How to Live your 2018 Goals

 How to actually use those goals and act on them in 2018

Some of you who have been following me on Instagram (which you can do right here) knew that I spent the last few weeks abroad in France with my friend Tori Pintar. Part sightseeing trip (we spent a whole day touring the American-led beaches of Normandy), part visioning trip (lots of deep conversations), part working trip (because currently, it feels like I’m never not working), Tori asked me one day if I had any “fun goals” for 2018.

Examples she gave me were things like “Go on a backpacking trip with my girlfriends” or “Run a 10k” or “Make homemade pasta.”

In a word, the answer is no.

Not because I don’t think goal-setting is worth it. In fact, I think it’s really important.

The way I set goals for work (and life, but it mostly all blends together, and balance currently is a bit of a myth) is reviewing the previous year, and then deciding how I want to FEEL in 2018. Not what I want to DO.

The difference is this: if I’m setting goals based on how I want to FEEL, I’m focusing more on changing specific habits that make me feel like shit. Which is a lot easier to see a reward from than some arbitrary goal that’s not in line with what I actually want.

Here’s an example:

You say “I want to lose 10 pounds” so that you can feel sexy and confident with your partner (or with potential partners, for those of you dating). So you sign up for a race in the summer, and join the gym on January 1st. And after a few weeks, you realize it’s cold out, and you hate driving to the gym when it’s snowing, and This is Us is on, which is way more interesting. And you want to make chili, and relax on your couch, and spend time with your spouse or roommate, or your own damn self.

So all the while, you’ve “failed” on your goal of losing 10 lbs, because the goal wasn’t the losing of weight, it was the fact that you wanted to feel sexy and confident and connected to your partner (or to yourself). Which means it would have made more sense to identify the feeling first, and then build the goal around it.

So, how do we do this in practice? 

Step 1: Review your year and highlight the disasters.

I reviewed my 2017, and realized, it was way too fucking busy. I was griping at my partner, I traveled incessantly to so many different places that I can’t even remember them all. I fought with my partner due to our collective stress, and I can’t even remember how many camping trips I planned that weren’t just “throw the camping bins in the car, and hope for the best.”

This is NOT how I wanted to feel this year. Instead, this year, I wanted to be SEEN (which is my word of the year). To me, being SEEN means taking risks, not apologizing for the mistakes I will make, and being more in front of people, despite the fact that it’s going to sometimes be a junk show.

Super fucking abstract, and hard to set goals from, right?

Step 2: Figure out what the FEELINGS are that make that big word above happen.

For me, the five words to support being SEEN are:

BIG, CORE, EASE, POSITIVE, ELEGANT

When I’m setting goals this year, EVERYTHING I do needs to make me feel one of those five ways. If I have a goal of running a 5k, I have to say “Does that make me feel BIG, CORE, EASE, POSITIVE, or ELEGANT?” And if not, I trash it. And if so, bring it on.

Some of the goals I set for Q1 include hiring someone onto my staff (oh, PS I’m hiring, so tell all your friends to apply here). That is going to make me feel both BIG and EASE because hopefully by December, having a person on staff will allow me to do more visioning, and also, being a company of 2 instead of 1 where I am delegating feels REAL big.

Step 3: Write down 4-5 actionable goals that fall under each word.

For POSITIVE, it means being sure that everything I do will be a success, so that means launching my first online event course, hiring an employee, and asking to be interviewed on podcasts, etc. For BIG, it means trying things I’ve never tried before, speaking on a REALLY big stage, and planning MORE for the Boss Lady Community in Q2). Then, pick three collectively for each quarter (sometimes they overlap), and then break down the steps weekly and daily to hit those milestones.

Step 4: Remember that it’s the small efforts, daily.

I don’t ever do this perfectly, and I fail ALL the time, but I’m positive that remembering how I want to FEEL helps motivate me instead of an arbitrary goal that isn’t alignment with my feelings.

So, that said I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

How do you want to feel in 2018? How do you go about setting your goals? Comment below and let me know.

5 Tips for Creating Events that Convert

Recently, I was on the phone with a colleague who runs a business that’s mostly online. We were talking about how building a business that is scalable to me (aka an online business) has been a real challenge, because I’m so dedicated to providing high-touch, one-on-one services to my clients.

She surprised me by saying that she had had her fill of the online event space, and wanted to experiment with other modes of interacting with her potential clients. She brought up the first event that I did (the Boss Lady Bash) in 2015, and she asked me what my thoughts were.

“To be honest,” I said. “It changed my business.”

It wasn’t overnight, and it certainly wasn’t in the same few months, but as I got more consistent with hosting live events, the more clients I got, even in an industry that people said was “impossible” to build in Montana (that is, being a corporate-only event planner that runs a sustainable company).

However, I know it’s not always the case, and sometimes, my Plan of Attack clients come to me and are completely at a loss for how they can fit a live event into their marketing plan.

Want my free event planning cheat sheet? Drop your email below to get it delivered straight to your inbox.

The biggest problem is that most event hosts treat the event as the main course, when it’s really just a light appetizer, especially as a service based business. And if you’re treating your event as a light appetizer, the following methods will show you how to convert clients that attend your events.

Opt to treat your event as a lead generating event

The biggest mistake event and retreat hosts make is treating their event like THE one source of revenue in the funnel. In fact, events, done smartly, should be a way to capture high-touch, high-impact clients. Live events can convert a higher level client 3 times faster than any digital touch, so you REALLY want to make sure that the people coming to your events are qualified clients (meaning they’re serious about what you have to offer and not kicking the tires).

If you are hosting a 50-person event, aim to deliver value such that you get 2-3 clients out of the deal and you broke even on event costs, you’re doing it right.

Create really unique content that doesn’t revolve around you presenting.

Most people want to create a workshop or retreat and cram AS MUCH value (aka “teaching”) into the days as possible. PLEASE RESIST THIS URGE. Events are 15% informational, 85% relational, so try to create content that helps keep that ratio in mind.

For the Boss Lady Bashes, I only talk for a total of 20 minutes over the course of the 3-hour event. That’s because the goal is that other people have a GREAT time, and feel like they were heard, which in turn, gives them positive memories of the event. Compare that with what I hear about industry conferences, where people hang out in the hallways and chat, instead of listening to the keynotes. I’d rather have 20 minutes of kickass presenting and 70 minutes of group work and dialogue, than 90 minutes of straight teaching.

Focus on relationship building and helping people, rather than instructing or teaching.

Be a connector at your events, instead of feeling like you have to be the expert, because clients who work with you in a high-touch capacity want to know that you’re taking care of them (which usually doesn’t mean you teaching, but instead, you focusing your attention on them).

Spend a few minutes with each attendee if possible, and for those that you don’t meet, try to follow up for a quick call or email exchange after the event. When people feel like you are genuinely interested in their success, they’ll have fewer barriers to hiring you.

Always have something to pitch at the end.

And I don’t mean a $99 e-book.

Events are high-touch, high-impact, which means you’re going to aim to convert 10% of people in the room, at a much higher level than what they walked in the door with. If you’re a consultant or a 1:1 service provider, or if you offer high-end products, at the end of the event, you’re going to want to let your attendees know how they can continue working with you (there will ALWAYS be one, if you’d planned a good event).

Without anything to pitch, you’ll pass up a really important opportunity, which is to let the people who showed up for you attain their goals by working with you more closely. If you don’t pitch them, they may miss out on all your service-providing genius.

Keep your event attendee list on hand for a year post-event.

Sometimes, there can be a REALLY long lifecycles to close clients, and someone that attends your event may not sign up with you for a while. Try to touch base with anyone you hosted immediately after the event (be sure to note their info and pertinent details in a document for easy recollection). Make a note to then follow up with them after one month, three months, and six months. Genuinely ask them questions about where they are in their progress.

I have a client who downloads all information that he may have stored about each individual person he met onto notecards, to be uploaded into his CRM later and this practice has helped him cultivate meaningful relationships with his clients during each event that he hosts.

Remember, event lists are highly important to continue building relational capital with your attendees, so remember that an event itself may not make an enormous amount of profit, but the people who attend are often your perfect customers.

Want my free event planning cheat sheet? Drop your email below to get it sent straight to your inbox.

8 Things I Would Have Told Myself When I Started My Business

8 Things I Would Have Told Myself When Starting A Business

In 2007, I graduated from college in Washington, DC and moved to New York City, in pursuit of finding my "ultimate career." I had always wanted to move to a big city, and because I grew up in the state of New York (Rochester, about 5 hours away from the actual city), I knew that NYC was the best choice due to its proximity and the glamour I had always associated it with.

Fast forward a year later, and the walls of the financial markets in New York were crumbling, with many of my peers losing their jobs left and right. Because I was so young and the newest member of the department I worked in, I never thought I would lose my job (probably that "bullet-proof" mentality that so many young people have), and fortunately I didn't, but our working hours slowed waaaaaayyyy down, and suddenly, new projects stopped coming in.

At 23, I was devastated. I imagined myself working long hours and helping to create new, exciting projects for my team. I knew that I was young and I was excited to learn new skills and help foster the creative growth of the team I worked on.

Unfortunately, it was exactly the opposite of that. Our team worked to do what was necessary, but due to the economy, that was the extent of our responsibility. 

In response to that, I started surfing the internet a lot (GChat had JUST become a thing and I spent lots of my day sharing links with my friends to cool businesses and blogs that I found online). I noticed that people were starting their own blogs every day and I loved reading them.

I read blogs and other people's newsletters for YEARS before I thought about starting my own business. But I knew, eventually, that was what I wanted to do. I call those four years from blog reading to business starting the "incubation years."

If I could go back to my blog-reading self, I would have encouraged her to start earlier because just imagine what could have happened if I started 8 years ago instead of 5. Below are some other things I would have mentioned.

1. You won't get it right straight out of the gate.

A very little known fact is that my very first business was called "Lauren Caselli, Copywriting and Content Strategist." (To this day, there's STILL someone in town who introduces me as the person who writes website copy. Goes to show you that with some people, you only have one chance). I really enjoy writing, but it's a pretty solitary profession and it used to take me days to get inspired by a client. Today, a lot of my work is really client facing and project management based, which suits my personality, but it was important for me to start somewhere to decide where I wanted to be.

Truth be told, I love events and strategic planning, but I'm already seeing a shift in my business again, which means maybe fewer 1:1 engagements, but I wouldn't have gotten here without first being "Lauren Caselli Copywriting and Content Strategist."

2. Focus more on what's important and stick with that.

Remember that guy from above who STILL doesn't know what my business is? That used to happen A LOT. I would introduce myself as an Event Planner for strategic companies, and then, minutes later, the person who turn around and introduce me as "The Writer for Companies." My old business haunted me for a lot longer than I'd have liked it to, however, it taught me the importance of really focusing on ONE thing in order for people to understand how to recommend and connect me.

Pro Tip: People want to label you and, although it may be annoying, it helps them connect you to possible clients and vendors. Resist the urge to be everything to everybody unless you're willing to stick to the "everything to everybody" label for a long time (see: Townsend Collective, who runs three businesses and is now known for all three).

3. Don't expect to "figure it out".

If I had a nickel for every time I told myself "when I figure out this business thing is when I'll go on vacation/book a massage/save for retirement/invest in my personal growth", I'd be retired on a beach somewhere.

I had said in my recent newsletter (ps, if you're not on the list, you can join here), I recently hit a ton of personal goals and part of me was expecting to look around and be done once I hit those goals. But I wasn't done. It's just the iterative process of me constantly redefining what's fun and exciting, what I want to learn, and how I want to show up in the world.

I'm finding that I want to write more and share more content and for YEARS I struggled with this. Now I'm in a place of flow and part of me wishes I would have just told myself years ago "Just wait until 2017, and it will be easier."

4. Reach out more

In the beginning, I was really scared of reaching out, and so I would read other people's blogs, listen to podcasts, and try to pretend I was an expert at business running. It didn't even occur to me to ask other people starting businesses for help or to share their stories with me, because I was so afraid of feeling "found out" (aka like they wouldn't think I knew what I was doing). 

It wasn't until 2015 when I started asking people to have coffee with me to find out their best advice did I start to notice how much stronger my business sense became and how much more confident I became in my own skills. If I had stopped pretending that I knew everything in the beginning, it wouldn't have taken me two years to realize how much I actually knew.

5. Lead more (even when I felt like a fake)

I've had this conversation recently and the consensus is this:

Getting shit done is really just telling everyone you're doing it and then giving yourself a deadline to do it by.

I get lots of emails that come into my business website from people who ask "How do I throw an event? What's the first step?"

The first step is deciding to host it, then saying loud and proud that you're hosting it. Don't focus on how many people are coming, don't worry about your marketing plan -- just take the damn initiative and do it.

Leading is all about believing that you know how to do something. Most people, given the choice, would rather watch Netflix on their couch. Most people would rather attend a cool event. Most people would rather have all the hard work done for them.

Be the person that does the hard work, and that's how you'll grow your business.

6. Work on practicing mindset (even if it feels mumbo jumbo)

When I started my business, I definitely tended more toward the spirituality side of things (aka I loved setting mantras and goals and doing shit like writing myself a $10,000 check to make me feel rich).

After a few months of that, it didn't really make a huge difference, so I now attempt to focus practically and rationally on building a business using numbers combined with instinct.

However, one thing I WOULD have encouraged myself to do is to surround myself who were about 3-4 years older than me in business, so that I could have observed what they were doing.

The term "mindset" gets a little overblown and is confusing sometimes. Usually, when people talk about mindset, they envision sitting down and meditating and deciding that they're going to make a million dollars.

While that can be a part of it, I like to describe mindset as

"Surrounding yourself with people who you want to be like, so that you can prove to yourself that it can be done."

It's so difficult sometimes when you're running a business to find credible people who are transparent about their own journeys, about how they make money, about what they struggle with, and how they manage to juggle all of it.

But the biggest indicator of success is believing you can do it, and if you see someone else doing it sort of like you want to do it, that belief muscle grows stronger and stronger. 

7. It will take you longer than you think.

I set the same income goal for 2014 and 2015, and I FINALLY hit it at the tail end of last year. I was relieved AF, which made this year's income goal a breeze to set and crush. However, the first goal I set took me THREE WHOLE YEARS to hit, and it felt excruciating. Looking back, I could have easily told myself how I to hit that goal sooner and with less effort, but sometimes, running a business is all about going forth with your own pace so that you can get to the place you want to be in the right time.

If we did it all in Year 1, then what else would be left? Keep going, keep going, keep going.

8. You'll never arrive.

There's no arriving. Like I mentioned above, I was waiting for the day when I could sell my business and...well, I never thought about the "and."

Recently, I realized that starting a business or embarking upon your leadership journey isn't about getting somewhere, because there's always somewhere else to get. If there was one thing I could do differently, I'd tell myself that this....THIS...is the important part. The learning, the goal-setting, the collaborating, and the constant learning about who I am, what my strengths are, and how I can bolster my weaknesses.

Have you been in business for a few years? What's one thing you would have told your newfound entrepreneurial self way back at the beginning? I probably should have told myself to see my accountant sooner rather than later, too. 

What I'm doing differently in 2018

Running a business in Montana 2018

Let me tell you, I am LOVING the end-of-the-year slowness that comes with being a service-based business. It lets me do all the creative things that I don't normally have brain space for the rest of the year, and do some serious goal-setting, goal-shifting, and thinking about what I want to do differently.

And what do I want to do differently?

The Boss Lady Community started in April 2015, and since then, I've been trying to figure out what to make it, how to grow it, how to help more people, and modalities in which I (and this community) can help.

The community itself started when I knew pretty much nothing about business. I saw people doing the work, but I didn't understand how they had gotten to the place of making an income, having employees, and expanding their operations. It was so mind blowing to me, but it didn't feel particularly accessible (aka I was always like "How the EFF do they do it?").

I wanted to see if other people felt as lost as I did, and so the BLB Community was born as a place where we could all come together and air out our dirty business laundry, to talk about what's not working, to talk about failure, and to work on identifying holes, gaps, and ways to make ourselves and our businesses serve us as entrepreneurs better.

But what I've been really not great at is keeping you up to date on how my business is going. 

I've changed a LOT of the way I run my business, and 2018 is going to change a LOT more. I want to focus more on serving this community in small, in-person groups and 1:1, and for the rest of you, I want to show you as much transparency as I'm legally allowed behind the scenes of my own businesses, including the Boss Lady Bashes.

If you haven't met me yet, I run a small event planning consultancy in Bozeman, MT. I work with clients all over the world, and this past year, I made more net profit than I have ever in my 10-year career in events (first in political fundraising, then in weddings, then in corporate conferences and workshops, now back to tech and small business conferences). When I started my first attempt at a business in January 2013, I thought I'd just be grateful to make what I was making when I lived in New York City.

Now, almost five years later, I've learned to trust myself, I've honed my skills to know what I'm very good at (and what I'm not very good at), and I'm working on growing a team. I actually never even thought I could ever hire someone, and after doing my balance sheet and 2018 projections, I am certain that I can.

With the Boss Lady Community in 2018, I want it to become a more transparent place regarding my business (aka Lauren Caselli Events, where I make 95% of my yearly income), other community members' businesses, and a place where we can recommend resources to help you get over your personal business hurdles.

The mission of this community is this: to provide more in-person and online places where we as freelancers and business owners can get really real about the things that matter to us as business owners.

Sometimes that means getting help with your revenue stream. Sometimes that means learning how to hire better employees. Sometimes that means having someone look you dead in the face and tell you that they know that you can be making a bigger impact and you need to stop playing it so safe.

Most of the time, it's definitely not talking about how there's too much competition and that the market is too saturated and that if only you had more time/money/help you'd be able to reach your dreams.

I still find that those places are few and far between, and so in 2018, I'm more dedicated than ever to.

How will we do this?

• Boss Lady Bash: The hit event, hosted quarterly, with no other competing events. I'm hiring a team member on in January to help make sure these happen, and am looking for a few good venues to partner with over the course of 2018. Got suggestions? Get at me!

• Small Group Dinners: I hosted one of these in June as a beta test, as a conversation for 12 women about what it means to be a good leader and to have a great community around you while leading. It centered around a delicious meal and it was excellent. I'm excited to host this again in 2018.

 Small Group Coaching Program (online!): It's been my forever dream to host a 6-month strategy and accountability program, with a kickoff retreat and a closing celebration for 6 entrepreneurs who are really serious about getting to the next level in their business. I've been hosting the Creative Lady Club (which is my own small group of accountability buddies, including the women of Treeline CoffeeFlying Bicycle CreativeWhipped ConfectionsTownsend CollectiveSarah Cauble DesignAbound Career Coaching, and Sally Hope) for the last three years and so I'm excited to bring the model to the next generation of badass entrepreneurs.

• Webinars, Blog Posts, and Interviews: I love hosting webinars, because I love teaching content, and I'm so much more creative when I work collaboratively. This year was a big year for client work, but it's hasn't been as scalable as I've wanted it to be, so I'm working on putting a system in place to be able to work with clients, but have a team member work on the execution pieces.

Okay, your turn...what's happening for you this time of year? Are you speeding up for holiday retail? Or slowing down and getting into planning mode?

PS I'm launching the December Boss Lady Bash next Thursday, November 16th at 10:00am. I'm using a new software partner who I love (wahoo!) and we are really excited to be in a brand new location (top secret until Monday :). The event will be Wednesday, December 13th from 5:30pm - 8:30pm. Stay tuned to your email to find out when tickets go on sale.

Want to know when the next bash goes on sale?

Drop your email below!

Books for Boss Ladies: A List of Books to Read When You Need a Dose of Inspiration or a Kick in the Pants

 A List of Business Books, crowdsourced from the Boss Lady Bash Community

Happy New Year!

One of my favorite things about being a part of the Boss Lady Community is that every woman in the group is committed to being a better business owner by learning, growing, and supporting other women in the group.

A few weeks ago, I asked what everyone's favorite business or life book was, expecting to get a few answers -- but no! We received over TWENTY book suggestions for go-getting business owners.

I've listed the books below (they're alphabetized by book name), and you can also download a copy if you drop your email address in the box at the bottom of this post.

2017 Books for Boss Ladies List

Big Magic // Elizabeth Gilbert

The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion //   Elle Luna

Daring Greatly //  Brené Brown

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It //  Michael E. Gerber

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less  // Greg McKeown

Find Your Extraordinary: Dream Bigger, Live Happier, and Achieve Success on Your Own Terms //  Jessica DiLullo Herrin

Finding Your Own North Star //  Martha Beck

#GIRLBOSS //  Sophia Amoruso

The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea //  Bob Berg and John David Mann

How to Win Friends & Influence People //  Dale Carnegie

In The Company of Women // Grace Bonney

Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change //  Pema Chodron

Men Explain Things to Me //  Rebecca Solnit

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success // Carol Dweck

The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream // Courtney Martin

The Power of When:  Discover Your Chronotype -- and the Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More //  Michael Breus

The Power of Who: You Already Know Everyone You Need to Know //  Bob Beaudine

Think and Grow Rich for Women //  Sharon Lechter

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness //  Dave Ramsey

The War of Art: Break Through Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles //  Steven Pressfield

What I Know Now About Success: Letters from Extraordinary Women to Their Younger Selves  //  Ellyn Spragins

Women Who Run with Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype //  Clarissa Pinkola Estés

The Year of Yes //  Shonda Rhimes

You Are a Badass //  Jen Sincero

#MontanaBoss Friday: Stacy Townsend of Townsend Collective

Happy Friday, boss! A day of lazily closing out the week, chatting with your co-workers (aka your pets) about your weekend plans, and hopefully closing up shop juuuust a little early. Each Friday, we'll be doing a feature on an amazing creative business owner in the Big Sky State, so that we can all learn a little bit more about the struggle and the awesomeness of being a business owner. Click here to read other interviews with amazing women from around the state!

Hey girl hey! Introduce yourself and tell us about your biz!

I'm Stacy Townsend of Townsend Collective. Townsend Collective is a three-part business offering branding & graphic design, professional photography and jewelry design.

How did you start your boss lady journey?

I have always felt that I would start my own company at some point, but I was never sure what it would be, or how it would come to fruition. A little over a year ago, I couldn't imagine continuing to work with my employer at the time, and beyond that, couldn't imagine what "real job" would leave me fulfilled. At that point, I decided to lean on my abilities as a graphic designer and photographer to fill my days and hopefully my bank account (with a little jewelry design added to the mix).

Have you gone full-time with your business?

Unfortunately, I was busy pouring 110% into every job I ever had, which never left the time (or the energy) to truly focus on a freelance career on the side. I quit working for "the man" last October, and have been full-time ever since.

Okay, let's talk about the DNA behind Townsend Collective. Were you one of those women with entrepreneurship basically in your blood that we always hear about?

Entrepreneurship is 100% in my DNA. I knew it would happen eventually, I just wasn't sure how.

How do you build an income and a life through Townsend Collective?

Graphic Design - 50%, Photography - 30%, Jewelry Design - 20%

What do you LOVE about being your own boss?

Well, that's an interesting question to answer after spending my Saturday in the office.  But the answer?  Everything. The good AND the bad, but mostly the freedom. Not in the "I take days off and hit happy hour whenever I want" sort of way (although, that's pretty great when it happens). The freedom that I appreciate most is getting to build my business the way I want. There's no blueprint.  No protocol.  Nobody else determining what fits in my job description, or what's above or below my pay grade. When I should work, and when I should go home.  If it's worth it to put in a couple extra hours on a project or not.  

The best part, is that every project is more than a "job." It's a new challenge, and there is always great purpose.  As a designer, I feel lucky to help people bring their dreams to life.  And as a photographer, to capture the monumental moments in life.  The pressure is high, but it's also so incredibly rewarding.  I struggle to find the words to describe what it feels like to hear a client squeal with delight when they see a design that perfectly fits their vision, or for someone see an image from their wedding day that takes their breath away and reminds them of just what it felt like to say "I do," or to see someone wear a piece of jewelry every single day because it's their favorite.  I haven't found a lot of situations in life life that bring me that kind of joy, and now I get to experience it often.  

So, the answer? Everything.

What was your most expensive mistake?

My most expensive mistake is a mistake I continue to make. I am constantly putting my own business development on hold while I focus on each of my clients' needs, and do myself a disservice by doing so.

What's the biggest misconception that women have around business ownership?

The sweatpants? Yes, the sweatpants. It's not all ankle boots & fancy business meetings. Sometimes it's long days, making it work, while somehow, you're still in sweatpants. The hustle is real.

 Stacy Townsend photographing like a champ!

Where would you like to be in the next year? The next five years?

In another year, I would love to be booked out at least two months. In five years, I would love to either have a well developed jewelry line with great retail channels deserving of my full-time attention - OR - to have a client list and active projects that allow more collaboration with (or possibly the hiring of) more designers.

How would you define a Boss Lady?

A creative and passionate ladypreneur who isn't afraid to collaborate with, support and motivate her tribe as she bosses her biz.

What one piece of advice would you give yourself in your first year as a biz owner?

You got this. (Editor's Note: PREACH!)

Want to get in touch with Stacy? Check her out on her website. Send her an email and tell her how you found out about her (*cough* The #MontanaBoss feature *cough*)

(P.S. Want to share your story with other Montana business owners? Click here.)

Let's Talk About Having Your Shit Together

Having Your Shit Together.jpg

The phrase "having my shit together" is starting to grate on me.

I get it. I understand this elusive "someday, when I have my shit together" feeling of security. I've felt it before. Heck, I've said it before (a lot. Recently.)

It's that feeling that SOMEDAY it will all feel a little more manageable. SOMEDAY, you'll be able to breathe a little easier, the money will flow a little more freely, you won't be up at 9:53pm writing a blog post because you haven't written a blog post in, oh, a month.

SOMEDAY you'll "have your shit together." Or maybe this weekend, you'll "get your shit together." Or maybe don't come over please, or don't read the blog please, because MY SHIT IS MOST DEFINITELY NOT TOGETHER! So I'm going to hide until it is.

So let's talk about that for a second.

First, and I know we all intuitively know this, but this bears repeating (in capital fucking letters)...

NO ENTREPRENEUR IN THEIR RIGHT MIND THINKS THEY HAVE THEIR SHIT TOGETHER.

(Ya heard?)

There's not a single one, from that woman on the cover of Forbes to the entrepreneur in the co-working space across from you who thinks they've got it together.

But here's the hard truth about this little phrase that I hear cropping up in blog posts and casual language thrown around entrepreneurial meetups: feeling as though you don't have your shit together and saying it outloud doesn't actually reflect who you are as a businesswoman.

Having your shit together means...

a) Showing up to your job of entrepreneurialism every day, no matter what day of the week it is, putting in the most immediate work that needs to get done, and feeling good about what you've accomplished

b) Testing new products, services, or models of business that you either have a hunch about or you know might work out.

c) Deciding when to quit those that don't work out

d) Putting more time in those that do work out

e) Writing half a blog post, then scrapping it

f) Moving everything off your task list into tomorrow because you know you won't have time to get it all done today

g) Going home and NOT FEELING GUILTY that you didn't manage to create a successful blog overnight. Or sell out of your amazing product you just conceived of. Or booked yourself silly with new clients.

The reality is, if you're a one-woman shop, just starting out, in an amazing state like Montana (or elsewhere. This is a multi-state blog.), you have limited resources, like time, money, and help.

So you're going to be working a lot. You're going to spend a lot of time on shitty projects that don't make you a dime of money. You're going to eat a lot of Ramen in order to make sure you aren't blowing through any hard-earned cash that's earmarked for things like rent.

You're not going to be Gwenyth-fucking-Paltrow on a episode of Glee. And even if you are Gwenyth-on-Glee, you're still going to be looking around trying to shovel your shit under your own rug of "not-good-enough-ness."

Here's what other entrepreneurs think that "not-having-their-shit-together" looks like:

a) Taking a few weeks/months/years away from social media because "life isn't that interesting right now" or "gosh, I'm so busy I don't know how to keep up" (uh no. That's called "running a successful business")

b) Failing to respond to emails that aren't directly related to cash money in your pocket (also, no. That's called being smart and efficient with your time. PS Can I tell you the amount of emails I haven't received back from very-important-high-level people and I've just moved on and not even thought about it?)

c) Taking time to do anything else but work (I mean, that sounds like a smart way to make sure you don't wake up and hate your job to me. Anyone else?)

d) Staying home instead of going to a birthday party/celebration/invitation-only fun-time event (that sounds like a bath and reading Elizabeth Warren's new novel won out against being social, amiright?)

The truth is, the concept of "having your shit together" annoys me because it makes me feel like I need to be someone else's version of an entrepreneur. I need to be in-your-face-all-the-time about how awesome everything is, and how magical running a business is.

The truth is, it's pretty awesome, most of the time and only after a few years and you feel like your feet are starting to be firmly planted on the ground. Sometimes it's magical, like when you land dream clients who also have money to pay you.

But other times, it's just nose-to-the-grindstone work. It's a lot of emails, and organizing, and making sure that details don't slip through the cracks.

It's phone calls, and more emails, and meetings, and making sure things don't slip through the cracks.

It's juggling and staying up late to write blog posts because you've had enough of the "this is how an entrepreneur's life looks like!" BS that you know isn't really how it is (seriously, my clients are amazing women, but not a single one of them would ever pretend that they don't work past 6pm or that they wouldn't like to be at the next step of business already).

I don't really know where this post is going, but now seems like an appropriate time to mention this:

Be easy on yourself, girlfriend.

Having your shit together means everything is easy, life has plateaued, and you need to get ready and hold on to your hat, because shit's about to get a whole lot less together.

I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago about how he just couldn't commit to having a girlfriend, but every woman that he spends time with has amazing and unique qualities that he so appreciates about them. It makes their time together special, in his eyes, even though there is a knowledge that it probably won't be forever.

"Why," he asked me, "can't we just appreciate people for what we truly love about them instead of deciding that they just won't be the end-all, be-all in our lives? Can't we just be thankful for the small pieces of joy that people bring into our lives, instead of expecting them to be everything?"

Which, agree or not, I thought was a really good point.

Why, regardless of the stage of life or business that we're in, can't we just appreciate it for what we're truly loving about it?

Why, if you're so busy and really inactive on your blog (me!), can't I appreciate the fact that I'm SO busy with client work, that I simply can't sit down to string a few thoughts together? Not that "I don't have my shit together because I'm disorganized and don't set boundaries".

Why, if you're not busy, can't you appreciate the white space in your life that leads to more time pursuing passion projects, your family, or hobbies?

So the next time you bow out of a conversation, embarrassed because you feel "less than", I want to let you know that the fight against perfect, and for transparency and honesty, because with YOU being honest in moments of feeling "less than." It's fighting that feeling of embarrassment because you're not perfect, and being okay with perfection being an enemy, instead of a goal.

Businesses are built in the messy in-betweens. Embrace it, sister.

#MontanaBoss Friday: Tara Martin of Big Sky Photo Booth

 
 Montana Boss Tara Martin of Big Sky Photo Booth
 

Happy Friday, boss! A day of lazily closing out the week, chatting with your co-workers (aka your pets) about your weekend plans, and hopefully closing up shop juuuust a little early. Each Friday, we'll be doing a feature on an amazing creative business owner in the Big Sky State, so that we can all learn a little bit more about the struggle and the awesomeness of being a business owner. Click here to read other interviews with amazing women from around the state!

Hey girl hey! Introduce yourself and tell us about your biz!

I'm Tara Noel Martin from Big Sky Photo Booth. We are a boutique photo booth company offering interactive, custom experiences for social events and corporate brands. Our booths are portable - we bring them to venues, ranches, and private homes all over SW Montana. Anniversaries, weddings, birthdays, not-for-profit fundraisers, school carnivals - really any social event is a good fit for our booth entertainment. The booths provide studio-grade photo-strips printed in one minute, endless laughter, and social sharing for your brand.

How did you start your boss lady journey?

Matt and I traveled to Duluth, MN for a dear friend's wedding. We were THOSE people....we couldn't stop using the photo booth (we didn't do anything indecent though)! On our roadtrip back to MT, we brainstormed how to bring the idea back to our community. A couple years of research, and we launched in the Spring of 2011 (Yes, it has been five years)!

Have you gone full-time with your business?

It feels like it! When you wear so many hats as a business owner (bookkeeper, HR manager, event workerbee, event coordinator, marketer, social media manager, and secretary, etc) it is hard not to put in a full week. I probably work 25+ hours per week in our slow season, and 50+ in the busy season.

 
 Montana Boss Tara Martin of Big Sky Photo Booth
 

Okay, let's talk about the DNA behind Big Sky Photo Booth. Were you one of those women with entrepreneurship basically in your blood that we always hear about?

(Wow, that's a cute question.)

Yes, I guess I have it in my DNA. When I was 19, I started a fiber arts company in Missoula called "Marigold's Garden" - I spun my own yarn out of predator-friendly, hand-sourced lambswool or alpaca, and organically-raised plant fibers (cotton, hemp, linen). I crocheted hats, bikini tops, baby sweaters, etc and hand-made dresses and shirts out of thrift-sourced fabrics.

When I was 24, I started a petsitting business in Bozeman called "Montana Pet Lovin' ". Both were successful, but neither very profitable. When I crunched the numbers, both were only paying about $9 or $10 per hour.

As a little kid #boss lady, I dreamt up ways to make money--taking orders door-to-door for wrapping paper, small toys, & gift bags that I marked up from the retail price I paid. I was constantly negotiating with my Mom and Dad for higher allowance wages.

I have always been an "idea" person (though I often don't have the working capital to move those ideas to action). I am always dreaming of my next business thing. I guess they call that being a "serial entrepreneur."

How do you build an income and a life through your business?

I work my "regular" job in health care. It provides the stability and health insurance I need for my family. My business generates approximately 40% of my monthly income.

What was your most expensive mistake?

Getting a Master's degree in a nonsalable field before getting into healthcare.

What's the biggest misconception that women have around business ownership?

First, don't overthink things and think they are too hard. For example, you can start an LLC without hiring an attorney. Google is your friend. Almost everything can be researched ad nauseam with good results without consulting the big wigs.

Second, in a market like Bozeman with very low unemployment (<2%), you WILL struggle to find good help if your business is growing. That is a reality. Plan for that, and maybe the recruitment/retention struggles won't be as disappointing, or you can thwart it with some professional HR or recruiting help.

Or, just be prepared for a training process that is streamlined.....
 

 
  Montana Boss Tara Martin of Big Sky Photo Booth
 

Where would you like to be in the next year? The next five years?

I would like to work less. I'm not sure if that will be working less with the business, or working less with my "regular" job. In the next five years, I want to own more real estate and work even less. Pipedream? Maybe.

How would you define a Boss Lady?

She is fervid. Always pushing the envelope, always hustlin', always staying current. But, she's funny too, and makes herself laugh.

What one piece of advice would you give yourself in your first year as a biz owner?

Year 1 - be prepared for a lot of disappointment but stay goal-oriented.

Year 3 - the struggle is real but isn't it getting easier? Look where you've come baby! STAY GOAL-ORIENTED!

Want to get in touch with Tara? Check her out on her website. Send her an email and tell her how you found out about her (*cough* The #MontanaBoss feature *cough*)

(P.S. Want to share your story with other Montana business owners? Click here.)