10 Years in Business: Madness, Mistakes and Somehow…Success!

Share This Post

Spring 2014… it’s hard to believe that was a decade ago! With my girls aged one and five and sleep being a distant memory, the thought of starting a business probably sounded crazy to anyone with a sliver of sense.

And yet, with a mix of determination and maybe a good dose of sleep-deprived madness, that’s just what I did! So, where did it all kick-off?

First came “Banks’ Business Solutions” – brainstormed over one hectic evening with my husband. In hindsight, a shorter name would’ve been a bit less of a mouthful and would have had a lot less ‘s’s! I then sorted the logo. Hubby sketched the original hand design and a graphic designer worked their magic with colours.

Though at the time it seemed too complex, in the long run, a full branding exercise might have clarified those ideal clients that bit sooner. You can read about my recent rebranding journey and how inspiring it was to work with a graphic designer here.

Next came the website! I bought a domain, battled with hosting, and put together a simple WordPress site showcasing typical virtual assistant (VA) tasks after some classic internet research.

Things then got ‘properly official’. Registering as a sole trader with HMRC and finding an accountant were vital tasks. Of course, I slipped up there – choosing an April 3rd start date rather than the tax-savvy April 6th meant more pointless paperwork! But this was all part of the learning curve!

Next on the list was researching VA businesses and contracts and finally sharing the news on social media.  Proper insurance finally got sorted and I dipped a toe into networking groups. And not forgetting my Facebook Page where I’d start to share useful business hints and tips.

While building momentum, amazingly, I landed my first client in May 2014 – while holding down a part-time job. Still, by year’s end, I’d worked with seven fantastic clients! A proper achievement on so little sleep!

Things I Should Have Done Differently

Looking back, understanding data protection rules (you know, with UK GDPR and all that – although this didn’t come in until 2018) was way more important than I realised.  At first, it all seemed like complex red tape best suited for massive corporations. But here’s the thing: mishandling even a small client list can have major consequences. Not only could it mean hefty fines if something goes wrong, but you risk your reputation and the trust so vital to growing a business.

Even as a solopreneur, getting savvy about data protection made me way more organised Knowing my responsibilities meant my client information was safer and easier to manage as things grew and it grew into a service I was able to deliver to my clients who were struggling to understand the data protection changes with GDPR.

Having solid contracts upfront – via something like Koffeeklatch – would’ve saved a world of hassle further down the line. Early on, I did have agreements but when they were reviewed they weren’t actually as ‘legally binding’ as I believed. This meant that when scope creep reared its ugly head, or payment terms got fuzzy, things were not as easy to resolve.

A decent contract platform would have given me ready-to-go templates, ensuring boundaries were clear from the start. That way, everyone’s on the same page before work begins, protecting both myself and my clients.

Proper tools like Office 365 and better insurance also took far too long to get set up. And systems? Plans? They definitely weren’t a priority till the business started booming!

But the biggest blunder of all? Setting my hourly rate at just £10! Starting your own business, there’s this urge to undercut everybody, thinking being the cheapest is the magic trick to gain a following. In reality, it nearly sunk me. That rate didn’t even cover running the website, let alone my time!

Clients often associate value with price and setting yourself too low signals inexperience (even if you are just starting out). Investing in learning how to confidently set prices to reflect my worth was game-changing for my business.

Despite these hiccups, everything worked out in the end. From those humble VA beginnings to tech support to, well, becoming an Online Business Consultant…the journey’s been brilliant. Over 170 clients later, charging a reasonable rate and forever upskilling has been truly amazing.

Goes to show starting your own business is sometimes a grand bit of madness but can be a successful adventure all the same!

More To Explore