Celebrating 10 years of First Rate PA – Part One: Starting my own business
On the 17th May, First Rate PA is celebrating its 10th anniversary! So we thought we would write a series of blogs this month to tell you more about our business and how it has changed over the 10 years.
We will start by taking a look back to the beginning of the First Rate PA with the help of Company Director Michelle Wright. We decided to ask her a few questions about starting her own business.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
In 2010 I was approaching my 30th Birthday and as you normally do when you are hitting a milestone birthday, I started to assess my life. Looking at what I was happy with and what I wanted to change, I found that my career was at the top of my list.
At the time I was working as a business development assistant / PA at a pharmaceutical company. Being part of a very small admin team in a medium company, taking a look at the work we did, at where I could take my career, I did not like my prospects in my job role. I was getting bored, as the work would not fill up my time and I was never very good at stretching work out to look busy, I have always taken pride in my ability to be organised and work efficiently.
I came to the conclusion that now was as good a time as any to become self-employed. I had no real responsibility, apart from myself and if I did not do it now when would I? I decided that it was time that I called my own shots and decide what I will and will not do in terms of work, giving myself the opportunity to be flexible with my life.
How did you come with the idea of First Rate PA?
I started by looking at my skills set, what I was good at, and the options that would open up for me. Undertaking a lot of research, when the VA industry was still in its infancy, I found it ticked all the right boxes for me.
My first steps involved a lot of research as I had not been self-employed before and neither were many of my friends. I discovered support through Business Link, they had a lot of half-day courses (this was before webinars were big) and they also offered a business advisor option, so I signed up for both. Taking holiday days from work to attend the courses, I started to pull together a business plan so I knew exactly what my business would offer before I came up with the right business name.
I took a brave decision to hand in my notice and set a launch date for my new venture, so on the 17th May 2010 First Rate PA was born and I have never looked back!
Did you need to do any special training?
I found I had all the skills already so there was no need to do any extra training and it also turns out that I am actually a bit of a secret techy geek! So, learning and adapting to do things remotely was a doddle.
Who supported you with your decision?
I was very lucky to have the support of my family and friends, although I am sure some of them at the time thought I was crazy for taking such a huge risk. But it is a risk I will never regret and given the chance, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
I still have the support of my family and friends and always will, they have been with me through the lows and the highs of self-employment/running my own business and I love them all for it, there is no way I could have got where I am today without them and I am grateful for having them there to support me, through thick or thin.
What was the hardest part about going self-employed?
I think the hardest part was doing it on a shoestring budget, as I had always been employed, and losing a regular income was a bit of a shock to the system. I just had to learn to budget my own life as well, but who needs takeaways and nights in the pub anyway?
But being in charge of my own career, having the last say in how I spend my time, and being able to have the flexibility in my working day to plan it how I want made it worth it.
What were your biggest worries when starting out?
I had to make the decision at the start that I needed to make sure I could keep a roof over my head before I made the jump to full self-employment. So, the logical thing was to get a part-time job. I decided that this needed to be something completely unrelated to the business.
So first off, I worked part-time in a clothes shop, which was fine apart from being expected to wear clothes from the store, and with no budget for clothes, this slowly became a problem. I helped my single-parent brother by “babysitting” my nephew a couple of times a week, so he could go out to work. And when I left the clothes shop, I got a part-time job in a pub, pulling pints and waiting on tables, which is not an easy job, but the extra tips did help things a little more.
There were times at the start when I thought have I made the right decision, do I go back to being employed? But working for yourself makes you incredibly self-reliant and independent and I would miss the flexibility that being your own boss brings you.
My actual biggest worries before I started, was can I stay focused, working on my own every day? It turns out I’m more efficient working on my own, but in the moments when I feel lonely and un-motivated I go to a coffee shop, park or co-working space.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to start their own business?
Planning and research at the beginning is key, taking a look at the resources you have around you. If you have friends that are self-employed (and most of us do now) take them out for a coffee and ask their advice. They may not be in your industry, but chances are they know someone who is that would be willing to help and advice. There is enough work out there for everyone, so do not think of anyone as a competitor you may even find a mentor.
I would not be able to run First Rate PA without the community I have built around it “work friends” I have made over the years. The client relationship I have built and kept hold of. My expert associates who provide excellent services to the clients. There is also software such as Dropbox, Microsoft, Skype, and the internet that make First Rate PA possible, but it would be nothing without the people.
Next week we will be talking about how Michelle started to grow her business, learning to generate leads through networking and how we have coped during Covid-19 lockdown.