It’s Not All or Nothing

I just left a lunch meeting with a woman who is considering joining the One Woman Shop movement- she's unhappy with her job but is scared to take the plunge into full-time solopreneurship.

During lunch, I reminded her that it's not all or nothing and I want to remind you of the same thing.

You don't need to choose between a rigid 9-5 or running your own business all day, every day. It's a spectrum and there are tons of options on that spectrum- you can have a side hustle. You can have a part-time job that doesn't even remotely relate to your business. You can have one 20 hour per week contract client that makes you feel more stable. Heck, you can even babysit on the side if you need to.

Having something on the side doesn't make you less full-fledged or not as brave or an imposter.

In addition to running CMR Strategies (my consulting and coaching business) and managing One Woman Shop, I work part-time as a Director of Catering and Marketing. It provides me with coworkers, a reason to get dressed in the morning (well, sometimes), real live human interaction, new connections, and the flexibility to still run my core business. Oh, and I babysit the most adorable kid once a week- I play with him for about an hour and then spend the next few hours catching up on Scandal or working. Not too shabby, right?

I know I speak for the One Woman Shop community when I promise that we won't think any less of you if you're somewhere on the entrepreneurship spectrum that isn't squarely on the full-time, all-in side. Welcome to the #onewomanshop spectrum!

P.S. Not sure how to talk about your multiple endeavors? Try this little exercise in personal positioning.

Blend- Don’t Balance- Your Work and Your Life

Everyone talks about the importance of work/life balance but balance, by nature, is very precarious. Tension is inherent in this idea of spending 50% of your time on work and 50% of your time enjoying your life. Picture a see-saw. Lean back or lean in on either side of the see-saw of work and life and you’ve tipped - there goes your perfectly balanced life.

Not to mention, if you are a solopreneur, is this really even possible?

Instead of trying to separate, and then balance, your personal and professional lives, we at Live in the Grey have a different approach. We advocate tossing out the idea of a black-and-white existence and blending these two important aspects together. No more black-and-white. Living in the grey means loving what you do and living what you love.

Did you realize that you are already living in the grey?

Entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart. Since you’ve signed up for this awesome roller coaster ride, it’s safe to say you’re in it because you are passionate about what you’re doing. You’ve already taken the first step to #LiveGrey: you know what makes you happy, and you’ve found a way to fold it into your daily life.

Our challenge to you is to look for other ways in which you can actively blend your personal and professional. Are you making work playful? Can you find meaning when you play? Have you made your friends your colleagues? Are your colleagues your friends?

We believe that actions trump intentions so we’d like to leave you go-getters with a small challenge (a fun to-do to add to your list!):

We’d like you to do at least one of the following three things in the next seven days to make your life a little more grey.

1. Create opportunity. Think of two people in your life - from either your personal and/or professional network - that should meet each other. Look for people with common interests or similar goals. Shoot a quick note to each explaining why they should meet the other. Introduce them and see what happens! When you add value to the lives of people in your world, it comes back around!

2. Share your aspirations. Tell one of your friends or family members about a business article you’ve read or why you love a certain brand. Seek out their insight on the topic and engage them in conversation that you might not have otherwise had. This is a great way to nurture your (healthy) obsessions, name your aspirations and share them with the ones you love.

3. Make your colleagues your friends. Make a lunch date with the freelancers, contractors, peers, and mentors that are helping you build your business. Celebrate your collaborations by getting to know each other in a non-work way. Talk about hobbies, travel, pets, etc. Anything that will help everyone get to know each other on a deeper level. Just make sure there’s no work-talk!

Challenge extended! Share your results with us in the comments below. And if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out at [email protected] or find us on Twitter, @livegrey.

Free Cultivating Happiness Email Series

This isn't an email series about productivity or running a business- it's about personal development and more specifically, happiness. But it's not totally random- it goes without saying that increased contentment and satisfaction will almost certainly bring about positive effects in your business.

If you're like us, you actively seek out ideas on how to cultivate fulfillment and happiness in your life. Whatever you call it- spirituality, positive psychology, mindfulness- we believe being conscious is the first step.

What you will get: a short weekly email with a quote, article link, or image that pertains to cultivating happiness in your life

That's it- this email series is free and you can unsubscribe at any time. Sign up below!



Love it? Spread the word!

3 Ways That Being Picky Can Save Your Business

As entrepreneurs, we’re hardwired to do anything and everything to make our business thrive. Unfortunately, we’re usually overworked and stressed out because of it. Worse yet, our bank accounts often don’t reflect all that hard work.

The good news is, there’s one thing you can do to keep yourself sane and your business thriving: be picky. Why?

It will save you money

Many entrepreneurs are drawn to the latest gadgets and tools to keep their business on the cutting edge of what’s possible. After all, if the big names are using the new technology, it must be good.

But if you choose the wrong tool for you, it’ll all be a waste of money.

Don’t spend a fortune on InfusionSoft if your needs are manageable through cheaper services like Aweber or Mailchimp.

Do your research, and be picky. Evaluate what your needs are before looking for a product or service to meet them. If you keep your actual needs in mind while you search, you’ll be able to compare apples to apples as you investigate what each tool is capable of.

It will save you time

There are some amazing free resources for entrepreneurs. From newsletters and ebooks to webinars and workshops, a lot of useful information is being offered for nothing.

But that’s just the problem: as fun as it can be to gain all that info for free, it’s counterproductive. With each free download you accept, you have one more thing to tend to on your to-do list. Too many free resources can clutter your mental space.

On top of that, many of these information goldmines aren’t applicable to your business. You are not everyone’s target reader. When you accept a free resource from someone who isn’t speaking to you specifically, you’ll begin second-guessing what works in your business. What you learn from one guru will conflict with what another says, and in the end, you’ll feel helpless and stuck.

Don’t sign up for things just because they’re free. Instead, choose resources and webinars that are applicable to your business as it is right now. Pick newsletters that come from a trusted source and provide practical, actionable tips.

It will make it easier to connect with your target audience

Many entrepreneurs attend conferences to keep their ideas fresh and to network. But it’s easy to get sidetracked by signing up for expensive conferences that don’t match your company’s needs.

It may feel like you’re making progress by attending World Domination Summit—after all, that’s where the big bloggers hang out. But take a step back and think about how that conference you’re looking at actually fits in with your business. Going to niche-specific events is usually more beneficial (and cheaper!) than scrambling for tickets to the biggest general conference in the nation.

At a niche-based conference, you’re more likely to run into potential clients, make worthwhile connections with your peers, and glean knowledge that directly relates to the day-to-day work of your business. By being picky and attending the right conference, you can make huge strides toward connecting with your target audience.

Questions to Help You Be Picky

The next time you need to make a decision about how to spend your time or money, use these guiding questions to stay picky and keep your business on track:

    • Am I interested in this product or event based on what it is, or because the popular bloggers are using it?
    • Is there a cheaper option that still meets my needs?
    • Will this fill a specific gap in my business strategy or knowledge, or will it add needless clutter to my life?
    • Am I the target reader for this ebook or webinar?
    • Are my target clients likely to attend this conference?
    • If I attend this conference, will I learn new information that directly benefits my target clients?

I know you want your business to grow, and you’ll do whatever it takes to get there. But it’s impossible to do everything. Spreading yourself too thin won’t grow a business—focus will.

Do yourself and your business a favor and start being picky.

Motivation Monday: Hang Flyers

Join us every most Monday mornings for Motivation Monday, where we share a helpful “homework” assignment that gives your business a creative boost and gets you thinking (and moving) outside the box each week.

Chances are, you're onboard the social media train- or at least understand the value and are working on it. We love Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest as much as the next solopreneur, but we find that people often forget about good old-fashioned marketing when getting their businesses off the ground. This week, hang flyers or business cards advertising your business in 10 different spots around your city. You never know who might see them and reach out!

A few good places to hang flyers are local coffee shops, gyms and yoga studios, coworking spaces, laundromats, community colleges, Whole Foods and other grocery stores, and libraries.

Tips:

    • Be sure to put pull tabs on your flyer so that people don't have to scramble for a pen and piece of paper
    • Starbucks and Panera usually only allow non-profits to hang flyers, so save these spots for advertising an event you're partnering with a non-profit on
    • Carry a stack of flyers with you in case you come across a place that allows flyering
    • Use bold colors and photos to stand out from the other flyers
    • Be sure that your flyers reflect your business branding so that people have a sense of who you are right away
    • Consider outsourcing flyer hanging to a local student or TaskRabbit so that you can focus on higher-level tasks

What other "old school" methods do you use to promote your business?

Holiday Gifts To Wow Your Contacts

Looking for a low-cost but heartfelt way to thank those in your network this holiday season? Whether you're searching for ideas for your former boss who encouraged you to pursue your side hustle, your always-dependable accountability partner, your on-her-game Virtual Assistant, or your insanely resourceful contractor, we've got you covered.

Starbucks e-card: No, we're not getting paid by Starbucks (we wish- we would even accept just coffee!). This is the perfect low-maintenance gift that you really can't go wrong with- and it's great for those of us who can't seem to force ourselves to go to the post office! Feeling fancy? Use Starbucks' Tweet-a-coffee service. We lovedddd getting a little gift card from our designer- it made our day!

Plantable notecard: Sending off a sweet, heartfelt note by snail mail? Awesome. Sending it on a plantable notecard? Even more awesome. Check out Bloomin's collection of "seed paper," especially if you're writing to to eco-conscious contacts. We were so pleased to get a nice hand-written on a plantable card from Morgan of a little creative!

Kiva donation: As a solo business owner, you clearly value the the spirit of entrepreneurship, right? Pass it on by giving someone money to spend on Kiva, which facilitates peer-to-peer loans for micro-entrepreneurs around the world. When the loan is repaid, the person can reinvest the money- which means they'll inevitably think of you again!

Business book: Have a mentee, mentor, or contractor? Chances are, they value learning, so send them a relevant book for their industry and interests- like Alexandra Franzen's 50 Ways to Say You're Awesome, In Good Company's The Big Enough Company, or Sam Davidson's Simplify Your Life.

Your time: That shi stuff is valuable! Package up a cute coupon for an hour of your time with a few other goodies- you know, so you don't look too cheap 🙂 Need a coupon template that reflects your brand? Not surprisingly, Pinterest has tons of DIY coupon templates to choose from.

Subscription service: Want to be front-of-mind all year long? Give the gift that keeps on giving (no, not that one- mind outta the gutter!)- a subscription service. These can be pricey, so save them for your top-notch (and top-paying) clients. Try Craft Coffee ($19.99/month), Nicely Noted stationery ($18/month), or Rad and Hungry funky office supplies (various prices). Or kill two birds with one stone with an e-book subscription service like Scribd for $8.99 a month.

How are you wowing your contacts this holiday season?

Smart Guilty Pleasures

We're fan of guilty pleasures of all shapes and sizes: venti lattes, a glass of wine (or a vodka club soda), cooking a decadent meal, lounging around watching Friends.

But we're also fans of guilty pleasures that happen to enrich our lives, benefit our businesses, provide us with blog fodder, and keep our brains sharp (less chance of dementia, woohoo!).

On the list of things we enjoy when we need a little workday break:

NPR podcasts: Wait Wait Don't Tell Me (which we've mentioned before!), Ask Me Another, and Planet Money top our list of favorite NPR podcasts that keep us informed- in a fun way. A bonus? They provide interesting conversation starters and icebreakers for networking events and client meetings.

Word games: Who else loves wuzzles? Nope, we're not referring to the Disney Channel show- we're talking about "word puzzles consisting of combinations of words, letters, figures or symbols positioned to create disguised words, phrases, names, places, sayings etc"- because we're cool like that. Find fun brainteasers on Wuzzles & Puzzles.

Sudoku: If your verbal skills are already spectacular, try relaxing with Sudoku to freshen up your logic and number abilities. Download a Sudoku app on your iPad or smartphone for on-the-go play.

Poker: Anyone else a big fan of Texas Hold 'Em? We thought so. Obviously gambling can have negative repercussions, but did you know there are benefits too? According to some research, playing poker can lower your levels of cortisol (stress hormones). It can also "improve the cognitive functioning of the brain. This is because players are constantly thinking, learning, and adapting strategies during the game." We love the Zynga Poker iPad app.

Smarterer: Want to earn badges for proving your expertise in different subject areas? That's what this skills test-meets-gamification site offers. Take tests on specific tools (like HootSuite or Constant Contact) or in general areas (like Search Engine Marketing or Copywriting).

Sporcle: If you've had enough of word games and Sudoku, stay sharp with "mentally stimulating diversions" (read: trivia, logic, and quizzes) on this fun site.

Our other favorite workday guilty pleasures that we don't actually feel guilty about? Taking walks, doing a long yoga session, reading a book, playing tennis, watching documentaries on Netflix, taking a long lunch with a friend, cooking something healthy, and volunteering.

What "smart" guilty pleasures do you indulge in throughout your day?

Motivation Monday: Check Off a “Forever Task”

Join us every most Monday mornings for Motivation Monday, where we share a helpful “homework” assignment that gives your business a creative boost and gets you thinking (and moving) outside the box each week.

Unfortunately, we can't take credit for the phrase "forever task" (props to Craig of Time Management Ninja for coming up with the clever term!) but we do love the concept.

Forever task: a duty or assignment that has been sitting on your to do list forever (tweet this idea). It routinely gets pushed from each day's to do list to the next day's- and so on and so forth.

Today, make it a priority to check it off your list once and for all (just imagine how free you'll feel when it's no longer staring you in the face day in and day out).

Not sure how to accomplish it? Adhere to the Do, Dump, Delegate, Delay principle- this time, we're eliminating the fourth option since that's what got you here in the first place 😉

Do: If it's easy enough, make like Nike and just do it. Pay that bill (and set up automatic payments!), send that apology email, write an outline for that ebook.

Dump: If you know deep down that you're never going to write that guest post or send that thank you card, come to terms with it, make it right by communicating with anyone else who might be involved, and take it off your to do list.

Delegate: If something isn't going to get done without some serious investment of time from you, weigh the option of hiring someone (or asking super nicely!) to do it for you. Get a temporary Virtual Assistant, hire someone on TaskRabbit or Fiverr, find a designer, or reach out to us for suggestions (we happen to know some great One Woman Shops of all kinds).

What "forever task" are you checking off today?

9 Little Ways to Find and Save Money Today

For some solo business owners, this time of year is super profitable, with money streaming in from Black Friday sales, Cyber Monday sales, and all other holiday sales. For others, it's a slow period that can cause quite a bit of worry and stress.

Maybe it's a slow time in your small business. You've completed your client work and shipped your products but the money has temporarily stopped rolling in and you're not feeling particularly comfortable with the amount of money in your bank account.

First, make note of these things to do when business is slow. Then, get cracking on these 9 ways to find and save money in your business- today.

Redeem your credit card points: If you're not collecting points on all of your credit card purchases, sign up for your card's program ASAP. If you're already racking up the points, take a few minutes to redeem them- again, choose something practical that you can use for yourself, your contractors, or your clients, like $5 Starbucks gift cards.

Sign up for frequent flyer programs: Do you do a fair amount of personal and business travel throughout the year? Sign up for the frequent flyer program of every single airline you use then be sure to register your miles if you book your flight through a third party, like Expedia. We're embarrassed to admit how many miles we've let go to waste over the years because of our laziness!

Cut or renegotiate monthly costs: Print out your recent bank statements and take a highlighter to recurring charges. Do you find that your internet bill seems to be increasing every month or you no longer need such an extensive insurance policy? Cancel your service or call and ask for a price adjustment (hint: threatening to cancel your service and go with a competitor can be really effective if done wisely. Ask for the customer retention department if they're not budging on the price).

Donate to Goodwill: Your old printer, your clothes that no longer fit, and your Mary Kate and Ashley VHS movies? Take them to Goodwill, ask for a receipt, and file it away for tax time.

Sell your clothing: Want a more immediate addition to your bank account? Stores like Plato's Closet and Uptown Cheapskate, which buy your clothes on the spot, are popping up around the country. Find one, drag in your old clothing items, and relish the

Return items: Raise your hand if you have a bag from Marshall's or TJ Maxx sitting in your trunk- we do! Take a few minutes to return it and savor the sweet feeling of a $20 gift card burning a hole in your wallet.

Deposit a check or transfer your money from PayPal to your bank account: Okay, technically, this money is already yours. But give yourself a little boost in morale by visualizing all of your money in one place.

Follow up on an invoice: Again, you've earned this money, but it only counts if it's in your bank account. The longer you wait to collect on unpaid invoices, the harder it becomes, so spend a few minutes sending personalized follow up emails or making phone calls today. P.S. Clients not paying up? It may be time to dump them!

Turn your coins into gift cards: Have a huge coin jar tucked away? Take it to a nearby Coinstar machine and turn it into something practical (like an Amazon gift card) or a special little treat (like an iTunes gift card). Credit unions and some banks usually offer free access to coins-to-cash machines, so check in with yours!