8 Reasons Why Working For A NYC Startup Was My Best Career Move

After deciding I could no longer spend my life auditioning for Broadway shows and waiting tables (let’s face it — I was burned out from singing 16 bars), I then spent many years working 9-6pm “assistant” jobs in NYC. I worked for a hedge fund, I worked as a nanny (another fave job), I worked as a personal assistant, an executive assistant, admin assistant in financial services and I’m sure a few other assistant jobs in there. But what prepared me MOST for owning my own virtual “assistant” business was the one job where I was NOT an assistant. It was my final NYC job as Program Coordinator for a busy, NYC startup non-profit where I worked for nearly 4 years.

I realized recently that working for a startup was the best training ground for creating the business of my dreams. The startup environment is so unique and also hard/exhausting, but so rewarding.

If you’re looking to learn a ton and you’re just starting out– look for a GREAT startup to work for. You’ll learn a lot.

And here’s why:

  1. I wore 15 hats. No really – 15. Ok, maybe 6 (but it felt like 15 some days). I spent my mornings working in logistics/international shipping and then afternoons doing an email campaign/tweeting, entering invoices into QuickBooks, booking international travel, helping to design a new office space, assisting our accountant with our annual audit, booking hotels in remote parts of Africa and more. Endless. When you work for a startup, you get the chance to take on many things. This was such an incredible training ground for a future small business owner.
  2. Freedom. I was given the freedom to try things in my work. I think this should maybe be #1 here. For many years as an assistant working in financial offices, it was the opposite. No freedom. No say. A very “Mad Men”-ish, secretarial existence (which killed me softly inside for years). In a startup, many times, you’re given a lot of freedom in your work to try things. No one ever breathed down my back to make sure I was completing a task. Therefore, I worked harder. I was happier. I wanted to be there making an impact every day. A sense of “freedom” in the workplace makes the difference between a job and a great job.
  3. Small teams. At this startup, I worked on a small, amazing team. Working closely with just a few people (who also each wore 15 hats) taught me so much about working closely with a colleague. Most of my work now is one-on-one with a client or solo-entrepreneur. It’s so important to learn how to communicate well (and fast) with your colleagues and working in a startup was great prep.
  4. Fast-paced. In a startup (or a great startup at least), you’ll learn quickly the meaning of “fast-paced.” I’ve always worked pretty fast, but when you have 4 people running an entire company with many things happening, you learn to work as fast (and diligent) as possible. Learning to work in a fast-paced environment is so, so important if you want to run your own business. It’s a must. I’m still trying to get on “Tahoe Time” here…
  5. Great People. I had incredible managers who asked me on a monthly basis – “what do you want to do, Emily?” — “what do you want to focus on?” — “How can we help you develop this?” A great startup usually has a rigorous hiring process because they want the brightest people on their small team to grow their business from the ground — up. I was very lucky to have worked with smart, smart people who taught me to so much and cared enough about me to help develop my natural work talents.
  6. Risk-taking was OK. I worked for a CEO and manager who took risks (see my “testimonials” page). Calculated, smart risks…but risks. We tried things a lot — some worked and some didn’t. Most did — not gonna lie. But — this sense of “the worst thing you could do is NOT try” really stuck with me. In this past year, I have said yes to some potential clients who I did not think I could take on (or was scared to) and it’s turned out wonderful.
    facebook office
    Funny enough- this image was taken on a visit to the NYC Facebook office for an event on women in business, which I was encouraged to go to from my manager.
  7. Flexibility in the workplace. What literally led me here was that I was given flexibility with my job. We had a generous maternity leave policy and the option to “ease” back into work after maternity leave (working from home on Fridays for a few months before coming back 5 days a week), which was SO incredibly helpful for me. These things really make a massive difference and most big corporations don’t have such flexible policies. I was also given the flexibility in the office to work wherever – rarely at my desk. At the office kitchen counter. In the small phone rooms. On the couch. The startup environment is awesome in this way — allowing employees to get up and move freely, which in turn makes them more productive and never bored. I am a firm believer that you could and should work where you’re most comfortable. For me, it’s at home by myself. For some, it’s in a bustling office. But it should be wherever you work the best.
  8. Modern business systems/ideas. Most startups are just that – starting up. And to do this, the business owner/CEO/Founder wants to make their employees happy. Many startups have a lot of fun perks and benefits (we didn’t have a ping pong table, but we did have a sweet espresso machine and some awesome views). They also use a lot of modern systems to run their business. Because of this, I learned so much about working “in the cloud” and running a paperless/electronic business. I think so much of my work now involves systems for entrepreneurs (and systems that I learned there), so learning these programs was huge.

Lately, I think a lot about — how did I get here after just starting this business a year ago? I think a lot of it is because I worked for a fast-paced, NYC startup that gave me the freedom to thrive and focus on what I loved working on. Instead of being pushed down in a cubicle, I was built-up daily and given the reigns to try things and take risks (something I had never had before). I owe so much to the time I spent there. I would not have been able to move here to Tahoe, to work from home and to live out this little business dream of mine.

So yes…working at a startup…a great idea.

Why You Must Backup your Mailchimp Lists – Now.

Emily Ryan

Quick tip for you if you use any online service provider.

As you probably noticed this week, Instagram and Facebook both went down for nearly a full 24 hours. With this comes a very important reminder…

You MUST back up all of your Mailchimp contact lists (or whatever email platform you use).

I want you to make sure you have downloaded a .csv file of your EVERY list you have in Mailchimp. If your email program were to ever go down, you just don’t want to risk losing that data. These are YOUR subscribers.

In Mailchimp, you simply go to your List and then Export (and download). Just keep these .csv files somewhere safe. More instructions here.

This also goes for other services. Anywhere you can, you want to be exporting any important data. This means taking a monthly backup of your WordPress website, downloading your accounting files from your invoice program, etc. Everything should periodically be backed up.

Set a calendar reminder each month to BACK IT UP. In fact, our favorite WordPress back up plugin is called WPBackItUp. Highly recommend.

That’s it. Back it up. We now have witnessed that online apps can go down!

Contact us if you ever need quick help doing this.

Stay Relevant Newsletter | Feb 8

Here is my most recent issue of the Stay Relevant Newsletter, which you can get in you Inbox weekly, by clicking here.

Before I share some important links from this past week, one important fact I wanted to share, in regards to your email campaigns. Did you know the AVERAGE open rate across ALL industries is only 22.87%? Yes, siree! So don’t fret if 77.13% of your people aren’t opening your emails. It’s those 22.87% that matter. And they matter big time. Just wanted you to know that…

Also, I have a lot of links this week, but I promise they’re all worth reading. 

Things I loved from this past week online:
Instagram adds a “donation sticker” for Instagram Stories.

Here are the absolute best days/times to send an email campaign. 

Facebook is planning to merge their Messenger with WhatsAppand Instagram messenger. 

The Chief of Stores for Apple is leaving the company after 5 years.

If you’re a mom and on Instagram, you’ll probably agree with this.

This app turns complete strangers into Instagram boyfriends. 

Do you use GSuite for your business email? Pricing going up slightly on April 2nd.

Here’s a great update on the latest news on all things Google

Here’s my go-to link for adding/downloading social media icons to put in your email signature.

Feel Good Link: I believe in only following accounts that bring you joy or useful information. Here are 20 of the funniest Instagram accounts if you’re feeling down. 

Why the name “Westfield Creative”?

In 2016, I had just relocated from NYC to Lake Tahoe and was trying to find a way to work from home, so that I could be around my then 6-month-old little boy. I have never been an office person and never will be. I had to find a way. In early 2016, after a call with my friend, Val Geisler (now an email marketing guru/expert), I started my virtual assistant business, “Emily Ryan Works,” which was helping entrepreneurs and small business owners with really anything they needed. From WordPress website help, to Mailchimp email newsletters, to graphics, to social media and much more.  They thought of something, we did it. It was really my dream at the time…just to be working from home.

 

Elizabeth Bogh and Emily RyanThen, this little business grew very quickly. And maybe too quickly. I kept taking on more and more clients and in 2017, my sister, Elizabeth, came on to help me manage it all. We grew to a full-time digital marketing agency, specializing in Mailchimp, social media and WordPress. As our business grew, we desperately wanted a new name. I hated the name “Emily Ryan Works.” It was a name that I quickly chose because www.emilyryan.com was NOT available on that day in 2016 and this was the only domain name I could find. And over time, as my sister took on 50% of our workload, I hated standing behind just my name. She never minded and actually preferred it that way (she always says that I should be the “face” of the business, but it feel right). So we began the search for a new biz name.

 

And it took FOREVER to come up with something that made sense for our business, for both of us and where the domain was actually available (harder than you think!). I think we went through 100 names. It had to be special for us. It had to be cool.

 

And then one day, we landed on a name that made so much sense to us both — Westfield Creative. Westfield (Road) being the street that we grew up on together in Charlotte, NC.  Liz and I lived at 3000 Westfield Road for 18 years (14 of those together) and it was truly a magical home to grow up in.

 

We grew up in an old, big blue house, covered in ivy. We could both tell you every corner of that house. We had a pool and a trampoline and our yard was a giant playground of awesomeness. We also had computers in several rooms of our house (which in the 80’s was pretty techie). Elizabeth actually went to a magnet school for science and technology (she was the real techie in our family) and I went to a performing arts school (I was the crazy, artsy theatre kid).

 

Westfield was our home and now with our new business name, it can be forever.

My Typical Work Day: Broken Down

I’ve always loved blog posts where people lay out their “real” day-in-the-life schedule. I get a kick out of seeing how people spend their time. And when they’re really honest about it. Working from home has always been a dream of mine and it’s a lifestyle that is all new to me and comes with its own set of challenges. Sometimes I think it’s actually harder than going into a real office. And with a toddler at home, even more so. So it’s been interesting figuring out how to schedule my time.

See – this working-from-home-while-the-baby-is-home-thing is hard. Even with a great babysitter. There is no break. Ever. Your breaks are your time to work. I work during naptime. I work at night. But this is what I choose to do and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have the afternoons with my child and I can run to the store if I have to. Or to Starbucks. To me, it’s the way working should be.

So I’m breaking down my “typical” work day for you (and let’s face it, nothing is ever “typical”) and really I’m doing this for myself to see it all on electronic paper:

6am-7:30AM: Sometime between these hours, my little guy wakes up. I pray for 7:30am, but some days it’s 6:01am. And some days it’s 8am! I always try really hard to get him back to sleep, but he usually disagrees. I unfortunately check my email upon waking. I know, I know. Most of my clients are on the East Coast, so they’re already hard at work and I like to make sure nothing crazy has happened. I try not to start work until 8am though even though I know it’s already halfway through the morning on EST.

7am-7:30: I start the coffee and this is our special breakfast time together before the madness begins. I make blueberry pancakes or eggs. Or toast. We eat lots of toast. But one of the most wonderful things I’ve loved about working from home is that I can make a big, fun breakfast for my little guy each day. I love this time so much before the madness begins. FullSizeRender

8:00am: Babysitter arrives. Big Yay! Mama goes downstairs (long commute, y’all!) to her office and shuts the door. I turn on Spotify and get to work. I try to have “normal” clothes on when I go down to work, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was in sweatpants/leggings/workout clothes most days.

8am-11am: Work.

Babysitter plays with my son upstairs and I work in my office. These three hours are my most productive of the day. I bust out as much as possible, make my calls, update Asana, handle client requests, etc. It’s all client work during this time and I try to be as efficient as possible with these morning hours.

11am-11:30am – Break! I come upstairs (mama is back from work!) and I spend the next 30 mins or so playing with my child and making a quick smoothie or a quick snack before his nap. Babysitter leaves. Sigh…. (I feel so grateful that I get to be home with him – even though I’m working. It’s everything to me. Not easy and always hectic, but wouldn’t trade it.)

11:30am-2:00pm– Admin work + lunch + a few social media posts (for work)

The little guy goes down for his nap and I quickly get back to work. This is my 2nd slot of sacred, work hours. I call it 2.5 hours but it can range from 1 hour – 3 hours. I pray for 3 hours. It’s tough to depend on “nap time” for work, but this is just the way it is for now. I make myself a quick lunch. Maybe run the dishwasher. A load of laundry and do a little admin work (invoicing clients, tracking expenses, leads and emailing). I usually find myself working on bigger projects at night or in the morning. The mid-day work is all administrative, with some social media/FB Groups thrown in (we gotta do it!).

It’s also my most stressful time of the day b/c I am trying to accomplish as much as humanly possible during his nap — coupled with feeling like the home has to be somewhat taken care of/cleaned since I am technically here all day…

2pm-5:00pm– Play! Usually around 2pm or so (or when he wakes up), I finish working. This is the best thing about working from home with my own business — it’s on my schedule. I choose my schedule (I still can’t believe I’m able to say that). I still work 8 hours a day but it’s split into hours that make sense for my life. This makes me way more productive and happier. I get ultimate family time each day with my favorite little person and I get to work and make a living. We usually have lunch together, do some errands, go for a run or hike, go to the beach/lake or go down the hill to Target or Trader Joe’s. (This is kind of my chunk of time to pretend I am a stay at home mom and I love pretending!) I used to worry so much about running out to do an errand between 9am-5pm but now that I work for myself, I am able to do that without guilt and that’s awesome, right?

5pm-6pm – Dad is home and we all hang and make dinner. We love when Dad comes home.

6:30-7:30pm – Bedtime routine is in full force. (We’re talking bathtime, reading lots of books, pajamas, diapers, nursing. It’s no joke!) It’s then goodnight to my sweet child.** (**Sometimes I am so tired that I fall asleep putting him to sleep. That is not good for the biz and I try to not let this happen. But it happens sometimes.)

7:30pm-10pm – MORE WORK while hanging with husband

As hard as it can be, I often have to work at night. Luckily my husband is understanding (he likes that I’m working to make $$!) but it’s hard on a marriage sometimes. We do spend time together and have some (or a lot on some days) wine/beer while I’m plugging away on the laptop. I decided it’s one of the trade-offs to working from home with a baby. If it means I get to spend those afternoon hours with him, then I’ll work every night if I have to. I also tell myself that it’s only temporary that I’ll have to work late. Someday he will be in school and I’ll have the whole day to myself. For now, this is how I work though.

10:30pm – Fall asleep very quickly. (Although tonight, it’s 10:45pm and I’m writing this blog…)

This is my typical day lately. What’s your schedule like? I’d love to hear! Comment below.

Emily Shows You How To Setup A Twitter “List” (one of Twitter’s most useful features)

I recently listened to a great podcast (I believe it was an episode of Entrepreneur on Fire) that discussed ways to find your true calling. In it, they said to think of something that comes EASILY and naturally to you. Something that people might come to you with questions about. Something that you may spend a spare hour or two doing on a Sunday afternoon. I had never really thought of it this way, but it was quite a “lightbulb” moment for me. If something comes easily to you, it could be a “revelation” to someone else and you could possibly be very successful at this one thing.
So…I am no IT professional and I haven’t really mastered CSS or HTML, but I do know a bit about computers and especially social media. I’ve always been quick with computers and it’s always come naturally to me. So, I thought it would be fun to make some quick and easy “screencasts” showing you how to do some cool (and hopefully useful) things online. In doing this first one, I’ve realized there are so many little tips and tricks I want to keep sharing. So, here we go…
My first screencast on making a “List” in Twitter, one of my favorite features about this platform. Click here to watch.

YouTube - Twitter List Tutorial

Top 10 Ways To Be Awesome On Instagram

Instagram is my favorite social network. I love seeing my friends lives through just photos (and captions) and I also love a good photo filter. The iphone (and most Androids) take incredible photos already, but I truly believe you can make nearly any photo look even better with some decent cropping, sometimes a nice border and good lighting (filters). Here are my top 10 tips for Instagram. 

  1. Be Observant. There are so many beautiful things in our daily lives that we don’t often notice. A beautiful dish, a leaf on the ground, a fun advertisement or sometimes just looking at something from a different angle. Look around and just start taking photos. Sometimes the best photos on Instagram are the ones you wouldn’t normally think of.
  2. The tear drop (#5 below) (Or also called linear and radial focus). This is my new favorite Instagram tool to enhance your photo. Click on it and focus on something in your photo. You can make the focus spot bigger or smaller and also change it from a round focus to a flat bar. 
    Focus is on the water bottle.
  3. Black and white. Don’t forget about the B & W filter. Some things really are made for black and white and look stunning. 
    I know, a selfie here, but way better in B & W
  4. Zoom in. So many photos actually look decent when zoomed way in. Many people don’t crop or zoom enough. 
  5. Following button. Click the Heart button and then you will see a “Following” option or “News” options. I use the “Following” button a lot to see what my friends are up to and what photos THEY like. Many times this will introduce me to new people I want to follow. See a photo you like in this “Following” feed, click on it and see if you might want to follow them. A great way to find new, interesting accounts.
  6. Discover button (2nd one below from left – star). This to me is very important. The best example I used of this was once when we couldn’t attend a local concert. I search for the name of the concert and photos came up that were up-to-the-minute live from the concert. If you’re traveling somewhere new, search for the name of the neighborhood to find some cool things nearby. Search a friends name and see what they’ve been up to. Discover anything!
  7. Sunshine button or “Lux” button (#6 below). (not on Android). Use this button to make a photo extra vibrant. I always try this to see how it looks. If it doesn’t work for that photo, don’t use it. Here is a majorly “Lux” photo.
  8. Hashtag your photo. And don’t hashtag it #photo. Use a relevant term that people might search for. A good example below (#vespa, #nyc). Although, only use 1 or 2 hashtags at a time. Read here about proper Instagram hashtagging.
  9. Other apps. Download iphone apps Camera+ and Diptic (worth the .99). Sometimes (and not too much) I will enhance my photo first in Camera+ and then bring it into Instagram. Camera+ has even more incredible filters. Diptic is great for multiple photos or making collages. Here is a photo that I edited first in Camera+ and then brought into Instagram!
  10. Delete comments. Many people don’t realize you can delete comments. When viewing one of your photos, click on the Comment button. Then, swipe right on the comment you want to delete and you will see a trash can or reply button. 

And you should also check out the Instagram Best Practices Guide if you’re new to the game!

And some of my personal all time favorite Instagram photos: