So you want to... be a photographer

 Image: Emma Weiss

Image: Emma Weiss

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing photographer Emma Weiss. based in washington d.c. At just 20 years old, Emma is a full-time student who also runs a very successful photography business, specialising in engagement and wedding shoots. While the interview for my blog was way more informal, I felt there was too much 'good stuff' that came up in our chat not to share on here. so, if you're thinking about upping your Instagram skills or want to take your photography to the next level, check out what Emma has to say on training, gear and more.

Do you have to have formal training to have a photography business?
"No! I don’t have a photography degree. All I did was shoot everything. I just kept shooting, kept shooting, kept shooting. There are so many resources available on the internet. This is not to say that college is not a good thing; I’m very grateful for my degree. But I have friends who didn’t go or who did go but decided not to go back and they’re all doing incredibly well. I think this is very much a learn-as-you-go kind of business. There are so many people who are very willing to share their business and photography advice and you can find so much education online."

What are the three things you can’t do without to build a successful photography business?
"A camera, obviously. And a website! I went through a re-brand at the beginning of September and not having my website up was killing me, as I didn’t have anywhere for people to find me. If you have a website then you’re so much more established. I know some businesses don’t have a website and prefer to just have a Facebook page, but I just feel like you really should take the time to make a website and get your portfolio out there. Also, Instagram is great – it’s where I get most of my inquiries. I spend a lot of time on it but it’s so valuable and definitely paying off.

"Another thing I would advise is to find a networking group. I’ve found a lot of people through Instagram; talking to local and like-minded photographers and business-owners can be a great support. Entrepreneurship can be very lonely, and these groups can be so helpful. If you want to find a group in your area I would search for certain hashtags or tagged locations on Instagram. Facebook is really great for finding people who are doing similar things, and there are tons and tons of photography groups on there, including the Rising Tide Society – it’s for creative entrepreneurs and I highly recommend it. It’s an amazing community."

What’s the best way to make someone feel comfortable in front of the camera?
"Since I’m really, really uncomfortable, I’m definitely aware that other people are! I’ll usually start a shoot telling them they don’t need to look at the camera. I’ll keep up a constant stream of stupid jokes and comments. I’ll also give lots of positive feedback because, one: it’s true, and two: it’s good to boost their confidence and get rid of their nerves. I’ll tell a ton of self-deprecating jokes because if they’re not laughing at each other, they’ll be laughing at me."

 Image: Emma Weiss

Image: Emma Weiss

Inspirational photographers?
"Definitely @bensasso: he’s just an incredible educator and his website has tons of resources. His girlfriend @katchsilva is also a photographer. She has a different style but the human connection in her photographs is just unreal. Also, Jessi McDonold of @wildjunephotography. She’s incredible and I don’t understand why she doesn’t have a bigger Instagram following because the artistry in her wedding and portrait work is just jaw-droppping. She does a lot with post-processing too as well as being creative with cropping, vignettes – she’s just so inspiring!"

What makes a good photographer; kit, talent or perseverance?
"It’s not the kit, so I would definitely say perseverance. I mean talent is definitely necessary, but just shooting a lot and not being afraid to keep shooting and to shoot through anything is the ideal way to develop your style and make you a good photographer."

Okay, so we don’t want to be a photographer, but we do want to improve our Instagram pix?
"Well I don’t use any lenses because some phone cameras are just so good! I love the app VSCO, but it’s about picking one preset to use, rather than trying loads. Consistency is key for Instagram. I’ll test what looks good next to a previous shot on Instagram. It’s also about getting a variety of work and personal stuff; showing your face is a good thing, it makes you more relatable."

If you just want to play…
"Just shoot! It doesn’t have to be every day. Just don’t be afraid to shoot. Know that your style will change; I cringe when I look back at shots of the first wedding I did!
Last summer I went through a really hard time creatively. I didn’t pick up the camera for two months. I don’t think it’s talked about enough but I think lots of us in creative fields go through it. I felt like I didn’t want to do photography anymore but I eventually picked up my camera again and got through it. It’s about accepting that you will have those times, but also knowing that things will work out. And even if they don’t; it’s okay. If I hadn’t picked up my camera again, I would still have been okay.

"I would also say, don’t be afraid to reach out to people! No matter how many times someone says ‘no’, keep putting yourself out there. Probably 75 percent of the work that I get now is because I reached out to someone."     

Check out more of Emma's amazing work at emmaweissphotos.com, or find her on Instagram @emmaweissphoto

 

Salon Christmas retailing tips Part 2

 Image: Unsplash.com

Image: Unsplash.com

Here’s part 2 of my salon retailing special, just in time for Christmas!

1: Sign everything
This is a crazy, often confusing time of year, so make things easier for customers who want to spoil someone with a hair or beauty treat. Use salon signage to show where everything is, and also to increase the chances of those last minute additional purchases. Product signage should include key benefits of each range; give people the information they need and they’re more likely to invest.

2: Keep it clean
Just because it’s busy, it doesn’t mean your team can ignore the increased housekeeping that often comes hand in hand with increased footfall. You won’t see dusty shelves in stores such as Selfridges or Boots, so don’t allow it to happen at the salon. If you’d rather not take up staff time, then take a tip from Jo Hansford and hire a cleaner – even if it’s just for the Christmas period.

3: Don’t forget your shop window
Just as with fashion stores, your front window is your advert to passers-by. Use the space to show off your wares – if you don’t have hair imagery, then take full advantage and share your most exciting products. Step outside the salon and look at your windows and ask yourself – would I walk into this salon? An easy way to tackle an empty window is to pick a bold theme; winter wonderland is a great one for this time of year but don't be shy with creating something that reflects your individuality - just do it to your absolute best.

4: Mirror, mirror
Mirrors aren’t just for your clients to check out their new look; they add space and dimension, and when your Christmas decorations are up, they’ll boost their beautifying effects. They’ll also make your retail areas look twice as big!

5: Light it up!
Make your windows work even harder. Add extra lighting to entice people heading home after a day at work through the dark streets; it makes the salon look enticing, and again, will highlight the hard work you’ve made with your window display. Great for grabbing those last minute, late night shoppers! 

Tips taken from the original article 20 Christmas Salon Retail Tips That Work

 

Salon Christmas retailing tips Part 1

 Image: Unsplash.com

Image: Unsplash.com

While your clients are coming in for those last minute colour and cut appointments, they could also be looking out for last minute Christmas gifts. For some salons, Christmas retailing is a confusing concept to get to grips with, but it's vital that you pay attention. Putting items in the right place at the right time can have an instant impact on your profit margins. I recently put together some tips for a hair and beauty client, but realised that they might come in handy for you too... 

1: Avoid mixed messages
It’s great if you want to give customers a bargain with inexpensive stocking fillers – just make sure they’re given their own area and aren’t placed directly near to your high-end, high priced electricals!

2: Eye level = buy level
There’s no point showcasing items that you believe will be great sellers in an area that’s not within eye level. Think about browsing the aisles of your favourite stores or supermarkets; it’s usually the higher-priced items that will be placed at eye level, while own-brand, cheaper products, will be lower down. If a product’s out of reach, it’s likely to gather dust, so make sure your luxe products are placed between waist height and eye level.

3: Colour choices
It’s easy to go full-on red when it comes to Christmas retailing, but remember, red is often a colour that’s associated with discounts or sales, so think about some other, more premium tones. Rich purples, silvers and golds teamed with black can often spell luxury and decadence, while green signals an eco range and pinks and pastels are often aimed at women. That said, you don’t have to fall into traditional trends  - not all women love pink! Think about the overall effect, which is less Christmas grotto, more sophisticated, festive and fun.

4: Lighting
You can have the most amazing array of products, and yet, with the wrong lighting, you can end up keeping them hidden. Invest in soft spotlights rather than stark, flat lighting across the salon. Uplighters that can be directed on specific areas are useful, and even a coloured bulb or two can work to highlight a particularly attractive range.

5: Awaken the senses
The salon experience begins the minute someone walks into the door. Even if they’re not coming in for an appointment, you can set the tone for someone’s shopping trip with a welcome smile, and even some mulled wine. Light delicately scented candles for some festive warmth, and for goodness sake, don’t play the same Christmas hits album over and over! Keep clients – and staff – enthused with regularly updated playlists. Spotify has some great seasonal playlists.

Tips taken from the original article 20 Christmas Salon Retail Tips That Work

 

Clean up your social media!

 Image: Unsplash.com

Image: Unsplash.com

We’re heading into a new year, and now, more than ever, much of your business success will have a lot to do with your social media presence. No need to get confused, just think about these simple suggestions and clean things up!

Know your platform
There are so many social media platforms to choose from right now, and all require some level of maintenance once you commit your brand to them. Don’t bite off more than you can chew; if you get frustrated over coming up with an Instagram caption once a day, then perhaps you don’t want to take on Facebook and Tumblr right now – or it’s time to think about working with a professional social media consultant. Think about your product; is it something that requires space to explain ingredients or steps (like recipes)? Or is it an object of beauty, such as jewellery, that could benefit from a highly visual platform, i.e. Instagram or Pinterest?  Perhaps you’re a writer or a comedian, and you want to use social media to express yourself or you want people to get to know you better? Snapchat or using live options to share instantly are a great way to build and entertain an audience – you just might want to have put in some practise beforehand! And remember; be consistent.

What’s your tone?
It’s vital that you work out what your tone should be; are you authoritative, or like a warm, big sister, or fun and quirky? This tone is something that customers come to rely on and trust, and it needs to be reflected across all of your social media platforms. If you’re the business owner and you feel like you want your brand to sound like you, go for it. As you grow, you’ll need to ensure that your tone remains, even if you end up moving some of your social media concerns to an assistant or social media manager.

What’s your message?
If you’re selling a product, again, think about your tone. There’s nothing worse than a brand that has a fun, vibrant Instagram suddenly switching it up to sell a product on Twitter and turning to robotic snippets that basically just say ‘buy me’.  Keep things consistent and you could find your social media is your biggest marketing tool. And remember, no-one expects you to be a one man/woman band; work with video producers, writers, photographers – get an intern to help share the load. 

Takeaways from Myleik Teele's podcast with Necole Kane

 Left: Myleik; right: Necole. Both images via Instagram.

Left: Myleik; right: Necole. Both images via Instagram.

If you know me well, you will know that Myleik Teele is someone who inspires me on the daily; not just because she offers proof that hard work reaps rewards (check out her awesome company, Curl Box), but also because she is real. Well, as real as anyone can be when you only know them via social media. I've been listening to her podcasts for some time now, but I really wanted to share some thoughts on one of her most recent ones, with the founder of the hugely popular gossip site, necolebitchie.com, Necole Kane. The subject matter is why and how Necole made the massive decision of leaving her site behind to start something new. My takeaways are a blend of personal and business points that really matter to me right now.

 

Turning a blog into a business is tough
Necole talks of when she made the decision to take more control of her web business. Instead of working with agencies to find advertising and paying them a hefty commission, she decided to take on her own sales team. Now not only did she have to pay the team, but that payment relied solely on the fact that the team actually got the sales in.
“Before all I had to do was put (meta) tags on my site and blog, and travel, and have fun, now I’ve got to worry about who we’re pitching the site to – this is a real business. This isn’t what I envisioned,” remembers Necole.

I think this realisation is something that none of us can be prepared for. I mean, we can ‘prepare’ in the sense that we get all our facts and figures all nice and neat in our brand new Moleskin notebook, but things turn real pretty soon when you realise you have an accountant to deal with, and staff to pay and interns looking to you for career development. At the same time, there also seems to be a belief that starting a blog means that soon you'll be making tons of cash - certainly not true for the average blogger.
Personally this was one of the reasons that I chose to go it alone; since working by myself, I feel that things have become more streamlined, and if I make a mistake, it’s completely on me. Yes, it sucks that I don't have an amazing intern who's there to help with just about anything, and maybe I don't get invited to as many events, and I no longer have a shoulder to cry on in the form of a business partner when it comes to business woes, but I do get to do exactly what I want. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t ever work in a partnership or a job again though (I hope you’re reading this Myleik!).

 Artwork from the July edition of Curl Box. Via Instagram.

Artwork from the July edition of Curl Box. Via Instagram.

There’s value in being transparent
Necole explains that when she was running Necole Bitchie, everything and anything could be a story, so whether she was watching something on Snapchat or scrolling through Instagram, everything soon became work. She was constantly switched on, which meant she had zero time to invest in herself.
“I cannot tell you who I am as a person,” says Necole, describing how she felt once she left the site, and the scoops, behind.

Now, Necole didn’t have to tell us a damned thing about her transition from popular gossip blog owner to someone starting over in a similar yet different arena. She also didn’t have to tell us about her boob job, and her decision to take out the implants later on. Necole says; “I went to fix something…only made it worse, and ended up getting them taken out anyway.” Like I say, Necole didn’t have to tell us any of this, but I loved that fact that she chose to share it. I, like many women, including Myleik, have had times when we’re like, ‘when I get this, I’m going to change that’, but Necole is someone who has been there and done it, and is honest enough to say that it isn’t all it’s made out to be. In this day and age with teens getting implants and shaving their facial planes, it’s good to see the other side of things. Plus, the reality of having all this surgery and glam squads on call is that it costs MONEY.

Quality will always trump quantity
Necole breaks down when she discusses her transition, and admits that she went from one backbreaking business that cost her money, to jumping into another one, that also drained her financially. She was doing what she knew, and, because of where she came from, she was doing it big.
“I naturally felt like, I know how to do websites, so I’m going to create another website. But I went and created another website and gave myself twice as much stress as the last website. And that was so profound to me,” says Necole. “I got to the point where I was like, you have to restructure your business. Quality over quantity; you don’t have to put out eight to 10 posts a day…” she continues.
I think this is a major issue in the world of content. So many people blog, or write, or create but a massive percentage of them are creating things that really aren’t of much substance. Typos, and grammar that leaves a lot to be desired aside, we’ve become so used to listicles and top 10s that some of us are missing out on real stories that make us feel less alone in our own experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I know many bloggers, for example, make their money by constantly producing ‘something’ on a daily basis, but I believe their audience will soon switch off when they feel shortchanged.
(It’s the same with social media followers. I talk to my clients about organic growth, which takes time, yet so many prefer to spend cash on fast fixes. But when your followers grow swiftly from 3,000 to 10,000, yet your interaction level is still around 100 likes per image, it’s obvious that there’s really no such thing as a quick fix, and those bought followers will never stick or turn into paying customers.)

You can do something else
Even if you don’t know what it is that you want to do next, you might, like Necole, experience relief when you decide to walk away. Sometimes we just need to breathe.
“I felt like I was dying, every single day. This was not the life I wanted for myself,” Necole admits. 
Your life will not fall apart if you leave something behind – even if it’s hugely popular and making you some serious money. Your friends will still be your friends, if they really are your friends. As Myleik says, ‘you just hope that you get to have a happy ending’. Well, staying in something that makes you uncomfortable/miserable/depressed right down to your core, isn’t getting you any closer to happy, is it?

Do you
Don’t worry about what anyone might say or think about your decision. Necole says she had a moment where she felt like she was failing, and the thought of going back to the start left her distraught. When she uttered these words I just sighed, and cried, because truly, this is something I’m still going through today; all I’ve ever known is that I love to write, and that I’m obsessed with beauty. But 12 years into a journalistic career, I haven’t found my home. I’ve tried – and ‘failed’ – at building a business, and I placed a lot of expectations on that. There were a lot of, ‘by this time we should be earning XXXX, which means I can finally do x, y or z,’ moments. So that not working out kinda left me feeling stranded. But, like Myleik says, “I am still here.”

Believe me, I could go on and on, but I'm on deadline right now! Please make some time and go listen for yourself; you will not regret it.

Visit Necole's new site, xonecole.com and for more of Myleik's podcasts, visit https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/myleik-teeles-podcast/id942696396?mt=2

 

Meet beauty entrepreneur Lauren Napier

I can’t lie; the first reason I contacted Lauren Napier was because she has ridiculously good skin. As in, it shouldn’t be allowed. What’s more, her CLEANSE by LAUREN NAPIER luxury face wipe range has topped the must-have lists of many global beauty experts, and this week she’s launching in Australia. So of course I contacted her to talk beauty for my blog, nogracekelly.com, but I also wanted to know how Lauren became that thing that so many of us want to be: a successful female entrepreneur. Lauren is traveling all over the world right now, so we had a quick chat via email, but there’s a podcast coming soon!

Is there anything such as a 'typical' day for you? 
My day is constant. I have retailers in Russia, Australia, the Middle East and the UK –  so imagine a world clock, with the emails coming in waves. It begins at 5am until about 10am. Around noon things start to settle, until the West Coast of the US starts moving around, so I’m back at it until 10pm or so. Entrepreneurship is not for the weary!  

What's the worst thing you've encountered when it comes to business etiquette?
I think entitlement and laziness would be the worst things I’ve encountered. 

Best piece of business advice you've been given? 
‘Get an assistant!’ – from everyone I know. 

Worst piece of advice?
‘Don’t’ and ‘You should.’ I receive unsolicited advice all of the time. People want to help while offering advice without knowing anything besides what they see from their point of view. No-one knows your operation better than you. I often listen and take the advice that applies to my brand.

Do you have a mentor?
I don’t. I do have people in the business whose success I admire. I read and find inspiration and guidelines there.

What has been the most 'wow' moment of your career thus far?
I am fortunate to have had many. CLEANSE by LAUREN NAPIER is a global brand and its launching in Australia exclusively at Mecca Trove right now. I’m currently in Australia visiting stores and meeting press - so this is a wow moment! 

How long ago did you start building your brand? What made you do it?
I think I was always on a path, but didn’t quite know it. I started out as a makeup artist and created skincare products based on my experience.  

Biggest mistake that you've learned from?
All mistakes are lessons. I have made premature decisions, based on where I see the brand’s future. The lesson there is learning to simultaneously play the short and long game.

As a woman of colour, has this affected your rise to success in any way?
I have a supreme product and that has been the catalyst for success.

 

To find out more about the CLEANSE by LAUREN NAPIER range, visit laurennapier.com

Imagery via laurennapier.com/Instagram @laurennapier

 



So you want to...open your own hair salon

 Christel Lundqvist

Christel Lundqvist

Over the past five years my career has taken me into the world of hair, and let me tell you, the hair industry is one of the most fun industries to be a part of. Along the way I've met some ridiculously talented people, one of whom is Christel Lundqvist. This colourist has always had an alchemic quality to the way she works, and recently, she went from working for a big brand to opening her own salon, Stil. Here are a few nuggets that came from our chat.
 

I first met Christel when she was working for HOB Salons; then she moved to TIGI, where she still works as Global Creative Technical Director. I asked her what has been the biggest difference between working in a salon and working for yourself?
When it's your own business the care factor is different and you are never off. You are constantly working, even if it's not on clients, I'm always thinking of new projects and ideas on how to push the business forward.

How long did the process from the initial idea to realisation take?
It took nearly two years from when I first decided I wanted to go ahead with the idea. I'd always loved being part of a team but it was always there in the back of my head.

Were there any times that you wondered why you were doing this?
No, not really. I have loved every minute of the journey. However I have learnt a lot and there are certain things that I would now do differently if I opened another salon. (FYI, Christel tells me she will be looking to open a second salon, so stay tuned!)

Did you have a budget?
Yes I did have a budget and I tried really hard to stick to it. I did go over slightly with my renovation costs, but overall I was very disciplined with my spend. Before we moved in, the shop used to be a Sweaty Betty store, so it was organised in quite a different way. 

What advice would you give to someone who's thinking of opening their own salon?
Do it; it's such an amazing journey. The best advice I can give is to really know your brand inside out. You need to know exactly what you are promoting and selling.

Images below supplied by Stil. Find the salon at 2A Chepstow Road, London W2 5BH and follow them @stil.salon

Consistency; what it really means

LOOK UP THE DEFINITION OF THE WORD 'CONSISTENCY' IN ANY DICTIONARY, AND IT WILL GIVE YOU WORDS LIKe: CONSTANCYREGULARITYUNIFORMITY. HOWEVER, IN 2016, CONSISTENCY IS ABOUT WAY MORE THAN DELIVERING ON THE DAILY.

Whatever business you're in, you are constantly sending out messages about who you/your brand is. Whether that's via tweets, Facebook posts, emails, events, marketing fliers or comments on another brand's Instagram account - your message doesn't go unheard. Conversely - if you're not communicating at all, that's also a message of sorts.

The initial point to get is that you need to be clear on your message; define what you do and know it inside out. It's only when you know who you are, what you're selling, who you want to align your brand with, that you should even begin to work on being consistent. Now, if you're someone who religiously schedules tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts, LinkedIn updates at particular times and regular intervals, here's a virtual pat on the back for you. But are you consistently 'turning up' at your job (or life even) on a daily basis? It's so easy to tell yourself that you are doing a great job, just because you are doing the same things that are expected of you every single day. But, let's be clear - you don't just get points for being consistent by simply doing the same thing, every day. Consistency is about the amount of effort, the continuing trying and improving.

Are you being consistent with your message? Are you being consistent with the effort, focus, attention - love, if you will - that you put into your work? Because, if you're not, somewhere along the way, your message will start to feel off-balance to your audience. Their online eyes will begin to glaze over a little; within a month or so, they might even unfollow you.

So, how do you stay consistent and genuine? 

*Keep your mind FRESH. If the scheduling of your time, social media, eating habits is boring you, break the routine. Sign out from all social media, cancel your meetings and take some kind of break. It doesn't have to be a two week trip to Bali (although that would be GREAT); something as simple as a spa treatment, hiring a bike for the afternoon or visiting a museum will help. Just change something about your routine.

*Read something you've never read before. It doesn't even matter if you end up hating it - the action of reading means you are not only doing 'something else', it can also mean you are learning something or simply being taken away from your current reality. It can give you some distance. If that doesn't work...

*Watch some trashy TV. I'm serious. Watch any reality show and realise that your life is pretty okay; it's yours to be made and shaped into any vision you desire. 

*Workout. To be specific, do something that makes you sweat. This can have a great effect on just clearing your mind - it's especially useful if you do it first thing in the morning, before work even enters your head. I swear by this one.

Do you share?

This week I've been focused on making more time for reading. I love books, I love reading, and, as I write, I know that I need to read, regularly, avidly. But sometimes my eyes just aren't responsive to the words on the page, or iPad, especially if I've been sat at my laptop for most of the day. This week I've gone back to two of my favourites; Jen Sincero's You Are A Badass and Austin Kleon's Show Your Work!

These are two very different books, but, for me, they do share a common thread. You Are A Badass is a self-help book that isn't so squishy as others can be. Where some books might be all, 'let's get naked, scatter feathers and dance around the moonlight and hug each other', Sincero's book has more of a, 'you want it, go get it - you've GOT this' approach. Kleon's book is about the importance of the process behind any writer/artist/creative's work, and how sharing it can help you 'get known.'

The common thread I found in these two books is that they both require you to share. Sincero urges you to make things happen, in real life. Yes, hopes, dreams, plans etc, start in your mind, they start with you. And you can merrily elaborate on those plans in your head - you can create vast, epic moving pictures in your mind, where you are the director, star, stylist - whatever. But if you don't share this thing that you so want to happen, to be - or to coin a phrase, if you don't 'put it out there', then you might as well just stick to stalking your ex on Facebook, because nothing is going to happen.

With Kleon, the aspect of sharing involves your physical efforts to be the writer, artist, composer that you want to be. If you're already pinning inspiration on Pinterest, share it on your Facebook or Twitter. If you've drawn some sketches of a fashion collection but you're not quite sure where you're going with it yet, post it on Instagram. Yes, you will open yourself up to criticism, but by showing your work you are proving that it exists, and by putting it out there, you might meet someone who helps you in a major, or minor way. You might make a friend who also wants to design a men's cravat collection influenced by Cuba in the 1950s, and maybe they can help you with your sketches, or maybe you can work together. Everything you produce is something and by showing the world you are bringing your future 'you' closer. 

From a business standpoint, Kleon's ethos of showing your work is something that has been happening for decades in the hair and beauty industry. The hair world loves to share! Whether it's the latest colour technique or an experimental cut, the hair industry puts it out there; it doesn't cling to how-to steps with a Gollum-like grip. Putting that new technique or look out there pushes them to keep producing more - they don't lose anything by sharing.
For me, this is proof positive that brands, large and small, must take note and invest in social media budgets. By sharing what you do and showing the world how you operate, you will strike a chord with people who want to be right there with you. A stylist or makeup artist or blogger might not even know you exist, but by sharing your process on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook - wherever you feel your community is best served - you could make connections that you'd only ever dreamed of. Create tutorials, take photographs, produce step-by-step videos. Sharing isn't going to take away from your value at all; if anything it will help you make your stamp as an authority in your industry.

 

Be nice. Be real.

One of the things that I love most about my work, is when a client needs me to interview someone for their project. 

No matter where I go in my career, I still get the same excitement from writing down someone's story. Whether I'm sitting with Stefano Gabbana in a luxury hotel in Dubai, or with a nail technician telling me about how she wants to help her family back home, I get the same thrill about getting to the heart of their story. I hate it when they reel out a phrase that their PR has so obviously crafted for them, I'd much rather they tell me the truth about how they almost went bankrupt or why they decided to leave their business and home country behind. 

While no two interviews are ever going to be the same, over the past 12 years, one message has come up time and time again. Be nice. That's it - just, be nice. It's such a short phrase, just two words, two syllables. And yet, it can be deceptively complicated. Yes, it is easy to be nice, in theory. But when you wake up to a stream of immigration-tinted Facebook vitriol, or you're fed up with your living situation, or someone doesn't say 'thank you' when you hold the door open for them, being nice can almost be a challenge. Like, why should I be nice, if no-one is being nice to me? Aside from the obvious answer - if you're not nice, why should they be nice to you? - being nice is proven to have a positive effect, not only on those around you, but on the way you feel too. Being nice means no guilt when you say 'no'. Being nice means your brain no longer feels confused and/or angry when that usually annoying person ducks their head around your door asking if you've got a minute, because you've already told yourself you are NOT GOING TO COMPLAIN TODAY. Being nice can open doors that you had formerly assumed to be closed. Being nice lets your mind off the hook by refusing to get bogged down in the same sad story.

Running a close second to 'be nice', is 'be real.' And they work so well together. Being nice isn't about being a doormat - and when you remember to also be real, that feeling of being taken advantage of is less likely to appear. You can be nice and be real; say you're sorry that you can't make an event and wish that person success on the day - you're not sacrificing anything, you get to stick to your own schedule, but you're not just ignoring them. It's the tiniest thing.

The last time I had to be real was when I met a new client; I so wanted to work with her, so much so that I was willing to start working with her throughout my six week holiday abroad. I knew I could do it - that wasn't the issue. The issue was, should I really be committing to someone new when I have such an amazing experience ahead of me? As I discussed what I could do with this new client, inside I was telling myself 'no, wait.' Mid-meeting I relayed my thoughts - a rushed job can result in imperfections, confusions and upsets, on both sides. While a couple of years ago I might have thought the client would just walk away and find someone else, that didn't happen. I got to enjoy my holiday and now I'm starting on a fresh working relationship.

 

 

Most useful podcast #1: Farnoosh Torabi's So Money

 Farnoosh has over 400 podcasts ready and waiting to teach you about finance and so much more.

Farnoosh has over 400 podcasts ready and waiting to teach you about finance and so much more.

If you'd told me a year ago that I would soon be listening to podcasts for anything from one to four hours per day, I'd probably be insulted, because, you know, I'm so busy - where would I ever find the time? 

But since reading Tim Ferriss' The Four Hour Work Week (blog about that coming shortly), my whole take on 'busy-ness' changed. I began waking up earlier, going to the gym, doing only the essential things on my to-do list, all before the average person had even set foot in their place of work - all this without even taking a peek at my emails. I began to only check my emails twice a day. These changes allowed me to add more research and reading time into my days, but also meant that I could listen to several podcasts. Now, not all podcasts are made equal; in some, the sound quality can doom your future listener-ship within minutes, while others can bore you to angry tears with incessant ads or hosts who talk over their guests. Thankfully, none of the above applies to Farnoosh Torabi's So Money podcasts. 

In the past, me and money weren't always the best of friends - unless you count credit card debt as a sign of everlasting friendship - so it still surprises me that I listen to Farnoosh's podcasts so regularly, daily in fact. I can't quite remember how I found her, but from the beginning Farnoosh's no nonsense, informative style, as well as her wide-ranging array of guests - from Danielle LaPorte to Tony Robbins - has had an effect on how I run my finances, and subsequently, my life. 

Within a couple of months of listening to Farnoosh, most notably her interview with Mr Money Mustache (look him up, he will change your life, if you're ready), and some early retirees, myself and my partner decided to remove all monthly direct debits/standing orders from our accounts - aside from our mobile phones. Sky Sports channel subscriptions, Vogue and Elle subs, even health insurance payments, were cancelled. We cut our gym bills in half by ditching our nice Virgin Active memberships in favour of a no-frills 24 hour gym, and cut down our date nights. The financial rewards began to show within weeks; suddenly, a six week trip to California was no longer a lofty dream, as our savings account grew and grew. In some ways, life also became simpler; not going out so much meant we had more time for the gym, which in turn helped us sleep, which in turn just made our days better. 

When it comes to business, despite the fact that much of Farnoosh's advice is very United States-centric, you can also learn a lot. If you need to re-train, no doubt Farnoosh has spoken to someone who has reinvented themselves. Thinking about a start-up? Farnoosh will have the advice and experiences ready for you to delve into. Want to retire in your thirties? It's all there. 

As well as all of the above, one thing podcasts are great for is that they make you feel less alone. If you're a solo business owner, it's easy to get bogged down in your own ish, your 'busy-ness'. If you work from home, it's easy to feel alone, unnecessary or worse still, a fake, and if you're just starting out, there are days when you can't help but ask yourself, 'why?'.

Add Farnoosh's podcasts to your iTunes subscriptions list and I guarantee you will only reap positive benefits.

 

 

Be prepared; when things don't work out

I still consider myself a newbie when it comes to running my own business.

While I've run my own business for almost five years now (four of those with a partner), during that time I have endeavoured to build upon my skill set of all aspects of editorial production, which I have honed over 12 years in all. But no experience (except perhaps, that of the negative kind) can prepare you for a working relationship that doesn't work out. 

Once, my former business partner and I chose to work with an agency that had pretty much courted us. Drinks and lunch meetings were taken in good faith; these guys really seemed to get us. Especially after they discovered that we had recently obtained a small amount of investment. In the early stages, no question was too silly, no request too inane and meetings went well. The first slightly concerning moment occurred after we had made our initial payment; communication levels dipped from daily to weekly, and that was only at a push from our side.

Communication has always been a big thing for me. Whenever I am working on a client project I will let them know, they’re going to be hearing from me! I don’t care if the client has no time to reply – that’s often to be expected – but when it comes to me, the service provider, I like to let my clients know what is happening and guide them through the process, especially if this is their first investment into their brand.

So, for the next development phase, our expectations kind of dipped; we basically just really, really wanted our site, so hey, if it meant that we had to call in weekly for updates, we could deal with it. By this point we had already decided that it was highly unlikely that we would work with this agency again, which, looking back, is kind of sad. We all deserve the final product that we imagined.

As site development wound down to a close, we were quite satisfied with the overall look of the site, and I personally spent many hours adding new content. Soon, the new site was up and receiving rave reviews, but we also discovered that now we had to go through the agency for even the smallest of things, such as updating widgets on WordPress. Having been used to doing such menial tasks ourselves, we requested that the site be fully handed over to us so we could process those tasks -  we would obviously go back to the agency and pay for any assistance that was beyond our skill set.

Instead the agency not only insisted that they should and would continue to take care of these issues, but that we would also have to pay monthly for that service.

After numerous emails and weeks with zero response, the agency gave in, very begrudgingly, and said they would indeed hand everything over to us.

What they failed to tell us however, was that, rather than building our changes/improvements onto our pre-existing site, they had actually built a completely new site. No big deal right? But it was, as once we had paid our final invoice, and moved our ‘new’ site to a new hosting company, it pretty much disappeared overnight. Instead of our new and improved look, the site had gone backwards several months, therefore losing all of the new content we had created too.

Long, and sad, story short, we spent months going back and forth with this agency. We even ended up taking the site down. The whole experience really made me think about how I would never want a client of mine to feel. I truly believe I would lose sleep at night to think that I had driven a client to near madness and taken their site/content away from them. Unfortunately this is not a rare occurrence; listen to any business or money-related podcast or webinar, and there is always a story about a dodgy service provider in there.

To avoid this happening to you and your brand, here are some things to think about:

  • Ensure you ask every single question you have - no matter how small/silly it might seem
  • If an agency courts you, feel free to look up their competitors and do comparative research - perhaps there's a better fit out there for you. Ask them, 'why me/us?'
  • Follow your gut - if you feel that this isn't going to work, or you don't like the vibe, go elsewhere. It's that simple
  • Ask about the handover process, and where possible, ask for it to be given in writing