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5 Things I Learned From Founding My Business

Image of Hannah Wilkinson

*Definitions for the words in purple can be found at the bottom of this page*

I’ve always talked about setting up my own company and being my own boss, but was completely scared of actually doing it. I was in a stable job as an EFL teacher in Barcelona and didn’t see why I needed to upset that. I was also studying an MA at a business school in Barcelona and I was coming up to my final project, which was to create a company, write-up the business plan and pitch this to our professors. 

I decided to write my plan on what I know best, teaching English as a foreign language. This project became my baby. The more research I did into the online education industry and learnt how to run a business, the more convinced I became that I could actually do this. I worked day and night to write a realistic and complete business plan and finally got to pitch it to my professors. But after pitching my idea, I didn’t want to let the project go. I had worked so hard and it seemed a waste not to go through with this plan. So this, along with a very persuasive speech from my partner, finally pushed me to register this company. 

And so Virtually Fluent was created. Over the past year and a half I’ve been working my socks off to get this company ready to “launch” and help others learn English and use it in everyday life. This week, I’ve finally got to the point where I can release it to the world and hope all my work pays off. So, what did I learn along the way?

Never give up

Things will go wrong, that’s almost inevitable. I had two defining moments with my company where all I wanted to do was run away and go back to my comfortable life as an EFL teacher.

Woman Jumping

The first was about 6 months in from registering my company. The learning management system (LMS) I was using on my website was playing up and didn’t quite have all the functions I needed and I had to make the huge decision of changing to a different LMS. As well as some money going down the drain, all the time I had spent creating course content and the actual content itself needed to go. It was frustrating and felt like I’d never get to the point where I could offer people the courses I wanted, but with a bit of perseverance, I continued. I adapted to this new system, recreated even better content and now I’m so happy that I took this leap. 

The second defining moment for me was with my computer. Rather clumsily, I was working away on my laptop and managed to spill a cup of tea all over my keyboard. Within seconds the laptop screen went dark and it never came back to life. I needed to invest in a new laptop and, as my cloud had managed to deactivate itself, lost a whole host of documents. Again, all I wanted to do was give up.

And these were not the only problems, I have deleted files by mistake, had crashes on my website, taken longer than expected doing one small task, but you cannot give up. If anything, learn from those mistakes and come out stronger on the other end. 

Pen and pad of paper

Be open to new ideas

I am a one-woman band, so all my ideas come from me, but this means I have to make them come to life. With limited knowledge of technology, this was certainly challenging. Sometimes I had an exact function that I wanted on my website and no matter how much research I did, it simply wasn’t possible. I didn’t have the money to invest in tech help, so had to adapt my ideas to my skill set and be flexible. Sometimes it isn’t exactly how you imagined something, but it’s a close second-best.

Take advantage of learning new skills

I know what I’m talking about when it comes to teaching English, but setting up and designing a website, writing terms and conditions, filing accounts for a company and HR regulations are not exactly my areas of expertise. Not having outside investment meant I had to do everything myself. This seemed a little daunting at first, but now I’m extremely grateful for all the new skills I learnt along the way. I’ve learnt about design, how to write my company accounts, how to use social media and marketing channels, how to record and edit videos and many other skills. I’ve come out the other end all the wiser.

Switch off from time to time

I’m a bit of a workaholic and when I get started on something, I find it pretty hard to stop. Working from home means everything is ready, I have access to everything I need and my workstation is always prepared. But it’s so important to take time now and then to yourself. I can’t exactly preach about this because I’m still working on it myself, but when I do manage to take a walk or get a weekend away or even slump in front of the TV and catch up on a series all weekend, it does the mind a world of good.

Woman relaxing on a bed
Tidy desk

Commit to the project

When I registered my company, I was working a full-time job in Barcelona, not finishing work until 9 or 10pm. I only had the final hours in the day and weekends to get my company to where I wanted it to be. In the midst of all this, we decided to move country and return to the UK. We had the entire visa process of my partner to go through, organising the transport for our pets and furnishings over to the UK, setting up a new life in the UK and all this amongst the uncertainty of Brexit didn’t exactly make time management an easy task.

When we moved to the UK, I was in the fortunate position of living with my partner, who has a full-time job, so we could both bear the responsibility of living costs. This allowed me to fully commit to my company. I started teaching online part-time instead which freed up hours in the day for me to work on my company and since then I’ve been working towards this one week when I’m finally ready to release Virtually Fluent to the world.

Over the past year and a half, I’ve learnt so much and I’m finally excited to get people using my website. I’ll always continue improving, adding new courses and doing anything I can to help build an online English-learning community. Whether this all pays off or not, you’ll have to read about it in my blog in a few years…

Key Vocabulary

Below are 10 key words taken from this post with definitions. Please be aware that there are sometimes many definitions for one word, it will depend on context. 

Definition: To accept responsibility of something

In our blog: we could both bear the responsibility of living costs.

Definition: Awkward/ without skill

In our blog: Rather clumsily, I was working away on my laptop and managed to spill a cup of tea all over my keyboard.

Definition: Scary/ intimidating

In our blog: I had to do everything myself. This seemed a little daunting at first, but now I’m extremely grateful for all the new skills I learnt along the way.

Definition: Determination to achieve something

In our blog: It was frustrating and felt like I’d never get to the point where I could offer people the courses I wanted, but with a bit of perseverance, I continued.

Definition: To misbehave

In our blog: The learning management system (LMS) I was using on my website was playing up.

Definition: To publicly teach or advocate something

In our blog: But it’s so important to take time now and then to yourself. I can’t exactly preach about this because I’m still working on it myself.

Definition: To fall to/ sit in a low position because you are tired.

In our blog: When I do manage to take a walk or get a weekend away or even slump in front of the TV and catch up on a series all weekend, it does the mind a world of good. 

Definition: One person does everything

In our blog: I am a one-woman band, so all my ideas come from me, but this means I have to make them come to life.

Definition: During/ in the middle of something

In our blog: In the midst of all this, we decided to move country and return to the UK.

Definition: To waste or destroy something

In our blog: As well as some money going down the drain, all the time I had spent creating course content and the actual content itself needed to go.

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