Time: Are you Penny Wise and Dollar Poor?

You’ve probably heard the expression penny wise and dollar poor. And you’ve heard that time is money. But time is also time, and unlike money (or any other resource) it is limited. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. So you can get more money or happiness or fun, but you can’t get more time. As a wedding business coach, I help wedding entrepreneurs get a whole lot smarter about how they spend their time. It’s fascinating to me that someone who runs a successful business and understands the importance of investing money in the right places can still be somewhat foolish with how they spend their time.

Okay, let me give you an example. Most of the wedding business owners I work with think like bootstrapping entrepreneurs. When you’re starting out, you’ve got lots of time and no money. But now, they’re working with all of the brides they want (and the money is rolling in) and time is the scarce resource. The problem is that they still act as though there’s plenty of time and no money. So let’s say you’re a wedding photographer who’s now booked solid after a couple of years of hard work. Between photo editing, sales and client meetings and actually shooting the weddings you are slammed. Not to mention blogging, staying up on trends, trying to learn more about social media and everything else. You don’t delegate anything because you’re stuck in the old mindset of I-have-to-do-everything-myself.

So how do you break out of the penny-wise-dollar-poor mentality?

1. Know what you absolutely love to do (and are crazy-good at). Usually, for a wedding photographer, this is actually taking the pictures. This is where you want to spend the most time (because it makes you happy and it makes your life better).

2. Root out your time-hogs and give them to someone else. Many great photographers can outsource their photo editing to a cheap, but talented assistant. This isn’t just about saving time. If you dread doing your accounting chores each month, to the point where you are thinking about it constantly, imagine how much energy and time you’ll save by outsourcing that to a professional bookkeeper.

3. Know how you make money. Those time-hogs are sinister because they keep you from doing things that get you more business. Don’t try to do everything yourself just because you can. Outsource as much as possible so you can focus on getting more business (so you can spend more time doing what you love).

4. Love yourself. No joke. As a business coach, I don’t just give quick-fix advice (actually, I never do) – we explore why a coaching client isn’t being wise with their time. If you’re using up all your time on tasks you could outsource, ask yourself why. Chances are, there’s some fear there, or possibly the feeling that you don’t deserve to work just four days a week. It takes a strong person to love themselves and to say, “You’re worth it. You deserve to spend your life working on things that you love, instead of mind-numbing tasks.” Are you worth it?

5. Remember that this applies to money, too. I hear wedding business owners say things like “I can’t afford that” all the time in response to investments like marketing opportunities or (ahem) coaching. But what is your return on investment? If that marketing opportunity (or, ahem, coaching) will bring you ten times as much money as you pay for it, how can you afford not to? If it will save your sanity or give you ten more hours a week to spend on things you love, how can you afford not to make the investment?

It’s easy to think small and to make excuses. I do it all the time. But then I remember, there’s a better life out there for me. And for you, too. So if you are twice as productive on days when you hit the gym, can you afford not to hit the gym? I can’t.

Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves. Where have you been penny wise and dollar poor in your life (when it comes to time or money)? More importantly, what the hell are you going to do about it?

Never Schedule a Meeting Again

If you spend way too much time trying to schedule meetings with clients, potential clients, other vendors or anyone else, your life is about to get a whole lot easier. Say goodbye to the thirty-email conversation where you keep trying to randomly guess which date will work for the other person. Stop setting reminders for yourself to remind other people to show up to your meetings. How many hours a week could you save if you didn’t have to schedule appointments?Enter timetrade.com. This amazing piece of webware lets potential clients schedule appointments with you instantly online. It does all of the work so you get to have all of the fun. Here are five reasons timetrade is my best friend:

1) Potential clients can schedule appointments instantly online, 24/7.

2) It automatically sends them a reminder at just the right time (usually a day or so before the meeting).

3) It syncs with Google Calendar so whenever someone schedules an appointment with you, it’s automagically (yes, that’s my favorite word) added to your calendar.

4) It checks your calendar for you. So if you add a new event to your Google calendar, it won’t show open appointment times during that event. Never double book.

5) It ain’t ugly. The interface isn’t gorgeous, but I’ve looked at more than a handful of other online scheduling systems and they’re all ugly as sin.

The sixth reason I love timetrade is that the annual fee is $49. I generally like my webapps free, but for the punch it packs, fifty bucks is just plain giving it away. Like any respectable web service, they also offer a free trial so you can try before you buy.

If I had to come up with some downsides to the service, it would probably be the lack of control you get over some aspects (like when those reminder emails go out). That said, I haven’t had any missed appointments yet, so I’m not sweating it. And any features they’ve lacked (like iPhone compatibility – c’mon, people) they’ve quickly rectified (their calendars are now iPhone and iPad friendly.)

As usual, I don’t make a dime for recommending them (though I probably should). It’s just one of my favorite tools and one you should definitely know about if you’re sick of wasting time trying to schedule appointments. What are you going to do with all of that free time?

Get that free trial here: www.timetrade.com.

How to Have More Fun (Even at Work)

photo credit: addictinggames.com

Running your own business sounds so much cooler before you actually do it.

Remember when you used to dream of having your own business? You would spend the entire day doing what you loved and you’d even get paid for it! You’d get to call the shots. You’d get to keep all of the money. You wouldn’t work with annoying clients and whenever you got bored you’d just take off for the day. (Okay, maybe not all of those, but I’m sure you thought at least some of those things).

So what the hell happened?

If you own your own wedding business, chances are you’re working now more than ever before. The most sinister part of working in the events industry (okay, it’s kind of awesome, too), is that you attend parties all of the time. The reason that’s not such a great thing is because you can start to believe that because you go to other people’s parties and networking events, you have a life. When, in fact, you do not.

Never fear. Your coach is here to help you try out some new strategies to build real fun back into your life and, yes, even your work.

Connect with your purpose: You love what you do. If you’ve lost some of that passion, rekindle the fire by doing something creative totally for you. If you’re a stationer, make a new design just because you think it’s pretty. When you take time to meditate on your life purpose and the mission of your business, you’ll also enjoy and appreciate the stuff that’s not as glamorous because it’s part of your larger mission. Paperwork doesn’t seem so monotonous, when it means that you get to change people’s lives (and we all do, in some way). Connect with your purpose and you’ll enjoy deeper meaning and fulfillment in absolutely everything you do.

Connect with your friends: You need friends outside of the wedding industry. Right now. I’m sure you used to have some, probably until you became completely engrossed in your wedding business and eventually they stopped calling. It’s not too late to salvage those friendships. You’ve simply got to spend time outside of your wedding world.

Connect with nature: I’ve been hearing more and more good things about the healthy benefits of being in the great outdoors. Some studies even show that you get a huge benefit from just five minutes of walking in a greenspace. If you live in the city, schedule monthly getaways and find a sanctuary (like the Garfield Park Conservatory).

Connect with yourself: Want to be more in tune with yourself and the universe (or your higher power)? Here are my three favorites: exercise, meditation (video) and yoga (video). Click the links for more information on how to get started. If you add more of these three things into your daily (or weekly) life, you’re going to see the benefits almost immediately. You will feel better, look better and have a deeper sense of calm. I can’t think of better ways to ward off stress. And you can’t have fun if you are stressed out.

Understand their importance: If you aren’t making these connections regularly, you’re going to lose your mind. At the very least, your business and your personal life will suffer. It’s not healthy and it’s definitely not fun. You won’t change until you realize how devastating it’s been to not do good things for yourself. The best way to recognize the difference is to start making some of these positive changes in your life and to keep a journal of how you feel and how business is going.

Schedule it: Once you understand that you’ll be more productive and more focused, have more energy, be happier and healthier, too, it won’t take much to start building time into your day for these essentials. You don’t need hours at a time, either. Five minutes of meditation or centering before a meeting can make all the difference. Can’t make it to the gym? Try biking on errands or walking to the next bus stop.

So many of my coaching clients (like all wedding entrepreneurs) struggle to take care of themselves in this way and it takes its toll on their businesses and their lives. Commit today to being better to yourself, not because it will help your business (even though it will), but because you are totally worth it.

Time Saver: Edit PDFs painlessly

I don’t know about you, but trying to edit PDFs used to make me crazy. Someone would email me a contract as a PDF. Then I would download it, open it, print it out, fill it out, scan it (with my phone), email it to myself and then send it back to the person. Your version might be a little better, but probably not by much. Some people have access to expensive software that lets them manipulate PDFs. Good for them.

For the rest of us, there is PDF Escape. This amazing little app allows you to add text and images to PDFs in a way that is very intuitive and (relatively) easy to learn. Don’t get me wrong, it’s ugly. But I’ve used dozens of programs and they’re all terrible. This is the first one I absolutely love, despite it’s minor flaws.

Here’s my new PDF process:

1. Download PDF

2. Upload to PDF Escape

3. Edit (tip: I have my signature saved as an image for digitally signing documents)

4. One-Click Download (awesome!)

5. Email to the sender

Okay, I’m not sure if that sounds easier or not, but it really is amazing. My last tip, though it pains me to do this to the developers, is this: don’t waste your time creating an account. It’s much faster to skip the login (they make you complete a captcha every time you log in) and just use the webapp unregistered. The only benefit I can see to registering and logging in is that you can save documents on their server. So if you’re into that, perfect. If you’re like me, and only want to edit and send, then save yourself the hassle.

Enjoy!

Just Say No

Are you one of those people who says “yes” to every single thing someone asks you to do? It’s hard to say “no,” especially when the project sounds interesting (or the person asking is a bully). It sounds good (or we don’t want to turn someone down) so we say, “Yes!” But then another project comes along, and then another. And pretty soon we’re in way over our heads and we have no time for ourselves or to really focus on our passion.

Why We Can’t Say No

I think most people are afraid to say no for a couple of reasons:

1- We are afraid to miss out on an amazing opportunity.

2- We don’t want to let others down.

Why No is Necessary

Taking on everything all of the time is exhausting. You will burn out. The problem is that there will always be someone who wants to drop something on you so they don’t have to do it. So you need to start sticking up for yourself and for what you really want. What are your big goals, your dreams? If you want to have a super successful business doing what you are passionate about, you’re going to need to STOP doing a lot of the things that are preventing you from focusing on that. We can’t take on every project. When we try, the things that are most important to us (including our health) suffer the most. Not only that, but we run the risk of turning into a frazzled mess that no bride wants to hire.

How to Say No

Saying “no” doesn’t have to be painful. If you are someone who is afraid to miss out on an opportunity, think of the greater opportunity that will come from focusing on your passion and your ultimate goal (and know that other opportunities will come along). Recognize that many before you have sacrificed their own good stuff for the sake of the best stuff.

If you have a hard time turning people down, be honest and get creative. Tell them the project sounds awesome, but that you are choosing to be very selective about what you take on because your time is limited. (That should knock their socks off and encourage them to consider saying “no” more in their own lives.) If you’re up for it, take a moment and reach out to someone who would really love the opportunity. You help two people out and you don’t take on any new projects.

That’s Not All

It’s not enough to know how and when to say “no” to new projects. What obligations are already in your life that you need to say “no” to so that you can say “yes” to the best?

Best Time-Tracking Web Apps

Where does the time go? If you work from home, you’re all-too-familiar with that sinking feeling you get at 5pm (6pm, 7pm or 11pm) when you realize another day has gone by and you’re not totally sure what you’ve accomplished. Often, it’s not the obvious time wasters that suck your time, it’s those sneaky this-is-kind-of-productive activities that are the most sinister. After all, they aren’t unproductive, right?

If you want to take back your day and find out where the time goes, I’m going to give you three of my favorite web apps for tracking and managing your time.

 

Passive
RescueTime.com

This one is awesome because it’s totally hands-off. Once installed, RescueTime just hangs out in the background and tracks how much time you spend on different computer activities (and websites). There is a little bit of management on your end (you sometimes need to re-categorize activities), but for the most part, it’s “set-it-and-forget-it.” After a week, take a look at where the time has gone. I mean, facebook is great, but is it 20 hours a week great?

 

Active
SlimTimer.com

This sweet app is a skinny little timer you keep open all day to track how long each activity takes. It’s definitely more hands-on and the benefit here is that you have to consciously switch between activities, instead of just slipping into the blogworld vortex unawares. You can create your own categories so it’s very personalized. I recommend keeping it simple – sticking to, say, four categories. Maybe even the four quadrants from the self-development classic, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

 

Proactive
e.ggtimer.com

Once you have a good sense of where your time is going, you can take control of how you spend your time. This web app is simply a digital kitchen timer. The cool thing is that you can quickly set it by entering the amount of time after the url (for example, http://e.ggtimer.com/20min will take you straight to a 20 minute timer and starts the clock immediately). If you know that writing that blog article should take you 45-minutes of totally focused productivity, set the timer at e.ggtimer.com/45min and get crackin’!

These are my top picks. I hope you find them helpful as you take back your day. Remember that to make the most of your day, you need to sacrifice the good to focus on the great – those super-effective tasks that make you money and grow your business. Please share your favorites and how else you keep the day from slipping away.

De-Stressing the Holidays

Well, Christmas is finally here. With an unexpectedly busy December, it pretty much snuck up on me. Thanksgiving isn’t the only time of year to be thankful, and this season, I’m thankful for a lot. I’m thankful for you. It’s been a really amazing year, including some crazy medical emergencies and pug-acquiring. That doesn’t mean I’ve totally avoided the annual holiday stress machine. Let’s face it, this time of year can be really stressful. From dodging pepper-spray-weilding “competitive” shoppers to battling road rage and encountering bad (or at least cold) weather, it’s hard for anybody to make it through December without losing that elusive “Christmas”spirit and giving someone the bird.

If you’re planning to hit the roads and see family this weekend, and that usually comes with some stress, I want to offer you a (helpful) challenge: Let it go. If someone cuts you off in traffic, let it go. If you end up doing all of the dishes after dinner while everyone else guzzles eggnog, let it go. And even if no one remembers to get you a present or say “thank you,” let it go. Lastly, if you don’t let it go and you get really upset, let that go, too. Be easy like Sunday morning. It’s a tall order, but letting go of the need to judge (others and ourselves) is the best way I know how to raise our own consciousness, experience more peace and enjoy life more.

After all, when you hang on to anger or self-pity, you’re the one who suffers first. Then it affects those closest to you (and the people you run into with your car). One thing that helps me to “just let go” of things I really, really want to hang on to is remembering some of the good things in my life. After all, I live in America. I haven’t had to wonder if I would eat in any given day or even how I would pay rent. I have a job (I have a couple). There are a bunch of people I care about and a bunch of people who care about me. The list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Emily, the love of my life, and Roscoe and Relvis, the pugs. And when I remember that there’s a huge part of the world that doesn’t enjoy some of those things, it’s hard to stay upset about Aunt Judy eating all of the pudding.

How do you keep stress at bay during the holidays? I’m sure you have some great ideas about how to keep the holiday stress-free and filled with gratitude, so please share on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cakecoaching. Thanks for being who you are. Thanks for reading. Be good to yourself this week. Happy holidays!

Jeff

Why are you doing this?

Natalie on her big day, photo by Jeremy Lawson Photo

You work way too hard as an entrepreneur to be in it just for the money. If you’re reading this, it’s pretty much a guarantee that money isn’t what’s most important to you. So why are you doing this? Why go through all of the hassle of starting and running your own business? Most of us are tired of bad bosses or we want to be able to pick our own hours. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m digging deeper. Time for the big question: what is your purpose?

Your faith might give you some direction. What is your unique legacy, the gift that you leave the world? We all make an impact, whether we want to or not. I’m asking you what kind of an impact you want to have.
A case study: Natalie Willett, owner and flower goddess, Zuzu’s Petals
I met Natalie years ago through my work with The Traveling Photo Booth. At the time, her business was established, but hardly running smoothly. She had just made the leap from a home-based business to having the luxury (and overhead) of a studio space. In the time since, she began working with me as her coach and made some big changes even before that.
One of the things we talked about in our coaching sessions (she’s given me permission to share her story, of course) was how some of her sales meetings were totally draining (sound familiar?). Brides would come in asking for the world with no budget. We explored some alternatives to her current line of thinking. During the call, she realized that her own interpretations were making the meetings no fun (and unprofitable). Natalie decided to get creative instead of upset. Once she changed her perspective, she noticed an almost immediate shift. She had way fewer “bad” meetings. But it wasn’t just that. By making this and some other changes, she found that the meetings weren’t just more fun and more profitable, she began to really connect with more clients in a deep and meaningful way.
The past year has been totally incredible for Natalie and Zuzu’s Petals. Natalie has emerged as an industry leader, but more importantly, she is loving her work and the people she’s working with. She laughs, as she tells me during a call how many hugs she’s receiving from clients. I can hear her smile over the phone as she describes the joy of creating a floral masterpiece she’s intensely proud of, being able to deliver the gift of stunning flowers for clients, and hearing how happy she’s made a girl on the most important day of her life.
What I admire about Natalie is that she’s not just spreading joy through flowers. She tells me about how much fun she and her potential clients are having in sales meetings. Just from how she talks about it, and knowing Natalie, it’s clear that her clients’ lives are that much brighter just for knowing her.
That’s Natalie’s legacy. And it’s that joy that she brings to clients and even to potential clients that make it all worth it for her.
The icing on the cake? Having more fun and enjoying her work more than ever have allowed Natalie to grow her business faster than ever before. She’s gotten rid of vampire brides and her favorite brides are dying to work with her, budget-be-damned.
Thanks, Natalie. I love seeing a client transform her business and her life. After all, that’s the reason I do what I do.