This Common Business Practice Kills Diversity Efforts

A few weeks ago, New York City passed the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, which mandates payment within 30 days on all freelance invoices. This is a great step toward protecting an increasingly independent workforce from exploitation in the gig economy. But getting your invoices paid is only half the battle. These days, many of us–especially in creative fields–find ourselves battling for the right to invoice at all.

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3 Wise Quotes and Why the Wisest Words Live Between The Lines

Without learning from other people’s mistakes or taking wise advice along the way, we’d likely fumble through adulthood with little success. I’ve done plenty of both, and a bit of fumbling; but the wise quotes I’ve lived by and built my business on weren’t given as explicit advice.

Instead, these little gems were takeaways from conversations with people whose opinions and life choices I respected. While their stories inspired my own interpretations and conclusions, I’ll always remember the origins of these lessons.

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You’re Never Too Young (or Old) to Mentor

Mentoring always came natural to me. My first few gigs post college were teaching animation workshops to kids and grownups alike. As I got on with my career, I dispensed advice to friends and associates who found me increasingly qualified to consult. Eventually, I began teaching at a more professional level, even returning to my alma mater as an adjunct professor. When I decided to form an internship program at my boutique motion graphics company, I built in mentoring as part of the experience. 

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How to Ride Out Professional Storms by Tapping Personal Experience

What do you do when your opportunity to take on a challenging, multi-faceted and lucrative project arrives at the worst possible time?

In my case, I said “yes.” At that moment, I was accepting the studio’s most ambitious and promising opportunity to date. Trouble was, the two principal partners in my business—myself being one—were parting ways: professionally, romantically and logistically.

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The term “work-life balance” gets thrown around so frequently, it’s become a blanket phrase to convey what we must all strive for, lest we remain miserable. 

We’re bombarded with bullet-pointed lists, such as “Five Steps to Achieving Work-Life Balance.” Often, these lists lack anything readily relevant, particularly for an industry that revolves around airdates and deadlines, with frequent long days and late nights.

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5 Things Entrepreneurs Must Do to Ever Get Some Time Off

It's a familiar story. You started your business because you wanted to be in better control of your life. You sacrificed time off to build up your company. And now you wonder where that control went as you continue to neglect your hankering for vacation. Or worse, any vacation you do take winds up feeling like the office, just with better scenery and daytime cocktails.

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The Perfect Other Half

Finding The Ideal Partner for your Small Business.

Plenty of companies are born when one person with one set of skills has one idea. But entrepreneurship doesn’t often stay a solo affair forever. At some point, you may want to bring in a partner to help you with the parts of your business that don’t play to your strengths. One thing entrepreneurs don’t always consider is that in vetting a potential partner, they’ve also got to be scrupulously honest with themselves about their own needs, working style, and priorities.

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Our whole lives, we’ve been hearing about the idea of “work/life balance.” In the past few years, the concept is being re-examined for what it is: a stressful, unattainable goal that leaves people feeling overworked and unfulfilled. Instead, we should aim for work-life harmony, which seeks to provide a feeling of integration between the different parts of our lives.

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The creative’s secret to career longevity

Like so many others, I’ve sought staff positions and freelance work, and finally somewhere along the way, I graduated to become the person doing the hiring—and the firing.

Getting your foot in the door of your first real job is undeniably difficult. But frankly, getting a shot at anypoint in your career isn’t exactly easy. The big difference between your first job and your eighth is knowing how to stay hired once your foot is comfortable, and how to keep growing within the company or towards your next position.

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Startups Are Personal: Don't Lose Focus On Your Values

We continue the discussion in our lessons learned series with another piece on how personal values can shape or impact your business. In our last post, co-author Mike Willee and I discussed how entrepreneurs often become overwhelmed by the day-to-day stress of running their business and trying to do everything. We also examined how that stress can lead to decisions that ultimately steer the company away from its original goals.

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5 Things Not to Do Running a Small Business

by Maria Rapetskaya

I've been a creative entrepreneur since 2005. My first design company was a partnership with my significant other. It was largely a freestyle experiment in running a business, conducted live over the course of five years. As a business, it was marginally successful. As a learning experience, it was my equivalent of a masters of business administration.

So, by the time I had started my second and current company, I had a pretty good blueprint of don't's for running a small business. I had been fortunate enough to make the mistakes that have yielded five valuable lessons learned -- lessons that have truly paid off the second time around.

1. Don't rush into partnerships.

It was only after my original partner and I parted ways did I recognize that we should never have had a professional partnership in the first place. Just because someone is your best friend, long-time coworker and / or significant other hardly qualifies them as the perfect candidate for maintaining a business. I say “maintaining” because it’s far easier to get excited about the prospect starting a company than being able to handle the day-to-day reality of running it efficiently.

The best partner is typically someone whose skills and approach are the polar opposite of yours. The first ensures the you are able to cover a lot more ground without additional employees. The second may create conflict, but it'll force you both to defend your business instincts and weed out lesser ideas before you waste resources.

2. Don’t get discouraged.

Running a company isn’t a goal -- it’s a long, winding road. Enjoy the process! Unless your goal is to cash out, and you’ve got some built-in exit strategy, chances are you want a long-term entrepreneurial career. You will have ups, and you will have downs -- possibly in the same week or even day. You will gain amazing clients and lose others for reasons fair and unfair. That’s all part of having a business.

I’ve yet to encounter a single business owner who’s reached some grand, stable plateau beyond failure, disappointment and doubt. We all experience it. Instead of discouragement, focus on becoming more resilient, on learning how to handle stress productively.

3. Don’t forget why you wanted to start a business in the first place.

Whether it’s following a passion or having more control over your time to devote to family, always remember why you started down this road in the first place. It’s easy to get carried away and forget what it was you wanted from your own business. I, for example, was driven by quality-of-life factors, especially time off for my other passion -- travel. At times, temporary sacrifice may be truly necessary, but it pays to be conscious of when you’re in danger of permanently shelving the very thing you wanted most.

4. Don't try to do everything yourself.

I started my first company with $500 -- barely enough to cover the costs of incorporation. So, right away, I developed an addiction to doing everything myself. My partner was only capable, willing and able to do so much, and I found myself doing a lot of admin tasks I never anticipated. Those tasks came with learning curves, and they took up valuable time and energy -- energy that could have been directed at helping the business grow.

I didn’t make this mistake twice. With my second, far more successful attempt, I contracted my business half just a couple of months in. Although my expenses grew, now I could focus on doing better work as well as devote time to business development. Both actions helped to grow the company far quicker than my former money-saving attempts at being my own bookkeeper. 

So, resist the urge to cover all the ground alone. Saving financial resources is important, but don't let your task list undermine your big goals.

5. Don't stop evolving.

Your strategy, your marketing plan, your target market -- nothing is set in stone. The world is changing more and more rapidly each day. Your industry will likely experience a shift, whether slight or monumental, at some point. As a small business, you are at a disadvantage, because your resources are a lot more limited. But you have a priceless advantage in ability to change course and adapt far quicker than a larger organization.

The best way to remain relevant is keeping your eyes open for changing tides, your mind open to new ideas and staying flexible. 

And, of course, don't be too afraid of making your own mistakes!

This article originally appeared on and syndicated on


When panicking isn't an option.

Getting from crisis to success requires confidence in your ability to pull off some seemingly impossible feat. Where do you look for that confidence when you need it most – when you're the person in charge and everyone expects you to pull this together.

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The Second Leap: From Lone Freelancer to Full-Fledged Entrepreneur.

Why hating to work for someone else doesn't automatically make you capable of working for yourself.

If you’re a freelance creative toying with the idea of starting a company, you’re not alone. We’ve entered the age of entrepreneurship, where the “lean startup” is glorified and its trials are handsomely rewarded. Working for someone else, particularly in creative circles, can be seen as capitulation of ambition, a near failure. And freelancing, especially when you’re expected to schlep into an office, can appear a step shy of the freedom and financial prospects that “real” entrepreneurship holds.

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Feeling Stuck?
Think Beyond Yourself.

Enrich your business and your life through volunteering.

I love our clients. But sometimes, our clients aren’t enough. Our production cycle fluctuates. Bursts of creative beginnings lead to spells of monotonous production. It may keep the lights on, but it does little for the soul. I imagine all, save the luckiest in our industry, run on a version of this treadmill. As founder and creative director of an upstart full-service agency, I know it all too well.

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Stop apologizing for wanting work/life balance

On March 1, 2013, I got on a one-way flight to Kathmandu. Over the next few weeks, I crossed the Himalayas at 18,000 feet, got bathed by an elephant, checked Bhutan off my bucket list and learned to ride a scooter in Laos. I’ve traveled to more than 30 countries in the past 10 years alone, often escaping to some really remote places. I’ve also seen my share of 18-hour workdays. Of course, it’s my travel pics that people see on Facebook…not pics of me collapsing into bed at 2 a.m. and waking up at 6 to resume work. I’m often asked how I manage this, especially being a business owner, and my answer is really simple: I designed my life.

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