[toc]OK, real talk.
Starting a business is like having a baby. No matter how much you research, you will never be ready. The following has usually been my process in business (actually, pretty much in life), and it was no different when I branched out on my own to start my Executive Administration business.
What exactly am I talking about? CONTINUOUS LEARNING AND RESEARCHING. We’ve all been there.
OK, but learning is usually a good thing, right?
It is, but only if you put some of that learning into action. When I get an idea in my head – either to create a new product, write a blog post, increase my social media efforts, expand my marketing – I head on over to my favorite influencers in that particular space and I either brush up on my knowledge or I learn about the particular topic at hand. In the past, my method would go something like this:
Research. Learn. Read. Listen to a Podcast. Do some more internet research. Find a book on that topic. Peruse social media for information. Read some more. Continue learning….
Which is all fine and dandy, ’cause knowledge is power, right? Yes, it is! But you have to know when to put that knowledge to good use. Somewhere in that long string of learning, you have to put some action in there. Here, let’s try it again:
Research. Learn. Read. ACTION. Listen to a podcast. ACTION. Internet research. Read a book. ACTION. ACTION. Peruse social media. Read some more…
You see? You still do the learning and interacting with social media part, but while you are learning, you are putting some of that good knowledge into ACTION. Why is this important? For a couple reasons.
- Procrastination kills creativity. [I don’t know who said that, but it sounds like something someone would say. Until I figure out who, I said it. Just now.] We tend to do things (or not do things) to the point that what needs to be done, never gets done. Our creative juices that were bubbling over during our “ah ha!” moment, slowly fizzle out until there is nothing left.
- Perfection is the root of “Never gonna launch”. [Yeah, I said that too. Just now. I’m gonna coin that one cause it sounds like no one would actually say that.] Anyways, what the heck do I mean by that? I’m guilty of this very thing. I’m a perfectionist. If it ain’t right, no one’s gonna see it. (Although, my grammar is far from perfect ’cause I think I’ve used the word ‘gonna’ three times in one paragraph, and I’ll try not to subject you to that anymore). As creatives, we have a tendency to want our work to be perfect before we put it out there. God forbid we get bitten by the criticize-bug. Guess what? IT’S NEVER GONNA (damn) BE PERFECT. Write it up, put it out there and change it later if you have a creative epiphany and think of a way to make it better.
I like to point this out because I know that you are spending week in and week out perfecting the launch of your virtual assisting business. Making your site perfect, getting all of your tools situated, setting up your email options, etc. All the while very nervous to actually go forth, push publish and actually get some clients on the books.
To all of this I say: if you are brand new and just starting out, get your basics set up, worry about the fancy-schmancy things as you go along but just get going and do it. Because, you will NEVER be ready. I know this for a fact because even when all of the fancy stuff is set up and ready, you will find something else to nit-pick. TRUST ME.
So what do I suggest newbies focus on?
Your Why & Your Ideal Client
First things first, figure out your “why” and your target client. Basically, why do you want to start your own VA business and who do you want to help? This is different for everyone. Do you want to stay at home with your family, do you need workplace flexibility, do you want to travel? Figure this out because it’s your motivation to keep going.
Narrowing down your ideal client helps you know where to look to get them. Hang out where your clients hang out. Decide if you will help lawyers, photographers, bloggers, etc. and hang out in their forums and social media platforms to find out what you can help them with. Start to build relationships.
Determine Your Niche
I know you’ve probably heard this plenty before, but let’s quickly touch on it. Once you figure out your ideal client, make a list of your skills and the talents you would like to learn or focus on. Get really knowledgeable at a few skills (podcast editing, graphic design, social media) and use these specific skills to market yourself. If you are servicing photographers, and you notice that their biggest time suck is photo editing or uploading all of their work to their website, perfect those skills and pitch those services.
Contracts and Client Paperwork
Get started pulling your paperwork together before that first client so you aren’t stressed out worrying what to give them when they do sign on with you. I created a great jumping off point to create your Client Welcome Package. And it’s FREE.
Setup Your Home Office
No need to get elaborate right out the gate. If you don’t have a lot, just focus on having a specific place to do your work (especially if you have young kids around that barely give you time alone in the bathroom). This could be as simple as having a desk or a dining room table and your laptop. Seriously. No need to get cray.
Decide on Your Main Tech Tools
Tech is where it’s at and it’s also where most of us get hung up. Caveat: Pick one and move on. Most competing tech tools have the same purpose and functions, and chances are, you’ll switch whatever you’re using later on. Choose a web host (if you want to create a website – which I recommend), cloud storage, invoicing system, client management system, email marketing service, and password storage. Again, keep it simple.
Set Up Company Email and Social Media Profiles
Like I said before, find out where your ideal clients hang out and set up some profiles in those spaces. If you are servicing lawyers, you probably don’t need to be on Pinterest – scout your creative types there. As for email, I recommend Gmail – I’ve tried other providers and I have always come back to Gmail. It is the easiest to use, has great features and the calendar integrates easily almost anywhere.
What About Everything Else?
Everything else falls in that “Continuous Learning” category. When you need to add a service or feature, learn about it and put it into action. This includes marketing, websites, logos, rates, payment gateways, tax requirements, business name, business structure, blogging, podcasting, etc. Every few weeks, choose something new, learn about it and take action until you’ve set it up.
Bottom line, learn new things and expand your knowledge as much as possible, but don’t use it as an excuse as to why you are not moving forward in your business. It’s never gonna be perfect and you will never be 100% ready. Own that and move forward.