As I’m writing this, it’s nearly October and many are planning for the holidays if they haven’t already. I’m not talking about planning their holiday time off, at least not in the e-commerce world we work in. I’m talking about planning for the hardest working time of the year. A time when a shop can easily make the bulk of their sales for the whole year…
This has me thinking about Work/Life Balance and whether it’s fact or fiction. I see a lot of articles on the topic. It’s a popular thing to discuss with two very different opinions. There’s the “you must set boundaries” camp and the “my work is my life camp”. I fall in the latter.
One of the arguments for boundaries and mandatory “turn it off” times, is due to stress and health. That’s important and I get it. I wonder myself if I should approach balance differently (read try to balance at all). I don’t balance. My work/life is intertwined like a DNA sketch. Mainly I don’t have a problem with it because I enjoy what I do.
Yes, it’s still stressful and exhausting. So are sports and other hobbies we consider “life”. Work probably stresses me out less than the diehard football fan whose team loses that week. Trying to turn it off causing me more stress though. I like to say you can’t schedule passion.
There are a lot of times where I get all fired up about something, and then put it on a list for later. When I see it a few days later, the moment has past. My passion has left. That saddens me. I’m spontaneous (read I have trouble focusing on things that aren’t exciting).
My goal here isn’t to reiterate the variety of articles you’ve surely seen on the topic. Instead my goal is to share some things that work for me in keeping sanity when stress starts building. So whether or not you’re in the same camp, hopefully these will help you just the same. Disclaimer – I’m not a doctor. You’re responsible for anything you do or don’t do.
4-7-8 Breath – For the skimmers and stressed out, I’ll put this first. I came across this exercise from Tony Robbins and then Dr Andrew Weil so it must be good. 4-7-8 are counts. You can read them as seconds, but more importantly it’s their relation to one another.
Inhale through your nose to count of 4. Breathe from the stomach, not the chest.
Hold for count of 7.
Exhale for count of 8. Empty your lungs. Suck in your stomach and squeeze all the air you can out of your lungs.
Repeat the sequence 3 times.
Meditation – I was hesitant to believe I’d enjoy meditation until I reached a tipping point with others I follow who swear by it. Strangely it’s widely accepted that keeping your body healthy is important yet the mind gets ignored. 10 minutes goes a long way. Unfortunately, the more I need it, the more likely I am to avoid it 🙁
Exercise – If I can regularly get to the gym, it’s amazing how much more clarity I get.
Get outside – “But in every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir. I very much enjoy being outside. It’s easy to get cooped up in the office and forget how important it is to get outside. I always feel better after some time outdoors.
Do things for you. Like this post. I wrote this because I wanted to. I know it will help someone and if it helps just one person I’ll be happy. Read that again, “I’ll be happy”. It’s nice when you can do something for yourself and others at the same time.
I hope you enjoyed my tips. In the comments below share any tips you have and/or what camp you’re in!
In this episode, Richie and I talk about greed. Good versus bad greed – and YES – we are claiming there is a good kind of greed out there. It involves wanting only the best for other people, giving advice, crazy expensive gym memberships, and little kids who try to ride the Polar Express without a ticket. Stick around for another crazy journey in part 1 of a 2 part series on greed.
We want to redefine the word ‘Greed’ and talk about how greed doesn’t have to be something that’s negative.
The Good Greed
Would it be greedy to want only the best for people? Can you be greedy for doing good?
Well, if it’s the best for other people, it doesn’t sound so greedy, no?
One of the examples is giving advice. Have you ever had anybody ask you for some advice? Maybe you have a friend or a family member who’s asking you for advice on web design. Maybe they want you to build them a website or something like that. Have you ever had anybody spend a whole bunch of your time with nothing in it for you and you only just wanted to help? At first you thought they’re gonna love it and then after all the hard work… crickets.
It happens. It happened to me, and to some people I talk to and it’s unfortunate. Really what happens is I get all excited about whatever I’m helping them with and then after that, they do nothing. I really want them to follow through with it so they can feel good about what they did. The problem is, when people ask you for something free and they get something for free, that’s the value they place on it.
This is a famous thing about gym memberships. Have anyone ever been in a gym in January and February? Ever notice how that’s also when they have a bunch of gym specials? They get a bunch of people at the door for cheap and they make it a really low cost, really low barrier to entry. The problem is, people aren’t putting anything on the line. Their aversion to loss makes it so that it doesn’t matter if they go to the gym.
When I sell you a $15 gym membership, I don’t care as long as you pay, right? Typically that’s how gyms work – they don’t want everyone to show up. If everyone shows up, they have to get more equipment. That’s the problem with a physical space like that.
But if I really care about you, I want you to show up. I want you to gain something when you come over and I want you to lose something when you don’t. I think your gym should charge you an amount that’s painful for you to lose because once you start getting into real money – that’s when you start talking about real loss.
I think if gyms want to keep people there, and they are greedy for the people and really want what’s best for people; they would incentivize showing up more. Maybe in a gym’s case, the membership would cost you $50 per month. But, if you don’t show up X amount of times (you get to set this yourself), they’re going to charge you with a fee.
Free vs. Paid
Let me give you another example. I collect a lot of crap. I don’t know how many times I had given my email so I can have like, an eBook that I want to have because it addresses the exact problem I’m having right now. But it’s free – so what do I do with it? I put it in my folder and say to myself that I’ll come back to it tomorrow. Then the next thing you know, I have this huge folder that I can’t even bear to look at because there’s so much free crap in there that I haven’t done. Now, is there good stuff in there? Yes! There actually is a lot to learn and a lot of good lessons in there. But I ignore them because they are free.
Looking at my bookshelf though; when I pay for a book, I read it. Because I am not going to buy a book and then NOT read it because that seems like a loss. I don’t want to lose. Reading the free book is just a win. People are more averse to loss than winning.
We have been conditioned very early on that ‘FREE’ means worthless. Zero cost equals zero value. Also, there’s nothing to lose, so why do it? It’s just unfortunate that it works that way.
Greedy with your Time
Most of us have different things going on around us especially if you’re working at home.
If you work at home; obviously you can’t say you’re at the office, and turn off your phone, and pretend like you’re in a meeting. There’s a lot of distractions and there will be distractions around the house. I think being greedy with your time is important. It’s important not just because it’s good for you but if you don’t take care of yourself, and you don’t take care of your own time management – you are no good to other people. If you’re a complete disaster, who are you gonna help? So you gotta take care of yourself first, too.
Also, the more people you are trying to serve, the more demands there are on your time. Which means that in some way, you have to filter out who gets your attention when.
In economics, the free rider problem is basically when you have people that are not contributing – but are using up the goods. If you look it up, it probably has a definition that says it is only valid when there is a finite resource that can be taken. You might ask, “What does that have to do with software and computers and stuff – I mean, those are infinite, right?” Well, they are not infinite (although they do scale really well).
The limited resource is time. Serving people the absolute best and being greedy with your time is the finite resource. As Etsy shop owners, you need to be really aware of this too.
I can’t tell you how many times I have read comments from Etsy sellers that are going back and forth with buyers haggling them in price and asking for discounts. In the end, the story is not usually a happy one. It goes one of two ways:
A. They spend a whole bunch of time, and the person never actually even ends up buying. They end up just going somewhere else. They go somewhere else even though they just took up a bunch of time. A bunch of your finite resource.
B. The other one is these sellers make all this effort for the buyer, spends all his/her time and give the discount. Then the person gets it and says “This is not what I expected. I want to send it back.” then they leave a bad review while they’re at it too. Ouch!
So what do you do to fix the Free Rider problem?
In the case of an Etsy shop, I think what shops need to do is identify the free riders. Identify people that message you for discounts, that message you if your prices are flexible, that tell you your listings are expensive, etc. because it is very likely that those type of people are not value based.
Your best use of time is not to deal with those individuals. It’s not good for you and it’s not good for the customers that are in line. Right behind those messages that you’re busy answering are serious buyers. While you’re dealing with people that aren’t going to buy, you got a buyer right there just waiting to be helped.
When someone asks you if your prices are flexible, I would recommend saving a response that you can simply copy and paste. It would save you some brain cycles and also a wiser use of your time. You can say something like:
“Thank you so much, I really appreciate you checking out my shop and my listings. As you can see, my listings are handmade and one of a kind. Our prices are set the way they are.”
Send something like that, be done with it and go help the people that are really part of your tribe.
In this episode we talk with Kyle from CigartMetalWorks. Kyle got started on Etsy by creating a product that scratched his own itch and helped him feel like Arnold Schwarzenegger on the golf course. We talk with him about beta testing with friends and customers, his custom video he has on his About page, run-ins with the TSA, a handy spreadsheet he uses to stay motivated and more!
How did it all get started?
I got turned on to cigars in my 40’s. When golfing, I didn’t want to put my cigars down on the grass because of all the ground chemicals. So I asked my twin boys to get me a cigar holder but all the cigar holders in the market look like women’s hair clips. So I immediately realized that there’s a niche.
I started playing around with that idea and came up with something that you can throw around like a knife and it would stick to the ground – pretty much things that a guy would like to do.
As a matter of fact, that was my test. If you can throw it and it sticks 9/10 times – it’s almost ready.
One time, I went to the airport and forgot that I had it in my briefcase. It was one of the early versions and at that time, I was trying to make it stick to the ground and the blade at the end was very long.
Officer: Do you have any weapons you’d like to declare?
Kyle: No sir, I got no weapons.
Officer: Okay, we’re going to need you to go that room.
Then they pulled out my cigar holder and asked me what it is:
Officer: What’s this?
Kyle: Well, it’s probably yours now, but it’s a cigar holder. I’m making it so it sticks to the ground when you golf.
He then went to his supervisor.
Supervisor: Explain this.
Kyle: Well it holds the cigar. I want to get it the point where you throw it on the ground and it would stick.
Supervisor : That is so awesome! Where did you buy it?
Kyle: I kinda invented it.
Supervisor : Really? Well when this goes to market you call me up! Here’s my card!
Then they let me go with my cigar holder. That run in with the security kinda gave me a confirmation that this is a good product.
How long did it take you from having these girly cigar clips before actually starting making one of your own?
I have learned that if you try to keep a secret to yourself, you’re limited to yourself. So I asked my friends in different manufacturing places to help me with it and I was getting so much help from them. That tweaking went on for around a year.
There’s this old saying, “Eventually you got to shoot the engineer and start production”. So I made my first one and that’s where my whole beta testing idea came up. I made more and gave it to about a dozen guys to get feedback.
I had lots of good feedback. “Hey it works, but I can’t stick it in my pocket” or “It cut the bag” and that’s exactly what you need. I think I gave about 10 of them to these different guys that are into golfing and they all came back with “Dude, I would buy one.”
So for the longest time, I was an Etsy shop with one product. I was surprised how well that shop did without any marketing at all. Then I saw Marmalead and thought that could fit this well.
Yes. I kept changing and changing it because my goal was that you could throw it on the ground and you’d be like “Yeah!”
We went through a lot of iterations, at least 3 or 4.
I made a bunch of version 2.1’s and I needed feedback. Luckily, you have your beta-testers and your beta-testers are on your team. They really want you to succeed and they’ll give you good feedback about the product.
I’m really big on the beta testing idea. Get some feedback particularly if it’s something that’s not on the market.
My beta testing method was actually based on one of your podcasts where you said it’s okay to follow them up and ask about the buying experience. I also tell them that:
“Hey if you want to be a part of my newsletter (we’re always coming up with new products about every 3 or 4 months), you get a preview of what we’re working on and if you’re willing to, we might send you a new product if you volunteer to be a beta tester!”
My daughter in law also helped me with pricing. She kept saying that I need to raise my prices. Marmalead helped in a lot of things too because you could see the distribution and you’ll know that there are people selling it for more so you feel more comfortable in making that decision.
Is your workshop at your garage right now?
Yeah it is. About a year ago, I had the opportunity to retire from General Motors early and so I said “Okay, let’s get for real. I’m gonna be the old guy that does stuff in his garage.” I had set up a shop and it is nice. I just go there and make some stuff.
The golf club hangers started with the idea that I gotta have to get more stuff in my shop. I can’t have just one thing in my shop. So I had an idea about the iron hangers. I know it’s gonna cost me a little bit to make so I started looking up what ‘wedding day hangers’ sell for and they were charging about $25 each. I was like “Okay, people are willing to pay $25 for a hanger, I guess”. So I made some up but I also didn’t want them to break. If there’s anything I don’t wanna deal with is someone saying that they bought it but it broke.
That has been our rule of thumb when I was with cars. If something goes wrong with the car, we want to be shocked. Like “No way! We tested this a million times!”
I don’t have the resources I used to so I brought this golf club hanger and asked my friend to pull out his heaviest winter coat to test it out. I just wanna make sure it didn’t bend under the weight of the coat. Luckily, It didn’t.
Let’s talk about your Etsy shop video
That didn’t happen because of Etsy. I told one of my good friends that I’d like to get a video out so people can see what my cigar holder can do. He said “You buy me a Tim Hortons coffee, I’ll do it for ya.”
So we went to a golf course that just opened in Spring and it only took us around 10 minutes on the green and on the tee box to shoot everything.
Best Tim Hortons coffee purchase I’ve ever made.
Work Life Balance
I’m trying to balance this with life. There’s always that concern that what if it goes non-linear? Each of these are handmade by me. There’s always that concern that what if someone ordered in bulk?
Well we did experience that one time. There was a golf outing and there are typically about 4 or 8 people on each hole and so I got an order for 96 of them. But the catch is that they’re only giving me a week and so I had to politely turn them down.
It’s a good problem to have but you gotta have a work life balance. I don’t want to have the work managing me. So I turned down some of those. I know for some businesses it’s hard to turn it down because sometimes there’s a little bit of greed or concern that this won’t come again – well, it will come again. They like you for a reason the first time around. Maybe you won’t get 96 orders next time but that’s okay.
If you have your own business, there’s a temptation to be either never at work (because you don’t physically have to go to work) or the more common one is you’re always at work. You gotta have a life. You gotta say “Hey I’ve done a good week of work, regardless what my sales look like.”
So I took that idea and made this spreadsheet. The rules are 1) You gotta line up the tasks that takes to be successful. 2) You can’t have too many of one task or you won’t get any more points. That’s what the 1 – 10 means and after your 10th time; you’re not gonna get any more points that week. The idea is that you come up with a total number of points by the end of the week. Mine used to be around 300 points and I had it broken down to:
I have to make a product
I have to market the product
I got to have sales.
I put those in broad categories and decide what points each task would earn. Regardless of whether I heard the ‘Chaching’ in the middle of the night or not, I give myself points. “Am I spending time on each of these areas?” And then when I am, and I want to go hiking, I go hiking. But if I’m behind, it will motivate me to delay gratification because I’m behind.
I needed something that would tell me that I’m having a good week regardless of what the numbers say. It really is a number’s game. After so many views and favorites, I know I’m getting a sale so I don’t worry much about it.
Did you have to discontinue any products that you beta tested and failed?
Yes. My shop is originally called Cigart (Cigar + Jart). We then tried some things out of wood. I have never worked with wood very often and so my products horrendously failed. I gave them to people and they fell apart. That is why we added CigartMetalWorks in the name. We have no plans in venturing out of that.
That was a big failure but it’s okay. It’s good to know and from that, we got some good ideas. That was the one where we first thought of making coat hangers made of the irons (which did pretty well) and thought it’d be cool to have wooden hangers out of the old wooden woods. I thought it was genius and we’ve made plenty of those that only ended up terribly bad.
One of my friends had seen one (or thought had seen one) and I said that I could do that too. So I made one for him. Then he put it on his desk, other people saw it, and orders started coming so I put that up on Etsy. That has been very popular.
How do you come up with ideas for your shop?
I try to incorporate things that I think would look cool and are kinda popular. Take the shotgun shells for example, I went with my wife to Hobby Lobby for her stuff. When we were there, I saw they’re selling fake shotgun shells as decoration items. So I thought that if people are making fakes and selling them, there’s something I can do with them. Thus my Shotgun Shell Ball Markers were born. The cigar holder looks like a 100 caliber casing so they both complement and gives that militaristic look.
Then as I was gonna go visit a friend in Costa Rica, I bought a cigar cutter for him. I had the shotgun shell ball marker and the cigar cutter in my pocket and realized they fit together perfectly. So I cut a deal with the guy making cigar cutters; put my ball markers in it and started selling them on Etsy.
In this episode we talk about the exciting journey from day job to self employed entrepreneur. We cover some things that are good to keep in mind about financial planning, keeping your sanity, the rollercoaster life of entrepreneurs, time management and more!
The Entrepreneurship Myth
There is one myth that we’d like to dispel. This is common whenever you tell anybody that you’re gonna go on a business yourself. People tend to perceive it as very risky or they think that to be an entrepreneur you need to have a huge appetite for risk. Really, entrepreneurs aren’t necessarily risk seekers like many people believe. Different studies have shown that a lot of entrepreneurs are actually more risk averse than most. The difference isn’t in their appetite for risk but in their belief that they can do it; their belief that their ideas are a good one and a lot of them are motivated by believing that they can make an impact by doing this business and that drives them.
Do you know that 90% of employees in the US work for small companies?
I read in an article saying how 99.7% of employees in the United States work for a company with less than 500 employees. That’s a huge percentage of people working for companies that aren’t gigantic. Even further than that is almost 90% of employees in the United States work for companies with less than 20 employees.
If you’re trying to make this jump and you’re feeling you are alone when everyone you know is working at a large company – you’re really not! It’s really a huge segment of the population who is working for smaller companies. If you have an Etsy shop and you have it set up as an LLC or some kind of actual business entity, you’re already one of them. You are already working at a company that is either you or with a small team of people.
Replacing your Salary
You have some income right now assuming that you are working in a day job. And you’re thinking of becoming self-employed. You have a salary and the first thought is “Okay, I have this dollar amount and I need to be able to create this same amount if I want to have a perfectly smooth transition.”
That is not entirely accurate. There are some other things you’re going to want to keep in mind beyond just that salary figure. Most employers are required to provide benefits to their employees which could include things like 401K, medical insurance, etc. so those are things that you also want to keep in mind.
1. Think Medical Insurance
Medical expenses can be pretty high. We’re talking about the premium you’d be paying to have a medical plan available to you. It’s actually a big amount so before you go ahead and make that jump, this is something that you’re gonna want to consider.
One of the ways that you can do this is to jump on to eHealthInsurance.com. You can put in your information and they’ll throw you a list of plans that are available in your area along with the monthly premium for each of those. You can get a ballpark figure for what you could expect to pay or have to pay in the medical arena.
You also might want to talk to a broker who’s going to help you consult and figure out which plan might actually be the best for you and for your family because they’re the ones who understand this industry a whole lot better.
2. Think Taxes
When you get paid by your employer, the paycheck that they’re giving you already has your tax removed from that so your take home dollars are the money you can actually spend. When you’re self employed, nobody is doing that for you. Nobody is taking that tax money out for you so it’s up to you to understand that a certain percentage of that needs to be set aside so that when tax season comes around – you have money to pay to the government.
Figuring out taxes is a tough one because your taxes are going to be different whether or not you are an employee for someone else or are self employed. But there’s a couple of different options for you:
If you’re not doing your own taxes, talk to the person who is doing your taxes because they’ll have a good handle of your current financial situation and understand what changes are going to be because chances are they dealt with these many times before.
If you are doing your own, you can definitely keep doing what you’re doing. Take a look at TurboTax (probably the most popular option) and you’re probably already using the right TurboTax package already if you already have a business set up and you’re considering jumping over to full time. But you still might want to take a look what other things are going to change.
One of the things that we also want to talk about is deductions. As someone who is self employed, there are a lot of things that you are allowed to deduct for your company. If you’re buying a laptop for your company you can deduct that as a business purchase. If you’re buying software, hosting, domain name, or if you are a Marmalead Entrepreneur – those are all tax deductibles because it’s for your business.
There’s a little bit of a stigma about that where people think that you’re taking advantage off of deductions and that could cause issues for you. But that is not really the case. These things are in place to help people get started and succeed in small businesses because that’s good for everybody and the economy. They are in there for a reason to help out so make sure you use them.
4. Think Savings
Another thing is how much money you want to have saved up. This is an addition to making sure that you can replace your current income for the standard of living that you want to maintain. You probably want to have a bit of a runway and have some money saved off for when business is slow or when something unfortunate happens.
Experts recommend around 6 months worth of savings. Some say it’s anything from 3 to 12 months. But it depends on where you are at, how comfortable you are, and what other options you have if things don’t work out.
Important tips on your Entrepreneurial Journey
When to go full time on your business?
You don’t always get to choose the best time to go full time on your business. Your business might need you more now. You are going to end up needing to go full time before you are really ready. Your business can start to become more demanding now. Your business might need you full time and you probably don’t want to let your business suffer because you can’t devote more time into it. Are you willing to risk your business simply because you’re not willing to do it full time yet?
Keeping your Sanity
It is really important regardless of who you are. Regardless of person, everyone goes through different stages of how they feel about things.
We are a very habit and routine-based creatures. Humans do well when things are standardized – like how jobs are 9AM to 5PM. When you leave that more structured environment and start working on your own – especially if you work at home – you got to maintain that level of sanity. Maintaining your sanity might be needing to make an effort to go work from a coffee shop every once in a while. If your business involves making physical things, you probably can’t bring your workshop with you. But you might be able to bring a laptop with you and use that time to follow up on messages and do some digital type things that you can catch up on.
You might also want to think about your fitness schedule. Maybe you were a part of a gym on your day job and you hit the gym a couple of days per week. Even the amount of activity that you have at an office job where you’re getting up to go to meetings and talk to people in their desks, walking from your car etc. This is something you might not notice a whole lot at first but keep it in the back of your mind and try to keep tabs on how you are feeling both sanity-wise and physically.
Self affirmations are basically the things you say to yourself to reinforce something you believe or want to believe. If you say “I am going to have a great day!”, you are going to have a better chance of actually having a great day because it’s really not what happens to you, but how you react to the things that happen to you. Regardless of how far you want to take the actual effects of self affirmation – at the very least – saying something positive is going to make you feel more positive.
It puts you in a positive frame of mind and lots of little positive things are going to start happening. When you look for the positive, more positive things seem to happen. If you look for negative things, more negative things seem to happen.
As you’re working as an employee for somebody else, time management is often pressed upon you. You’re expected to work at a certain time, your lunch hour is between X and X time, and you’re expected to stay at work until a certain time. Now when you’re working from home, it depends on how you have your day set up. Overall, your day is going to be a whole lot more wide open and there’s going to be fewer people telling you what you need to do. Like what we mentioned before, people are more routine oriented and most people thrive in an environment where something is in routine. It’s going to be up to you to come up of your own time management, methods, tools, and how you want to break that down. Keep yourself honest about it and find what works best for you.
Since you control your day, you can try all sort of experiments and see what works. But it also means that you need to have more self control and not do things like spending your whole day on Facebook or watching Netflix.
Turn notifications off!
Turn notifications off your phone. Don’t let it send notifications of everything because you’re going to constantly look at your phone to see what’s going on. Use it as a tool but don’t let it own you.
There’s a Do Not Disturb mode on every phone and if you turn that on, notifications won’t show up unless the call is from someone important or if an emergency comes up.
Also, keep your goals in mind and think down the road what your end goals are. If working on Twitter and sending a bunch of tweets out doesn’t help you get towards that goal; is that the best use of your time? Could you be doing something different? Could you be re-doing your photos? Could you be re-doing your descriptions? Should you be coming up with new products? What should you be spending your time on that gets you where you need to be?
The Entrepreneurship Mindset
The whole idea of entrepreneurship – being an entrepreneur, mompreneur, dadpreneur etc. is really a mindset of all these things that we’ve talked about. Leaving a full time job is a pretty clear goal right there. Entrepreneur mindset is keeping focused on that; staying motivated and hustling so hard towards that goal.
Your competition doesn’t want you to do that. Your competition wants you to watch Netflix for 5 months straight. Your competition wants you to give up. They want you to get discouraged. They want you not to manage your time well. So that’s why you have to keep up the hustle because there’s always going to be competition out there. No matter what you’re doing there’s gonna be other people competing with you.
The only place where there is no competition is failure.