Welcome to Day in the Life, where we peek into the lives and schedules of solopreneurs and freelancers. Today we’re chatting with Ashley Wilhite of Your Super Awesome Life, who wants to live in a world where following your passion is required, tiaras are the accessory of choice, and cupcakes are abundant. As a Life Coach for 20-something women + sought-after writer, she’s been featured on Tiny Buddha, MindBodyGreen, Yes and Yes, Stratejoy, and Kind Over Matter. When she’s not helping women figure out what the heck they want to do with their lives + find the confidence and courage to actually go through with it, you can find her obsessing over training for her first marathon (Chicago, in October!), devouring each new episode of Pretty Little Liars, and traveling the world searching the best cup of iced coffee.
8:15am: “It’s after 8:00,” my boyfriend says as he’s typing away at his desk. We both work from home and he’s a morning person (I most definitely am not), so he wakes me up, which is much better than the beeping of an evil alarm clock. I roll over, grab my iPhone and begin scrolling through Twitter. I know they say it’s “unhealthy” to check social media first thing in the morning, but it makes me excited to get started for the day.
8:30am: I’m finally sitting up in bed with a warm cup of Keurig-brewed, Breakfast Blend coffee. I begin replying to important emails from clients, scheduling tweets and Facebook updates for the day, and looking over my schedule and To Do list in my paper planner. I grab a quick breakfast, usually toast and an egg, a cinnamon raisin bagel, or leftover pancakes.
9:30am: Since I’m training for the Chicago marathon, I lace up my sneakers and go for a run five days a week. This morning I do 8 miles while listening to the Joy the Baker podcast and Taylor Swift’s RED album. Thankfully, the weather is a perfect 65 degrees with a cool breeze.
11:30am: I’m back home, showered, and dressed for the day. I make a green smoothie (almond milk, spinach, banana, strawberries, blueberries, chia seeds, and almond butter) and sit down at my desk to get to work. I’m writing a private article for DreamQuest, my 6-month group coaching program, that I’ll send out next week. This month we’re talking about the “I’ll be happy when…” myth and how to shift our mindset. I share personal strategies that have worked for me and develop exercises for my clients to try.
1:00pm: My first coaching call of the day! These always get me so pumped up and inspired. My client and I dive into the self-doubt and fear she’s feeling as she launches her first product for her business. We dig deep and get into some super vulnerable stuff and it’s awesome! After our call, I type up a recap email for her and include personalized homework assignments for the next week.
2:00pm: It’s been a few days since we last spoke, so I shoot my designer a quick email to check in on her progress for Cake for Breakfast, a new course I’m creating. I notice I’m starting to get hungry, so I grab some sharp cheddar and Wheat Thins to hold me over.
2:15pm: With a solid chunk of time to get some work done, I put in my earphones and turn on my Joshua Radin playlist in iTunes.Then I open up a new Google doc and it’s go time. The project that has me fired up the most right now is the book I’m writing, The First Two Years. I type away for the next two hours, creating the tell-all account of how I built Your Super Awesome Life.
4:30pm: I log in to Skype for a call with a previous coaching client who I’m now working with on a collaboration project. The project is still in the beginning stages, so we discuss possible names and start nailing our ideal customer. To keep us on track, we outline a few action items for each of us to complete before our next call.
5:30pm: Since I have a group coaching call with my DreamQuest ladies this evening, I close my laptop and take a break for a few hours. Time for a little personal/biz development. This week I’m reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and Joan Didion’s Blue Nights. Both are amazing.
7:00pm My boyfriend and I have dinner with his parents- roast turkey, carrots, mashed potatoes, and cucumbers.
9:00pm: I’m a huge sucker for ice cream (and desserts in general), so I indulge in a few scoops with hot fudge on top, of course. My group call is in an hour, so I open up my laptop and begin reviewing my notes.
10:00pm: An hour to catch up with my DreamQuest group. We share what we’ve been working on and I lead a mini-lesson on the “I’ll be happy when…” myth. We discuss the negative effects of being a “future addict” and I share suggestions of how to stay grounded in the present moment. When the hour is over, I forward a recording of the call to the group and type up a recap email to send out.
11:30pm: Whew! What a long day! I close laptop and crawl into bed. I debate catching up on Big Brother or finishing The War of Art, but I decide I’m too exhausted to do either, so I curl up next to my boyfriend and drift off to sleep.
Welcome to Business Myths. Here’s the deal: we often hear business “truths” and accept them as true without stopping to question them. We’re chatting with solopreneurs and freelancers who have learned the hard way that these commonly accepted facts may not, in fact, always be true. In this case, Carlana shares the story of how she learned the hard way that focusing in on a niche isn’t for everyone.
Give us a bit of background on your business
It’s 2010 and my virtual assistance practice is all I dreamed it would be. Things were so great that I occasionally found myself in the position of being able to turn away work. It seemed like all the hard work I had put in since I started in 2007 was netting great results. I was happy, business was thriving and I kept busy with a range of marketing and business support services I was offering.
Sounds great…what happened then?
As a consummate learner, I was on so many lists and following so many people that at times the message was conflicting and quite confusing. Then I listened to a webinar with a marketer that I greatly admired; this marketer was advocating niching. She felt that it was the best way to grow your business and preserve your sanity. Hmm….. It seemed as of late, everyone was talking about niching. Maybe the universe was sending me a signal? I was spread a bit thin at times providing a range of complementary marketing services when most people seemed to be focusing on just one area. I spoke with other colleagues who had decided to niche after years of being what at that time seemed to be a dirty title- a Generalist VA. They felt that it was the best thing they could have ever done for their business.
So you decided to pick a niche?
I mulled it over and thought that niching was probably the best thing to do. After all, if others were succeeding at it, why wouldn’t I? I released some clients from their contracts, stopped taking on certain work and just focused on a specific niche.
And then I saw my business take a terrible tumble. You see, it never dawned on me at the time to follow my gut or do what I felt was right for MY business. Everyone was advocating niching because some felt that it appealed to clients who liked to work with someone that had mastery in certain skills and felt that a Jill-of-all-Trades Virtual Assistant really did not bring value to their business. I never stopped to consider the fact that my clients loved having their entire needs met under one roof- apparently they never got the niching memo.
I struggled for almost a year in my niche. I felt very lost and frustrated. The clients were coming but oftentimes they were not my ideal client. I felt like the joy was being sucked out of my business. I mean, I was supposed to be doing what the experts advocated and it should be working. The sad reality is that I failed to look at so many factors that went into making such as drastic move. It’s almost embarrassing now when I consider just how naïve I was to not carefully consider such a move.
Oh yikes! So what did you learn and how did you turn your business around?
Now I know that niching is not cracked up to be all that it’s supposed to, at least for me. After struggling and being unhappy with my business for almost a year, I decided I needed to have a second look at what went wrong in my business. They say tough times call for tough measures and I took some tough ones. First, I took my website offline for almost 5 months. Not having to look at it helped to clearly catch a vision of the type of business I wanted to re-launch. Secondly, I stopped listening to every guru and pundit in the blogosphere. I started unsubscribing in droves from lists I had been following and stopped buying so many business books. It was time to shut out a lot of the noise and messages and listen to my inner voice. I was confident that I had the skills, the savvy and the know-how to reinvent my business again and I promised this time I would do it my way. I’m not saying that I don’t take advice or consider the contributions of others, but I don’t have to take them on board.
Great advice. So how are things now?
Fast forward 2 years and I have managed to rebuild my business to something I am proud of and that is distinctly me. I seriously just follow my own rules. I don’t tweet or do social media as everyone advocates or thinks I should considering the services I offer but I spend my times in online communities where I prove my value and consequently find clients. I don’t blog unless I have something I feel worth sharing. I just do ‘me’ now and I have found it works even better than before my big crash. I’m blessed that I am in a position to work with people who I feel are a good fit for me while embracing my various skills and passions. The fact is I am a multipassionista. I have many passions and interests and they often cross over in the work I do and the services I offer my clients. What I discounted is the fact that many clients appreciate a multi-pronged approach to their business. They don’t want to hire a specialist for each and everything and they are happy to not have a specific label for me, rather choosing to see me more in a partner role.
Carlana Charles is the Principal of CarlanaCharles.com, a virtual assistance practice that provides a range of marketing and business support services as well as freelance writing and blogging. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, her business hub or her book review blog.
Welcome to Two Women Shop, an interview series that gives a little love to our friends who may not be One Woman Shops- but are awesome nonetheless. Join us as we chat with sisters, best friends, and business partners who are going it together as Two Women Shops!
Tell me about yourselves and your business!
Clarity on Fire (formerly Project 20-Something) is a life, career, and relationship coaching company for women in their 20s and 30s who are looking for clarity, direction, and an action plan for creating a life they love.
We’re Rachel East and Kristen Walker, two twenty-somethings with a burning passion for changing lives. So, long story short: We became coaches because we were both incredibly, mind-numbingly tired of “the way things were.” Desk jobs. “Meh” relationships. Dull routines. They were tired, boring, and exhausting. And they were also, most importantly, unconscious. So, we got conscious. We realized that life doesn’t have to be “the way it is.” There’s no joy in adhering to what society, or anyone else, thinks you “should” be doing. As our self-awareness grew, we felt called to help other women build consciousness and make bold changes, too.
What prompted you to go into business together? Was it a natural decision, was there an aha moment, did it take a lot of thought?
For us it was a natural decision. Since college, we’ve known that we both were passionate about helping women raise their awareness and become empowered to change their lives. Our business ideas have taken a lot of forms over the past few years (writing, therapy, and finally coaching), but there was never a question of starting the business together. It helps that we’re also best friends.
What do you wish you had known about when starting a business?
It takes longer than you think! There are a lot of logistical steps of starting a business – legal and financial, mostly – that people without business degrees might not necessarily understand or be inclined to jump into. If someone had told us to consult with a CPA before we started our business, instead of afterward, it would have saved us a lot of time and confusion!
What do you wish you had known about starting a business with your best friend?
We would have gotten a lot more done from the get go if we had separated our tasks according to our strengths and interests, instead of just splitting them in half. We realized that splitting things down the middle might be “fair,” but it wasn’t balanced. The balance occurred when we learned to completely give responsibility to one person or the other in any given area of our business. Kristen really enjoys networking and blogging and Google Analytics, so she’s “in charge” of those things. Rachel loves to negotiate and speak in public, so she manages our partner relationships and writes all of our audio content. We learned that as long as both of us were feeling exhilarated and excited about our roles, then we were on the right track.
Do you have rules to keep your relationship healthy and sane? Do you have any kind of written contract/rules between the two of you?
We don’t have any written contract as of yet, though that’s on our “to do” list, eventually. It helps that we’re in the life coaching business, because conflict isn’t something that’s going to happen very often between two trained coaches. We know how to be direct, honest and intentional in how we communicate with each other, without pushing the other person’s buttons or creating any misinterpretations. I think one of the most important things in any business partnership, especially one between close friends, is to always be direct and open. There’s no room for passive-aggression or misinterpretation in a two-woman business.
What are the greatest rewards and challenges of running a business together?
The greatest reward is having a friend who gets to share in the excitement of running a business that you’re both passionate about. It’s very cool to get to share part of your “life purpose” with someone who gets it as well as you do.
The greatest challenge is probably the compromises you sometimes have to make. When you’re a sole business owner, every decision is your own. With a partner who is as equally invested as you are, you have to reach a certain harmony about most everything prior to taking action. We’ve compromised on a number of things (creative, logistical, etc.) that we probably would have done differently if either of us had been flying solo.
Any words of advice for best friends or sisters going into business together?
Don’t go into business with just any old friend or family member. There are certain people who you’re going to have a lovely relationship with … so long as it’s kept personal, and maybe at a distance. Being business partners with a friend or relative means you’re going to see a whole lot of them, talk to them often, and have to make decisions with them about things that you could very well disagree about. So make sure you can have healthy disagreements with your future business partner, and that you’re comfortable adding business into an otherwise personal relationship. They often don’t mix, and one of them (the relationship or business) could implode as a result.
In our business, I think we have an understanding that we’ll always be friends first, business partners second. We’ve openly acknowledged that there may come a time when we choose to go our separate ways as business partners, but we’ll always be each other’s friend.
Welcome to Designer Profiles, where we profile some amazing designers who focus on making kick-ass websites and graphics for creative women entrepreneurs and freelancers. Think: eye-catching, sleek designs, fun functionalities, and social media integration. If you’re in need of a new website, blog, or other graphic design collateral, take note of these creative superstars!
Meet Kate Baird of Katelyn Brooke Designs. When asked to describe her work in three words, Kate said it’s “clean, classic, and laid-back. And sometimes a little preppy or ladylike (is that cheating?).”
In the words of Kate:
I work to create beautiful WordPress websites, mostly for creative women. Sometimes I do the whole thing from start to finish, including branding strategies and helping extend my client’s brand out to their social media profiles, and other times I’m taking another designer’s vision and developing it into a functional site. Variety is one of the reasons that I love what I do!
I’m a perfectionist. I want to design each project as thoroughly as possible, which means that I work really hard to make sure that the client’s style is being accurately portrayed in each project. I also want to make sure that each project I work on is sustainable for the client, so I love to help clients learn how to work and update their site.
And a fun fact about Kate: she was an architecture major in college! She uses a lot of what she learned every day as a web designer.
Where did you first hear the term multipotentialite/multipassionate (or similar terms)? Did it immediately resonate with you?
I think I might have first heard it used by Danielle LaPorte? I remember thinking “Hey! That’s me!” …. and then immediately returning to the 75 other tasks I was working on at the same time.
Looking back, would you say you’ve always been a multipotentialite (were you that kid running multiple businesses from your front yard?!)?
I’m not sure that I was! I always excelled at reading/writing/storytelling/organizing but I was/am the type of person who only wants to do things they’re innately good at. Trying new things and opening myself up to failure didn’t come naturally to me. But once I got to college and was forced to try new things, I think I really started to branch out.
What is the biggest challenge of being a multipotentialite?
Realizing that you shouldn’t/can’t do every project that you dream up AND that you should really just focus on once thing at a time. I’ve got three projects in the air right now and it’s a constant struggle to work on them one at a time. I JUST WANT TO HAVE 26 TABS OPEN AT ALL TIMES.
What parts of living a multipotentialite lifestyle are the most rewarding?
Making peace with your abilities and interests. Just because you like A doesn’t mean you can’t like B and just because you’re good at C doesn’t mean you have to do it full time. I think it’s really healthy paradigm shift.
We hear a lot these days about side hustles, solopreneurs, and multipotentialites. Do you think it’s a fad or the way of the future?
I think multipotentialites have existed all along, we just failed to recognize them!There are tons of talented people throughout history who excelled in really diverse areas of life – Forpetessake, Da Vinci was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. I don’t think it’s a fad, I think it’s reality 😉
Any words of wisdom/warning for other multipotentialites?
I think multipotentialites frequently get a bad name because people think we’re ‘flakey’ or ‘flighty.’ When you’ve got a new idea that you’re working on, I’d suggest keeping it to yourself and fleshing it out a bit before you share it with any non-multipotentialite friends or family members. You don’t want them to great everything you say with eyerolls and ‘Here she goes again!’ commentary.