Personal Archive

3 signs that you are actually running a healthy, professional business

Hi friends, can you believe that school is already back in session and we are headed into fall? As we move into a new month and a new season, I have a lot to share with you so I’m going to (try to) be brief here and give you some VERY challenging things to consider. I’m going to warn you in advance though, what I have to say might insult or offend you; two things that I would absolutely HATE to do. So why am I going to say them anyway? Because I love you and I genuinely want to see you managing a business that is healthy and thriving. So here’s the truth.  The truth that I wish I could go back and tell myself 8 years ago when I was two years into owning my own business as a “professional” photographer.

Amy Ellid Photography

Here are three signs that you are actually running a healthy professional business:

1.  A professional business pays its owner a salary.  No more of this, “I sometimes let myself buy things out of my business account. That’s paying myself, right?”  Not paying yourself a consistent set salary (regardless of the size of that salary) is a sign that you are not taking yourself or your business seriously OR that you do not have a healthy grasp on your business finances. This rule still applies for businesses with fluctuating monthly revenue…and thats just about all of us. You are not the exception. Guys, it took me 8 years to put on my big-girl-business-pants and start paying myself a set salary every month. Its game changing on many levels.

2. A professional business has completely separate bank accounts and credit/debit cards. Work related purchases only go in and out of your work bank account.  Every expense is clearly tracked and accounted for. Period.

3. A professional business is able to operate debt free. Now before you throw a shoe at me,  I do realize that there are a lot of industries that carry debt as the norm, but I am going to go out on a limb here and say that your business probably does not have to be one of them. If you find that accumulating business debt is the norm for you it should be a giant red flag that you are trying to grow faster (or act larger) then your business can actually sustain. Slow and steady wins the race.  Make the money, then make that next investment.  Before you assume that you have to go into debt to grow your business stop and answer this question, “Is there another alternative?”  Chances are there is another alternative we just don’t like it because it often requires more time, patience or work.  What do Michael Kors, Chipotle, Whole Foods and Coach all have in common?  They are all companies on the S&P 500 that are completely debt free. #winning

The year is more than halfway over and I think that is great time to evaluate things. Are you committed to running a healthy business or are you nurturing an expensive hobby? Both are okay but you do have to choose which one you want to be. Pick just one of these steps and make this the year that you start to take yourself and your business seriously.

Shoot me a reply and let me know which one YOU are committing to the rest of this year and I will be cheering you on!!

– Shay

**This post was originally part of the SC Insiders monthly newsletter. If you want to receive more posts like this and free monthly images directly to your inbox, subscribe to the newsletter today!**

The struggle is real for the summertime small business mom.
2013 Shay Cochrane

Image by Shay Cochrane 

I’ve had and overheard a lot of conversations with other small-business-owner women lately about the summertime struggle for work life balance and their hopes vs the reality of their summertime work situation.  It sounds something like this…

“I wish I were able to take some time off this summer but it’s just not possible.”

“I was planning to take a month off but now that doesn’t look like its going to happen.”

“Financially we just can’t swing it. Maybe next summer.”

“I just can’t.”

That sucks. (Pardon my french) But that really stinks.

It stinks because as small business owners we work really hard with the goal of having have the kind of FREEDOM that would allow us to do “crazy” things like take extra time off during the summer to travel or snuggle with our kids more. Thats generally a large reason why we started working for ourselves in the first place right? But then a few things happen that rob that freedom:

  1. We don’t plan
  2. We operate out of fear  
  3. We box ourselves in.

I’m not hear to guilt you. Trust me.  The struggle is very real for me too.  It escalates when we actually love what we do and find it hard to turn away exciting projects that may not be a “best yes” (Thanks Lysa Turkhuerst!) for us during this summer season with kids home from school . Today, I want to bring those enslaving thoughts into the light so that we can feel the freedom to say yes to the things that owning your own business should allow us to do! Are you with me!?

So before it is too late, here are 3 tips for owning your business over the summer before it owns you.

1) You must make a decisive decision about what you want the summer to look like and then create a plan to make that happen.  Your client inquiries will not magically cease.  Your to do list will not go on vacation.  Your need for summer income should not to take you by surprise.  If you want any time off this summer you need to put it on your calendar and say a bold “no!” to ANYTHING that comes your way during that timeframe.

Interviews? Sorry.  Blog features that require prep work? Can’t. One-off small projects for a return client? Only if it can wait another month!  The truth is we don’t like to say “no” and often times that is driven by fear.  More on that in a minute.

As it relates to income, I am like you in that I need my income to continue even during my time off this summer. I have an assistant to pay, operating expenses and bills just like you. The truth is we have all year to plan for this.  Paying yourself a set salary all year that allows for a build up of funds in your account specifically helps you to offset “lean” months of work allowing you to continue to get paid while sipping Mai Tai’s with your toes in the warm sand.

Bottom line?

Time off is not going to happen to you.  You have to make it happen.

2) Don’t let fear win. Have you ever thought any of the following?

“If I say no they might not give me another chance.”

“What if they are not willing to wait and I lose the business?”

“What if I seem unprofessional for taking vacation or saying no?”

“If I take time away will people forget about me?”

“If I don’t keep up my online presence my business will lose momentum.”

Can you smell that? It’s fear. And fear will own you and your business if you let it.  Operating out of fear of loss is never a good decision making position. If you feel the fear gaining a grip on you and your business you have to choose to step back and refuse to listen to it.

3) You are not stuck.  Many of us box ourselves into situations because we have told ourselves that we “have to” do something. Our mind is set and we do not allow ourselves to follow the train of thought through for an alternate reality.  “I just cannot afford to take time off.” – Maybe, but have you considered cutting your lifestyle down temporarily to afford yourself a breather and more time with loved ones?  “I already said yes to clients.”  – Professionalism is SO very important and we must be women of our word BUT sometimes you have to put your family or personal heath first even if it means disappointing a client. Sometimes you have to make the tough decision to disappoint a client or potential client in order to say a much needed “yes” to your marriage or family.  You are not doing yourself or your client any favors when you are doing work that isn’t your best because your head is in too many different places.

I have one question for you, does your life exist to serve your business or does your business exist to serve your life?

Ten years from now won’t look back and wish that you had taken one more client that summer or stayed more consistent with your blogging.  Chances are good, however, that you would regret not having been present for this season of life.

You are the boss, Boss Lady. Its time to act like it. If you are already feeling trapped by what the next few months hold then now is your chance to put your foot down.

I’m cheering for you.

XOXO

Shay

*This content was originally sent out in our June SC Insider newsletter.  With these monthly newsletters my heart is to help small business owners to not only do business beautifully through free monthly styled stock images but also to flourish in their marriages, families and “real” life!  If you could use someone in your corner cheering you on in life and business you can join the newsletter here.

For the Mommas
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This little one…some days I wonder why God made me her momma.  She’s five years old now, almost six, and most days I still feel like I don’t love her in ways that are meaningful to her. She loves to craft and lets be honest, I am more of a BIY (Buy It Yourself) momma then a DIY momma.  I express love through cuddling and kisses and she is Ms. Independent and wants space…without you in it.  We still laugh about a time when she was about two and I was giving her a big hug and she immediately panicked and yelled “I’m trapped!!” (Its called a HUG Chloe!) I look at mommas who sit and play better, who don’t run businesses (that compete for their attention), who make thoughtful crafts with their kids and go all out decorating for the holidays (I swear, decorating for celebrations is probably her love language!), all things that she loves and that I am just the worst at, and to be honest some days I feel like God made a mistake in choosing me. That she would be better off with a million other mommas other then me.

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And so when I opened up the new Naptime Diaries Naptime devotional for mommas this caught me of guard and I instantly burst into tears…

“I want to tell you one thing right off the bat: I think you are the best possible choice for your children. I don’t say that lightly and I don’t say it blindly. I know we’re all sinful and I know full well that we’ll hurt our kids in some way, either today or surely before they are 18. But I genuinely believe that you’re the best possible choice for your kids.

You’re the best case scenario.

You know how I know? Because God choose you. And He doesn’t make mistakes and His Word tells us that He is making ALL THINGS work together for the good of those who Him.”

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I have a hard time even writing that without a big giant lump in my throat.  So, this little Naptime Diary is already blessing me.  It is blessing me to hear from another momma who loves Jesus and her kids and whose words are like a big hug from God just for me.  It blesses (and challenges) me with all of its blank pages and open ended opportunities to pour my heart out to God instead of easily hiding myself behind lots of reading and ingesting good information without ever really responding to God.  Its blessing me.  And if you are a momma feeling in the weeds just like me with a brain that is going in a million directions and a hearts that longs for closeness with God in the midst of the chaos of this season of life then maybe you should check this little book out for yourself.

The ladies behind the Naptime Diaries have given me  discount code “shaycochrane30” that is good for 30% off anything in the shop from today 4/28 through 5/5.  You can buy the devotional individually or in sets to do with other mommas.  Thank you Jess for for pouring yourself out for this ministry to moms like me.

Spring Reset: Part 2
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Happy first week of Spring!  I was so happy to see that the 1st Spring Reset was a blessing to so many hearts and I’m glad to know that I am not alone in feeling like I have to do something to keep my pace of life from spiraling out of control right now!  If you are just now reading about the Spring Reset for the first time then start here and go at your own pace! The point is just to take baby steps to hit the reset button on the year now that we find ourselves close to April with things maybe not going quite the way that we had hoped when we envisioned the new year (anyone? anyone?).

This week’s Spring Reset is a simple but profoundly helpful one and is something that I make a habit of doing every few months.  We’re going to call it your Instagram assessment and there are two parts to it!

Spring Reset #2: Instagram (social media) assessment.  Who are you allowing to be an influence and interruption in your day?

Step 1: The Instagram purge.  

If you are like me then you set out to be selective about who you follow on Instagram.  But over the course of a few months and with the help of enticing giveaways and “follow me” promos your feed gets a bit, well, diluted.  Each person that you are following on Instagram is someone that you are allowing to speak into your life.  Don’t believe me? Pay close attention to your internal monologue while scrolling innocently through your feed. “Ooo thats pretty. I wish I had that. I would never let my kid do that. Look at how many people “like” her? Ugh, I wish I were on that vacation. Her house is so clean. Ew, her house is so messy. She always looks so perfect. I need that new ______.  I wish my husband would do that for me! Yea, if I didn’t have kids I would have that body too. She is so much better then me at ________ .  She is so successful. I could never cook like that. Design like that, photograph like that. Dress like that. Travel like that. They never seem to fight. I wish we could go on a date night…”

Maybe its just me, but Instagram breeds jealousy and discontentment in my heart if I am not very careful about who I follow. Who I allow to “speak” into my day.  So here is what I do every few months and what I am going to do again today. An Instagram purge.

My general and intentional criteria for who I follow goes something like this:

1. Do they inspire me creatively, spiritually, emotionally, physically (as opposed to making me feel not good enough). If so, keep following!

2. Does following them tend to cause discontent in my heart. (Not necessarily their fault – its my own heart issue.) If so, its time to unfollow!

3. Do I tend to constantly compare myself to them in a negative way? If so, I should probably unfollow!

4. Are they a close friend or family that I want to be actively involved in their life and maintain a friendship? If so, keep following!

5. Does following them encourage/challenge me to grow (spiritually, emotionally, as a mom, as a wife. as a friend)? If so, keep following!

6. Are they someone in  my same industry who I find myself trying to one-up, or compete with? If so, I’m going to do myself a favor and unfollow! As a general rule, I don’t usually follow other people in my industry. This helps me to create from a place of authenticity and not from a reactionary position as it related to the work that I see them creating.

7. If I see them in my feed and I don’t immediately know who they are or why I specifically follow them then I unfollow them. haha I want to be able to go through my entire feed and verbalize exactly why I follow them.

This may all sound a little but intense to you but it has worked wonders for helping me to be fully present where I am, create from a place of authenticity, and grow as an artist and person.  I fight to guard my heart.

“Above all else, guard your heart. For everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23

 

Step 2: Enough already with those darn push notifications!!

Seriously, don’t even get me started here!!  My mental space is too precious and limited and my heart already too divided every minute of the day to allow others to constantly and freely insert themselves into my day.  I probably sound mean but just hear out me on this. We (ok , just me maybe?) crave constant validation and approval and getting Instagram pushes (or any pushes at all) to my phone only feed that beast and I want my heart to be as far away from that as possible. “Are people liking my pic? Did anyone comment? How many people commented? What does that e-mail say?”  How many times have I been in the middle of work, or playing with my kids, or talking to my husband and I allow some e-mail push, Facebook push, Instagram push, Twitter push to barge right into the middle?  I don’t care if you don’t open it up. It takes probably .0002 seconds to glance over and read it and BAM you have just allowed something else to take precedence over your priority in that moment.  In general it might seem harmless but how many times have you gotten a frustrating e-mail or comment pushed to your phone and it has derailed your evening at home with the family.  Like I said before…there is no perfect work/life “balance” where each gets equal but separate attention.  There is only a minute by minute choosing of priorities.  Not having ANY pushes to my phone helps me to be fully present and intentionally maintaining my priorities.  If you don’t believe that the world will not stop if you turn off your push notifications then I dare you to just try it for a week and let us know how it goes!

Ok, I’m stepping off my soapbox.  I LOVE Instagram. Like…LOVE it and I think that it has enhanced my family’s life in a lot of ways.  But like everything, you can have too much of a good thing and in the fight to win back focus and presence and clarity in my life, Instagram is one of the first places that changes must me made for me.

I hope that you have a wonderful week! Please share your thoughts below and let us know about how your Spring Reset is going with the #SpringReset password (yes, the irony is not lost on me). I’m off to purge my Instagram feed and shut off those push notifications right now!

xoxo,

Shay

Beach

Its a rough life here in FL ;)

 

 

Spring Reset: Part 1

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(Beautiful printable desk calendar  from Ashlee Proffitt)

 

So, we are already 2/3 of the way through March and I would swear to you that we just toasted to the new year YESTERDAY. I’m still thinking up my New Years resolutions for goodness sake!  I set out at the beginning of the year with the very best of intentions about intentionality in business and family and how this was going to be my “best year yet” (that phrase applies no pressure whatsoever right!?) and the only problem is that on January 1st REAL LIFE continued. 

And not in the clean, scheduled, refreshed, predictable, tied-with-a-bow way that other people seem to be experiencing life (at least if we take Instagram’s word for it) but real life. Messy life.  Full, wonderful, crazy, I need to nap (for a week straight) life.  The kind of life where 50% of the time the kids are fighting and I’ve taken on more work then I have work days for, and the bathrooms haven’t been cleaned in weeks…okay maybe months (It’s ok you can gag if you need to.  It’s gross.) I’m on my phone texting, e-mailing, Instagramming when I should be looking my family in the eyes, blur of multitasking, something is on the schedule most nights kind of life.  Life as messy as that run on sentence just was. Anybody with me?

Vera and Mommy

 

Mommy and Chloe

There has been a vacuum in the middle of my master bathroom since Friday.  Let me explain. I cleaned out our horrendous master closet and was going to suck up all of the hair on my bathroom floor (Instagram THAT ladies) and I ran out of time that day to finish the job and so now it just sits there. Literally half of the hair on my head (I’m not even kidding you that I have googled “normal amount of hair loss”) and the vacuum. And we step over it. And it stares at me as I put my makeup on in the morning.

On a certain level I am ok with this.  My identity is not in how clean my house is or how organized my week is.  I don’t need this to be my “best year yet” and actually, I have NO idea what this year will hold and it is only by God’s grace that I will make it through another “awesome”, “awful” or “mediocre” year at all.  I am however, more distracted and mentally busy then I set out to be when I color coordinated (ok not really but some of you do.  You know who you are.) those new years resolutions. I do think that there is so much value in intentionality and for that reason I think that it is time for a little Spring reset, and I hope that you will join me.

Over the coming weeks I am going to be making a few small changes to life. One at a time. Baby steps. Little wins to reorient the ship that is threatening to keep charging forward whether I am on board or trying to keep my head above water in its wake. I will post one change a week here on the blog so that you can hold me accountable and cheer me on or just to entertain you with how not “insta-perfect” my life is. I hope that these little changes will open up the windows and let the fresh air back in to your life too if you choose to come along with me.

Here goes.

Reset #1: Go back to my set office hours

Starting tomorrow, I will go back to my regular office hours. Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30-3:30pm. Outside of those office hours I will not check or respond to work e-mail. I will not fit in little bits of work while the kids nap or play on the other days.  I will instead use that time outside of work the way it was intended – doing something for myself or taking care of my mom/wife/homemaker responsibilities. I LOVE my job and that is why it has started to grow like a vine out of the planter box I created and up the walls of my life.  It may not seem like a problem at first until the vines cover and suffocate the house.  I feel them creeping up. I sense it when I am trying to listen to my husband tell me about his day and find my mind wandering back to my own endeavors.   I feel it when I glance through my e-mail while at the playground with my kids.  I don’t want to be that mom.  I want to be fully present wherever I am.

I love my business but my business exists to serve my life and not the other way around.

MeandGirls

My office looks like this 2% of the time.

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My office looks like this 98% of the time.

messy office

So there you have it.  One of the biggest questions that I hear from stay-at-home moms and small business owners is “How do you balance it all?”  The answer to that question is unique to everyone but I would strongly argue that balance cannot happen unless you set specific intentional child-free office hours and stick to them.  So for you the first step in this Reset may be to set office hours. You can do it!  It is positively freeing!!  Work on nailing them down this week and start on Monday if you have to.

You have to CHOOSE to let life and family win out over work. Especially when you love your job.  There is no illusive “balance”…only day by day and minute by minute choosing of priorities.  And I need to get back to mine…

Family

Follow along on Instagram @shaycochrane and share your Spring Reset with #SpringReset

 

 

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