Updated: Apr 2
There are products being sold and services being offered every day on our social media feeds.
We rarely consider that behind the businesses are people just like us. They had a spark that lit the fuel to get their entrepreneurial spirit burning.
This is the story of the spark that led to me creating SL Smith Admin Services, how I got into the administrative field and the steps I took to leave my nine to five to become a freelancer.
The Admin Journey Begins
Let’s take it back, way back to the year 2004. I was 17 years old and weeks away from taking my A-Levels. Most of my friends were getting ready to go to university.
A clear career path mapped out in their heads. I, on the other hand, had no clue what I wanted to do. University was not a requirement in my household. As long as you passed your GCSE’s, went to college or started working you were good.
So, I went to college to do my A-Levels choosing subjects I knew I would do well in, English, Sociology, Religious Studies and Law. The thought of spending another 4 years in university memorising textbooks did not sound appealing to me. I worked part-time in retail but doing it full time was out of the question it was mind-numbing.
One afternoon I went to the college library I had thought of a plan. I found a book called 'the A-Z of careers'. I opened it up to a random page, closed my eyes, scrolled my hand down, stopped and opened my eyes to see my finger had landed on ‘legal secretary’.
After doing some research I decided to do a 1-year legal secretarial diploma. I passed with a distinction but I couldn’t find a job that would hire me without experience. I went back to the drawing board, did more research and went on to complete a medical secretarial diploma.
Jump forward to 2014 I had worked for a plethora of organisations climbing higher up the ladder with each new role. I had done pretty well for myself considering I hadn’t gone to university. I had taken what Althea Efunshile calls “the long back door route - into success”
Starting from the bottom and progressing to senior roles meant that I had a unique understanding of how both the front and back end of a business needs to operate together to run successfully.
I am naturally a solution-orientated person who can bring order to chaos with ease so, working in fast-paced environments with competing deadlines is the perfect fit for me.
Buses, Tears and Groundhog Days
If you were to ask me: “when did you know you wanted to become self-employed?” There is one specific memory that always comes to mind.
I’m on my morning commute sitting at the top deck of the number 3 bus. I'm wiping away the uncontrollable tears streaming down my face.
I was working as a Service Improvement Facilitator; each morning, I would have an overwhelming feeling of dread come over me. The thought of having to go into the office was literally making me cry involuntarily, in public, on the bus!
Do you remember the 90’s movie groundhog day?
It’s about a weatherman who becomes trapped in a time loop forcing him to relive the same day repeatedly. There is a scene in a bowling alley, where the weatherman Phil asks two residents if they understand what it’s like to be stuck in a place where nothing they do matters.
Phil is referring to his trapped situation, but the two men, though not trapped in a loop, know exactly what he means. That's exactly how I felt - trapped, in a never-ending cycle.
Every day was the same wake-up, go to work, listen to office politics, meetings that over-run, rush hour traffic, dinner, bed, Tv, sleep then rinse and repeat.
The memory I described on the bus had become a regular occurrence. The feeling of dread became worse with each passing day. It was this feeling that propelled me to make a change.
To move from one place to another
begins with a single step
2019 arrived and I decided that enough was enough. I realised that when I woke up in the morning my thoughts were always negative. I was constantly lamenting about what I wished my life looked like.
“Are you perceiving things as they are or as you wish them to be? To know, notice your thoughts upon waking each day. Are they happy thoughts or sad? Listen to their message”
– Tau Chuan Ling
To get out of the funk, I began to actively change the way I perceived things. I started to listen to motivational podcasts on my way to work. Hearing people share their entrepreneurial journey energised me.
One great podcast that got me through was The School of Greatness Podcast by Lewis Howes. Episodes range from interviews with incredible world-class game changers in:
health, mindset and relationships
solo rounds with the host, Lewis Howes
unique interviews with celebrities.
This lead to me asking myself questions:
What is it you want? I want to have a work-life balance and the freedom to choose when and where I work. I want control of my time.
How are you going to get what you want? The only way to get what I want is to start utilising my time to find a way to work for myself.
How can you turn your skills into a business? I love helping people to plan and get stuff done, creating workflow processes and data management. but how do I translate this into working for myself?
Then the research commenced. Professor google became my trusted friend when it came to figuring out what type of business I could start working from home. Nothing was jumping out at me until one afternoon while scrolling on Facebook as you do, I saw a sponsored ad for a course called the online Biz Skills by Danielle Greason.
It was a course of recorded screencast tutorials, to learn how to set up a virtual assistant business providing proactive administrative support to business owners, all whilst working from home.
I thought wa’haay this is just up my ally! The price of the course threw me off and I almost decided against it. I could hear the voices of all the entrepreneurs and business owners I had been listening to saying: “Invest in yourself, you get out what you put in” so I put my money where my mouth was and signed up.
Preparation to Quit My Job And Go Freelance
As I worked through the 9 unit course my enthusiasm grew. I would be able to help people doing all the things I love to do and get paid for it! The skills and knowledge I had acquired over my 14-year career were not only transferable to a variety of industries but valuable to business owners!
The late nights and hard grind I put into work for my employers I could put that same work ethic into my own business! I could own my time and use it as I wished on the projects I enjoyed.
I decided it was time to leave my job. I knew there was no way I could leave and go freelance full time without an established business, I still had bills to pay, so I began to create a plan of action.
I worked out how much I needed to survive. I wrote out my monthly outgoings. What things I wanted and what things I needed. I concluded, if I found a part-time job of at least 15 hours a week I would be able to pay my bills whilst I built up my clientele.
I started saving. I gave myself 6 months to save at least a 3-month salary to ensure that I had a cushion to fall back on if things didn't go to plan.
I got prepared. I began creating my business website on Wix. I spent every waking moment reading and listening to everything I could about becoming self-employed.
Opportunity Meets Preparation
One rainy evening in September 2019, another late evening for me. For the past few months we were three employees down and guess who had to take on their workload along with my own?
Yep, that's right, me. Sitting at my desk alone in the office I realised I'd had enough! I was mentally, physically and spiritually tired. I opened a word document and began typing my letter of resignation. My mind was shouting: "What are you doing!? this is a bad idea!!" My gut was saying "With great risk comes an even greater reward"
I decided to listen to my gut, once I set my mind to something I am going to make it happen one way or the other.
I attached the letter to an email and clicked send. I went home, set myself up as a sole trader and never looked back.
“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision”
- Peter Drucker
All Aboard The Hogwarts Express!
I don't have crazy qualifications or a fortune 500 company. I still work part-time to supplement my income. I do have the freedom to work when and where I choose too.
I am happy and I enjoy what I do. I provide a valuable service that supports the growth of fellow business owners. I didn't do anything outlandish to become a freelancer. Everything I did anyone could do!
A summary of the six steps I took to become a freelancer
I saw my life as it was instead of wishing it was something else
I absorbed myself with business success stories from people who were where I wanted to be
I asked myself questions about what I truly wanted and searched within for the answers
I invested in myself by looking to experts to gain the knowledge I needed
I created a plan of action and broke my goals down into smaller steps
I took a risk and believed in myself
If you’ve ever watched Harry Potter you know about the Hogwarts express and the pivotal role it played in the life of Harry and his friends. It was on the Hogwarts Express that Harry first made the acquaintance of many of the people who played significant roles in his life.
I hope that even one person is inspired by my business story. If you are thinking about starting a business I hope this is the sign you need to take a chance on yourself!
This is not the last stop on the train! If you want to learn more about my learning curves, lessons learned, tutorials and all things business admin then hop aboard and join me on my freelance journey.
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