About Us

StartupLadies provides a perspective on business and the associated lifestyle from two ladies who have started their own business and run this blog to document their experiences, share some advice, and occasionally vent some frustration. Running a business both requires and produces a different personality and skill set than working for the man. This is our journey...

Dating Can Be Hard When You’re An Entrepreneur

Right.  I’m not going to lie.  When you’re busy all the time working on a business, finding the right person to date can be hard.  I mean, you’re already doing all you

Separating Books

Many of the blogs I’ve written have been about starting your projects and running your own company. The thing I have realized is that there is a lot of stuff to do

Take a Break

I always thought it would be cool to have my own little cabin with my own little outside grounds where I could do whatever I wanted.  That may just be something that

Commercial Marketing

My friend has got that gotta-get-a-new-car-deal thing.  We were having lunch the other day and he asked if I’d seen the commercials for some new BMW or whatever and I said no. 

Find Another Girlfriend

My friend said that his girlfriend said she’s going to dump him.  I asked him why and he said it’s because she said he snores.  I asked him if he knew if

 

Only Three

My old roommate sent me this email earlier today.  She said I could share it here:

“I am never in my life going to get behind the wheel even after one drink. I say that because last weekend I got my first and only DUI. I went out after work with some guys that I work with and only had 3 drinks but that was all it took. I had a light lunch so I guess that is why but it wasn’t like I was sloppy drunk or even close to it. I got pulled over because I was on my phone like an idiot and forgot to put my turn signal when I changed lanes on the highway. I didn’t even see the cop behind me but he was in an unmarked car so I don’t know if I would have noticed even if I wasn’t on my phone. I did the whole field sobriety test and thought I passed but I thought wrong. The cop said I failed and then gave me an on-spot breathalyzer which I failed. I was then handcuffed and taken to the police station where I had to blow again on the big machine. I got processed and everything and after about two hours I was able to leave but a cab had to pick me up. I had to go the next day to get my car from the tow lot which was not cheap by anyone’s standards.

My next step is to contact one of the best DUI attorneys in Sarasota that I can and see what my options are. I am pretty sure that I am going to lose my license but I don’t know for how long. I am lucky because my coworker Jeff already said he would pick me up and drop me off if needed. He was out with me that night and he said it could have easily happened to him as he goes home the same way. I’m not glad this happened by any means but I am glad that it wasn’t worse. I didn’t cause an accident or anything like that. I know when that happens the court tends to come down harder on you. My ex-roommate John got busted for one years ago and he rear ended somebody and things did not go well for him. I forgot how much it ended up costing him but I know he had to move out and back into his parent’s house because of it.”

Youch.

 

Meet My Friend, Coffee

When you become hyper-focused on your business, it’s easy to let some of your old healthy habits fall by the wayside.  As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes you end up skipping your workouts because you’re too busy.  That 15 minutes to drive to the gym, 30 minutes to work out, and 15 minutes to drive back home is more than you can spare.  Sometimes you feel like you can’t even take 20 minutes to go for a run outside.  Let me tell you, though, that you should take a break at least every few hours and do some stretches, especially if you’ve been sitting down the whole time.  There was recently a study done that basically said the longer amount of time you spend sitting each day, the earlier you are going to die.

Terrifying.

So get up and stretch.  Learn a few yoga poses to do throughout the day.

You’ll also find that you dietary habits may change as you become busier and busier.  Let me give you some examples:

Do you drink caffeine?  I never used to.  But then one morning I was just dragging and didn’t feel like I had enough energy to be productive, so I made a small cup of coffee.  And let me tell you, as someone who doesn’t drink caffeine, I had no tolerance built up at all, and that small cup was enough to get me energized.  I didn’t want to make a habit out of it, but you know how it goes; you’re tired the next day and so you decide you’ll just have one more cup.  And then another one the next day.  And so on.

And now I’m a coffee drinker.

Speaking of coffee, I’ve also been looking at green coffee bean extract to help me lose a few pounds that I’ve put on from not going to the gym.  Unlike the coffee I’ve come to drink, this is made from unroasted beans (so they’re still green).  It’s one of those things where I know it’s happening (me missing my workouts) but I can’t really afford to not be focused on my work at this point, and I can tell and feel a difference from not going to the gym as much as I used to.  I know it’s just for a short period of time (“short” is relative), but I don’t want to get to the point in the meantime where I gain too much weight and then have to start from an even worse place when I finally get back to the gym.

The Realities Of Starting A Business

Why do you want to be successful?

The first thing most people will say when answering that question will have something to do with money.

“I want to be rich!”

“I want a million dollars!”

Or they’ll say something that is somehow related to having a lot of money, like they want a maid, or a Lamborghini, or their own private island, etc.  They want to live like a baller.

Running your own business often requires you to do the opposite of living like a baller, though.  Especially at the beginning, you often need to be as frugal as possible for two reason:

1) much of your money will be getting put into the business, which means you might not have that much money to spend, anyway.

2) you aren’t going to be getting a regular paycheck, so you cannot count on getting a specific amount on a certain day in the future, so you have to try and make the money you do have last as long as possible.

Let’s talk a bit more about these for a bit.  Nearly any venture you undertake will require startup capital.  Maybe you’re franchising a restaurant.  That costs money.  Maybe you’re printing t-shirts for a clothing line.  That costs money.  Even if you’re doing something that doesn’t require any supplies, you’ll still need to spend money on advertising.  The less money you have because you’ve spent it on cool stuff for yourself, the less money you’ll have to put into your business.  Sure, maybe you could buy a BMW, but buying a used Honda Civic would give you a lot more cash to work with (the exception to this being if your company image somehow relies on the vehicle you drive, for example if you’re a real estate agent).

Number 2.  When most people transition from working for the man to being the man (or woman!), one of the most shocking realities is the lack of a constant paycheck.  People tend to base their spending around that regular paycheck.  Their budgeting revolves around it.  They’ll say things like “I’ll get that next week after I get paid on Friday.”  When you’re starting your own business, that doesn’t exist anymore.  You might go a period of weeks or months without any income.  Are you prepared to face the realities of that?  In order to survive during this time you may need to take some steps to become more frugal.  Eat ramen.  Move into a smaller apartment.  Sell your furniture.  Sleep on a futon.  Find the lowest car insurance rates you can find, or better yet, sell your car (if you live in a downtown city; I wouldn’t sell my car if I lived in the suburbs).  Cook food in bulk and eat leftovers.  Cancel your cable (TV, not internet).  Why are you watching TV, anyway?  You have a business to run.  Go to the $2 theater that shows old movies.  That’s your life while you’re getting started.

Is it worth it?

Absolutely.

Backup Everything

This is kind of one of those things that everyone knows they should do, but few people actually take the time to do consistently.

Always.  Make.  Backups.

Now, I’m not even talking about how important this is for your home computer with all your person files on it.  It’s one thing if your hard drive crashes or whatever and you lose all your music and videos and pictures and papers that you wrote back in high school and whatever else you had saved on there for sentimental reasons.  And indeed, it’s a tragic thing.

But it’s something entirely different if you lose a hard drive with business stuff on it: client information, proprietary information, financial records, etc.  You are quite screwed if you lose that.  What if the notes for the project you’re working on for a client disappeared?  How would you feel if you had to call them and say “btw, we need to have that meeting again because I lost our notes”?  Or what if your expense record vanished?  Have fun doing your taxes when you no longer have a record of how much you paid for what things.

Always back everything up with multiple redundancies.  External hard drives.  Thumb drives.  Email things to yourself.  Online (cloud) storage.

Actually, that last one is the one area I want get into.  Right now, my backup process involves copying everything onto an external hard drive, and copying the important files onto a thumb drive.  I also email myself a copy of all the important files every so often so I have a copy of them sitting on my email server as well.  But I want to learn more about cloud storage.  If you’re not quite up to date like me, the “cloud” is just another term for “online.”  Storing something “on the cloud” means “on the internet.”  I don’t know why they came up with another word for it, but they did.  Anyway, what it means is you keep a backup of your files on a server so you can access them from anywhere.  Not only is this useful in case you need to recover your files, but you can also access them from wherever you have internet access, which can make business trips easier since you don’t have to worry about bringing the files with you.  But like with anything, there are a few different providers offering that type of service, so I’ve been reading some cloud storage reviews to try and figure out which one will be best for me.

I know, I already have 3 layers of backup, but since we’re talking business data that I really don’t want to lose, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking extra precautions.

Not to mention, I don’t want to lose all my music, either!

Dealing With Taxes

One of the things you don’t expect when you go into business for yourself is just how different your taxes are going to be.  For the most part, taxes as an employee are pretty easy and straightforward.  There are even free computer programs that will do them for you.  You just enter your income, your amount withheld, your dependents, any interest paid, if you had any investment sales or dividends, and you’re done.  Click the button and submit them online and do it again next year.

But when you’re self-employed?  Ha.  It’s not even close to that.

I remember the first year I had self-employed taxes.  Since I was doing everything myself, I decided that I was going to do my own taxes by myself as well to save money.  After all, I had done my taxes every year prior and I certainly didn’t see a need to pay someone to do them for me.  How hard could it be?

I sat down and got to work.  What were all these new forms I had never seen before?  How much of this stuff can I claim as expenses?  What am I doing?

I finally finished, or rather, I thought I finished.  It said I owed quite a bit of money.  Since I didn’t make very much money my first year anyway, I was pretty surprised to see that I might actually owe as much as I had worked out.

After deciding that this couldn’t be right, I decided it would be worth the money to hire an accountant to help me out.  Tax accountant Five Dock?  I need your help!

Fortunately for them, I did manage to keep really good records of everything.  I had all my receipts for business expenses in an envelope so everything was clear and easy to find, and I could show exactly how much I paid for everything.

Fortunately for me, my accountant knew what he was doing, and it turns out I was actually going to get money back rather than owing money like I had figured on my own.  So this alone more than made up for the cost of working with him, but it also gave me the security of knowing that everything was done correctly (as opposed to all the mistakes I made when I tried to do it myself).

So the best advice I can give for someone who is newly self-employed is to keep track of all your income and business expenses, and remember that every country has its own laws about what can be expensed, but you may be able to deduct supplies that you purchase for work, part of your rent or mortgage (if your office is part of your home), and part of your internet bill (assuming you work online). Basically, if you are spending money and it is related to your business, make sure you save the receipt for tax time.  Your accountant will know exactly what you can and can’t expense, but to do so you will need the receipts, so save them!

Also, be aware of estimated taxes, but that’s another topic for another day.

 

Keeping Fit When You Work All Day

One thing that can kind of be difficult when you’re running your own business is staying active when it comes to fitness.  Here’s why:

Your work can kind of consume you.  You don’t have a normal 9-5 job like most people; if you’re starting your own company, you’re basically working all the time.  Even if you’re not actually working, your life still revolves around things you need to do.  Maybe you’re watching TV in a little bit of relaxing time and you get a “new email” alert on your smartphone at 8pm.  You check it really quick and see that it’s an email from someone you’re working with, and it’s pretty urgent and you need to reply right away.  Even though it’s already the evening, business calls.  Back to work!

That’s just one example, but it’s pretty analogous to what happens on a regular basis.

As such, it’s hard to make room for fitness, especially if you’re the type who likes to go to the gym or go for a run for an hour or more.

For me personally, it has been a challenge to keep it up.  Recently I’ve decided that running helps keep me feeling better and keeps me more alert, and I perform better, so it’s something that I’m going to make time to do even if I have to move some other things around.  I used to be very active but since going into business for myself I’ve kind of let it fall by the wayside.  Not wanting to fall into any bad habits, I recently started running again last week.  I discovered that I needed some new running shoes, too, and being that most of my money right now is going into my business, I was lucky to find a site here http://www.getthelabel.com/fcp/categorylist/promo/trainers-sale with free international delivery (lucky for me since I live in California!).  On that starting your own business means being super frugal, but that’s another topic for another post!

So it’s one of those things that I kind had to take a stand and say look, I know that work is very important to me, but I’m probably going to go crazy if I don’t get my exercise in.  It makes me feel better, it makes me more alert and energetic, and it gives me a chance to take my mind off of stuff, even if it’s only for 30-60 minutes, and kind of unwind for a bit before I have to come back and get back to business for the rest of the day.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going for a run!

Social Isolation Working From Home

That’s another thing I’ve struggled with. You know, it’s like… I’m not really happy, and it’s partially because I don’t have the social network that I want/used to have. Like yeah, I have all the stuff I need, I can do what I want for the most part, and for a while I was like cool, that’s all I need. But I actually miss the social interaction part. When you don’t have it for a while, you don’t really miss it (perhaps this is a neurological defense mechanism???). But then when you get a taste of it again, and then it ends, it’s like… man, that was awesome. Forget hanging out here surfing the net on Friday night by myself. Sure, I’m content, but it’s not awesome. Doing stuff is cooler when you do it with other people who appreciate it and who are on your wavelength.

That’s not to say sometimes I don’t need time by myself to unwind, but I remember at least one day in particular when we started partying at like 1 or 2pm, and then at like 6pm they were gonna go do something but I had to go home and take care of something for like an hour or two and then I was gonna meet up with them later, and when I walked into my place it was like instant social withdrawal. I was like this sucks ass, I wish I didn’t have to do this thing. I don’t remember what I had to do, but I remember surfing the net while I was waiting for something, and I was like lol, the internet is dumb and boring. I wanna go rejoin the party. But then shortly thereafter I started to revert back into homeostasis or whatever you want to call it. I was like “well, this is pretty cool. If I don’t go meet up with them again then whatever.” Or maybe I found something hilarious on the internet that distracted me. Maybe you could say I “lost state” and went back “inside my head”? I dunno.

Like, the level where I’m at now, I wish I was there 5 years ago. Don’t get me wrong; I still suck. But I feel like I can see and understand things a bit better than I did before.

Not All Customers Are Created Equal

When you first start your business, you’ll be excited, and you’ll be even more so when you get your first order from your first client.  You’ll think, “Yes! I’m on my way!”

You’ll be enthusiastic for every client you get and every sale you make.  But eventually, you may start to realize that not every customer is the same.  You may even find that some are not worth working with at all.

Some people are never satisfied.  You can deliver exactly as promised and they won’t be happy; in fact, they may be noticeably unhappy.  You can over-deliver and they still won’t be happy.  If you know in your heart that you fulfilled your end of the agreement, then do not let this get to you; they are just unhappy, dishonest people.  Being unhappy with the final product is part of their modus operandi.  It’s not you.  It’s them.  On the other hand, if you took short cuts and cut corners, then they may actually have a reason to be unhappy.

Some people want huge discounts upfront with a promise of becoming a return client in the future.  This is just part of their strategy; they have no desire of ever becoming a return customer.  Instead, they will go onto the next person and ask them for a big discount in return for placing huge orders in the future.  This person goes from business to business trying to get discounts.  It’s how they operate.  Avoid them.  Now if you want to give discounts to return customers with a history of place orders with you, that’s an entirely different story, and there’s nothing wrong with that if it helps foster a good business relationship.

Some people will nickel and dime you to death.  They’ll spend an hour negotiating with you over $5.  Now this one needs a little clarification.  If you sell something that costs $30, then that $5 may be significant.  In that case, they’re basically asking for a > 10% discount.  Negotiate accordingly.  But some people will spend an hour arguing with you over $5 on a $5,000 transaction.  Use your own discretion.

Still other people have no shame.  They’ll ask you up front for proprietary secrets or data on your other customers.  If these people are this shady before you even do business with them, imagine how shady they will be when money is on the line.  Avoid.

As you gain experience, you will start to get a sense for the people that might not be worth the hassle to work with.  It’s hard to turn down business, but remember that time spent on a problem customer is time that you aren’t spending working on your business.

When you are first starting out, and also during slow times, you may start to feel a bit desperate for business.  You might be more willing to give people discounts that you wouldn’t otherwise give.  Remember that many businesses follows the 80/20 rule.  Eighty percent of your business will come from 20% of your customers.  It’s probably ok to turn away the ones who are going to be difficult to work with.

Choosing A Name

You would be surprised how hard it is to come up with a name for your business.  It reminds me of a commercial I once saw where this guy won a huge lottery and bought his own island, and he joked that the hardest part was thinking of a name.

A lot of people think you have to pick something descriptive of what you do.  But do you?  Look at how many companies have names that are completely unrelated to what they do, like Apple, for example.  Now of course, everyone associates Apple with computers, but that’s because of branding and marketing.  Sometimes a name is just the last name of the people who started the company.  Sometimes it’s just a made up word, like Twitter.  What is a twitter, anyway?

Maybe it’s something that sounds specific but is actually generic, like “Applied Systems.”  Ohh, that sounds cool.  But wait… what kind of systems and how are they applied?

Then you need to make sure you can get the domain name of whatever name you choose.  When people look for your company, they’re instinctively going to type your company name with a dot com at the end of it and assume that’s your website.  Is it?  This can be a huge hurdle, since as many people will tell you, “all the good domain names are taken!”  So you either need to find something weird and unused, or buy the domain name of your company from some “domaineer” (read: cyber squatter) who has been holding onto it for years and wants an arm and a leg.

And you need a logo to help with marketing and branding.  It can be fancy or it can be simple, it just has to be memorable.

It sounds simple, right?  How hard can thinking of a name be?  Ha, wait until you try it.