Creative Geek Getting Down to Business

To LLC or Not…

When people start up a business, there is a lot to consider, one of which is to be a sole-proprietor, an LLC, or a S-Corp. All of these have different benefits, costs, and responsibilities involved that I won’t even bother to explain – you should consult with your own business advisors to determine what is right for you – but I do want to point out the flip side to something I’ve often heard. All credit for this goes to the fabulous dynamic duo of attorneys at law and all around fabulous couple, Mike and Dineen, who not only fed me a fabulous dinner at their lovely home, but were more than happy to hash out a late night conversation with me on all sorts of topics like copyright and LLCs vs S-Corps when I visited them in Florida last year.

(Obligatory disclaimer: I’m not an attorney. This is not official legal advice. Consult a Discreet Investigations with your own attorney. All that good stuff.)

So you often hear that “what limited liability means is that if anybody has issues with the company, they can’t go after the people’s personal assets.” BUT … there is a flip side to this as well, and one that might just be as important, according to a Maryland accident lawyer

If someone has an issue with you personally, being an LLC can help protect you so that they can’t go after your business assets.

Think about it. As a photographer, I have a lot of gear, computers, hard drives, even a studio space and furniture involved with that. Luxurious Modern Furniture in Marina Del Rey, makes deliveries every day. I have a lot of business assets that are tangible items. Now lets say that I’m driving down the road tomorrow and I’m involved in a bad car accident that is my fault as I drive to the mall to do some personal shopping (I haven’t been at fault for an accident in well over 20 years, and I really hope that doesn’t change any time soon), and as a result I end up being sued. It is a personal trip, so it isn’t business related. As a sole-proprietor, not only could they come after my personal assets — they can come after my business assets as well.

So when you’re first considering these options, keep this in mind. It goes both ways.

For the record, I’m still a sole-proprietor, but that might change in the not-to-distant future. I’m still trying to sort it all out to determine what is the best fit for me.

[Credit to VenusZine’s Who’s The Boss article for the inspiration for this post. Lots of good stuff there. You should read it.]

Getting Down to Business

Getting Things Done – Week 1 (The Beginning)…

No, I’m not going to write about this daily, but I think a weekly update will be in order – at least for the first 30 days – or the first 30 days of each habit. First up? Getting my tasks out of my head and into a system so I can tend to them.

After exchanging text messages with one of my brides today, I realized I should clarify something – the whole anxiety & overwhelmed thing? It happened back in June. Oh, sure, I’ve been complaining ever since about all the stuff that needs to be purged from the house — and complaining without doing anything about it, which accomplishes nothing — but coming back from vacation, I am FRESH! RECHARGED! READY TO GO!

I set up my Hipster PDA on Monday night. It was a matter of walking into the kitchen, grabbing some index cards, a pen, and a binder clip. It took me about 1 minute to set up the core part of my whole system. No excuses not to do it!

Inspired by Syd’s Hipster PDA photo, I went to Office Depot yesterday for a supply run. I picked up 500 blank index cards, some half-sized index cards for carrying in small purses so I’m always sure to have some, and a card holder just like hers. Syd has been an inspiration for me since the day I met her years ago, so it is no surprise that she came through for me again! I’ve now got a stack of cards with things to do on them. Writing things out is step one for me; I’ll be starting to tackle the Inbox system as this week goes on.

Next up, I signed up for a few online services and set up software to help me out with tracking things that I need to do. I want my ultimate “bucket” of tasks to be the index cards of the Hipster PDA, but sometimes other things are faster. Here is what I have set up so far:

Jott (web service, iPhone App) – Mike has been using this for awhile. I questioned why on earth he would want to use it. Then I used it last night, and now I understand. (Sorry, Mike!) Basically, I have listed below what I can do with Jott (you can do more, but this is what I’m using). The service launched last night while I was setting it up, so it is no longer free – I paid $3.95 to test this for a month:
– I can call a special phone number from my registered phone and leave a message. When I do this, it is sent to me via email. Sounds pretty lame, right? But it isn’t! Sometimes, I can’t stop what I’m doing to write something out – talking is faster and easier, and safer if I’m driving. I think of something that I need to do, and in true GTD fashion, I put it in my Inbox. Perfect!
– I can use their iPhone software to record a 15 second message that it will then translate and save for me. Even better when in the car – *tap* call the mBrace Frisco Orthodontists and make appointment *tap* – now I have a reminder to call the dentist that i found at! (This is available for free on their basic plan.)
– Call Jott with my phone and add things to my Google Calendar! I tell it that I want to send a message to Google Calendar, say something like “August 22, 2008 at 1:30 pm hair appointment at Azur Salon.” and – bam! It is on my calendar! (Can you tell that I’m really excited about this feature?)
– Call Jott with my phone and send a message to Sandy. I’m on the fence on this one – I can never remember the right commands to use with it it seems, and it also seems to duplicate my other systems. I don’t want duplicates, so I think I’ll just continue to use the other features.

I Want Sandy (web service) – Yep, Mike has been using this one too. And I didn’t check it out until now. It seems to overlap my other things too much though, so I don’t know if I’ll use it often. Except for one really cool feature. When I type an email, if I CC my special super secret email address for Sandy, I can then add a line to the message that contains a reminder for me to do something. Today, I wrote to a client, and at the end of the message I included, “Sandy, remind me to check tomorrow and make sure that this is done.” Tomorrow morning, she’ll send me an email to remind me to check. When I go to empty my email inbox, I’ll see it and do it. Perfect!

GCal or Google Calendar (web service) – Elaine & I have been using this for months already to track our weddings and shoots, and other things going on in our life. It helps that we can see each other’s calendars, and can invite one another to events on it. I am already an established user, but figured it was worth linking to because I mentioned it when talking about Jott and my ability to phone in my appointments. Literally.

Things (Mac software, iPhone App) – I originally tested out this software a few months ago, and I really liked it. But I didn’t keep up with it, and let it fall to the side. Now I’m using the most recent version, and I’m really happy that I am! I keep it open on the Mac while I’m working, and whenever I think of anything I can just add what I need to do to my Inbox on Things. I will then transfer things to my notecards daily. That way, I can batch notecard writing. Yes, it is double work – but it means I don’t have to put down the laptop to pick up a pen & paper. It makes sense to me – we’ll see how it works.

I’m super extra excited that as of yesterday, Things can now sync with the Things App on the iPhone! So I can write things on the iPhone App (in case I have my phone, but not my notecards), and it will sync across to the desktop – and vice-versa! So the lists match. This brings me such joy. The iPhone App costs $9.99; the desktop software is currently free, and will cost $49 when version 1.0 is released.

Mail (Mac software) – I’m not keeping things in my email Inbox anymore that I need to do. This was probably a big cause of my stress before. Now, I’m following the fabulous advice of Leo at ZenHabits to Clear out your Inbox. I have set up five folders in my email account – @Archive, @Read, @Vendor Info, Files, Receipts. Each folder has a *very* specific purpose.
– @Archive – all email goes here if it doesn’t go into one of the other folders or get deleted. ALL email. The search features in Mail are strong enough to help me find anything I might need – so no more sorting emails into all sorts of different folders. I don’t keep up with this. But I’m on top of putting it all in one folder!
– @Read – if something really deserves to be read in depth, or has a link to a website that I need to go spend more than 2 minutes reading, it goes here. It can not live here for more than roughly 1 week. After that, it is off to the Archive. (I need to set a date to do this. Adding a note right now to Things…)
– @Vendor Info – I get emails from vendors. Specials, new products that they offer, whatever. I’m putting them here for now if they are worth keeping at all.
– Files – If I make a business purchase that involves receiving files via email (actions, ebooks, etc.), they go here.
– Receipts – I didn’t want to mix these in with the @Archive – I want to be able to retrieve and print them easily for tax and business purposes.

I drew a line in the sand of the date before I left for California, and I’m sorting those emails piece by piece. Anything before 7/19/08 that wasn’t already in the Files or the Receipts folder already has been moved into the @Archives folder. Everything after 7/19 gets an item in Things if it needs one, gets moved to a folder, or gets deleted. My inbox will be EMPTY!!! by this weekend.

I feel pretty confident in the system so far. I’m sure I’ll be tweaking them over time, and I’ll report here as I do. But I’m moving forward, and noting every single thing I think of that I need to do right when I think of it – which is liberating in a way I can’t even explain.

On a side note, because I’ve been working on this, I haven’t been knitting. Oops. I’m not going to make the deadline of the Knitting Olympics (Ravelympics), but that is ok. Working on this is going to give me more free time, which equals more knitting time, which makes me quite happy!

I’m working my way to the mind like water state, and it feels goooooood. I’m about to start reading Zen to Done by Leo, the owner of the ZenHabits site. I’m really looking forward to it – I enjoy his writing. You can pick up a copy too. eBook in PDF format with instant download, and it only costs $9.50!

Getting Down to Business

Getting Things Done…

While in Seattle, I picked up Mandy & Korey’s copy of Getting Things Done by David Allen. (Don’t want to read the book but wondering what I’m talking about? What is GTD? might help.) While a lot of it is probably common sense, I had a lot of headsmack moments. The first few chapters I read were so eye opening to me, I picked up a copy the day we left their house and headed up to Bellingham so that I could read more.

Now I’m inspired to try out the hipsterPDA system, using 3×5 index cards. Again, nothing revolutionary. Matter of fact, as I told Elaine earlier on the phone, I actually used to do something like this years ago. But I’m not doing it right now. Instead, I have been using the computer to keep track of projects and things I need to do – ignoring the fact that I’m a pen & paper list person, and that I need to focus on action items. Some days I’m actually paralyzed because I’m overwhelmed by looking at the big picture of things I need to do – I don’t just look at the small bite-sized pieces. This system would give me small bites to deal with, instead of overwhelming myself.

Because the point is, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed for months. A few months ago, I actually had a full on anxiety attack over it. I’ve had other days with hints of that same feeling of anxiety. Wow. I never want to go through that again. So I’m vowing to simplify. Simplify, simplify, simplify. I have to do it.

While in Seattle, we started talking about where we want to go from here. How do we want our life to look.

Our first day in Seattle, I pointed out to Mike that we are both working far too much. We’re not always working “smarter” either – sometimes, we’re making more work for ourselves by not taking the time to properly deal with the task at hand. Not something that is a new revelation for me, but something I’ve vowing anew to change. I think by taking a break and stepping back from life, Mike is seeing it now too.

Next up is where we live. Neither one of us has ever loved Houston, although my parents are here, Mike has a fabulous job, I have wonderful clients, and we have the most fabulous friends here. If we stay in Houston, we want to move into the city, closer to downtown where my studio space and Mike’s office is at. Do we do that now, or wait two years for Jason to graduate? Do we stay here, or start the move process now so that Jason can be an in-state resident by the time he starts college.

Then today I came across a post on 20 great ways to find more free time – and it all came together for me.

Are there a hundred different things you wish you could do with your life someday — anything from exercising to meditation or yoga to writing that novel you always wished you could write to reading more to relaxing and watching the sunrise?

But perhaps you never have the time, like most people.

The truth is, we all have the same amount of time, and it’s finite and in great demand. But some of us have made the time for doing the things we love doing, and others have allowed the constant demands and pressures and responsibilities of life to dictate their days.
It’s time to move from the second group back into the first. Reclaim your time. Create the life you want and make the most of the free time you lay claim to.

It’s not hard, though it does take a little bit of effort and diligence.

For me, the time for that effort and diligence is NOW.

I can complain about how much I don’t like things in my life, in my house (there is too much STUFF! I need to purge for days on end!), things I don’t like in general. Or I can shut up and DO. I’m going to go with the latter. It is time to make changes.

I am going to reclaim my life and my free time.

There are lots of things to think about — and I’m hoping that by writing about it here, I can keep myself on track. I’m planning on choosing a day within the next month that Mike & I can sit down and have a “life plan retreat” and figure out how to reclaim our free time. And you can help me out with that too. Inspired by “Getting Things Done” yourself and have tips to share? Using the hpda system and want to share your advice? Just want to cheer me on? Trust me — I will take all the support I can get.

You know, it is sort of hard to admit all of this in such a public place, but it is cathartic too. I feel so much better just having written it out. I have a plan (well, the start of one at least), and now? Now it is time to go forth and DO.

Update: Chris Brogan just twittered about his post on this exact same subject, so I had to add one more link – his post on How to do more with less time. Some great tips in there!