At what point do you give up?
It’s ten years ago this summer that I was made redundant. The company I had worked for for 10 years was closing after four years completion of a divestment programme they had embarked upon after delisting from the stock exchange. There was nothing left to be a head office for.
Redundancy for many can be a painful time. The word redundant is a harsh word that means you’re no longer needed. It can leave you feeling valueless. No matter how much warning (4 years for me!) or the legitimate reasons behind being made redundant, it does affect your self-esteem. If you’re not fortunate enough to have the blow cushioned with a redundancy package, then it can also mean financial stress while you hunt the next job.
Life after Redundancy (yes there is!)
For me it was a time to decide ‘what next’. I loved what I did at work, but didn’t enjoy the 2 hour commute to get there and 2 hours to get home. It left me exhausted. I had two small children and had no quality time with them. A huge chunk of my salary went to pay childminders and nurseries to look after them while I worked. I was missing out on them growing up. Working locally meant a huge drop in salary and to me that seemed totally wrong – why should I be worth less when I had more skills and experience than ever to offer?
So, with the cushion of redundancy money, I set up as a virtual assistant. Within a year I had achieved my 5-year financial target. I had got my ideal client who gave me the hours I wanted to work, which meant I could do the school run, attend their assemblies and gained 4 hours a day from not having to commute anymore. I gained quality time. I was earning the same money. My life was in balance. I had it made!
Soon after, my marriage dramatically ended and it was time to take stock again.
I had escaped an unhealthy relationship with my life and no permanent injuries. I realised that I was the role model to my two girls and it was my duty to make sure they grew into high self-value adults who attracted equally high self-value positive people into their lives. And to do that I had to change how I felt about myself and who was allowed in my inner circle.
There was no room for negative people and nay-sayers. The people who were allowed to stay in my inner circle were positive and supportive and believed in me. That meant my ex was never ever going to be allowed back in. He was my biggest critic when I started my business. To him, to earn money meant you had to work and work had to be hard. Swanning about at home, tinkering on a computer did not constitute hard work and therefore did not, in his view, qualify as work or a legitimate means to earn money. It wasn’t a ‘proper’ job.
Get a proper job!
Two years of ensuing solicitors’ letters and divorce courts trying to sort out the financial split, I can remember the most painful stab was his solicitor stating that ‘Mrs Smith should get a proper job instead of struggling with her failing business’. Ouch! Reading that comment still twists my stomach!
The truth was it wasn’t struggling at all. Sure the tax man wasn’t getting such a huge cut of my earnings anymore, but that was the benefit of being self-employed versus employed. I was still paying the mortgage and bills. I wasn’t running up any debts. The Judge couldn’t argue with that, so I was allowed to stay in the marital house until either I remarried or the youngest turned 18.
Big Lesson: The perils of having only 1 client
A few months later, my lovely client who wanted me for 25 hours a week cut my hours by half. At the time I thought this was a catastrophe! I had been TOO good! I had streamlined their business processes, so much so, they now didn’t need me for 25 hours a week! I had effectively worked myself out of work! How was I going to replace that income? Was it time to quit and try and find a full-time job?
This was worse than redundancy because although they were my only source of income, I wasn’t classed as an employee and I had no rights at all! There was no redundancy or any notice beyond a week. The prospect of finding a job was no better this time round. I had to find more clients.
In fact, it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. When I first started working with them, this client was in the process of setting up a franchise. I was streamlining and setting up procedures for the new franchisees coming on board. Whilst they were brilliant at doing the business, they were hopeless at the admin. So rather than try and train another VA to do the things they weren’t themselves familiar with, they wanted to engage me! So then there wasn’t enough of ‘me’ to go around!
This was the time I realised that a way to increase my income was to recruit and train associates to do what I do. Not only was it increasing my capacity to help more clients with the stuff they hated doing or weren’t good at, I was also helping other VA’s get work. Whilst they were good at what they did – attention to detail and getting on with work and holding up the ‘back room’, they were not good at being in the limelight of doing the marketing side of getting clients.
Around this time, there was also a realisation among the self-employed consultant fraternity that they had a ceiling on their income as there were only so many hours they could help their clients and the way for them to leverage their time and earn more money was to serve many clients at the same time. They did this by selling their knowledge in the form of information products.
The clients I had at the time were the info product selling pioneers in the UK for doing what the US were already doing successfully. I started helping my clients build info product infrastructures, websites, membership sites, autoresponders, newsletters, social media and landing pages – all the components needed to reach more clients and earn more. Other UK VAs couldn’t do this. Clients came to me asking how and what tools they should use. They picked my brains because I’ve been working these tools for years. I know what tools can do and which is best for which purpose. It occurred to me that maybe it’s not correct to label me as a virtual assistant. It doesn’t reflect what I do! That’s when the Biz Tech Wiz came into being!
Fast forward to today
My business and I are totally different from 10 year ago. I have a business that works even if I’m not. My turnover has doubled and nearly doubled again from my original, albeit modest, 5-year goal. As I reflect back and take stock today, there were many times I felt pressure to quit. But my desire, determination and dedication to show the nay-sayers I can be successful as well as be a good role model to my girls, was far stronger. The times I took a leap of faith worked out for me. Thankfully. I’m sure there’ll be many more times in the future when I take stock and am faced to take more leaps. They’ve worked out so far, so why not again?
What about you? Have you ever taken a leap of faith? Or gone against the advise of close friends and family. I’d love for you to share in the comments below.