It’s an interesting question to consider, and the more I thought about it, the answer is not what I originally thought it would be.

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Today, I’m a techie virtual assistant and online business manager in training who helps coaches, trainers and consultants with online technology and marketing so that they can have less stress, more time, and they can focus on making money. But what advice would I give my younger self, knowing now what I didn’t know then? I was thinking I would be giving advice to myself starting out a number of years ago. But no. What if I could go back to my 22-year-old self and give her advice?

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When I was 22, I was working part time as a veterinary assistant. After working part-time for a few years, I would then work full time for a few years (which wasn’t guaranteed, but it’s the way it worked out). I loved this job and I would have been quite happy doing it forever. However, my boss was no spring chicken. He would eventually retire and close the business. I had no particular dreams or plans for what I would do when that day came, and the idea of starting my own business wasn’t even in my realm of awareness.

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I worked as a veterinary assistant for seven years. After my boss retired and closed the business in 2007, it took me a few years of trial and error, doing different training programs, etc. to figure out what I wanted to do and get started on that path.

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If I could go back and give advice to my 22-year-old self, it would this:

“While you are working part-time, use your days off wisely. Research what you think you want to do. Go through your trials and errors. Take the courses you feel you need to take, even if that’s not what you end up doing. Experiment. It’s going to take you a while to find your path. Once you do discover something else that you love so much that you would be happy doing it all day long even if you weren’t getting paid, start to build that business and clarify your niche. It’s going to take you a while to get it off the ground, to build a reputation in your niche, to create a steady income, and it’s much less stressful to do this when you have income from a job to rely on, rather than waiting until you are unemployed. Start now and keep building, even when you are working full-time. By the time your boss retires, your business should be ready for you to step into full-time.”

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Looking at the timeline from when I was 22 up until my boss retired, it would have been about the same amount of time that it took me to figure out what I wanted to do, what my niche would be, and to grow my business to the point where the income was reliable.

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In addition, I would tell my 22-year-old self to, “Set money aside and be prepared to hire a good business coach, either before exiting your job or immediately afterward, to help you set goals and continue to grow your business, but at a faster rate.”

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I chose to do it the hard way, struggling to find my way and to slowly build a business by myself while I was unemployed, and waiting until I eventually built up the business enough that I could hire a business coach.

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I don’t regret my journey one little bit, but I can’t help wondering what my business would look like today if I had known then what I know now.