After deciding I could no longer spend my life auditioning for Broadway shows and waiting tables (let’s face it — I was burned out from singing 16 bars), I then spent many years working 9-6pm “assistant” jobs in NYC. I worked for a hedge fund, I worked as a nanny (another fave job), I worked as a personal assistant, an executive assistant, admin assistant in financial services and I’m sure a few other assistant jobs in there. But what prepared me MOST for owning my own virtual “assistant” business was the one job where I was NOT an assistant. It was my final NYC job as Program Coordinator for a busy, NYC startup non-profit where I worked for nearly 4 years.
I realized recently that working for a startup was the best training ground for creating the business of my dreams. The startup environment is so unique and also hard/exhausting, but so rewarding.
If you’re looking to learn a ton and you’re just starting out– look for a GREAT startup to work for. You’ll learn a lot.
And here’s why:
- I wore 15 hats. No really – 15. Ok, maybe 6 (but it felt like 15 some days). I spent my mornings working in logistics/international shipping and then afternoons doing an email campaign/tweeting, entering invoices into QuickBooks, booking international travel, helping to design a new office space, assisting our accountant with our annual audit, booking hotels in remote parts of Africa and more. Endless. When you work for a startup, you get the chance to take on many things. This was such an incredible training ground for a future small business owner.
- Freedom. I was given the freedom to try things in my work. I think this should maybe be #1 here. For many years as an assistant working in financial offices, it was the opposite. No freedom. No say. A very “Mad Men”-ish, secretarial existence (which killed me softly inside for years). In a startup, many times, you’re given a lot of freedom in your work to try things. No one ever breathed down my back to make sure I was completing a task. Therefore, I worked harder. I was happier. I wanted to be there making an impact every day. A sense of “freedom” in the workplace makes the difference between a job and a great job.
- Small teams. At this startup, I worked on a small, amazing team. Working closely with just a few people (who also each wore 15 hats) taught me so much about working closely with a colleague. Most of my work now is one-on-one with a client or solo-entrepreneur. It’s so important to learn how to communicate well (and fast) with your colleagues and working in a startup was great prep.
- Fast-paced. In a startup (or a great startup at least), you’ll learn quickly the meaning of “fast-paced.” I’ve always worked pretty fast, but when you have 4 people running an entire company with many things happening, you learn to work as fast (and diligent) as possible. Learning to work in a fast-paced environment is so, so important if you want to run your own business. It’s a must. I’m still trying to get on “Tahoe Time” here…
- Great People. I had incredible managers who asked me on a monthly basis – “what do you want to do, Emily?” — “what do you want to focus on?” — “how can we help you develop this?” A great startup usually has a rigorous hiring process because they want the brightest people on their small team to grow their business from the ground — up. I was very lucky to have worked with smart, smart people who taught me to so much and cared enough about me to help develop my natural work talents.
- Risk-taking was OK. I worked for a CEO and manager who took risks (see my “testimonials” page). Calculated, smart risks…but risks. We tried things a lot — some worked and some didn’t. Most did — not gonna lie. But — this sense of “the worst thing you could do is NOT try” really stuck with me. In this past year, I have said yes to some potential clients who I did not think I could take on (or was scared to) and it’s turned out wonderful.
- Flexibility in the workplace. What literally led me here was that I was given flexibility with my job. We had a generous maternity leave policy and the option to “ease” back into work after maternity leave (working from home on Fridays for a few months before coming back 5 days a week), which was SO incredibly helpful for me. These things really make a massive difference and most big corporations don’t have such flexible policies. I was also given the flexibility in the office to work wherever – rarely at my desk. At the office kitchen counter. In the small phone rooms. On the couch. The startup environment is awesome in this way — allowing employees to get up and move freely, which in turn makes them more productive and never bored. I am a firm believer that you could and should work where you’re most comfortable. For me, it’s at home by myself. For some, it’s in a bustling office. But it should be wherever you work the best.
- Modern business systems/ideas. Most startups are just that – starting up. And to do this, the business owner/CEO/Founder wants to make their employees happy. Many startups have a lot of fun perks and benefits (we didn’t have a ping pong table, but we did have a sweet espresso machine and some awesome views). They also use a lot of modern systems to run their business. Because of this, I learned so much about working “in the cloud” and running a paperless/electronic business. I think so much of my work now involves systems for entrepreneurs (and systems that I learned there), so learning these programs was huge.
Lately, I think a lot about — how did I get here after just starting this business a year ago? I think a lot of it is because I worked for a fast-paced, NYC startup that gave me the freedom to thrive and focus on what I loved working on. Instead of being pushed down in a cubicle, I was built-up daily and given the reigns to try things and take risks (something I had never had before). I owe so much to the time I spent there. I would not have been able to move here to Tahoe, to work from home and to live out this little business dream of mine.
So yes…working at a startup…a great idea.
I love Google Drive. And you should too. And I love making video tutorials.
This time I used my fave Chrome extension and app- OpenTest to make this video for ya.
Learn the basics of Google Drive in under 5 minutes.
I’ve always loved blog posts where people lay out their “real” day-in-the-life schedule. I get a kick out of seeing how people spend their time. And when they’re really honest about it. Working from home has always been a dream of mine and it’s a lifestyle that is all new to me and comes with its own set of challenges. Sometimes I think it’s actually harder than going into a real office. And with a toddler at home, even more so. So it’s been interesting figuring out how to schedule my time.
See – this working-from-home-while-the-baby-is-home-thing is hard. Even with a great babysitter. There is no break. Ever. Your breaks are your time to work. I work during naptime. I work at night. But this is what I choose to do and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have the afternoons with my child and I can run to the store if I have to. Or to Starbucks. To me, it’s the way working should be.
So I’m breaking down my “typical” work day for you (and let’s face it, nothing is ever “typical”) and really I’m doing this for myself to see it all on electronic paper:
6am-7:30AM: Sometime between these hours, my little guy wakes up. I pray for 7:30am, but some days it’s 6:01am. And some days it’s 8am! I always try really hard to get him back to sleep, but he usually disagrees. I unfortunately check my email upon waking. I know, I know. Most of my clients are on the East Coast, so they’re already hard at work and I like to make sure nothing crazy has happened. I try not to start work until 8am though even though I know it’s already halfway through the morning on EST.
7am-7:30: I start the coffee and this is our special breakfast time together before the madness begins. I make blueberry pancakes or eggs. Or toast. We eat lots of toast. But one of the most wonderful things I’ve loved about working from home is that I can make a big, fun breakfast for my little guy each day. I love this time so much before the madness begins.
8:00am: Babysitter arrives. Big Yay! Mama goes downstairs (long commute, y’all!) to her office and shuts the door. I turn on Spotify and get to work. I try to have “normal” clothes on when I go down to work, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was in sweatpants/leggings/workout clothes most days.
Babysitter plays with my son upstairs and I work in my office. These three hours are my most productive of the day. I bust out as much as possible, make my calls, update Asana, handle client requests, etc. It’s all client work during this time and I try to be as efficient as possible with these morning hours.
11am-11:30am – Break! I come upstairs (mama is back from work!) and I spend the next 30 mins or so playing with my child and making a quick smoothie or a quick snack before his nap. Babysitter leaves. Sigh…. (I feel so grateful that I get to be home with him – even though I’m working. It’s everything to me. Not easy and always hectic, but wouldn’t trade it.)
11:30am-2:00pm– Admin work + lunch + a few social media posts (for work)
The little guy goes down for his nap and I quickly get back to work. This is my 2nd slot of sacred, work hours. I call it 2.5 hours but it can range from 1 hour – 3 hours. I pray for 3 hours. It’s tough to depend on “nap time” for work, but this is just the way it is for now. I make myself a quick lunch. Maybe run the dishwasher. A load of laundry and do a little admin work (invoicing clients, tracking expenses, leads and emailing). I usually find myself working on bigger projects at night or in the morning. The mid-day work is all administrative, with some social media/FB Groups thrown in (we gotta do it!).
It’s also my most stressful time of the day b/c I am trying to accomplish as much as humanly possible during his nap — coupled with feeling like the home has to be somewhat taken care of/cleaned since I am technically here all day…
2pm-5:00pm– Play! Usually around 2pm or so (or when he wakes up), I finish working. This is the best thing about working from home with my own business — it’s on my schedule. I choose my schedule (I still can’t believe I’m able to say that). I still work 8 hours a day but it’s split into hours that make sense for my life. This makes me way more productive and happier. I get ultimate family time each day with my favorite little person and I get to work and make a living. We usually have lunch together, do some errands, go for a run or hike, go to the beach/lake or go down the hill to Target or Trader Joe’s. (This is kind of my chunk of time to pretend I am a stay at home mom and I love pretending!) I used to worry so much about running out to do an errand between 9am-5pm but now that I work for myself, I am able to do that without guilt and that’s awesome, right?
5pm-6pm – Dad is home and we all hang and make dinner. We love when Dad comes home.
6:30-7:30pm – Bedtime routine is in full force. (We’re talking bathtime, reading lots of books, pajamas, diapers, nursing. It’s no joke!) It’s then goodnight to my sweet child.** (**Sometimes I am so tired that I fall asleep putting him to sleep. That is not good for the biz and I try to not let this happen. But it happens sometimes.)
7:30pm-10pm – MORE WORK while hanging with husband
As hard as it can be, I often have to work at night. Luckily my husband is understanding (he likes that I’m working to make $$!) but it’s hard on a marriage sometimes. We do spend time together and have some (or a lot on some days) wine/beer while I’m plugging away on the laptop. I decided it’s one of the trade-offs to working from home with a baby. If it means I get to spend those afternoon hours with him, then I’ll work every night if I have to. I also tell myself that it’s only temporary that I’ll have to work late. Someday he will be in school and I’ll have the whole day to myself. For now, this is how I work though.
10:30pm – Fall asleep very quickly. (Although tonight, it’s 10:45pm and I’m writing this blog…)
This is my typical day lately. What’s your schedule like? I’d love to hear! Comment below.
If you have an Apple computer, chances are you use “Finder” all day, every day. And chances are you don’t know half of the little things that this smart little file organizer can do. Finder for Mac OS X is basically everything. It IS your computer. No, really…it is. And there are a lot of hidden features that you shouldn’t be expected to know, but they’re definitely helpful!
While building my business over the last few months, I have started to zero in on a new little hobby — TEACHING people how to use the online tools I know and love. Online Tutorials! I have found that I love helping people figure things out on the ‘nets — seeing their online lightbulb go off and hearing “wow, I didn’t know that!”
So while doing a few online tutorial screen share sessions lately, I’ve discovered that people don’t use the “Finder” to its fullest. Here are some of my favorite little tips for you and your Finder! Sorry Windows users…
- COLOR TAGS! Use them, name them, love them!
I love nothing more than color-coding my life and especially on the Finder, when everything is well…silver. In FINDER, you can set different colors for different things. For me, RED means “Important,” YELLOW means “blog photo,” BLUE means “delete later,” etc.
You can set up your Finder Color Tags by:
- Clicking on word “Finder” in the very, very top left.
- Clicking “Preferences.”
- Click “Tags.”
- Double click on the word “Yellow” and change the name. Add colors for Home and Work. Add new categories using the + or – and more.
To actually use the color tags on files, simply “right-click” on any file or folder in Finder and select the color (If you haven’t setup the ability to “right-click,” do that asap in your System Preferences > Mouse > Secondary Click ). I usually only give it a color if it’s something important I need to remember or want to easily find.
You can also drag any “color tag” over to your sidebar so you can easily click on say all the “Yellow” Finder items.
And highlight a bunch of files and change them to a color all at once. Click the mouse and hold SHIFT and scroll down the files you want. Then right-click and find color!
2. DRAG ANY FOLDER TO YOUR SIDEBAR.
Have an important folder that you come back to or use daily? Put it on your sidebar for easy access! This does not remove or delete the folder…it simply puts a shortcut to it on your sidebar. Super handy. I have a big “WORK” folder which I access daily. I love it on my sidebar.
3. VIEW THINGS DIFFERENTLY.
People tend to get stuck in their Finder viewing ways. Some people love the thumbnail or “icon view” and some love “list view.” I am a “list view” kind of girl on some days and other days, I need to see things differently. Switch up the views to see what works best for you. There are 4 options – from left to right — icon view, list view, column view (great for dragging files to different places) and “Cover Flow” view. I tend to only use the first 3 (Cover Flow is a bit much!), but explore each one and see what you love.
4. “SHOW VIEW OPTIONS” – i.e., the little flower wheel button!
If you’re in the Finder window, click on the little circle/flower/wheel button for some additional fun settings. Highly recommend looking at “Show View Options.” Here you can change the text size for your files, icon size, how you want them to automatically be sorted (I love Date Modified for everything!) and more. Customize, customize!
5. PUT A BUNCH OF FILES INTO A FOLDER IN A JIFF!
You can highlight a load of files (using click + SHIFT + click) and then RIGHT CLICK and select the “New folder with Selection (9 items)” button to put a big group of files into a single folder all at once. I am all about folders. EVERYTHING should have a folder. This makes it fast if you have a lot of files that go together.
6. SEARCH, SEARCH, SEARCH!
The thing is — it’s called FINDER for a reason! The “search” within Finder is amazing. You can search anything on your entire Mac. Or just in this folder. Can’t find something? Think of a word and just search for it. Then simply organize the view by Date Modified or By NAME and I bet you’ll find it.
Have something you want to learn how to do online? Excel? Dropbox? Finder? MailChimp? Illustrator 101? Shoot me an email here, give me one hour and we can do this!
If there’s one thing I feel I could talk about a little it’s social media. There are so many wonderful things about being connected to people from all parts of your life and also with the whole world. I rely on social media for nearly everything – from breaking news, subway closures, Samuel L. Jackson’s crazy tweets, coupons, interesting articles, up-to-the-second events to simply connecting with people. And sometimes it can be quite overwhelming with all the new apps and social networks being developed constantly and things changing so fast. Here are some of my own personal tips to help you organize your social media life. Comment below if you have any good ones to add!
- Pick 3. Or Pick 2. I have 3 social networks I try to stick to and in this order: Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It’s really a matter of preference what you pick, but pick a few networks and stick to them. I got rid of Foursquare, Pinterest, Tumblr, SnapChat, etc. You can’t possibly keep up with all of them. It’s fun every once in a while to go check on them, but you should focus on just 2-3. And definitely have more than just one…we all need a place outside of Facebook.
- Instagram – Get into it. My favorite of all social networks. I think it’s more fun to talk about life with just a photo (or now a video!) and a caption than reading someone’s long status update. Not only are the photo filters pure genius (Clarendon is my fave!), but it lets you post quickly to Twitter and Facebook and you can choose which one (or both) you want to post to each time. This saves a TON of time and you can pretty much tweet constantly just from Instagram. If you just want to use a filter quickly but don’t want anyone to see your photo, go ahead and post the photo and then you can delete it instantly from Instagram (and it still saves to your Camera Roll).
- Facebook LISTS. Nothing is more important than the little “Friends” and “Custom” button when you’re writing a Facebook update. I have made Lists for the following: Work People, Close Friends, Family, Family-Related (meaning they’re technically family, but not super close), Charlotte, NYC, Cincinnati, NWSA (my high school friends), CCM (my college friends), etc. It’s so important to make lists of people, because many times I want to post something and HIDE it from my Work List or I write a post about NYC and I hide it from the “Charlotte” List (who might care less about a NYC-related post). Or you can choose to show it ONLY to Charlotte people. It’s important to set these up and then utilize them. Not everyone on Facebook needs to see everything you post. Just click “Custom” and choose what you want to do. You can also hide from certain people by typing in their names.
|This button is super important!|
|Choose “Custom” in the drop-down menu and pick who you want or don’t want to share a status with. Don’t worry “FAMILY,” I rarely hide you!|
4. Make folders on your iPhone. This is hard, but try to stick to 2 pages on your iPhone. The first page should only be what you use every single day. The second page should be folders. I have folders for the following: Finance, Travel, Airlines (a separate folder), Utilities (Clock, Compass, Calculator, etc.), Photo Editing, Food, Games, Apple (for iTunes, App Store, Find iPhone, etc.) and Music/Video. Don’t be scared of folders. You will learn quickly where things are. Then, put your folders in alphabetical order.
|Folders! (I know, I have some notifications to tend to!)|
5. Every Sunday (or whatever day you choose) sync your phone photos to your computer and then DELETE them off your phone. And then once a month, make sure you back up your computer photos to a service like Amazon Cloud Photos, iCloud, DropBox, Flickr, Google Photos or an external hard drive.
6. LastPass. This is one of my favorite computer add-ons. You download and add this little, red star button an install it in your Bookmarks Bar. It saves all your passwords and syncs it to all your devices. It’s brilliant. Read about it and download it. You will love it. No more trying to remember passwords – EVER. It also has a great “Fill Forms” features, when you’re checking out anywhere online, you click one of your pre-entered credit cards and it fills in all the details. Just make sure you have your Settings so that it logs you out when you close the browser. What’s great is that there’s a mobile app to go with it too, so you can have secure access to all of your important info/cards whenever.
7. Gmail “Under 50” Rule. I used to have 150+ emails in my Inbox at all times. One day a few months ago, I sat down and reorganized and started “archiving” everything. (The archive button is the one below on the left with the arrow.) I got my Inbox to under 30 emails (so I could see all emails on one screen) and it was the most liberating thing I ever did. I try to always keep it under 30, or under 50 on a bad week. The key is to “unsubscribe” from everything. You really don’t need emails from J. Crew, Groupon, Living Social, Gap, Ann Taylor, etc., every single day. Or if you do, make a folder for “Coupons” and put them in there immediately. Also, archiving feels as great as a “delete,” but it’s not. When archiving, Gmail keeps the email forever and when you search, it will be available in the results. So archive stuff. And use tons of folders to organize your email.
|Archive button in Gmail is on the left of your Spam and Trash buttons.|
8. Hide, hide, hide all the crap. Facebook is getting full of annoying ads. Start hiding them now! Click the tiny arrow in the top right of the ad and then “hide” and you will never have an ad from that company show up again. Also, start hiding people that annoy you. They won’t know! I also recommend going through your entire Friends list once a year and deleting people that don’t need to be there. My rule of thumb: If I know I will absolutely never see them again and I barely know the person, “unfriend.” Sorry!
9. Hashtag etiquette. While it is usually funny to see someone use a long hashtag like #marriageisnojoke or #girlfrienddontplay or even #layoversarebetterwithmargaritas, this is not the proper usage of a hashtag. A hashtag is a SEARCHABLE term that people might be searching for on a given network. If your photo is of a dog, the hashtag should obviously be #dogs or even #animals. If of the Eiffel Tower, it should be #travel or #paris. These are BROAD terms that people search for. Also, never use more than a few hashtags in one tweet or Instagram caption. It just looks bad and also looks like you’re screaming for someone to search for your tweet/photo. An example of what not to do:
|Is this person serious?!|
10. HootSuite OR Buffer: Finally, HootSuite and Buffer are great apps to organize and post to multiple social media networks all on one Dashboard. If you use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, etc., you can have them all in one place and schedule your posts in an instant. It might seem confusing at first, but let me assure you that once you use it, it’s a very handy tool. Especially if you handle social media for business. These are a MUST. And Latergram.me (phone app) for scheduling Instagram posts is genius!