This is some crazy shit, isn’t it? It feels like something I’d read about in a novel I’d buy at Hudson News, which I would then half read while I dozed off on the plane.
But it’s real, as is the reality that many people who didn’t previously work from home are now doing so. When I’m not with clients, which is the majority of the time, I work from home. I’m used to spending entire days working from home, without leaving even once, so it turns out I’ve been practicing (but never hoping for or imagining) a quarantine. I know we’re not in a lockdown–yet–in RI, but “The Lockdown List” is a catchy title, so give me a break, okay?
Working from home is a test of discipline, as I see it. I wrote this post about it in January, so if you’re new to the workplace-free life, maybe check that out. That covers the basics, but seeing as though we might all be stuck at home for a while, I wanted to share the specific things I’m doing (you know, besides dealing with the frequent wedding and bridal trial reschedules) with this time. Now that our peak wedding season is getting pushed back and I’m not training any new makeup artists, I’m going to have time to get to all of those little tasks I’ve been putting off because they’re not time sensitive. I thought other people might recognize some of these things as tasks they’ve been meaning to do, so here we are.
Storage Wars. I’m at 91% of the Gmail storage capacity I have, so I’m going to go on a deleting spree. I file and archive a lot of emails, but many of them really don’t need to be saved or referenced again. This is one of those little piddly tasks I always put off, but it’s time to free up some space.
The Ex Files. No, I don’t keep files on all of the guys I’ve dated. (They don’t deserve my energy, said my mother and every psychic I’ve ever been to.) But I do keep files on my computer for jobs, admin stuff, marketing, etc. Some of them are from a few years back–so the exes of my business–and are doing nothing but taking up space, so they gots to go. That’s deleting spree #2, if you’re counting.
Back On Track. Up until I got sick in 2018 (that blog post will come, some day) I was very good at regularly updating our job tracking spreadsheet. But because that wasn’t an absolute essential and I’ve had to keep my screen time to a minimum the last year and a half, I fell behind. Now that my health seems to be getting better, I can get the tracking sheet up to speed. I’ve chipped away at this a little over the last month, but the next few weeks will likely give me the time to make an even bigger dent in it.
Revision Decision. If you don’t assess and revise your business documents, what are you even doing? Company policies change, business operations change, references change–you get the point. I make important revisions–like a location change or changes due to a new law–immediately, but sometimes my docs just need a refresh. I did this a little bit in January and am going to pick up where I left off this month.
But Of Course. I have some recorded online classes I want to watch or finish watching, and I think this is a great time for that. Self isolate and self educate? I’m in.
The Write Right. If I’m smart, I’ll get a bunch of blog posts written because when things get back to normal, it’s going to be crazy town for me. If you write a blog or write any of your social media content ahead of time, if work is slower for you but you still have to get things done as you work from home, this might be the ideal time to do it.
Lemme Update You. (Sung to the tune of Beyonce’s “Upgrade U.”) I keep my website up to date as far as rates and policies, but I’m going go through the content again and see if anything needs tweaking, and upload some new photos. As a plus, Google likes updated websites as it tells them info is current, so website updates are good for the ol’ SEO too.
Pinteresting. It makes sense for my business to have a Pinterest account, so adding to that might be a good thing to do while social distancing is still a thing. It’s also one of the easiest business tasks I have, so I can make some progress with it even after my brain has half melted from all of the wedding and trial reschedules. Who’s to say you can’t pin and have a Quaratine Cocktail (that’s any drink you’d like, when you’d like it)? I won’t tell.
Did that help? Yes? Great! I thought that was what you’d say 😉
We’ll get through this, and I know that because Sylvia Browne predicted that we would…
Working from home is the dream, right? (Or at least runner up to the not-having-to-work-because-you’re-rich dream.) No commute, no boss looking over your shoulder, no loud-chewing coworkers in earshot and everyone’s favorite part–you can roll out of bed and work in your pajamas! Or stay in bed and work from there if you want! And depending on your situation, working from home may give you flexible hours too. What’s not to love?
Well, like with anything else, there are negatives to working from home. Or let’s “re-frame” that, as my mother would say. There are things that you might find difficult or not like, or things that can sabotage your working-from-home productivity. I’ve been working from home since I opened my business in 2008. For a little while, it was part-time working from home, since I had full time jobs outside of AB Beauty. There was also the summer when I decided I didn’t need Internet at my house, since I had it at my studio a few blocks away, and that would force me to not be constantly working when I was at home. (I got around that one by going to my studio in the morning, stopping for a couple hours mid-afternoon to take care of personal stuff, then going back into my studio until 1:00am.)
Other than those instances, I’ve worked from home. I’ve learned a lot about what seems to work and what doesn’t, both from my own experience and from what other homers (coined it) have told me. How rude would it be for me to keep that to myself? You know I’m incapable of holding onto information that I think could be even the tiniest bit helpful to someone, so here we go.
Social Status. Even if you’re an introvert, you probably find that having a coworker who you’re friends with helps make your job better. Having someone you like who also understands the ins and outs of your job really does make things better. But unless your partner or roommate is a coworker and also works from home, you’re not going to get that socialization if your house is your office. And if you’re a solopreneur, there’s no chance of it at all. If you’re an extroverted person, working from home has the potential to drive you crazy. If that sounds like you, you might want to consider trying a co-working space or working from a coffee shop, even if just for a few days a week. If you’ve always been surrounded with coworkers and like that vibe, working from home with only your thoughts for company can be a big adjustment.
Wardrobe Change. Working from home in your pajamas/workout clothes/yoga pants and a Biggie tee (which you should have if you don’t already) can be awesome. Add in no need to do hair and/or makeup, and you’ve made things real easy. But, there’s something to be said for the sense of motivation that putting on work clothes can give you. It feels normal to plop down on the couch at 10:00am and watch HGTV when you’re in your pajamas, but if you put on work clothes and do that, things might feel off. If you know yourself to be someone who struggles with motivation or discipline, you might want to force yourself to put on work clothes every morning to get yourself into business mode. If you’re just starting out your work from home adventure, maybe try it both ways. If you are equally productive in sweats as you are in business casual, go for comfort. But if you can tell you slip into weekend mode if you’re in your pajamas, it might be time to change (literally). Both options are there for you, but make sure to choose wisely.
Office Space. It’s super important to dedicate some space in your home to work. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have an actual home office, but if you’re not, even the corner of a room can work. I used to work at a desk in my bedroom, then at my kitchen table, and now, lying down on my couch (which I wouldn’t recommend but I have a vestibular disorder than makes looking down at screens really difficult, so I have to lie down with a pillow on me and my laptop on that so I’m looking up). The one thing I’ve always tried to do though is make sure that whichever area my “office” is in is my only office. When I was able to work at a desk, I rarely did any work outside of that little corner. When I worked at my kitchen table, no work was done in my room or living room. And now with my couch office, not only have I never worked from any other part of my home, but I’ve never even moved to the other side of the couch! This dedicated work space area helps not only with focus, but it prevents your entire house or apartment from becoming your office, which is not good for work/life balance.
To Do List Battles. Even if you have a dedicated home office, it can be easy to get distracted by the household To Do list. You go the kitchen and refill your coffee cup and notice that sink seems to be draining slowly, so you should see if you can fix it or call the plumber. You take a bathroom break and remember how you’ve been meaning to clean out your medicine cabinet. You go to your room to grab a sweater and start thinking about donating all of those clothes you never wear. Those are all things that need to be addressed–but not while you’re working. Passive chores that allow you to take a 5 – 10 minute screen or phone call break–like running or emptying the dishwasher, doing laundry or throwing something in a Crockpot–are great. But organizing your closet, scouring your bathroom or baking a cake for the bake sale at your child’s school? I wouldn’t make stuff like that a habit if you want to be productive with your job.
Neighborly Love. If you live in a single family with no neighbors in sight, you luck out here. But you live in a busy neighborhood or a building with other units next to, above or below you, you will, inevitably, encounter some noise. Talking, yelling, laughing, footsteps, music, vacuuming, pictures being hung up and the dreaded construction and renovations noise pollution. If you’re the type who is bothered by that (I certainly am), you have to learn to ignore those sounds or block them out with music, white noise or noise canceling headphones. For a lot of people, noise distracts them from their work, but you really have to fight or figure out ways around distractions when you work from home. If you’ve come from an office where you’ve gotten used to the sound of phones ringing, copy machines copying and coworkers chattering, the different working-from-home sounds might throw you at first.
Keep ‘Em Separated. When you work from home, it’s easy to have no real end to your work day. I’m certainly guilty of this, as clients who have received 11:00pm emails from me can attest. But you have to draw the line somewhere when it comes to work/life separation. My advice is to try to end your workday at a certain predetermined time then put away work stuff, close business-related tabs on your laptop and stop answering calls or texts. If your home office or work area is not in the same space in your home that you would hang out in after work, that helps. But if it’s all in the same space, you might really have use your willpower to end your workday. I believe in you.
If you want to be productive when you work from home, it really all comes down to discipline. You have to learn to block out or work around the distractions, while also not letting your whole home become your 24/7 office. It’s a balancing act, but if you can figure out the right balance for you, you’ll probably never want to step foot in a traditional work space again.
I didn’t always know I was going to own my own business (in fact, I specifically didn’t want to for several years), but once I started, I knew it would change me as a person. In my very early years as an entrepreneur, I was certain that once my business was established, my self confidence–something I struggled with during my teens and most of my 20s–would go up. And go up it did! Skyrocket, you might say. Owning a business is a big part of who I am, and I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past 11+ years. I of course feel like sharing that, so let’s get this thing going.
I have a love/hate relationship with routines. I agree with the idea that routines help with productivity, which is why I have many of them. But also, I have an overwhelming need for freedom and sometimes routines–even though I created them myself–make me feel like I’m not able to do what I want. Or they feel boring. I realize this makes no sense, but a lot of things about me don’t make sense on paper. I’ll continue to do my routines because part of me (probably my Taurus side) needs them to feel anchored. But another part of me (that’s gotta be my Gemini side) is always whispering Change it up! or Do we need to do this? It’s hard being born on the cusp of two zodiac signs, I’ll tell ya! I think the compromise is to periodically assess my routines and see if they are really helping with my productivity–like my morning coffee-and-blogging routine–or are something I enjoy, like my call-Mom-or-Dad-when-walking-around-doing-errands routine. If I decide that a routine doesn’t work, I adjust it or eliminate it. That keeps both sides of me happy, and that’s all a Temini can really ask for.
I prefer eating in the car. I’m always starving after I leave a job. 95% of the time, I have a Quest Bar in my purse for that reason. Now, it makes sense that I would eat that on my drive home if I’m going to be in the car for a while, but what about if I’ll be home in ten minutes? Turns out that doesn’t matter. There is something I like about eating food like that in the car. I suspect it’s a multitasking thing, as I always feel like I have so much to do and nowhere close to enough time to do it, so multitasking with simple things saves me time. But it’s little quirk that I definitely didn’t have in the pre-AB Beauty years.
I’m not a night owl or an early bird. Allow me to explain. I often work until 11:00pm and I rarely get out of bed before 7:30am. If a friend wants to meet up with me, they know they only have about a 2% chance of getting me out the door after 7:00pm. If that same friend wants to meet for breakfast though, they know it ain’t happening before 10:00am. Makes no sense, right? But hear me out. First of all, I don’t want to work until 11:00pm every night, but that’s necessary for me during most of the year. I need some time to unwind after my work day has ended, so I usually end up going to bed around 12:00am. I’m my happiest self on between seven and eight hours of sleep, which brings me to a wake up time of between 7:00am – 8:00am. On days when I don’t have appointments in the morning, I have a stretching-then-crunches-then-coffee-then-blogging routine, which takes anywhere from 30 – 60 minutes, depending on how hard my inbox is mean muggin’ me while I attempt to ignore it. Between showering, answering the inevitable time sensitive emails and texts and doing a full makeup on myself (if that’s on the docket), another 60 – 90 minutes is gone. So getting out the door for 10:00am is tough. On the flip side, if a friend wants to meet for dinner at 8:00pm, that’s usually around 12 hours into my work day, so the idea of getting ready then changing into Social Mode is daunting (but catch me for Happy Hour at 4:00pm before I start to fade, and now we’re talkin’). I’m sure some people think I’m lame because I won’t go out later at night or lazy because I don’t do early mornings, but I’m not willing to force myself to do something when I’m exhausted from a long day or from having to wake up much earlier than usual. I wish I could re-set my body clock to go to bed early and wake up early, because that feels more productive to me. But this is the schedule I’ve been on for a while, so deal with it 😉
I really enjoy talking with people. I consider myself to be an ambivert. That means I’m equal parts extrovert and introvert, so I’m energized by both being around people and by having my alone time. Sometimes I go into a job tired, either because I didn’t sleep well or because I had to be up early to get there. The exhaustion never hits me while I’m doing makeup though, and I think it’s because I usually chat with people as I’m doing their makeup, and that keeps me going. I’ve had countless great conversations with clients over the years. I’ve learned a lot of new things, laughed a ton and bonded with clients over topics from being Italian to old school hip hop to having a parent with cancer. I’m not good at small talk, but apparently the one on one 45 – 60 minute conversations at wedding jobs and the 10 – 30 minute conversations at corporate and commercial gigs are my jam. This sounds weird to say, but when I check my own makeup after doing several makeup applications in a row, I often notice that I have a little glow. It’s not a makeup thing, but my skin somehow looks better and, cheesy as it sounds, I have a sparkle in my eyes. Maybe it’s from doing makeup, something I’m passionate about, but I have a feeling it’s more from connecting with people. I guess I knew that I loved talking with people on some level before I owned a business, but this career has really emphasized that for me.
I burn out about five times a year, then I rise again. You have to quickly recover when you run a business, so I do. I’m not able to take full days off and haven’t since I started AB Beauty, but I can do the occasional two hour days when I’m away or have friends or family visiting. On a regular day, it helps if I take lot of little breaks (15 minutes here to watch part of a video comedy podcast, 15 minutes there to move the side table in my living room for the 90th time, 20 minutes to text-coach a friend through a dating crisis, etc.). I also try to get together with a friend at least once a week. Being with the awesome people in my life helps keep me going. Another thing I do is try to take a couple trips a year to recharge. If I plan it out, bust my ass getting as much possible done in the two weeks before I leave and prepare for a week’s worth of punishment work when I return, I can get away with working only one or two hours a day while I’m away. For the last two years, I’ve gone to the Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in late July for a few days. That’s about the mid-point of peak wedding season, so it’s the ideal time for a breather. This year, I’m going to Ireland at the end of October, towards the end of peak season, so perfect timing. In previous years, I’ve gone to Nashville, Puerto Rico and Ft. Lauderdale to get away. And since 2017, I’ve been breathing out a three-ish month long sigh of relief during my winters in Charleston. I of course still work while I’m there–this business isn’t going to run itself, darling–but I slash my work weeks from 80 or 90 hours to around 40, because I don’t take clients, work on any shoots or do trainings while I’m in Charleston. The reality is, I am going to continue to burn out until I can get in place the people I need to reduce my workload. But my breaks–whether they are 15 minutes, Happy Hour-length, three day trips with two hour work days or three months with 50% less work hours–are essential to my well-being.
I am very sensitive to sounds. I wasn’t always this way. I have memories of studying in college with my dorm room door open, Ludacris blasting and the constant sound of AIM notifications. (Ding! You have a message from a bad boy.) I worked a series of office jobs in my 20s, and as an Office Manager, Admin Assistant, Secretary or Receptionist, there were often a lot of people in and out of my work space, asking for information, gossiping with coworkers or requesting that I take care of something they could easily do themselves. But once I started working for myself–my best and worst boss yet–something changed. I take my job very seriously and believe that my clients and Independent Contractors deserve clear and thorough information from me, but I have a hard time focusing with noise in the background. For that kind of work, I need a quiet environment. Music, loud construction noises nearby or non-stop dog barking kills my concentration. I’m fine with noise when I’m in public, but when I’m trying to work or sleep, I hear everything, and it is maddening. Air conditioners and sound machines help, but when I can’t block irritating sounds out, I kind of lose it. Another fun fact I learned about myself (or really, developed) since I’ve owned a business.
I can’t do shit if I’m tired. I’ll never understand how some people can operate on very little sleep. If I don’t get enough sleep, my day is shot. My brain is useless on limited shut-eye and it’s a true struggle to get anything done when I’m in that mode. I may deprive myself of days off, but I never purposely deprive myself of sleep. That’s why I let myself sleep as late as my body wants on days that I don’t have morning jobs or appointments (and why I don’t make morning appointments, if I can help it). I remember sometimes staying out until 1:00am then waking up at 6:30am to go to work in my early 20s, and having no issues. So maybe it’s age, but I could never do that now. I’ve learned this about myself since I started my business, and luckily I know what I need to do to prevent constant exhaustion.
I don’t care what people think of me. I’m not saying that to be a badass. It’s just a realization I had several years ago about how I live my life the way I want to and nothing disapproving anyone says or implies about that bothers me. It’s a freeing feeling! I was extremely self conscious in my teens and early 20s, so to come to the point where no one else’s opinions of me or my lifestyle can even come close to bothering me is true progress. If someone thought I was mean and rude and inconsiderate, I wouldn’t like that because I know those things aren’t true–not because someone thought or said that and it bothered me. You know that quote “What others think of you is none of your business”? Yeah, that.
I’m not competitive. Well, at least not with others. I know who my competitors are in business, but I don’t obsess about how they appear to be doing. I’m only obsessed with my own numbers and how I am doing compared to the previous year. This crosses over into my personal life too. Even when I’m out running, if I’m running with someone (which I generally avoid, but have been tricked into) or another runner goes by me, I don’t have any strong urges to run fast or longer than them. But when I had a Nike SportWatch, I was always competing against my last run. I would feel shitty if I ran slower than the previous run or didn’t log in as many miles. It was actually a blessing when my SportWatch stopped working. Owning a business has brought the subject of competitiveness to the forefront and I’m glad it did. It’s made me realize that I’m really only competitive with myself, which I think is a good thing.
Being an entrepreneur has been life-changing for me. It’s made me turn into the most confident, self-sufficient version of myself, and Young Allison needed that to happen. (Creeping-Up-On-Middle-Age-Allison does miss Young Allison’s skin elasticity though.) I think knowing about yourself–your strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes–helps you build a lifestyle that you’re happy with. And if you’re happy with your lifestyle, you’ve got a leg up on a lot people.
Like every other entrepreneur and small business owner, I’ve got a lot on my plate. I do as much as I can to be organized, and I systemize whatever I’m able to. There are some business tools and resources that have made a world of difference in my solopreneur life, and I am thankful for all of them. So let’s close out this Top 11 series with a list of my business essentials that will probably still be in my life 11 years from now.
Hatch Tribe Members Circle. If you’ve read this blog before, you know how I feel about the Hatch Tribe Members Circle. Hatch Tribe is a group that “cultivates and connects women entrepreneurs,” and the Members Circle is the amazing online platform for the Tribe. With a very reasonably priced membership (which you can do annually or monthly), you get access to a ton of free classes, posts about topics relevant to business owners and the opportunity to ask the many other boss ladies in the Members Circle questions. I’ve learned so much and made so many great connections and friendships since I joined the Members Circle. It’s one of the most important resources in my entrepreneur life.
17Hats. For years, I did my contracts and invoicing in Microsoft Word. It was inefficient and made the wedding booking process take much longer, since people had to print and mail their contracts, and I had to do the invoicing math myself (instead of letting software that didn’t almost fail every Math class it ever took do the work). I knew I had to find an online client management system that I could send contracts and invoices from, so I did some research (aka had the person who was doing some admin work for me do some research) and landed on 17Hats. Between that and starting to accept credit cards, the booking process has been cut down from 7 – 10 days to three or less. I can also send the questionnaires we have for various things right from 17Hats, which makes for a quicker response time. There are a lot of other functions in 17Hats that I don’t use and probably should, but the contract, invoicing and questionnaire functions alone are worth the $300 every two years.
Stripe. I held off as long as I could with accepting credit cards because I knew that the processing fees would add up. But eventually, I caved in and chose Stripe. I knew that we had lost some wedding clients because we didn’t accept credit cards, which makes sense since around 60% of couples who pay for their own wedding use credit cards. I did the math (about 17 times, and mostly got the same answer each time) and realized that if accepting credit cards made it so we booked two to three weddings in a year that wouldn’t have if we didn’t accept credit cards, that would cover the credit card processing fees. So I took the plunge, started accepting credit cards and made us a more appealing wedding vendor for potential brides.
Square. Let me give you some numbers. I currently have 19 Independent Contractors on the team. We have 10 weddings in the first seven days of September alone. There are sometimes as many as six people from my team at a wedding. And they each bill AB Beauty separately for every job. Paying out for jobs used to be one of my most time consuming tasks. I would review all bills on the designated day (which I still do to make sure they are correct), print each bill, enter it in Quickbooks, pay each bill, print all of the checks, sign them, put them in envelopes, address them, mail them, then staple the check receipt thing from Quickbooks to the bill I had printed and file that. It was a monster task which I was doing once a week for most of the year. I finally thought, This is insane! and starting thinking about a better way to do it. I landed on direct deposit, and after my attorney gave me the okay to pay Independent Contractors using that method (you can’t mess around with worker compensation laws), I did my research. Square was the best option for me, and at only $5 per Independent Contractor per month (and they don’t charge you for an IC if you don’t pay out to them that month), it’s affordable. They also prepare and file 1099s for you, which saves me money that I would have otherwise spent having my accountant prepare and file those. But mostly, using Square for direct deposit has been a giant time saver. I still have to review bills, pay bills and enter them in Quickbooks, but I don’t have to deal with checks or printing anything (which is better for the environment too). Switching to direct deposit in Square was one of the smartest business decisions I’ve ever made.
OneTab. I like open windows in my house, because I enjoy the ocean breeze (most of the time) and hearing the hustle and bustle of my busy neighborhood. But open windows on my browser? It can be both overwhelming and distracting. My tech guy, Dan, also told me that having a bunch of windows open slows down your computer, and is there anything more maddening that that?!?! He suggested OneTab, which allows you to put Google Chrome windows–or tabs, if you will–you are not actively using to sleep without losing them forever. It saves them for as long as you’d like, which is key for me because sometimes I have sites that I don’t need to look at for a while after the initial time, but I know I will later, and I don’t want to have a zillion bookmarks. When those tabs are snoozing, they’re not slowing things down, so your computer can be its best efficient self. I’ve been using OneTab for several years now, and I recommend it to anyone who ever looks at more than one website. (If that does not apply to you, who are you? My father?)
Google Calendar. My last job working for someone else was at a construction company. I was the Office Manager, and I learned a lot from my boss, Ralph. He used Google Calendar to keep track of his appointments and reminders about tasks that needed to be done, and now I do the same. GC runs my life. It allows you to create various calendars and share them with different people, so I have a company calendar so the Independent Contractors on my team can see job details, and a calendar that only I can see with all of my meetings and personal appointments, as well as reminders for the 70 million tasks I have to do. I have recurring reminders, like “Review Independent Contractors Bills” every Wednesday morning, and one time reminders like “Follow up with 9/8 wedding planner re: location change.” The email reminders pop up on my laptop and phone, and get sent to my inbox so I have no excuse. I would forget 90% of the stuff I was supposed to do without GC, so I honestly don’t think I would have gotten very far without it. Thanks, Ralph!
Dropbox. Girl, you looks good, won’t you back those files up? That was from Juvenile’s lesser known recent hit, “Dropbox”. I guess he uses the same file hosting service as I do to back up his files. Interesting! Backing up files is of course super important for any business, and Dropbox makes it easy. I pay $10 a month, and all I do is copy some folders into Dropbox when my weekly reminder comes up. It’s one of the easiest tasks I do all week, and also one of the most essential.
The E-Myth Revisited. I don’t know any business owners who don’t read business books. We all crave the expertise from experienced bosses who have succeeded in their respective fields. I first read The E-Myth Revisted in the early years of my business, and it forever changed the way I look at my company. Author Michael E. Gerber talks about the three main types of jobs entrepreneurs often do: the Technician (in my case, Makeup Artist), the Manager and the Entrepreneur. His advice is to hire Technicians and Managers and solely be the Entrepreneur. As someone who has been filling all three roles for the past 11 years, I agree that choosing one–namely the one that grows the business–is the smartest choice. I re-read this book every year or two and it helps keep me motivated.
Quickbooks. I first learned how to use Quickbooks when I was an Office Manager in Delray Beach, FL in 2004 – 2005. The OG of accounting software is still widely used today, and I’ve found no reason to switch to another one. Taking care of your books may not be the sexiest part of being a business owner, but it has to be done. I could fully outsource everything I do in Quickbooks but for now, I can handle most of it and my bookkeeper comes quarterly to reconcile and make sure I’ve entered everything correctly. Quickbooks allows you to run reports to show all kinds of details about income, expenses and comparison to previous years. As a business owner, you have to know your numbers–and know them well–as they tell you how your business is doing. Vital information, don’t you think?
My Business Advisors. I don’t have all of the answers (in business and in life). I probably don’t even have half of them. That’s why I crave advice from the business-minded people in my life. Sometimes that means my Members Circle girl gang, my family members who also run shit, or my friends who–even if they don’t own a business–have experience in the business world. I don’t turn to my advisors with every question I have, but when I’m really grappling with something, I hit ’em up. These folks have helped me countless times, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
My Family and Friends. I’m probably not an easy person to be close to, hopefully mostly due to my career. Being friends with me requires a certain level of understanding, because this entrepreneur lifestyle is not the norm. (My family is kind of just stuck with me and forced to try to understand it. Sorry, guys!) I’m very lucky that the people I’m closest to get it, and therefore get me. They are one of the big reasons I started a business–so that I could spend time with them without having to potentially get denied a time off request. When someone else dictates your work schedule, that impacts your free time, which then affects how often you can see your friends and family. Sure, I’m limited by my workload during wedding season, but I still do get to see my friends and family more than if I had a 9 – 5. I’ve got a lot of spectacular, loving, funny, intelligent, kind and considerate people in my world, and spending time with them is what keeps me going. I’m not going to say “keeps me balanced,” because I’m not nearly as balanced as I’d like be (and I don’t just mean because I’ve had a vertigo-like thing since October). But they keep me sane, or as sane as a Type A, INFJ ambivert entrepreneur can be.
And that does it for my Top 11 series! It’s been a supa dupa fly 11 Years In Business Anniversary Month for AB Beauty. Business is great, my team is killing it and we’ve left a trail of happy clients in our wake. I’ve got a lot more than 11 things to be grateful for, that’s for damn sure.
Do you have a family member or close friend who is an entrepreneur? God bless you. (Just kidding–we’re great!) If you’ve ever thought “I wonder what I can do to help them out,” other than the obvious using their services or buying their products, I’ve got some ideas.
Referrals. Most business owners are incredibly appreciative of referrals. Especially when someone starts out, they usually don’t have a solid client base. But if friends and family can send some clients their way, they can begin to build that base. My first few weddings were all for friends or friends of friends, and referrals (both personal and from business clients and contacts) are still a big part of my business today. If you have an entrepreneur in your life who offers a product or service you might have the chance to recommend, I can pretty much guarantee they will be grateful if you do. And all it takes on your part is passing on a company name! I have a few friends and relatives who carry some of my business cards with them in case the opportunity to refer me comes up. (How awesome are they? They get a gold star for going above and beyond.) This is a super helpful way to help out the entrepreneur in your life without making a dent in your bank account.
Social Media Interaction. See a Facebook or Instagram post from your entrepreneur friend or relative that you can comment on? Doooooooo it! The current algorithms favor engagement, so comments–not likes–help a company’s posts show up to more people on Instagram and Facebook. I’m not saying you need to comment on every post, but if you see one that you can comment on, doing so will help out your boss friend. Sharing posts is another a good deed you can do as a supportive friend or relative. And it’s all free! You’re scrolling around anyway, so you might as well…
Be Understanding. Let me first say being an entrepreneur is not an excuse for bad behavior. If the boss in your life consistently breaks plans with you due to work commitments–I mean like every time–they are either bad at time management, bad at prioritizing or don’t know how to say no. Even with my seven-days-a-week-since-2008 work schedule, I still keep the majority of my personal commitments. But sometimes, I do have to cancel. I have some jobs and meetings that can only happen at a certain time and can only be done by me, and I know I’m not the only person with that problem. If you have an entrepreneur friend or relative and they occasionally have to reschedule due to one of those can’t-turn-down jobs or meetings, try to be understanding if you can. Entrepreneurs have to create their income and sometimes that means taking a client or a meeting that will bring in income, even if they’d rather be hanging out with you. The good news is that like J. Lo and her love, being understanding don’t cost a thing.
Ask Them What You Can Do To Help. This is easy and it takes the guesswork out. Simply ask your boss friend or relative if there’s anything you can do to help. I’m not suggesting you volunteer to be their intern, but maybe they could use your vote in a local “Best Of” contest, or would love a share of a specific post they are trying to promote. Even if they don’t have anything at the time, the fact that you would even ask will likely be greatly appreciated. Guess how many dollars that will put you back? Zip zero. Stingy with dinero. (If you got that reference, I respect you.)
Did you notice a theme here? This is all free stuff you can do to support the entrepreneur in your life. It can be lonely in Boss Land and there are plenty of things that can make someone want to give up running their business, but a little support from friends and family can make a huge difference.
I’ve been lucky enough to have more than a little support from my family and friends, and I don’t take it for granted. I pay my people back with free makeup, skincare and business advice. Every single one of my female friends and all of the aunts and female cousins I’m close with have hit me up with a “Is this the right brush to use for blending eyeshadow?” or “How do I get rid of this zit?” type of text, and I get business questions from lots of my peeps. I’m more than happy to share what I know because these people have supported me as I’ve gained that knowledge.
Having a close friend or family member who is an entrepreneur can be frustrating at times, and I feel for you if you are in those shoes. Hopefully they support you in whatever you do. If you’ve been unsure how to reciprocate, hopefully this post helped.
I’ve chosen the uncommon career path and lifestyle of entrepreneurship. You might be thinking “It’s not that rare! I know several entrepreneurs.” Maybe you do, but the stats I have found all say that around only 14% of the population are entrepreneurs, so it’s really not that common. And I’ve made things even more complicated for people around me by not only a being an entrepreneur and small business owner, but a working snowbird. That (currently) means I spend April until late December in Newport, RI, where my business is based, and late December until April in Charleston, SC where my happiness is based (kidding).
I get it when someone who is hearing about my snowbird life for the first time doesn’t get it. It’s weird and usually something only retired people do (although they get the pleasure of not working while they snowbird). But when my close friends or people who have heard it several times don’t get it, I have to say, it drives me a little crazy. And that’s how this blog post was born.
I don’t think the snowbirding confusion is because people don’t understand how that works. No one seems to have an issue comprehending how someone could live in one area of the country for part of the year and another area for the rest of the year. Many retirees do it, as well as boatloads of people in the sailing and yachting industries (excellent pun) and some people who work in the service industry. What, you’ve never met a bartender who works in a Martha’s Vineyard/Cape May/Ocean City bar during the summer then heads to Key West to sling dranks during the winter? Sure you have.
I think the confusion comes in due to the mystery of the entrepreneur. It’s easy to grasp that someone who works on boats could go from Annapolis in the summer and early fall to the British Virgin Islands in the winter because that’s where the jobs are. Or how a Cape Cod bartender could fly down to Florida to bartend there when the Cape summer season ends, because the Florida summer season never really ends. The guy who works on boats needs to be where the boats are, and the gal who bartends at one beach bar in MA can probably do it at a beach bar in another state too. But what does an entrepreneur do when they go somewhere else? That’s a great question that you didn’t even know you had, and it really depends on the business they own, but there are some general things all big bosses have in common.
When I tell someone I own an onsite hair and makeup company and I go to or am in Charleston for the winter, they often then say “Do you work while you’re in Charleston?” It’s flattering that people think my business is doing well enough that I can just not work for three months, but that is not the case. (Yet.) Of course I have to work during the winter! I own a small business! You think this thing runs itself? (Give me another ten years to get to that point.)
While I may not take makeup clients when I’m in Charleston, doing makeup is only about a max of 35 hours of my week during my busiest months in Newport. The bulk of my time is and has been for several years now spent managing, doing admin tasks, recruiting and hiring, and growing my business. Sure, taking out that client piece for three months and the fact that we don’t have many weddings I have to coordinate during the winter means I only have to work between 30 – 40 hours a week while I snowbird (which feels like a vacation to me), but I still work every single day.
I’m going to share with you some of things I regularly do during my warmer winters, not because I have some strong desire for you to know what my life is like, but because if you have any of those fourteen-percenters around you, they are likely doing a lot of the same or similar tasks but might have trouble articulating that. So while they are probably busting their ass doing all the mysterious work, you might be picturing them sleeping until 11:00am, answering a few emails, going to the gym, making a couple phone calls, posting on Instagram then calling it a day.
And now, a short list of some of the many regular things that fill my weeks when I am not doing makeup (both when I am in Charleston and in Newport). The entrepreneur in your life is probably doing a lot of the same or similar things, plus maybe several that I haven’t thought of. If you’ve made it this far into the post, you might as well keep going.
Booking. A giant part of my job is booking weddings, wedding trials, events, commercials, shoots, makeup lessons, etc. If you think a client emails and says “Can you do the hair and makeup for my June 1st wedding?” and I say “Sure. See you then!,” you are dead wrong. I spend an average of two hours per bridal client checking availability, sending makeup artist and hair stylist portfolios and answering questions about experience, giving rates, answering emails, sometimes having phone calls, sending contracts and answering questions about those, and a lot of things I’m probably forgetting. (And that’s nothing compared to the time I spend once they are booked!) Any entrepreneur who provides services will spend some amount of time (or pays someone to spend some amount of time) on the booking process. Sure, some of them have it automated, but the system they use didn’t create itself. If you are not an entrepreneur but you work in Sales, some of this is probably sounding familiar to you.
Social Media. Some day, I will pay someone to do this for me, but until then, it’s all me (and I know that’s the case for a lot of entrepreneurs). For my company, I manage two Facebook pages and one Instagram account. I post on each three times a week, because consistency is key with social media. That’s a lot of content I have to come up with, and I of course have to be aware of new trends and algorithms. We get clients who have found us on social media, which is how I know it’s an effective form of marketing. I’m not in it for the Likes or followers. I’m in it to share photos of our work, beauty tips that can help people and information about the company, for those who are interested. It’s also an important way of getting our voice/brand out there. I think it’s fair to say that most business owners spend a decent amount of time on social media, or they pay someone to do it for them (and there is still work that needs to be done, even if you outsource it).
Blogging. I spend a few hours each week blogging. I didn’t always do this–check out the Archives from earlier years when I posted maybe once every couple months–but last year I decided I wanted to up my blogging game. I made a goal in 2018 to publish one post once a week, and I achieved that goal. I plan on continuing that once-a-week posting in 2019 and so far, I’m on track. I know blogging (and definitely consistent blogging) isn’t something that all entrepreneurs do, and in some industries, it wouldn’t make sense to. But I have valuable, expert info I want to share for free, and this is the platform for it. If the business owner in your life also has a blog, know that it definitely takes up a bit of their time.
Invoicing. We gotta get paid, you know? Invoicing is (or should be!) a part of most service-based industries. Even with invoicing or accounting software, it takes time to create, send, collect payment and follow up as needed (it’s often needed). Sure, the bigger the business, the more likely this task is to get outsourced, but freelancers and owners of smaller business will usually take care of this themselves. I can get most of my invoices done in under 10 minutes each, but I sent out around 300 invoices last year, so you do the math. (Really, please do it. Because I can’t.) If an entrepreneur has a good system in place and the company doesn’t have a complicated pricing structure, this shouldn’t be the most difficult or time consuming of the money tasks, but it is an essential part of the job.
Paying Bills. Money comes in, money goes out. It’s a vicious cycle. All entrepreneurs have some bills to pay, no matter how small their company is. Cell phone, WiFi, office space, advertising, personnel, inventory, etc. Some companies have a lot of overhead, while others don’t. But there are a ton of things that need to be paid for, and unless a business owner has someone doing that task, they are taking care of it themselves. Depending on the business, this can be a time consuming task, but it has to be done.
Taxes. Most of my friends are not entrepreneurs and from what they’ve told me, filing their taxes is usually not too complicated if they just have one non-Independent Contractor job and don’t own multiple properties. For entrepreneurs, taxes can be complicated. I have a great accountant and I meet with a bookkeeper from her office quarterly for Quickbooks reconciliation (think of it like balancing your checkbook, a reference you will understand if you were born in or before the early 80s). Even with that, I still have to send certain information to my accountant each year, as well as check that the 1099s sent to my Independent Contractors are correct and the 1099s I am supposed to receive have made it to me. Like many business owners, I pay quarterly estimated taxes, so taxes aren’t something I only think of once a year. I budget my quarterly payments, and now that my company has grown so much, there is other work I need to prepare every three months. I’m sure I’m not the only boss who does that. If you can spend one hour a year at H&R Block or wrap everything up in five emails with your accountant, I think that is awesome, and I am jealous. But now you know that one of the two certainties in life can take up more time that you might think for an entrepreneur.
Scheduling & Coordinating. I spend several hours every single week coordinating trials, meetings, assessments, trainings, sometimes corporate/commercial jobs and creating wedding and event schedules for hair and makeup. This time consuming task is part of any business that has services that are performed or people that need to show up to sell consumer goods. Things don’t just happen, you know? Someone–be it the business owner, admin assistant or a manager–schedules shifts/appointments/service times. Sure, some companies have scheduling software or set schedules, but that’s not appropriate or possible for all companies. I’m personally used to it and (I think) good at scheduling and coordinating, as I did some version of it at most of my pre-AB Beauty jobs. But a lot of people despise this task and struggle with it, so if you’ve got an entrepreneur in your life, this may be something they hate. But unless they can outsource it or can use scheduling software, it’s likely something they have to do to some extent.
Getting Photos. This is wedding-industry specific, but I’m talking about it anyway. (My blog, my rules.) Couples planning a wedding want to see pictures of venues, flowers, wedding gowns, table set ups, hair and makeup, etc. But since I’m a crap photographer at best, I prefer to use professional photos of the work my team and I have done. That involves getting wedding album links from clients, choosing photos that best highlight our work, getting the bride’s approval for the choices, contacting the photographer for permission to post and then posting them on Facebook and Instagram. Sure, the Facebook and Instagram part comes under my social medial tasks, but getting the photos is a whole different task. If you know a business owner who shares photos they didn’t take (and I really can’t think of an industry outside of the wedding industry that would), or hires someone to take photos for them, this is likely eating up some of their time.
Post-Job Follow-Up. I follow up after all wedding and event jobs we do, as well as after the first time I do or send an AB Beauty makeup artist to cover for me on a corporate or commercial job with a new client. As you may have noticed, many companies will send you a survey or ask for a review (review requests are part of my follow-ups too) after you use a service or buy one of their products. I think it’s so important to do whatever form of follow-up makes the most sense for a company so that clients/customers know someone cares about their experience after it’s all said and done. My guess is that most entrepreneurs do some sort of follow-up work.
Recruiting. I’m pretty much constantly hiring at AB Beauty. I post ads for new hair stylists and/or makeup artists, but I also recruit them from Cosmetology schools. That means I go in and speak to classrooms full of “future professionals,” as the Paul Mitchell schools call them, about AB Beauty job and training opportunities. This involves scheduling classes, preparing and updating talking points, answering emails after, etc. It’s an important part of my job and probably a part of the job for any entrepreneur who has a growing company that requires personnel. Depending on the industry, I can see this being anything from a minimally time consuming task that happens once in a while to something that is a top focus and can take up huge chunks of time.
Hiring. For any entrepreneur who has people working for them, hiring is on their task list (or something they pay someone else they have hired to do for them). Like with anything else, this differs by company and industry, but for me, it’s definitely one of the more time consuming tasks. Formal job offers, Independent Contractor Agreements, requesting professional license information and proof of liability insurance and about 35 other tasks are part of the process for me. From what I know, it’s a pretty time-intensive part of the job for most solopreneurs who have Independent Contractors or employees working for them.
Training. For business owners who have employees, training is (hopefully) part of the process. At AB Beauty, there are no employees but we do offer training programs for those Independent Contractors who are interested. These sessions take up several hours a week while the actual training is happening, but also several hours before it even starts to relay certain information and arrange sessions. If you’ve got an entrepreneur in your life who handles training, know that this can take up a lot of their time.
Accounting. I luckily have an accountant and a bookkeeper who I meet with quarterly, but there is still a lot of work I do that falls under what I consider the “Accounting” umbrella. This mostly involves entering information into Quickbooks, but anything that has to do with banking goes here in my mind. The entrepreneurs who hire people to take care of this can cross this task of their list, but a lot of us handle it (to varying degrees) on our own.
IT Stuff. One of my least favorite hats to wear as an entrepreneur is “IT Gal.” It’s not my strength but since, you know, everything is done on a computer, it’s something I can’t ignore. I have a company that handles my website design, domain and any website issues, which is awesome. And I have a freelance IT hero, Dan, I hire when there is something wrong with my computer. But before I go around throwing money at people, I research and try to fix some problems myself (and those are usually the times when you can find me drinking tequila to quell the frustration). Even if there is something I can’t fix myself, it’s still part of my job to reach out to the person who can fix it for me and follow through to make sure the issue is resolved. Sometimes Dan will walk me through fixes remotely, and I’m glad he is able to do that, but what seems like a simple problem can sometimes take an afternoon to fix. If you ever hear the non-tech entrepreneur in your life swearing at their computer, it might be because of this.
Taking Classes. If I ran my business like I did even five years ago, I’d be in trouble. Not that I was doing anything bad or wrong, but platforms change and businesses grow, so adjustments need to be made. For me, part of being a good business owner is learning about new ways to do things and approach the big picture and strategic parts of the job. I take a lot of online classes, workshops and webinars to help me better my business, and I know several entrepreneurs who do the same. These generally take up 60 – 90 minutes per class/workshop/webinar for online offerings, but in person classes can take an entire day or more. There is sometimes work that needs to be done before and/or after a class, so this can take up some time too.
Personnel Communication. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t email or text at least one person on my team. (They’re like “Yeah, we know, Allison.”) Part of this has to do with the fact that they are all Independent Contractors so I can’t just schedule appointments without asking them. But there is a shit ton of other stuff that I need to check with them about (and that they need to check with me about), and I think all business owners who have people working for them handle this to some degree. So if your entrepreneur friend/spouse/relative has to step out of the room for five minutes to answer a time sensitive call from someone who works for them, give ’em a break! It’s part of the job.
Attorney Communication. If you know an entrepreneur who doesn’t have an attorney, be worried for them. If you own a business, you damn well better make sure your practices and your documents are legally sound. I don’t need legal services every month, but when I do, I have emails and phone calls with my attorney that have to happen. Sometimes it’s a ten minute back and forth email conversation, and other times it’s 45 minutes on the phone to straighten something out. Depending on the industry and what stage of the business someone is, this could be a more time-intensive part of the job. But it is definitely part of the job to some degree.
Constantly Evaluating Everything. A huge part of being an entrepreneur in my book (which, as you can imagine, is a very long book) is regularly assessing how things are working. Pricing, systems, client communication templates, hiring, training programs, etc. I consider this to fall under my Big Picture Duties, as what I’m really asking is “Is this part of the business working?” I feel pretty confident saying every entrepreneur does some version of this. So if you look at the business owner in your life and they seem to be mindlessly scrolling through something on their screen, sure, they might be. But they might also be looking numbers, feedback or reviews and deciding if they need to adjust some part of their company to make it better.
Revising Everything. Okay, so hopefully not all at once. But that constant evaluation often means something (or many things) need to change. And changes don’t happen on their own! There are simple changes like changing over from a personal to a business Instagram account. And there are bigger changes, like website makeovers, switching to a new client management system or setting up new accounting software, that can take hours and hours and hours. The bigger the company, the less likely it is that the business owner will have to personally execute the changes, but solo owners with no admin staff are likely taking it all on.
So if you ask your entrepreneur friend what they are doing this weekend and they say “Working,” but you know they have no clients or their store/restaurants/studio isn’t open, keep in mind that they might be doing some (or all) of the things I mentioned, plus some I forgot or never thought of. And if you’re my friend or relative and you’ve secretly been thinking “What does she do when she says she is working in Charleston? I know she didn’t even bring her pro kit there this year!,” now you know.
If you have any misconceptions about your job or industry that you want to clear up, leave ’em in the comments. I love hearing about other people’s jobs because it helps me understand what their life is like. And understanding is key in any type of personal or business relationship, right? (Next up, my post about my life as an Amateur Psychologist.)
I’ve often said that one of the best things about entrepreneurship is the freedom. I’ve been a ladyboss since 2008, but it was really 2011–the year I was able to stop working other jobs to get by–that I really felt the freedom. For me, the ability to make my own schedule is invaluable. You could offer me a job making three times what I make now, but if I had to work off a schedule and answer to someone else, forget it. Keep your own (restricting) money, I’d say.
I want to get into the nitty gritty of what types of freedom I have, thanks to my boss (me). If you are considering opening a business or going freelance and the idea of schedule freedom is part of why you want to do that, read on.
Sleeping In. I know, I know–I’ve talked about this before. A lot. But as someone who is a shitty, unproductive person when she is sleep deprived, I really value the opportunities I get to sleep in. And I don’t mean until 11:00am. To me, sleeping in is waking up when my body wants to. Sometimes that’s 7:00am. Sometimes it’s 8:30am. I usually don’t make it past the 9:00am mark but hey, if my body wanted to do that one day and I didn’t have morning clients or a meeting, I’d do it. After having to wake up earlier than my body wanted to for all of elementary school, middle school, high school, some of college, esthetics school and every job I worked before I opened my business, I’m over it. Sleeping in feels like luxury, but it’s really just a job perk.
Booking Flights. For the most part, I am able to book flights on the cheapest days. For example, say I wanted to go to Nashville next fall (which I do, because I always want to go to Nashville). As long as it’s far enough out and my calendar hasn’t been filled in too much, I can choose my dates based off the cheapest flights. 11:00am on a Thursday $100 cheaper than 5:20pm on a Friday? Late morning on Thirsty Thursday it is. I’ve probably saved a couple thousand dollars in flights thanks to my business owning ways.
Sick Days. I don’t get paid sick time and there are times when I have do jobs even when I am sick because I am under contract or have no one to cover me. But when I am sick for a longgggg time–like I have been this fall–being my own boss has allowed me to take time to rest for weeks at a time without using up all of my sick time or going on medical leave and taking a pay cut. I mean, yes, I’ve still had to work running my business, but I can answer emails and phone calls from bed, and I can keep those to a minimum outside of wedding season. With my recent illness, I didn’t have to ask anyone for permission to leave work for the many doctors appointments I’ve had. When I’m sick, I just take care of what I need to take care of, do only the urgent or time sensitive business things I need to do, and rest as much as I can, without worrying about using up all of my paid time off.
Workout Schedule. There are some workouts I do at home, and I do those whenever. I can get off a phone call then do crunches on the middle of my office floor without anyone reporting me to my supervisor, which is nice. But what I really love is that as a half-ass runner (usually only a couple miles per run), I can go out on my runs depending on the weather. Rainstorms rolling in at 4:00pm? No problem. I’ll head out at 2:00pm. When I worked at 9-5 jobs, I could only run at night (6:00am workouts made me want to vomit, so evenings were the only option). On the evenings that were rainy, snowy or brutally cold after the sun went down, I’d have to skip my run. Now I just check weather app radars and hourly forecasts so I have no excuse.
Running Errands. Ah, the other kind of running I do. I like to be very efficient with my errands, because, I mean, I’ve got work to do. Creating my own schedule means I can run those errands when places aren’t busy. Grocery shopping at 12:00pm on a Tuesday takes half the time as it would the same time on a Saturday. In fact, I do most of my errands mid-day during the week. I don’t have to scramble to get out of work and through rush hour traffic to make it to the dry cleaner’s by 5:30pm. I just stroll on over at 1:00pm, enjoy no line and take that white sweater right on home. It’s glorious.
The freedom that entrepreneurship is huge to me. It means I can build my days–and therefore my lifestyle–the way I want. I can’t think of a better job perk.
You’ve read Part 1 and loved it, so let’s move on to Part 2. This is where I tell you about the habits/routines I do have and keep because they work for me. There are some you might have tried and hated, or others you inherently know wouldn’t work for you. And that’s cool! I’m not saying this is a Must Do list. But maybe you’ll see something here that you want to try, or it gives you an idea to do something similar. Which is also cool!
Let me preface this by saying this is my routine on my ideal day. If I have an early job, a lot of it has to get thrown out the window. But when I don’t, this is what I like to do.
Phone Check. Before I even get out of my bed, I look at my phone. I know some people say this is bad, but I need to make sure my personal and professional worlds haven’t crumbled over the last seven hours. If there is anything truly urgent, I respond. Otherwise, I leave it until I’m ready for the responding-to-things part of my day.
Social Media Scroll. Another one a lot of people advise against, but this is part of how I ease into the day. It’s usually more of a Facebook scroll than Instagram, and I do it because I like to see what the people in my life who I don’t talk to regularly are up to (or what they choose to share). I leave birthday comments, I send condolences messages, I congratulate friends on professional accomplishments, engagements, pregnancy announcements, etc. I don’t spend a ton of time on Facebook during the day, but most days, I do this scroll for about 10 minutes in the morning.
Supplements: Round 1. One of the first things I do after get out of bed is take my probiotics and a supplement that needs to be taken on an empty stomach. It’s five total pills, and I like taking them because they have corrected health issues I’ve had in the past, so starting off my day staying on top of my health feels great. As a business owner, I need my energy and focus to be high every day. If I consistently don’t feel well, I can’t do my job, so taking care of my health is just as important as booking jobs and paying bills.
Mini Workout. Next up, I brew my coffee and hit the floor for some hamstring stretches prescribed by my chiropractor and 150 crunches (75 for upper abs, 75 for lower). Next up is my favorite arm workout, followed by 20 lunges and 20 squats. By the time my coffee is ready, I’ve done something else good for my health and crossed it off my list before the day gets to me.
Blogging. In January, I set the goal of posting at least one blog post a week for all of 2018. We are now in Week 43 of 2018 and I only missed one week (I was away on a semi-vacation), but I made up for that by posting twice the next week. I was able to get about 20 posts done and stockpiled in the early part of this year, but then wedding season buried me so I had to write new ones most weeks. And my mind is freshest in the morning, so that is when it makes the most sense for me to write. I give myself a certain amount of time, then I do my best to stay focused and write during that time. I love writing and would love to have three hours a day to do it, but I usually have to settle for 30 – 60 minutes.
Supplements: Round 2. I have more supplements that need to be taken with food/a protein shake, so I do that while watching a comedy special, comedy video podcast or a business webinar/class. That way I’m either laughing or learning while my body gets some nutrients it needs. I’ll take that Smart Multitasking Award now, please.
A Scheduled Going With the Flow Day. After breakfast, I really get into my emails and tasks for the day. I have certain tasks I do on certain days, and the reminders for those tasks are purposely set to pop up at times I know my brain will be most receptive to them. So blogging, typing up notes for classes I am teaching, creating content–anything that requires my communication to be clear and interesting–has to be done in the earlier part of the day while my mind is fresh. And any tasks that require me to do even the slightest bit of math need to happen early on in the day if I want the numbers to come out right. I save autopilot tasks–scheduled emails I already have templates for, printing documents, filing–for later in the day when my brain is slowing down but is still working. And of course, a ton of emails and calls come in during the day. I do my best to prioritize what needs to be responded to right away (i.e. new leads and time sensitive questions) and what can wait (i.e. creating wedding schedules for a year from now, reading a newsletter that I think will have valuable info, responding to a blog post comment, etc.) So I have to go with the flow and prioritize the new stuff while also taking care of as many of the scheduled tasks as possible. I’m better at this some days than others.
Mid-Day Break. As long as it’s nice out and I’m not booked with clients all afternoon, I take a break around 1:00pm to walk to do errands. Sometimes they are work errands, sometimes personal, but getting myself out of my house or studio and away from my computer gives me an energy boost. I have loved going for walks since I was a kid, so even though my walks now have a purpose, they are still one of my favorite things to do. Being able to walk to do my errands–and to bars and restaurants, if I’m being honest!–is an important part of my life and the reason why I will always choose a small apartment in (or very slightly outside of) the middle of things over a bigger and probably cheaper place in an area where you have to drive everywhere.
Daily Wrap Up. I’ve found that as long as I start my day off right with my morning routines and getting out for a walk mid-day, I am generally very productive. The rest of the day is dependent on what is going on that week, but I try to plan it out the best I can the night before. I always did this to some extent, but I really honed in on this after taking a productivity workshop in the Hatch Tribe Members Circle. Every night at 8:00pm (the time I try to end my workday but usually don’t), a reminder comes up to do my Daily Wrap Up. I scan my inbox for anything that absolutely needs to responded to that night, then I look at my calendar for the next day. I delete any non-applicable reminders for the next day (i.e. sending out wedding schedules for one month out when we don’t have any exactly one month from that reminder, following up with someone who has already gotten back to me, placing makeup orders when I’m not out of any products, etc.). I then look at my main To Do list. If it’s a hot mess with crossouts everywhere and tasks written in every available space, I write a fresh one for the next day. Then I look at my new To Do list and what’s left on my calendar for the next day and choose no more than four tasks that I absolutely want to get done the next day. I write “Tuesday” or whatever the next day is on the top of the list and put that next to my computer. Doing Daily Wrap Ups is a newer thing for me but I can tell it’s already been working.
I like structure, but I also like to do what I want when I want, so figure that one out. I have my routines and I stick to them most of the time, but I also create them and can change them up whenever I want, which is where the freedom comes in. All of my routines aren’t fully possible on days when I’m with clients or on set for most of the day, but I still try to grab onto a couple of them when I can. As an entrepreneur, you have so much on your plate. Without a plan or structure, it can feel like complete chaos. And it’s 112% harder (fact that I made up) to run a business when things are more hectic than they need to be.
When you own a business, things are always going to come up. Some days go pretty smoothly, while other days will consist of putting out fire after fire (after fire…after fire). But routines give you that safety net of structure so you don’t feel like you are free falling through your day. Or at least, not falling as far or as fast.
This is my take, but I know I’m not alone. Us small biz owners all have our ways of doing things. If you are successful, happy, and not feeling completely overwhelmed 24/7, I think it’s safe to say you are doing it right. But if you don’t have any routines and you are feeling like things are out of control, maybe it’s time to throw some routines in there. You might already have an inkling of what would work for you, or maybe you’ve read about another entrepreneur’s routines and thought “I like how they start their day off with meditation/a cold shower/running around the neighborhood yelling ‘I did it!‘”
So go on, do your thing mama, do your thing. (Anyone get that reference?) If you want to create some routines, there are plenty out there to inspire you, but you’ve got the freedom to choose or create ones that will work for you.
And now my blogging routine is over, so I’m on to the next.
Habits. Rituals. Schedules. Routines. We all have them, whether we realize it or not. I wouldn’t call myself a creature of habit, but I enjoy a good ritual or routine. I have personal routines and rituals I enjoy–the getting-ready process before a date or meeting friends, taking my supplements while watching a comedy special or video podcast, calling my father to catch up while I’m walking home from doing errands, etc.–but it’s the business ones I want to talk about today.
I read a lot about the habits and routines of successful entrepreneurs. Not only do I find the insights into their lives interesting, but sometimes I pick up tips based off their habits and routines that I can incorporate into Allison’s World. I know who I am and what kinds of habits I’d be likely to stick to, so when I read about something that I think would improve my professional life and make sense for me, I give it a try.
But there are other things that don’t work for me. Some I’ve tried, others I just know. I see several of the same habits and routines come up repeatedly in interviews with successful entrepreneurs. It’s great that they’ve worked for so many people, but they do not have a place in my life. I think there is a small voice in many of us entrepreneurs always telling us to improve (which is good) but also sometimes telling us we need to do certain things that have worked for others (which is bad). Maybe I’m reading too much into it–wouldn’t be the first time I did that–but it seems that some of the articles I read imply that if you don’t have the same habits as some of the mega-successful entrepreneurs in the world, you’re not doing it right.
So I want to smash the idea that we must do some of these habits and routines that circulate so widely. I’m by no means the most successful business owner in the world, but I’ve been in business for over 10 years and we are having our best year yet on many levels, so I’m not totally screwing up. I’m not saying these routines are wrong or bad, but I want to point out that they may not work for everyone, and that’s okay.
Here’s what I’m not into:
Getting Up Early. “Early” to me is between 6:00am – 7:00am. “Gross Early” is between 4:00am – 6:00am. Anything earlier than than is “Film Crew Early,” which is part of why I don’t work on movies anymore. When I have morning clients or appointments, I set my alarm for 1.5 – 2 hours before I need to leave. That gives me time to have my coffee, work on a blog post, answer any urgent emails, shower and get ready. But when I don’t have to be anywhere in the morning, I wake up whenever my body says, “We’re good on sleep now, ma’am.” (My body is polite, and maybe Southern.) I like the idea of getting up Early or even Gross Early, but I regularly work until 10:00pm or 11:00pm, which means I fall asleep around midnight. Forcing myself to wake up 4 – 6 hours after that would not only be cruel, but it would make for a very unproductive day. I am not a good business owner when I’m tired. Every task takes twice as long when my brain is in an exhaustion fog, and even the simplest things feel difficult. So while I have had days when I’ve naturally woken up Gross Early and have loved the amount of work I’ve gotten through before it was even 10:00am, those days are rare and my sleep is precious. I’m not going to voluntarily move to Struggle City so I can seem like a more disciplined or productive business owner. (Besides, can you imagine living there? Every day would be 57 degrees so you wouldn’t know what to wear, stores would never be open during the hours you could get there and you would only have a strong WiFi connection on Wednesdays.) So y’all can wake up when it’s still dark out if that works for you, but I’m sticking with my slumber schedule (or lack thereof).
Making The Bed. Now why would I want to do that? As a business owner with a brutal schedule (which yes, I created), I sometimes feel like I could collapse under the sheer volume of never-ending work. Sometimes I need a power nap to replenish. If my bed is un-made, boom!, I can jump right in. If it’s already made, I have to peel back the layers–more work–and then get in. I’m mostly kidding with this one. I don’t consistently make my bed because I’ve never been a bed maker. I’ve been sleeping like a maniac lately, sheets all twisted and pillows thrown on the floor (what is happening in my dream world?!?!), so tidying up that disaster zone takes a couple minutes. I figure I could use that time to do something more productive, like work on this blog! I know the idea behind this Successful Entrepreneur Habit is that it starts your day off on a productive note and immediately puts you into Routine Mode, but I don’t need help with productivity or routines. So for now, my bed remains unmade most days and ready for me to easily get back into it whenever I need to.
Meditation. During my freshman year in college, I was part of a mandatory new student group that met once a week, I think with the goal of helping freshmen acclimate to college life. (If acclimating meant “finding new places to hide bottles of Bacardi in my dorm room”, I acclimated very quickly.) For one of our meetings, our teacher/guide/shaman/whatever she was, brought us to a meditation class. We all laid on mats on the floor–which I didn’t care for–and were guided through a meditation exercise. Afterwards, everyone in my group said they felt so calm and relaxed during it. Me? My body cramped up and I could not wait to GTFO. That was my first experience with meditation. I have tried meditating multiple times since that forced meditation ambush and have always been met with lackluster results. My thoughts do not turn off, and I always feel frustrated after attempting to meditate. I think I used to get in a meditative state when I was lying out by the pool or at the beach, which was my favorite way to relax until Esthetics school ruined sunbathing for me. I can see how meditation would be helpful for entrepreneurs, but it’s just not my thing.
Morning Workouts. I get the appeal of working out early. You get that necessary evil out of the way early, enjoy a sense of accomplishment first thing and get an energy boost to help you start the day off right. Fabulous! My problem is that if I try to work out soon after I wake up, I feel like I’m going to throw up. Feeling nauseous isn’t my favorite way to start the day, so I push my workouts to afternoons or evenings. I can do my favorite arm workout, stretches and crunches first thing, but my body needs to wake up a bit more before I do cardio (which is always running for me). If you can do workout out first thing, more power to you. But my body has deemed this cruel and unusual punishment, so it’s got no part in my morning routine.
Waking Up With A Cold Shower. This is the quickest way to get me in a foul mood for the entire day. Will I use cool water to rinse my conditioner out so my blue balyage fades less? You know it. But immersing the body of a snowbird in cold water can cause fainting spells, and I don’t have any time scheduled in for those. I am sticking to my warm showers, and I will not budge on that.
Daily Affirmations. I can not bring myself to do this. The closest I get is frequently watching the final battle scene from 8 Mile. I find that very motivating and empowering, which I think is the point of affirmations. I don’t have any problems with professional confidence at this point in my career and I’m self motivated by nature, but maybe my brain is doing secret subconscious affirmations all the time. I will kill it like B-Rabbit, I will kill it like B-Rabbit. Eminem is never far from my thoughts. He’s like a living guardian angel from Detroit for me, and we can all use one of those.
Going To Bed Early. I’ll be honest–I’m jealous of people who fall asleep at 9:00pm. I know if I did that, I would naturally wake up Gross Early, and as I said, I like those days when I do wake up before the rest of the world (or so it seems) and get a ton of work done by 10:00am. However, that’s not the schedule my body is on. I work late, and part of why I do that is to make my mornings better. Hear me out. When I reply or send emails at 10:00pm or 11:00pm, I usually don’t get a response right away. That means I can cross a lot off my list before I go to bed. And then I wake up with less in my inbox, which makes the day feel easier. Starting off the day right is very important to me, and working late at night feels like it gives me a head start on the next day.
When it comes to habits and routines, I think it’s all about what works for you. I have routines I’ve created to make my days productive and organized, but I change them when they stop working for me. I’m open to incorporating new habits or routines, but if something doesn’t make my life easier or make me a better entrepreneur, why would I hold onto it? Surely not because it worked for someone else!
I’ll still read articles and listen to talks about other entrepreneur’s routines and habits, because there will be things that speak to me. And even if they don’t, I like learning about what other people do and what’s worked for them. I find it inspiring to hear any entrepreneur’s story, and if their path to success includes waking up at sunrise, drinking hot water with lemon then loudly chanting for 12 minutes, that’s cool. It’s not for me, with my late nights, sensitive teeth and downstairs neighbors who I would scare, but like DMX says, do you.
If you’ve got a habit or routine that you think helps with your professional life, I am all ears. I’ll be sharing some of mine in Part 2, because you know I can’t resist a two part blog series.
“That was a lifetime ago!” I hear myself saying that when a friend says “Remember when I came down to visit you when you lived in West Palm Beach?” or “Remember all of us walking in our white scrubs from Esthetics school to Dunkin’ Donuts during our breaks?” I call different chunks of my life–like childhood, college, my Florida Years, etc.–my “past lives.”
Within those past lives, I have career past lives. I had seven different jobs before I opened my company and four more during the early years at AB Beauty. Other than a job at my family business–which was there whenever I wanted it for part-time work–I never stayed much longer than one year anywhere I worked. I wasn’t happy at any of my jobs, which is exactly why I started my own business.
My first job interview was at a beauty supply store (obviously). I think it was for a sales/cashier position, or it might have been for office help. I can’t remember, but I was crushed when they didn’t hire me. I was 14, and I wanted to work (and I especially wanted to work around makeup). Luckily, my father opened a real estate company soon after that, and he brought me on as his Administrative Assistant. I had zero work experience–unless you consider my smashing success playing my make believe game, “Small Business Owner,” work experience–but my boss was willing to overlook that.
I learned a lot at my first job, as well as the 10 other jobs I had before I was 28. There are systems, ways of doing things, and often ways of not doing things that I still use. Those past jobs all helped me become the business owner I am today.
It’s in my nature to look back, review and see what I learned from different situations. And guess what? Today, you’re along for the ride. Buckle up, girlfriend.
Job: Administrative Assistant at a real estate company (that my father owned).
Length of Stint: Three years part-time during high school, and during breaks and three of the summers I was in college. So, you do the math. (Seriously, I can’t.)
What I Learned: That I absolutely did not want to be an entrepreneur. I saw how hard it was, and how you don’t get health insurance, sick time, vacation days, etc. I was there since Day One, so I witnessed what went into starting a company. Good thing I changed my mind about that…
What I Loved: Having my own desk; office supplies; organizing the office; creating tracking systems; finding listings clients might like.
What I Hated: Realtors and clients who would call and be rude or mean to me. There’s a special place in hell for people who take their anger out on the person who answers the phone (especially when she is 16, but still more professional than a 52 year old cranky sales agent.)
Job: Real Estate Agent.
Length of Stint: Four years, very part-time (during college breaks and three of the summers I was home from college).
What I Learned: The importance of connections and making sure everyone around me knew what I did for a career. This was in the pre-social media days so I did a lot of mailings. I also learned to do things I still do today, like always having my business cards with me and giving small gifts to those who refer people who book with my company.
What I Loved: Seeing inside people’s houses! HGTV was my favorite channel before it was popular. (Whatchu know about the original “Trading Spaces?”) I also loved being able to help make peoples’ lives better by finding them a place to live that suited their needs better than their current home, or helping them sell a property that no longer met their needs.
What I Hated: Working on commission. At that point in my life, I craved the stability of a regular paycheck. Luckily I was able to do this job in combination with part-time office work at the same company (and l didn’t have many expenses at the time anyway), but I knew that I was not cut out for a sales job.
Job: Weird Sales Job. (Yup, exactly what I had already learned I hated. I wasn’t what you might call “smart” in my early 20s.)
Length of Stint: One week.
What I Learned: Some jobs are legit scams. For this one, I had to stand outside grocery stores and coffee shops and try to sell people crappy kids’ toys, luring the parents over by saying we were doing free fingerprinting for missing children identification kits. I think we said the kits would be sent somewhere to be put in a database–which I doubt they were–and then we would try to sell them toys that we had out on our tables. The job I applied for sounded much different than what it actually was, and I didn’t know what I was getting into until I started. One day I made $20 total after 10 hours of work, said “Fuck this,” and quit.
What I Loved: I made friends with a coworker, Shannon, who I am still good friends with now.
What I Hated: The overall scam; being tricked into it (the owner apologized when I bumped into him a year later); making zero money. But I mean, how Early 2000s Florida was this type of job? Some of you know exactly what I mean.
Job: Office Manager at an environmental consulting firm.
Length of Stint: Nine months.
What I Learned: How to use Quickbooks; project management; the importance of using Outlook reminders to make sure everything got done; how to schedule appointments; how not to treat the people who work for you.
What I Loved: My coworkers. We had a really awesome group at this company (I even got Shannon a job there!).
What I Hated: That my boss was extremely hot or cold. His temper was scary, and after he punched a file cabinet next to my desk so hard it dented, I–along with 90% of the company–made my exit plan. Within three months of that terrifying incident, we had all left the company.
Job: Office Manager at a real estate appraisal company.
Length of Stint: Nine months.
What I Learned: How to use appraisal software; what goes into appraisals and what they are used for; how to deal with a boss who clearly did not want to own the company.
What I Loved: My commute kept me off of 95 in South Florida, so my life was no longer in jeopardy every weekday rush hour as it had been at my last job.
What I Hated: Working out of someone else’s home (oh, did I mention their home office was inside their garage?); that the owners would jet off to Miami for a couple days, leaving me to deal with phone calls from angry people who rightfully wanted their overdue appraisals; that they illegally hired me as an Independent Contractor so I wasn’t able to collect unemployment when they laid me off out of nowhere because the wife’s sister got in a car accident. (You’re right–that doesn’t make any sense!)
Job: School Secretary.
Length of Stint: 13 months.
What I Learned: Some advanced Excel skills (took a class while I was there); the importance of confidentiality (I filed student behavior reports and was privy to staffing issues); that I have impressive willpower (there was a basket of candy on my desk and I did not touch it once during a three month cleanse I did).
What I Loved: The people (both the students and the staff)! I became friends with Dan, one of the teacher’s assistants, and we are still good friends 11 years later.
What I Hated: Waking up early; how I couldn’t go to the bathroom without getting someone to sit at my desk to buzz people in and answer the phones; being bored due to lack of work.
Job: Office Manager at my father’s real estate company.
Length of Stint: 13 months. I did this part-time most days after leaving my School Secretary job.
What I Learned: I actually learned this early on working for my father, but I’ll put it here: I learned how to treat the people who work for you. My father has always been incredibly kind, understanding and accommodating with everyone in any company he has owned. He taught me that you have to let your team know that you recognize and appreciate their work, and you have to make sure that you are paying them fairly and not expecting them to do work outside of their job description without being compensated for it.
What I Loved: The two minute commute; being able to make my own hours; working with fun people.
What I Hated: That it was in Worcester. I really wanted to go back to Newport after my Florida Years, but I had to live at home and save up first (my parents very nicely let me live with them rent-free).
Job: Waitress at a small BYOB restaurant.
Length of Stint: 10 months. A good chunk of this time was during my seven months in Esthetics school. I would go to school during the day and waitress on nights and weekends.
What I Learned: The restaurant scene is too dramatic for me. Lots of coworker hookups, gossip and accusations of stealing money. And yes, hothead chefs are a very real thing. Calm down, you know? It’s just food.
What I Loved: My regulars. Because this restaurant was a small, neighborhood spot, I saw a lot of the same people every few days. They liked me, I liked them, and towards the end of my time there, when most of the rest of the servers were shitty at their jobs, my regulars used to ask me which days I was there and would only come in during my shifts.
What I Hated: For starters, I was trained for one shift, then they fired the waitress who was training me so I was left to figure things out on my own. One of the owners called it “trial by fire,” but it was more “poor staff training.” When I started, there were three owners, and one of them was awesome (we are still friendly today). One was a complete asshole–I’ll at least give him props for showing his true colors from the start–and the other was nice at first, then really had it out for me for no reason. He eventually fired me because the waitress after me did not pass on a phone message I left for him (exactly, makes no sense) then apologized for doing that a year or two later when we bumped into each other. In the end though, my business is thriving and their’s closed down soon after I left. So, I feel good about that.
Job: Restaurant hostess at established restaurant.
Length of Stint: Three months.
What I Learned: That I could pick up on things quickly. This was late 2008, when the job market was real bad, and even with my Bachelor’s degree and years of office experience, I couldn’t find anything for several months. I took this part-time hostessing job while I was searching for a full-time job (and getting my business up and running). I realized that even though it was a different restaurant than the first one and was run completely differently (better), I was able to catch on quickly.
What I Loved: I made friends with coworkers Gretchen and Mimi, both of whom I stayed in touch with for a few years after I left.
What I Hated: I wasn’t there long enough to hate anything!
Job: School Secretary. (Ding ding, Round Two! Different school, different state, a lot of similarities.)
Length of Stint: One year. I did this job while doing weddings and trials on nights and weekends.
What I Learned: I was at a Head Start and it gave me a glimpse into the lives of parents who had financial hardships, behavioral or health issues with their children and some overall tough situations. I think any job that allows you to see life through a different lens gives you the opportunity to be a more empathetic and understanding person. Those qualities have helped me a better business owner and boss, and hopefully a better person.
What I Loved: It was easy and stress-free. I became good friends with two coworkers named Jill, and later ended up sharing an office for AB Beauty with one of those Jills once we both had our own companies. I’m still friends with the other Jill too, and even got to do her wedding makeup.
What I Hated: The low pay (I qualified for many of the assistance programs offered by the community program Head Start was part of); being chained to my desk (another case of “can’t leave my desk to use the bathroom if I don’t have coverage); the hours (I’ll never love waking up at 6:00am) and the boredom. I was overqualified and consequently bored to tears at this job. It was there that I created “tapefoliation,” which what I called using pieces of Scotch tape to exfoliate my arms and hands. Another tactic I used to combat my boredom was to take huge piles of documents I had put in order to file away, then accidentally-on-purpose drop them so I would have to pick them up and re-file to kill ten minutes of time.
Job: Office Manager at a construction company.
Length of Stint: Ten months.
What I Learned: More Quickbooks; how to use Google calendar to run shit (I still do this); how to create order tracking systems; how to process information needed for payroll; the importance of W9s for Independent Contractors.
What I Loved: The freedom. I could leave my desk to use the bathroom, check the mail, run out to my car, etc. without first finding coverage. My boss was also great about letting me take time off to do weddings and commercials. My company really started taking off right around the time this company started closing, so the timing worked out perfectly. My boss was really great to me though and I learned a lot from him, so that meant as much to me as the freedom.
What I Hated: It was really hard to be two plus years into my career and not yet be ready to do it full time, but to watch my boss (who is a little younger than me) and my friend (who ran a salon and wedding beauty company from the second floor of the building I worked in) do it was extra hard for me. I REALLY wanted the freedom that full time entrepreneurship brings and I knew I was close, so I wouldn’t say I was jealous, but I would see them with that freedom and think “I want that! And soon!”
My 11 career past lives taught me a lot about systems, protocols, policies, inventory, organization and basic accounting. And each boss I had ran their company or department in a different way. I took the things I thought they did well and later incorporated those things into my business. I also took note of the things they did that I didn’t think were smart, kind, fair or in some cases, legal, and stayed away from doing those things in my business. I may have dreaded Mondays, hated my boss or struggled financially when I was working some of my past jobs, but I’m glad I didn’t like them enough to stay. None of those positions were in fields I was passionate about, so although I may have had a chance to have a stress-free job that was financially comfortable enough, I know I wouldn’t have been happy.
If I had to go back and change anything about my pre-AB Beauty jobs…I wouldn’t. They taught me a ton, and they gave me the bad experiences that help me appreciate how good I have it now. If I’m annoyed with something at my company, I try to think “At least I’m not dealing with disappearing home-buying clients, asshole chefs and having to get coverage to leave my desk.”
My career path has been bumpy, painful and aggravating at times, but my past lives brought me to my current career life, and it’s the bomb. I hope you’ve got a good one too. And remember–tapefoliation is for hands and arms during times of extreme boredom only.