Balancing Act

 

work life balance

Hi, my name is Allison and I’m a workaholic. I started working at age 15 and caught a real high off opening a company with my father. For my birthday that year, he got me business cards with my name and “Administrative Assistant” printed on them. If you think anyone in my sophomore class didn’t have one, you are dead wrong. My senior year of high school, I got out at 12:00pm every day for an internship that I was supposed to do for five hours a week. Instead, I did five hours a day and got paid for it.

I worked selling real estate during my college years. After graduation, I moved to FL where I instantly found a job (and then another one…then another one). I busted my ass as an Office Manager for two years before moving back to New England. I did a couple stints as an unemployed 20something, but those were always short-lived. In my mid 20s, I spent some time working two jobs, which I continued doing until I went full-time with my business. The days of taking time off or working short 40 hour weeks disappeared, and my new schedule of seven day weeks, 365 days a year began. (Yes, I count answering emails for an hour or two on Christmas or Thanksgiving as a work day.)

The addiction is real. Being an entrepreneur put me on another level, and I’ve started to realize it’s not always healthy. I still don’t take full days off, but in the past eight months, I’ve been working on getting some balance. (I know a lot of people think that term is too lifestyle blog-ish, but I can’t think of a better one.) It’s impossible to be truly balanced, which I recognize. When I’m working crazy long days, I think, I should be spending more time with my family and friends. When I make plans with family or friends, I think, I shouldn’t. I have too much work to do. There is no way to do it all, unless I can figure out how to clone myself. (That’s something I think about more often than I should, as I know it’s not possible. But 50 years ago, no one would have thought that cell phones could be possible, so maybe…)

But less talk about clones, more talk about balance. Us workaholics (and anyone taking care of a ton of things, like kids, parents, school, health issues, etc.) will eventually burn out if we don’t take breaks. And a burnt out workaholic is no good to anyone. I am not only the best entrepreneur and makeup artist I can be when I feel balanced, but also the best daughter, sister and friend.

My quest for balance started after I had a mini-breakdown early last summer. Looking back, I think part of it was from the workload but also probably because of my stress level due to my father’s year-long battle with pancreatic cancer (he’s good now, thank God). It all hit me one day in mid-June when I felt particularly buried in work, and I thought, This has to stop. So I started doing these things, which have helped make me a workaholic on the road to recovery.

More Family & Friend Time. I know, I know–this one is a no-brainer. It’s not only my favorite thing to do but one of my two main goals when I opened my business (the other was/is to be cold as little as possible by snowbirding it in the winter). I’ve historically been better at family time, maybe because I can plan ahead for a lot of it (birthdays, holidays, the annual family reunion) but have still missed out on some get-togethers over the years. Friend time can be tougher because I have a lot of them (I don’t know how!) and they are spread out across the country, plus everyone has different schedules. But I’ve made a solid effort to see my people as often as possible and continue to do so. I even do this new thing, which I never consistently did before: I try to meet a friend for lunch or a cocktail after a wedding job. (Not every wedding, but usually after one a week during wedding season.) My old way was to do a wedding job for three to five hours, go home, eat something, then do admin work for another eight or nine hours. Now I take a few hours to hang with a friend post-wedding to decompress. I live in one of the best summer towns in New England (fact) so it’s silly to pay rent here and not enjoy it with the people I love to be with.

Hitting The Snooze Button. I’ve never actually hit the snooze button because if I’ve set an alarm, there’s a damn reason I chose that wakeup time. But I do prioritize my sleep, because I am shitty at life when I’m tired.  On the days when I don’t have a morning appointment, I let my body wake up when it wants to. I had a two week stretch over the summer when that time was 5:45am, but lately it’s around 7:00am. I have given myself permission to sleep in if that’s what my body needs. Sometimes I have a hard time falling asleep at night or a nightmare about being late to a wedding wakes me up at 2:00am and it takes forever to fall back asleep. On those mornings, I let myself stay in bed until 8:00am or 8:30am, ignoring the commands from my brain to Get up and work, lazy! The option to sleep in if I feel like it is one of the benefits of being an entrepreneur, but the choice to actually do so is part of my balancing act.

Cutting Out Early. One of the strongest parts of my addiction has been stupidly long work days. Two summers ago, I had a sickening schedule. I would wake up around 8:00am and immediately start working, stopping only for the occasional errand or to go for a run. I would end my work day around 12:00am or 1:00am, go to sleep and repeat. The following year, I decided that work schedule was ridiculous, so I started ending my day at 10:00pm or 11:00pm (but also started waking up earlier). Now I try to end my workday by 8:00pm, sometimes earlier. And I take a lot more breaks during the day. I even take quasi-half days at least once week. (That’s when I stop at 2:00pm or 3:00pm to meet a friend, get home four or five hours later, and only address time sensitive issues after.)

I Plead Not Guilty. I have a guilt thing. I used to be really hard on myself for staying in bed until 8:30am or watching two hours of Netflix in the middle of the day. I don’t do either one of those often, but until recently, I would scold myself for doing so. I would think, What are you doing, Allison? Look at your To Do List! But now, I give myself a break. I don’t shirk my responsibilities to watch “Shameless,” but if I’ve responded to all client calls, emails and any time sensitive issues and I feel like intensifying my crush on Lip Gallagher instead of entering receipts in Quickbooks, I do it. And if I start to feel guilty, I tell myself, You are allowed to take breaks without feeling bad about it. It actually makes me more focused and efficient when I get back to work. The guilty-conscience-for-no-reason thing was not doing me any favors. Although it’s not completely gone, I have quieted the voice considerably.

Taking Care of Number One. I saw a quote recently that resonated with me. It said “You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.” I have struggled with this philosophy before because it seems so self-centered. And it is, but not in a bad way. I’ve learned that I am no good to anyone when I’m overworked, overtired and not feeling well. So besides getting enough sleep, I try to take care of myself physically by eating well, working out, taking supplements, not drinking like a college kid and being on top of any health issues. I am super preventative with my health and very aware of any changes in how I look or feel. (I’ve caught four pre-cancerous moles in the last year. Booyah!) I do this in part for Future Allison–so she has a better shot at not being saddled with health issues by age 65–and partly for Present Allison. Present Allison does better makeup when she is healthy and feeling well. She’s more clearheaded and therefore better at client and team communication and admin tasks. She’s also more apt to drive an hour or two to visit a relative, help someone move or look over a friend’s resume when she doesn’t feel sick, tired or worried about a health issue. So although putting a focus on self-care (lifestyle blog term #2, if you’re keeping count) may seem selfish, I’ve found it actually provides me with the energy and clarity to be more giving when it comes to my personal life and more focused when it comes to my business. Yes, getting a dental cleaning or going for a run takes away time from work, but I’ve decided these things are essential for me. If being a sluggish, fatigued person with plaque-coated teeth and a constant cold is the price you pay for an empty inbox, then no thank you.

My business has changed me for the better and I can’t see myself doing anything else. I am always going to be a hard worker, because I honestly know no other way. But my family and friends are my heart. You know when you’re on a date and the guy asks “So, what do you like to do for fun?” (Ugh. Please don’t.) I don’t have a list of hobbies to rattle off. My answer is “Hang out with my family and friends.” (Also, “Not date.”) It doesn’t matter if we see a movie, go out to lunch, or sit uncomfortably on the one loveseat that fit through my apartment door and talk for hours. The time I spend with the people I love is what keeps me going. I am passionate about my career but being a workaholic isn’t the best way to go through life. I will keep trying to balance things out so I can enjoy my life and be the most productive entrepreneur I can be. I welcome any advice from recovering workaholics.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

Advertisements

Who’s The Boss?

Catherine The Great, one of my favorite girlbosses
Catherine The Great, one of my favorite girlbosses

I recently saw a post from a Facebook friend saying that she was sick of the term “girlboss.” She wants to get rid of that term and use “boss” instead because “girlboss” implies that women are not equal to men. She also pointed out that there is no “boyboss” term used. (I agree with that observation but looked on Instagram to confirm. There were about 1,700 “boyboss” hashtags, but only used in reference to male babies and children.) I saw her post around the time she had liked one of my Instagram posts–which had a girlboss hashtag–so I’m guessing my Insta post had something to do with her Facebook status.

I wasn’t insulted, but it got me thinking because I always cringe a little when I use the term “girlboss.”  I’m technically a boss but at 34 years old, I’m not a girl. So it’s half accurate, and I’m not normally in the habit of half-assing things.

I use “girlboss” on Instagram because it’s a hashtag that many people react well to. My Insta account, allisonbarberabeauty, is a business account. I post things that may look personal, but I relate everything to beauty or entrepreneurship. So for my purposes, Instagram is a business marketing tool used to get more exposure. Although my posts are genuine and I don’t buy followers, I am aware that my hashtags need to be relevant to things I post and need to attract the people who might like them. I wouldn’t use a hashtag I hated (I’m looking at you, #iwokeuplikethis) and if you look at my posts, you can see I do minimal (if any) filtering/editing to keep it real, but I do use hashtags that I think will give my posts more exposure. And “girlboss” is one of those hashtags.

Although part of me sometimes hesitates before I #girlboss a post (or use the term on this blog), I admire Sophia Amoruso, the woman who coined the term. Sophia is the founder of the successful Nasty Gal clothing company*. She has built an extremely impressive company (and has had recent success in offshoot ventures), which she wrote about in her book #GIRLBOSS. When I do question my use of that term, I remind myself that it’s Sophia’s term, and she is killing it the business world. If an entrepreneur I didn’t admire coined the term, I’m not sure I would use it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this and wondering if there is a better term. “Boss” is fine, but it I find it lacking. “Ladyboss” doesn’t make me cringe as much, but I don’t think I’m proper enough to be a lady. “Badbitch” would be my top choice, because my life has been shaped by women like Lil’ Kim and Trina. But it doesn’t have the same entrepreneurial connotation, although it should. If you successfully run a business, you are badass.

The point of that Facebook post and articles I’ve read denouncing the term “girlboss” is that it minimizes women entrepreneurs. Like they are not a real bosses, just the female version of bosses. Some people say women who use the term are hurting the feminist cause. That school of thought is something I have a huge problem with. I am a feminist. Everyone who works for me is female. I’ve had one male work for me, and guess what? He was paid exactly as much as everyone else on the team. In every wave of feminism in the last 100 years, there have been people who said wearing makeup was in opposition to feminism. (I could write a very long post on that, but instead I’ll continue to wear my makeup while I hire women and create jobs that help the economy.) Maybe feminist girlboss shaming is the new feminist makeup shaming?

This post has been my version of thinking out loud while I decide if I want to keep #girlbossing. I’m glad my Facebook friend posted that status because it made me think about something that has never 100% sat well with me. I like to periodically reevaluate the way I do things, both and my business and personal life. I realize that certain ways of thinking, company policies or even makeup application techniques may have served me well at one point, but need to be changed if a better way is available. Self improvement and business growth are both immensely important to me, and I could do neither without stepping back, looking at what I do and deciding if there is a better way. That’s a real badbitch move, right? (Trying that one on for size.)

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

*On my finally edit of this post on 11/11, I learned that Nasty Gal filed for bankruptcy. In my mind, that does not take away from what Amoruso has accomplished.

Being a Boss, Part 3b: The Good Outweighs The Bad

Sullivan's Island
Me in Charleston, SC, where I’ll be spending my winters. I couldn’t have ever done anything like that before I was an entrepreneur.

It’s the finale! I’m going to miss writing these. If you’ve enjoyed reading these half as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them, then this series has been a success. If you haven’t enjoyed reading them, then what are you doing back? I’m sure there are some Buzzfeed “articles” out there waiting for you.

So let’s finish out this Pros and Cons of entrepreneurship list. After reading these four posts, you should know exactly what you want to do with your life. I’m playin’! But if something I say kicks your ass into gear, then I can and will take the credit. 😉

Job Satisfaction

Pros: You get to do something you enjoy. If you start a business, you hopefully choose a career that involves something you enjoy. Being passionate about something–or at least being very interested in it–is way better than working in a field you have zero interest in. There may come a point when you stop doing what the popular business book The E-Myth Revisited calls the “technician” work–in my case, doing makeup–but as the entrepreneur, you are still in the industry you want to be in. In my experience, working in a field you love makes everything considerably easier. I’ve had my company for 8+ years and I still love opening a new mascara, knowing it could become my new favorite. I still love watching YouTube makeup tutorials and learning different techniques. I still love discovering a new use for a product. And I really still love the feeling I get when someone looks in a mirror after their makeup is done and genuinely smiles. I didn’t have that kind of passion about real estate, air quality testing, the administrative side of education, food service or any other industry I previously worked in. But the beauty industry? That’s my jam.

Cons: It can take away some of your passion. As an entrepreneur, particularly if you are doing a lot of “technician” work, you may find that after a while, you like that part of your job less than you did when you started. It’s probably not that you really like it less though. It’s more likely that you feel weighed down by the business side of entrepreneurship, which requires a lot of energy. I think particularly in creative fields, having enough energy to both create and to manage, market and grow your brand can be very challenging. Speaking for the hair and makeup industries (and I think this example can be adjusted and applied to any creative job), it takes a lot of energy to listen and understand the ideas a client has and successfully execute those ideas so they are happy with their look. A lot can be lost in translation, but a good makeup artist or hair stylist can sort through it. When you give your all to creating what the client wants and then repeat that several times a day, you’re likely drained when you’re finished. But as a business owner, you probably have emails and calls to answer, invoices to send, products to order and a million other things to do after you finish with clients. For some people, that takes the joy out of doing their creative work. Everyone has their own balance they can handle, and the key is to figure that out. In the creative field, you can sometimes find a way to do more technician work than “business” work by working for an agency or as an Independent Contractor for a company. In those situations, you still have to build your brand and do some business work, but the agency or company you work for will offer you the jobs and coordinate the details in varying degrees. (If you hire others though, you immediately step into a managerial role unless you hire a manager.) If you want your business to grow, you will eventually have to find people to do most of the technician and managerial work, but eventually, you’ll have to spend more of your time on being the big picture entrepreneur. (I’m again referencing The E-Myth Revisted. Anyone who owns a business or is thinking about opening one should read this.)

No Supervisor

Pros: You don’t have to answer to anyone. If you have a great idea, you can implement it without being impeded by policies or waiting for approval from your supervisor. No one is going to ruin your day by giving you a shitty yearly review or declining your request for one telecommuting day a week. You set your dress code, you do any hiring and firing and you decide how to handle every situation. You don’t have to worry about your boss’s micromanaging or hot and cold personality. When you own a business, you (hopefully) learn from your mistakes–because you will make plenty–instead of worrying those mistakes will get you fired. No more heart-dropping-into-your-stomach feeling when your boss says they need to talk to you. I’ve had some great bosses and some horrible ones, but the one in the mirror–even with her shiny t-zone and thin upper lip–is hands down my favorite. She lets me do what I want and blasts DMX when she’s angry, so I know we understand each other.

Cons: You have a bunch of mini bosses. Each client/customer is your boss in a way. (This may be more applicable if you offer a service.) If they book services or buy products from your company, they are essentially hiring you. And if they decide to no longer use your company’s services or buy your products, they are essentially firing you. You could have several mini bosses at a time and it’s literally your job to please all of them. You need to be disciplined. It’s easy to slack off when no one is over your shoulder. If you are not self-motivated, your business will crumble. Sorry, but it’s the truth. You may find it’s easier to be self-motivated when you are interested in your job, but if you still think you would need a constant push or the threat of someone who could fire you, stay away from entrepreneurship. This rarely happens now that I’m in my mid-30s, but in my 20s, I caught some crap from friends when I declined invites to go out on weekend nights. I very much wanted to be with them, but I also owed it to my clients to show up to their wedding awake, not hungover and sans shaky hands (never a good thing when applying eyeliner). If you are the type of person who will not only consistently go out the night before an early job but will stay for “just one more drink” each time, your business will feel like a 5 star hangover. Except instead of killing your Sunday with its headache and nausea, it will kill your whole company.

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. And that’s okay! There is no shame in being an employee. You can be fulfilled and happy with your career whether you work for yourself or someone else. If what I describe as benefits don’t sound that great to you, or the bad seems to outweigh the good, then this probably isn’t your path. If you hate your current job, it doesn’t mean you should quit and open your own business. You may just need to be in a different industry. If your heart is in music but you work in banking and are miserable, see what steps you need to take to break into the music industry.  It might take a while, but so what? Here’s where I insert one of my favorite quotes: “Don’t give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”

Personally, my worst day working for myself is still better than my best day working for someone else. In the years I spent as an employee before I knew what I wanted to do for a career, I felt a great sense of despair. I knew what I was doing was so far from what I enjoyed, but until my friend Caroline suggested Esthetics school, I didn’t know how to take something I loved and turn it into a job. In the two years I spent working for other people after I had opened my company, I felt frustrated. I so badly wanted to be out on my own but couldn’t do it yet financially. Now that my company is established and I’m financially stable, I feel hopeful, excited and determined. There is a lot of opportunity and I have big plans. I have days that I’m angry that my website is down or annoyed that I can’t get an answer that I need from someone, but it’s rare that I stay like that for the entire day.  I think the difference is that I don’t dread my job now. I don’t wish away days. Sure, there are some jobs or clients I know will be more challenging, but nothing is ever so bad that it makes re-think my whole career.

I love that I can basically do what I want. To get to that point, I did have to do a lot of what I didn’t want–doing unpaid shoots early in my career to build my portfolio, working 14 hours on set then four hours running my business when I got home, fighting with my accounting software–but the longer I am in business, the more I can turn down work I don’t need or want and hire other people to do the things I don’t like. (In fact, I have stopped doing or outsourced all of those examples.) And that’s not a hedonistic tactic. Freeing my time of the things other people can do–just as well if not better than me–is smart. It allows me to focus on expanding and growing the company, coming up with the big ideas and then making them happen.

I think it comes down to what you value. An important value for me–which you may have picked up on–is freedom. I need to be able to create a life I want without being held back, and entrepreneurship is the only way I could see to make that happen. Things might have been easier if I loved my previous jobs or not felt this deep need for freedom, but that’s not how it worked out. I know without a doubt that I’m happier as an entrepreneur than I could have ever been as an employee.

In the Usher/Lil Kim collabo “Just Like Me,” Kim raps “If I had one wish in the world, I swear to God, it would be for girls to rock pearls, straight out the oyster.” I don’t feel that strongly about pearls, but I do feel strongly about career satisfaction. Work takes up such a huge chunk of time for most of us, so I truly hope that you have found or will find what makes that time the most enjoyable, lucrative and flexible for you, whether it’s as an employee or entrepreneur.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Being a Boss, Part 3a: The Good Outweighs The Bad

Entrepreneur, freelance, girlboss,
In the studio, poppin’ bubbly.

Psst, come here. I have to tell you a secret. Closer, closer. Whoa, not that close! I don’t know you like that.  But your pores look very clean. Ready for it? There is no perfect job. I hit you with some mind-blowing shit on this blog, so tell your friends. I’ll let you compose yourself before I continue.

Are you doing okay? Yeah? Then it’s time for some real talk. The truth is, you would be hard pressed to find a job doing something you love that provides benefits and as many days off as you want along with a stable, high income, no liability or responsibility for the company plus complete control of your schedule and location. I’m sorry if I just shattered your dreams like Big Pun. (If you got that reference, please leave a comment with your favorite cocktail so I can take my new best friend out for a drink.) But let me make you feel better. I do think you can check off many of those things if you have success and several years in business as an entrepreneur. However–here’s where I knock you back down–even if you form a corporation and the legal liability is still personally off of you, you are ultimately responsible for the reputation and success of your business. My point is that leaving a company you work for to open your own won’t solve all of your problems, nor will closing the doors of your own company to work for anyone else. As someone who has been an employee and a business owner, I can speak to both sides.

That paragraph was an emotional roller coaster ride, wasn’t it? Get ready for more of that. Also, be warned that this might be a 10 minute read. But the best 10 minute read you’ve ever had, baby.

I am approaching this post from my perspective and particular experience, seeing as though I can’t get inside anyone else’s head. (Once they develop that technology though, my first stop is inside Lil’ Kim’s head to find out whyyyyyyy?) I currently run my business as a sole proprietor, soon to be an LLC. I have no administrative assistant or office manager. I do this job full time, which I believe means 70+ hours a week. My company provides services, not products. I require specific talent and professionalism in my service providers, so it’s not something I can cheaply outsource like you can do with some product-based businesses. I am not part of a franchise, so I can’t speak on that. I have Independent Contractors–not employees–which is not necessary or appropriate for all industries. So a two person partnership running an S-corp that sells products and has employees, including an administrative assistant, may have a completely different view on things. (If you are that person, I’d love to hear your views on entrepreneur life. Hit me up.)

I’m going to address some of the big factors in a Pros and Cons fashion. Because who doesn’t like that format? Probably only sinners and people who read magazines back to front. I will be heavily generalizing employee jobs here. I realize they are all different and depending on the position and company may have some of the entrepreneur Pros or Cons I discuss. My knowledge of employee jobs comes from the seven jobs I had before I opened my company and the things I have heard from family, friends and clients about their jobs.

Aight. Let’s do this. I have to break Part 3 into two posts because although I’m aware of the benefits of long form blogging, I’m not sure it’s what my readers want. You’re welcome.

Schedule

Pros: You can make your own hours. Dentist appointment next Monday? You don’t need to use sick time. Want to leave for a trip on Thursday afternoon instead of Friday night after work? Go for it. Your cousin wants to meet for breakfast? Tell her to name the time. Schedule flexibility is one of the huge entrepreneur benefits in my book. Even when it comes to simple things like going for a run at 12:00pm in the winter instead of after work at 6:00pm when it’s dark out, or going to the grocery store during “off hours” to avoid the crowds of people who don’t understand how to move their cart of the way, I am grateful. But the best part is being able to see my family and friends when I want (as long as I’m not booked, anyway.) I live in the same town where I went to college, so I have college friends who will make a quick trip here if they are in the area. Sometimes they can only meet for lunch or for a coffee before they get on the road. When I worked at other companies, I couldn’t dip out for a 2:00pm Stoli Doli* date with my friend who I otherwise might not see for another year. I also couldn’t do things like going to my parents’ house a few days early to help with our giant Italian family Thanksgiving prep. (A table for 40 doesn’t set itself.) I couldn’t have left work to bring my father to doctor’s appointments an hour and a half away. But now? I don’t have to ask anyone or pretend I’m meeting a client. I just fucking go. This control of my hours–essentially control of my life–is one of the greatest advantages to me. This is the only Pro for this category because it’s such a big one and encompasses a lot.

Cons: You’ll work crazy hours. I work more now than I ever did as an employee. Most of this is related to the business owner part of my job. I have a very particular way that I approach my business with policies, same day responses and regular followup, which is time consuming. I have a strong dedication to my business, which is reflected in my hours and what I prioritize. So the amount of hours I work–which I think falls under the “schedule” umbrella–is often double what I put in when I worked for other companies. I don’t take full days off because I don’t have anyone else who can answer my emails or calls, but this will change as soon as I can hire a full-time, rockstar admin assistant who I can trust with this important part of the business. You don’t necessarily get to choose all of your exact hours. When I’m doing makeup, I get to choose whether or not I take a job but I don’t get to choose the start time for a wedding (I started one at 5:15am last weekend) or a film shoot (4:42am is not my favorite call time, but I have had to report at that time before). Those early wakeups can feel brutal, but still better than having to wake up at 6:00am Monday through Friday for the rest of my working years.  There is no clocking out. I remember practically jumping up from my desk and cartwheeling out the door (psych, I can’t cartwheel) at 5:00pm or whatever time my work day ended when I was an employee. I never had the type of job that required me to do work after business hours and this was also before people had email access on their phones. Those hours from 5:00pm until whenever I went to sleep were mine and work did not follow me home. If you are someone who likes a definite end to their work day and a complete separation of work and personal life, run the hell away from any thoughts of entrepreneurship. The first thing I do when I wake up and the last thing I do before I go to bed is see if there are any work emails or texts to address. If they are urgent or time sensitive, I have to respond. Again, this will change once I have an admin assistant, but I think it’s something that every entrepreneur will experience to some degree.

Responsibility

Pros: You run the show. When you own a business, you call the shots. You decide how to market your company, what service(s) or product(s) you will offer, which clients or customers you take, who (if anyone) you hire, where your location will be (if you own a brick and mortar business) and a million other things. I am someone who generally likes and does well with responsibility. Some may call that “having control issues,” but this is my blog, so I get to decide what to call it. (See how I worked that example in?) I have always been the planner for family and friends–I have a group of friends who would still be waiting to see The Fast and the Furious in 2001 if I didn’t coordinate it–so that part of my personality lends itself well to the responsibility involved with planning, coordinating jobs and running a business. You earned it. I feel a great sense of pride in my company. It has by no means done well solely because of me–I wouldn’t be where I am with my awesome Independent Contractors, my supportive family and friends, my clients and those who have referred me–but I can give myself some of the credit. I am proud of what my company has become and it’s a really good feeling knowing I had a part in building it.

Cons: You’re accountable for everything. Your specific legal liability will depend on the business entity you form and insurance you carry, but unless you are in a partnership, your business is all you. Someone who works for you angers a client? You take the fall. Water damage at your business location? You may have some help from your insurance company (and landlord if you rent), but you’re dealing with the cleanup, the phone calls, rescheduling appointments, replacing any damaged items, etc. If you go away on vacation, you have to either arrange coverage or be available for anything that comes up. If you’re an employee and someone sues your company, you might be out of a job if it causes the company to close–which is recognize is a risk–but I think that is pretty rare. If you are a business owner and someone sues your company, even if you’re an S-corp, you’ve got many sleepless nights ahead thinking of ways to recover your business (if possible), what you will do if you can’t, how to pay for the legal costs and some added anxiety if you have people working for you who depend on you for their livelihood.

Income

Pros: You have unlimited income potential. Like Biggie said, sky’s the limit. When you own a company, your next raise is only one killer idea away. That idea doesn’t have to be groundbreaking. It could have to do with bringing on more people, improving or creating a new product/service, going after a different market, etc. Unless you are an employee who works on commission, you probably won’t have the same opportunity to increase your salary.  You may be able to get promotions or raises, but in many cases, you can only get so far as an employee. Entrepreneurship allows you to potentially make as much money as you want. I am not rich–yet–but I am considerably better off financially than I ever was as an employee. I’m not a big status or “things” person, but having a good income and no debt a) Eliminates the stress I used to feel about being able to pay for things and b) Allows me to have certain experiences I couldn’t have before. I had to turn down a lot of invites from friends–a Chelsea Handler standup show, a girls’ trip to Vegas, several birthday night out celebrations–in my early years as a business owner. It was a sacrifice, but I knew I had to invest my “extra” income into advertising, marketing and better beauty products. Those things were necessary to grow my business and bring in the income needed to never have to say no to an invite because of my bank account.

Cons: You’re going to go through broke stages. No one opens a business on a Monday and is rich by Friday. It normally takes a while to turn a profit. There are variables–whether you have a brick and mortar versus an online business, how you obtained your startup funds, which industry you are in, how saturated the market is, etc.–but the average amount of time needed that I have heard and found in my research is two years. Even when your business becomes profitable, you are probably “ramen profitable” at first. That means you make enough money to cover your business and living costs with just enough money left for ramen noodle-level meals. (To my gluten-free peeps: Consider this “Larabars profitable.”) Again, the amount of time you are financially limited will depend on your living costs and business expenses, but it’s safe to expect you will be struggling at some point. If you are a freelance boss, you’re going to have slow months where you get few (or no) job calls until you build up your business and reputation. If you offer a product/service people want and know how to run a business–unless you are putting in minimal effort and spending your money foolishly–this is likely a temporary stage.

I’ll leave you there, in anticipation of Part 3b. I’m sure you can barely stand it.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

*A Stoli Doli is pineapple infused vodka. Drink it on the rocks if you’re gangsta like me.

Being a Boss, Part 2: Making It Happen

The face of an entrepreneur who didn't expect her company to grow so fast.
The face of an entrepreneur who didn’t expect her company to grow so fast.

You might not think it by looking at me, but I get giddy. And when that happens, it’s best that I am by myself because it’s a ridiculous reaction. When a thought about something I’m really happy about first comes into my mind (or an old school jam I haven’t heard in a while is on the radio), I get so overwhelmed with how good it is that I break out into a giant smile and I squeal. Yes, squeal. Picture a 6 year old on Christmas morning, but make them a few inches taller and wearing a Biggie shirt and red lipstick.

This giddy feeling hit me on the daily mid-winter of 2011 when I became a full-time business owner. I felt a freedom that I had never felt before and I was elated. But I was also terrified, because my entire income came from my business and I had to actively bring it in. I had always put my all into every job I ever had, but part of me knew I could have put in less effort and I still would have gotten a paycheck. That’s not the way I do–my genetic code won’t allow me to half-ass anything–but I think I would have had to really mess up or consistently do small, crappy things to get fired. I knew that when I opened my business, I would have to work hard to earn every penny someone paid me. That was a less scary thought when I had a regular source of income from a day job, as I did for my first two and a half years in business. But in winter of 2011, shit got real.

When I left you last, I jumped from my decision to open my own business to the fact that it took 2+ years to do it full time. That gap of time, although somewhat financially stable, was tough for me because I knew what I wanted to do full time but couldn’t do it yet. That’s a frustrating feeling for someone with an ambition addiction. I had opened my business without taking out loans, receiving seed money or grants and I as mentioned in Part 1, no sugar daddy (or sugar mama, unless you count my friend Julie who used to cook me delicious meals and let me use her washer and dryer because I couldn’t afford the laundromat). I had no savings because the “extra” income I made went towards college and Esthetics school loans and the credit card debt I wracked up as I built my business. I had no roommates because I don’t play well with others, so no one to split living costs with. I also had no business partner with whom I could divide responsibilities and startup costs. I was running my business nights and weekends when I was not at my day job, but I was making only a supplemental income from it. It would have been financially foolish to quit my day job and go full time with my business during the first 2.5 years. So I (impatiently, and with much bitching to my family and close friends) waited until the time was right.

In 2011, I started hiring Independent Contractor hair stylists and makeup artists because my company was growing too much to be a one woman show. This was a huge turning point for me. I actually didn’t start out intending to build a company. I wanted to work in film and do wedding makeup on the weekends (which I now realize is an absurd plan). I thought 5 or 6 years into it, I could bring on another makeup artist and maybe a hair stylist. I now have 11 rockstar artists and stylists and am hiring. The Weddings component of my business grew so quickly that it demanded too much of my time to be on a film set for 12+ hours a day. Without purposely intending to, I pulled away from building a career in film (something I only did on a small level) and went full force into running my company. Around 2013, I stopped feeling like a freelancer and starting feeling like a business owner (both are boss status in my book though, as I mentioned in Part 1).

When I got enough work that I could go full time in 2011, I was beyond excited to be out on my own. But it was a struggle to exist financially. I never defaulted on my bills or paid my rent two months late, but I lived what Oregon Trail would call a barebones lifestyle. I rarely went out to eat, never bought clothes, didn’t go on any trips (unless I had miles and a free place to stay) and freaked out when it came to Christmas gift buying time. There were times when money was so tight that I felt paralyzed. I remember once getting towards the end of a tube of toothpaste, looking at my bank account and thinking, Shit. If I had lived with someone or didn’t have even half of the debt I had, it would have been a completely different story. But I made choices that put me in that situation, so I dealt with it the best I could. Sometimes that meant getting in my bed and crying, but it mostly meant working harder to bring in more business. By 2014, I started pulling in the income I needed to make me feel like a real adult. Fast forward to current day, where I am completely debt-free and will be living in a warmer location for the winter because I can. And I can buy as many tubes of toothpaste as I want without even glancing at my bank account. Straight out ballin’. Although I struggled hard for a few years, I am now in the best financial position of my life. I’m no millionaire–that was never my goal–but I don’t have the financial stress that weighed heavily on me for so long. It’s an amazing feeling.

But yo, the workload! To this day, some people assume I have the day off if I don’t have a wedding or a shoot. WRONG. The majority of my time is spent running my company. Emails, contracts, schedules, invoices, advertising, accounting, managing my team–that’s me. From the smallest errand to the biggest decision, it’s all my responsibility. Out of printer ink? Staples run. Need a new logo designed? I have to find the right person, hire them, come up with ideas, look through proofs, approve and then pay for the work.  A bridal trial with one of my hair stylists and makeup artists? I coordinate everything. That’s a location, date and time that works for all three parties. I now coordinate 100+ trials per wedding season. Plus the logistics of every wedding, photoshoot, corporate shoot and event we do. As the owner, I’m also responsible for coming up with the big ideas, which I’m not even going to hint at because I’ve got so many things in the infancy/prep work stage. I am growing a beauty empire here, my friends. If all of that is your version of taking a day off, then you’re a weirdo.

Luckily, my passion for makeup and my desire for the type of life I personally can only get through entrepreneurship keeps me going. I still love the transformative power of makeup. When someone looks in the mirror after I do their makeup and says “I love it!,” I have to keep my giddyness under control. And the lifestyle entrepreneurship has given me–control over my schedule, which allows me more time to see my family and friends and financial freedom, which makes everything a little bit easier–is something I wouldn’t change for the world.

When I started my company, I knew my freedom and business success would bring me the confidence I needed in life. Confidence was not something I had in my teens or most of my 20s, but my intuition told me my business would change that for me. And it did. I realize part of that could be just growing up, getting infinitely wiser by the day. But I believe the confidence and self awareness I have now comes from opening and successfully running a company. I have learned a lot about myself–both good and bad things–since opening AB Beauty.

I am a goal-oriented person. You know what tastes as good as a Three Olives Cherry Vodka, club soda and a splash of cran on a hot summer day? Accomplishment. I love reaching–nah, crushing–goals. I revel in it, I celebrate, then I move on to attack the next one. There is always a next one (or 50) and they are on my To Do list, waiting for the sweet sound of pen hitting paper, crossing a line through something I slayed. I’m guessing most successful entrepreneurs feel the same way. (And by “successful,” I mean an established business that grows each year. I don’t think you have to own a Fortune 500 Company to be considered successful.)

I didn’t start my company to be well-known or filthy rich. Those things don’t motivate me. What motivates me is efficiently running, constantly improving and growing a company. I strive to provide my team with as much work as they want and give my clients the kind of service that makes them hug me. My goal has been to create a career that I not only enjoy, but one that allows me to spend time with the people I love. I’m not the perfect business owner by any stretch, but I do my best and I’m happy with what I have. I am very thankful for my team, my clients, people who refer my company and my family and friends who have supported me. I recognize that I have something really good here and for that, I am immensely grateful.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

 

Being a Boss, Part 1: The Inception

Entrepreneur, girl boss
Me at 24, pictured here not having a panic attack.

I believe life is too short to wish time away. We get a limited amount of time here and it’s a damn shame to hope all of the days until the weekend/a vacation/a move fly by. I mean, it’s natural to look forward to something you’re excited for, but I don’t like the idea of consistently living life like that. Yet that’s what I found myself doing before I owned my company. When I worked at other jobs–no matter how flexible my boss was or how awesome my coworkers were–I always found myself hating Mondays and living for the weekends. I wanted to hit fast forward on the hours between 9-5, Monday through Friday, and I wanted my nights and weekends (except for time spent at the gym or running) to slowwwwwly pass. Unfortunately, this is not how time works. I knew if I wanted to be happy, I had to find a way to take back my time, but also make an income because Daddy doesn’t fund my life and I’m not cut out to be a sugar baby. (I would rather wear rags that I paid for than a Versace dress that someone else bought for me.) So I opened my own business, which means not only do I no longer wish away days of the week, but I seldom even know what day it is. That’s the short story.

This is the longer story, which you’ll need to know to understand what I’m going to throw down in this series of posts. I moved from New England to south Florida solo after graduating college. I spent two years there, mostly getting tan and avoiding palmetto bugs. I worked as an office manager at two companies, something my 7 years working for the small business my father owns had prepared me for. While I made some fantastic lifelong friends in some of my coworkers, the jobs I was doing were not making me happy. I did, however, learn some valuable customer service skills and admin systems that I use now. I also saw examples of how to be a bad business owner–screaming at your employees, writing angry emails to clients, jetting off to Miami for three days and neglecting your business–which I subconsciously filed away and remembered when I opened my business.

The summer I moved back to New England was a tough one. I luckily found work as a full-time school secretary and a part-time admin at my father’s company, but neither job was what I wanted to do. The problem was, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I could only pinpoint the fact that if I was going to spend the majority of my hours working, it needed to be something I enjoyed. What did I enjoy? Writing always came to mind. I had harbored fantasies of being an author since I was young. That summer, I signed up for the equivalent of an online writing course (this was actually done via the mail, because I’m old), but it was more as a hobby than in preparation for a career. I knew making a living from writing was a rough path and I was still at the point where I needed stability and consistent income. So what should I do?????? This question was the cause of my daily freakouts. (Other causes: stupid boys, gaining one pound, having debt, stupid boys, thinking a friend was mad at me, bad hair days and stupid boys.)

This big question was eventually answered by my close friend and bombshell Italian actress lookalike, Caroline. You would think I would clearly remember this defining moment of my life, but what I have instead is a vague memory of what I think happened. I believe we were sitting in her driveway on lawn chairs, having a wine party. (She lives on a dead end and her husband is too nice to run us over, so we were safe.) I was hardcore venting to Ca–as I still do–gearing up for another freakout about what I was going to do with my 24 year old life. She reminded me how much I loved makeup– something I had been into since I was 5–and suggested becoming a makeup artist. We talked about Cosmetology school, but I wasn’t interested in doing hair. She then mentioned that our friend Lauren was looking into Esthetics school, something I had only first heard of earlier that summer when a psychic told me I would be going to Esthetics school. (Did you just get the chills?) I didn’t make a definitive decision then, but this is the first memory I have of thinking, I could do that and like it. I may be wrong about the details (Paesana, please correct me) but when I think of how this whole career of mine started, this is what I go back to. The moral is if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, have a driveway wine party and let one of your best friends figure it out for you.

So I jumped into action the next morning, right? Nope. Because first, I had some serious shit to address. I had been feeling sick and exhausted for a while and when it got to the point where walking from one desk to another in my father’s office was taxing, I knew I had to do something. But doing anything was so hard, because I had zero energy. Luckily my parents stepped in and got me an appointment with Dr. Qutab, a naturopath and MD who approaches health issues from an Eastern medicine and ayurvedic perspective. I had been to plenty of Western medicine doctors who would run a few tests and say that I was fine. After extensive testing with Dr. Qutab, it turned out I was in no way “fine.” I had several health problems–from hormonal to un-diagnosed allergies to pre-cancerous issues–and we immediately began to correct those with diet changes and supplements. To say that he changed my life is a giant understatement. I am telling this part of my story because I know that if I hadn’t gotten help with my health issues, I wouldn’t have had the energy to take the steps to start my career. I firmly believe that if you don’t physically feel well every day, you won’t have the emotional and mental energy and the motivation to make big changes in your life.

Even though I was feeling a million times better and shedding that weight I had been struggling with for years–turns out some of the issues I had were keeping that from happening–I wasn’t a complete Suzy Sunshine ball of energy. I had struggled with depression in college and I was, at this point of my life, much more of a pessimist than an optimist. Not feeling horrible every day certainly helped, but I still had intense worrying sessions. How would I pay for Esthetics school? (Sallie Mae.) Would I like it? (At times.) What if I failed the state licensing exams? (Oh, please. No math is involved.). What would I do after I got licensed? Work at a spa? Makeup counter? For a cosmetics company? (It’s going take you a bit to figure that out, but “no” to all of those.) I don’t know if it was that I was in my mid-20s and everything feels hard then, or if my Type A personality made it that way, but I certainly was not carefree and confident in my decision.

Because I had, at some point, made my decision. I would move back to Newport, RI–the town I had fallen in love with when I went to college there–and enroll in the closest Esthetics school. I would work an office day job and go to school on nights and Saturdays. I did move to Newport, but I ended up going to school 8:00am-4:00pm Monday-Friday and waitressing nights and weekends. I graduated and got licensed in July of 2008 and embarked on my new career. A few years before, I had been adamant about never owning my own business, as I had worked in several and seen how hard it was and how much responsibility fell on the owner. But I realized that because of my stubborn,  independent nature and my desire to not be stifled creatively if I wanted to enjoy my work–the whole reason I went down this road–I would have to go out on my own.

It would take me two years of working at full-time jobs not in the industry to do that, but I got there. That’s for Part 2, which I’m sure you are dying to read.  That will explain my early years in business, because this post is already too long. Part 3 will be a comparison between entrepreneurship and working for someone, as I see it. So if you are considering making the jump into entrepreneurship and are more of the analytical type, you may want to wait for Part 3.

I want to be clear about one last thing before you leave me for Snapchat. When I use the word “boss,” I mean because I am my own boss. I am technically not the boss of anyone who works for me, as they are all independent contractors. I’m more of their agent, procuring work and setting it up so they can do the magic they do. In my view, one person doing freelance is as much of a boss as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. If you are making all of the decisions for your career–the jobs you take, the hours you work, the way you market, etc.–and the responsibility of it all ultimately falls on you, you’re a boss. So go on with your bad self.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Thanks, Poppy!

To say I absolutely love what I do would be an understatement. And it’s not just the hands-on makeup applications that I am enamored with. I also love the business side of what I do–the marketing, networking, advertising, hiring people. When I was a child, one of my dream jobs was “small business owner.” No joke. I had a kids’ office set with a little planner, “While You Were Out” message pads and memos. And I was very picky about who could “work for” (play with) me.

Finding my passion in life and then being able to make a career out of it has brought me so much joy. I want everyone to find a career that they love! Because when you have that, at least in my experience, your work stops feeling like work.

I recently read “Lessons of a Lipstick Queen” by Poppy King, and loved it. It’s not just a book about Poppy’s rise and fall (and then rise again) in the beauty industry. She shares valuable tips and lessons learned from her life as a successful entrepreneur. In the early chapters, she talks about finding your passion and turning that passion into a career. I have already found my passions (yes, I’m a Gemini–I had to have two) but I think these chapters would be really helpful to someone just starting out on that path.

Poppy tells the reader about her specific experiences to highlight the lessons learned, but it’s not a book about makeup. I think anyone who is considering starting their own business could benefit from the information in this book. Speaking from my own experience, starting your own business can be very scary, but it can also be the best thing that ever happened to you. Having a book with this many suggestions and ideas might help with the “How the hell am I supposed to make this happen?” question.

I had a concentration in Business in college and spent years working in offices. I have generally found the many business books I’ve read to be dry, confusing, or great sleep aids. But “Lessons of a Lipstick Queen” is easy to read and understand. I felt like I was getting advice from a been-there-done-that friend or colleague. The tone of the book is casual, which to me, made it feel real.

And from a makeup point of view, her line of lipsticks, Lipstick Queen, is great! I’ll do some product reviews soon.

Here’s where you can get the book:
http://www.amazon.com/Lessons-Lipstick-Queen-Finding-Developing/dp/0743299582/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1298224056&sr=1-1

Have a beautiful day 🙂