Biz Notes: How to Bring on Help

March 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

office wear 1

It tends to drive me nuts when people talk about how busy they are, how much work they have, and so on. In my mind- everyone has work, and everyone is busy- we need to just deal. But the last few months have felt unbearably busy for me when it comes to work. On the one hand- it’s great. I’m thrilled to have a constant stream of clients. On the other hand, it’s taken some of the joy out of the work. I’ve been exhausted, generally more irritable, and starting to resent the tasks I used to enjoy. Clearly, I’m really fun to be around right now!

I knew in the back of my mind I needed to get help in some form or fashion, but the decision to bring someone on felt really daunting. Hiring someone would require up front work in terms of getting that person set up. Up front work is more work, so add that to the pile of tasks I already had and well, it sounded even harder- so I kept trying to push through. But week after week I was left feeling miserable, like I couldn’t rise above it all. I finally bit the bullet, and decided to bring on part time support (our girl, Sarah, in case you’re curious!). I’m now (of course) kicking myself for not doing it sooner!

Once I made the decision, getting things set up wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated. These are the steps I took:

  • One of my biggest fears was that I would bring someone on and then wouldn’t have enough work to sustain their position. In order to figure out if that fear was valid, I sat down and made a list of all the tasks I needed support on that wouldn’t be too terribly difficult to have someone else complete. That list become rather long very quickly. The other thing, too, was that once I started actually breaking my work into separate tasks, a bunch of other tasks become apparent as things I could have someone else do. That was a key realization- to not be so limiting in the areas I outsourced.
  • To transition into working with someone slowly, I started small- meaning roughly one day per week. This made things much easier on a planning and financial front. I started with one day a week, with five hours of “in person” work, and three hours of remote work. I outlined the hours, structure of work, and pay per hour all up front.
  • Even though I sat down and completed that big list up front, it still felt challenging to break that down every week. So I started making notes. At the beginning of each week I take a post it and label it “Sarah’s List” and stick it in the notebook I carry with me everywhere. Every time I think of a task for that week- which seems to happen at the most random moments- I jot it down. By the time the next work session arrives, I already have a full list of things I need taken care of. That post it is so simple, but it’s made a world of difference.
  • At the beginning of each work session I devote 20-30 minutes to reviewing the list of tasks with Sarah. By specifically reserving this time in my calendar, I’m prepared to take a break from my work. At the same time, it allows both she and I to work independently for the most part.

So far these steps have made bringing on help and outsourcing my work a pretty smooth transition. And, most importantly, work is feeling much more enjoyable, and I’ve personally experienced a complete resurgence of energy. I’ve still got a lot of growing and learning to do when it comes to managing help and handing off my responsibilities , but I’m headed in the right direction. It’s one of those things that, I now realize, I had to start in order to even start learning- but thankfully it’s not as scary as I thought it was going to be. I only wish I had made the decision to do it sooner!

 Image via The White Ruffle


Biz Notes: On Working for Yourself & Being a Mom

February 27, 2013 § Leave a comment


Last week the Wall Street Journal published a fascinating article around the efforts of companies, namely McKinsey, to recruit former female employees who had left the company to raise kids. The whole thing reminded me of my own career decisions and some reasoning behind working for myself that I’ve never really shared here….

I was really fortunate to have my parents around, generally all the time, while I was growing up. They both either worked from home or were only outside the home part time.  We had full time nannies while we were really young, but my parents were always there (i.e. in the house), and their careers allowed them the flexibility to mold their schedules- for the most part- around ours.

There was always a part of my decision to work for myself that was connected to my life one day as a mom. I was 26 when I went out on my own, and my hope was that I’d have a solid five years or so to set the foundation for my business, and build up my client base and staff.  Then, in my early thirties, when I began having children, I’d be able to create some sort of transitional schedule for myself- a combination of taking on less work during a certain period and leaning on the support of my other staff (that staff being in the future of course!). Though I do have a certain timeline in my head, it’s the structure and flexibility that are most important to me. Don’t worry, I know life can’t be planned that perfectly!

But all planning aside, I do sometimes wonder if I have it backwards. If you’re working for yourself and you’ve built your own thing, maybe it’s actually harder to step away when starting a family? Is the juggle, in fact, more difficult, because the work is that much more personal? Or is my gut feeling- that working for yourself  provides more flexibility, allowing one to more easily balance career and motherhood- on track?I’d so love to hear your thoughts, opinions, and if you have it- experience!

Biz Notes: Three Quick Hit Lessons in Self Employment

February 20, 2013 § Leave a comment


Back with another Biz Notes piece today, and since my posts as of late have been bordering on novel like length, I wanted to keep things a little lighter today! Lately I’ve had a few lessons swirling around in my head that have really seemed to come into play in my second year of working for myself.

Be Conscious of Boundaries I have a hard time saying no to things. In my first year of business I had the time to be a little more flexible and perhaps give more to a client than originally stated. But once my workload was filled to the brim (which seems to be the pattern for my second year!), boundaries- and actually setting them- became much more important. And truthfully it made me much more aware of the importance of setting them regardless of how much work I have. That bending over backwards work method is not a good pattern to set.

Celebrate Successes Are you constantly charging ahead, always looking to the next thing and not celebrating all you’ve accomplished in the present? This is totally me. In general I think I have a tendency to live in the future, or at least always look to it. I’m trying to be better about not only being conscious of current successes, but actually celebrating them.  Manicures, fancy dinners, and a killer statement piece are all on my treat myself list… what about you guys?

Practice Letting Go Something a little funky has been going on with my Mac mail program and it’s messing up the addresses from which my emails are being sent. Frustrating and annoying, but not the end of the world. But yesterday I realized just how much energy I was putting into stressing over the situation. It was like a light switch was flipped and I was able to shut it off and just let go of the issue. It then got me thinking about other things I could work on “letting go,” in order to remove stress from my life- things that just aren’t worth it. I’m sure you can think of a few of those in your life…

Just looking at the bolded items above is putting me at ease. Even though I’m constantly faced with challenges, things do get considerably easier. When I think back on where I was a year ago and all that I know now in terms of working for myself- I can’t even imagine what it’s going to feel like in another year.

Photo by Emily Anderson of Apartment 34 Office

Biz Notes: Learning to Network Like Mad

February 13, 2013 § Leave a comment


And on to post number two of the day! 

As I get settled into my second year of working for myself, it’s really incredible to see how the relationships I fostered and connections I made in 2012 are now leading to projects and significant work in 2013. It’s actually kind of the best thing ever.

I’ve always been sort of a natural networker. I love meeting and connecting people, whether it’s with me or someone else. I constantly find myself in the “We need to get coffee or I need to introduce you to so and so” conversation. The thing I’ve consistently found to be true, though, is I often never know what is going to lead to what. I have clients right now who I never intentionally set out to work with, but who I just happened to connect with randomly, casually stayed in touch with, and then eventually started working together. While this doesn’t allow for much control, it’s taught me to really open my eyes when it comes to identifying a “networking opportunity.” They’re not all going to be nicely packaged and tied up in a bow with a “meet up” label slapped on them. The best ones, I find, are completely random.

That realization in and of itself, I think, is kind of the secret to learning to network consistently. To focus on staying open- both online and offline- rather that just “searching” so to speak, for networking opportunities. Meet ups are certainly helpful, but I always get the most out of interactions where there’s no predetermined outcome- the random coffee dates with online friends, going to social events I wouldn’t necessarily go to, sending a complimentary email to the blogger I’ve admired from afar for years (while asking nothing of them), and actually connecting with all those people and family friends my parents are telling me I have  to meet. It’s those interactions that have lead to new work.

And beyond the actual act of networking, one thing I always think about prior to every interaction- how can I be helpful? How can I impart some level of support, wisdom, or assistance- regardless of the outcome- for whatever I’m discussing with a person or company? If you plant the seed of support, it not only creates a positive reference, but often leads people to want more. And the more your specific expertise is desired, the better the working relationship!

Makes sense? My fellow business owners, what has worked networking wise for you? Do tell!

Image by Brian Ferry via wit+delight

Biz Notes: Working Like Mad

February 6, 2013 § Leave a comment


Apologies for the radio silence friends! It’s been a busy few days and today’s Biz Notes is… just gonna have to wait. The above photo pretty much embodies exactly how things feel right now. Now if I could only my bangs to look like this girl!

xx Clara

Biz Notes: “Do not be afraid to want a lot”

January 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

Donna-Karen-Collection-shot-by-Jamie-Beck{Donna Karan’s Spring 2013 Collection shot by Jamie Beck}

Yesterday I came across an interview with Debbie Millman, host of the acclaimed radio talk show Design Matters– among other things- like writing five books, and heading up the design division at Sterling Brands. You know- the usual wonder woman.

Admittedly I’ve never listened to one of her shows or read one of her books, but I was so struck by this line in her interview- “Do not be afraid to want a lot”- that I immediately subscribed to her podcast, and downloaded a preview of her most recent book on my Kindle.

I do want a lot. I want a lot that I don’t necessarily reveal. It’s mostly fantasies I have in my head like being on television, writing a book, hosting my own podcast someday, or starting some sort of product line. There’s a level of guilt which comes along with those desires, which is why I don’t share them too openly. I mean, saying I want to be on television kind of implies I think I’m good enough to be on television in the first place. So I’m essentially afraid of sounding like I’m full of myself. But I still want those things. I do. Aaaand I think I can do it. I say fantasies, but I assure you- I’ve painted a pretty detailed picture in my head.

Do you ever feel that way? Like you’re afraid to own up to what you really want career wise- even just to say it out loud? I clearly do, but Debbie’s advice brought new purpose to what I want. It not only made my desires feel more acceptable, but made me want to come forward and speak up about them.

I’ll leave you with her full response from the question, “If you could give a piece of advice to a young person starting out, what would you say?”

“Do not be afraid to want a lot.

Things take a long time; practice patience.

Avoid compulsively making things worse.

Finish what you start.

Often people start out by thinking about all the things that they can’t do. Once you take that path, it’s very hard to get off of it. Shoot high and shoot often.”

Ok, off to shoot high!

Seeking a Blog Contributor!

January 11, 2013 § Leave a comment


A new contributor! Yep, you heard right. Sarah and I are looking to grow our little CC team and bring on someone else to contribute to Channeling Contessa, and we’d love to have it be one of our readers! This expansion was one of my main to dos for 2013, so I’m really excited to finally share the news with you.

We’re looking for someone who is, naturally, really passionate about beautifully prepared food and classic entertaining. We need someone with strong writing skills and some basic skills in Photoshop, but nothing too intense. We need someone who can commit to at least two posts per month, and potentially more down the road. It’s by no means necessary to currently have a blog. If you do, certainly let us know, but it’s not necessary. What is necessary is a bit of knowledge about the blog world. Just a bit!

In terms of content, that’s where you come in! We’re eager to hear your ideas. If you’d like to apply, send me an email at by Friday January 25th, with some content and series suggestions, a couple of images that you feel are reflective of the CC brand, a bit about yourself, and some details on why you want to become a contributor. The images can be sourced online, and that’s really our preference unless you’re able to produce very high quality photographs. Lastly, as of right now-we’re not looking for recipe post contributors. But we’re open to all other kinds of content.

Any questions? Feel free to email me that as well. I want this to be fun, so definitely reach out if you feel you need more details! I’m really excited to see what you all come up with and welcome someone new to our team.

And with that, I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. xx

Image Credit (image found via House of Earnest)

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