Hi there! When we do any kind of Q+A we always get a LOT of business and money questions, so today we are devoting a whole episode to these topics! In true Emma and Elsie fashion, we couldn’t stop dishing advice, so the episode turned out pretty long! We hope you enjoy it!
–Here’s a link to Emma’s new blogging course, which is pretty much exclusive to podcast guests since it hasn’t officially launched yet! Use code ‘earlybird’ for 50% off!
-And if you’re interested, here’s a link to Emma’s 5-day blog challenge (it’s totally free!)
-Link to more blog advice posts: Business advice for our younger selves, 5 ways to treat your blog more like a business, How I still love blogging after 12 years, Our top 12 posts about blogging, Our app story.
Thanks so much to this episode’s sponsors Calm and Issuu! We’re so excited to partner and share more about these awesome companies with you. Our sponsors help support our podcast, so be sure to check them and their great offers for our listeners out!
Episode 63 Transcript
Elsie: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess podcast. This week, we’re doing a listener AMA on the topics of business and money. We’re going to rapid fire about 20 questions. We love sharing business secrets and we truly believe it’s one of the ways we can contribute is to be generous and open with our business advice. If you didn’t already know, we own two successful companies, blah, blah, blah. Not to brag (laughs) that we built from scratch. And guess what? It’s not all roses, but we truly believe that anyone can have the same success as us on your own paths. All right. So we have around 20 questions and we’re just going to, like, blow through these questions and give you all kinds of advice. We zig we zag, right, Emma? (laughs)
Emma: Yeah. And we’re going to try not to do too many disclaimers. And also, it is kind of weird to talk about business and money. I always start to get a little, uh, just feeling like I have a big head or like I’m bragging or like I’m making someone else feel weird by talking about my own opinion or my own, I don’t know, success?
Elsie: And to be fair, you might be right. That’s like always in the back of our minds. But let’s just consider this a safe space where we’re just talking with friends really openly….
Emma: Right. Well, where I was going with it was a little bit that I do think maybe I have fallen into — maybe no one else does this — but maybe I have fallen into the trap of, you know, it’s not good to talk about business or money, especially if you’re a woman. And I just hope that us trying our best to be open about what we know, which isn’t like, you know, we know some things, but by no means do we know everything. So you’ll see. But I hope that it encourages more women and also anybody to be bold in the things you want in life and to be proud of what you’ve built and what you’ve done. You know, because sometimes I want to minimize my own achievements. And I think that that’s a bad way to go about life. But it’s something I struggle with. So maybe people do, too. I don’t know.
Elsie: I think so. I definitely think it’s an awkward place to be in as a woman. And so let’s just do it.
Elsie: Yeah, we can do it. OK, so we collected questions from Instagram and we’ll just kind of like go back and forth, read the questions?
Emma: Yeah, let’s try it. All right, cool. So the first one is “I want a financial adviser, but I can’t afford it. Any books on investing or stocks?” So we have you on this one. So one of the books I just read said, like, the greatest little line that I really, like, hung on to. It was “by the time you know enough to pick a good financial adviser, you know, enough that you don’t need one.” And pretty much the three books have all kind of said the same thing, that you need to learn these basic things. You can learn them from these three books. You’ll be like a little mini expert by the time you finish these three books and you can totally do it. You don’t need, like, someone with a tie to explain it to you.
Emma: No. Tie optional.
Elsie: Tie optional. OK, so the books are I Will Teach You To Be Rich, The Simple PPath to Wealth and Work Optional, and we will link them all in the show notes. I’ve read them all within the last year and they’re all worth it. And they all give similar advice with different emphasis.
Emma: These three books are awesome, but also there’s lots of books you can check out. And I think that is the number one way to kind of get past feeling intimidated about certain things in your life, which it could be your financial life. It could be owning a business, it could be maybe marriage, it could be maybe parenting. If there’s any area of your life where you’re wanting to grow or you’re wanting to learn more, go to the library if yours is open and get a book or get on whatever bookstore you like to shop on online, Amazon, whatever else, and buy a book. I think that’s a really good way to start to learn the lingo and just educate yourself. I’ve been reading financial books since like late high school, early college. Started with Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman. And I think it’s a lifelong learning thing that you have to kind of get into because nobody’s born knowing about 401K plans so…(laughs)
Elsie: Absolutely! It’s a fun hobby, learning all this stuff.
Elsie: I’ve really enjoyed it.
Emma: Mmhmm. Be curious.
Elsie: Yes, love it. Next question?
Emma: How has covid-19 affected your business.
Elsie: Oh man. So, for A Beautiful Mess we actually already all worked from home except for one person who now works from home.
Emma: Yeah. (laughs)
Elsie: And for our app company everyone formerly worked in an office, so I think it was a lot hard…
Emma: …on the business side.
Elsie: Yes, I think it was a lot harder of a transition for the people who were working in an office. For us, it’s been pretty seamless because we already kind of had a flow. A lot of us already had our workspaces, you know, set up and ready to go, and we’ve been fortunate, like we haven’t had to do any layoffs, and we have I mean, we’ve worked really hard also to protect our employees, fortunately we weren’t, you know, restaurant owners or some of the people who really had to go through pure hell this year.
Elsie: So, yeah, it’s definitely been like a struggle time, but we’ve kind of just adapted and shifted and tried to keep doing what’s still working and not worry about what’s not working right now. Just kind of like sidestep it.
Emma: Yeah, just get through it. But then I think we’ve mentioned this on other episodes, but our short term rental businesses…
Elsie: Oh yeah…
Emma: Which we kind of just started that in 2018, 2019. So really kind of the worst time that you could have started it. If, you know, if we had had a crystal ball, boy that would have been useful.
Emma: But yeah. So Elsie already sold her Florida house her BnB that she had in Florida.
Elsie: I did. So sad. But it really was the right choice for me.
Emma: Mm hmm. And we’re kind of looking into that with some of our other properties, too. I never like to announce that until something’s like finalized just because I, I’m I’m a little superstitious. I’m a little ‘stitious. (laughs)
Emma: But yeah, I think that area of our business has been, you know, not as good and kind of a drag. And, you know, we were so excited about it and we started it at a really tough time. Hindsight. Yeah, that’s how things go.
Elsie: Anything that’s like a travel industry affected business is really hurting this year. And yeah, AirBnB is definitely not great.
Emma: Maybe some areas, but ours haven’t done as well because our Florida ones are…really the big draw is all the parks, and that’s really — they were closed a huge part of the year. I’m not even sure they’re open now. I think they might be but there’s restrictions.
Elsie: They’re open.
Emma: So, you know, but a lot of people still don’t even want to go, which I understand for sure. So it’s just a strange, you know, situation on that front.
Elsie: Yeah, it’s stuff it has affected us. Yeah. But luckily our online businesses are online already, so that’s been good.
Emma: But we are fairly…we really believe in diversifying. That’s like a big thing in all areas of our businesses. We don’t like to rely on just one income stream. And this is exactly the reason why, because you never know when something strange is going to happen, like covid-19 or other things.
Elsie: No one could have known.
Emma: No, no one. No one knew, no one could have known. So, you know, trying to have different ways to make income for us is like a safety net. And I think this year, some of that has kind of saved us, which has been really lucky, and also something that we did work on. But I also want to recognize that it’s hard work and luck and we’re really grateful, you know, for what we have because this year sucks, so.
Elsie: Oh, does it ever. OK, “Would love tips when first starting out low income personal finance stuff.” So I love this question because we started out super low income.
Emma: Slash NO income. (laughs)
Elsie: Like I know for sure we were in the poverty line at certain points.
Elsie: In our twenties and then you know, we’ve grown now to be successful. So, OK, we can each give a tip. How’s that sound?
Emma: OK, yeah.
Elsie: OK. My tip is when you, when you’re low income and you like you are struggling just to pay your next bill, like it’s obvious to you what’s essential and what’s not. But as you grow through the years, especially if something happens where your financial situation changes really quickly, it can be like kind of confusing what to spend money on and what not to. So my tip is, if you’ve grown up without much money, you haven’t learned the skills of how to spend. So spend some time thinking about what’s really important to you. And like, that’s what I wish I would have done more in my late 20s is like spend more time thinking about like what are my priorities and what are my goals? Because I think that I…it took me some time to realize what that was.
Emma: Yeah. Yeah. And I think I guess the tip I would give when you’re first kind of starting out or feeling like you’re at that starting place, wherever that is in your life. First I would get rid of any debt as much as you can, especially anything that has a high-interest rate or that feels like it’s suffocating you and anyone who’s been in that type of debt, I think you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Emma: Where it’s just climbing and climbing and you can’t, you know, get past it. So, and make that a big goal in your life. And I feel like sometimes that doesn’t feel very exciting. Like people are like I want to build a business, but it’s like make that in your own heart, in your own mind. An exciting goal to get that debt out of your life because you’re going to feel so much better and your mindset is going to change. After that. I would then work on what I would consider basics and a safety net, so this is having an emergency fund, so if you get laid off or if you don’t have income for six months, you’re going to be able to pay all your basic bills, rent, mortgage, if you have one, being able to buy groceries, so on and so forth, having health insurance. If you’re outside of the U.S., this isn’t going to apply to you. But, you know, in the US, we’re kind of in charge of our own health insurance. And if you become really ill, that can cause major debt in your life. And you also don’t want to be going through that when you’re also very ill. So, you know, getting that in place and then, you know, building up kind of the basics is really…I just feel like some of that stuff is not very sexy. It’s not very exciting.
Elsie: None of that is sexy.
Emma: But you got to make it sexy for yourself, because when you’re starting out, those are the things that are really you’re going to fall back on whenever you start to do the sexy stuff that’s a little more higher risk. Like if you want to start a business or if you want to take on some debt because you’re going to flip a house or, you know, whatever is going to happen in your life, that stuff’s cool. I love stuff with some risk, but you’ve got to have the basics and the safety net all in place first.
Elsie: Beautiful advice, Emma.
Emma: Get a safety net if you want to be a trapeze artist. Step one. (laughs)
Emma: Yeah, OK, this person asks, how are you saving for retirement?
Elsie: OK, so we have our own case through our business. If you are an employee and you have a 401k plan at your business and you haven’t signed up yet, do it right away.
Emma: Especially if there’s a match.
Elsie: Yes, if there’s a match, it’s like free money. So cool.
Emma: It’s an immediate raise. You just don’t get to use the money today. So, yeah.
Elsie: And it really adds up over time so you can make your own 401K or a lot of people’s employers provide one. So that’s a great…
Emma: And there’s actually a couple options. It can be a 401k. You can also do an IRA or a Roth IRA. If you don’t know the difference, Google it or speak to a financial advisor. I feel like I have to reteach myself this over and over again because it’s one of those things that basically has to do with when you’re going to pay the taxes on this money, you know, so it’s it lets your money grow tax-free or you pay it now or you pay it later. And it’s really, in my opinion, as long as you’re saving for retirement, and especially if your employer offers some kind of match, any of these options are good. So doing something is better than nothing. But yeah, Google it and pick one. OK, sorry I interrupted you.
Emma: So 401K the company has it.
Elsie: Each month you know, a little bit of our paychecks go into this and it started off pretty small. And we get statements, you know, like I don’t know, every six months or so and it’s like amazing. Like every year, a couple of years it grows like quite a bit like it’ll double and stuff like that. I highly recommend that as a start for your retirement.
Emma: Yep. And after that you can do more investments, like if you have goals where you want to retire early. That’s part of The Simple Path to Wealth and really other books. But as Elsie mentioned that book earlier, it’s very much about like building up basically your stocks account so that you could live off of it and kind of retire early if you want. Some people are interested in that. Some people like if you own your own business like we do, I don’t know if we’re going to retire early, slash retire ever unless we were forced to do it for health reasons. But I do think we might kind of ebb and flow on our income and it will give us the freedom to be like, hey, we’re kind of doing this more for fun now because our income’s kind of taken care of.
Elsie: Having the option…
Emma: Like in our sixties.
Elsie: …to take off for a couple of years or even just. Yeah, like take a long vacation. Like, that’s something I dream of doing with my daughters when they’re little older. Having options is always good. Yes. OK, let’s take a quick sponsor break before we keep answering questions.
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Best tips for making blogging my full-time income. All right. So first of all, we will put a link in the show notes. But Emma has a brand new E-course about blogging it’s very thorough. It’s a great thing to dive into if you’re interested in learning a lot really quickly.
Emma: Yes, I have been putting my heart and soul into this course, and I really wanted it to be packed with a ton of information, but no fluff because I feel like this year nobody has time for that. So it’s like, this is just going to help you go from zero to 60. It’s all the best advice that I have from our decades of blogging. And I still really believe blogging is a great way to make side-income or full-time income. So, yeah, I feel like this is turning into a commercial, but I can’t really give all the advice in like one minute, you know, podcast Q&A. So I didn’t really want to put it out there like we have this course.
Elsie: So I’ll just say one little thing, first of all. OK, so the one tip that I give my friends when they ask me if it’s worth it to start a blog now or not is it’s not worth it unless you’re willing to do it every day, every couple of days for the next year. Are you willing to do that or not? Yes or no? And be honest, if you’re like I, I’m hoping to blog for a month and then start making an income, don’t even start like it’s not for you if that’s your attitude. Like, so that’s like my like, cutthroat really honest advice.
Emma: I mean, it’s a business, it’s a small business.
Elsie: It’s a business. And you do have to put in the work upfront. You don’t have to put in a lot of money up front. You can build your own website. You can do a lot of things for free, but it’s a lot of work. And the the people that we know who have had a lot of success in blogging, they work on a plan, they work on a schedule and they stay focused on that. It’s not like what you feel like. You wake up that day and you blog about you feel like blogging that day, like, you know, it’s not 2007 anymore. (laughs) It’s, people work on an editorial schedule and it really doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time. But the planning is essential.
Emma: Yes. Yeah. And I talk about that a little bit. There is a free, completely free five day challenge where I give tips every single day.
Elsie: Let’s put the link to that in the show.
Emma: It’s an email. You sign up, it’s a newsletter or email or whatever. And one of them is about bach working. So it’s a great way to and this applies to a lot of areas, not just blogging, but it gives you ideas for how to better batch work so that you can get a lot done quickly, because a lot of people are either trying to build this as a side thing or maybe their kids are home this year. So they have limited work hours, you know, so on and so forth. So knowing how to batch work like a pro is really beneficial, I think, for anyone. So five days of free tips — you can sign up for that, too, if you’re like not in the course, but just give me the free tips. We got it! Going into real estate. What advice do you have? Oh, that’s really general. OK.
Elsie: I know like I don’t know what people mean when they say, like, I’m going into real estate, but if it means I’m going to buy my first second home or second property, that’s what I’m going to assume it means.
Emma: OK, so you think they either already own their home or they’re not interested in owning a personal home?
Elsie: I would think so.
Emma: And this is just investment. OK, yeah, I think that makes sense.
Elsie: I would think so. So I actually think Emma will have better advice. So I’m just going to give my little quickie based on like I’ve bought a couple AirBnB properties and that’s my whole experience. But I would just say do the math, make sure you factor in all the cost, especially if you’re going to do an AirBnB it’s going to cost like for us, it’s usually about twenty thousand dollars or so to furnish each project. That’s a lot of money, you know, that you have to pay up front. It’s…and even like if you anyway, maybe there’s a way to do it cheaper. But a lot of times there’s not, especially if you want to go quickly, I think that just factor in all the cost and make sure that it’s really, truly an investment. I think that real estate, like at least how I got into it, I was like, this is fun for me. I’m interested in it. But in the end, I’ve ended up selling a couple of my properties and just investing in boring, unsexy things because I realize, like I’m a mom and it’s actually like taking up a lot of time and not making that much money. So I, I won’t say I’m not going to lie to you. It’s not that glamorous. It’s not that profitable unless you, you know, have good money. And then sometimes it’s like the things I’ve heard about that make people like this crazy money, it’s like buying like strip malls and stuff. It’s like really unsexy.
Emma: Hmmm…strip malls.
Elsie: It’s not like fun, cute little BnBs.
Emma: It’s like offices or like little shops. Like a strip mall or…
Elsie: I guess what I’m trying to say is that I feel like we made it look so cool to, like, buy houses and make AirBnBs and now I’m afraid that, like, we gave people the wrong advice because of covid and because actually, well, out of all the things we’ve done in life for money, it’s not at the top of what’s done well for us.
Emma: Yeah, and other than short term rentals, which you guys all know about, my first home that I ever bought when I was twenty five or twenty six, it’s a three bedroom, two bathroom I’ve talked about in previous episodes. We kept owning it and we’ve had it as a long term rental for I guess like five years now, something like that ever since we moved to our other home. So I have that experience too. And I think long term rentals can be a good investment for some people. It really depends on your market. It really depends like how much you’re willing to invest and how the money shakes out basically in the market you’re in, or if you’re choosing to buy in a different market, like if you’re using like roof stock or something like that or just you have access to buying properties and markets you don’t live in. So, yeah, I mean, I don’t it’s not one of those things I really feel confident recommending just generally because I feel like I just don’t know, like where you live and where you’re at in life. But for me, that made sense at the time and it’s been a good investment and our house is being paid off over time. We definitely do have to check in on it. We have a management company and we definitely do you know, you have like costs, like if things break or we have a renter and their dog breaks the fence and you have to repair it, of course, because you don’t want their dog to get out all the time, you know, so you have like things you have to keep up with.
Elsie: Just owning houses generally has hidden costs.
Elsie: Like on our Florida houses like, how many times do we have to replace the pool pumps and things like that, you know? And we only owned it for a year. (laughs)
Emma: And I’m like, I don’t even really know anything about pools because I’m from Missour and I don’t have one (laughs) so I don’t know.
Elsie: Yeah. So our advice is, be very careful with that one.
Emma: Do it if you want, but it probably takes more time than you think.
Emma: And yeah. And that’s fine if you’re into it. But if you’re like, oh I really just want something completely simple and like well maybe do stocks then because it’s a little more hands off. But yeah. OK, do you and Elsie pay yourselves a salary. And how did you decide how much?
Elsie: Actually our accountant decided for us.
Emma: Yes he did.
Elsie: So, we have an accountant we love and trust. He’s been with us since we were broke ass, you know, little children basically. And he was he started off as a small business accountant when he was also much younger. And…(laughs)
Emma: We’ve known him a long time. Jason!
Elsie: Yeah. Now that we’ve grown together through the years. Yeah, he’s someone we trust. And so the way we do it in our business is very like tax advice based. So we pay ourselves the biggest salary that you can to be in, is it like, to be in like a certain tax bracket? You explain it — I don’t know.
Emma: It’s because you pay certain taxes on full time income as an employer. So we do pay ourselves a salary at A Beautiful Mess, Elsie, and I do not pay ourselves a salary at our other business, A Color Story, we also receive owner draws from time to time if the businesses do well and if they don’t, we don’t receive them. (laughs) So, um, yeah. And here’s how I would think of it: So one, if you don’t have an accountant who you trust, I would get one. Just I know it costs money…
Elsie: One million percent.
Emma: I know it can take time. I really, really, really do recommend it though. Unless you yourself are an accountant, OK. Or if your dad is or your mom is or something like that. But I would think of it like runway. So whether you’re thinking about paying yourself a salary or your team or both, depending on where you’re at in your business, think about how much money do I have in my business checking account or business savings account. However you hold your cash, however you hold your liquid assets. How like I would like to have…to me, I think it makes a lot of sense to have about six month’s. Runway so I could pay salaries for six months if I stopped making money today. If we just everything dried up, I could still pay salaries for six months. And the reason I like to do that is because it gives you, you know, runway like a plane landing where you can figure something else out. So if the money dries up in certain areas, you can hopefully figure something out and still keep paying people or paying yourself. And if not, you still have some time to be like, all right, we’re going to have to kind of end this and it’s going to take money to end it. And it’s you know, I’m going to need to fulfill some promises I’ve made or bills that I might have outstanding or whatever. So I would do it based on that. So if you’re starting to pay yourself a salary, think about runway. Think about like, how much do I have in my business checking, business savings and start there. I also think, you know, you kind of have to think about what’s a living wage in the area that you live in, and once you start hiring people, you absolutely have to think about what’s a living wage in the area that your employees live in. Also, obviously, there’s laws about minimum wage. You want to know those, but hopefully you’ll be able to offer something that’s maybe even better than that so that you can get the best people and you should be one of those best people who gets paid well at your business. But, yeah, I would start there thinking about thinking of it like a runway.
Elsie: Nice. Good advice. Ok, the next question is, what’s your advice on starting an Etsy shop? So my advice on starting any type of business is the same. You need to like sit down with your calculator, with your pen and paper and really think about how much money you can make before anything else. I think that that’s the most important thing, because I think that…
Emma: So you want to think about the cost of your materials.
Emma: How much time it’s going to take you to make it.
Elsie: How much output can you realistically do.
Emma: Shipping materials and how much time it will take for you to ship it or someone else? Because that’s when I feel like it’s easy to forget.
Emma: Like packaging boxes.
Elsie: I think that in the maker universe there is a lot of like it’s like a lot of people don’t go in with a plan and then they have like they have the most success they can, and they realize like that they’re capped right on either how much they can output with their own two hands or how much they can realistically ship or realistically keep in their garage or whatever other thing. So I think choosing something that you have a chance to grow, if it does well, is an important step in the very beginning of any business.
Emma: Yeah, I agree. Being able to scale it beyond just yourself, potentially.
Elsie: We started off with an Etsy shop, so it was like a very happy but scary time in my life. Like I lost a job and I was kind of just making ends meet with, like staying up late at night making paintings. And I definitely learned all these lessons the hard way. So that’s where this is coming from.
Emma: I did her customer service and shipping! (laughs) So I know about packaging boxes. So I was like, let’s Henry Ford this assembly line here.
Elsie: Yeah, Emma like kind of worked for me when she was in college. It was. It’s so funny.
Emma: Yeah. You were like, hey, would you quit the pizza place and just do my Etsy shop? And I was like, if you pay me the same as the pizza place. Yeah.
Elsie: Oh God, that’s so cute. (laughs) OK, I love it. Next question. Are you ready?
Emma: Yes. In your experience, what qualities and approaches make for good team leadership? Oh, so how to be a good leader is what? The question is a great question.
Elsie: So in a A Beautiful Mess, we’re really proud of how we manage our team, how we hire. We have employees we’ve had for almost ten years now. Like it’s…
Elsie: Some of them. Yeah, it’s a — we’re proud of what we’ve done because, you know, it’s…
Emma: I learn something every year.
Elsie: Yes. And like, my advice is…the thing that the thing that’s been really valuable to us is finding people who are self sufficient self starters, who can work on their own, who can be reliable and consistent and can like have their list of goals and complete them, because managing — a lot of people don’t know when they start a business that managing people can take up your whole week. And if you still want to do creative roles in your company, which most of us do, that’s going to really mess with your output. So finding people who are self starters is absolutely essential if you want to have employees, but you also want to have a creative role in your company.
Emma: Yeah, being able to thrive in a minimal management atmosphere. That’s like one of my interview questions always.
Emma: So that and I’d also say on the flip side of that, as a leader, you do have to take time for your team. So if you’re unwilling to do that at all, you may need to just work alone, because it’s not just…you do have to provide feedback. You need to sometimes be critical, but also professional and respectful. You need to say when something’s not working, and you need to do it as immediately as you can so that it doesn’t go on and on and on. And then people feel weird, like they feel like you’ve been thinking this for a while and you didn’t say it or something to that effect so that. You also need to take time. I think this is part of being a good leader. You need to take time out of your day to tell people when they’re doing a great job and to tell people that you appreciate them and to find your own way to let people know that…Elsie I always do this, like there’s this like Don Draper thing from Mad Men where…what’s the character’s name? She works for him.
Elsie: Peggy Olson.
Emma: Peggy. Peggy’s like, you never say thank you, and he’s like, that’s what the money is for! And that’s like not how to be a boss, because…
Elsie: Emma says that all the time. (laughs)
Emma: Yeah…that’s what the money is for! (laughs) It’s like that’s exactly not a good way to be a leader. You don’t because yes, of course, you should pay your employees and you should pay them well. And if you can, offer benefits. Absolutely. But I think actually having professional boundaries but still caring about them and helping them to succeed is a part of being a boss. And if you don’t want to take the time to do that, you just aren’t cut out to be a boss.
Elsie: It’s true. Humans need to be seen. They need to be appreciated. And that’s definitely something we’ve learned along the way managing.
Emma: Yeah, and it takes time and communication is hard for everyone. So there’s always more to learn in those areas. But yeah, and I think it’s really exciting. I get a lot more done because I have an amazing team, so it’s 100 percent worth it. But there are times it’s kind of confusing and you don’t know if you’re doing it right or you thought you communicated well and then you realized you didn’t and you have to go back and try again, you know, so that’s part of it, too. And if you don’t have the time to do that, then you’re going to have to either make it or not be a leader, one or the other. So, yeah,
Elsie: OK, let’s take a quick break for an ad.
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Who are your business life role models and what have you learned from them? OK, so…
Emma: I have one, but I think I’m going to say a second.
Elsie: OK, so I…
Emma: I mean, I have a lot but…
Elsie: So yeah, I had my friend Ting on before, on a couple of episodes and he’s definitely my mentor in business and a little of in life too, because I do aspire to have a more Lucy Goosey schedule in my future. Like that’s something that…
Emma: Do you?!
Elsie: He has in his life that is a value to him and I think it’s a value to me that I would like to have someday. You know, it’s just the ability to be like, OK, this week I’m going to go visit my grandma, OK? This week I’m going to spend a lot of time with my friend who’s going through a hard time.
Elsie: Things like that. Yeah. And when you’re an entrepreneur with a lot of responsibility, that’s not always possible.
Elsie: So I think one of the things I’ve learned from him, well I’ve learned a lot of like good money tips, big wins, big picture, you know, not like, I think that as…maybe it’s my personality type, maybe it’s my conditioning, maybe it’s being a woman. But I think that I like focused on small things too much in the past. And now I’m learning to focus on the big ones. Yes.
Emma: Yes. Yeah, yeah. I think focusing on the big wins is a difficult mindset shift sometimes, and it’s really fun. Yeah, Ting is an amazing person, so I’m glad you mentioned him. Oh, I’m going to mention someone who’s more famous. Sorry, Ting.
Elsie: More famous.
Emma: Yes, I know, but really I probably have a lot. But one person I want to mention is Martha Stewart. As you can probably imagine, we idolize her. Obviously, sometimes when I very quickly am trying to explain my job to someone who doesn’t know what blogs are, I’m like, we’re Internet Martha Stewart’s kind of.
Elsie: Oh, my God. You say that?!
Emma: Yeah, I do.
Elsie: Oh my god I’m so embarassed! (laughs)
Emma: I know. I know. I say a lot of pretty braggy, pretty braggy shit now and again. It’s just shorthand! People know who she is! It’s shorthand. (laughs) And I don’t know Martha Stewart personally. Maybe someone who works for her would have a story that they would like to share. I don’t know. But here’s one thing that I admire about her. Does anyone remember the time that she got in trouble and had to go to federal prison (laughs). I do.
Elsie: Raises hand.
Emma: Raises hand! And she wrote a book about it afterwards.
Elsie: In prison.
Emma: Oh that’s right she wrote the book in prison. And here’s what I think is really inspiring about that, anyone going through any kind of life, including owning businesses, is going to have times where bad things happen, where maybe you messed up or maybe something crazy happened like covid-19 and you ruined all your great plans. Who knows? But I think it’s really inspiring to watch someone get completely knocked down and keep going, because I think that’s really what it takes to have success more than any other time.
Elsie: Like, I don’t know if you all remember when Martha went to prison, but people were talking like it was the end of her career and her reputation forever. And now we all know that it wasn’t.
Emma: She was like, nah, I think I’ll do a show with Snoop Dogg in 20 years. (laughs)
Elsie: I think I’ll write my 95th book soon, like, that’s like literally what happened afterwards. So I think. Yeah, sorry I took over your story. (laughs)
Emma: No, no, I think that’s it. (laughs) It’s just like, you know, you get knocked down and you keep going. And I think that that is any time I see her…
Elsie: I admire that about her also.
Emma: …endlessly inspiring whenever people do that, because it’s hard, it’s embarrassing. Whenever you fail, it’s embarrassing if you messed up. And it sometimes has big consequences, like for Martha having to go to federal prison. Right. But I think not giving up and not saying, well, that was it for me. I’ll never have anything else, I think is a really interesting attitude and takes the pretty steely mindset. And I hope that I can aspire myself to that at times whenever I get knocked down, because it’s going to happen to all of us in some way.
Elsie: Right. It’s not over!
Emma: It’s not over. Unless you give up, then it’s over. Is it necessary to have a professionally built website or can I do it myself? That’s the question.
Elsie: All right. So one of the other questions in our Q&A that I didn’t put on here was like, how much is it cost to have, like, a nice, like, professionally made blog you don’t even want to know! Is the answer. Like seriously…
Emma: How much money do you have is probably the question you’ll get asked if you… (laughs)
Elsie: Yeah, it’s not uncommon that it could be like 20 grand.
Elsie: So ugh, yes, you can make it yourself. There are all kinds of templates all over Etsy, like Google it and just Google blog templates and you’ll find a hundred websites with cute reasonably priced blog templates. Like maybe you have to pay one hundred dollars or something.
Elsie: But it’s affordable and it’s worth it and it will take you seventy-five percent of the way.
Emma: And then Emma and I, we both learned our little basic coding from having our MySpace pages. (laughs) Learning things like that is fun. I would just say it’s fun and it’s worth it. Spend a weekend and try to make your own website and you will be surprised what you can do. You don’t have to pay twenty thousand dollars unless you just want to, but please don’t.
Elsie: No, not for your first one. Just do it yourself and then like get into the group of blogging and then as you have more money, you reinvest it into making it better. You can do it yourself. Our first blogs were all built ourselves, actually. Like sometimes I would like text my friends and be like, can you do this whole big thing for me? And they unfortunately say yes. So I mean, yeah, be scrappy, don’t be ashamed of it. Start your business the scrappy way.
Emma: Never be ashamed to be scrappy.
Elsie: Is going into debt to start your business a bad idea. So I’ll just give the short answer. Ninety five percent of the time, yes, it’s a bad idea. There are certain businesses where it it would just have to, you know, like there’s certain businesses where it would make sense, but for the most part, don’t go into debt to start a business, find one that you can start with whatever amount of money you have, even if it’s five hundred dollars.
Emma: Yeah. Our general mindset on risk. So risk it to me is kind of similar to saying going into debt, is you should risk things that you can lose and it’s not going to ruin your whole life. Like when we started our app company. I think we’ve shared this on this podcast before. So just quickly, when we started our app company we had gotten a two book deal with our blogging company and we got an advance for that. And we spent the entire advance building our first app. And because we had an app idea and we wanted to try that into us, we knew that that was money that we could afford to completely lose. If no one downloaded our app or just totally bombed, we could afford to lose that money because we hadn’t I don’t think we’d even like put it in our account yet. Like, we know we had gotten a deal. We’d signed the contract and we knew how much money it was…
Elsie: It was worth our little gamble at that time.
Emma: Yeah, we knew we had other money to pay ourselves to keep blogging and to do the books that we were going to do. And we just use the advance on that. So it was money that we could lose. And I think that luckily the apps worked out and we have a whole nother company about it. But if it hadn’t, we wouldn’t have been bankrupt. We wouldn’t have been in a bad place with our business and with our livelihood. And I think that’s kind of a better way, a safer way to go about it, unless you’re just. Independently wealthy, in which case I don’t even know why you would listen to us, because we don’t know what your life is like.
Elsie: So definitely not. Ok, so the next question was how much money would you risk on a new business adventure and business venture? (laughs) Business adventure! And I feel like Emma just kind of answered that, like only risk what you can afford to lose and it won’t ruin your life or hurt your life, damage you in a way that you know is too painful, like plan on losing it, obviously, like you’re hoping not to. You’re hoping to make a lot more, but definitely like be risks, only something that you’re OK with losing. Yeah, it happens. You know, like we’ve lost money on things and lots and lots and lots of our friends have most people who start an app don’t make their money back, you know, and other retail ventures, lots of things like that. You know, it’s it’s OK. Like it happens.
Emma: Oh, yeah, it happens.
Elsie: All right. The next question.
Emma: OK, what boundaries have you set up to keep work and life separate when you’re working from home?
Elsie: All right. I love this question. This is one that we get a lot. And I feel like we’re kind of pros at working from home. Like we…
Emma: If I’m a pro at anything…(laughs)
Elsie: We’ll give you a great pep talk. If you’re just starting working from home, set up your own space, leave…when you finish for the night, here’s what I do like. I have my little office. I leave my computer in there unless I’m going to bring it out to do something fun, leave my computer in there. You know, I turn off the light, I leave all my notes there and it’s just all there the next morning. So I think that you really do have to just train yourself. And it’s hard at first and it takes time that unless it’s an emergency, you’re just not going to work after a certain hour of the night. You’re just not going to work on the weekends. Like, I will occasionally work on a kid’s nap on the weekends.
Elsie: But like but that’s about it. Honestly, unless it’s an emergency, I’m not going to spend my whole weekend working. And that’s like part of, you know, my life as a mom and having a boundary so you can set those up. It’s a habit that you have to form over time. So be a little bit of a hard ass at first and then it becomes routine.
Emma: Yeah. And if you’re finding that you’re having a emergency every single weekend, then take some time to evaluate that, because that sounds like there might be something kind of broken or it might be time to hire someone or outsource something to a freelancer or change the way that you do something. You know, it just sounds like maybe there needs to be some evaluation there. And if you have really limited space, like you’re like, I don’t have my own room to have an office, that sounds great, but I just don’t have that option, then get creative. It could be you buy a little folding card table and you set that up in the morning and you work, work, work, and then you’ll fold it up and you put it in a closet at the end of the day. And I know that probably sounds so. It makes me think of, this is going to sound crazy, I think. But when Mr. Rogers walks into his house and changes his shoes, you know, as a child, now it’s time to play. Now it’s time to hang out. Now it’s time to be home. And in the same way, I think when you work from home, you need these little mental things that make you say, now I’m working. Now I’m not working.
Elsie: I honestly think that’s great advice. For years, Jeremy and I would do this like Friday night. We went to this same dive bar right at five p.m. every Friday for like three or four years…
Emma: Cheese fries!
Elsie: Yeah, and we…and it was with other people who also worked from home. And it was all of our way of like signaling weakened in our brains.
Elsie: So if you need to do a little one of those each day and to start your workday like, you know, I like going to my office every morning with my coffee and, you know…
Emma: Yeah, it’s like time to start.
Elsie: …do the same couple of things to start my morning, you know, check the email, the slack, whatever it is, you know. So you can do it. Just don’t be hard on yourself and remember that you need to pick your boundaries and then you need to create them over time. It’s a habit. It’s formed. It’s not like a one time thing that you decide. It’s something that you what…
Emma: It’s like a ritual.
Elsie: It’s a yeah. It’s a ritual that you have to do over and over before it’ll feel…
Emma: Real and meaningful.
Elsie: Intuitive. Yeah. Yeah.
Emma: Some things grow meaning over time. Yeah. All right. Moving on.
Elsie: Do you invest in stock. How, in which company. OK, so I just did this so I can answer it.
Emma: Elsie is pretty hyped.
Elsie: I am so hyped.
Emma: Did you write this question?
Elsie: I’m so proud about it because…
Emma: Yeah you should be!
Elsie: I’ve been spending the whole year learning, you know, from these three books. We already put the books in the show notes. You’ve already heard it, so I won’t repeat them again. But they all give basically the same advice. So the stock thing that I’m doing is the Vanguard Total Market Index fund. And all it is, is a way to invest in the total stock market, you know, a little bit of each company all at once, so when the market goes up, it’ll go up and when it goes down, it will go down. And over time it’s supposed to be, you know, in a rocky way, always going up. So there’s some sense of security, you know, unless the world goes to hell, in which case we’re all F-U-C-K-E-D anyway!
Emma: Yeah, it’s walking dead time if that happens.
Elsie: So anyway yeah, that’s the thing and they basically all recommend Vanguard. So I’ll just say Vanguard is the one. Next question.
Emma: Love it.
Elsie: What is the one thing that really catapulted your business to the next level? Ok, I love this question because I feel like we have such a passionate answer. It really is a lot of little things.
Elsie: Everyone always wants to know, like people ask, like, where did most of your money come from? And I’m like, it didn’t mostly come from just one thing. And I think that people want to hear that because they want to be they want to know, like the shortcut. Right. There truly isn’t one. It’s all like this building block compounding effect, you know. So a couple of…Say a couple of the big turning points we’ve had.
Emma: So a big one in the beginning was learning to focus. So we used to own a retail shop, the Red Velvet Store. It was on Commercial Street in like our city, Springfield, Missouri. And we also we’re blogging at the time and we kind of used our blog as supplemental income in a supplemental way to promote our shop so that we could promote it outside of just our community. And over the first couple of years, we realized that if we focused more on the blog, we would make a lot more money and our efforts that we were putting into our business would be less divided and a lot more rewarded, probably. And we were right. And so we did that. It was a really hard decision because we like to do lots of different things, as you could probably guess, based on the content of our blog. But focusing down made a huge, huge difference that those first couple of years. So that was a big one. I’m trying to think of what else.
Elsie: A big one was when we started our first app because it was our first big risk and it was one of the ways that we diversified our income. And that was like the first year that we ever reached a million dollar year was the year we had our first app. So that was pretty life changing.
Emma: That was kind of a lesson in reinvesting money that you make into your business and then also diversifying revenue streams for sure. Yes, that was a big one. I think growing our team has been huge, which we weren’t really able to do that in the very beginning because we don’t have the money to do it. But as we did have more income over time, every time we’ve gotten to add a full time team member one, I feel like, oh, we created a job in our economy. That’s exciting. I know it’s just one job, you know, every now and again, but I still feel like I’m participating and I like that. It makes me feel proud. But I also think each time it’s made a huge difference to our business. Yeah, because our team’s awesome and we get so much more done with them than without them.
Emma: And it’s better. (laughs)
Elsie: The last couple years our big wins have been like very invisible, boring things. We’ve been focusing really hard on our archives and our Google ratings and things that are so boring, like growing Pinterest…
Elsie: And growing our affiliate programs and things like that that are yeah. Like kind of boring when you just have a conversation. But when you set a goal and you work on an all year and you achieve it, it’s a great feeling. So, yeah, a lot of the things…I think that the app launch is like the only one that’s truly like a sexy one.
Emma: Yeah, yeah. I think everything is kind of it probably sounds like small wins, but they add up to really big wins over the long haul. If you’re if you’re in it for the long haul, which is why we don’t really believe you can blog for a month and see the amazing success that you probably deserve if you do it for a year or two or three or fr us it’s been like fourteen now.
Emma: So here we are.
Elsie: Yeah. Like seven thousand blog posts. That’s crazy. All right, how much of your home do you write off since it’s quote unquote content. Does that factor? OK, so we get a lot of questions like this, that are tax questions that are about like write offs and things like that. And our honest advice. We talked about this last night and like to summarize, just focus on making more money where you’re not too worried about the tax write offs. Like to us, taxes is like something we work on with our accountant. But no, we honestly don’t write off like our houses or…
Emma: Like a personal clothing.
Elsie: Our clothing. Yeah, like our yoga pants. It’s like maybe we’ll make some affiliate money from these adorable yoga pants, but they’re not a tax write off and they’re not going to be. And also, we don’t want to have that complication if we’re audited in the future. So don’t worry too much about tax write offs is our advice.
Emma: Yeah. Get a good accountant. Take their advice, and then focus on the big wins in your company, not necessarily…This is what I would consider small win tax write offs, but, you know, every business is different. But, yeah, for a blogger, I wouldn’t worry too much about trying to write off your entire life. I would focus more on monetizing your content.
Elsie: OK, this is my favorite one.
Emma: Elsie, do you think you could have started a A Beautiful Mess with kids?
Elsie: Ok, pep talk for moms. Here we go. Buckle up. One hundred percent. Yes. It’s like…we had more time to work before I had kids obviously. But…
Elsie: …this year my kids have been out of daycare almost the whole entire year. And for almost…for most of that time, my husband and I were watching them by ourselves and my hours were slashed. And it’s still been a great year of growth and achievement. And honestly, I’ll teach you a couple of things that you just need to know. Lower your expectations, go easy on yourself, make a good plan and stick to the plan and batch working. If you’re a mom and you want to get a lot done, you have to batch work. That is my key to everything. You can do it.
Emma: You can do it. Your life is not over. Your life is long and there’s lots of different seasons. Maybe you’re going to have a little less time in this season, but you can still do things.
Elsie: Most of the bloggers that are like in my group of friends who I know are like making the big bucks are moms. So you can do it. All right. The next question is, is there anything you wish you never tried? That was all loss and no gain?
Emma: Yeah, we were talking about this one yesterday and I’m trying to remember where we landed.
Elsie: We basically were like, no, yeah, we’re glad for everything we tried because even the things that…there’s things that you try that don’t make a lot of money or are disappointments. But even that is good to know because it’s getting something out of your system, you know.
Emma: Yeah. Or it’s teaching you something. You learn a lot. I really do feel like I feel like I’ve said this before. So I’m sorry if I’m a broken record, but I just really do feel like a lot of times people view failure as kind of like the end of the story. You either succeed or you fail. And I think success is failing over and over and over again. And but every time you do, you change your mindset. You learn something, modify it. Yeah. You pivot a little. Whatever it is, you know, like that’s what real success is, is just failing over and over and over again. So, you know, it’s hard to really we failed so much. Yeah. On stuff and be like, I wish we had never done that. So I’m like, well I mean, I guess I wish we hadn’t bought short term rentals the year before covid? But also, I don’t know. I mean, I think…
Elsie: You have to try things. There are so many things that we’ve tried and we were like, this is going to be the big one. And then it wasn’t.
Elsie: And we don’t even remember them anymore.
Emma: I forget a lot of our small failures and probably our large failures. Because I move on to the next thing, because it’s like, OK, well, that didn’t work. What did I learn? All right, let’s do this now. Let’s try this now. And so it’s just always like a path forward.
Elsie: Just don’t get stuck. And you’re good.
Emma: Mm hmm. Yeah. Write a book from federal prison. Do it like Martha. (laughs)
Elsie: (laughs) Ok, thank you so much for listening and telling your friends and family. Always makes our day when you share it on Instagram. So tag us. It really helps us out. And we we’ll talk to you next week I.