Archive for the ‘Self-Employment’ Category

Self-Employment: The Days That Almost Get You

Posted by krystamasciale on June 23, 2012  |   No Comments »

When I say that the life of an entrepreneur is difficult and full of risk, I’d like to be saying that from the perspective of someone who has “arrived.” You know, the person sitting on the panel that everyone knows is a legend who tells war stories of the ‘days when…’ I’d like to speak of the struggles of running my own business from the perspective of someone who feels less threatened by the day-to-day decisions and turmoil of those first years.

But I’m not there. I’m very much in those first years that I will later come to speak of with a sick fondness as if this time were ‘the good ol’ days.’

I’ve gotta say, 98% of the time, I walk around in a genuine state of exhilaration for the ride I’m on. Then there’s the 2% that I’m not entirely sure I’m supposed to talk about. When I was just starting B!G DEAL BRANDING, it was ok to say this whole starting a business thing is hard. We were finding a groove, defining our direction and clarifying our purpose. It was acceptable to appear as though we were in process … because we were.

Here we are nearing our first year anniversary and I’ve gotta say, we’re completely kicking ass. We’re in that groove I only dreamed of when we first started. We have clients we love and are doing work we’re genuinely proud of. And just as things were starting to feel, dare I say … easy … we took another risk and began the process of filing as an S Corp. We’re officially awesome now. A legitimate business that has all kinds of contracts and percentages and titles attached. You could say we’re kind-of a B!G DEAL now. (yack yack yack) What I wasn’t prepared for was feeling stupid right when I was feeling so CEO-like.  The CPA meetings, the tax break downs, the employee payroll, the endless signing of documents I don’t understand completely caught up with me and I froze.

As much as I say, “You won’t die when you take risks,” I think it’s important you know there are days when you feel like you totally will die the slow and painful death you fear most. There are days when you want to give up and nothing sounds better than returning to cubicle hell. At least there you wouldn’t have to worry about liability this, tax compliance that.

We all have bad days.

Here’s the difference between the people who give up and the people who don’t: They believe in their idea enough that they are willing to keep pushing even when it feels like they’re going to lose everything. (even if the only thing they’ll really lose is their pride)

I think that’s when you know you have something good … something worth fighting for. The days that feel overwhelming begin to serve as a reminder in seasons of comfortability that this thing is bigger than you gave it credit for. That it’s worth your continued investment. I’ve gotta say, I think those days are critical. They keep us real, keep us in check and keep us hungry to battle the complacency that’s inevitable when the thing that was once risky become the norm. I’m grateful for the opportunity to fight for something I believe in (even if there are days when I’d love someone else to do the fighting for me).

Keep on keepin’ on friends. You aren’t alone and this thing isn’t actually going to kill you. At least, not today.

 

Instill Confidence

Posted by krystamasciale on March 14, 2012  |   3 Comments »

When I’m in the check-out line at Target, I don’t say to the checker, “Hey, the cost of this lawn chair is a little out of my budget,” and  expect said checker to then modify the price to fit within my budget.

When I’m at a restaurant and can’t finish my steak, I don’t tell the manager, “I’ll take the check for what I actually ate.”

When a client comes to me (or you) and has a problem with our pricing structure, we then have the privilege of directing them to the less-expensive off-brand version of our product or service.

You see, people don’t get to negotiate in their daily purchasing decisions. There’s a set price point for specific products based on the time, talent and resources that went into producing it and that’s that. No questions asked. If we can’t afford it, we don’t buy it. If we HAVE to have the product but can’t afford it, we save up or put it on our credit cards. The point is, we don’t get to decide how much things cost, we only get to decide whether or not we feel it’s worth the price and, if so, how we’re going to pay for it.

The same goes for those of us who run our own ships. When a prospective client tries to negotiate price point with you and you cater to them, they now have all the power to determine what the product is worth. They’ll been calling the shots from here on out since you made it clear you weren’t confident the price you chose matched the actual value of the product/service you provide. You know where this leads right? You end up feeling underpaid, undervalued, you start resenting the client who “made” you lower your prices, etc, etc. The truth is … it’s not their fault.

People will only take you as seriously as you take yourself (or your business). When you give discounts every time you get an inquiry, it leaves the client feeling like you don’t believe in what you do or what you’re worth. It leaves them feeling that if you aren’t going to take control, SOMEONE better. And who better than them?

The point: Giving discounts does NOT instill confidence in you, your product or your services.

So. Stick to your guns folks. You’re running a business here … not a charity.

 

Take A Risk (You Won’t Die)

Posted by krystamasciale on March 10, 2012  |   1 Comment »

There’s something I’ve realized after a gazillion chats with people aspiring to be self-employed: they’re afraid quitting their full-time jobs will kill them.

I mean, they don’t come right out and say that, but it’s there.

For me, quitting my job meant a few things:

1. Losing control. For some, that doesn’t sound so bad, but for me … I would rather stab myself in the shin with a mechanical pencil for 3 straight hours than let go of the illusion that I’m in control.

2. Being vulnerable. Worst. Ever. I mean, who enjoys vulnerability? You should be punched. The thought of becoming vulnerable both in my career AND in my personal life all at once made me want to vomit.

3. Ending up on the streets. If I quit my job and can’t generate my own revenue stream, the only outcome is life on the streets.

4. Starvation. If I quit my job and can’t generate enough money for a freaking happy meal … I’ll obviously starve to death.

5. Health Care. Because I’m now mentally unstable, homeless and weak from malnutrition, I’ll need medical attention. But I won’t have enough cash to pay for my own health care so — you know what’s next …

6. Death. Obviously, if I quit my job to follow my dream of self-employment, I’ll die a slow painful death.

Too dramatic? You tell me.

All I know is that you won’t die. I’m not saying things won’t get hairy or uncomfortable. But you won’t die from quitting your job. In fact, to remind myself of this, I like to ask, “What’s the worst that could happen?” For the hubs and I, the worst thing that could happen from our self-employment is the loss of our home. That would totally suck. But it wouldn’t suck as bad as spending another year investing in something that we weren’t passionate about. For us, losing our home would be really really sad. But it’s not fatal. Once we realized that, it was easier for us to take the first leap of faith in pursuing self-employment.

So. For those of you who desperately want to be self-employed I ask you this:

1. What’s your plan? What product or service will you sell to pay the bills?

2. If developing that product or service is going to take some time (as it should), how long will you give yourself to develop it?

3. Take that timeline and save enough money to cover your bills for that time period BEFORE you quit your job. (note: the hubs and I didn’t do that, but we’re sink or swim kind-of people. This is not advised).

4. If you have a spouse, are they 3,000% on board with this?

If you don’t have an answer to 1 or more of these questions, I can’t promise you much. But If you’re solid on all these points, you’ve gotta ask yourself, “What’s REALLY holding me back?” Chances are, the worst thing that will happen is a bruised ego and/or a brief financial drought. If that seems manageable, I ask you again, “What’s REALLY holding you back?”

Team Shade Tree & team B!G DEAL BRANDING are rooting for you!

Self-Employment Anniversary

Posted by krystamasciale on February 1, 2012  |   2 Comments »

I looked down at the calendar and realized today is my two-year anniversary of being self-employed.

WOWZA.

Is that even possible? Turns out … it is.

Here’s a little recap:

Months 1-4: Plan wedding, get hitched, go on honeymoon, get a dog.

Months 5-7: Throw myself into a dark hole of self-loathing for not knowing what the hell I wanted to do with my life.

Month 9: Act totally unfazed by the hub’s decision to quit his job (aka our only source of real income and health insurance). Start company #1.

Month 10-13: My freelance gigs have run dry. Clench my ass in fear that we’ll never make enough money to go to In & Out again or pay our bills with something other than a credit card.

Month 14-16: Finally get into a groove of what kind of work I really want to be doing with my life (all the while watching the stars align for the hubs as well).

Month 17-19: Work tirelessly to build company #2.

Month 20-present: Giddy that I get to do something fun everyday with people I respect and genuinely care about.

     

 

    

In the big scheme of things, I’m sure a year and a half to rediscover exactly what it is I was created for isn’t too shabby. Seems like an utter waste of time if I think about it too long, but I’m so grateful I had the space to experiment. One minute earlier and I would have gone in the wrong direction. One minute later … I would have missed it completely. Here’s to making it through the limbo period alive (and to all you still in it … I promise it’s worth it!).

Vacation Shouldn’t Be An Escape

Posted by krystamasciale on January 2, 2012  |   1 Comment »

I’ve realized a lot about vacationing on our 2-week hiatus to Maui.

1. I don’t know how to relax. This isn’t a news flash to anyone who knows me, but it becomes increasingly more obvious when I’m required to “chill” on the beach for 14 days straight. (first world problems, right?)

2. I really love my job. People who say that used to annoy me. Frankly, I always assumed they were lying (which made it even more annoying). But the truth is … things were starting to get crazy awesome for B!G DEAL BRANDING just before I left for vacation and I couldn’t have been happier. My clients are SUPER RAD and the work I get to do is a freaking dream. Being away from all of them for two weeks has been really difficult for me … and that’s the God honest truth.

3. Vacations aren’t an escape. They used to be. Boy did they used to be. I couldn’t WAIT to get away from my job and my life and have a nice little escape from reality. I’m not even sure it was relaxing to get away back then because I knew I’d eventually have to go back to my cubicle hell. But when your reality is what gets you up every morning … when it energizes you … vacations should be for rejuvenating your soul and gaining clarity. And there’s nothing better than than going on vacation to just have a good time as opposed to running from your life.

I’m really hoping 2012 brings more satisfying, adventurous and life-giving realities for everyone. Realities that you’re sad to walk away from for a week or two.

Cheers to living the life we were made for ALL YEAR ROUND!

Taxes | Self-Employment Con

Posted by krystamasciale on December 15, 2011  |   3 Comments »

If there was one thing that could make me run back to cubicle hell, it’d be taxes. This is the one thing I LOATHE about being my own boss.

I was so great with managing my expenses when I was single and had a predictable and steady paycheck every month. I knew exactly where I stood.

When you run your own ship, you have to factor in all the crap that just magically disappeared from your paycheck before it made its way to your desk.

I don’t like that.

I don’t like that, when I get paid by a client, I actually see my money floating off into a holding cell for tax season. And I can’t stand going through every line of every statement and logging where everything went.

Excel is dumb. Oh and so is feeling like a moron. All these lines and numbers and spreadsheets make me feel like I’m getting schooled by a second grader.

That’s my “I’m an entrepreneur and it’s not as awesome as it sounds sometimes” rant. What makes you cry and drives you to the nearest job application board?

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Extrovert Marries An Introvert & Works From Home

Posted by krystamasciale on December 12, 2011  |   4 Comments »

They say opposites attract.

Maybe.

In the case with the hubs and I, this is true about 50% of the time and completely untrue the other 50%. Luckily for us, the areas where it’s true only make us better people. It’s the 50% where we are similar that cause the problems. SOMEONE has to be right … and it can’t be both of us … DUH.

Anywho, this time of year reminds me of how different we are in one specific area:

Where we get our energy. 

As an extrovert, I put my attention into things like going to Target, being at a coffee shop and living on Skype because that’s where I feel most energized. The external world makes me feel alive and reinvigorated. It’s not because I HAVE to be around people (although that helps), it’s that I find being alone with my own brain exhausting.

This weekend/week is a perfect example of me living in a sweet spot.

On Saturday alone I went running, took the dogs to the dog park, visited two Christmas parties, went out to dinner with the hubs, walked around the Grove (otherwise known as the craziest place on earth two weeks before Christmas), and watched a movie. It was heaven on earth.

The introverted hubs, however, prefers the opposite scenario.

Let me clear up the misconception that introverts are reclusive or shy. This isn’t true. They just doesn’t get super jazzed about being on sensory overload. For instance, Target makes the hubs cranky if he’s there too long because there’s just too much going on. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t like people, doesn’t have a personality or would rather never come out of the home.

The hubs doesn’t mind being alone with his thoughts. He doesn’t mind spending all day with one or two other people he feels super comfortable with just tossing around ideas and dreaming about the future. In fact, most introverts find their ideas to be better than the real thing half the time which makes sense why they find the external world a bit draining and dull.

I live in guilt and envy most days that the introverted hubs gets to go into an office, be around people all day and have lunches at fun cafes while I sit at home alone at my desk with my two crazy dogs. The guilt comes from the fact that I get to work in an environment he prefers, and envy that he gets the environment I prefer.

Some fun meet-in-the-middle solutions to an introvert/extrovert marriage:

– The introvert needs some space. It’s not super nice of me to verbal vomit all over him ALL the time. Nor is it super nice of me to jam pack our days with people and activities.

– The extrovert needs to get out more. I do this on my own time so that I’m my best me when I see the hubs. [read: just because I’ve been home all day by myself, doesn’t mean the hubs should be required to entertain me the second he gets home from being around people all day and spending an hour in traffic]

– Planning is essential. If I know there is going to an evening or day within the week that I will get to spend with the hubs AND get my extrovert on, I’m ok with spending majority of my evenings in. Same goes for him. Expectations are HUGE. He can spend some time doing what he loves and getting energized BEFORE a big day or evening if he knows it’s coming. Then we’re both happy and full of energy.

Some thoughts for extroverts who work from home: 

– Get out of your house regularly.

– Schedule morning coffee dates with people to get your juices flowing. (Put a time limit on these please. You still need to channel that energy into productivity)

– Consider a co-work space. These things are going up everywhere. You can either pay a monthly fee OR have a colleague over to your place a few times a week so you can at least work in the same room as another living being. It’d help if this person were someone you could bounce ideas off of.

– Join a trade organization in your area. Most of them meet for lunch or breakfast, which is the perfect time of day to get your groove on and make it back to your desk to pound out some of your best work.

If you’re an extrovert who isn’t getting out enough and interacting with people/the world around you … you’re going to run yourself straight into a funk. Same goes for an introvert who isn’t getting enough alone time.

Being aware of how you AND the people around you get their energy does wonders for work and marital relationships. Who has extrovert/introvert stories out there? Are there any other extroverts having a hard time running a business from home? If you’re an extrovert who has found a groove in working from home, what are your tips for the rest of us? INTROVERTS … tell us how you work best. Tell us what you find so annoying about us extroverts … now is your chance! We’d talk over you if we were with you in person 😉

 

Protecting Your Time

Posted by krystamasciale on November 30, 2011  |   3 Comments »

One of the hardest transitions from office life to working from home is time management. Not the, “Oh I have so much to do, so little time” kind of management. The kind where you say, “How the crap did I just spend 2 hours on Facebook” kind. Or worse, “How is it noon and I’m still in my pjs” kind.

It’s ludicrous how quickly you go from being Miss Punctual to Miss What Day Is It.

(For those of you who work in an office environment … this information will be helpful to you as well. Promise.)

Setting clear boundaries around the time you have in your day is critical.

We live in a culture that commends people for being accessible 24/7 and I’ve decided I’m not sure I want that anymore. Why? Because 99.9% of my correspondences can wait a few hours.

Here’s what I’m testing out … so far so good:

1. I have office hours. For those of you who work from home … quit lying to yourself that you’re building a strong business by burning the midnight oil. Work smarter, not harder. If clients know they can contact you whenever they want and get a response, that’s your own damn fault. You determine when you’re available and let them know when they can reach you. There will be times when you need to work a little overtime or be “on call” but it doesn’t have to be the way you operate every day.

2. I turned off my alerts. Yep. No email or Facebook buzzes or beeps. I still haven’t turned off Twitter (baby steps). But can I just tell you how incredible this feels? You know the second that phone buzzes, you’ve got it in your hand and are scrolling through the information. THE. SECOND. IT. BUZZES. It’s remarkable how well our phones have trained us. Don’t let your phone run your life! (If the hubs is reading this, he’s saying, “Yeah!! You freaking hypocrite!)

3. I set aside specific days to have face-to-face meetings. Again, some people don’t have as flexible of a schedule as I do, so I allow wiggle room for specific clients/friends. HOWEVER. Most people I work with are ok with modifying their schedule if we set the appointment a week in advance. For me I have designated two days out of the week to schedule appointments with people. That way I don’t have to interrupt my other days with meetings that were supposed to be an hour long, but end up being 2.5 because of parking and traffic.

Things I’m working towards:

Not leaving my email on.  I’d like to only check my email 4 times a day. That’s every 2 hours for a given 8 hour work day. This would require I close my email account and set an alarm every two hours for when I could check it. Seriously. How much more productive would you be? Again, if I’m working on a project with my business partners, we can use video chat, instant messaging or work from our shared docs in gmail. There is no reason for me to respond IMMEDIATELY to a client. I think they can hold it for a few hours.

Not checking my phone the second I wake up. Sure, a lot happens in the world while I’m asleep. My east coast Twitter feed is already on a roll by the time I wake up and I have 30 Living Social emails waiting for a trip to the trashcan. But my brain needs some space in the morning to think and get organized. It also needs some space to get creative. And I can’t do that when I’m distracting it first thing in the morning with junk I don’t even care about.

The reason I’m trying to protect my time is simple: I feel like I’m being pulled in too many directions. I want to spend more time managing my home without feeling guilty that I’m not being accessible enough to my clients. I want to spend more quality time focusing on things that matter to me so I feel like I’m living with purpose. And I want to be more intentional about the time I invest in my business. I needed a chance for all the things in my life that I care about to feel like they have my full attention. Can I get an amen?

So far, I feel less stressed, have way more energy and feel more prepared.

What interruptions do you wish you could get rid of?

Occupy _____

Posted by krystamasciale on November 9, 2011  |   1 Comment »

I’m all for a good protest. I think in some situations protests can invoke incredible movement for good (note: Egypt and Tunisia).

What I also know is that too much talking and not enough doing leads to apathy.

Occupy Wall Street started as a really great way for the American people to have a voice and educate others on the corruption that exists in government, multinational companies and banks. I’m not sure how many people found this information shocking, but I do know that it shed light on how silly it is that the richest 1% of our nation’s population are making decisions that effect the rest of the 99% … particularly decisions that led to our latest economic collapse.

Great information. Need to know information I would argue. And definitely something that needs to be changed.

While I’m glad protests worked for Egypt and Tunisia, I’m not positive it’s working for us. Actually, I am completely (dare I say 100%) positive it’s not working for us because I’m supposed to be on the same page as protesters and all I can think of is how lazy they are.

The first few weeks were helpful: educating the public on an important issue. No argument from this chick.

But here we are a month and a half in and I’m wondering if time and energy be better allocated to taking matters into our own hands, finding a job or, better yet … CREATING a job for ourselves? I think we’re smarter than this. Rhetoric and tents only go so far. At some point, you have to DO something. Stop whining, get off your ass and create the future you want for yourself. You don’t think our government is fair? Welcome to the club. You think big business and banks are mean and slimy? Seriously, where have you been? This stuff has been happening for a really long time folks. You didn’t care so much that the 1% was making decisions for you when you had a job and you could pay your mortgage. Where were you when they were building businesses off of shady deals and gross back scratching? Probably in your cubicle not caring because you had an expense account and Starbucks dispenser in the break room.

The point is: It’s shitty how things went down. But this isn’t new folks. They’ve been operating like this for a really long time. If we want things to change, we’ve got to do more than camp out like crazy people on streets all over the nation with cardboard signs and megaphones. We have to rebuild this nation and give that 1% reason to desire a change in behavior. My personal solution: create and empower small businesses and take ownership for the change  I want to see in my community. How am I doing this? I quit my job in academia because they function much like our government and I refused to be a part of it. I started my own business and aim to encourage other small business owners to move full speed ahead in their visions for how they can creatively and strategically meet needs in various marketplaces.

Is this easy? Hell no. But if something goes down in my career, it will likely be because I did something stupid, not because someone else did.

Maybe Occupy should consider that. If they end up getting what they want, there won’t be anyone else to blame for future downfalls other than themselves.

Two cliches seem appropriate today: Careful what you wish for … the grass isn’t always greener.

Losing Your Balls, Temporarily

Posted by krystamasciale on October 17, 2011  |   4 Comments »

I’ve had a few chats recently with some amazing women my age who left SUPER CUSH jobs to start their own businesses.

All of these women have bigger cajones than most men I know.

One thing they’ve all said is: “I knew how to make decisions in my last job. Now I’m all over the place. What’s wrong with me?!

Girls, I get it.

Your last job afforded you the luxury of a title and a system you were supposed to work within (or against). You had a job description with specific functions and deliverables that were to be met. You had boundaries.

When you forge out onto new territory, all of that disappears. You have a vague idea of what you want when you step out based on where you’ve been and what you already know. But the truth is, things start to get really blurry when you cut the corporate umbilical chord. Suddenly, what you thought you wanted to do is not so obvious and you’re left flailing around a bit until you get your bearings.

“Flailing around a bit” for me has been a year and a half process. When you’ve worked for other people your entire career, it’s hard to function outside of that hierarchy. When you never thought you’d be intentionally self-employed, it’s even more difficult.

Things that used to be super easy like making decisions, delegated, following through, kicking ass, having focus and direction, leading … all of sudden become foreign territory. You’re left second guessing every color and background design for your new business’s website when, before, it would have been a no-brainer. You can’t seem to solidify a title for your business card when, before, it seemed so obvious. Standing up for yourself in client meetings makes you queasy when, before, it was your M.O. See the pattern?

All of this is normal. Why? Because running your own ship is freaking vulnerable place to be. And what does vulnerability do to independent, self-sufficient women? I won’t speak for you, but it makes me a little crazy in the head.

You’ll eventually get your mojo back. I promise. A few things to consider to get there faster than I did:

1. Partner with someone who will keep you focused and help you make decisions. This doesn’t have to be a business partner. It could be a mentor or paid consultant. Either way, you need to meet regularly and it needs to be someone who can kick you around a little when you start getting weird.

2. Think about the kind of clients you like working with. This will help you narrow the focus of your business.

3. Just say no. You’ve GOT to learn to commit to one direction. You didn’t leave your job to be everyone else’s biatch. I understand you need to experiment with all the options you now have at your disposal. But if you get into the habit of saying yes to everything, you’ll be more confused and burnt out than you were at your lame corporate job.

If you feel out of sorts right now know this: you aren’t a failure, you’re not alone, and you’ll be back to normal in no time. Hang in there ladies!