Significant Others + Business = ?

One question I get on a regular basis:

Is your husband supportive of you working from home?

The short answer is yes.

Generally, the follow up to that question:

Has he always been supportive of it?

Boundaries from the Beginning

When Bull and I first started dating, I did not work from home. I worked for a heat and air company as an office manager. This was right before I started teaching at a technical college. Just an FYI that Bull and I were friends and got to know each other for several months before anything every happened between the two of us, but that’s a story for some other time.

Anyway, one of our mutual interests was (and is) writing. Of course, back then (2012), I hadn’t really even thought about writing as a profession being much more than a pipe dream. I had my novel. I liked writing. He knew I was published. He knew I wanted to publish more.

In addition to working for the HVAC business, I had a small bankruptcy prep business. I had a lot of connections with Trustees from my previous work as a Bankruptcy Analyst. The dream (at that time) was to be a virtual paralegal.

We talked about different aspects of being in a relationship. We both have children with someone else. We didn’t live together. I’m a fairly open person when I know someone. I told him he could have input in every area but two: my children (they were teenagers and they didn’t need anyone trying to step in) and my business. With my business, he could have an opinion when I talked about things. Everyone is entitled to their opinion…and you never know where that next new idea might come from, you know? But as far as actual decision making? No.

Moving Forward to Professional Writing

We moved in together right after we got engaged. I already had an apartment. He moved in with me before we found a bigger place. I taught college and also picked up part time real estate paralegal work (titles, abstracts, federal land, etc). And then I started looking into how to get started as a professional writer.

We talked about it, but not in great detail. He knew I wasn’t just going to up and quit my jobs until I could make that amount of money. I actually dropped teaching first (they weren’t paying me to teach legal classes anywhere near what they paid any of the general education teachers or the previous instructor AND program manager, roles I fulfilled) and starting building my business while still working in the law firm.

It was a small office. The two lawyers knew what I was doing. They didn’t care as long as I did what I needed to do there. Bull and I discussed parameters surrounding when I would stop at the firm and what that would mean…

I stopped working for the firm for two reason: stress was making AFib worse (between the ex and one of the lawyers who had a personality very similar to the ex) and because I was turning down so much work from platforms and potential clients that I was LOSING money. No bueno.

When I created my business, it had the same basic rule as the last one: we can talk about stuff…especially since we’re married, and you are certainly entitled to your opinion. He tried freelancing for a while, too. He worked some with me. He found a couple of his own clients. He learned pretty quick it wasn’t for him, but he also recognized that it is a real job.

What Should You Do If You Don’t Have a Supportive Significant Other?

First, you have to recognize that everyone is entitled to their opinions and feelings. If you’re just now dating someone and you work and you’re building a business, you need some clear boundaries about, “This is what I do and it is mine.”

If you ask for an opinion or advice, don’t get pissed off if you hear something you don’t like.

Second, stand firm, but don’t be a dick. If someone starts berating you and gets abusive, leave. Get out of the relationship. That person has probably always been that way toward you and you’ve made excuses for it. And now that you want to follow your dreams, it’s a threat to their position of power in your life. So snatch back your power and GTFO.

So, what about if you’re married and you’re just now starting a business? If they are abusive, leave. If they are unsure or just don’t seem to care, that’s fine. You do you, but don’t make them (or your family) play second fiddle. You’d be all kinds of upset if they did that to you.

I started working from home for more money, physical security, and to be home with the now almost 10 year old. Daycare / before school / after school care is no place for a child who is non-verbal. I have very strong opinions about daycare and I know you don’t want to hear them so I will spare you there.

Usually, when people talk about starting or having a business, they think about freedom…but then they end up so wrapped up in it (because it is a lot of work regardless of the type of business) they get miserable and they make their family miserable…and if their SO or family wants their attention? It’s WW III. Don’t do that. Set times you can and will work. Stick to it. And if you’re a “freedom” and “more time with the family,” those are your highest values. If you don’t live up to them, you will become miserable and quit.

If you don’t have a support SO and they aren’t abusive, examine what you’re doing. Decide if it is taking away from them. Decide if it is taking away from your family. Those are things YOU can fix by readjusting how YOU operate. Decide if it is really what you want to do. Decide if it really makes you happy. And…keep building. Generally as your happiness improves and your SO can see it isn’t a money-sink (and most businesses do cost money to build during the first few years, but you don’t have to be stupid about it or take out loans in most cases), they either learn to better tolerate it or they become more supportive.

How to Handle Firing a Client

Firing a client isn’t easy for any professional. It’s especially harrowing for those of us with small businesses (freelancers, I’m talking to you, too). Can you replace them? How will it affect your business? How will it affect your reputation? And, you know, can you actually fire them if you have a contract?

The Importance of Acknowledging Red Flags

I’ve written before about the importance of acknowledging red flags in potential clients to minimize a future headache. If you see red flags, you need to be honest with yourself about them. People don’t change because you’re YOU. They will still be who they are. Just a quick run down of things you should watch for to save yourself some serious hassle:

  • They can’t really give you a basic description of what they want or what they need you to accomplish. I understand that some people may just have an end goal in mind and not really KNOW how to make that happen. Pay attention to what people say and don’t say…and ask questions.
  • They’re vague about deadlines. Not all people want to use a deadline…and that’s their prerogative. Just keep in mind that if they hem and haw about a date and yet also want to make their project to be the most important one on your plate, that’s a worrisome sign. I promise that when it is time for them to pay you (if they didn’t pay a retainer of some sort), they’re gonna hem and haw about that, too. Recently, I had a new client ask me to do a rush job on a weekend. I don’t work weekends if I can help it. I wrote what they needed and edited it. They put the money in escrow on Upwork…and now they won’t respond to messages. The good news is, I know how to contact Upwork about it.
  • You can’t find much on the person (or the company) online. I understand that sometimes new businesses won’t have a lot of feedback. What you do find out about the person contacting you or the business (or both) can help you decide whether you should work with them.
  • They seem to understand exactly what you say to them over the phone / email and then turn around and introduce you to another person as something you aren’t. Run, bro. Don’t even agree to the project. You do NOT need this sort of trouble in your life.

I could probably list at least a dozen more. You can probably think of several on your own. Don’t ever ignore a red flag. Ever.

How to Fire a Client

I do not fire clients often. Generally, it happens before the work ever begins. So, with that being said, my walk through for how to fire a client starts with this:

Read Your Fucking Contract

If you have a contract, read it. Also, don’t ever enter into a contract without reading it. Also, get your own standard contract drafted. It really IS worth the expense. MyVirtual.Lawyer is a good option if you don’t know anyone in your area and dread the thought of calling around and going to an appointment. Please stay away from free state-specific contract sites and legal form sites because you’re probably not going to read it to make sure it is (a) following the laws in your state and (b) includes the right provisions to protect YOU. Also, those sites can’t give you legal advice. Well, one does…for a fee. A lot of lawyers now offer subscription model and flat fee options for small business owners.

Your contact should state the reasons why either party can end the contract. It should give several options, including whether either party can just say (in a business professional way), “You know what? I’m sick of this shit and don’t wanna work with you anymore.” Long term contracts are for suckers.

Determine If You Owe Them Anything

Before you fire a client, review your agreement (if you have one), emails, or private messages to determine if you still owe them any sort of work. If you have a contractual obligation and you don’t have an escape clause, fulfill your obligation. Otherwise, you could damage the reputation of your business.

If there is no contract and they’ve always paid you on time for your work (despite being a royal pain in your ass) and you’re in the middle of a project, do what you can to finish it. Give them some notice that you won’t be available for future work. This is, again, about protecting the reputation of your business.

Clarify to Yourself Why You Want to Fire the Client

Before you fire them, make sure you understand WHY you’re doing it. Please understand that in many cases you don’t have to answer follow up questions about why you’re doing it after you’ve did the deed…

Clarity is a necessity because you’re going to write them a Dear John email. You don’t want to be vague, but you also don’t want to come off as a total dick. You want to be firm and yet professional.

Again, if you have a contract, read it. Make sure that you’re within your rights to fire them. If necessary, talk to a lawyer BEFORE you do it.

Compose Your ‘Dear John’ Email

Let me say that I do not like firing clients. If it needs to happen, I prefer that it happens before the work ever begins. A lot of people show their true colors directly after engaging your services (with or without a contract).

The recipients should include your direct contact and the person who hired you, if that is separate from your direct contact. Also, BCC yourself.

Be clear, be concise, and do not be mean. The blame game gets you nowhere. Just be clear and concise and wish them well. If you have a contract, be sure that you can point them to the clause that allows you to get out of it (if necessary).

It’s also much easier to write something like “When this project concludes, I will no longer be available to fulfill your needs for X.”

I recently fired a client for grossly misrepresenting what I do to a third-party. I sent them a private email first to remind them we had already discussed, twice, what I do and my limitations as a PARALEGAL (and writer). To misrepresent me as a lawyer is just not okay. I cannot and will not allow that to happen. UPL is real. Some states are VERY aggressive when it comes to prosecuting paralegals for that sort of misrepresentation. I taught paralegal ethics. This is a big no-no. The response I received was ridiculous and amounted to “We know but we want to impress third-party.”

We do not have a written contract. I hadn’t officially started drafting any templates for them. It was on my to-do list for this week. I knew I had to fire them, but verified it first with my business attorney.

I also waited until I calmed down. I was livid about purposefully being misrepresented. My email was direct, but not a dick response. I stated why I was ending the business relationship and that UPL is a serious issue that I do not want to have to deal with in the future because someone was told I was something I am not. I wished them well.

That’s it. Past that, I don’t owe them an explanation. I was very clear.

What about Firing Clients on Freelance Platforms?

Well, to some degree the answer to this is to rinse and repeat some of the above. Make sure you don’t have any outstanding deliverables, particularly if you’ve been paid in advance. Finish up whatever outstanding project and send a polite and direct message that just states you won’t be available to assist them with future projects.

What If They Leave Bad Feedback?

Bad feedback is a legitimate fear for freelancing platforms, including Upwork. And some people, no matter what you do to bring the contract to an end that benefits both of you, will still leave you ugly feedback…especially if you stuck up for yourself in some fashion.

The good news is that you can often take those situations to Upwork for help. Depending on whether you’re Top Rated, you may have other benefits available for your use. To my understanding, all freelancers can comment on any negative feedback left for them. This gives you the opportunity to clarify why the arrangement ended.

What If I Want to Leave Them Bad Feedback?

My initial thought is don’t be petty…but you can be honest. You can use the star system to rate the client on several factors. Your honesty can help other freelancers. Don’t be a dick in your commentary. Again, you can be honest…but don’t be a dick. (How to succeed in life: don’t be a dick!)

PS – Yes, you’ll live…and yes, you’ll replace them.

Why Manifestation Works (And How to Really Use It)

First, I have to break your hearts. Manifestations means to bring something forth. It’s not magic. It’s not a pipe dream. It’s not you putting a note under your pillow and you wake up as a billionaire without ever doing any sort of work. Manifestation involves making something. That, my friends, requires action. So, before we get to how you can actually use the concept of manifestation, let’s talk about why it works.

Why Does Manifestation Seem to Work?

You’ll note I said above that manifestation is not some sort of magic trick or pipe dream. It does, however, rely on your ability to picture yourself achieving whatever goal or goals you have in mind.

This isn’t just a broad image in your mind. This is a highly detailed image. You can picture what you’re wearing, where you are, what you do for a living, the type of people you hang out with, the type of people you work with, how you feel about yourself (including self-confidence), what the weather is like in that image, smells that may be present…everything. It’s like writing a story in your mind.

Our brains cannot necessarily differentiate between an actual memory and a highly detailed scenario we put together in our head. Sure, we know on the conscious level (if we’re in touch with reality). However, to the subconscious…there’s no difference. It’s just there.

For example, I have complex PTSD. Although I finished specialized therapy to learn to better manage and live with it, I still have triggers. And when a memory is trigged, I can see, smell, feel, and hear everything from that moment. My body doesn’t know the difference (including the brain). Sure, I still know that I am not in that instance. However, I panic. I feel fear. I sweat. My blood pressure goes up. I get into fight or flight. I deal with more hypervigilence. From a physiological standpoint, it is the same situation all over again.

The brain can and does work in the same way for positive images. The trick is making sure that the image is so detailed in your mind’s eye that you can engage each and every sense you have. If you’ve ever read Unlimited Power or even Awakening the Giant Within by Tony Robbins, you know, at least in theory, the power of putting yourself into “state.” He advocates remembering certain times where you felt really good, confident, and competent…and when you get into a bad space, you shut your eyes and remember that certain time with so much vivid detail, that your body re-enters into that state. It takes practice (and sometimes I don’t remember to use it if I’m involved in a C-PTSD moment), but it can be very relaxing and very powerful.

How to Really Use Manifestation

Alright, now that I’ve drop kicked the mystical bullshit out of the way (which is funny because, by and large, I do enjoy me some mystical bullshit!), let’s talk about how to really use manifestation.

Gain Clarity – Why Do You Want What You Want?

“Clarity” is a word that gets people excited right now (much like the word “disruption”). To clarify something means to get clear on it.

You need to think about why you want what you want. You need to really understand why you want what you want. What would it mean to you? How would it really change your life? Does it break a cycle? Does it set a good example for children or young adults in your life? Does it get you out of a bad situation? Do you want to prove people wrong? (Ain’t nothing wrong with that…that was a motivating factor for me for a lonnnngggg time.)

Much like when you think about what you want out of life, which takes a certain level of clarity (making a clear image), you must understand why you want it. This is what will continue to drive you in the future.

Do yourself a favor and write this down. I don’t care if you share it with anyone. Sometimes it is helpful to go through this entire process with others, but you have to choose people who are also goal (and future) oriented. You can’t do this with just anyone.

Start Detailing What You Want

Dream big…and dream in detail. I also recommend you think about what you want to be in the near future (week, month) and going on out. You should set one-year goals, three-year goals, five-year goals, and ten-year goals. Make some that you know you’ll meet and add some that are challenging…and add your ultimate goals.

Take time to really engage with yourself on the entire scene. Picture it. What are you wearing? Where are you? Who are you with? Where do you live? Where do you like to go? Recognize how you’ll feel during that time. Will you feel more confident? (The answer is yes.) Will you feel peaceful? Will you feel content? Will you feel happy? Will you have less anxiety / depression symptoms? Think about your relationships, but don’t sugarcoat them (because you can’t make anyone change – people change on their own). Are you strong enough to make the best decisions for yourself and for your future?

Think about everything. Picture it. Hold it. These images need to really stick with you. You must be able to picture yourself as the future you.

Write It All Down

Write them all down…and include those details. This is something you can read over to help keep you motivated. Then, separate out your goals. Write out the very basics of your goals in the next year. For example:

  1. I want to travel more.
  2. I want to be healthier.
  3. I want to make these certain repairs around the house:

Those examples could all be one-year goals. They are things that could all be accomplished within a year.

Do the same thing for three, five, and ten year goals.

And, by the way, it is perfectly fine to make changes. Shit happens and to some degree, we all have to learn to roll with the punches. It doesn’t mean you fail if you have to tweak or something (or if your goals change altogether). It means you have the right frame of mind to recognize that something needs to change. Knowing that and taking action upon it is a recipe for success in life.

Goals Are Nothing If You Don’t Take Action

And, drop kicking more mystical bullshit out of the park….you can’t reach your goals if you don’t put in the work. Daily work. You need to create an action plan. To start, think about what you want to accomplish this year as well as what you need to do this year to move you closer to your long-term goals.

You are taking your goals and breaking them down into steps you take. Think about what you need to do this month. Then, consider how you get to that by thinking about what you need to accomplish each week. Then, think about what you need to do each day. Yes, day.

Write it down. Write down your action plan…and follow it.

Monthly Review and Refocus

Every month, take some time (pick a time of the month and stick to it…I’m writing this during the new moon because it is a good time to set goals) to review how far you’ve come, setbacks you’ve faced, thoughts you have, and pat yourself on the back. Even if you didn’t have a month full of awesome days, pat yourself on the back. Readjust, refocus, and prepare for the new month.

And Understand Some People Will Try to Discourage You

Manifestation takes a lot of internal motivation. You cannot rely on others to cheer for you. Of course, some people will cheer for you and support you (but they cannot do the work for you). You have people in your life who will work to discourage you. They may call you names. They may sabotage you. They may abandon you because “you changed.”

You cannot allow the fear of losing a relationship (or more than one) to deter you from working on what you know is best for your future. Giving up is giving into fear. It is returning to the rut or situation you know you want out of in life. And you do it because it’s easier to stick with the known than to face the unknown. Some people come around…some don’t. Not everyone wants or believes in living better than the place they’re currently in. Some are quitters…so because they quit, they think no one can do it.

Manifestation is a personal process. You must go through the entire experience for you.

National Wine Day

So, I noticed on Twitter today that it is National Wine Day (or National Wine Drinking Day). I stopped drinking on October 23, 2018 for no other reason that alcohol is dehydrating and I was coming off the med I took for atrial fibrillation. The way my morning happened (so far – it’s only 10:35 am!), I would not say no if the wine fairy dropped a bottle of red at my door.

We all woke up around 8 am since Baby Bull doesn’t have school today. I sprained my ankle on Friday (and how I did it is as equally ridiculous as my morning). It’s been swollen and I’ve not been able to really walk on it. This morning, the swelling is down and there’s less pain. I can kinda walk. I thought MAN THIS IS GONNA BE SUCH A FUCKING AWESOME DAY!

Then the shit hit the fan.

Bull went outside to check the tires on the van. Yesterday, before we drove to Broken Arrow to get his pictures done for Fight 2 Win, three out of four tires were flat (or almost flat). Coming home, the indicator for the back driver-side tire kept coming on. We stopped before we hit the turnpike to air it up as well as after we exited the turnpike (because there’s literally ONE place on the turnpike where we could have stopped for air). So, we knew that tire, for sure, has a problem. Since he is a mason, it could very well be a nail in the tire.

Anyway, so he goes outside this morning and sure enough…that same tire is totally flat. It’s cold here…not as cold as some places, but it’s cold for Oklahoma. He’s outside looking for the four way to change the flat. I am inside with Baby Bull, the dogs, and the cat putting together my list for the day and prepping for a 10 am call with a prospective client.

I remembered I soaked chickpeas overnight. I hobble into the kitchen (we have a galley kitchen and it starts maybe three feet from where I sit to work during the day (because my actual office space, which is part of the garage we converted, doesn’t have heat or air…and with a sprained ankle, I can’t go that far). I go into the kitchen with my wrist braces on to get the Knorr chicken bouillon granules so I can put the chickpeas on to cook. I take the lid off. I turn around to take the two steps to the stove…and I drop the fucking container. It went EVERYWHERE. A large portion rehomed itself on top of my six pack of Blue Sky soda. So then I have to wash the soda cans…and sweep up the mess.

I warn Bull that if he decides to drink a Blue Sky to rinse the lid again just in case…because cherry vanilla chicken cane soda sounds like some awful shit. I sat down and not two minutes later, Pandora is vomiting in the living room. (She’s fine, by the way. We sort of expected this anyway because she broke off a significant portion of a dog treat and tends to swallow and not bother to chew. She wasn’t choking or in any distress.)

I hobble into the living room to let her out back (yes, our back door is actually in our living room. Don’t ask me. I didn’t design the house!). I let her out. I walk to the back of the house to get a towel because all of the clean laundry is all over Private Christian’s bed right now. I limp back into the living room and clean it up. I let Pandora back in.

I check the clock and it is 9:45 am. MY CALL IS IN 15 MINUTES!! I plug my headset into Skype. I sit down with my notebook. I review the email sent to me. I call at 10. It is a seven minute phone call. During that seven minutes, Pandora, again vomits. I kept waiting for the prospective client to ask me what that noise was…thankfully, he didn’t. Maybe he couldn’t hear it. That’s my hope.

So, I clean that up and I get the dogs fed. Crom won’t eat in the early mornings any more. Athena is hit or miss. Pandora will eat anything at any time. I’m sitting on the couch with Athena after the other two are done eating. I’m pouring her dry food onto the cushion because right now she won’t eat unless I do that. I live stream what I’m telling you now on IG to highlight that working from home is often NOT glamour. It is often a train wreck. I’m blessed it wasn’t a literal shit show.

I will take vomit over that ANY DAY.

And right after I cleaned THAT up, Bull called. The price on the tire went up…so we have to pay the difference I guess between what we paid (still under warranty) and the replacement tire.

I don’t know what else this day has in store for us. I’m almost afraid to find out. This isn’t the post I planned for today. So with that:

WAH Rule #856: Harsh Truth: Outsourcing May Not Correct Your Lack of Productivity

As I sit here listening to a podcast about productivity for entrepreneurs, I am certainly not surprised to hear the guest and the host mention outsourcing not just business things you need done, but also personal responsibilities like cleaning. While I wholeheartedly agree with the base concept, I must correct something the host mentioned.

She stated that she and her husband hired someone to come in a few hours a month to do the deep cleaning that they don’t have time to do. Something that I can empathize with. It was her lack of logic that twisted my brain. She stated they did it because of how much time it would free up for them to focus more on their business.

Outsourcing to Free Up Time

Outsourcing to free up time is common. Outsourcing is also both a convenience and a necessity for many. However, outsourcing does not free up your time from a certain project…if you weren’t working on that project to begin with.

And It’s Not about Freeing Up Mental Space

Your brain creates an unlimited universe for you. Outsourcing something you’re not doing doesn’t free up any mental space. It relieves your self-imposed guilt. It gives you a reason to think you can be more mindful with what you believe is a better use of your time.

Yet, if you can’t be mindful now on this most important project that you’re doing instead of doing X, it’s likely that the X isn’t the problem. You are the problem. Your intimidation toward the important project is your problem. Your procrastination is your problem. Your lack of follow-through is your problem.

Your lack of self-honesty through self-assessment is your problem. It is not mental space. You will not focus any better just because you’ve outsourced something else. You’ll find something else to fill your thoughts instead of fully engaging in the project in front of you.