I’m a Gemini.* That’s the sign of the Twins, for those of you who are zodiac-impaired. The Twins symbolize two different sides of a personality, which I totally relate to. I have a Work Life side and a Personal Life side. I am an ambivert, which is an extroverted introvert. I even live in two different parts of the country! (Rhode Island for the warmer months, and South Carolina in the winter.) So I like and can relate to people and things with duality. Not in a Jekyll and Hyde way, but in a good way.
And that’s where Clarins Beauty Flash Balm comes in. I first heard about this product years ago in a Lisa Eldridge tutorial. Lisa is an experienced, insanely talented British makeup artist, and she has never steered me wrong with her product recommendations. So when she recommended the Beauty Flash Balm, I went for it.
This product can be used as a primer. It has a tightening effect, which makes it my go-to for clients with mature skin. It’s also great if your skin needs a pick me up the morning after a night out or when you are getting over a cold and your skin looks dull. But take note–you have to apply this product properly or it will backfire on you. Apply a thin layer with your hands, as a brush will absorb too much of it. Make sure you have covered your entire face (not undereyes though) but do not rub it in too much as that will change the consistency. It’s more that you want to smooth it on then rub it in. You feel me? Then immediately–and I mean immediately–apply your foundation. If you wait too long, the Beauty Flash Balm will dry and become a mask, which I’ll get to next. You can apply your foundation with a brush and gently blend with a sponge. Don’t buff it in, okay? I’ve found that MAC Face & Body Foundation works really well with the Beauty Flash Balm. Every time I use this combo on a client, someone comments on how gorgeous the client’s skin looks.
Now for the Beauty Flash Balm’s second side: the face mask. To use it as a mask, apply the product with your hands and rub it in a little. Leave it on for 15 minutes then rinse off. Your skin will look glowy and feel soft as hell after. I think the term “radiance” is overused in the beauty industry and often just a bullshit false claim for many products, but in this case, using the Beauty Flash Balm as a face mask will give your skin some legit radiance. This is my favorite face mask, and there’s nary a skin type it wouldn’t work on.
As great as this product is, you are not supposed to use it every day. (Some of you will ignore this paragraph, but just remember that a makeup artist and licensed esthetician of almost ten years is giving you this advice for a reason.) It’s one of those products your skin can get used to, at which point it will lose its efficacy. So if you are using it as a primer, save it for special occasions. And if you use it as a face mask, I would recommend doing so only two or three times a month.
Clarins Beauty Flash Balm is not cheap at $48, but since you wouldn’t be using it every day–right?–you would have it for a while. And if you are a Sephora VIB or Rouge member, you’ll have access to some good sales and discounts in the coming weeks.
If you want to be two faced in the best possible way, this product is worth it. It really delivers. There is a reason it’s a makeup artist favorite. This Gemini would not lie to you.
Have a beautiful day 🙂
*Actually, I’m a Temini–on the Taurus/Gemini cusp–but playing to my Gemini side works better for this post.
I love Kristen Bell and I think this would be a great holiday makeup look, so let me break it did-down.
Foundation: Full coverage, matte finish. Concealer under eyes and where needed. Make Up For Ever Ultra HD foundation would be a good choice.
Powder: Matte powder all over. Rimmel Stay Matte Powders are up to this job.
Highlighter: Yes, on cheekbones. It’s subtle though. Benefit Watts Up applied sparingly would work well.
Contour/Bronzer: Contour under cheekbones. I’m a big fan of the Make Up For Ever Sculpting Kits for this.
Cheek Color: A minimal amount of a peachy blush, like MAC Melba.
Eyebrows: Soft taupe brow powder filling in sparseness, accentuating the arch and extending slightly at ends. A very 1950s/Marilyn Monroe shaped brow. Brow powder color will depend on your actual brow color.
Eye Makeup: Gold shadow all over lid. Laura Mercier Gold Seduction would work well. Lighter gold shadow, like MAC Ricepaper, in inner corners. Medium brown matte shadow, like MAC Wedge, in crease, slightly extended at outer corners. Black gel liner, like MAC Fluidline in Blacktrack, smoked out into brown (MAC Brun) or black (MAC Carbon) eyeshadow at top lashline. Brown shadow at outer 2/3 of bottom lashline. Thin brown pencil (like Bobbi Brown Perfectly Defined Gel Eyeliner in Scotch) or gel liner smudged out/softened on outer 2/3 bottom lashline.
Mascara: Yes, black mascara top and bottom. Dior Diorshow is my favorite for top lashes. Clinique Bottom lash mascara is great for bottom lashes, as it’s a beauty tubes mascara, so no smudging.
False Lashes: Yes, strip lashes that are fuller on the outer ends.
Lipliner: Yes, same color as the lipstick. MAC Subculture would work for this.
Lipcolor: MAC lipstick in Cherish would be a good match. It’s a soft muted peachy beige with a satin finish. In all of the pictures I’ve looked at, I’m seeing that the center of Kristen’s bottom lip looks lighter. That’s a trick to make it look fuller. Her makeup artist likely applied a gloss with shimmer in it to that area, as shimmer particles reflect light and give the illusion that an area is fuller. So a clear or peachy gloss with shimmer dotted on the center of the bottom lip will do the trick. MAC Florabundance Lipglass would be my choice, but alas, it has gone into the underworld of The Discontinued Products.
This look would work on a lot of people. The shape of the eye makeup works especially well on smaller eyes, and gold shadows often look great on medium skintones. The lipstick may not be as flattering on very fair skin, so you could go for something more pink. This look is kind of classic Old Hollywood with a modern nude lip. I think it’s a great one for a holiday party.
Kristen’s makeup artist for this look was Simone Siegl.
I’m solidly in my mid-30s (and it’s a great age, FYI). I’m part of the Oregon Trail Generation–those born in the late 70s through the early 80s–so I feel I am experienced and wise enough to offer advice to Millennials. You know those “Letter to My 25 Year Old Self” posts that pop up every once in a while? They are advice posts disguised as self help/growth posts, but I know what’s up. And I’m into it. But as much as I want to, I’m not going to give you life advice, Millenn’. Because you’re going to date him/her anyway. You’re going to have meltdowns over a bad day at a job you know you need to leave. You’re going to have nightmare roommates, landlords and neighbors and you are going to bitch about them until you move and realize no living situation is perfect. But you need to go through that yourself, boo.
What I do feel qualified to give you is beauty advice. I’ve been in the industry for almost a decade and oh, the things I have learned. I meet women my age and older with beauty issues that bother them, and they are often things that could have been prevented. So in this gem of a blog post, I’m going to tell you some things you can start doing right now that will allow Future You to put your best face forward. Aging is a natural part of life, but physical signs of premature aging don’t need to be. When I see a 37 year old woman with skin damage that she inflicted upon herself in her teens and 20s, I want to put us both in a time machine so I can teach her what to do to prevent that damage. (I would also of course make a quick stop to March 9, 1997 and save Biggie’s life.)
I take care of my skin, but I wish I had known what I’m about to tell you fifteen years ago. What you do in your teens and 20s dictates what your skin will look and feel like when you get older. You might think “Whatever, it’s fine if I have wrinkles when I’m 70.” (And it is.) But I’m not just talking about the senior citizen years of your life. I’m talking about you at 35. And trust me, many of you will be upset if your skin starts looking like what you’ve envisioned at 50 when you hit your mid 30s. Because you will be in your 30s before you know it. Believe that.
I may not be able to convince you to stop listening to Drake or lay off the selfies for a bit, but I can help your beauty life. Think of it as an investment in Future You.
Let’s get into it.
Protect Your Skin. If you want to jump start the premature aging process, spend as much time as possible in the sun. Nothing causes physical signs of aging–wrinkles, lines, sagging and dark spots–like UVA and UVB rays. In my opinion–and I’ve only seen like a thousand faces up close and personal–sun damage is the number one cause of premature aging. I can tell a sun worshipper the moment they sit in my chair, even if they are a reformed sun worshipper. Once the damage is done, it’s there unless you have a lot of money, time and high pain threshold for the procedures that might be able to reverse it. So SPF, SPF, SPF. Always. I think I’ve made my point.
Step Out of The Tanning Booth. These things are horrible. Not only do they increase your risk of melanoma by 75%, but they contain only UVA rays, which get to the deepest layer of skin and wreak havoc while they are there. The bulbs in tanning beds/booths can emit as much as 12 times the amount of UVA as the sun. That speeds up premature aging, which again, I’m pretty confident no one wants to do. Listen, I get it–you want to look tan. I too like the look of a tan on my skin. I think it makes my eyes look brighter and my skin look healthier. But there are safe ways to get the same effect. Spray tans and self tanners have come a long way since they came on the market, and there are some fantastic formulas out there. If you’re a Millennial who goes to a tanning salon, I beg you to stop.
Drop Some Acid. Hyaluronic acid, girlfriend. I am all about The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid, which comes in a dropper (hence my perfect pun). If you get ahead of skin hydration at a young age I mean, damn, your skin will look and feel amazing as you age. You can tell people you are into the No Makeup Makeup trend so they don’t get jealous that your skin is that good. Want to know more about it? Peep my blog post about that magical skin elixir.
Request The Ret. If you can get your hands on a prescription retinoid in your 20s, do not pass up that opportunity. A lot of women experience some adult acne in their early to mid 20s, and some dermatologists will prescribe a retinoid to combat it. I’ve found (both in my experience and what I’ve heard from others) that a lot of derms will prescribe a retinoid for you if you ask for it. They know it works. And from what I’ve been told, most health insurances will cover prescriptions for acne, as it is considered a medical issue. So if you can access to it and it’s affordable for you if it’s not covered by your insurance, do ittttttttt. If you want to know more about retinoids, I’ve got a blog post about that too.
Put Down The Tweezers. In this Era of the Thick Brows, over-tweezing is not as much of an epidemic as it’s been in past decades, but there are still some compulsive brow tweezers out there. I’m all for tweezing away stray hairs or manicuring your brows into a shape you like. But if you’re heavily tweezing, just make sure that is a shape you will also like in your 70s. Repeated over tweezing will eventually damage the follicle, stunting hair growth. And keep in mind that hair growth slows as we age anyway. Accidentally tweeze a brow hair at age 12? Give it two weeks. It’ll be back. (But don’t ever wait around for a guy/girl like that. Screw it–I have to give some life advice.) Tweeze that same hair at 67? It may be a few months before it grows in. Tweezing the middle of the unibrow is fine–unless you think you may want to go full Frida Kahlo some day–but avoid tweezing above the brow, as that is where part of your shape comes from. Many of the women over age 60 I see have thin brows, and they usually almost immediately tell me some version of “I tweezed my brows too much when I was younger.” It makes sense, because these women were in their teens or 20s in the 1960s and early 1970s, when thin brows were en vogue. But decades later, they paid the price. Consider this your cautionary tale.
Don’t Be a Picker. For the love of God, stop popping and picking your pimples! That is the best way to create acne scars and uneven skintone, both of which can only typically be eliminated by expensive and painful laser treatments that don’t even always completely work. Each time you poke a gel manicured nail into a blemish, you are causing tears in the skin. Frequent tearing–or even one big dig (shoutout to Boston)–will likely cause a divot in the skin. And you know what can’t cover that? Makeup. Sometimes those scars you form from picking and popping will turn dark as they heal, and those kinds of dark spots often don’t fade or cover well. Why put yourself in that position? Resist the urge to pick and pop and your Future Face will thank you for it.
Respect The Basic Trifecta. Cleanse every night, moisturize every morning and exfoliate 2-3 times a week. (Skip the exfoliation if you are using a retinoid or any other products that are contraindicated.) If you are using the right products, these three very simple steps will be your building blocks to good skin. They will also only take up maybe six minutes per day and yes, you do have time that.
Lose The Lighter. Do Millennials even smoke? I feel like I rarely see young people (wow, yup, I said that) smoking anymore. I don’t know if it’s because you can’t smoke anywhere or even within 20 feet of anywhere, so maybe they are only smoking inside their homes. In my day–up until the summer after I graduated from college–smoking was allowed inside of bars, and it seemed like everyone took advantage of that. You know that smoking is horrible for your lungs and overall poison for your whole body. But do you know how it affects the skin? Yes, wrinkles and lines around the lips from the repeated lip pursing (which I think you can also get from frequent duck-faced selfies, so be careful) will happen. I think smoking also changes the texture of the skin. Much like I can tell a sun worshipper when they sit in my chair, I can also usually tell a smoker when I touch their skin. It’s often both oily and dehydrated, typically with enlarged pores. The only thing that should be smokin’ is that picture of you in your favorite OOTD. So do yourself and your wallet a favor and QUIT.
Listen, this isn’t about being superficial or vain. Skin is the largest organ, so I personally like to take care of it the same way I take care of my liver, bones, etc. Think about this: 86 years old is the average life expectancy for a Millennial. Do you want as many of your organs to be in as good shape as possible for as long as possible, or do you want to spend a couple decades having issues because of completely preventable damage you inflicted on yourself? I mean, it’s your choice.
Do other beauty bloggers talk about life expectancy in their posts? Probably not. But my brain, you see, is not one of a normal human. Like one of the artists who works for me said recently “You think a lot!” I do, and most of my thoughts have to do with improvements–improving my business, my relationships, my health, etc. If I can help you improve one facet of your life–by preventing some early signs of aging–that makes me so happy.
Most people wait until they see signs of damage or premature aging to start doing something about their skin. In many cases, it’s too late to make much of a difference. But you, you are in this awesome position of being able to prevent or slow down some of those things that may bother you in the future. Do you realize how awesome that is?
You’ve got a lot of possibilities in front of you, Millennial. And you’ll also inevitably encounter some challenges. Why not avoid or slow down some of the skin issues that may concern you in 10-20 years? This certainly won’t be the biggest challenge of your life, but if you already have a lot going on, why add concerns about the way you look to that? From what I’ve observed, it does bother many people (or at least women) when they start to see signs of skin damage or premature aging. Some people are deeply bothered by those issues, to the point where it affects their confidence. If you can avoid having those concerns so you can fully focus on the important things–your career, your family, how many Instagram followers you have–why wouldn’t you?
It’s the end of the Prep School series. Bittersweet, isn’t it? Before you head out into the entrepreneurial world, let’s go over what we have learned. (Well, what you have learned. I already knew this stuff.)
Some friends and relatives won’t understand that you need to prioritize your business over socializing, at least for the first few years.
You’re going to be broke for some span of time.
There may be people in your life who expect you to not charge them for the goods or services your company offers.
You’re probably going to work every single day, and some of the folks around you will have a hard time understanding that.
Owning a small business is not the norm. The percentage of people in the US who own their own business has varied between 12% – 14% over the past five years, but that still means at least 75% of people are not entrepreneurs. Unless you run in heavily entrepreneurial social circles–and again, LET ME IN if that’s the case–there’s a good chance very few around you own a business. So yeah, they may not get your lifestyle until you explain it to them. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m a big believer in learning about the work schedules, lifestyles and priorities of my friends and family so I can understand them better. If you’re going to ask those around you to understand where you are coming from, you’ve got to do the same for them.
If you are considering opening your own business, it’s important that you understand the sacrifices you will likely need to make. Then you’ll have to weigh them and against the advantages of being your own boss. Once you do that, you should be able to articulate to your friends and family how your career will impact your life and why that’s worth it to you.
Everyone has their own reasons for opening their own business. I had three major ones. 1) I wanted to wake up and be happy to go to work. I had dreaded my jobs for too long and did not want to spend the rest of my working life hating how I spent the majority of my time. 2) I wanted be cold as little as possible. I knew that entrepreneurship would eventually bring me the freedom to live somewhere warmer during the winter months. 3) I wanted to be able to spend as much time as possible with my friends and family. Yes, I often had to miss out on get-togethers and parties during the early years (and still sometimes do now), but ever since I went full time, I’ve been able to do things like leave at 2:00pm–avoiding rush hour–to drive to another state for my brother’s birthday, help my mother prepare for our Big Italian Thanksgiving or take a friend to doctor’s appointment, all without using personal time or having to get permission. So although I’ve asked a lot in terms of understanding from those I’m close to, it’s so I can spend more time with them.
If you decide to open your own business, you’re going to be met with a lot of challenges. There’s no way around that. But if you have support from your family and friends, that will make it infinitely easier to face those challenges. If you don’t explain your lifestyle to them, they may contribute to the challenges you will have, and who wants that? A little communication goes a long way, so just do it.
I’m taking a break from my uber popular Prep School series to write about the new skincare product I’m loving. (It’s not new to the market and I’ve been using it for a while, but I wasn’t using it correctly, so it’s like it’s new.) You know when you are crushing on someone real hard? Like they make your days better and you catch yourself smiling whenever you think of them? That’s how I feel about hyaluronic acid. Particularly, the Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5 by The Ordinary.
If you haven’t heard of hyaluronic acid before, here’s the Cliffs Notes (are those still a thing?). Hyaluronic acid is something our bodies naturally produce. It’s a clear substance that hangs out in our skin, inside our joints, in our peepers and in other tissues. It lubricates, helps hold in collagen (which would be what the Fountain of Youth flowed with, if it were real), provides moisture and gives elasticity and flexibility to our joints and tissues. Important stuff, right?
As we age, a lot of the good stuff our bodies naturally produce gets depleted. At least our society really values the wisdom of its older citizens though, right? Always a bright side. Anyway, there are foods you can eat and supplements you can take to slow the aging process internally, but that’s not my forte. What I can speak on is the products you can use externally to help your skin look and feel its best. And hyaluronic acid is one of those products.
Don’t be fooled by the “acid” part of the name, though. It’s not an exfoliator like glycolic acid, salicylic acid or alphahydroxy acid (nor will it get you high). This miracle product helps the skin by allowing it to retain water. That’s usually not thought of as a desirable thing–although maybe “PMS” will start trending someday–but it is good for the epidermis. Hyaluronic acid molecules can hold up to 1,000 times their weight in water, which is more than any other biological substance. That shit cray.
Sagging skin is partially due to the lack of water in those tissues, and hyaluronic acid keeps that water in. Sun exposure can also cause skin dehydration, but hyaluronic acid can help keep the moisture in so skin looks and feels healthier. Hyaluronic acid plumps up the skin and minimizes the appearance of wrinkles when used consistently and correctly. It’s often used in fillers and is very effective in that capacity. It also doesn’t tend to cause side effects like other fillers can, since hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in the body so it isn’t recognized as a foreign substance when it is injected.
There are a ton of moisturizers and serums out there that contain hyaluronic acid. But my experience is that products that contain the highest effective percentage of the ingredient without having to compete with a ton of other ingredients work best. (For example, I recommend a prescription retinoid cream over a moisturizer that includes retinol.) Part of the problem is that hyaluronic acid molecules are livin’ large. They are “bruisers” (which is what my father calls any male child who is big for his age). When molecules are that big, they can’t penetrate the skin and are therefore ineffective. But The Ordinary HA (I’m done with typing the whole product name every time) contains hyaluronic acid molecules in varying weights, which allows them to penetrate the skin. It also contains Vitamin B5, which helps increase surface hydration.
Because it doesn’t contain oil, The Ordinary HA is great for acne-prone skin or anyone who doesn’t normally do well with oily products. You can have both acne and dehydrated skin, so this is a good choice for someone in that category.
HA works great in humid environments. So if you live in the Southeast in the summer, hollahhhhhhh! But if you’re reading this from Minnesota in February, don’t you worry. HA can still work for you. The key (and you should do this regardless of your locale) is to apply HA right after you wash your face or get out of the shower. Apply a small amount–a dime-sized amount is more than enough for your face, neck and decolletage–after you have lightly patted your skin dry. Your skin should be damp when you apply HA, not dripping wet. Apply the product to your face, neck and chest and lightly rub it in. You don’t need to massage this in. Your skin will absorb it with the quickness. If you’ve applied too much, your skin might feel tight or dry. So scale it back, mama. It’s normal for it to feel a little tacky, but that will go away as soon as you apply moisturizer, which you will do next. A thin layer of that will get rid of the tacky feeling and will help seal the HA in.
I apply HA once or twice a day. (Every morning and every other night when I am not using retinol.) Don’t overdo it by applying it more often than that, and don’t use a huge amount thinking that will help either. Going buck wild with skincare products does not yield faster results and can actually cause adverse effects (on your skin and to your wallet). I started seeing a difference from HA after a month, but disclaimer: I have good skin to start with because of the rest of my routine and my diet. So your visible results time may vary depending on the condition of your skin. And please make sure to do a patch test before committing to daily use of HA. Simply apply a small amount on your neck and wait 24-48 hours to see if you have a reaction. It’s not a product known to cause allergic reactions or irritation, but I recommend doing this with any skincare product.
I can’t promise that HA or any other skincare product will work for you. But I do believe that The Ordinary HA is a fantastic product, and science supports the claim that HA is a super hydrator. Hydrated skin looks and feels better (and younger, if that’s your jam), plus it allows makeup to blend more easily. And who wouldn’t want that? If you’re interested, you can buy it here.
Like Shark Tank’s Lori Greiner says, “Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” Tim Ferriss of “The 4-Hour Workweek” would disagree, but I’m with Lori. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you’ll have to first understand–really understand–how you’ll be working more hours than you probably worked in any other job. Once you truly grasp that, your next challenge will be to explain your insane schedule to the people in your life. And that’s what this post will address.
As an entrepreneur, you’ll wear many hats (all of which you will have to design, order and keep track of). Especially at first–and potentially for several years–you’ll be doing some of the what the classic business book The E-Myth calls the “technician” work. In my case, that consists of doing makeup for clients, ordering the products I need, taking makeup artistry classes, etc. Especially if your career involves services instead of products, you will likely be providing services or covering for employees who provide them at some point. Unless you have a business partner who handles the admin side or an admin assistant from Day 1, you’ll spend a lot of time doing the admin and management tasks. Depending on your industry, that role could include any or all of the following: client/customer communication, vendor communication, invoicing, receiving payments, paying bills, ordering office/store products or supplies, scheduling appointments or deliveries, interviewing job candidates, hiring personnel, firing personnel, payroll, marketing, communicating with your accountant, communicating with your attorney and approximately 27,000 other tasks (that’s a low estimate). And as the owner of the company, throw in time spent on building the brand, making major decisions regarding the direction of the company, constantly re-evaluating systems amd protocols and growing the business via new locations, products and/or services.
So if someone says “Are you working tomorrow?” resist the urge to strangle them. Until/if you have the personnel to cover all of the technician and managerial/admin work, a true day off is unlikely. But it’s unfair to expect your friends and family to know that. I don’t think I would have known it if I hadn’t spent most of my pre-AB Beauty years working in small businesses. And even then, I didn’t really get it until I opened my own company.
I think a lot of people only understand jobs in a black or white way. If you’re not doing something they consider a job, they don’t think you’re working. An all-jobs-are-black-and-white person looks at a teacher and thinks “They only work 7:00am-2:00pm Monday through Friday, and they get summers off.” Nope! They have lesson plans to make and supplies to shop for after school hours, as well as meetings and continuing ed that can’t be done during the school day. Many of them are in the building a few weeks before the school year starts setting up their classroom. (I’m probably missing a lot of responsibilities–this is just what I’ve observed from my time as a school secretary and what I’ve heard from teachers I know). So can we agree that their job consists of more than just the time they are in a classroom with their students?
With my job, which is actually a few jobs (makeup artist, manager, business owner), some people think that if I’m not with clients, I’m not working. In reality, the majority of my 80+ hour workweek is spent managing and growing my business, not doing makeup. I live in Charleston, SC for a few months in the winter and several people–including some friends and relatives–have asked me if I work while I’m there. It’s truly flattering that they think I’m doing well enough that I could go on a three month vacation. But of course I’m working! Because I don’t really take clients while I’m there, I guess some people think that means I just hang out, drink bourbon and eat grits (I wish). What they don’t think about–and this no one’s fault if it’s never been explained to them–is how a business doesn’t run itself. Because I don’t have an admin assistant or business partner–which is the case for many entrepreneurs, at least for a span of time–I do all of the client communication, job schedules, bridal trial coordinating, client invoices, contracts, paying Independent Contractors, managing my team, marketing, coming up with new business ideas, consulting with attorneys and accountants, buying what is needed for our studio and some of those 27,000 other things every day. I don’t expect anyone to understand that until I explain it, and I suggest you have them same outlook if you’re your own boss.
When you do explain it, don’t be a jerk about it. It can easily come off in a condescending “I’m busier than you and my job is more important” way. And that’s not true. It’s just that you decided to open your own business, and that comes with a grueling schedule for a while (if you want to succeed, anyway). If you can clearly–and nicely–communicate to the people you are closest to that you work every day, even if you’re not with clients/customers, you’ve done all you can do with this one.
Although you’ll hopefully do something you enjoy if/when you go into business, the career you choose is not a hobby. You’ll need to charge people for the product(s) or service(s) you offer, as that’s how business works. Unfortunately, some people around you may forget that. It will be part of your job to (nicely) remind them. I strongly suggest setting those boundaries early and having a script for the pro bono requests you will likely get.
Even when you are a struggling new business owner, you may find some family members and friends want you to do your job for free. Some people won’t make the connection between you not having enough money to do things with them and how the money you need comes from you selling your products/services to paying customers/clients. I’m not sure if this happens as often in product-based businesses, but it’s been my experience and the experience of other entrepreneurs I know that when your company offers services, some people think nothing of asking you to do your job for them sans payment. “Sounds familiar!” says every bartender ever.
As a makeup artist and licensed esthetician, my friends and family often ask me for beauty advice. I am more than happy to answer their questions, and honestly, I owe it to them since they’ve been so understanding of my entrepreneuritis. But when people expect me to do their makeup and not charge them for it, that is very different. It’s probably my fault because when I started, I wanted to do my friends’ makeup when they came over. After about five years though, I felt differently. As much as I love applying makeup, it is (part of) my job. And if I have a friend over and I can finally relax, the last thing I want to do is work more. I mean, think about it. Imagine you’re an elementary school math teacher and you go to a friend’s house after work one day. How would you feel if she asked you to teach fractions to her daughter and fifteen neighborhood kids?
I charge clients for makeup applications because I am giving them my time and expertise, plus using my products (which are not cheap). Now, there are a few people in my life who I choose to do makeup for at no charge because they are my family and have helped me and my business countless times over the years. And I’m happy to help a friend out if she is touching up her eyeliner at my house and I know a technique that could help her. When I volunteer to do it, it’s because I want to and I think I could help someone improve their beauty life. But if we are going out and a friend asks me to do a full face with my products when I just want to drink some tequila and catch up, I’m not into it.
Whatever job you end up doing has value, and that’s important to remember. I’m not saying you should never ever give away a product or do a free service for someone close to you. But if you do, make sure to be clear from the start what your boundaries are. And avoid casting that net of freebies too wide. For example, I would never ever charge my mother for a makeup application, but a friend who comes over with her cousin who I’ve never met? Nope. Not for free, and not without an appointment set up. You’ll have to figure out who you will give free or discounted services/products to, but I strongly suggest keeping it to a very small group.
In talking to other entrepreneurs, I’ve found that they have all encountered friends or family asking for or expecting free products or services. (I actually saw a post about this from another business owner I know as I was editing this post.) Early on, I suggest setting some boundaries so you don’t feel like you’re being taken advantage of or are losing income because you feel guilty about charging certain people. So in using the example of my friend from the intro who wants to open a yoga studio, maybe she’ll be fine with showing a friend a pose that would help with some back pain, but she will draw the line at doing a full, private yoga lesson for free. If you plan on opening a product-based business and you anticipate you’ll have family/friends who will expect the items you sell for free or deeply discounted, how about alerting them when your company is running a promo? Like “Hey, I know you love this ___. We’re selling it for 20% off right now, so thought you’d want to know.”
It’s not cold-hearted or mean to charge your friends/family for your products and services. If they truly love you, support you and value what you do, they will understand. The key is to set your boundaries early on by not giving away your products/services for free (so don’t do what I did). You’ll have to figure out the best way to say it, which is something a mentor or established small business owner friend/contact could help you with. (If you don’t know any other small business owners, try joining a local networking group or even Facebook page of business owners in your area or industry. You can sometimes get great advice from these types of groups.)
I know this can be a tough one, but running a business is full of tough problems. So get used to it! And I’ll say it one more time in case it hasn’t sunk in: set your boundaries early. That can potentially save you a world of trouble. And that’s what this Prep School series is here for.
If you’re uncomfortable talking about, thinking about or dealing with money, do not open a business. As an entrepreneur, you’ll need to constantly run numbers, as they are indicative of the success and growth of your company. The numbers also tell you what you can and can not do with advertising, rate increases, building/office/storefront rentals, etc. If you’re reading this series and think you can skip over this post and “figure it out later,” that’s a bad move. You’ll be in for a rude awakening, because there is something you need to know.
You’re going to be broke.
How broke you will be and how long that will last depends on your living costs, any financial backing, your debt and the net profit from your new business. But I feel confident saying that most entrepreneurs experience being in the red at some point. My first few years in business were a major financial stressor for me, but I knew that I’d eventually have a real income. I was always able to pay my rent but there were times when I had a budget of $0.00 for my social life. So I had to turn down invites for dinners, trips, comedy shows, even going to visit out of state friends because I didn’t have money to put gas in my car. Even if I didn’t have a client or work commitment and had the time to do those things, my bank account told me otherwise.
Early on in my boss lady life, I had a friend’s sister ask me to pick up a Christmas gift for my friend from a specific store in Newport (they both lived out of the area and the store rejected the idea of e-commerce). This was before the days of venmo (not that I have that now) and for whatever reason we didn’t do PayPal, so my friend’s sister said she would send me a check for the price of the gift and the mailing. It ended up costing around $80, so not a huge amount. But the thing was, that was a huge amount to me because I was so broke. I think it took her a month to send the money to me, and I had to kind of chase her down for it. I knew she had a good job and money was not a problem for her, and since she was not a close friend and not an entrepreneur, she had no idea that $80 was a hardship for me. I wish I could say that was the only time my sad looking bank account affected anything, but there have been countless times over the years that I had to say no to things I wanted to do because I couldn’t afford to. I’m sure there were people who thought I was being cheap or using the “I have no money” excuse to get out of things, but luckily no one ever said it to me.
There are ways to minimize the impact of entrepreneur-related financial struggle though. The first thing I suggest is to get your financial life in the best shape it can be before you open the doors to your business. I went into my business with student loans from college and esthetics school, but had I waited until I paid those off with the Office Manager salary I was making at the time, I would probably still be paying them off today. (Entrepreneur life allowed me to clear them all by Year 7.) I did have three credit cards, which I had always used responsibly, so I made sure those were completely paid off before I went out on my own. I then proceeded to max them out building my business (then paid them off by Year 7), but if I had gone into boss life with student loan debt and credit card debt, I don’t think I would have made it this far. If you are even thinking about opening your own business, start paying down those credit cards and school loans (starting with whatever charges the highest interest rate) while you think. If you decide you don’t want to open a business, you’ve at least done something that will put you in a better financial position.
After you clear as much of your debt as you can, you have to look at your expenses. Here’s where I suggest going into Barebones Living (shout out to Oregon Trail for that one). I certainly did not do everything in the smartest way, but I knew that there were certain expenses I had–rent, car insurance and school loans–that I couldn’t minimize so I had to cut down other costs. I split Internet with my downstairs neighbor for a while, rarely went out to eat (unless I had done a friend’s makeup in exchange for them treating me to dinner), didn’t buy any new clothes or any non-essentials for my house for a couple years, walked everywhere I could to save money on gas, sold clothes on consignment and did a lot of other things I’m forgetting. Basically, if it wasn’t an absolute essential, I put it on a list of things I would buy someday when I had money. Seriously!
I’m no financial expert, but I think my advice is solid. The point of this post though is to prepare you for the reality that you will likely not have much money at some point during your early years in business. If you’ve always worked low pay jobs and/or been buried by student loans since you graduated, this struggle won’t be new to you and therefore might be easier to handle. But if you are someone who has never had to worry about money, it’s going to be a shock to your system. Hopefully this post will help soften the blow.
I think we hear a lot about the financial success of entrepreneurs, which is good because it can be a reality and is part of the appeal of this lifestyle. But some stories gloss over or glamorize the Poor Years (yes, it’s often years), and how tough that can be. The good news is that if you build a strong business, you will eventually not only have money, but will have no ceiling to your income. That’s worth the struggle, right?
“Can you come out Friday night?” I don’t hear this question often because, you know, I’m in my mid 30s, but it still happens sometimes (and did a lot more when I started my business). I almost always have bridal trials or weddings on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so I don’t go out the night before. It’s not that I would take shots of Fireball and stay out until 3:00am, but even two drinks and a self imposed 11:00pm curfew doesn’t work for me when I have to be up at 6:00am. My clients pay me good money for a professional makeup application, and I’m not going to screw that up with shaky, tired, hungover hands and a lack of focus. I’ve gotten pushback from friends and some of the jokers I’ve dated who couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t go out on a Friday night if I didn’t have to be anywhere until 9:00am the next morning, but I’ve always held my ground. A 9:00am job means I’ll actually arrive at 8:45am, so that’s a 6:00am wakeup, since I have to answer emails, get myself ready and travel to jobs. I’m not doing that on five or six hours of sleep.
I love my friends and family and occasionally like the guys I date, but I’m not willing to make my job harder or give my clients a sub par makeup service because I stayed at Drunky McTipsy’s until last call the night before. Even if I don’t have clients the next morning but I have a huge admin workload, I’ll say no to an invite if I know it’s better for my company if I stay in, work all evening and get an early start the next morning. If you have the same mindset–and really, you should–you may find some friends get all pissy about it. I say, let ’em. If you’re honest about what you need to do to keep your business going and they still think you’re a bad friend for not drinking overpriced vodka sodas with them, then maybe it’s time to re-assess the value of that friendship.
If you think there are people in your life who may give you a hard time for this and call you lame, I suggest explaining to them why you can’t go out as often. (Or potentially at all, at least at first.) My advice is to talk to them about this at a random time, not after they’ve asked you to hang out. If an in-person conversation is not the route you want to go, email is a good option. Something along the lines of “I love you and I have so much fun when we hang out, but I really need to prioritize my business right now. I’m not great at ___ when I’m tired/hungover, and I don’t want to sabotage my company before it even takes off. Hopefully you understand. If you can meet for a coffee/grab lunch/catch a movie sometime this month, I’d love to see you.” Now, what kind of reasonable person would get mad at that?
I think you’ll find there are a lot of people who will get it, and they are the true gems. But remember, that kind of understanding needs to be reciprocated. You’ll have friends who will have stretches of time when they can’t hang out as much because of babies, new work schedules, studying for school or professional exams–whatever. It can be disappointing, especially when these life events (thanks, Facebook!) happen at different times and your schedules/lifestyles never align, but remember how understanding they were of your entrepreneur schedule. Like I said in the intro , you have to value those who are accepting of your entrepreneuritis.
It’s not lame of you to turn down an invite because you are prioritizing your business. It’s lame of someone to give you a hard time for that, and you can tell them the Wisdom Talker said so.
A psychic once told me that I’m a Wisdom Talker, which is an old soul who gives valuable advice to those around her. Now, she definitely should not have said that to me. I already secretly thought I was a fantastic advice giver, but her validation made my incidences of unsolicited advice skyrocket. I’ve tried to rein it in and will now often ask a friend who is venting “Would you like me to just listen or do you want my input?” But when you come to my blog, you’re in the Wisdom Talker’s territory.
There are a ton of things I’m not qualified to give advice on. Raising children, cooking, training for a marathon, beekeeping–I could go on and on. But when it comes to small businesses, I think nine years of successfully running one makes me qualified to drop some knowledge. I don’t have all the answers and I’m sure there is a lot I could be doing better, but there are also some things I’ve learned that others may find helpful.
A friend of mine is considering opening a business and she recently asked me to be her mentor. (Ego inflation: 6,000%.) I wrote her a series of emails about what I’ve learned and it made me think, Can I share this with other aspiring entrepreneurs? And now here we are.
If you are thinking of opening a business, you’ve got a lot of research and preparation to do. That’s a whole different blog post. What I want to wisdom talk to you about today is how to prepare for the reality that the people around you may not understand your career. Starting a business (including freelancing) can be overwhelming and stressful, so being as prepared as possible with not only the business side but the reactions you may encounter will give you a leg up. I don’t want it to be a shock to your system if some of your relatives or closest friends back off from your relationship or give you shit for your new lifestyle.
Unless someone has owned a business, worked closely with the owner of a small business or had an entrepreneur in their family, they may not really get the demands of your business and how that has to be your priority. Please know that I’m not saying this in a holier-than-thou way. It’s just that it can be difficult for a person who is not an entrepreneur to fully grasp what that means, just like I’ll never truly know what it’s like to be a parent or a professional athlete. But if you are thinking of opening your own business, it might be helpful to be prepared for some of the misunderstanding you will likely encounter.
When you announce that you are starting your own business, you’ll ideally be met with support from your friends and family. Hopefully it stays that way for the length of your business, but don’t count on it. Unless everyone around you is an entrepreneur (in which case, LET ME IN YOUR CIRCLE), there are going to be some people who don’t understand your new lifestyle. Some may support you fully at first, but when it affects them, it can be a different story. If you can’t make it to their bridal shower because you have clients that morning or you can’t go on a trip with someone because you need to invest every extra penny in your business, they may see that as you not being a good friend/relative. Before opening AB Beauty, I had worked in enough small businesses to have an inkling that this would happen, which is why I told my crew early on “I’m probably going to be a bad friend for a few years.” And I did miss a lot of stuff (partly due to the fact that my job requires weekends) but I held on to most of my friends.
This is not a reason to not start a business. There will be people around you who support you and understand that there are things you need to do for your business–especially during the early years–but that doesn’t mean you don’t love them or want to spend time with them. My tactic has always been to explain where I’m at and why I can’t do certain things at the moment, but also to be there as much as I can in other ways. So maybe I couldn’t afford to go out for a friend’s birthday dinner when I was struggling to make my rent, but I’d definitely call her after her first day at a new job to see how it went. Bachelorette parties have usually been impossible for me because they are almost always on a spring, summer or fall Friday or Saturday night and I normally have to work the next day. But now that I have a real income, I can take that bride-to-be out to dinner to make up for it. And the schedule flexibility has allowed me to drive a friend to a doctor’s appointment on a Tuesday morning or help my cousin unpack at a new apartment on a Sunday after a wedding job. The people who have stuck around, supported me and not given me a hard time for cancelling plans because of a last minute job call mean the world to me and they are the ones I make an extra effort to see and be there for.
This was initially going to be one blog post but I haven’t even gotten to the first category yet, so I’m going Series style. My hope is that the upcoming posts will be helpful to not only people who want to start their own business, but to those who are close to small business owners and think “What the hell is this job?” If your partner, sibling, close friend or roommate is starting their own company, maybe it would be beneficial for you to have an idea of what their career life may be like.
But mainly, this is your prep school, aspiring entrepreneurs. Opening a business is risky, unpredictable and scary as hell. But if you can go into it being aware of some of the issues you may face, that’s going to help you in the long run. You know that quote “Over-prepare then go with the flow?” Yes. Do that.
And I want to take a second to say THANK YOU to the many supportive friends and family in my life. They far outnumber the non-supporters and for that, I am immensely grateful. I love you and I’m sorry I missed your _____ last _____.