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Lessons from another year running my business(es)

This holiday I took two weeks off from my consulting work. It was particularly difficult for me to commit to the time off this year when I don’t have a full client load for the new year (yet!). I’m really proud to say that I leaned into the rest and recovery that was hard earned after a very full year.

With this margin came the gift of perspective that is so necessary when you are solo-preneuring your way through life. Here are a few of the lessons I learned in this last year of business.

Diversified income streams = less anxiety

I started off this year with my main income from Ember, which was picking up substantially, and a small side income from the camper van I rent out here in Hawai'i. I realized with a small loan, I could scale up my camper van side hustle while maintaining my full time consulting work. I’m so proud to say that I am crossing into 2023 with the Sun + Salt Campervan Fleet.

While I LOVE my full time consulting work with Ember (which supports me entirely), it is a huge relief knowing I have other backup streams of income going towards things like owning a home someday. Both businesses have their ups and downs, but the likelihood of those downs happening at the same time is less the more I’m able to diversify my efforts.

A good bookkeeper is worth their weight in gold

After nearly two years of struggling with god-awful CPAs who could never manage to file my taxes right (YOU HAVE ONE JOB), I took the leap and invested in a bookkeeper to do my books year-round and taxes at the end of the year. I was losing my mind paying 30% of my income towards taxes and STILL got hit with an unexpected $5K fee last year. At the beginning of this year I vowed never f*cking again. I put the word out for recommendations, had phone consultations with four different places, and finally landed on Gradient.

Kristin and her team specialize in digital nomads who might be paying taxes in more than one state (me!). Right off the bat, they were advising me on some of the nuances of paying taxes in Hawaii and provided more value than all the other ones combined. One of the biggest indicators for me was Kristin never tried to rush me and always made sure I understood the full context (every other CPA I’ve ever talked to either talks way too quickly or withholds just enough information that you don’t get the full picture).

It’s been almost a full year working together and tasks that used to take me 12 hours a month now take me less than one. I have a clear picture of my budgets, projections, money coming in, and money going out for both Ember and Sun + Salt Campervans. And everything is neatly sorted in one place for them to seamlessly file my taxes at the end of the year (and even help me recover some of the money I overpaid).

Gradient is the biggest monthly expense in my business and I would do it again in a heartbeat. The constant anxiety at the end of the year of whether or not I tracked correctly and paid the right taxes is completely eliminated.

When possible, be there in person

This past year I was all over the map meeting needs for each business. While this travel was TIRING, I do not regret it. Being on location gave both of my businesses the strong relational foundations they needed. For example, I was in Portland for three months overseeing the first van build with my new builder, I met up with community people irl in Portland, I flew to CA to onboard a new client in person, and flew to speak at CMX Summit in person.

If I hadn’t been in person, there’s no way I would have been able to:

  • Create this collaborative resource

  • Finish three campervans

  • Start a podcast with my friend Vik Cumberbatch who I finally met IRL at CMX Summit

  • Get ready to do a house swap in New Zealand with a community friend I met this summer

  • Have nailed down my dream client

While the pace of last year is not sustainable for my life in general, being in person afforded me incredible opportunities I wouldn’t have stumbled across any other way and I want to recognize the weight of that magic moving forward.

The WHY behind your goals.

There are two schools of thoughts with goal-setting: school 1: Shoot for the moon and you might catch a star, or school 2: set a reasonable goal and once you’ve met it, set another pretty reasonable one.

I used to think if you weren’t setting big goals that didn’t scare you, you were more or less… a loser.

But let me tell you, eight years of never being able to hit your goals will make you feel like an even bigger loser.

I started asking WHY am I setting these goals?

The only purpose for setting goals that I was aware of was to achieve and to grow. Growth is always #1. More money, more growth, more learning, more, more, more, more.

But I took a serious step back from this toxic thinking last year and decided: “The whole purpose for these goals, the whole reason I’m doing any of this work is because I want to feel more confident in my sweet spot and I want to love my work.”

Well, how can I set my goals in a way that designs for this outcome?

When I set small goals that I knew I could achieve, this brought with it an enormous amount of confidence and joy. I set my future self up to be my past self’s ardent cheerleader rather than disappointed authority figure.

I gave myself permission to take the pressure off and make the whole purpose of my work to enjoy the work (which I recognize is a privilege in and of itself that not many people have). And the craziest thing happened. I FAR surpassed my goals! Halfway through the year I actually re-evaluated my goals and increased them because things were going so well and more importantly, I was having a lot of fun doing it.

Looking Ahead

Not everyone has the luxury of setting their own purpose behind their professional goals for the year, but if you do, I challenge you to come up with a purpose for your goals that exists outside of achieving more and see where it could take you.

This year, the purpose behind my goals is this: a minimalist homecoming. I want to design my goals so that at the end of the year I can say I came home to myself and focused my attention on fewer things that really matter.

I hope you take a chance on the value of being together in person and find that singular bane-of-your-existence task and take the time to find someone you trust to do that work instead.


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