The Early Years of Entrepreneurship

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It was one of the happiest days of our life. Jesse called me from the car to say he was on his way home from his day job for the last time.

Part-time jobs. Full-time jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Security? Hmm, that’s debatable.

Three years prior, in early 2009, we blindly started a photography business. We had passion. We had some talent. A lot more passion. And we had other jobs. Part-time jobs. Full-time jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Security? Hmm, that’s debatable. But we had consistent paychecks for a while. At the end of 2010, we decided that I’d go full time Limelife Photography and Jesse would keep his full-time job so we’d have good insurance and security. We would shoot together, but I was to manage the business and clients we had and attempt to get a lot more. This was a step in the right direction. There was a little bit of relief and a ridiculous amount of hard work to come for both of us. We sacrificed in different ways to grow our business and simultaneously keep our marriage on the right track. The early years of entrepreneurship were rough.

Jesse would come home from a 15-hour day and I’d greet him with an attempt at dinner and a day’s worth of “This is what happened at Limelife…” I had to tell him everything! He was my business partner. My hubby. I needed to bounce ideas off my other creative half. I needed his opinion. I needed his okay on decisions & projects. And he needed me to shut up. He had just spent 12 hours in an ER cleaning up all sorts of nastiness, CPR-ing for long stretches and assisting in stabilizing organs and other important body parts. And he was going back again tomorrow. He was in need of downtime and Limelife was in need of momentum.

And we hung on tight to that “security.” To the “stability.” We clung to that job just in case.

We did this for almost two more years. Eventually, Jesse’s job went from full time to part time. And we hung on tight to that “security.” To the “stability.” We clung to that job just in case. Every couple weeks we’d have a hard conversation about how to make it work better. How to maximize our working time together and our days off. We read business books, dreamed of the future and talked about someday when we could afford to make it all happen.

After a lot of prayer and hashing out worst case scenarios, we came to this conclusion: We’ll never know if we don’t try it. And if we don’t try it now, who’s to say we ever will?

My heart was pumping super fast. He’d be home in 30 minutes. I scrambled around the office, the living room, the bedroom, the bathroom hunting for the book and quote I knew existed somewhere in our 1,000 square-foot world. I flipped pages and pages and pages. And then I found it. I took a bright orange Sharpe from my pretty collection and wrote it neatly, excitedly. And then, next to all sorts of congratulations signs I made for him, I clipped this one up on an Ikea gallery wire. Right next to his desk. His new full-time workspace.

We jumped. We got unstuck. We decided to act on our dream. Act on our LIFE. We left luke warm and went for bold. Went for guts. Went for risk and ruckus. And now, we’re alive and kicking and running with momentum. Sometimes it’s scary. But it’s the life for us. It’s hard work and it’s freedom. It’s creativity. It’s big ideas. It’s being together. It’s running wild. It’s adventure. It’s not for everyone. But it IS for a lot more people that know it yet. And we’re determined to spread the word. Share our experiences and realities and ridiculous moments to give those peeps a kick in the pants and lots of love along the way.

When Jesse walked in the door that day, there was no need for me to try to fill him in on what I’d been up to with the business. Instead, we stood in the office and hugged and cried and smiled and thanked God for that moment. For everything He’d done up till that point and everything that was about to happen. And then he sat at his desk and read a piece of crinkled printer paper. Thank you, Woodrow Wilson, “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with great vision, and with finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world.”



Make the Most of Your Home Office Space

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I live and work in a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Boston. Within our 850-square-foot abode, there is a small nook that was once an outdoor patio and has been enclosed for extra square footage. This 6×9 space, my friends, is where all of the interior design ideas happen! Of course there are days when I relocate to the sofa or dining room table just for a change of scenery, but those are the perks of working from home, right?! Regardless of the size of your workspace, let’s take a moment to chat about how to make the most of the home office space you do have. As entrepreneurs, we wear a lot of hats and desks can easily become a place filled with paperwork, random sticky notes, mail, invoices, etc. If you are like me, this is when I decide to go to a local coffee shop and forget about the mess I have at home. Psychologically, we tend to feel anxious when surrounded by clutter. This can also lead to unwanted stress and ultimately hinders productivity. Understanding that we spend a good part of our lives in an office, why not transform it into a place you actually want to be, a place that inspires and motivates you!
Here are 5 tips to making the most out of your home office:

1. Don’t hide your tools!
Figure out what you use most and find creative ways to display those things in an organized manner. For instance, I really love drawing out my ideas and making quick bubble diagrams as a part of my creative process. So, I found these $2-3 containers at Ikea and filled them with my rendering markers and colored pencils (color coordinated of course…bonus points!). This sits next to my desk and is a quick clean up!

2. Brand your office.
I love this one because we tend to forget our office is a direct representation of our company. Whether it’s through colors or the type of furniture and accessories focusing on a certain style, find a way to make this space become the essence of your brand. For example: With Love, Design’s colors are light and dark shades of turquoise so I found some desktop accessories that fit within that color scheme. This is still a work in progress for my office – as it should always be – but you get the idea.

3. Labels are your friends.
The best way for me to keep my mind clear of chaos is to hide all of the samples and swatches in my library. Right now they are labeled fabric, paint, wood, etc. I have inherited so many fabric swatches that I am working on labeling them by color and trying to find some baskets that will fit in an Ikea Expedit or something similar. I will let you know how this turns out.

4. Light, light and more light.
I cannot stress this enough. First of all, I hope you all have at least some natural lighting coming in. It’s not only good for the soul, but it’s also a great electricity saver and the best for everyday work. However, I know some of you guys work when the sun goes down because you are all go-getters and are making it happen! This means you are going to need an overhead source of lighting (ie: a pendant, chandelier [you’re so fancy], or recessed) as well as task lighting. Task is obviously more important in this case because it does exactly what it says…focuses on your task. You can get affordable table lamps at most retailers!

5. Ergonomics.
So, I know my chair is attractive (I mean, it’s an Eames knock-off) but it is definitely not the chair you want to be sitting in for hours upon hours. Find a chair that works for you and make sure it adjusts to the right height so you do not put stress on your wrists as you type away answering all of those emails! I know, practice what you preach, Jessica! I am working on it guys…I’ve got my eye on this little West Elm cutie.

Feel free to comment with any questions below and visit my blog for more inspiration!


The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

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The War of Art is one GIANT quote we should all burn deep into our brains and hearts. Whoa, that’s intense. But I’m totally serious. I underlined and starred something on every freaking page. Pressfield is one talented guy. And he’s real, just as vulnerable as the rest of us. “The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident, the real one is scared to death,” says Pressfield. It’s nice to know even the top dogs don’t feel like they have it figured out.

Read my notes below but don’t think twice about not spending the $7 to get your own copy off of Amazon. This book is for artists, dreamers, creatives, entrepreneurs, those hoping for great inspiration, those wondering how to overcome self-doubt and how to beat procrastination, those going through the world with a fine-tooth comb, eager for the next idea, the next step of success. It’s out there, yes, but Pressfield would argue so much more of what you’re looking for is inside yourself.

A few of my favorite pieces of advice and inspiration for entrepreneurs:

1. Resistance is a bitch, a way worse character than the Big, Bad Wolf. It lies to you, sneaks up on you and will devour you, if you let it. Resistance takes on many forms of procrastination: Facebook, flat tires, crying babies, happy hour, etc. It can be overcome, but it ain’t easy. “The enemy is a very good teacher.” – the Dalai Lama

2. Fear is good for us. It means we care. It means we’re invested and headed in the right direction. “The more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul,” Pressfield says. Oh, and no matter how great you become, how much experience you have or how many followers you have on social media, fear doesn’t go away. And that’s not only okay but actually a good thing.

3. Resistance and fear might knock you on your butt, but you’ll know it’s worth the grit and failure and risk of ditching your amateur status and becoming pro when you’re creating and executing the ideas and life you see in your mind. “It is a commonplace among artists and children at play that they’re not aware of time or solitude while they’re chasing their vision. The hours fly. The sculptress and the tree-climbing tyke both look up blinking when Mom calls, ‘Suppertime!'” Pursue your calling. What’s the point of your life if you don’t?

4. If you make the jump as a full-time creative entrepreneur, you might be miserable at times. Push through anyway. “The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell…He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.” I laughed so hard when I read this. It sounds so ridiculous but it’s so true, at times. Stick with it. It’s worth it.

5. “We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause,” Pressfield says. Naturally, we want praise and recognition for our efforts, talent and brilliant creativity. And sometimes if no one notices how great we are, or notices but doesn’t acknowledge it, we feel unworthy. It is lame of us to feel this way, but super common. Next time that happens, remember this.

The Art of War is a super quick read. But take your time. Keep it handy for when you think being a creative entrepreneur is too hard, too lonely or makes you too poor. Let your favorite Pressfield quotes give you a good old-fashioned kick in the pants and then get back to it. Do more of what you love.

“It may be that the human race is not ready for freedom. The air of liberty may be too rarefied for us to breathe…The paradox seems to be, as Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find a master to govern over them.”


Why Creative Entrepreneurs Should Hire an Accountant

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I worked hard to put the initials C.P.A. after my name but in my heart, I relate to all designers, photographers and lifestyle bloggers. I could have stayed in a firm and crunched numbers all day, but I used every free minute to figure out a way to get closer to my own creative bliss. Working with passionate creatives is the perfect mix in my world of spreadsheets and numbers. And I can help you (maintain your sanity) and your business (stay organized and follow financial rules).

As a creative, it can be incredibly daunting dealing with the money side of things. Let me paint a different picture for you. I’m talking game-changer status different picture.

You are juggling all you can handle, just staying on top of your business and now you’re being told you have to add spreadsheets and tax law to the mix? Accountants, CPA’s in particular, are required to keep up with Federal and State tax laws by taking continuing education courses every year. It is a good thing to have someone who does know these things on your side.

Your accountant can help hold you accountable and keep your financial records up-to-date. It is tough to make ourselves keep up with the mundane tasks like bookkeeping. Bleh! One way to stay on top of things is to set up quarterly bookkeeping reviews with an accountant. I’m talking peace of mind, people. It’s worth it. As a bonus, you will be able to see where your income is throughout the year and respond quickly, when needed.

Accountants can help determine what you’ll need to pay for estimated taxes. This takes a heavy weight off your shoulders as the end of the year approaches. We can also can help you understand the financial ramifications of choosing to be a sole proprietorship, partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), and S-Corporation, as well as walk you through the steps. We can also help you determine if a 1099 or W-2 needs to be sent to the IRS and your state. Heck, we’ll even prepare these for you.

If you’re not sure where to begin with a bookkeeping system, that’s the perfect reason to make an appointment with an accountant. You may be really comfortable with a spreadsheet, but if you’re not into formulas and hand-entering everything, your accountant can recommend programs that automatically pull in transactions so you just have to categorize them. Check out Freshbooks or Wave. It is really important to have a good system in place. Something you’re comfortable with and something you’ll stick to the whole year.

Bottom line: hiring a good accountant WILL benefit your business. It will reduce stress and leave you with much more time to spend on your craft and generating income! Don’t let your finances run you; find an accountant and let them run the numbers.

7 reasons why creative entrepreneurs should hire an accountant:

1. She is educated in Federal and State tax laws.
2. She will keep your financial records up to date.
3. She can review your bookkeeping quarterly.
4. She can determine what you’ll pay for estimated taxes.
5. She’ll explain what it means to be a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC and S-Corp.
6. She’ll advise you on Freshbooks, Wave and other at-home accounting systems.
7. She’ll free you of stress, so you can get back to work.


How to get in the creative zone

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Every designer, photographer and writer knows there’s something out there, be it a place, a Spotify station, a type of experience that sets them free into an untouchable sacred zone. A place where they turn all Girl on Fire, Katniss-like. Fierce, flying with ideas and intentions that are hot, hot, hot. There’s a flow & rhythm in the zone. It’s where you get stuff done. It’s what helps build confidence and excitement about your task, your motives, your endeavors. It’s a place that sometimes sneaks up on us and we need to act fast and get down to business before it slips into the abyss.

When creatives arrive at this place, it’s magical. Steven Pressfield talks about it this way in “The War of Art,” It is commonplace among artists and children at play that they’re not aware of time or solitude while they’re chasing their vision. The hours fly. The sculptress and the tree-climbing tyke both look up blinking when Mom called, ‘Suppertime!'”

You feel at home with your mind and your work when you’re in the zone. It’s peaceful and exhilarating all at once. You want to be there All. The. Time.

But, the zone is hard to come by when we’re feeling distracted, uninspired or too busy. Just like anything, the less and less we show up in the zone, the harder it’s going to be to ever get back. There will always be something or someone trying to keep us from the zone. Just like an athlete has to overcome his defenders, screaming fans cheering for the other team and booing his efforts or the debilitating memory of last game’s missed shots, as a small business owner, you must wade through the crap and find your sweet spot.

So, how do you get in the creative zone? Here are a handful of simple and effective ways you can prepare to arrive & stay in the zone:

  • Clean your workspace.
  • Exercise.
  • Fill your stomach with something healthy.
  • Go do something outside.
  • Get everything else out of your brain and into a notebook or Evernote or somewhere where you don’t have to think about it until you need to.
  • Meditate. Relax. Just sit and breathe for a second.
  • Close your email.

Because it’s such a unique place to be, we sometimes make our arrival to the zone way harder than it needs to be. That, my friends, is called good old fashioned procrastination. There’s no magic way to get to this magical place. You must be diligent and create it for yourself.

Now, go…


Nontraditional Roles for Entrepreneurs

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My husband does the dishes 90% of the time. No, really, he does. And there are some days when he gets groceries, cooks and probably feels like a 1950’s housewife. But it works for us. Or, maybe it’s just me…he looks mighty fine in an apron. But seriously, those days when he’s manning the grill and the washing machine, I’m usually somewhere deep in a jungle of my own thoughts and productivity. I’m singing loud and working fast.

Our work/home roles are not very traditional. We like it that way. Running a business and a life takes BALANCE. We share all sorts of responsibilities. We have very specific and different job titles and duties for work. But, the rest of our life has a lot of blurred lines, depending on who has a deadline, if either of us is not feeling the best or just what we’re in the mood for that day. That may not work for everyone. Some entrepreneur couples we know have systems for every aspect of their life and it works wonders for them. Having structure with a side of flexibility works best for us.

When you work from home and have to manage your business and house/family simultaneously, it’s important to play to your strengths as much as possible. For example, I’m a morning person. This means that 90% of the time, I’m the one juicing kale and cucumbers at 7:30am; I’m the one emptying the dishwasher and switching the laundry by 8am; I’m the one who gets a couple hours of my most productive work in before my husband shuffles into the office, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He’s the one holding down the work HQs in the late afternoon; and he’s the one loading the dishwasher at 9pm.

It works out really well that one of us is a morning person and one a night person. We get to feel taken care of when it’s the other person’s go time. This means I also have to respect his strengths and weaknesses and not expect a brilliant performance at an 8:30am marketing meeting. And he knows he can’t spring business talk much past 6pm, otherwise my brain gets cooking all over again and I can’t sleep.

This is just us. It took a while to figure it all out. There are times when we hit some friction and need to figure out just a little bit more to make it better. But the bottom line is that it works. Not just because, but partly, because my husband does the dishes 80% of the time 😉


Tips for introverted entrepreneurs

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I’m an outgoing introvert. I like hanging out in small groups, for a while, and then I like to come home and get into my sweatpants. You may or may not find me wearing those same sweatpants the next morning at work, in our home office. If I STILL have those same sweatpants on that evening, I know things have gotten out of hand and it’s time for me to go for a bike ride, meet a friend for coffee, or just take a shower.

It’s not just good hygiene. It’s good business.

I learned early on in entrepreneurship that it’s super important to be intentional with your schedule, especially as an introvert. As self-motivated as I am, too many office days in a row make me feel depressed. Too many meetings, shoots or events in a row drain me. Balance is king. It keeps me sane, and it forces me to get outside of my comfort zone and outside of myself!

Introverted entrepreneurs! Ditch the sweatpants and ditch the comfort zone. Staring at your computer won’t spark any creativity. I know you might just want to be alone. You might already have a long list of reasons why it’s okay that you’re a shut-in. BUT IT’S NOT OKAY! Being around other people can be hard work for us introverts. But we have to use our strengths to our advantage (small groups & one-on-one conversations), rather than letting our weaknesses (ginormous networking events or ANY room full of more more than 5 people) get the best of us.

A few tips for introverted entrepreneurs:

  • Hang out with other creatives, in small groups.
  • Make yourself go to one event a quarter that leaves you craving sweatpants and alone time.
  • Just listen. Be a sounding board for someone without co-workers.
  • Have coffee with a new social media friend. One-on-one dates aren’t so bad!
  • Invite an entrepreneur friend (or a small group) to your place to work.
  • Only schedule meetings on one or two days a week, so you can keep your energy high the other days.

Introverts! What else do you do to make the most of your work days and sanity?


Defending your dreams

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Being a creative entrepreneur does not mean you suck at life. It’s just the opposite, really. But your parents or some of your peers might not see it that way. They might think you have your head stuck in the clouds.

“I was convinced my mother-in-law thought I was eating Bon-Bons all day.”
When we started our photography business in early 2009, our office was in my in-laws’ garage. Spiders kept me company while the hubs held down another job. I was convinced my mother-in-law thought I was eating Bon-Bons all day. They didn’t quite understand what we wanted or why we were trying to build what we now have. They thought Jesse should pursue medicine or at least something where he would be taken care of by The Man. I was frustrated because what we wanted made so much sense to us. Why couldn’t they see it? It doesn’t matter. It didn’t matter. But I let it affect me. BIG mistake. I should have kept my eyes forward. Sometimes all people want is for you to be happy, they just want you to find happiness the same way they did.

Not everyone has the desire and sense of adventure in their blood that entrepreneurs do. Those people might not ever get it. Nine to fivers find great security and confidence in benefits and health insurance that is automatically taken from their paychecks. And that’s totally cool. We don’t need to knock them. We just can’t let them dampen our dreams or steer our self-worth.

The funny thing is, older generations should technically totally understand. Why wait for retirement? Let’s get this party started NOW. Yes, plan for retirement. But let’s live now AND live later. Let’s live our WHOLE damn life, shall we?!

“Keep those spiders at bay and go have a Bon-Bon. You deserve it.”
If you’re stuck in a crummy spot right now, trying to explain to your parents or anyone else that this is the right move for you, you are not alone. Hundreds and thousands of us have been there before. Don’t let it shake you. Keep those spiders at bay and go have a Bon-Bon. You deserve it.