2020: Redundancy and New Beginnings, How I Launched My Business.
Yep, what a year.
It's been a stressful, emotional, mentally and physically exhausting time to say the least and yet here we are, in our second lockdown with Boris bumbling through with his hokey cokey guidelines "go outside but don't go outside".
Ok, Nicola, we know all this, so what's your point?
Well. As much as there has been bad, there has been a lot of good, and we need to put the good into perspective.
Like thousands of others, I found myself being made redundant from a job I had dedicated over five and a half years to.
Back in March, I left the office saying "See ya when I see ya" not realising that seven months later I would be returning to clear out my desk wearing rubber gloves two sizes too big and a mask bouncing bad breathe back into my face.
But despite the anxiety of suddenly becoming jobless and any financial stability heading out the window, I took this opportunity to take the plunge and go self-employed.
I've always wondered what it would be like to work for myself and since having my son, I started to think more and more whether it could be a possibility.
"BUT WHAT WOULD YOU DO?"
"TWO SELF EMPLOYED PARENTS IN ONE HOUSEHOLD? LUDICROUS!"
"HOW DO YOU EVEN BECOME SELF EMPLOYED?"
Just a few of the hundreds of questions my brain would scream at me every time I sat down and thought seriously about my exit plan from being unemployed.
So, how did I start Nicola Joyce Virtual Assistant?
Fortunately, I have a friend who is already successful and an established Virtual Assistant, Julie Sydenham, (your right-hand woman for all your copywriting needs) and she gave me the kick up the butt and confidence to start my own Virtual Assitant journey.
I used my new found time at home to immerse myself in online courses* to help me find out what exactly I wanted to offer as a Virtual Assistant.
Over and over I kept reading "A successful Virtual Assistant has a niche" but WHAT THE HELL IS A NICHE AND WHERE IS MINE? I pondered.
So I started by splurging out on paper all the things I knew I was good at and the skills I had developed from my previous jobs.
Then I went through the list and selected which skills I would enjoy offering as a service.
Don't get me wrong, I had a constant Nicola nag in my brain saying,
WHO'S GOING TO HIRE YOU TO DO THAT?
NO ONE NEEDS HELP WITH THAT!
DO YOU REAAAALY KNOW HOW TO DO THAT?
But I shushed it with coffee and ploughed on, slowly building a framework for my new business and voila my niche emerged.
Once I had an idea of what I was going to do, I started to think about my 'brand'.
Joyce was my Gran's name and so in homage to my hero, I thought 'Nicola Joyce' sounded professional, plus the alternative, 'Nixx in the Mixx' was more like a baker whipping up a cake at a rave.
My husband is a graphic designer so I asked him to design my logo for me, and we came up pretty quickly with the simple NJ motif.
I then spent some time building my website, with help from a talented SEO pal to help it stand a chance against the ocean of Virtual Assistants out there.
And then I waited.
and BAM an email lands in my inbox, MY FIRST CLIENT...
It was my Mum.
Asking me to write up some letters for her tenants BUT she said she would pay me (despite the daughter tab that's been running for the last 32 years) and you know what, I did the job, sent my invoice and felt really proud of myself.
Despite my first 'client' being my Mum, I had set myself up, taken the leap and completed a job that I was then paid for.
That gave me the boost to realise, I could actually do this.
I then spent the next couple of weeks coming up with content to share on my socials, putting it out there that I was now a Virtual Assistant and looking for clients, and in less than a month I landed my first client who wasn't related to me.
I WAS SO ECSTATIC I ordered my husband to go to the local Co-op right away and purchase the finest bottle of prosecco they had to offer.
And then they pulled out.
So my celebration prosecco became my bottle of misery bubbles and I started going round and round in my head trying to think of where I went wrong.
What had I said that they decided to pull out?
What did I do?
Was I too pushy?
Was my tone not professional enough?
This went on for about 24 hours before I realised that hey, that's the world of freelance.
Unfortunately, things like that will happen and I realised I need to have much thicker skin than the pasty thin body coat I currently wear.
Despite the situation knocking my confidence, I persevered engaging with content on social platforms like LinkedIn and started to reach out to potential clients.
A week later, I landed a client. And then another. AND THEN ANOTHER.
And here we are.
Nearly 2 months since launching, I have a small pool of clients that I am working on projects with and I couldn't be more proud of myself.
Yea, I know, I have a LONG way to go and I'm not earning anywhere near enough to keep me and my family afloat BUT it's a start.
The dream of being a successful freelance Wonder Woman is starting to transpire, I've just got to maintain confidence and not celebrate every new client with a bottle of prosecco, because a boozy Wonder Woman ain't gonna help anyone.
If you're thinking of starting up your own business, DO IT. There really is never the right time and after the year we've all had, why not just go for it.
If you want to chat for some support then feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
If you fancy a cheeky email landing in your inbox once a month with some tips on how to make your working life easier then you can subscribe to my blog here.
Remember, YOU ARE AWESOME and you WILL make this happen.
*There are TONS of helpful resources out there when starting up your own business, but these are the ones I've found particularly helpful:
YOAST - For free guidance on Search Engine Optimisation.
UDEMY - Thousands of online lectures from marketing to advanced tour guiding skills. I would be surprised if there isn't a lecture available for what you are looking for.
ERIN BOOTH - My Virtual Assistant Idol. Erin provides invaluable information on getting yourself started as a Virtual Assistant, as well as advice on maintaining a successful business. All her content is always engaging and she is super funny, which makes studying at 5 am all the more bearable.
THE VA HANDBOOK - A plethora of downloads, blog posts and everything in between for advice and guidance in the Virtual Assistant world. There is also a helpful Facebook group that you can join too.