I’ve never had the kind of job where my employment was effectively guaranteed. I’ve always served “at the pleasure of.”
That's what's really challenging about a global pandemic. Nothing is guaranteed.
Through good connections, a modicum of hustle and a track record of delivering results, I’ve found the sweet spot for CMR Communications. I have 3 major clients – think of them as Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear – and their combination is JUST RIGHT.
Between those three clients and a few ad hoc projects, I have enough work to keep me busy, and gross earnings comparable to what I was making before I started the business.
But even though I actually picked up a client during the pandemic, the worry is always out there … what if I were to lose a client?
I don’t want to put feelers out for additional work and then find that I can’t deliver. That’s not fair to the prospective client, my existing clients, or my own mental health.
Still, I don’t want to get complacent about promoting my business and find myself with a hole in my income projections.
How do *you* deal with uncertainty? Whether it’s about your client base, a vaccine, or the political climate – drop me a line! Let’s make small talk.
PS: Here’s an article from Wired magazine about dealing with the uncertainty of the Coronavirus.
If you’re like me, every other email, Facebook post or text message is asking for money.
Whether for a worthy local cause, for a political underdog, or to support an organization that helps advance your goals, seems like someone always wants to put their hand in your pocket!
In May, 2017, the Pew Research Center noted:
Americans are increasingly likely to make political donations, with the share of adults who say they have donated directly to candidates doubling since 1992, according to data from American National Election Studies (ANES). Political donations from individuals represent a large share of campaign funding: In the 2016 election cycle, 71% of Hillary Clinton’s fundraising total and 40% of Donald Trump’s came from individual contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Last week. after I gave to a GoFundMe promoted by Capital District Border Watch and Ice-Free Capital District, two organizations I worked with a year ago on “Lights for Liberty,” I decided I wanted to be more strategic with my donations.
So, I set up a spreadsheet called “Political Kitty” with the dollar amount that I set aside for non-charitable contributions for 2020. I keep a running tally of the donations I’ve made. So far, I’ve given $136, ranging from $5 to $46. (Two notes – this is not tracking tax-deductible contributions nor tickets to fundraisers – for local candidates or causes – that we support or attend.)
I want to make sure I keep an eye on where I’m making my (admittedly small) investments. We’re going to need to mobilize every resource this year to turn things around.
Ultimately, this is an effort to more effectively leverage my privilege. I’m not worried about making rent or buying nourishing food. So – I’m asking myself – how can I best direct my financial resources to foster a more just and equitable world? I know I have work to do, but I hope this spreadsheet will be a first step.
So, are you taking any steps – no matter how seemingly inconsequential – to make sure we don’t just survive until 2021, but are poised to #BuildBackBetter? Do you have any tips to share? Drop me a line and let’s make #SmallTalk!
I understand that we’re all dealing with the COVID-19 fallout differently. I know that people are tired of being shut in. I shouldn’t expect peace and quiet living in a densely populated urban neighborhood. But lately I’ve realized … I fear the WORLD OF ONE.
When people play their music super loud, or refuse to wear a mask in a store, or ride up and down Lark Street on dirtbikes and ATVs running red lights and doing wheelies, I have a visceral, fight or flight reaction. That worries me - the constant flooding of my body with cortisol. I know it takes a toll, just not sure how or when that toll will manifest. When my husband says, "why do you let it bother you, just don't listen!" Is that a thing? Because saying "just don't listen" to me is like saying "just don't breathe." Not an option.
I realize that many communities are dealing with motorcycles and fireworks - and loud, booming bass on cars. My husband said, "I like to listen to my music loud, but never that loud," and I said, "THAT'S BECAUSE *THAT LOUD* WASN'T EVEN INVENTED IN THE 80s!" I'll admit to getting old and cranky, but advanced audio tech has made it possible to play music at ear-shattering, solar plexus hammering levels. Why? For whom was that created? I guess that's part of my worry ... this need to be *exceptional* - to "share" your music, use the speakerphone while waiting for the bus, drink a beer in the middle of Lark Street - without any consideration for the rest of the people on the planet.
And then I read an article that used the term “toxic individualism” – and thought – THAT’S IT! Where has our sense of the collective good, of altruism gone? In my small way, through my clients, I feel that I am working for a more just world. This is a historic moment, and we’re all experiencing it differently. I understand that I’m experiencing it from a place of great privilege, and that the things that irritate me are just that, irritants - not actual threats to my life.
Speaking of historic moments, I’ve been looking forward to watching the Hamilton movie and signed up for a month of Disney+. (You know, to see what a Broadway musical could teach us about fighting oppression???) A few days ago, I got sucked down the rabbit hole of watching President Obama introduce the cast performance of Hamilton at the White House. Remembering how wise, and generous, and kind a President could be.
So, I need to keep focused on finding joy where I can and try to manage stress and commit to taking better care of myself. It's not enough to just get through whatever comes in the next few months. I don't think it's going to be pretty. We must be strong enough on the other side to #BuildBackBetter.
Dear Colleen Ryan – Congratulations on your certification with the NYS MWBE Program. Your firm is now certified and published to the Directory of certified firms.
I got this email on May 14 and I’m pretty sure the whole neighborhood heard me w00t! With certification in hand, I was able to bring on a new client, right in the middle of a global pandemic.
The NYS Kinship Navigator is an information, referral and education program for kinship caregivers in New York State. A kinship caregiver is an individual that is caring for a child that is not biologically their own. In New York State, there are an estimated 131,000 caregivers caring for approximately 195,000 children.
The Navigator assists caregivers by providing information on financial assistance, legal matters and referrals, and other types of issues that caregivers face when raising children in order to provide stability and permanency in the home.
Because Smalbany, this client came to me by way of a referral from a friend, David McNally. David is the New York Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy for AARP and has worked for several years with Kinship Navigator staff.
I met David in 1990, when I went to work as a writer for the New York State Assembly, in what was then called House Operations. He was the Coordinator of the Southern Tier team that did communications work for Assemblyman Marty Luster, who served from 1988 – 2002. He sponsored a number of bills on children’s issues, including, if I’m not mistaken, an early effort to help grandparents who were caring for their grandchildren.
I’ll be working with the folks from Kinship Navigator on outreach, to help get the word out about their program and enhance participation. Of course, I’ll be reaching out to members of the NYS Assembly and Senate, so they have the tools they need to help their constituents.
It all comes full circle, doesn’t it?
What’s your latest Smalbany moment? Drop me a line – let’s make #SmallTalk!
UPDATE: On Thursday, May 14, I was certified by NYS as a Women's Business Enterprise!
After uploading 28 attachments back in February, on April 28, I got an email with 11 additional requests.
In a few cases, it was a slight do-over of something I had already sent, but there were a number of new documents I had to provide. These included:
Of course, this would require a lot of legwork under normal circumstances, but during a pandemic, it took more than a week to get that letter from SEFCU.
According to my Harvest Time Tracker, I spent an additional 9.44 hours on gathering and producing these documents. I told my husband, “I think this is how they weed out the weak.”
I hope that once these documents are reviewed, I’ll quickly be certified!
How are you holding up? Drop me a line and I’ll carve out some time to make #SmallTalk!
Updated on 5/9 to add: On Wednesday 5/6, I received an email from a Senior Certification Analyst in the Senior Certification Analyst in the Division of Minority and Women’s Business Development for Empire State Development to confirm that CMR Communications would have the following codes in the NYS Contract System: Marketing consulting services; Communications marketing services; Grant writing services. With these codes confirmed, my application will be sent to a committee for the final stage of the review process. Fingers crossed!
So, we’re on our third week of working from home, and everyone’s learning to Zoom!
Whether you’re meeting with your team via Zoom, Skype, or just a plain-old conference call, I saw a list in the Albany Business Review that I thought was worth sharing.
According to Mary Abbajay, President and co-founder, Careerstone Group, LLC, “Everybody hates [conference calls] because no one knows how to run them.” She continued that when a conference call is poorly run, people are “eating, texting … going to the bathroom … working out … taking other calls, because you’re not engaging them.”
Here’s my take on some of her tips for better conference calls:
The thing is, I’ve been working from home for over a year now, so while it’s new for a lot of you, I’m used to it. As I said to the friendly neighborhood CPA who prepared my taxes, “I don’t see what the big deal is, I’m wearing the same jammies that I was last week!”
I realize that I’m luckier than most, with a full office setup. Further, I’m not trying to oversee distance learning for children, so I can actually focus on work. My husband has only telecommuted a few times, but I hope he’ll soon be able to join me hunkered down at home.
So, how are you holding up? Do you have any tips to share for seasoned – or newbie - work-at-homers? Drop me a line and let’s make #SmallTalk!
PS: That’s ZOOM, Z double-O M, box 350, Boston Mass, 0 – 2 – 1 – 3 – 4 – send it to ZOOM!
I knew I had to be in business for a year before I could apply for MWBE certification, but last week, something forced my hand. A prospective client wanted to hire me, but needed to hire an MWBE.
According to the NYS Empire State Development website, ESD’s
…Division of Minority and Women’s Business (MWBE) Development (DMWBD) is designed to promote equality of economic opportunities for MWBEs and to eliminate barriers to their participation in state contracts. The important objectives of the program are to:
So, I began the application process.
I've heard it seems daunting to some, but I just chunked it up and powered through very methodically. I already had a NYS Vendor ID, so I just needed to upload some documents. Actually, a lot of documents. 28 attachments in addition to the online info.
A good number of these were simply Word documents that said “not applicable” – but the application requires an upload for each document request. To keep track, I set up a folder and assigned numbers to the documents.
I started working on the application at 6 p.m. on February 19, and kept at it until 10 p.m. I needed to pick up a letter from SEFCU and have two documents notarized, and I did that on the afternoon of the 25th. I submitted all the documents – except for our 2019 taxes, because we just dropped them off at our friendly neighborhood CPA! I’ll upload them just as soon as I get them.
In all, I think it took about 7 hours to complete the online portal application, locate and scan the documents, and have them notarized.
And now, I wait!
But while I wait, I want to hear from my fellow solopreneurs or small business owners. Have you applied for MWBE certification? Why or why not? How long did the approval process take? Was it worth it? (I was planning to apply anyway, but the new client was a serious motivator!)
Drop me a line and let’s make #SmallTalk!
After just a year in business, I almost have my available hours fully booked.
It’s a great problem to have, believe me.
I’ve tried a few different ways of recording my hours, with varying levels of frustration. Since I now have a client who pays me by the hour, not on a monthly retainer, I needed a simple yet effective way of tracking my time.
A few weeks ago, I revisited a tool that I had tried before, and I think I’ve finally found a way to use it that works for me.
Here’s the blurbage from their website:
Harvest was founded by Danny Wen and Shawn Liu in 2006, at a small office in downtown New York City. During the years leading up to launching Harvest, we ran a web design studio called Iridesco. As our business grew, we looked for tools to help us scale. We searched for a way to easily track time and invoice for our services. We wanted a well-designed application that took user experience seriously. We wanted a service that innovated with technology. We couldn’t find one…
I have Harvest set up with my business, CMR Communications, as the Client. I have each of *my* clients set up as Projects. Under those projects are Tasks (Conference Call, Event Planning, Research/Writing, Meeting.)
I can set a budget for hours for each month, and my rate per hour (for the hourly client.) I can even set the date when the budget renews (as I have one client whose agreement started on the 15th of the month.) And when it comes time to invoice the hourly client, I can quickly generate a monthly time and billing report.
My Harvest timer is always close at hand. There’s a Chrome extension that I can click to start and stop the clock from my desktop. There’s also an iPhone app. I will admit that I made a little sign from an index card that says “Timer On / Timer Off” to help me remember that the meter’s running! It’s off in the photo above because I’m working on this blog post!
All those bells and whistles for just $12 a month! But they offer a 10% discount if you pay for a year in advance. I’m halfway through my free, one-month trial and I’m a believer. If you give it a try – and if you sign up – use this code and I’ll get at $10 rebate! http://try.hrv.st/3-104603
What tools have you found to help you spend more time doing what you do best and less time on paperwork? Drop me a line and I’ll carve out some time to make #SmallTalk!
OK, it’s not quite a year. I filed my DBA on January 28, 2019.
My first year as a small business owner has had a few glitches, but I’m very happy with the trendline.
Right out of the gate, I landed a retainer client, who just renewed for 2020. It’s a lobbying firm owned by a friend, who is very good at what he does but could never find the time to write clear, compelling materials for his clients. From cover letters for annual reports to a summary of New York’s new campaign finance system, and from organizing and promoting industry briefings to covering news conferences, I help him keep his clients happy. I told him my middle name is “proof of performance.”
Working with the Central Avenue Business Improvement District and the STEAM Garden brings so many of my personal and professional interests together. It’s community development, historic preservation, high tech … and it’s housed in a building on Central Avenue, the street where I rented my first off-campus apartment while attending the College of St. Rose. In 1983, William Kennedy wrote that Central Avenue was “scraggly, raffish, unloved, unsung, but staying busy even so, trying to tidy up and get it together.” I helped the BID plan, promote and coordinate their grand opening celebration, attended by nearly 200 people. Looking ahead to 2020, I’ll be working on securing additional support for Phase 2 of their plan to deliver more classroom and office space and promoting their offerings to entrepreneurs.
In the past couple of weeks, I signed a new client and had a series of productive conversations with a prospective client.
The new client is NABA, the Northeastern Association of the Blind at Albany. NABA began on December 7, 1908, when ten blind men and women came together to adjust to their vision loss. Then known as the Albany Association of the Blind, the organization was housed at 105 Lancaster Street, and offered social and workshop activities to its members. Now serving 7 counties and employing 100 people, NABA trains and places legally blind adults in professional employment, provides rehabilitation services to seniors with age-related vision loss, and offers free vision screening for children 18 months to 4 years old through its KidSight Program. I’ll be working with their Communications and Development department to write and manage their foundation grants, State and Federal Grants, research new grant prospects and funding opportunities and assist with public relations.
I’m working on a proposal for the prospective client, so don’t want to jinx it, but it’s a statewide non-profit association that delivers much-needed financial resources to underserved communities … so it’s right in my wheelhouse!
Here’s to a great 2020. Drop me a line and I’ll carve out some time to make #SmallTalk!
Every once in a while, you get to work on a project that ticks all the boxes.
The S.T.E.A.M. Garden in Albany is one of those projects. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Media – S.T.E.A.M. – is breathing new life into a once-vacant building, a neighborhood, and the Capital Region’s creative economy.
The S.T.E.A.M. Garden is a collaborative effort led by the Central Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) and its partners to create an innovative living lab that offers co-work space and other vital resources to entrepreneurs and small startups that may not otherwise be able to avoid office space.
You know I’m a big booster of historic preservation, neighborhood revitalization and the creative economy – but to find them all in one place? Count me in!
I’ve been following the work to develop the S.T.E.A.M. Garden for many years, and I’m beyond delighted to be able to help with promotions and publicity – especially around the Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting, coming up on December 10.
The S.T.E.A.M. Garden is housed in the former St. Patrick’s Elementary School, built in 1905. The former St. Patrick’s Church next door is now the Shrine Church of our Lady of the Americas, which is affiliated with Blessed Sacrament Parish further west on Central Avenue.
The Central Avenue BID bought the building from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany in 2011 for $200,000. Rehabilitation of two floors is substantially complete, with additional work planned for the upper two floors. Historic 15-over-15 windows in the Co-Work Flex Space (the former gymnasium) will be removed one at a time and restored in an on-site Maker Lab with assistance from the State Historic Preservation Office and Hudson Valley Community College’s trades training program.
Beyond historic preservation, the S.T.E.A.M. Garden is helping to strengthen the relationships between Central Avenue’s commercial assets, its adjacent residential neighborhoods and nearby educational institutions. Walkable and well-served by public transportation, the neighborhood around the S.T.E.A.M. Garden is rich with small and minority-owned businesses.
CMR Communications is helping to spread the word that the S.T.E.A.M. Garden is making the Central Avenue Corridor into an economic force to be reckoned with, as project partners work to cultivate technology innovation, entrepreneurship, workforce training and talent attraction.
For more info check out the S.T.E.A.M. Garden or the Central Avenue BID online, or RSVP for the ribbon cutting and public Open House on Tuesday, December 10 from noon - 3:00 p.m.!
How can I help you or your organization celebrate a milestone? Drop me a line – let’s make #SmallTalk!
Colleen M. Ryan is an