7 Things One Year of Business Ownership Has Taught Me

If there’s one thing I am, I’m honest. Sometimes to a fault. If you want honest feedback on how a pair of pants fit, I’m not the person who will tell you that they fit great, skirting the point that they’re baggy in the butt and too tight around the waist. I’ll tell you to change.

I don’t think I was always like this. But for the last almost 1.5 decades, critiquing has just been an essential part of my line of work. I’ve learned to take it, and give it honestly, just the same. In critiques, the point isn’t to criticize the person or project or design. It’s to give good, intelligent feedback so they can make it better.

And like feedback for improvement, I also like to openly share my experiences. I don’t really feel they’re unique, but talking honesty about them may help someone in the same situation learn something new about theirs and make it better.

So here we are ONE YEAR after officially starting my business -albeit a side-hustle at the time - and I thought I’d share the top things that this last 365 days has taught me. It’s mainly so that others who have just started theirs, or are still just thinking about starting a business, can maybe learn from my mistakes and from my achievements.

1. Just start.

This is my first bullet because this is a motto I learned and I tell everyone who will listen. If you do not start, sure, you have nothing to lose. BUT if you do not start, you also have nothing to gain. So, just start. This time last year I still had the one friend I was doing a little logo work for here and there, but no “clients”. And I still wasn’t registered with the govt. (see below), BUT I consider this my anniversary date because this was the month I finally just started.

I took some cash I had saved (no debt in this business), and purchased my first year of website hosting and domain name with Squarespace, and started just writing up a list of tasks I could make a part of my business. Now I only do a handful of what I originally wrote, BUT that list got my juices flowing and helped me to continue to pull together my website. If I hadn’t just started, I’d still be without business, no Instagram, and no clients.

No cash saved? Ok, well work what little side hustle you can to start saving up, or you can get a free website, or even just a Facebook page. But excuses aren’t going to get you anywhere.

2. Getting legit is great, but paying taxes sucks.

It’s probably the sh*ttiest part of owning a business, but becoming a legal entity with your state not only makes you sound more professional (hello, LLC!) but protects your personal assets from your business assets in the event that god forbid you go bankrupt or get sued. The sucky part is that you gotta make sure you continue to put a portion of your revenue away for taxes. Of course, whether you register or not you still need to pay taxes, so make sure you plan accordingly.

My accountant (not necessary if you’re good with your books and organization, and you’re the only one getting paid), said to put away close to 50% just to be safe. It’s my first year, and since thankfully we’re not too dependent on my income, so it’s easy to do. But keep that in mind when you’re pricing a service or a product - close to half of what you pay yourself will need to go to taxes!

3. Have a few key systems in place before you get too busy.

I created a blog post a while ago with a list of tasks you should have in place before you get started, and I pretty much still stand by it. Wish I had them a little more cemented, and more of these in place before I started, but like my first bullet says, “just start”. So I did, and don’t regret it.

4. Get well organized.

I’m a really organized person. But for some reason, I didn’t really have a plan for how I was going to organize, save, and share back my client’s work. Once it started coming, I kinda just put it on my computer, and sometimes on my Gdrive too, but nothing was, and kinda still isn’t, consistent. Like my systems, I wish I had planned this out before getting too deep with too many clients, and now I need to go back and reorganize.

5. Really think about how much work you can take on.

Granted, I had 2 little kids when I started my side-hustle, while working a full-time job, and then baby #3 joined us pretty early on in my business venture, however, I did plan for how many hours I could take on each week (“Ok, so I can work evenings, when the kids are asleep, during naptime, and weekends…”) However, things don’t always go as planned. So with a baby who didn’t nap well, me being too exhausted to work too late, and at the same exact time Brooks was born, my husband’s workload increased substantially, I wasn’t pulling the hours I thought I would.

Thankfully, I didn’t have clients knocking down my door. I managed with what I had, and at a point, decided not to take on anymore new ones. But even today, I don’t work the hours I once thought I’d be able to - that is, not yet. As soon as this 6 month old starts dosing off for longer stretches I may be able to fit some more time in.

6. As long as you’re productive, it doesn’t matter how nice your office or your hardware is.

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know my laptop is failing. I’ve been using it for as long as I can, but when it restarts itself during a video conference with a client, you kinda give it the last straw. You may also know my office is far from Pinterest worthy… BUT you know what? Besides a conference call delay, I’ve been able to get all the tasks I need to get done without problem. Sure, I may not have as many likes when I post a picture of my free IKEA desk I scored on Facebook, and it’s certainly not getting any re-shares, but I’m also making the same amount of money, and not spending it on new stuff for my office… yet. I do have plans to invest a little, but I’ll be using my husband’s old laptop (new to me) once I save everything over, and I’ll be painting and decorating myself.

7. Do what’s right for you and your business.

Let me say it this way:

Name the top 3 closest grocery stores to your home. For me, it’s a Klein’s Shop Rite, a Safeway, and another Klein’s Shop Rite. But you know what? Today, I drove all the way to Aldi’s Grocery because they’re WAY cheaper, and have just as good produce as anywhere else. (WAY cheaper meaning my grocery bill is only 2/3 what it was, even with Walmart, and most of which is healthy veggies!)

“OK, so what?”, you say. “They’re a cheaper grocery store.” Yeah, but do you know how they get their prices so much cheaper? 90% of their products are Aldi branded but meet big brand standards, they have a cart “rental” system so they don’t need to hire someone to continue to collect carts, and encourage customers to bring their own bags by charging for their paper or plastic bags, all of which create savings that are then passed onto the customer.

My point? They are running a grocery store - one of the most common and long-time businesses there is. BUT they’re doing it differently, and the customers notice!

There are tons of others out there doing services or selling products that are similar to yours. Trust me, I’m right there with you. Figure out what sets you apart, and what’s right for your business, and of course makes you happy. However, I’m pretty sure if it makes your customer’s happy, it’ll make you happy too

For me, it’s that I have a strong love for branding, but I have the long-term professional experience to back it up. Not many can say that. So sure, I can do graphics, and social media, and websites, but I understand how to make it cohesive, and how to incorporate and strengthen your brand. How many can say they worked with well known brands for 13 years?

I hope this information has taught you something, or if anything given you a heads of of some things you might encounter on your first year of business. Have you started yet? Or are you in your first year? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email - I’d love to hear and respond to you.

www.laurenaustincreative.com (3).png

12 Reasons To Hire A Virtual Assistant

If you're here, you probably know V.A. is short for a Virtual Assistant. It's a position similar to a Personal Assistant who provides services that relieve his or her employer from the stress of tasks that are associated with managing one’s personal life, but typically a job focused with your own business goals in mind. The person is typically professionally trained in specific tasks and software to aid in reaching those goals.

The “virtual” part of the job is due to the fact that each VA is mostly, if not always, working remotely on tasks to help your business and/or personal life be successful and less overwhelming for you. I live in, and my business, Lauren Austin Creative, is officially located in, the Mid-Atlantic, just north of Baltimore, Maryland, but as of today I support clients in different states all closer to the West Coast. And they all started and run businesses completely different from each other.

My business primarily focuses on working with small businesses, providing creative, design, and social media services. I’ve been a professional designer for the last 13 years, so it is the perfect niche for my skills. However, V.A's provide different services and support a wide range of tasks, at all types of skill levels.

This task list isn't exclusive, but gives a general idea of some of the most popular tasks outsourced to V.A.'s:

  • Bookkeeping & Data Entry
  • Scheduling & Calendar Management
  • Payments & Invoices
  • Accounting
  • Course and Teaching Creation
  • Webinar Configuration
  • Event Planning
  • Design - Graphics, Web, Pinterest Pin, Inforgraphics
  • Website Management - Updates, SEO Configuration
  • Presentation Building - Powerpoint
  • Newsletters
  • Marketing - Emails, Sales, Click Funnels
  • Social Media Management & Strategy
  • Organizing Contest & Giveaways
  • Ad Creation
  • System Setup & Management
  • Writing, Proofreading & Editing
  • Resume Creation
  • Blogging
  • Content Creation
  • Customer Service
  • Personal Assisting - Shopping, Booking Appointments, Researching, Bill Pay, Travel Planning and Booking

Almost any task or role a traditional employee does can be delegated to a Virtual Assistant. But it's not only the tasks themselves that bring business owners a benefit. Below, find out 12 reasons why it's actually MORE beneficial to hire a Virtual Assistant than hiring a traditional employee:


#1 - No Paying Employee Taxes, Insurance, Or Benefits

How is that possible you ask? My package and hourly rates cover employee taxes, insurance, and benefits. These fees are also spread out across all my clients. Keeps things less expensive and more simple for you. Plus I do all the tax, insurance, and benefits prep work on my end, so you aren't left handling the paperwork.


reduce workload.png

#2 - Reduce Workload

Get back to doing the important job of running your business. As you saw in the general list above, VA's are skilled in multiple areas and take on the tasks that can become a bit overwhelming. Get your day-to-day organized and back to what you do well. Leave what tasks you don't want to us. Hate posting to social media, but know it's a way to drive traffic to your business? Hire a VA to write and schedule the posts for you!


leave it to the expert.png

#3 - Leave It To The Expert

You're great at your business, but maybe not the best designer, or social media manager. Don't struggle to product mediocre visuals when you can effortlessly have a Creative Virtual Assistant do them for you. Websites and logos, flyers and presentations - all created by a designer VA list myself. Trust me, you won't regret it.


save money.png

#4 - Save Money

Hiring someone to SAVE money?? You bet! Let's do the math - say you pay yourself $60 an hour from your own business, but a VA is $40. Instead of doing the mundane and time consuming tasks like answering emails yourself, paying someone to do it at half the cost allows your hourly time to be spent GROWING the business with your important ideas! Financially you can't afford NOT to delegate those tasks.


no overhead fees.png

#5 - No Over-head

A Virtual Assistant is VIRTUAL. This means no need to provide tangible office space, a cubical, telephone, or computer - you provide absolutely nothing. That equates to no overhead for you and no added expenses like a drawer full of post-it notes! V.A.'s supply their office needs at their own expense. 


Get what you pay for.png

#6 - Get What You Pay For

Working with most V.A's is pretty straight forward, as many of them work on retainers month to month. If you buy a retainer for 10 hours of work in August, you get 10 hours of work in August. You don't pay for sick leave or vacation days, and no using the time for bathroom or lunch breaks - nada. 10 hours retainer = 10 hours work.


get back leisure time.png

#7 - Get Back Leisure Time

Get back some of your personal time! We could all use more time. Time to focus on our business goals, time to spend with family, and time for ourselves. A Virtual Assistant can take on some of your tasks so you can get back some precious time to do whatever is important to you! What would you do with a couple extra free hours a week?


get high quality service.png

#8 - Get High Quality Service

V.A.'s strive to provide very productive results at a great value because our business success depends on how well our client’s (you) needs are met and how well your business succeeds. I want to help my clients' grow and reach their goals, so that I also grow and reach mine. This makes me very efficient, proactive, productive, and put in the added effort for my clients.



#9 - Scale-Ability

All businesses have ebbs and flows. There are busy seasons and slower seasons. A great way to deal with the change in flux is to hire a VA. Most VAs book with retainers or hourly packages. That lets you book more time the months you need it, and back off when things catch up and slow down. (Full-time internal employees don’t allow that flexibility and create more difficulty. Why on-board then let go with each change in the season?)


improve online presence.png

#10 - Improve Online Presence

It takes enough energy to run a business. Now try running a business while growing your social media presence and duplicating it across Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest platforms. Don't forget about communicatingf back and forth on those platforms with customers. Phew! It’s a lot! Hire a VA to be your social media guru, setting and updating your profiles, scheduling your posts and images, and replying to messages. 
Is your social media presence strong?



#11 - 24/7 Availablity

Some VAs (like myself) work outside the typical 9-5 work day. For instance I'm available evenings and weekends too because it fits my schedule (and my client's schedule) better. Hire a VA with a flexible schedule and give your customers access to you around the clock. Hiring a V.A. in a different time-zone can also be a benefit. Working on the East Coast, I can have work done for my client's on the West Coast to approve before their typical work day is over. Same goes for hiring a V.A. in another country. Figure out what works best for you.


product and service improvement.png

#12 - Product & Service Improvement

It’s your business so you know your products + services best. But a VA can do research, use analytics and data, and communicate with your customers to figure out how you can improve those services and products so you can be more successful. Get behind the scenes information from a Virtual Assistant who also wants the best for you.


So now that you see the benefits, what's the main reason you want to outsource to a V.A.? What tasks do you already have lined up? And what are you waiting for? Let's set up a free 30 minute discovery call to find out the best ways I can help you and your business grow!

www.laurenaustincreative.com (1).png