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Work For Yourself Without Starting A Business: Welcome To The Era Of The Solopreneur

Career

I have a confession: I've never really enjoyed working for other people.


Why? Well, for starters, I'm selfish. If there's a final bite of shared dessert on the plate, I'll eat it. If I go even one day without hitting the gym, I'm resentful. Once the coffee is made, I pour myself a cup of coffee before I offer it to my husband. I hoard time the way others hoard possessions. I'm selfish with my thoughts. I like to be alone. Sometimes, I stick my daughter in front of a cartoon just so I can hear myself think.

Because here's the thing: How I control my time determines how I live my life. I want to spend it providing for my family, sure. But I also want to make sure I'm doing what I really want to be doing—the type of work that has me bounding out of bed excited, not exhausted.

And for me, that kind of passion has never been found in an office. As I hurtled through college, collecting a writing degree, a valedictorian stamp, a publishing deal, and a ton of freelance projects, I realized I didn't want to work for anyone else.

But I also wasn't interested in starting a business either. So, what's out there for those who don't necessarily want to die in a 9 to 5 under the thumb of a boss, but also don't have the desire to open a brick-and-mortar store, worry about growing a company to such monstrous proportions that you need teams, insurance, office space, and employees?

Enter the life of the solopreneur.

Entrepreneurial in spirit, the solopreneur focuses on his or her art, makes money from it, but doesn't necessarily depend on others to grow her business. You can collaborate with people. You can work on other people's projects. But when it comes to your own craft or business, it's all about Y-O-U. You are the brand. You are the product.

While I dabbled in content management and editorial roles, penning four published nonfiction books, blogging, becoming a trainer, co-owning a gym, etc., I realized that all I'd ever wanted to do was to write books. Not nonfiction books, novels.

Because I am someone who loves urgency, I finally felt the push. I was ready to take every skill I'd collected from my odd jobs and pour them into doing the very thing I'd always wanted to do. I finally got clear. Not about what I wanted, but by answering one simple question: If I could do anything in the world every single day, what would excite me the most? We all have those “activities" we succumb to where time stalls, you feel that you are living on purpose, and you literally can't wait to tell whoever is within earshot about what you're working on. Because it's not really happiness we're after, it's excitement. And writing novels, despite the solitude it requires and all the work it takes, is the most excitement I've ever felt.

You have to find your own excitement, whether that's in the office, on a yoga mat, helping other people, or traveling the world. And when you find it? Act on it immediately. (Trust me, there's never the perfect time. The perfect time is the moment you decide to take the risk.)

When I finally thought of the right idea last year, I immediately quit the two extra jobs I was working and decided to use the last two months of a corporate contract to write an entire novel.

Because I believed in myself and gave myself the space to create, I wrote it in just four weeks.

I then secured a literary agent. The book was sent out to editors, got into a bidding war, went to book auction, and landed me a two-book deal with St. Martin's Press, one of the largest publishing houses in the country.

I did my due diligence. And then I got it done.

Now, the real work begins. Finding the right publicity team. Repositioning myself as a novelist and not a Jill of all trades, which, let's face it, as kick ass women today, we have all become.

Because I am still a mother. I am still a wife. I am still a director of content for a branding agency. I am still a ghostwriter for clients' blogs. I am still open for opportunities, but at the end of the day, my new path is about focusing on doing one thing really well. It's about putting all of my energy into being a novelist and not getting distracted with all of the other sideline projects, money woes, and opportunities that are dangling within reach.

Being a solopreneur is about keeping your focus. What is the real goal you are trying to reach? Define it. What happens when you reach your own personal pinnacle of success? What happens if you don't?

What comes next?

In an age where community is key, there is magic to being a solopreneur. This doesn't mean you're a selfish byiatch. It doesn't mean you can't someday help others generate jobs or even join forces with a pro you admire and respect. It just means you are focused on your own initiatives, your own goals, and not the minutiae of everything that goes into keeping a corporation alive.

Is that selfish? Or is that the stuff dreams are made of? I'm forging my own way to find out.

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Lifestyle

Going Makeupless To The Office May Be Costing You More Than Just Money

Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.


Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.

Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.

As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.

Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.

So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.

Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.

For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."