Episode #132: Business Secrets

Episode #132: Business Secrets

Today, we are letting you in on all our business secrets. We hope you find a little nugget that helps you with your business! Plus, we are answering a listener’s questions about our favorite TV shows.

A big thank you to our sponsors! Check out the offers from Modern Fertility, Bite, BetterHelp, and Splendid Spoon. And, if you’re looking for a specific code you heard on the podcast, you can see a full list on this page!

Think through what you truly need, hire based on your weaknesses, hire self-starters, automate your management, and tell people when they’e doing a great job.

Ask every stupid question, don’t confront them in a group, and communicate the issue with them.

We highly recommend saving instead of taking out a business loan.

Post regularly, have 50 quality posts, do long pinning on Pinterest, check out our blogging course, make sure your blog posts are answering questions, and make sure you are passionate about it.

100K page views per month.

We have two small businesses: A Beautiful Mess (which has three full-time employees) and our app business, which has six full-time employees and four full-time contractors.

For a blog and Instagram, they’re free. Apps are $50,000 minimum and online classes are around $500.

Look at what your business truly needs and get quotes, match 401Ks, and invest young in a retirement account.

Consistently post affiliate links, post the same link multiple times, and use the LTK app (an app where you can store all your links). Here’s a link to the A Beautiful Mess LTK.

Give it time (six months to a year).

If you have been consistent for more than a year and are still not seeing results, then it might be time to throw in the towel.

Plan strategic time, set your boundaries ahead of time, and stick to them.

We get an annual salary, owner’s draws, and a retirement account.

-Elsie’s favorite drama TV shows that are still airing: The Handmaid’s Tale and Better Call Saul

Comment below if you want Elsie’s top 10 drama TV shows! xo.

Emma: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess podcast. Every once in a while we love to break free from our home and garden podcast category and go full-on business episode. Today we are here with business secrets. We compiled a list of secrets to share. It’s pretty candid and we hope you find a little nugget that helps you with your business. 

Elsie: They will. 

Emma: They will or just like, I don’t know, your life. I feel like a lot of business advice kind of can turn into life advice, but not that this is advice. Its secrets. 

Elsie: It’s secrets. It’s deep, dark. 

Emma: Dark, yeah. 

Elsie: It’s amazing. 

Emma: But first, personal segment.

Elsie: But first, Happy Birthday, Emma. So Emma had her birthday this past week and was it, Emma, was it the best birthday of your life? 

Emma: It was a typical late January birthday. So all my fellow January birthdays out there, you probably know, that it got ruined, as usual, by sickness or snow or something. That’s always how it goes with my birthday. Well, at least 50% of the time. But this year, my whole family got COVID. So we’ve just been home together. And it’s been actually cozy and fine but being sick and caring for a sick seven-month-old is obviously rough and scheduling to go get our test. Obviously, we’re not a daycare, obviously so just kind of taking turns, me and my husband, and you know. 

Elsie: Womp womp. 

Emma: That was kind of my birthday. I did get some really cool presents so I thought I would at least share a couple of those. 

Elsie: Yes, share your presents!

Emma: The most exciting thing was, Trey got me a puzzle table. I’ve been wanting to do puzzles, honestly had never heard of a puzzle table. Then when Trey got me one for my birthday, I was like, oh my gosh, I’ve never even heard of this and this is exactly what I needed. Now we like to do it at night and then put it underneath this little loveseat that’s in our bedroom closet room area. 

Elsie: That’s perfect. I think a puzzle table is an amazing gift. I want one. So yeah, you’ll have to link the one you got in your show notes if you can. 

Emma: That was the super, super exciting thing but a couple of other little things I got for my birthday, one I bought for myself, which is a small gold ring that says Oscar. I have this other ring that’s bigger but this one now goes with my engagement ring and wedding ring set. So it kind of all fits together. Then from our mom, I got a coat and also a nail polish powder dip kit. 

Elsie: Wonderful. 

Emma: You drip your finger in the powder. It’s really cool.

Elsie: Anyway, happy birthday. I know everyone wishes you would have a happy birthday and sorry, your whole family got COVID. We’re glad everyone’s healthy and recovering now. Okay, so I have written down here, business secrets, juicy or nothing. I just think that since we titled this episode, business secrets we owe them more than just a standard explanation to each question, what do you think? 

Emma: I’m not trying to take this personally, but I feel like you’re trying to tell me, Emma, I know your advice and your stories are going to be like, be consistent and good things will happen but like nobody wants to hear it. 

Elsie: No, that’s not true. I think that it’s more just that I want to say some things we haven’t said before. That’s what it is. Anytime you get business advice, it’s like you have to just filter that, like who you’re getting it from. You guys know, you’re listening to our podcast, our advice is like, it’s somewhat specific. It’s based on our life experiences. It applies or it may not. So yeah, take the nuggets that work for you, and don’t worry about the rest. That’s all I would say. So let’s start, so basically, we compiled like 15 or 20 questions. There were like subject lines so let’s just jump in. So the first one is how to hire an impactful team, which I liked how they phrased that. I think that hiring is an under like, whenever we do like Q and A’s and stuff, we don’t get a lot of questions about that but like hiring, communicating with your team, disciplining people or conflict resolution and firing, I think are the hardest parts of owning a business. So I think it’s a very good question. So what are some of your tips for hiring an impactful team?

Emma: The first one is probably definitely thinking through what you truly need. Definitely higher based on your weaknesses. You don’t really need a carbon copy of yourself. Sometimes we feel like, oh, that would be helpful if I just had one more of me. But think about what you’re really bad at, but still, like moves the needle in your business and find someone who can do that really well. That would be more impactful than just trying to photocopy yourself. Plus, you don’t want to like hire, basically, you’re having to do all the parts of your job that you hate still and you’ve hired other people to do the parts of your job that you enjoyed. Now all of a sudden, your job is just like, the sad parts and they get to do all the fun parts. You might feel a little resentful if you do that so don’t do that.

Emma: I think that that’s really solid advice. In the early years of our business, something that I know I struggled with was that I wanted to give people jobs that I thought they would like. It was hard for me to give people jobs that I knew they would hate and that is really difficult. Okay, my advice for hiring an impactful team. This is specifically for people who own small businesses, where you’re intending for your business to be small and stay small. The biggest thing that I think has helped our success is that we only hire self-starting individuals for our team. Everyone on our team can work for a whole week with no instruction from us. We do talk to them every day so I’m not saying that they don’t ask us questions, but they don’t need us. They’re able to make decisions. They know what they need to do and they continue working when we’re not around. If we go on vacation, if we’re sick, we have a lot of childcare issues, we both have young children, things like that, wheels keep turning when we’re not there. For me, that is like the number one most important thing because there are a lot of people who are talented and good at their jobs, who are not self-starters, who need a lot of instruction and a lot of check-ins, and a lot of one on one meetings, and that wouldn’t work for me as a business owner.

Emma: Yeah, that kind of plays into the next one that you had written down is supervising and managing others. I think that that exactly plays into that. At A Beautiful Mess, that’s the environment Elsie describes. We haven’t hired now in quite a while but when we do hire really, at both our companies, when I’m involved in the process, one of the things I asked about is kind of like, how much management do you need? Trying to figure out like, do you need a lot, and do we have the structure in place for that? At A Beautiful Mess, we don’t. There is no upper management. If you saw an org chart, organizational chart, it would be pretty lateral. There’s just not, you know, oh, this is the manager who talks to these people every single day, it just doesn’t really work that way, it’s too small. So we have to have people that are really happy to work independently, and very much can manage their own time without a lot of oversight. In other companies, that doesn’t work. Especially larger companies, there’s definitely space for more management and upper management but that’s not what we have at A Beautiful Mess so we don’t hire for that type of thing. So another thing I think people don’t think about is like, generally, when someone goes to hire, they’re like, okay, here’s the amount of money I have to pay someone, so I have to hire in that range. If it’s a low amount, you know, if you’re starting in your business, growing your business, you probably don’t have tons and tons of money to hire a massively experienced person or whatever. But one thing I would take into consideration and just think on how it can work for you is when you hire more entry-level people, so someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience in the workforce, maybe they just finished college, maybe it’s their first big job. They’ve never worked freelance before, like, this is really the first thing. Obviously, that’s a great place to start, they’re probably going to be very enthusiastic. A lot of great things about that but they are going to need a lot more training and management. So they could be cheaper on the salary scale but it’s going to take more of your time. If you don’t have that, you don’t have that resource because time is a resource. I think of it as a resource, just like money. If you don’t have that to offer them, then it’s not going to work. You’re doing them a disservice, you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s not going to work out. You need to wait until you have enough salary budget that you could hire someone with more experience if you don’t have the time to do that amount of training and managing.

Elsie: I totally agree with that. So as far as communicating negative feedback, I found that the best way to do it is to kind of just like say it as plainly as you can and openly and then just sort of train yourself to get used to doing that and not making it a big deal, not making it a whole meeting. Just make it like a little note, like be able to send a little note that isn’t totally positive and let that be. That was hard for me at first. As far as managing other people, I think that just communicating the vision of what you want to see, for the season, or for whatever the next big project, that’s like really, really important.

Emma: I would also say like, along those lines with the communicating the vision, I think being really clear about problems you’re seeing, not necessarily with them, but like problems in the business, like things that you’re trying to solve. Being really honest about like, here’s some problems, I’m seeing that I’m trying to figure out a solution, can you help me solve these? Making it like, come along on my team, rather than I am up here, and I’m going to dictate to you what you need to do. It’s more like, well, here’s the challenges we’re facing as a team, how can we solve these? What ideas can you bring? What work can you bring? Here’s what I’m doing? Here’s what I’m seeing, you know, and just approaching it more collaboratively, I suppose. 

Elsie: I totally agree. Having a space like we do a once a month meeting, and for us once a month is the perfect amount. Everyone can like, you know, have a space to express their frustration or their challenge or the next big thing they’re working on. Say their main to-do list, get a little bit of like a pat on the back for something good you did. Then you just like, keep doing your work. I think that those little check-ins and ours is a group meeting, it’s not a one on one meeting, I honestly don’t think we could have a business if we had to do a check-in with every person every week, like a lot of businesses do. I think that would be too overwhelming for me.  I guess one of our tips is to sort of automating your management as much as possible, where it kind of goes on its own and you don’t have to be checking in, as little as possible. You have to find a way to make your business operate without all of those management hours. 

Emma: Then the only other tip I’d give, which I think to most people this is a no duh, but to a few people might not be, do tell people when they’re doing a great job. If someone’s done a great job for you make sure they know it. I also think, send gifts for their birthday. Everyone deserves a nice birthday so if anyone works for you send them something on their birthday. If they’ve been sick like just be a human. I do think it’s good to have some professional boundaries because I think when you’re working together you need to provide a professional environment. I think that’s on the owners to do and upper management, whatever. That being said, we’re still all humans who work together and spend a lot of time together, even if we work remote. So I think being kind and making sure that people know they’re appreciated is professional and also friendly but it’s a good thing to be thinking on and to spend some time on.

Elsie: Yeah, no, I totally agree. So the next question, I really like this question, is how do you deal with people who talk over you? So I think that this happens a lot to women, like from men in workplace environments and just in life. So actually, I learned, the advice I’m going to give, I learned it from Emma and I think it is the advice, so just do this and you’ll be good.

Emma: I can’t wait to hear it. 

Elsie: So early, early, early in our career, we were like setting up our retirement accounts and our investment accounts and trying to get our taxes all set up properly and like, figure out how much to pay. You remember we were just doing so many meetings in those days? Whenever someone says, talk over you, I’m assuming that that means like, you’re not like catching everything they’re saying, and like, I don’t necessarily think it means that the person’s being condescending on purpose. So the thing I learned from Emma that she always did, and now I always do is ask every stupid question. So it’s just like, raise your hand and ask the question and have no shame about it. There is never a question that is too stupid to ask. I feel like that is a key to success in life. If you go through a tax meeting and you don’t totally understand what you just heard, in a way, it’s kind of on you for not stopping them and asking. So that’s my best advice is just to like, you know, because sometimes people don’t even know and maybe sometimes people don’t want to treat you like you’re someone who wouldn’t know things. I think it’s okay to not be familiar with things. We all have areas in our life where we need to learn more facts, like no big deal.

Emma: Yeah, it’s not a big deal. It’s not a big deal not to know everything. Get over that for sure. So I guess when I read the question, too, I don’t know, this person situation but I was kind of imagining like a big team meeting at work. Where they have a lot of ideas that they’re excited to share but everyone kind of talks over them. I don’t know. I think, yeah, interrupting. That’s what I thought and I have no idea. Maybe it is more a situation you describe, I don’t have any idea. 

Elsie: Like the way, I’m not interrupting you right now. Like that.

Emma: Yeah, the person in my life, so here’s what I do for Elsie, who interrupts me all the time. No, I’m just kidding. That’s what I was picturing so like, that’s what I was thinking on. For those types of things, what I would say is, number one, don’t confront them in a group. Don’t confront them in front of other people. Wait till it’s just you two. 

Elsie: Don’t yell let me finish. 

Emma: Yeah, right. Don’t yell let me finish, especially in front of others. And the reason is the minute when a conversation like when someone becomes defensive, it’s over. It’s not going to be effective. If you’re like, Well, I don’t care if it’s effective, I just want to have my mic drop moment, well check your ego friend, because what you need is effective communication. The minute someone’s defensive, it’s not going to happen so wait, tell us just you two. If possible, I think talking is better than email or Slack or whatever. Sometimes that’s not possible so if you need to email or Slack or whatever, that’s fine, too. But if you can call on the phone, or see them in person, or video chat, that’s preferred. Do that, if possible, just the two of you. You approach the conversation, I would make it more again, try to get them on your team. Explain your point of view, I feel like you know, and I think it’s okay to talk about your feelings by the way unless you are a robot. But if you’re a human being, it’s okay to say how you’re feeling. If you’re like, I was really excited to share my ideas and I felt like you kept talking over me. 

Elsie: I think that works really well. 

Emma: It makes me feel like you’re not excited to hear my ideas or you might think that my ideas are not valuable. I just wanted to check in if that is how you feel. I think probably not, and definitely don’t come off accusing, but let them know how it’s affecting you, this situation. Then when you can bring it around to a place of I would love to be heard better by you so what can we do to make that happen? What can I do? What can you do? What needs to change about the situation for this to be better? Let them answer that, let them give you some ideas. What might happen is you might broaden your perspective on this person. You might be feeling like this person’s a d*ck, screw them. But it turns out in their family, they’re one of eight children and they were never heard. So they are used to if I have something to say, I gotta say it right away. Who knows, you might not know at all, where they’re from or what they’ve been through in their life. So it might broaden your perspective on their side of it. But also, it’s important that they hear your side and they understand where you’re coming from so that you guys can find a way together to solve this communication issue.

Elsie: Yeah, no group communicating is really difficult. I feel like I always either constantly interrupt, or I will never talk because I like don’t want to interrupt at all. So yeah, I think keeping an eye on people who are shut down and then also trying to have patience for people who keep talking. Those are both really challenging. I think just group projects are so challenging. So this one comes in a lot, and so I wanted to include it but our advice, might not be what you want to hear. I think we’re gonna give the genuine advice that we’ve given to our peers in private and things like that. So tips on getting funding, loans, etc. So our personal way that we do business, we usually bootstrap everything. We have very rarely gotten a loan before for a business venture. I would be very hesitant to get a business loan. I think it depends on your type of business. It depends on a lot of things so maybe this doesn’t apply to you. I think for someone wanting to do the sorts of things that we do in our career, I don’t think you need loans to do those things. I think that if you feel like the one thing holding you back from starting a small business is having a large amount of money in the beginning. I think that that might be a good barrier to conquer. That might be a good challenge for you. I don’t think you should get a loan unless you need one and have a good reason and a good plan. I think if you are having a hard time obtaining that then that also might be a sign that maybe, like a warning sign.

Emma: Yeah, we’ve also never raised funding. I feel like that’s a big topic in the media lots of times. So just a heads up, we’ve never done that, so I don’t have any advice because I’ve never done it. But I would definitely seek out friends who have done it and then maybe also, like, read some articles and books on it. But I can’t give you any advice, I’ve never done it. Yeah. So I did want to share one story. It’s not at all advice but since we’re doing business secrets. I don’t know if it’s a big secret, but I don’t think we’ve ever shared it on the podcast so I kind of wanted to do. 

Elsie: I’m so excited to hear what it is.

Emma: It’s about loans. So a long time ago, Elsie and I had a local store so we needed some extra money to buy all of this stuff, buy the business and we didn’t have it. So what happened was our dad, our parents, took out a second mortgage on their home and loaned us the money. We paid it back in full. We paid it on time but I’ll never forget that. Our parents just believed in us. Our dad is a very frugal man and he’s also extremely loving and took a massive risk on his kids doing something that they were passionate about and that was really, really sweet. I just kind of wanted to tell that story.

Elsie: No, I mean, from the perspective of our parents’ generosity, I think that it is one of the most endearing things and one of the things that makes me feel really bonded to my parents. That they believed in us during a time when we were honestly struggling pretty bad. 

Emma: He probably shouldn’t have given us that money. 

Elsie: So yeah, from the other perspective, he absolutely should not have. It is one of my personal regrets. I’m really grateful that we were able to pay it back and kind of just close that chapter but I regret asking my parents for money. I wish I wouldn’t have done that. I don’t think that it was the right move at all but I still am grateful that they believed in us, of course. 

Emma: Yeah, it meant a lot how much they believe in us and it still does. 

Elsie: That could have been bad.

Emma: It could have been really bad. Yeah, it was very risky. That’s what that’s why I was like, this is not advice. I’m just gonna tell a story. 

Elsie: It’s when we were having our store so it wasn’t a solid business. We paid it back with money we were making from other things from our blog. Probably the thing that saved us in that moment, was the ability to pivot through and be flexible on where our money was coming from. We weren’t so determined that it had to come from our store. Which was probably like the saving grace of the whole situation. Sorry, if I brought it down, but that is personally one of my big regrets of my life but I would do it for my kids for sure.

Emma: No, I understand. I understand. I mean, I’m not saying it’s advice. I also think that that’s that is one of the unfair advantages I have in life is, I have two parents who have always unconditionally loved me and told me so, and supported me. Sometimes people are like, Are your parents super, super-rich and gave you everything? And I’m like, no, but they gave me exactly what I really needed and I’m so grateful for it. So grateful. 

Elsie: 100%. We love you, Mom and Dad. Okay, so the next question is, what is the best way to grow a blog to 100k page views per month? Okay, so I’m assuming that this question was asked, because 100k page views per month if you don’t know, this is a qualifier to join certain ad programs where you can have ads running on your site, not a sponsored post, but like the ads that run in the sidebar all the time. Some of the better programs require that as the bare minimum. So I’m just sure that that’s why this person asked that question. 

Emma: Yeah, I think so. But I also just love that they have a specific goal.

Elsie: 100k a month, sounds like such a big number. I think it’s definitely obtainable. I think we can give good advice on this because it’s something we know. So let’s assume that you’ve already started your blog. I’m assuming you’ve already started your site. You have lots of content up. You’ve already been posting regularly. So that’s the first step is like, you have to have a site with content on it, lots of quality content. I would say if you’re looking for like a number of posts to goal for at first, like 50 quality posts. The goal for that if you’re just starting off. Then after that, what I would put my energy to and this depends on your category of course, but if I were me, and I’m writing like A Beautiful Mess, a home and food blog but it’s brand new, I would put my interest or my energy into doing a lot of Pinterest work to try to build up the 100k views. I think that there’s a really good opportunity there. So if you look at our Pinterest, A Beautiful Mess Pinterest, you’ll see this we do a ton of long pinning. A long pin is a sort of like a hidden image on your blog post. It’s embedded in our blog posts, but it’s not a part of our blog post. It pops up when people go to pin anything from the post as the first thing they see. What it is, is it’s sort of a collage of images that’s long, like a long skinny collage. It has words in the middle. It’s like a vertical collage. It’ll show several images from your posts so if you’re doing like a pizza or a room, you’ll show the ingredients and the finished pizza or several different angles of your room, and then it’ll have words on it to say, what it is that are kind of like appealing, sort of like a little clickbait. Like, best pizza recipe or cute living room idea, like things like that. Then when people go to pin, it’ll pop up for anyone who tries to pin from your site. Also, you can pin those yourself. I would put a lot of energy into a schedule where you’re making these long pins and you’re pinning them consistently. Then you’re adding them to every single new post, what would you do, Em?

Emma: I agree with all of that. You probably know, but if you don’t, we have courses on a number of things that we know how to do. We have a blogging course called Blog Essentials, you can find it at courses.abeautifulmess.com. So if you want a lot more advice, then that’s somewhere to go. The other thing I would say along with what Elsie is saying, and I don’t know where this person starting from so I just want to make sure that this is super clear, with blogging, your goal is a little bit different than some of the other influencer areas like Instagram or Tic Tok or whatever else, Twitter, I don’t know. So what you’re aiming to do is cultivate your loyal following but also you’re really looking to answer questions. So when people are googling something on the internet, you want to be the result that pops up in the category that you know about that you work in. So if you’re a home blogger, you want to be the website that pops up when somebody types in how big of a rug should I buy? How long should my curtains be? Whatever these common questions are that people have that they’ll go to the internet for, you want to be the person that pops up. If your food, you want to be the person who pops up when someone types in how do I air fry salmon. I wrote something like that a couple of weeks ago. That’s kind of the goal with blogging is it’s not just about entertainment, it’s not just about sharing your personal life, it’s about adding value to the internet. So answering questions that people need answers to that might be super simple things. That might be more complicated things. It might be a very specific, very niche or niche, or it might be broader. It really depends on what you know, and what category you’re working in. You shouldn’t be blogging about something that you’re not passionate about and something that you don’t know anything about just because you think it’s going to get pageviews. That’s not a great way to go about it. You want to work in an area that you’re passionate about and knowledgeable in and growing your knowledge all of the time. 

Elsie: When people ask us, how do you never run out of ideas, the reason why is because we’re staying in categories that were genuinely interested in. It’s just like the years go by, and we keep learning new things and having new things to talk about and more projects and it’s natural. Good luck on the 100k page views. I think that’s a great goal. The next question kind of plays into this. It is what is the milestone for a blog where you can get ads to pay you? I do think the answer is kind of in the realm of 100k pageviews, which is per month. I think that having a sponsor choose you, I think can happen earlier for people who have excellent photography, and a really compelling personal style. Because the brands are just like wanting to use your pictures, especially if they’ll be able to use your pictures on their own ads or things like that. A lot of people who have next to no following can get sponsors for those reasons. By the time someone’s choosing your blog and sponsoring you just for the eyeballs on your site, I think it will be probably more than 100,000 page views per month. The next question is how to network online. It says I can’t attend conferences right now. I don’t think you really need to attend conferences ever as a networking requirement. We’ve been to lots of conferences before and I can’t think of anyone relationship we have that is specifically from a conference.

Emma: No, I’ve met a lot of people at conferences. If you can go to a conference, I like it, I would do it but that’s just not the world I’m living in right now.

Elsie: Well, but I will say, you don’t need them. If you can’t, you don’t need it. I think just being freaking friendly. That’s what I would say like networking, a big part of networking, is just being a friend to people. Leaving them comments, leaving the messages, being nice, being complementary, being there to help people being willing to post about other people’s things and support other people, even at moments when you don’t have anything to gain for it. A lot of our important relationships were built that way. 

Emma: I agree. Another little one, that’s not necessarily something they’ll even see visibly. So this is more like, not so much networking I suppose, as just like being supportive. When I know I’m about to buy something, I’ll see if any of our friends have affiliate links. I think that’s part of networking is talking and sending comments and promoting others but it’s also like literally being supportive, even if it’s unseen at times.

Elsie: I think supporting your friends, like your network, and then including people in your network who haven’t necessarily done anything for you, that is all totally worth it. How big are your small businesses? How many full-time and part-time employees do you have? So if you don’t know, we have two small businesses. The first one is A Beautiful Mess, which you know because it’s A Beautiful Mess podcast. We have a blog and we have three full-time employees. Our other businesses are kind of two businesses but our app business, how many full-time employees does it have?

Emma: It has six full-time employees, and then a number of full-time contractors. I think four more full-time contractors so 10 total.

Elsie: The next question, we always get this one, and I never know how to answer it. Your biggest work regret, any whole projects that you regret? Obviously, like our, we’ve talked about our small shop business. We had two shops in our hometown. I mean, we shouldn’t have done them and they were not successful, but I would never regret it. I felt like at that point in my 20s, it was something that I definitely needed to get out of my system. It was a life experience that I deeply value and I’m glad that I have. So I guess for me, maybe I kind of wish that we wouldn’t have done, I’m gonna say the essential oils. The reason why, so if you don’t know, we did a side brand called

Oui Fresh for like, five years, something like that, and it started off with like t-shirts and stuff. Then we added some beauty stuff and it kind of went lots of different directions. We made some sunglasses, and then they got copied by Urban Outfitters and Target so we stopped doing them, which is fine. It overall was not a big success and overall, it was kind of a big distraction. I think that’s why I was hesitant to do it again in the future is that unless we were willing to pivot our whole career, which we definitely weren’t to focus on, I don’t think we could make an essential oil business. I don’t think we could give it what it needed to have to grow and be something. I think it was just sort of like an interest that we had and I think lots of people are gonna relate with that. I have so many interests, how do I pick which one to focus on? It’s like, choosing what you focus on is such an important decision. 

Emma: Yeah, no, I totally get what you are saying about that.

Elsie: I love essential oils. I mean, like nothing against oils in general.

Emma: No, the products we made, I loved. For me, the thing would be long, long time ago, many moons ago, would have been like 2010 or 2011.I don’t even know, early days of blogging, I started this little series. So I’ve always loved food blogging, and it was called Kitchen Basics. Okay. My idea with it was I just wanted to do some of the simple, very basic recipes that like I had Googled before because I didn’t know how to make them. 

Elsie: I remember, it was like how to make mayonnaise, like things like that. 

Emma: Well, that’s kind of complicated but yes, yes, it’s things like that. It was like how to make whipped cream, how to make pesto, how to make fettuccine sauce, like things that are relatively basic. I felt that they were things that I had looked up until I knew how to do them and I’d kind of learned little tricks along the way. I thought it would be an interesting series. Anyway, I did three or four of them. Each time I got feedback from some of our readers at the time, who kind of said like, this is really boring, or this content already exists, you should do something original. I can’t believe you’re not doing anything original. I really took all the feedback to heart and what I wish I had done at the time, and I’m not blaming them, what I wish I had done at the time that was my shortcoming is I wish I had taken in all of the data. So instead of just those few comments, if I had looked at our Google Analytics and our page views had been like, well is this content being seen? Is this being sought out? Is it helpful to someone? Maybe not to these particular commenters, but generally, is someone enjoying this content? I think I probably would have seen that actually, relative to all of our content, it was helpful. It was something that people were looking up and asking for, like Googling and things like that. What I learned from that experience that I’m like, looking back on now is like, I really don’t like to read reviews too often. It’s a tricky thing, because it’s like, I want to hear from our audience and I want to take in the feedback because I want to create stuff that’s valuable, and that people like, obviously. Also, sometimes you’re listening to a very small minority that’s just fairly loud and you need to take it into the bigger picture and take in all of the data, all of the feedback, not just the loud minority part.

Elsie: Alright, the next question is batch working. This person says it feels impossible to me. Well, if it feels impossible, it probably means that you haven’t tried it yet. I think batch working is surprisingly simple. I think if you will just set aside one day to try it and try to do whatever you normally do. For me, it would be a blog post, do what you do. I know that normally if I don’t try one blog post in a day is good for me. But if I try to batch work, I can do three in a day. So I would try to do three. Just try it. Seriously, I’m not sure if this person’s listening but if you do, send me an email, and let me know what you think because I’m very curious to hear. I think that everyone should try match working, even if you have to tweak it, even if it’s not perfect for you, and you do it in your own way. I think there’s value there for everyone.

Emma: Yeah, I would say that too. If you tried it one time, and it went poorly, try another time, because most of the time when I try something new, it goes poorly. So definitely, give it a few more shots. Then the other thing I would say is to make sure and I don’t know this person situation, but make sure that you’ve really broken down your task so that you can batch work, because that’s really the key to it, is it’s actually a kind of a lot of planning and thinking through what it is you need to do before you can really get started. So like you may need to really break down whatever the tasks are so that you can do all of one portion of it at a time depending on what it is that you’re needing to do.

Elsie: That’s true. I mean, not everything in life can be batch worked or needs to be but I think that when you find things that can, it can be immensely helpful for a business. Okay, the next question is startup costs for different things for context, ie, a blog, Instagram, app, online class, etc. So I’m just gonna rattle this one off really quickly because it’s just relative, and it’s just money. This is just our experiences, someone else can have a totally different price. To start a blog, I think should be free. I think you should do it yourself. Maybe a couple $100, maybe you get the whatever the fancy WordPress is and so the basic one or something like that, you can use templates. I think if you want to hire a person to design it, then set a budget that feels comfortable to you and do that. I don’t think that you need to have any kind of big substantial amount of money set aside to start a blog at all. Instagram, same. I think that a lot of people stop themselves. They don’t realize that it’s actually just an excuse, saying I need to have this kind of camera, I need to have money to buy clothes every month, or I need to have money to buy supplies. You can start any of these things for free. Actually not an app. Apps are expensive. So starting an app – $50,000 minimum, $100,000 normally, would you say? They’re very expensive.  How much do you think that you should set aside if you want to start an online class?

Elsie: I would set aside at least $500, just so that you can get a couple of things like you might need a couple like plugins for your website, and just some different things like that. A little bit of marketing.  I would say something like that would be a good budget to think on.

Elsie: Yeah, most of these things you can start for minimal amounts of money. Apps are different. I think it’s good to just like say the real price, though, so that people don’t get down the line and think that they can do it for like $5,000 or something. The next question is how much do you invest? 

Emma: So I don’t think of it as a percentage like, oh, here’s the gross of what we’re going to make this year, the gross revenue, o 20% of that we’re going to reinvest. You could think of it that way. That’s one option. I think of it more like what are our goals for the year and how much will it cost to do them? You could also break that down by quarter if you needed it or every six months. So I think a bit more like, what is it I’m trying to do? I’ll go get quotes for it, and then figure out, can I do that this year? Can I do that this quarter? Things like that.

Elsie: So in our business, we do the 401k match, that’s done and we do like the maximum. Then in my personal life, I would say investing for retirement and for the future is definitely my biggest budget line item. 

Emma: Yep, us too. 

Elsie: Part of that is like being like for me, almost 40. So if you’re like 25, and you’re hearing that, and you’re still getting started, don’t feel anything about that. Except for like, wow, she’s old and I’m in the part of my life where that’s like a comfortable thing for me to do now.

Emma: But I would start as 25 or even younger, definitely do go ahead and start a retirement account of some kind or something with the compounding interest because you have so many more years than we do at the current moment for that compounding interest to like work in your favor. So do start that, but if that’s all you can afford to do at that stage in life, you’re doing great. Do that and start there.

Elsie: Yes, yes. So how to make affiliate money? My favorite question. So I remember at the beginning of 2020, one of my blogger friends gave me sort of like a pep talk, they were like, you could be easily making double the affiliate money you’re making now. You just need to do these things. We started doing them, and it did work. So I’m going to tell you what it is. Our affiliate money makes definitely more than six figures a year and it is a good part of our business. It’s not our main income by any stretch, but it’s a good solid income in the business. Yes. 

Emma: Elsie is going to tell you the steps that we followed to how to do that, before she does, I kinda just want to point out that what she said right there, that right there is kind of the power of networking, and why you should be networking. Also why if you have a friend who you see could use your advice, something that you’re good at, give it to them because this friend gave us this advice and it was super, super valuable to us. It’s a friend we’ve cultivated over the years but that’s networking. It’s like you should be giving and you should also receive like it’s a two-way street and this is the great part of it. Anyway, tell them the tips, show them how to make the affiliate money. I’ll stop now.

Elsie: I totally agree. They paid it forward to us and I’ll pay it forward to you. The first one is just to consistently post affiliate links and that is very friggin obvious, but we didn’t use to do it. Now we post affiliate links, basically every day, on our blog and on Instagram somewhere there will be some kind of affiliate link. We normally post a lot of the same things over and over. That’s another tip is that I didn’t know that it’s much better to post about the same types of things over and over than to post something different every time. So I think that in the past, I had the impression to post affiliate links every day, I would need to make a whole new shopping collage of all different items that I found from God knows where and it’ll take forever, and I’ll have to research them and find them. It’s so annoying and I don’t want to do it. It’s really not like that. It’s more like we have certain staples. We have are things we use in our office or things we wear or things we use for home stuff or things that are good for work or makeup, anything. Any kind of everyday thing. We post about it over and over and over all year long. The last tip is to actually use the LTK app, it is worth it. It’s an investment upfront of time. It feels like our first year, I’m not gonna lie like it felt like we were wasting some time on it but now that we’ve been doing it more than a year, it feels more than worth it. Over time it becomes its own source of income, its own plate because it’s like a shopping app. People will know that they can always go to that page for all your links. So it’s kind of just like a hub for all this work that you do throughout the year. It’s very worth it to use it. But I think that if you want to make affiliate money, you just need to consistently post about things that you really use and like throughout the year and just keep doing it and you will make money from it. The next question is how to stay true to your goals when you’re not seeing results yet. Anytime you start something like I have a lot of friends who have put their last couple years into Tic Tok and now it feels worth it to them, nothing feels worth it in the beginning, nothing. Like blogging, Instagram, any of these things are, you put in the year, and then maybe you start to see results. Even if you have an audience to start with, like our podcast, for example, we definitely put in like a year of making basically no money, and it was worth it. I actually love podcasting. But my advice is to give yourself a time limit of you don’t worry about results, like six months to a year, those are good amounts of time. A few weeks or a month, that to me is not enough for a major goal, like building a small business or building a new platform. You need six months to do that of consistent hard work.

Emma: I would also say like, especially in the beginning, you will need to kind of check-in on your progress, obviously. If you’re trying to build your blog, you’re trying to get those 100k page views. You’re going to be checking in on your blog back end or Google Analytics, whatever you’re using to track your pageviews and your metrics. So you’re going to be seeing that fairly often. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend not looking at it. But I understand that when you do and you’re not seeing the results you want, you’re going to feel discouraged. So what I would try to do is as much as you can try to change your mindset to one of just curiosity. Be like, oh, this performed better than I thought, I wonder why? Oh, this performed much worse than I thought, instead of feeling sad about that just say, oh, I wonder why. As much as you can, I know that surprise sounds like so like, oh well, that’s easy to do or well, that’s cheesy, I get it. But just try to change your mindset to total, just curiosity. Then I’d also say when you have those moments of discouragement, it’s okay to feel unsure of yourself. We all feel that. Elsie and I feel it all the time, you might look at us and think that we’ve arrived somewhere, I don’t know where you think we’ve arrived, but you might think that, but I promise you, we feel a lot of unsureness and not sure that the thing we’re doing is worth our time, not sure it’s going to work out. Do we look like idiots? Everybody goes through those feelings. It’s okay if you feel that, but don’t necessarily let those feelings derail you if you’re still in the period where you need to be letting something grow. You don’t need to feel bad for feeling that but don’t use it as anything actionable. It’s just for a while a feeling and then just let it come in your front door, and then leave. It’s not a houseguest that needs to live with you.

Elsie: That’s nice. I like that. The next question is kind of a similar thing, knowing when to press through and when to throw in the towel. So I think that this one, I think that we’re uniquely qualified to answer this question because we have quit a lot of businesses that we started. I think that knowing when to pivot and when to quit, when to let something go, instead of hanging on to it as like a part of your identity is a strength. I think that quitting too early, or somehow finding an excuse not to really put yourself out there and try in the first place that is like a tragedy. So it’s two very different things. It is hard to tell the difference. But I would say if you have been consistently working hard at something for more than a year, and you know that you have put in your best effort. You cannot find a path to make it into what you need it to be, like if you need it to be a job that makes money. You need it to grow this much more before you can do this milestone or whatever. If you know that, like that path sort of like isn’t there. You have already done all the steps, I’m not saying that you’re someone who’s done it for two months. You’re someone who’s done it more than a year, consistently, and put in your best, then I think it’s okay to be like, okay, that didn’t work, and to just move on and just let it go. Nothing is ever a waste even if you but sometimes when you can’t find a way to make money at something you do need to move on and pursue something else in a career sense. 

Emma: Yep, I would agree. 

Elsie: Social media boundaries. I want to grow my Instagram, I think this person was talking specifically about a business Instagram, but I don’t want it to be my whole life. So our Instagrams 100% are not our whole life. I don’t have boundary issues anymore at all with what I put on Instagram. I basically never put something on there that I regret and I don’t think you have to either. So it’s a myth that you have to share every bit of your day or you have to be on there all the time to grow. That’s not true. I think that you can definitely do it with a strategic 30 minutes or an hour a day, whatever you want to set aside and whatever you want to put into it. The most important thing is that you’re creating valuable content and you’re on there consistently. If you’re doing those things, it’ll probably grow. I think that feeling like you have to be some kind of a slave to it is a weakness, it’s not a strength.

Emma: I think too, like, this is just sort of a tip for boundaries, generally I suppose. but just set them ahead of time. Like, oh, I’m not going to post about my children, maybe that’s your boundary. It’s not for some people, maybe it is for you. Just set your boundary and then stick to it as best you can. There may be a time something has to kind of shift a little bit but just know what your things are, and then stick to them and then see how much you can grow within the parameters that you’ve set for yourself.

Elsie: Yeah, I completely agree with that. So how do you pay yourselves? Do you pay additional dividends, retirement, etc? How do you decide how much to pay yourself? Okay, I’ll let you explain this, Emma.

Emma: So Elsie and I work out A Beautiful Mess and the name of our business is Red Velvet Art, LLC. It’s not actually called A Beautiful Mess, that’s a DBA. We receive a salary, an annual salary that we pay all the normal taxes for as employees of our company. We have an S-Corp. We also receive owner draws so that’s dividends. I think those are essentially the same thing, although it’s possible, there’s a slight difference depending on how you file as a business so we have those. We also have retirement accounts as we’ve already mentioned in this episode. We have a group retirement account that all of our employees are welcome to join and they all have. Elsie and I are also in that retirement account and our company does a match for all of the employees including us so we also have that. At our other business, we do not work there full time. We don’t draw salaries. We only receive dividends based on profits. So if the profit goes down, we get less money. If the profit goes up, we potentially get more money unless we want to reinvest it, which we often do if we want our company to grow. So in a nutshell, that’s where it is. How do we decide those amounts? Really, how we decided it was we talked to our accountant who we have worked with, from really the very beginning and we’re very good friends with him, and we trust him. So it’s a trusted adviser who basically has more knowledge and experience in this area than we do.

Elsie: Okay, so we have a listener question. Oh, this has nothing to do with business. Alright, so we’re moving on now. It is, what are your favorite TV shows of all time? What a question! What a great question.

Emma: I really have one top of all time favorite TV show. I have other ones that I love and rewatch, but I really have one. That’s like my number one. rewatch it all the time, love it so much, really need to buy some merch. Okay, and it’s Bob’s Burgers.

Elsie: Yeah, I know you were gonna say that when you said the merch. 

Emma: They have a movie coming out this year and I’m so excited. I love Bob’s Burgers.

Emma: I’ve never even watched it before because you know, I like don’t like adult cartoons. 

Emma: It’s so sweet. It’s so wholesome and so funny. I love it so much.

Elsie: Okay, I love TV. I love TV. But I find this question very intimidating because like, of all time, that’s just a lot. But I will say, of course, my favorite comedy of all time has to be The Office, The American Office because it is great. We do watch it pretty consistently. If I had to pick one favorite drama of all time, I’m gonna go with Madmen, because I just have to. I could probably do like a top 10. Tell me if you guys are into that and I’ll come back with that but I’ll have to agonize a little bit. My favorite TV show that is still airing is a tie is The Handmaid’s Tale and Better Call Saul like dramas. Then my favorite comedy that is still airing is the Righteous Gemstones. So I think I narrowed that down to like five. 

Emma: That’s pretty good. 

Elsie: Which the new season is so good. Well, thanks so much for listening. Join us next week for our cliche advice episode. It’s going to be so much fun. We’re going through all of the most often repeated common advice mantras and you can give them a thumbs up or a big thumbs down. See you next week.

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