On isolation, authenticity & failure with One Woman Shop’s Cristina Roman

We hear a lot of words like “authenticity” and “failure” thrown around when talking about careers and businesses.

But these words are often used in big-picture terms, as though someone just starting out in her career should know what we mean when we use them. Today’s Q&A is part two of a career mini-series (see part one from last week here) that focuses on words in the context of careers and really getting specific about them.

I’m chatting with One Woman Shop founder Cristina Roman, whose community for creative solopreneurs addresses one word in particular: isolation. See what Cristina has to say below.

self-employment

Briefly tell us your story and how you came to become so laser-focused on what you wanted to pursue for a career.

I think my friends and family would crack up if they heard someone call me “laser-focused”! I’ve always struggled with being pulled in a ton of different directions. Luckily, there’s a name for this kind of person, which I really identify with: multipassionate. It’s for those of us who love to dabble in various projects, always have our fingers in many pies, and love to learn just about everything.

That being said, I have found the common thread in my various projects and interests relatively recently: working with young women to find and thrive in careers and businesses that they love. Even more specifically, I now work almost exclusively with women who are starting or running their own solo businesses.

I do this through running One Woman Shop, a resource hub and community for female solopreneurs and freelancers, and offering business and career coaching and consulting, e-courses, and seminars through CMR Strategies in the areas of digital marketing, productivity, and personal branding.

And of the best parts of running my own business is that I can incorporate in any new interests I have willy nilly. That’s how my Unique Hobbies blog series and my Cultivating Happiness email series both came about, for example.

One thing your business touches on is something many people don’t talk about in entrepreneurship—loneliness and isolation. How does self-employment lend itself to those things and how can entrepreneurs combat them?

I would say that’s the number-one complaint of solo business owners and is how our tagline “going it alone doesn’t have to be lonely” came about. Entrepreneurs often start out working alone, either by choice or by necessity, and this can lead to a feeling of isolation, especially if friends and family don’t share the same passion for discussing the ins and outs of email marketing, the pros and cons of different legal designations, and the best strategies for finding a virtual assistant!

It can be tough working from home alone day in and day out, often going to a coffee shop doesn’t have quite the same feel as being in an office, and coworking spaces (shared office spaces for freelancers and entrepreneurs) can be expensive.

My advice for combatting this feeling of isolation: Meet other solo business owners in your area through Meetup, Twitter (try using FollowerWonk to search by area), and other local events; plan work dates and coffee dates to get out of the house; collaborate with other solopreneurs on projects and events, and set up periodic phone calls with people who motivate and inspire you (some of my most productive days have come after early morning phone calls that lit me up!).

We place a high value on authenticity in business these days, but that can seem like a double-edged sword for anyone just starting out who doesn’t want to offend potential clients or employers. How can any entrepreneur or corporate ladder climber walk that fine line while keeping her personality intact?

I think it comes down to making a decision: if there is a part of you that has the potential to offend or alienate someone – like your dirty jokes, your strong religious beliefs, or your political affiliation – and you choose to bring that into your business or the workplace, you need to own all of the possible repercussions. That could include not getting hired by a certain client or a company you want to work for.

Some people have made very successful careers for themselves by being 100% their “not suitable for work” selves – like Ash of the Middle Finger Project. This works for them, but it doesn’t mean you need to be the same way. It’s not inauthentic to have slightly different versions of yourself in your everyday life and your work life, as long as you don’t feel weird about it.

One Woman Shop

People talk a lot about failure as a positive thing. But what do you think they mean by that? Is there good failure and bad failure, and how can we use both to our advantage?

Failure sure is having its heyday, huh? It’s a complicated discussion because failure is all about perspective. For example, a $10,000 product launch could be an utter flop for one business owner, while it’s a gold mine for another. It’s also a matter of attitude – what one person considers failure, another may consider a learning experience. Basically, I think it’s all subjective!

The idea behind thinking of failure as a positive thing is that if you are putting out there over and over, you’re bound to fail sometimes. If you’re not failing occasionally, it probably means you didn’t really put yourself out there. In my opinion, it’s not absolutely necessary to fail, but it’s important to not be afraid to fail. And when you do fail, it’s crucial to learn from your mistakes.

At the risk of sounding too cheesy, we can use every failure to our advantage by learning from it. For example, I offered paid membership on One Woman Shop from the very beginning and exactly one person became a member in the first six months – pretty big failure, right? I learned that I needed to have a solid base of active individuals, prove that I provide valuable content, and poll my audience about what they were looking for in a paid membership site. Now that we’ve done those things, we’re relaunching our paid membership component!

How can someone just starting out build a community (online and in the real world) that will give her not only the audience, but the relationships necessary for upward growth?

Great question – we’re actually launching a coaching program around this idea! I think the first step is to cultivate resourcefulness and the ability to see the opportunities around you. Once you realize that opportunities to connect are everywhere, things get rolling pretty quickly. Another important piece is to make building a strong community around you a priority, not just something that falls to the wayside.

I firmly believe that community building is not a one-size-fits-all thing; for example, some people love online networking, while others thrive on making in-person connections. Some people build community through blogging, while others have find Instagram to be more suited to them. It’s all about finding your fit while still being willing to experiment.

Hands-down, my #1 recommendation is to get incredibly comfortable with direct outreach, whether it’s to ask people to join your email list, be a guest on your podcast, let you speak to their organization, or partner with you on a collaboration.

At One Woman Shop, we’ve been putting a lot of effort into high-impact activities, such as guest posting on sites like Design*Sponge, setting up a pop-up on the site, doing direct outreach to women we think would be a good fit for the community, and partnering with solo business owners on things like our 28 Tips for Growing Your Community freebie.

 

Thanks, Cristina!

Enjoy what she had to say or have any thoughts of your own? Let us know in the comments. And if this series hasn’t touched on something you’d like to see covered, let me know that, too!

Three sisters

sisters

Yesterday was National Siblings Day, according to Facebook and Twitter. (How else would I have known?) And this is how it goes: I come home from work tired and lethargic, preemptively admonishing myself for the workout I know I won’t do tonight, but feeling mostly upbeat due to the suddenly summery weather. The older of my two much younger sisters, Flannery, greets me as I get out of the car, and I can’t help but feel nostalgic envy watching her amble toward me barefoot in shorts and a tank top. She already has just a hint of sun, whereas this morning I debated whether or not I should wear a dress to work because damn my legs are pasty. Cherish these carefree afternoons, I want to tell this 13-year-old in front of me before reminding myself that I should do the same.

So I throw on my flip flops, and at Flannery’s suggestion, we spend the next hour taking pictures around the yard while my youngest sister, Elsbeth, does her impressive self-taught gymnastics routine on the trampoline nearby. The magnolia tree bloomed literally overnight and catches glints of the Golden Hour sun that so graciously stays later and later each day we get closer to summer.

spring

Summer. It seems to take forever to arrive in Maryland, and when it finally does, you’re taken by surprise. Despite the sometimes oppressive heat and humidity, your next worry is that summer will slip away too soon. And it will. It always does.

We compare pictures, and I notice Flannery has an eye for photography, too. I let her get my new, uninsured iPhone a little dirty and don’t yell when she holds it over a giant plastic tub filled with water to take a picture of something living inside. (I calmly ask her to stop it, please, though.) The dogs are chasing us and jumping at my legs—the fat one lets me take her photo before licking at the lens. Cherish these carefree afternoons, I repeat in my head, reminding myself that I will not always live with my sisters. They will go through middle school and enter high school without me as close as I’ve been for the past almost three years because I am 23, I’ve saved some money, and one day in the not-too-distant future I will move in with John, my boyfriend of four years. And as happy as I will be to finally live with him, I will miss my sisters, too.

trampoline

They fight. All the time, Flannery and Elsbeth. They fight over who gets the shower first. They get mad when the other has a look on their face they don’t like. They argue until they’ve forgotten what they were arguing about. And yet, they’re best friends. The relationship they have with one another is different than the relationship I have with each of them. Being the eldest by 10 and 12 years, I vacillate between being the cool, all-knowing older sister and the irrelevant, out-of-touch older sister. I play moderator when they fight. Sometimes I dictate who gets the shower first, and in these moments, Elsbeth reminds me that I am not, in fact, their mom. I remind her that I am aware, but get in the shower anyway. I have a job and benefits.

Soon, our age difference won’t seem so great and we’ll have shared more of the same life experiences. If and when I have kids, my sisters will be the fun, young aunts. If and when they have kids, I’ll be the fun, old one. My sisters will probably still fight sometimes, but they’ll always be close. We all will. I often think if I hadn’t made the decision to live at home for my last semester of college—instead of the apartment with my roommate which had a lease up for renewal—I would’ve missed out on so much of my sisters’ lives. I wouldn’t know just how good Elsbeth has gotten at gymnastics without any classes, or that Flannery kicked butt in lacrosse last weekend. Living at home didn’t just allow me to save money. It allowed me to cherish these carefree afternoons spent with my sisters. Who, hopefully, will look back one day and cherish them, too.

It’s not yet summer. Yesterday’s 90 degrees was a fluke. We’ll likely even have a few more chilly days—Maryland is unpredictable like that. But spring has sprung, and I’m acutely aware of how quickly it will lead to summer, when things will rapidly change. I can only tell my sisters that each year goes by quicker than the last, but they won’t understand that until they experience it for themselves.

Which is how it goes for all of us.

Depression in relationships

Last week was lighter than usual on the blogging front. You know how when life gets to be overwhelming, and then you distract yourself with blogs and social media, and realize those things are (shockingly) hurting rather than helping you deal with it? That was me. So I distanced myself a bit from all that and enjoyed a weekend of hanging with the puppies, visiting D.C., and soaking up the gorgeous weather that has (hopefully?) come to stay.

Moving on, today’s guest blogger is a former “Lucky” Ones interviewee, Sarah Greesonbach, who just launched an ebook on switching careers. It’s geared toward teachers who are second-guessing their path, but it’s packed with advice that I think could be helpful for anyone feeling stuck. Her post today touches on some of the overwhelming effects of a dark period in her own life, and how that affected her relationship with her husband.

witty title here guest post

couple shadow

Have you ever felt sorry for people who are in relationships with depressed people?

I have. Especially because often that depressed person was me.

Josh and I have been married since November 2012, so I thought it was about time to interview him about what I consider the darkest period of my life: a time when I felt trapped in my career as a teacher, stressed by our long-distance relationship, and overwhelmed by health concerns. Here’s Josh’s take on being in a relationship with me during that time.

Hi Josh, I guess it goes without saying that it’s kind of awesome we can talk about this stuff. But some guys seem put off by talking about depression. Why do you think you’re okay with it?

I’ve always considered myself more in touch with my feelings than other guys. It is very helpful when it comes to writing music and being a teacher, but most guys aren’t up for it. I like to think I’m above stereotypes. How humans act and feel has always been more interesting to me than the traditional dude stuff like sports and grilling.

That’s probably why I married you. Now, about that time a few years ago when everything seemed to suck to me. Did you know that I was depressed?

Yes. You would cry a lot and you didn’t want to do things. Things being anything that wasn’t being in bed and crying. I think I thought that us doing distance was very difficult so I didn’t know what to do about it. I thought that was more to blame than the teaching, so I looked for ways that we could be together more.

What made you feel better and what made you feel hopeless about the situation?

I would say being with you was nice, knowing that eventually we would live nearer each other and not do [the] distance anymore. Nothing really made me feel hopeless. I found ways to cope myself, by playing a lot of video games and developing a schedule like going to the movies, getting wings, that sort of thing.

What did you do to try to cheer me up that worked and didn’t work?

I left cute notes and things around the house. I also tried to text and call as often as I could… even though sometimes you would refuse to talk on the phone. We should have talked about that more openly, I think, too, to save some hurt feelings on both sides. It didn’t seem to work when I tried to talk to you about feeling better or to try to make fun, distracting plans. I like to have something to look forward to, but you didn’t want to feel obligated to go out and do stuff in case you were feeling low.

How did you feel when I told you I was considering going on anti-depressants?

I was worried it would change who you were. I grew up thinking that medicine like that makes people act differently and out-of-character. Now I think I understand that it allows people to be more themselves during a rough patch (or long term).

Were you ever depressed during this time?

Yeah, definitely. I was teaching at that time too, and I resented having to show up early and try to be of service to students who were often unappreciative when I wanted to be spending time with you. I would find myself staying up really late to be intentionally out of it for the school day. That way I wouldn’t really be conscious of the day and be in a dream state ’til I got home. I really lived for the weekends.

What advice do you have for dudes (or just people) in relationships with someone who is experiencing depression?

I would say to call them a lot. Even if you don’t feel like talking, making yourself stay in touch with friends and family is really important. You and I would have Skype dates when you didn’t feel like talking, and we would spend a lot of time just being together instead of filling our weekends with things to do. Focus on the fact that the distance won’t last forever, and if it will, consider fixing that. You should also consider seeing a counselor—the person who is depressed and the person in the relationship with them can both use some perspective, tips, and just someone to talk to to make sense of it all. I think it would have helped me a lot to go to church more regularly during that time, too.

 

I’m so grateful that Josh and I were able to get to the place that we could speak candidly about this time in our lives. It certainly wasn’t so easy at first—there were miscommunications, misunderstandings, and just plain arguments all through it! But open dialogue and focusing on our priorities allowed us to grow and blossom together. Especially in the case of long-distance relationships, this kind of rough beginning can make the first year of marriage (and hopefully the rest) seem like a piece of cake!

Have you ever dated someone who was depressed or been the depressed one? What would you ask your spouse or partner?

sarah greesonbach

 

Sarah Greesonbach writes and curates the lifestyle and personal finance blog Life [Comma] Etc. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter for commentary and hot links, as well as pictures of her husband and cat (both are super-cute). She releases her first eBook this month, Life After Teaching: The Hands-On Guide for Transitioning Out of Teaching and Into a New Career.

 

 

 

 

Want to be a guest blogger for Witty Title Here? Send your pitches to me at wittycassiehere [at] gmail [dot] com.

The kind of friend I want

cassandteeny

The kind of friend I want is…

Someone with a passion for something—anything.

Someone who understands and respects my introverted tendencies, even if they’re not an introvert themselves.

Someone I can learn something from.

Someone who considers herself a feminist.

Someone who also claims to hate people. But really actually likes people—but only the nice ones.

Someone who doesn’t make me feel guilty or superficial for wearing makeup.

Someone who loves to read, is creative, or has an appreciation for beautiful things.

Someone who, after a couple drinks, is totally down for a karaoke duet.

Someone who likes puppies. How can you not like puppies?

Someone who doesn’t thrive on constant attention or drama—and actually listens to you when you speak.

Someone who pushes me out of my comfort zone—in a good way.

Someone who doesn’t base her self-worth on her relationship status or the things she has.

Someone who has laughed at the word “poop” more than any grown woman should.

Someone whose favorite thing to do is laugh.

Someone who will accept me despite my gastrointestinal shortcomings following a pot of chili. I mean, I just don’t see that improving anytime soon.

Someone who knows she’s not perfect but loves herself anyway.

Here’s a fun exercise: Come up with a list like this for yourself. Be specific, but not so specific that you might alienate an otherwise perfectly meant-for-you person. (Not everyone you hang with has to loooove The Walking Dead. And if they do, I’m automatically off your list ’cause I’ve never even seen that show.) Then read your list. Does it more or less describe you? Or does it only describe someone you aspire to be like? It wasn’t my original intention, but I’m happy to say my list sounds a lot like me. I’d say I’m a keeper.

What do you look for in a friend? Could we be friend soulmates?

Five things you (and I) need to stop doing. Now.

As an imperfect yet ever-evolving being, I try to maintain self-insight and look for ways in which I could improve. (After all, I’m thoughtful and stuff.)

Don’t let me mislead you–most of the time, those things are usually along the line of less shampoo, more SPF. But occasionally, I like to go a little deeper than that. And I think these five tendencies are something I need to work on eradicating. Maybe you do, too.

Saying “sorry” when you really mean “excuse me.” How is (sometimes awkwardly) moving through and existing in shared space deserving of an apology?! Apologizing for one of those weird I thought you were going this way, no I’ll go that way moments is a strange and submissive habit that says, “I am not worthy of accidentally standing in your way for two whole seconds. Forgive me.” No. Stop it.

Forcing or avoiding small talk. Small talk is, admittedly, not my thing. Most of the time. Some days, I’m perfectly willing to engage in this kind of communication, and other times, I’m just not in the mood. Both of these things are okay. There are mornings at work where I’ll happily chat with a co-worker about our weekends, and the very next day, I might not have more than a friendly “hello” for the same person. That’s fine—I don’t think you need to force conversation every time you’re faced with someone. (I’ve done that, too, and wanted to smack myself when I mumbled something incoherent for the sake of making noise at someone.) There are those who will ALWAYS want to chat, in which case it’s perfectly acceptable to keep your responses light and short. Not everyone is good at small talk, and not everyone likes it. But in professional situations especially, it’s important to maintain a friendly air about you, even if you have nothing to contribute besides a smile.

Giving a wishy-washy RSVP. As an introvert who doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, I am very guilty of this. Someone you don’t know very well invites you to a party where you won’t know anyone, a friend you haven’t seen in a while calls you up last-minute for a get-together, or a buddy wants to go to a bar that you HATE. These are all circumstances where it’s okay to very clearly say, “No, thanks!” or, “Sorry, I can’t make it.” Sounds incredibly simple, yet many people make it so much more difficult than that. Not everyone is good at the whole Facebook invite thing—we shouldn’t assume everyone’s lives revolve around it—but otherwise, responding with, “Mayyybeee… I’ll let you know!” when you are already dead-set on not attending is just plain flaky. Of course, if you say no all the time, people will stop inviting you. I do think it’s good to go out of your comfort zone every now and then, or offer an alternative plan. But saying “no” on occasion so you can stay home and drink boxed wine? Totally okay.

Deflecting, or rejecting, compliments. I’ve seen this piece of advice floating around inspirational la-dee-da blogs about self-love and embracing your inner hoo-ha a fair amount, but it’s worth repeating. Because people don’t just hand out compliments out of obligation. They have to go out of their way to pronounce extra syllables and exert a fair amount of air to tell you that you look great/did a good job/are super thoughtful. When you respond with self-deprecation or throw back a half-hearted “No, you!”, it’s like saying, “You’re wrong, and I actually really suck.” Uncomfortable for all parties involved.

Living in your own bubble, on repeat. So easy to do. So easy to fix. Take a different route to work. Do something OTHER than partying every weekend. Actually make eye contact (and say hello?!) to the people you pass in the hallway. This last one, I swear, is a dying form of civility. People my age looks at me like I’m nuts if I smile and say hello… even if we’re the only two people in a room. Anyone over 60? They’re the first to say, “Morning!” We need to bring that back.

What would you add to this list? Are you guilty of any of these offenses?