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Pivoting in a pandemic

Pivoting in a pandemic

2020 was my biggest year in business in terms of turnover and profit. It was also the year I decided that I wanted to direct my business in a different direction.

I think, like me, you’ll have experienced what I’m about to talk about. I know I’m not alone.

Cast your minds back to March 2020, that seems such a long time ago now, but when the pandemic hit I was a Virtual Assistant; and a successful one at that. I was at capacity with a variety of clients on a retainer agreement and I was supporting fellow female entrepreneurs with one off projects such as email marketing and website development. 

When the pandemic hit a few clients ghosted me, a few couldn’t commit to their regular agreements and my business suddenly went a bit, well, quiet. Both me and my husband run our own businesses and weren’t entitled to any financial support so when people were struggling I was empathetic and didn’t want to be another pressure for them in what were, really worrying times.

I started looking for business elsewhere and taking on more one off projects. After a while I had enough to keep me going whilst also being the primary carer for my kids who were both at home. However once I’d replaced most of the lost work, it slowly started creeping back again; people had found ways to run their businesses during the pandemic and I suddenly had way too much work to do. 

In hindsight there were so many things I could have done better, or done differently. BUT that’s the beauty of hindsight right?

I went into survival mode. I was incredibly overwhelmed, exhausted, miserable and burnout. In my mind I had the end goal of September in mind “when the kids go back to school”. But in all honesty I knew I’d outgrown my Virtual Assistant business and it no longer brought me the joy it once had. 

I knew I had to make a change, and – more importantly, that I was allowed to make a change. 

So in July, before the start of the summer holidays, I notified my existing client that I was changing my business model and that I would be ending our contract from 1st September 2020. This was really hard. REALLY hard. I was shutting down my reliable income with the hope of being able to pivot solely into email marketing, launch support and WordPress web development; I was also worried about letting people down.

One thing I hadn’t considered during this time is that enquiries would still be coming in for Virtual Assistant work, especially for digital support, and my message definitely reflected the vagueness that I was feeling about who I was and what I was doing. But I knew that if I didn’t stay on course with the changes I wanted to make I wouldn’t be holding space for all of the work that I wanted to do. Plus my heart wasn’t in it, not ideal for starting with a new client. So I tentatively told people about my new plans and suggested a few of the great VA’s I knew and amazing connections were made. Everybody was excited to hear about my new direction and I have since worked with a number of my previous clients in my new capacity.

I knew that I was going to struggle to make this change alone, I had a lot of things I needed to work on; confidence, courage, boundaries, money mindset, so I decided I was going to invest in a business coach. I told myself this would be the make or break point. I started working with my coach in September and I currently still have a session about every 6 weeks. So with this end date of September in mind, I ploughed through the summer looking forward to this amazing change that was going to happen. 

But, it didn’t work like that.

In all honesty, it took until the end of 2020 to work through all the existing work, contracts, and finally pull the cord. I’ve solely been working in my new business since the beginning of January and it feels so good to have focused down on a triad of services that help other women build their digital businesses.

My focus for this year is to grow my business holistically and sustainably. I need my business to grow at a pace that feels good for me, that I can maintain and keep up with whilst being a mum to my two young kids. I want my business to enrich my life, not take away from it. I also want to earn good money!

The things I have found key to moving into growth have been:

  1. Investing in coaching for myself. I’m working with Nicola Huelin of MPower and I have learnt so much about myself and my business.
  2. Investing in a Virtual Assistant. I have been working with Daniella of The Active Assistant since January and the one thing I hadn’t considered is the accountability having a VA brings. I get so much more done.
  3. The right tech. I spent ages trying to get my onboarding system right. I couldn’t get on with Dubsado but I’m really enjoying using Hello Bonsai.
  4. Trying, failing and then learning and moving on. I’m starting to learn that there’s growth in failure and doing the big scary things is never as big and scary as it seems from the outside.
  5. Organisation and boundaries. These go hand in hand for me because when I’m organised I can stick to boundaries and not take on more than I can do. I work to my schedule and don’t have to be in crisis mode because of a lack of planning. I put all my projects into my calendar and refer to it every time I book in new work.

Pivoting is hard, big and scary but nothing changes if nothing changes. For me, it’s all about accountability and support – as someone once said to me, ‘no woman is an island’. 

** FYI If you like the look of Hello Bonsai and use the link above to sign up, we both get a free month.