Start With Why: Why I Followed My Dreams and Finally Became a Virtual Assistant

As I approach my business birthday in a couple of weeks’ time, I’m looking back on the last 12 months, remembering my ‘why’ and marvelling at how much life has changed.

The start of an idea

I’d briefly considered the whole remote working thing over eight years ago, back in 2009, when I was regularly travelling between London (my head – my job) and Nottingham (my heart – my love). The prospect of providing administrative support from home while working for myself seemed too good to be true. I didn’t have even the slightest inkling that other people were already fully-fledged Virtual Assistants or that I would end up being one too.

The self-employment idea stayed on the back-burner until the summer of 2016. Up until then, it seemed too risky; I wasn’t clever enough, I couldn’t do it on my own, I wouldn’t earn enough money. Quite simply, I was full of excuses and stayed safely wrapped up in my employee comfort blanket.

The life message I didn’t know I needed

Early in 2016, I’d discovered I was pregnant and was excited at the prospect of becoming a mum to a second child. However, things went horribly wrong early in the pregnancy and I was in and out of hospital for several weeks. It was thought that the pregnancy was heterotopic; a rare complication in which there is an ectopic and an intrauterine pregnancy at the same time. Twins who would never be twins.

But the prognosis wasn’t clear.

Then there was talk about the ectopic pregnancy perhaps being something else. Probably not cancer, but definitely something that shouldn’t be there.

Then the doctors mentioned tests, surgery, and chemotherapy.

My other half and I didn’t know what to think and remained in this emotionally exhausting limbo for several weeks, not quite sure whether we would be parents again or if we’d be finding the mental strength to handle chemo… or even both.

Sadly, neither pregnancy could be saved but the pathology tests did come back clear a few weeks later.
And life was supposed to now return to its previous normality again.

Except I now knew, first-hand, that life really was short and that I wanted to be of greater service to the world. I wasn’t sure how exactly, I just knew I wasn’t living to my full potential as I bumbled along, settling for average and accepting mediocracy.

Putting on my big girl pants

The idea of self-employment returned and the prospect of the steep learning curve connected to running a business suddenly invigorated me more than it scared me. There was a shift in my mindset. A subtle one, sure, but it was there.

I spent every spare moment researching and reading about Virtual Assistants and realised there were people making a success of it with far less experience than I had. We had some savings so I decided I owed it to myself to at least try to follow my dreams.

In the July of 2016, I finally put on my big girl pants and handed in my notice.

In the following weeks, it felt as though we were struck with a ridiculous amount of bad luck: our daughter caught chicken pox two days before we were to enjoy our first family holiday in five years; the car needed emergency servicing and repair; the washing machine broke and had to be replaced. This all quickly wiped out our savings buffer and I was left questioning whether leaving a stable job and regular income was actually the right thing to do.

In my head, I gave myself up until Christmas 2016. After that, if we were struggling financially, I’d hang up my VA hat and find employment again.

Leap and the net will appear

As soon as I’d made that leap from employee to business-owner I:

  • pushed through comfort zones on a daily basis to put myself ‘out there’:
    • created a website
    • ordered business cards
    • reactivated my Twitter account
    • created a Facebook business page
    • updated LinkedIn
    • used my real name online rather than hiding behind my usual pseudonym
  • stumbled across online groups specifically for VAs so instead of feeling terribly alone, I now had support from my peers
  • challenged each single introverted cell in my body and attended almost every networking event in/around the local area
  • read business book after business book on finding life’s meaning, marketing, nurturing self-confidence, relationship building, making money, and so on

The to-do list remained never-ending and I seemed to be thinking about work every waking moment. There always seemed to be something to do, read, watch, research, and learn.

And yet the constant self-development and my new-found thirst for knowledge suddenly made my work more fun and fulfilling than it had ever been.

Clients slowly started coming on board when I specifically pitched my services as an executive assistant. I knew I gained the most satisfaction from supporting clients daily and growing business relationships, rather than those who needed help with one-off tasks.

By Christmas 2016 I had a handful of clients and was earning a consistent amount which was just enough to pay my fair share of the household bills. At that point, I knew I’d gained more than enough momentum to make a real success of it all.

Over the following months, I received several referrals and continued to support those who I’d previously envisioned as ‘dream clients’; they remain well-respected in their fields, assign work I enjoy, and always pay on time.

Nearly twelve months in, I’ve only gone and made a success of this self-employment malarkey! Me! Whodathunkit!

And yes, I do wish I’d done it sooner!

The second part of my business birthday post will be out in two weeks’ time. Stay tuned…!