-led than the transactional, task-specific, pay-as-you-go offering touted by the multitude of freelancer platforms.

So, I started planning what I wanted my business to look like, and the idea for SavvyDesk began to evolve. Combining my professional experience, I want to offer cost-effective in-demand administrative & organisational support, alongside niche service offerings in sales & marketing. Building an ongoing, trusted and reliable partnership with the businesses I work with and helping them grow, is vitally important to me and the success of SavvyDesk in the future.

Think like a business owner

I learned very quickly that I need to think like a business owner rather than an employee.

A real challenge when I have spent all of my professional career working for large companies. This can be daunting if you are one of the many people who have self-doubt or suffer imposter syndrome. Never being one to blow my own trumpet, I realised talking about myself and selling my business was going to be one of the biggest hurdles for me.

Crucially though, I understand that because SavvyDesk is about me, it is time to step up and learn how to do this effectively. Several months on I have discovered that finding inner-confidence comes naturally because you have to focus on your goals and the road ahead, like never before.

Find a community and get involved!

I have learned so much from and been greatly motivated by the huge community of like-minded VA business owners out there. It is a great comfort to discover you are not alone.

Over the last few months, I have joined online groups, enrolled on various courses, listened to webinars and participated in networking events. Taking advantage of the amazing resources out there and pushing myself to get involved is not only imperative but incredibly rewarding.

Building a community around me is going to be essential moving forward and have found it genuinely humbling how willing people are to collaborate, offer advice share tips and give honest feedback. People want you to succeed which is so refreshing.

Prepare to work hard to find the right clients

I have to work hard to find clients, simple as that, no sugar coating here!

Clients are out there, but it takes time to build your presence, reach your target market and to get genuine interest. So, you have to be prepared to do your homework and put in a lot of groundwork in the early days. Research your target audience, get a basic marketing plan and start networking! It is going to be an ongoing process so defining a clear roadmap, gives me a good path to follow.

I have also learned that a client can come from the most unlikely of connections, so tell everyone you know about your new business because you never know where it might lead!

Be resilient and persevere and your efforts will start to be rewarded.

Looking ahead

So regardless of the challenges, I am so glad that I embarked on this journey three months ago. I have new clients, have started to generate a lot of interest, and initial signs for the future are positive. Hard work is starting to pay off, but I know this is only the beginning!

I have a long way to go, am nowhere near where I want to be - but it feels like I am on the right track. One thing I won't take for granted is that I am free to carve out my own future, free from the daily commute to London, and free to create the kind of business I can be proud to be part of.

Starting to work virtually with inspiring professionals helping them get their work out to the world is exhilarating, and I can't wait to see what the next few months bring at SavvyDesk.

Any regrets? I should have taken the leap sooner.

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