2018 has been a pretty exciting year for me in my business – I’ve learned loads, met some amazing people and pushed myself way out of my comfort zone.

But none of this came out of nowhere! I may not have known it at the time, but decisions I made early in the year ended up impacting my business in hugely positive ways. Here’s what I’ve learned in 2018 that will benefit you too – especially if you’re self employed.

 

The 10 lessons 2018 had taught me

 

1. Everything starts with taking one decisive action

January: I joined the VA All Stars

New Year, new start! I’d been a member of Jo Munro’s VA Handbook since April 2016, but in January 2018 I invested in joining the VA All Stars, Jo’s programme for established virtual assistants who want to grow and develop their businesses. The All Stars has given me access to training on topics such as content writing, working with Leadpages and goal setting and planning. I’m picking up useful skills that help me to better help my clients.

The goal setting and planning training has made me really think about where I want to take my business – and who I want to work with. Which means I can focus on working with clients who are a good fit for me – and vice versa.

Chain reaction: The VA All Stars also brought me new clients, including one especially exciting one…

2. Sometimes, being chucked in the deep end is the best way to learn to swim

February: I took on a new high profile client

This was the first time I’d worked with a client as part of a virtual team – I’ve worked with an amazing group of talented women, running all the behind-the-scenes stuff for an online coach and entrepreneur.

Since February I’ve worked on sales funnels and email campaigns for major product launches, and become familiar with platforms and tools such as Ontraport, SmarterQueue and Zapier. Working with this client has broadened the scope of what I can offer my clients, and enabled me to see the bigger picture of what’s needed to drive a thriving online business.

Chain reaction: I was able to put these skills into action with other clients

 

3. Always go with your gut instinct

March: I started to get more active on LinkedIn

I realised I’d not been making the most of my LinkedIn account and decided to make an effort to be more present there. Idly scrolling through my LinkedIn feed, I spotted a post from someone I’d been following, but had never really interacted with. A 5 day retreat at an eco resort in Portugal, with workshops and sessions on authenticity and figuring out your direction.

I’d been looking for something like this for a while, but hadn’t found anything that felt exactly right for me. On the spur of the moment, I messaged the organiser to see if I could book a place. It’s not like me to be that spontaneous, but despite knowing very little about her, this felt ‘right’ and I went with my gut instinct. I booked that day, to go off for a week among total strangers and explore what was next in my work and life.

Chain reaction: Resolving to up my game on LinkedIn lead to me finding the perfect opportunity for personal and business growth

 

4. Don’t be afraid to go deep and let it all out

June: I went on retreat at a Portuguese eco resort (and it was AMAZING)

The retreat, lead by authenticity and business coach Gina Battye, was exactly what I needed. It was a week of delicious, healthy fresh food, fresh air, silence, laughter, tears (yes, actual tears!) and personal growth.

I hadn’t anticipated that by the end of the week I’d be in floods of tears in front of five virtual strangers, but instead of being horribly uncomfortable it felt like exactly the work I needed to be doing. I got rid of a load of emotional baggage that was holding me back in my business, and gained a much clearer idea of who I want to work with and what I most want to be doing.

Plus, I got to meet and spend time with a group of truly lovely new friends. It was so good I’m going back again in April 2019! I absolutely cannot wait.

 

5. Learn to say yes to the unexpected – and push yourself out of your comfort zone

October: I co-delivered a workshop for new and aspiring business owners

I used to teach English and Media in high schools for a living, but when Gavin Hill-John of Talk Skills asked me to co-deliver a workshop to a small group of new and aspiring business owners it felt like a massive leap outside my comfort zone!

I don’t know how many of you will relate to the thought of 15 shiny new business owners being more intimidating than 400 teenagers in an assembly hall (possibly none!), but it was to me. And then the day before I found out that I’d be delivering the first hour of the workshop by myself.

But I stepped up, and ended up having a brilliant couple of hours sharing my knowledge with a room of interested people.

Chain reaction: Gavin and I have since delivered a second workshop, and have begun developing more workshops for 2019.

 

6. However much you think you know, you can always learn from the experts

October: I worked on a 6 figure launch

The client made 6 figures in ten days.

I got to learn even more about how to run a successful online launch, and how to work smoothly as a team, when none of you have ever met in person and you’re all communicating remotely!

My key takeaway was the crucial importance of 3 things: list building/actually having an audience to sell to; preparedness and organisation; and total dedication to the goal. A launch like this is a full time job and takes weeks – it might not look like it from the outside, but it takes relentless energy and A LOT of working hours to do it properly. Nothing about this income is ‘passive’.

Chain reaction: The success of this launch prompted the client to offer to pay for additional training for me

 

7. Often, you’ll make your own luck without intending to

November: I was offered some training (and some of it is abroad!)

I was so excited to be offered paid for training and certification in Ontraport and AccessAlly!  The AccessAlly training is online, but I’ll be jetting off the Barcelona in June 2019 for Ontraport.

I already work with both these platforms, but once I’m certified, it’ll mean I’ll be able to confidently set up, manage and troubleshoot online learning and membership sites on clients’ WordPress websites.

 

8. You need to invest in yourself

November: I attended Content Live

Another spur-of-the-moment decision this year – I bought a ticket for Janet Murray’s two day social media and content marketing event in London. It was quite an investment financially (between the ticket cost, travel and accommodation and the best part of three days out of my business) but after 18 months of devouring Janet’s content online and on her podcast, I just knew it would be invaluable.

It didn’t disappoint! I met some lovely people, heard lots of fantastic speakers and took away so much useful information – and some unexpected mindset pieces too.

See this post for my key takeaways from the event.

Chain reaction: I’ve already started using some of the principles and ideas from Content Live with my own clients, preparing their content for 2019.

9. Always keep learning

Business books that have taught and inspired me in 2018

I devour business books and love nothing more than to immerse myself in a topic I’m enjoying.

My top 5 reads of 2018 have been:

  1. Building a Story Brand: Clarify your message so customers will listen (Donald Miller)
  2. The Rise of the Youpreneur: the definitive guide to becoming the go-to leader in your industry and building a future-proof business (Chris Ducker)
  3. Slideology: the art and science of creating great presentations (Nancy Duarte)
  4. Your Press Release is Breaking my Heart: A totally unconventional guide to selling your story in the media (Janet Murray)
  5. They Ask, You Answer: A revolutionary approach to inbound sales, content marketing and today’s digital consumer (Marcus Sheridan)

See this post for my key takeaways from each of these great reads.

 

10. Share what you know

November: I finally took my own (and others’) advice and started blogging

I booked a Zoom session with a business coach I’d found on LinkedIn in early November. She was great – both approachable and efficient – and helped me set some goals for the rest of 2018 and into 2019. When I said I wanted to do more content writing for clients, she sensibly wanted to know if I was publishing my own blog.

Answer: no. I’d done the odd business post in the past, but it had always felt forced and disjointed (despite how much I love to write). But since my revelatory moment at Content Live I’m now aware that this was more about how I’d felt within my business than about how I feel about writing. I’ve got a much clearer idea now about what I do and who for. With a clear audience in mind as I write, I’m suddenly finding that I’m not blocked any more.

So I began. And I’m enjoying it a lot.

Chain reaction: The blog post I wrote about Content Live has already brought me new business for 2019.