5 steps I took to start my own business (and 5 things I’d do differently if I was to do it again now)
by Amy Rose Gould
5 steps I took to start my own business
I’ve recently celebrated my three year business anniversary (yay) and it felt like a good time to pause and reflect on what I’ve learned so far. Leaving my old office job was by far the best move for me, but there are definitely a few things I’d do differently if I was to start all over again. I’ve found writing this post a really useful exercise and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is either thinking about switching things up or even starting another business on the side.
So without further ado, here are the 5 steps I took to start my own business in 2016:
1. Decided what on earth I wanted to do and acted on it
I knew I wasn’t happy at my investment bank job but it took me a while to work out what I wanted to do. I read a few business books and researched options that felt like a good fit, and when I decided what I wanted to do I just bit the bullet and handed my notice in! I knew if I procrastinated I’d lose my nerve.
2. Saved enough to cover two months of bills
I made sure I had a couple of months saved up to cover all my outgoings and cut back on everything that wasn’t a necessity. In retrospect perhaps another month or two of savings might have helped more, but ‘the fear’ made me work extra hard to find those first few clients so perhaps it was a blessing in disguise!
3. Reached out to my existing network
I honestly think the value of your existing network is hugely underestimated when starting your own business. Two of my very first clients were ex-colleagues from different jobs, and I’ve had referrals through others since then. I ask all the women on my VA training programme to write a list of everyone they have ever worked with or know through other professional or personal circles, and to contact anyone on the list who might need their services or know someone who does. Even if it doesn’t result in immediate work, it’s sowing seeds for the future.
4. Got the admin set up straight away
Being a pretty organised person, I don’t find the admin side of things a chore (weird, I know). Being on a tight budget in the beginning I didn’t use accounting software. Instead I kept an Excel spreadsheet of my revenues and outgoings, and set up folders on Dropbox to file ally my invoices and receipts. It made it a lot easier when it came to self-assessment time.
I also created on-boarding documents for new clients so I could follow the same process each time, and I made a point of creating standard operating procedures too, which massively helped when I went on maternity leave.
5. Took breaks
Perhaps it was coming from an intense full-time job in London where breaks were a rarity, but when I started my own business I immediately ensured I took time out every day to recharge. I used to run out to grab a coffee and run back in again at my old job, but when I became a business owner I made sure I took a break and actually enjoyed it. Even if it feels counter-productive at the time, it’s so important to step back and give yourself a little self-care. Your business will thank you for it.
And here’s what I’d do differently now……
1. Shout about it more
I’m still completely terrible at marketing myself but I was even worse when I first started out. It took me about a year to make an announcement on my personal Facebook page about me starting my own business, and I’ve only now started to really work on my marketing and PR plan! I’d definitely hit the ground running in terms of marketing if I was starting out now though.
2. Invest in my development
I signed up to a LOT of free webinars and emails when I started out. I cobbled together pieces of marketing advice and social media tips, but what I really should have done was invest in a course or some coaching so I was helped by an expert from the beginning. It would have saved me a lot of time and boosted my confidence no end.
3. Celebrate every win
I excel at self-deprecation and skimming over my achievements, but after working with a coach last year I realised that I needed to take the time to celebrate my wins. So now every time I sign up a new client, hit an income goal or get lovely feedback from a VA who has finished my training programme, I celebrate it.
4. Not believe everything I read
‘Want to earn £100k and work 3 hours a week? Sign up here’…. I’m sure we’ve all read something similar, and although there are people out there who have probably hit these amazing milestones, it’s not achievable to many right from the get-go. I also read that it was super easy to find clients using Twitter, which was outdated information at best!
5. Join a support network
I massively underestimated how lonely running your own business can be. Although I’m an introvert and don’t need to be surrounded by people in an office to feel happy, I definitely need the support of like-minded people who are in a similar boat. Those people don’t need to run the same type of business as me – what’s important is having somewhere to turn when you need ideas and validation.
That’s why I decided to join Mama Tribe. Mums who are passionate about their businesses and supportive of others is such a good fit for me, and I’ve found so many wonderful unique brands in the directory too!
Amy Gould is an ex-London PA and qualified teacher turned Virtual Assistant in 2016. Alongside her VA work, Amy runs a VA training programme for aspiring VAs and can recommend a talented pool of VAs for frazzled business owners. There’s a 10% discount for anyone who signs up to her programmes via Mama Tribe – just use code MAMA10. Head over to learn more here.