I’m going to share a post here I made on RemoteProfessionals.com on the topic of virtual vs. brick and mortar businesses. I know that many people are interested in working in this manner — especially those who have just learned about the concept. A couple years ago, I was president of an international organization for these virtual workers and even now people interested in virtual assistance still contact me.
So, I thought I’d share my own take on the topic of outsourcing, virtual assistance, offsite specialists and remote professionals. You pick the phrase you prefer. I like Remote Professional and Offsite Specialist myself. ;o)
Now on to the topic :
Is it easier to run remote business than it is to run a traditional, brick and mortar one?
No. It’s harder.
Usually people who are new to the industry assume it’s easier. That’s a common mistake, and it’s a mistake which further complicates their startup phase and slows their rate of success.
First, you must know how to run a business. Additionally, you must nurture and help grow your clients’ businesses. Success in the outsourcing field takes a great deal of discipline, motivation, and dedication. Once you have been doing this for a few years, you understand the impact of being trusted with someone else’s businesses. You know the importance and the responsibility inherent in that bond of trust.
When individuals are just beginning in the outsourcing field, they don’t yet understand that. For instance, when people first start, they don’t realize that offering a reference or giving a referral is putting their own reputation on the line. They don’t know that subcontractors and peers who don’t maintain the same ethical and philosophical standards — and those without the same level of expertise — will hurt their own business, your client’s business, your relationship with that client, and your business. Learning these lessons takes time, and they can be painful lessons.
Once you have this knowledge, you constantly strive to improve the return on investment for your clients. You spend time, money and effort growing your professional network. You mentor and train promising new individuals in the outsourcing field. You keep a list of the subcontractors you have used successfully and you send them your best clients with increasing confidence. You develop ways to minimize the effort required by the client to achieve their desired results. That is the key to your value to them. That is what makes you essential.
At the point that you become essential to your clients, you become a business partner. Once this happens, they will send you business through referrals and additional projects. They will trust you and lean on you and you will enjoy your work even more. You will begin turning work away. You will only keep the BEST clients and you will help others to build their fledgling businesses by sending work to those who have proven their skills, dedication and ethics.
At this point, you are no longer “hungry” for work. You no longer accept any client that jingles your phone line or casts their shadow on your inbox. You are selective and you can begin to evaluate the sacrifices you have made to arrive at this point. You can now see clearly the cost that your family had to pay while you worked long, LONG hours and shortchanged other areas of your life.
Now is the time to begin balancing your life and putting the joy back in. I don’t know anyone who has made this journey that has done it while maintaining their “life-work” balance. I believe it’s impossible to build a business single-handedly and maintain a perfect relationship with your spouse, children, family, friends, etc.
It’s natural to become all consumed. You are driven and dedicated. If you aren’t, you probably didn’t make it to this point in the game. There is a book I read many years ago — “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,” by Robert Heinlein. I would have to say a successful outsourcing business is a harsher one. Building an outsourcing business, explaining to family, friends and business associates what it is that you do, carving out a niche, marketing, planning, working and getting to the point that you can truthfully say “I have arrived” is a feat. But, it’s a feat that has proven worthwhile for most people I know.
If you are one of those people, appreciate your family and friends who were supportive through this long process. You owe them. You owe them BIG. Now is the time you start paying it back. Now is the time to let go of that “white-knuckled” grip you have on your mouse, and get out a bit more.
Push away from the computer, now. Go have fun!