We’ve all heard the saying that ‘nothing in life ever stands still’, and the same is more than true when it comes to our businesses.
In our blog this week, VIP VA Member Allison Christie of Tick the List shares her tips for how to pivot and change direction without losing sight of your end game
“Freelancing brings with it the chance of constant upskilling. It’s probably one of the things I love most about self-employment – there’s never a monotonous groundhog day (and if there is, you have the power to change it).
We hear lots about niching down in the marketing world, and as a VA I always found that really difficult – the variety was what I loved, the breadth of clients, the range of tasks, the no two days the same.
But at some point (3 years in for me), you will most likely come to a point when the excitement of learning new skills leads you to a particular passion that you’d love to be the main focus of your business. And you also start to find some of the tasks you loved in the beginning no longer light you up.
That was my 2018 – focusing in on that passion and deciding to shift the sails and head off in an adjusted direction. Not the easiest of decisions, especially when after 3 years you feel you’re making really positive progress, but one that I knew I really wanted to make.
Here’s a few lessons learned if you find yourself at the point of wanting to make a positive pivot and change direction in your business.
1. You’ll get scared
To the outside world there might not be a huge difference in the services you offer, but to you it feels a bit like starting again and some days that feels very scary. I had a word with myself a few times (and with lots of VIP VA buddies!) who hugely helped me to keep on track.
2. Change takes more effort than you expect
It would be easy to keep networking in the same places online, putting out the same messages, be present in the same groups, engaging with the same people etc. But we all know that if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. I found it takes more effort than I expected to change my online habits, join new groups, start engaging in those and be seen as someone who knows what they’re talking about! In person networking means explaining ‘what you do’ all over again too. You need to give it time, effort and recommit regularly.
In the beginning I invested in a block of mentoring sessions with Charlotte of VIP VA to get clear on how I was going to make my change in direction happen. We focused on the practical steps as well as the longer-term picture and this set me firmly on a clear path of what I needed to do first as well as how I was going to get through to the end. Having that support made life so much easier.
3. Make Space
If you need to make space for upskilling, training or simply creating content and changing your key messages for your new direction, bringing in an associate VA is a genius plan if it’s just not possible in your current working week. That’s what I did – after a few months of trying to do it all, I found some fabulous associate help that maintained business for my existing clients as well as giving me the space to focus fully on making that change of direction.
4. You can’t ride two horses!
You might plan to continue offering your ‘old’ services while you bring in the ‘new’ and aim for a gradual transition that happens naturally over time.
If you manage to perfect that, really well done! That was my original plan, but in reality I found it super easy to focus on my task list each day, and the big ‘new’ plan would sit untouched. Tricks like taking myself out for the day to focus on the new didn’t work for me either.
For me, I had to properly reduce the ‘old’ workload, so I turned down potential opportunities that came my way.
I would have loved to have taken a lot of these opportunities on if I was staying where I was, but they didn’t fit my new direction and I knew I was never going to fully commit to making a permanent shift unless I went all in.
I needed to say ‘No’ to some opportunities to really drive me to launch the new, where I could say a huge YES!
5. Be realistic about the right time
Saying no means in reality your client workload will reduce. You need to be realistic about what that means for you financially and also confidence wise. What’s your bottom line? Is right now a good time for you to go through a wobbly change?
I was really clear on when the right time for me to fully pivot would be – the few months before my youngest trots permanently off to school 5 days a week.
I knew that stopping taking on the ‘old work’ would probably mean some extra free time, and I really wanted that to feel 100% positive.
For every slot in my diary not filled with client work, I had a really positive alternative – cake dates, trips out, time to play and of course upskilling and training.
6. Nobody starts an expert
This particular nugget was a hard one for me. If you’ve spent time gaining knowledge, expertise and building a good reputation in the services you’ve offered up to now, you can feel you have landed firmly back on the ‘I’m learning’ square on the board. You now have to go get that experience and learn on the job all over again. Make that an advantage if you can – offer some trials or specially priced offers.
As much as you love your new direction, some days you might feel you still have soooo much more to learn. Keep your big picture in focus and soak up all the expertise you have on offer. In my training courses, I have THE most supportive and encouraging mentors and trainers ask ask ask all you can!
7. Your client base will change
New services will most likely mean a new ideal client – get really clear on who they are, what you can offer and why you’re the answer to all their business problems. Get support to really nail this if it is keeping you stuck, I did and it helped hugely.
My ideal client back in the beginning was vague beyond belief in comparison to what I have now. I had some support to get this in place and it really helped to make my pivot so much more focused and targeted.
Use your contacts here – who do your contacts know that might be keen on your new services? Ask around, see if you can build up some experience charging a special training rate? Know that you are not starting from the beginning – you have skills, contacts and expertise that are absolutely relevant and transferrable, use them!
8. Finding those who ‘get it’ is invaluable
Something we’ve all had at some point – people who don’t support you but who you might have expected a little more positivity from (for whatever reason, usually nothing to do with you). Whether that’s family, friends, ex colleagues, clients etc. You might find a little shade is thrown your way if you’re branching out in a new direction.
If you’re super clear on what you’re doing and where you’re going, don’t let it knock you. Thank people for their honesty and move on. But if it’s bringing up a few wobbles, having people who ‘get it’ and who you can talk to about it is absolutely invaluable. They are your constants in whatever life and business throws at you and they will help you unpick what it is that is getting to you.
9. Finding a tribe to support you is key to success
I’ll keep this short and sweet and just say that the confidence to be able to make a shift would not have been there without the support of my fellow VIP VA Mastermind members. In the times of self-doubt and internal challenge, they have lifted me up and reminded me of where I am going.
I can’t recommend them highly enough and would not be where I am without them.
10. Finally, Go Confidently In The Direction Of Your Dreams!
Be proud that when you get to the stage of launching your new services, you have come through a period of transformation and that is something to be hugely proud of in itself. Celebrate that!
Use that confidence, have belief in yourself and step out there with your new direction firmly in place. Don’t keep waiting until you feel you have learned enough or you have the perfect plan in place. Use your training, your support and your newly learned skills to get out there and show the world what you have to offer.
As I approach 5 years in business, and having negotiated my first big change in direction, I can honestly say I’ve learned more through the process than I thought was possible.
I’ve definitely learned more than when I first started my business, and I hope the learning never ends. Being in control of your own ability to change your direction has to be one of the most transformational and rewarding things you can do as a business owner, it can bring so many new friendships, it teaches you so many new skills and it really focuses you on your passions.
It genuinely feels like a metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly!
If you want to get in touch with Allison, you can find her at Tick the List.