As mer-biz owners or mer-biz performers, we often have to juggle many things on the go!
For the first part of this blog I’d like to get you thinking about the factors that determine how much you can invest in your business both with time and money, and what that investment means for your business. If you find this topic interesting, you can find further breakdowns of mer-demographics in my third book: The Fishy Business Handbook.
When I researched mers in the community who are running their own business, the demographics were really interesting to see. To qualify for the surveys I conducted, the mer in question must own their business and it must have been in business for a minimum for two years. The business could be anything involving mers including tail making, performing, selling mer related items, swim schools, or more.
83% of those who took part in the survey were women while 16% were men. For the ages, we ranged from 21-40 (there are many with businesses outside of that age range as well) with the top ages being 26-30 at 33% and 31-35 at 33% and 36-40 were a close second at 25%. Those under 25 made up 8%
What do those demographics tell us about what folks who run businesses in this industry must be dealing with?
First of all for those who are under the age of 25, they may be dealing with post-secondary education along with part time jobs. For those between the ages of 26+ they may also be dealing with additional part time jobs or full time jobs, and family rearing. Of course, these assumptions won’t apply to everyone but there’s a fair chance they apply to many. You can see from the surveys as well that most merfolk put in on average 30-40 hours a week into their mermaid business. That’s quite the feat considering many are juggling so much else in addition to their mermaid business.
In a female dominated industry, many of the mers who can have children are also concerned about the timing of pregnancy. When to get pregnant can always be a heavy decision for a person in today’s world giving the pressures put on people, but in the mermaid world only a few performing mers have publicly discussed their experiences being pregnant and how they managed their business. 25% of those who could have children said they’d need to either scale back their business or take a break if they became pregnant. 16% said they were scared that their business wouldn’t be able to move forward if they became pregnant. 8% didn’t feel their business would change at all, while 8% felt they would need to change their role within their business.
When it comes to finances and running your own mer business, all who participated in the survey used their own personal finances to fund the start of their business. 25% used a loan and 25% utilized crowd funding. Why is it important to consider how others spend their money? Think of the time investment that is required to get this money. If everyone is using personal funds, it’s likely that everyone at one point in starting their mer-business had to work full time or part time to support it. Crowd funding takes a good deal of time as well. Even a loan can take a lot of prep work to sit with the bank and convince them your business is a worthwhile investment. 83% of those folks were able to start their business off by spending less than $10,000 while 16% of those folks were able to start their business between $10,000-$20,000
In looking to see how that investment is returned, the breakdown of gross income (prior to any deductions for expenses, tax, etc) saw 41% of participating mer companies making $10,000-$20,000 in a year. Coming in at a close second, 25% made $20,000-$30,000 and 16% made $10,000 or less in a year. 8% made $30,000-$40,000 in a year. So we can see that the average money put into a company in the first year was $10k and the average return was between $10k-$20k. Most companies were at least breaking even in their first year, with some doing a little better than that.
When we look back on this information, we can really understand how with your mer-company… time is money! So it’s important to spend it wisely. How then, do we juggle the average of 30-40 hours a week a mer-company demands (based on the average of these successful companies) when we are also juggling things like families, family planning (when to have a baby), other jobs, post-secondary education, and other factors such as health issues?
Here are a few of the things I have learned through my own experience, and also through the experiences of my peers!
First of all, delegating tasks and having a team really made a difference for me. When I was able to STOP doing everything on my own and START getting the help of others, it made a huge difference. There’s a lot of things you need to consider before hiring others or adding more to your team. Whether it’s another mermaid, an assistant, someone to answer your emails, or even just a family friend who wants to help out. I could write a whole blog about it… and in fact I already did (along with covering it in my Third book) so to learn more about that specifically, read this blog here: http://rainamermaid.weebly.com/blog/10-tips-for-managing-a-mermaid-team
Along with delegating tasks comes outsourcing. The internet has now made outsourcing super easy! You can browse local online ads for help, or use online platforms such as fiverr to meet other professionals you can hire for fair amounts to do some of the grunt work for you. I’ve had great success hiring artists on fiverr to make some of my posters, infographics, and help me with video editing. These are things that really help me promote my business but take up a lot of extra time. Fiverr has a built in system for buyer protection modelled after the paypal system that can help you feel secure in your purchases and commissions as well.
Managing social media can be a task too. Instead of spending time every day keeping your twitter, facebook, Instagram, and youtube up to date, you can utilize platforms that manage them all at once for you. You can also use these platforms to schedule your posts! That way, you can sit down for one afternoon and plan out all of your posts for the next week or two, and these programs will do the work for you. I really love one that I use for Twitter called “Future tweets”. It really helps me make sure all my events are locally promoted on time. Check out this link for the 12 most popular ones being used in the market right now: https://blog.dashburst.com/best-social-media-management-tools/
Time management can be a real pain when you’re trying to juggle school, work, family, and a business. I really recommend the use of an online calendar ap that can be integrated into your email and phone. I use google calendar. It syncs with my email and phone and facebook events. I have a company calendar that all of my team has access to and can put their availability in, and also keep track of bookings. It gives great alerts and reminders when bookings are coming up, I can see quickly who is available to take a gig, I can reach it from my phone, and I can control the privacy level. You can colour code everything, and I don’t have to worry if I forget my physical agenda somewhere. However, I also still keep a physical agenda as back up. As someone who struggles with organization, I find it helps to have a backup. There are many aps and websites you can use to help with this. Here’s a link to some of the more popular ones: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/technology/top-15-time-management-apps-and-tools.html
Keeping your digital life organized really helps as well. An investment into an external hard drive will help you keep your files for clients and your business all in one place. It’s good to have backups as well so not a bad idea to either use two, or backup with a secure cloud storage. Coming up with a file naming convention can help you track down specific details for a client quickly and easily.
In that same frame of mind it’s important to keep your business email organized as well. There are many ways you can do this and it’ll really depend on your business, but making use of folders and colour coding or flagging system can really help. I personally use gmail and find it has fin-tastic ways to keep emails organized. It’s also good to download an archive of all your emails every once in a while as a backup. It’s good practice to keep all your emails should any problems arise in the future.
Physical organization can help you stay on top of everything in your life. If you’re like me and this type of organization doesn’t come easy to you, consider enlisting some help! Many cities have professional organizers who will come in and help you organize your home based business in a way that you can continue to follow. You can also try some of the many organizational hacks on websites like Pinterest. I struggle with this when I get really busy. Investing in a small filing cabinet can help you keep on top of tax information and invoicing, and I’ve found using storage that is intended for preschool and schools has actually helped me really keep the misc business items in order. Many mers have come up with great ways on how to store your mermaid tails as well so they don’t take up a lot of space. You can see some of those ideas on Mernetwork.com
Setting yourself achievable goals and scheduling is important. If you know a certain month is going to be busy for you in your personal life, try to avoid taking on a lot of clients. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed with bookings or requests, consider taking on more members of your team or even upping your prices a bit. Don’t set yourself up for burnout or failure. I know It’s hard not to!
I do not have any babies of my own but I am always so impressed with how the moms on my team manage their work/family balance. Mermaid Kristin has a daughter who sometimes comes along on gigs! She knows not to break her mom’s character, and she enjoys interacting with her mom. kristin juggles working multiple jobs with her fmaily including being an actress, model, teacher, and circus performer/instructor.
Mermaid Mimi worked a few gigs through her pregnancy- mainly dryland gigs where she could easily accommodate her baby bump. When baby was born, Mimi still did a few dryland gigs for baby’s first year and worked them around her baby’s feeding schedule. A few other mers I know went on official “mer”-ternity leave while they were pregnant. If you are a pregnant mermaid, or have a wee one, I’d love to hear how you juggle it all with your mermaid self!
Juggling your family is often a team effort. Some of my friends like Venessa the Lousianna Mermaid have a few children (she has 2) so doing mermaid gigs either mean the kids are coming along for the fun, or staying with a family member. Allotting for the cost of babysitting is something you may have to factor into your gigs. I sure am impressed with these moms who keep their business going while taking care of their own kids. Venessa is a perfect example. She has her own PR firm, Mermaid Business, and a Princess Business! Along with two kids and a husband and in-laws! Way to raise the bar Venessa ;)
When it comes to juggling illness or disability, I have spoken on that topic at great length already. You can check out my thoughts on that here:
Finally, if you’re a student/working another job, it’s important to find that rare balance between the two. Your schooling/work really does require a good portion of your time, and a sincere effort for your attention. It can become a conflict when you really want to push your business and be successful, but also need to give that same kind of attitude to your school and day job. In today’s economy, many people are now working multiple jobs to make ends meet. You have to be careful that your mer-business isn’t going to cause any conflict of interests with your school or jobs. I wrote about that specifically in my first two books.
Here is what my life is like currently:
For the past 5 years I have been a full time mermaid off and on. I live in a poorer province where even the best jobs pay fairly low, and many people my age have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. While I can typically manage my main bills working only as a mermaid, I couldn’t pay down debt or save. All I did was break even. So at different points in my journey I would supplement my income by working either part time or full time if it was really necessary.
I am currently working a full time job along with running the mermaid business. Running the mermaid business typically means that during the school year we have gigs on weekends, the occasional weekday educational gig, the occasional tourism evening gig, and weekly mermaid school. In summer this ramps up to daily bookings while kids on are summer vacation. Around those bookings I spend a lot of time answering emails, doing the admin work for the company, accounting/budgeting, advertising, social networking, editing client photos/videos, managing my own videos for monetization, upkeep on all the gear, scheduling of bookings and getting bookings for my team, training, and more. I also find time usually to do free diving training weekly, I see a personal trainer 2-3 times a week and also go to the gym to keep my strength up and help with health too. I was in a car accident earlier in the year so I go for treatment for my concussion twice a week. My life is busy!
Using all of these strategies that I have shown you really have helped me. In addition, I really suggest professional development as a great investment in your time. I belong to several business groups and through them I have gotten amazing resources that have helped me with my time management.
It’s a hard time in today’s world. Many of us are “millennials” and regarded as a lazy bunch of kids! I have yet to meet a lazy millennial. All the mellennials I know are struggling to make ends meet, dealing with crippling debt, facing huge pressures to start families and buy houses, and coping with high amounts of anxiety. We are all working very hard, for a tiny slice of pie!
I hope these resources and ideas will help you better manage your time. I also want you to know that you don’t have to be “super-mer” and it’s ok to scale back and make time for yourself. Keeping up with the Joneses is a real mentality in this industry. We see what our peers are doing, think “I want to do that too!” but overload ourselves in the process.
Take time for you. This is something I have learned the hard way.