Stop the World – I Want to Get Off!

Something just happened in the last week or two which has completely changed the direction of my business – and my life – for the better.

What happened was, I admitted to myself that I couldn’t cope. That I wasn’t enjoying my business any more and that I wanted – in fact, NEEDED – things to change.

For the past 18 months I’ve been trying to juggle running two businesses at once: being a freelance VA at The Office HQ and running my VA training business, How to be a Virtual Assistant.

So: I’ve decided to give up the training side of my business and go back to what I really enjoy – being a Virtual Assistant.

There. I’ve said it.

Some background: about two weeks ago I came down with a REALLY hideous cold – or was it even flu? It felt like it. Cold, shivers, headache – I hadn’t felt so bad in ages.

In the weeks running up to that I’d been literally running myself ragged. Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm solid I had back to back phone calls, Skype calls, client work, consultations with people about starting new projects, meetings. I was firing off countless communications every day through Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, email, text, LinkedIn messenger, blah blah blah blah. I was working at weekends too.

Nothing was going to stop me doing a good job for my Office HQ clients because I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my VA client work, not to mention the students on my training program.

So marketing for How to be a Virtual Assistant had to be fitted in between in a mad rush. I was running around like some kind of lunatic in a bid to attract new students: Facebook posts, Facebook Group, LinkedIn, Twitter, Email autoresponders, free webinars, Facebook Live posts, Podcast, Youtube, lead magnets, landing pages, sales pages, sales funnels. Not in a calm and and focussed way because I had no time. And because of that it wasn’t very successful. All that effort for barely any sales.

That Friday when I was coming down with the cold, my mum was ill (properly ill, not just a cold)  and I somehow managed to get over to see her. But I’m ashamed to say I broke down when I got there because I was so stressed. Just when I should have been there supporting her I was wobbling all over the place myself because it had all just become too much.

By Monday the shivering had turned into a hideous sore throat and by Tuesday I couldn’t even speak. So I decided to do something I haven’t done for a very long time – I took a couple of days off.

I was low. Very low.

I slept. I thought. I slept again.

It was during this two days that the appalling truth dawned on me: I need to give up the training side of the business.

Originally I was a freelance Virtual Assistant. An award-winning Virtual Assistant. And I LOVED doing it.

I’ve never been a particularly ambitious person or wanted to build a business empire or anything but at some point in 2015 I decided that I’d like to develop my VA business in some way. That way turned out to be training. In January 2016 I set up How to be a Virtual Assistant, an online course training PAs, executive assistants, administrators etc how to set up their own freelance VA businesses.

I had guinea pigs who I put through the How to be a Virtual Assistant training program to make sure I could do it before I began selling the course. (I wasn’t going to sell an empty promise!) Turned out I could do it. And I enjoyed it too. It’s a bit of a cliche but it’s so rewarding seeing people you have coached start up and successfully run their own businesses.

It cost me a fair bit of money to run the course particularly on the marketing side – email autoresponder software, webinar software, video hosting software, website costs, Facebook ads, membership plugins and all the rest of it – which meant that I HAD to try and sell a certain number of places each month in order to cover my costs and hopefully make a profit too. All that marketing was costing me not just money money but also more importantly a huge amount of my TIME.

But from the beginning I had  decided that I was going to continue my own VA business alongside the training . I LOVE being a VA and didn’t want to give it up. I also felt I wanted to be a practicing VA if I was going to keep up with the issues that VAs face. So I ended up trying to run these two businesses together. And boy was it hard trying to make sure I did a good job for my clients whilst running and marketing a whole separate business at the same time.

Which is why, when I admitted to myself last week that I wasn’t enjoying it anymore and made the decision to go back to solely being a VA, I felt a massive sense of relief.

But I was also wracked with fear and doubt. And a massive sense of failure.

I wanted the world to stop so that I could get off but I was scared. Scared of what people were going to say. Scared they would point the finger and whisper in corners about how rubbish I am. Scared that I would be letting my students down. Scared that my potential clients would  be thinking, “Well, she failed at that – so how can she help ME with MY business?”. Scared that people would ridicule me.

A problem shared is a problem halved. I got in touch with another VA trainer that I know, Charlotte Wibberley. We were essentially competitors. But I felt the need to reach out to someone who would understand what I was going through. So I called her and told her what was going on.

Charlotte has been amazing. She completely saw why I was finding the whole thing stressful but – and I really respect her for this – despite us essentially being competitors she didn’t try to rush me into ending the training business. In fact she urged me to thinking long and hard about it, although I had pretty much made up my mind about giving it all up before we spoke. What she did too was give me some direction in terms of how on earth I was going to withdraw from the whole thing gracefully. And she convinced me that I am NOT a failure by admitting to myself it is all too much.

The last few days I have been planning how to handle things. There is no way that I am going to just abandon the students on my course. I will absolutely be finishing the job I started with them. I’ve made an announcement to them in my private Facebook group and emailed them all individually too. I’m there as long as they need me.

I want to say a big thank you to all of my students –  and to those of you who have already finished the course, it’s been a pleasure to teach you and it’s been amazing to see you become successful VAs. I’m looking forward to seeing my remaining students through to where they want to be.

But I’m not going to be taking on any more students. I want to concentrate on what I love doing best – being a freelance VA, and helping other business owners in a supporting role. Over the last year I reduced my hours working for VA clients to about half what it was before, so now I’m going to be looking to build that up again. I’m looking forward to simply being a Virtual Assistant again and interacting with other VAs as their peer.

I’ve made an announcement in my free Facebook group too to let people know that I am winding the group down. It stays open for now and I’ll help people where I can but ultimately I will be closing the group some time in the coming months. For those who want help with anything VA-related I can’t do better than recommend Charlotte Wibberley’s free Facebook Group, VIP VA Hub and her range of fantastic VIP VA training programs.

The one thing that I AM going to keep from How to be a Virtual Assistant is the blog. I love writing my blog and it’s a useful resource for VAs and aspiring VAs. I’d love to develop it and have others from the VA community write for it, along with anyone else who can contribute useful articles on running a freelance business. Feel free to contact me on LinkedIn if you would like to contribute!

Going through the process of admitting to myself that I can’t do what I set out to do has been an enormous learning curve. I’ve learnt that acknowledging your limitations is not failure. Giving yourself a break is not defeat. That recognising what you want from life isn’t giving in. That the person you viewed once as your competitor can come to your rescue and be your friend.

That relentlessly pursuing something just for the sake of finishing it, even though you know in your heart it’s not right for you is not good for your sanity.

2 Comments

  • Dot Regan

    Reply Reply November 17, 2017

    Thank you Tanya for being and keeping it real and your words of wisdom; this is what drew me to your FB Group (after reading through your Website). I shall be looking out for your Blogs 🙂

    • admin

      Reply Reply November 17, 2017

      Thanks Dot! If you fancy a bit of writing don’t hesitate to let me know if you’d like to contribute to the blog! x

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