The Secrets of Her Success: Erin Mort Left a Secure Corporate Job to Start Her Own Business. Today, the Successful Entrepreneur Is Teaching Others How to Follow in Her Footsteps.
A few months after leaving a corporate job to start her own company, Erin Mort said her life had completely changed for the better. Here, the founder of OSP Training Academy tells writer Amy Hourigan why she decided to go into business for herself, the lessons she learned along the way, and the advice she has for other women who are contemplating a similar move.
Amy Hourigan: Congratulations on your success, Erin. You left a good job to strike out on your own. What prompted the move?
Erin Mort: I had been climbing the corporate ladder, but I never felt like I had a true passion for what I was doing. I remember coming home from vacation and thinking that it wasn’t right that I only got to live like this five or 10 days a year. I wanted to travel and vacation more, and to really have control of my schedule. I was also struggling with my mental health and found it difficult to focus on self-care while working in a demanding corporate job with the traditional nine-to-five—or, more often than not, eight-to-seven—schedule. I needed to figure out how to create a job that worked for me. Too, my partner, a physical therapist at the time, started to take on travel assignments, and I wanted the flexibility to join him. In the end, the decision to start a business was a combination of wanting to create a job I enjoyed, needing to be in control of my own schedule for my mental well-being, and the desire to travel more with my partner.
AH: How did you land on the idea for a virtual assistant training program?
EM: A few months after starting my virtual assistant business, my life had completely changed. Not only was I in charge of my schedule, I was prioritizing self-care, traveling with my partner and working with clients I loved—and I was making three times my corporate salary. After years of struggling to figure out what I wanted to do to with my career, I had finally figured it out. I realized that many other people were also struggling. People who had been following my journey on social media reached out, asking how I got started. I began helping them on the side, and one by one, they started replacing their corporate incomes, quitting their jobs and working for themselves full time online. After helping multiple people, I pivoted from being a virtual assistant to teaching other people how to start their own businesses. I do this through my program, the OSP Training Academy.
AH: Was this your first business idea?
EM: Throughout my 20s, I had tried and failed at a few different businesses. I tried four network marketing companies, each time thinking, “This will be the one that works!” I tried to start a few blogs that never really got off the ground. At one point, I even invested $5,000 in a course that was supposed to teach me how to create my own courses, but I had no idea what I could teach at that time in my life. My current business came to me in a much more organic sense, in that I became a virtual assistant, learned what worked, what didn’t and how to help others, and then turned that experience into a program that now teaches others how to do the same.
AH: You’ve said you had to set boundaries when you became a business owner. Can you tell us more about that?
EM: Boundaries are essential if you want to succeed as a business owner. First, I had to set boundaries with the people I surrounded myself with. Many times, people will say things like: “If your business doesn’t work, you can always get another job.” Their intention is to be helpful or supportive, but what they’re really doing is imposing their own self-doubt onto you. I realized early on that I had to be protective over who I talked to because I couldn’t be surrounded by negative self-talk or self-doubt.
I also had to set boundaries around how I spend my time. It can be difficult to say no to people, but once I realized I didn’t have to accept every invite, every call, every request to pick my brain, I started to have a lot of time to work on myself and my business. The boundaries I set with myself pertain to things like not taking on more clients than I can handle or saying yes to opportunities for more income when I know what I really want is more flexibility in my schedule. This has allowed me to build my business around my lifestyle, and not the other way around.
AH: You’re a big believer in having the right mindset before you go into business for yourself. What do you mean by that?
EM: When I look back on my time in multilevel marketing, there was never a time where I believed I would succeed. I bought into the idea that the MLMs were selling, but I never bought into the fact that I, too, could be successful. Therefore, everything I did reflected that mindset. I didn’t promote myself on social media with confidence. I did everything reluctantly. I showed up like someone who didn’t believe in my business, because I didn’t.
When I started my business as a virtual assistant, I had the opposite mindset. I knew I was going to be successful, no matter how long it took. I was so passionate about it and so excited that nothing could stand in my way. I even convinced myself that I’d start making $10,000 a month within four months of starting my business, and it happened. There was no plan B.
AH: What helped you position your company for success?
EM: Market research is important. Many businesses put out offers for a market that doesn’t exist or try to sell something no one needs. It’s important to conduct market research to be sure there’s a market for your offer. Additionally, market research will help you with your actual marketing. When someone tells you what they’re struggling with, you now know how to market to them. When someone tells you what they’re working toward, you understand how to demonstrate how you’ll get them there.
AH: How do you address the operations side of your business while serving customers?
EM: Outsource! For a long time, I was a one-woman show. I eventually hired my own virtual assistant, then additional supporting roles, and eventually my business was bringing in enough income that my partner left his job as a physical therapist to help me run the business. You’ll likely need to hire someone way before you consider yourself ready.
AH: What are the pros and cons of working for yourself?
EM: The cons of working for yourself are mostly that it is easy to blur the lines between you and your business. You’ll find yourself thinking about it almost all the time, and there will be many times where you’ll work on a weekend or late at night to get everything done. However, while you’re putting in those hours, you know you’re working on something you own. I used to bend over backwards for employers only to receive minimal appreciation and negligible salary raises. Now, if I put in extra work, I see the effort reflected in a business that I’m passionate about and that I own.
As for the pros, they outweigh the cons no matter how many ways I spin it. I have time freedom, location freedom, and have made more money in the past few years than I would have probably made in 20 years in a corporate job. I have traveled and lived more in the past few years than I have in the past decade. If I am unhappy with something in my business, I change it. I can work with people who light me up and do work I’m passionate about. It all boils down to freedom.
AH: How has owning a business changed your life?
EM: For starters, for the first time in my life, I have complete control over my schedule. I work when I want, I wake up when I want, and I prioritize self-care. Second, I am constantly growing and evolving. When I think back to my life as an employee, I felt like generally the same person year after year. However, when I think of my life as a business owner, I like to joke that I shed a new layer every few months because I’m continually being pushed out of my comfort zone. Being a business owner has also allowed me to do work that I enjoy and that makes me feel like I have a purpose. I typically enjoyed some of my past jobs, but I never felt like I was truly where I was meant to be. Now I can choose the work I do, and that’s been incredible. Lastly, I can hire people and provide them with the work environment and salary I wished I’d had as a corporate employee, which brings me full circle.
AH: What advice do you have for other women who want to start their own business?
EM: If you have even the tiniest inkling that you want to start a business, just start. So many people think they have to have all these skills or experience, or they’ll wait until they’re ready, but you’re never going to be ready. There’s always going to be something you don’t know. You’re going to make mistakes. But that’s how you become the best business owner you can be. Just start.
Next, I would say to drown out any noise from anyone who isn’t supporting you. Don’t worry about what other people think. Remember: No one who is doing more than you will ever put you down. If you’re nervous that someone from your past will see you and make fun of you, who cares?
Lastly, remember that success can take time. If you look at someone else who accomplished something in a certain amount of time and compare yourself, you’re going to be disappointed. We all have different backgrounds, different experiences, and different circumstances. There is zero reason to compare yourself to others.
AH: If you had to go back to the beginning, is there anything you would do differently?
EM: No. One of the tougher lessons I’ve had to learn is how to have difficult conversations, and while I wish I would have learned that lesson sooner, it brought me to exactly where I’m meant to be.