Crazy or Brave? The Up’s and Down’s of being an Small Business Owner

It’s been two years since I jumped off a cliff and decided to be my own boss instead of an employee. Most entrepreneur critics claim that it takes two years to get established as a small business and move past the start-up phase.  So, now as I enter into my third year in business the jury is still out if this decision was crazy or brave.

In some way’s the start-up phase was easier than the growth stage. I had instruction and guidance from business coaches, financial support from the Ministry of Colleges and Training through the Elgin Business Resource Centre, and I picked a name, built a website and got a business license.

I had twenty-five years senior administrative experience and spent eleven years working in the federal government paired with a Master’s degree. I am very computer literate, can bounce between writing and graphic design with ease, I type extremely well and have excellent communication skills.  I play well with Survey Monkey, Glip and Quickbooks.  I can write policy and news releases, research just about anything, draft briefings for Minister’s and contracts for authors.

When I made the decision to start my own business, I decided becoming a virtual administrative consultant or assistant just made the most sense for my skill set.

My first year was full of ups and downs. I made mistakes that I never would have made if I worked for someone else. As a virtual assistant, the nature of my business is to work remotely, and on-line. But some clients are unfamiliar with that and often uncomfortable.  I charged too little and didn’t communicate enough with clients to their liking.  It took me a while to put myself in their shoes and ask how THEY liked to work.

I have a certain work style and I would take a job and just get it done. I didn’t give updates or check in…I was busy…working. But after a few bumps in the road, I now understand that these discussions have to happen before hand.  To be successful, I have to ask the client what they want in this business arrangement, how they would like me to communicate with them and share with them my work style.

Did I lose a couple of clients in my first two years…yes, but only a couple. That was painful for me and stressful.  I hadn’t experienced that before. But like anything, I have to believe it happened for a reason.  In order for this business to work, there has to be a fit between the client and myself.  And, sometimes you just have to let go, move on and learn that lesson so the next client benefits from it.

Another difficult discussion in the first year was telling people how much I charge. I was worried that some people would think it was too much while other people thought it wasn’t enough.  I still debate with myself over this but two years in I have a better idea of my time on various projects and I am at peace with my worth.  My skills and work experience and education are valuable.  They have worth and in order for me to use that to your advantage as a client, I have a rate that fairly compensates me for what you are getting.

I can honestly say I have never had anyone complain about the quality of work I have delivered for them.

Initially, in my start-up phase I thought I could do it all. I had a very long list of services. Some were basic and some complex. That got mixed reviews from potential clients.  People thought it was odd that I had such a long list of services.  Over the past two years, I have refined what it is I like to do and gauged what services are being requested by clients.

Advice from other’s in the business has been to find my niche and do it well. Other’s have commented that my website was too wordy and didn’t convey the depth and scope of my abilities.

So, Ross Street Agency 2.0 has been born. I have focused my new website on an easier to navigate services page and reduced my scope of projects to be more senior administrative, research and writing and government relations.

Convincing others that they need a virtual assistant for their business solutions is still a work in progress. And, as I enter my third year in business I hope it will still be working for many more years.

The jury is still out on whether that is crazy or brave – but at least I have a fantastic new website!