As I embark on a New Year and Virtual Office Manager’s one year anniversary, I have been thinking a lot about what I’ve learned (or re-learned) this year. This is my second time in business for myself, and this experience has been quite different. Perhaps you have been in business for one year, 10 years, or somewhere in between. Maybe you are considering venturing into entrepreneurship, or you are just starting to dip your toe in the waters of business ownership. I believe we all learn from one another, so I hope my insights can help you, or cause you to reflect on your own business journey.
Stay True to Yourself and You Will Attract Your Tribe Naturally
One thing I’ve learned is that I am not the best fit for everyone, and I am the perfect fit for some. And the only way for me to attract my “best fit” clients is to be completely myself. Whether I’m writing my bio on my website, publishing articles on the web, or having conversations with potential clients, I allow myself to be me. All the experiences I have, the strengths I possess, and the personality characteristics and values I exude make me a unique fit for a particular tribe. In my case, my tribe happens to be professional coaches, therapists, and healthcare professionals. Authenticity is the only way to carve out your niche.
Don’t Be Afraid to Charge What You’re Worth
I admit; I’m definitely not the cheapest in my industry. You can hire someone much cheaper than me. One prospective client expressed her concern about paying for a virtual assistant. When I asked her what her budget was, she told me she was used to paying $10-$12/hour. I cringed inside because I cannot even imagine working for that rate. Even when I feel nervous about quoting my rates, I do it anyway because I know I am worth what I charge. How do I know? Because my clients pay me and are excited about working with me. Remember, your clients will not see your value if you don’t. Build your value proposition and your courage, and charge what you’re worth.
Find Your Balance and Flow – It Just Works Better
When I had my first business, I constantly fretted over where my next dollar was coming from. I worried about everything, and this stress blocked the natural flow of energy in my life. I worked harder and harder to grow my business. It felt like I was spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. Perhaps it’s wisdom, more business maturity, or just plain “letting go”, I don’t have that experience the second time around. I don’t worry about whether my business will grow, or where my next client is coming from. I just go with the flow, handle what is in front of me, and believe all that’s meant to be, will be. The result? New clients and opportunities just show up out of nowhere.
Pay Attention to your Intuition – It Rarely Lies
This has been an important lesson and a work in progress for me. My intuition speaks to me all the time. Sometimes I ignore what it has to say, and it ends up reminding me why I should have listened. One thing I’m learning is that sometimes I can’t even pinpoint why I “feel” the way I do; I just know that I do. So, I’m practicing not questioning my intuition, and instead trusting the wisdom. As a result, I am ecstatic about my current client base because I allow my energy and theirs to guide me.
Cut Your Losses Early and Move On
A couple of times I ignored my intuition and took on clients that weren’t right for me. My clients have done the same thing in their own business. Rather than spend too much money and energy engaging in wrong choices, I learned to cut my losses early and move on. As E-40 says “Everybody’s got choices.” Ever made a mistake? (yup) Ever ignored your intuition? (yup) Ever regretted your decision to correct your mistake? (nope) If you don’t know the song, this rendition probably doesn’t make much sense. The point I’m trying to make is it’s okay to make mistakes, but learn from them quickly, and carry on.
Nothing You Do is Ever a Waste
Every choice you make tells you something about yourself. Every experience you have shapes you in some way. Every “mistake” you make provides an opportunity to learn. None of it is a waste unless you choose to view it that way. I spent close to $10k getting certified as a professional coach. I spent way more than that trying to build a coaching practice. Today, I do not make my living from coaching (although I do indirectly coach my clients). A few years ago, I might have asked why I went through that process. Today, I know. My experience as a coach and building a coaching practice makes me the ideal fit for my clients today. I know my tribe like the back of my hand. I am my tribe.
Keep Your Expenses to a Minimum
I know that every business is unique when it comes to how much money you need to spend to build your company. But there is one thing I am certain of. As small business owners, we often spend money on completely unnecessary things. When I look back at my first business and the amount of money I spent on branding, marketing, etc., it hurts me. But I handle my finances very differently this time around. I spend very little money, and my expenses are extremely low. Keeping a close eye on my P&L, and having a healthy profit margin is important to me.
Get Crystal Clear About What You Want and it Will Come
Lately, I’ve been looking at my business and asking myself what I need to take it to the next level. I’m looking at the challenges I have in my business and imagining the ideal business for me. What do I love, and what do I feel mediocre about? This is helping me create my business vision for 2018. I do know that when you don’t know what you want, it’s hard to create it. Fuzziness in your vision makes it harder to make decisions, set goals, say no, and say yes. When you can be crystal clear about your vision, believe it, and own it, somehow the Universe transpires to make it happen.
Referrals are Still the Best Way to Grow Your Business
Other than writing a few articles and publishing them on LinkedIn, I have done zero marketing. A few of my clients have found me by searching on the web or through LinkedIn, but the majority of all my clients have come by word of mouth. A happy client is the best marketing tool you can ever NOT spend your money on. Not only are the leads similar to the clients I already have and love, all the prospects come to me warm and excited to talk. And all it costs me is a sincere expression of gratitude to the one who sent me the referral. If referrals are generously sent to me by my clients, why wouldn’t I reciprocate and return the favor when opportunity arises? Referral marketing is a win-win for all business owners.
Let Honesty Guide You
My mother raised me to live by the old adage “Honesty is the best policy”. While not everyone is comfortable being honest, especially in business, I don’t know any other way of being. I am honest about who I am, my strengths and weaknesses, what I like and dislike, what is working and what is not. My clients often call me a “breath of fresh air”. I think most people gravitate toward authenticity. Even if you don’t like what you’re hearing, the truth is respectful. I would rather tell a prospective client I don’t have experience with a particular task, or software than to pretend I do. It creates workability or an honest realization that we aren’t a good fit. Honesty is refreshing and creates trust in the relationship.
Owning a business is a constant learning ground, as is life. In 2018, I feel confident I will continue to learn some of these same lessons. And no doubt, new lessons and reflections will present themselves. It’s up to me, and you, what we do with this valuable experience and information. I choose to be curious, to learn, to grow, and most importantly, be more of who I was created to be. How about you?
Wishing you much success in business and life for 2018!
Reflections from My First Year in Business
December 21, 2017