If you’d have asked me that question two years ago I’d have said take the free stuff and learn from that. What’s the point in paying for it when it’s all out there for nothing?
I was running my business, earning ‘enough’ to get by and managing my life but I had regular moments of stress and fear about what-ifs. I’d often wake at 4am and wonder if I was doing stuff right, what should I do if, how can I grow my business, how do I keep current? How am I going to get new clients? I could see others going forward – not just VA’s but other small business owners too – and I wanted to move my business forward too, and wanted greater security. I don’t believe it has to be feast or famine.
There was one thing all these other business owners had that I didn’t – support from someone who has the experience, someone who’s already where they want to be, someone they are accountable to!
Yeah, I’m accountable to Thames Water, British Gas and TV Licensing, but funnily enough they don’t motivate me.
Like many, I have no pension, I have a chronic disease, Addison’s, so life insurance is a no because it’s so expensive, I have a daughter at Uni and I have a goal to buy a holiday home in the next five years. There’s no way I can sustain a stress-free life ‘getting by’.
I knew where I wanted to be, but what was the most pain free route? I didn’t really want to go the scenic route and that’s not because I am impatient or don’t want to put the time in, I’m a damn hard worker but I don’t want to make any costly mistakes or lose my business on the way. I, like you, love what I do. I love my little Delegate VA Tower and I wanted to make it work even better for me.
Why would people put free resources out there if it doesn’t do the same as paid stuff?
I know you know that free stuff is simply a lead magnet or part of someone’s sales funnel. They don’t create this free content because they’re ‘simply passionate about helping other business owners succeed‘. They, we, give the bare minimum to get the right audience interested and then offer the full experience at a cost – after all no one should give everything away for free – you, me and everyone else has to eat, we’ve got bills to pay and we deserve to enjoy life – it can be very short.
So, in March 2018 I joined a membership programme and it was quite an investment, just over £450 for the year. I had been ‘watching’ the membership owner for quite some time and could see how she was at business and I liked how she came across as a person too. Her business (although she’s not a VA and never has been) is where I want to be so it seemed like she was the perfect person to invest in, still I was scared. That’s hard earned money I am giving over to someone I haven’t actually met in real life.
But it wasn’t long before it paid off. In fact I had recouped my expense within around 4 months simply by being in the group and growing my reputation.
Being with other business owners all wanting to succeed gives an unimaginable amount of motivation, it makes you want to succeed too. I’ve learned to set goals and smash them, I’ve learnt that I can shout about what I do and people are pleased – the support in the group is unbelievable, again because we’re all on a similar journey.
And this is why I have started my own membership programme, to support other Virtual Assistants’ to either launch, build or grow – or all three! I hate cliches, but it’s true – together we’re stronger! And best of all, I am still a Virtual Assistant so I know what’s relevant, current and what is working!
But is it just me who thinks investment pays off? I asked some fellow business owners, many of which are in the membership group I belong to, what they think about investing in their business versus the free resources… Have a read:
When I first started my online business, I spent a lot of time consuming free content, including Pat Flynn, Chris Ducker and Amy Porterfield‘s podcasts. But after about six months or so I came to the point where I realised I was just scratching the surface; if I wanted to make real progress in my business, I needed to go deeper. I bought courses from Pat, Chris and Amy but my first big investment was in Marie Forleo’s B-School which helped me to see the whole picture in terms of how I should be marketing my business. It was scary making the investment at the time, but I don’t think it’s any coincidence that once I began investing in my development I started to make much more money. There is so much high-quality free content out there but it takes time to find it (and you have to kiss a few frogs along the way). When you buy a course/membership what you’re paying for is the convenience of having it all in one place, in the most logical order…which can save you a ton of time. And when it comes to masterminds/coaching you’re paying for that personalised, 1-2-1 support that you just don’t get from listening to a podcast/reading a blog post. Like anything in life, you get what you pay for. And you need to spend money to make money. Granted. it can be challenging to find the cash in the early days of your business. But investing what you can afford at every stage is vital. If I hadn’t been wiling to spend a few hundred pounds on an online course five years ago to help me accelerate my progress – and keep increasing that spend as I got more successful – I doubt I’d have the business I have today.
My business is now over six years old. When I started out, I gleaned information from free local workshops, youtube videos, and trying and testing out various things. My business grew steadily and, if I am honest, maybe a little slowly. It was only when I started to invest in my business – both in terms of teaching and buying software, that I really started to grow. I have bought online courses that cost nearly £1000, and am currently in about three different memberships – all for different reasons. I have invested in coaching, and earlier this year, invested in a mastermind. I have learned that when you put your money on the table, so to speak, that is when the gears start to shift. Not only are you invested financially, but I think its a personal investment. As an entrepreneur, I see myself as worth investing in. I do think you should start off with baby steps though. And when you do buy a course or a membership, make sure you use them!
Without investment, I’d still be researching how to set up a business. When I find someone I resonate with I love to soak up their content. What this does is confirm to me that they’re an expert in their field. It gives me an indication of whether I’d like to invest in their paid services.
I know I need to invest. Being a business owner means that I have to do everything within my business and there are elements which naturally, I’m not fully confident about. I need guidance, assistance, clarity, accountability – I need someone to help me get things done. You don’t get this with free content. Investing in my business has enabled me to set up 2 businesses in the past 3 years. I have confidence in myself and know where I need to go for further development and help. I have a guide for my business. I’ve invested in excess of £5k in the last 3 years and an awful lot of time.
Working 1-1 has made me take action and kept me accountable. I’ve spent the money so I want to see results. And I have. Also invested in memberships and online courses which give me the skills I know I need to take me to the next level. I learn, I implement. I can ask questions if need be. Memberships also give you a great business community to bounce ideas around and generally be around like minded people again, who I learn from.
I’ve made use of both free and paid content. Free is great for inspiration, a quick reference or for initial research. Whilst with paid, which is more focused and easier to action, the results have happened much sooner with a higher return in investment than free content would have ever given.
Free stuff worked great in the beginning when I didn’t have a lot to invest. But it was only after I got a paid membership to a group that I got the feeling of belonging to a like-minded community. The members always motivate and lift each other. I started my tutoring business on my own. I perfected it using the group’s help. Without it, I would have been Googling for hours to find the right tools and materials. Now, if I have any questions I just pop it in the group and someone will definitely answer it.
I see more of a return when I’ve chosen to invest. I setup my branding and design business about 2 years ago, after many years in-house, I looked at all sorts of starter resources to get a feel for where I felt comfortable, and also wanted to trust the source. I love learning and some of the free resources helped me gain a better understanding of where I’d like to focus. I have ended up sticking with just a small mix of sources for support and ideas though, and have unsubscribed from so many! I also feel the consistency of learning through a select number of places has helped me focus, plus the physiological aspect of having paid (small or large!).
I definitely think that investing a bit of money up front can save you money (in the sense of time) in the future. Thinking of accounting software for example (multiple currencies and being MTD (Making Tax Digital) ready), investing in something which will grow with the business makes a lot of sense. The last thing you want to be doing when your business is growing and busy is bringing in a new system because the free one you used to use doesn’t have the features you need.
I’ve found that in setting up my new business, investing in courses and advice has been incredibly worthwhile, especially in making sure I’m pushing my business out to the right people. I really think you have to make sure you are choosing the right sorts of investments, those that you feel are going to have the biggest impact. I’ve completed a CIM course which has been great for theoretical stuff but actually has been pretty rubbish for stuff that I can practically use day to day – from that I’ve learnt that it’s not neccessarily the qualification factor! It’s about the hands on skills. Now when I’m looking at opportunities I’m looking for recommendations and stuff that is generally useful. For me initially, spending money on marketing activities has been my biggest investment so far, and I’m certainly starting to see some reward from that. You’ve got to put in some investment to get some out!
I spent 10 years ‘trying’ to build a business the free way and probably made about £2k in sales in that 10 years. I decided enough was enough and invested 2k in myself and my business with a Coach. That was less than 3 years ago and I’ve now generated almost half a million in sales since then. So, investing has changed my life! And every time I’ve invested since then, I’ve stepped it up to the next level again.
If you’re ready to stop losing time and get to where you want to be with minimum stress have a look at my Virtual Assistants’ Private Members’ Club.