Looking back at some files from my early days of bookkeeping, when I was just starting my practice, Totally Booked, I ran across an article from 2018. It was written by the folks at Veem, but based on an interview with me – all about how I came to be a Veem fan during my early days of starting my practice. Rereading that article has made me realize how many insights about having a practice I was already learning then, and what I was still missing. In the spirit of self reflection, here is advice I would share with folks who are starting their journey.
My Totally Booked story began with being fired, and being glad about it. And it is a funny thing, being happy to be fired. You would have thought I had learned my lesson at that time–to recognize a bad situation and remove myself more quickly. Fast forward to year two and three of running my practice, and I was drowning in my overwhelming compulsion to say yes to ALL the things and help ALL the people. Even when I knew the YES wasn’t going to be any good for any of us. I wanted to be nice. But I was failing to be kind, especially to myself.
Frankly, knowing when to try harder and be gracious in business versus when to show a cranky client the door is still a skill I’m working on. I like to think of it this way – when something, or someone, isn’t working for me it’s probably not working for them either, and not worth it to continue. That said, what works can change from day to day and the status of my bank account does have an impact here, no matter what anyone says!
These days I keep my boundaries in mind along with my finances, remember what being flexible has done for me, and what it hasn’t, and don’t let embarrassment about past wrong steps convince me I’m not entitled to make better choices now.
It’s easy to look at the person who is happy she was fired and think “wow, what a great attitude!” But don’t get it twisted: that is the same person who was miserable for a long time and didn’t take action to improve the situation. It just goes to show, none of us are ever all one thing. Not even on the same day. So much for moxie.
Not long after the firing, I reclaimed my nerve and took my aunt’s advice. I dove into QuickBooks and bookkeeping. No experience. No knowledge. Just a lot of curiosity to see what good could happen. Taking that leap worked out. Other leaps haven’t. Sure, it would be very inspirational to sum up my successes like an instagram post : Fail to plan and plan to fail! #Fearless or Follow your bliss. The problem is it wouldn’t be true.
What sometimes gets missed in my story is that I didn’t begin by master-planning and then fearlessly executing a passion. And it was not just a matter of luck either. Nope, I got busy learning as I was doing. I think it was this beginner’s mindset that helped me more than anything else –being open to discovery, trying and figuring it out, then tweaking and trying again. You don’t need to be perfectly prepared, without fear, or even passionately sure you are on the right track. Success tends to follow how much you are willing to engage with, learn through, and stay aware of what is actually in front of you. Better still, failure starts to feel less like failure, and more like learning what does not work for you.
I had no idea I would be good at bookkeeping. I had no idea I would hate bartending. I had no idea I would thrive having my own business. What I am very glad I did not do is assume that because these things had never occurred to me before, that somehow meant they were ‘not for me’.
No one ever excelled at a skill or was prepared for tackling complex situations without first being a beginner at that very thing.
Obviously there are things that will be outside your realm of consideration. I mean, I don’t need to feed a shark to know I don’t want to feed sharks.
However, if you do think you might like something, don’t let the fact that you’ll be “just starting out” prevent you from, well, starting. Progress trumps perfection. Any progress is better than fretting about how to start and then eternally not starting. Stop assuming you have to be further along than you are. Don’t allow yourself to feel defeated before you start. Just start where you are at now, and keep moving forward
You don’t have to wait to be perfectly natural, comfortable, and fearless to try something. No longer being afraid or nervous isn’t a sign you’re “ready”. I was nervous and unsure at times during the early days of building Totally Booked. I still feel that way when starting something new. But revisiting this article, it is nice to realize that I did not have a lot of fears in the beginning. In fact, I think it’s a lot easier to move forward in spite of fear when you are brand new in the game – your identity doesn’t take a hit if you ‘fail’, because you are just starting out.
So what about starting something when you aren’t “just starting out” in general? I’m not going to tell you “you’ll never regret the things you do, only the ones you don’t do”. For the record, LIES! There is plenty in my life I am very glad I did not choose to do, and some things I very much regret doing.
But this instagrammable sentiment absolutely applies to a very small slice of things – the things we did not do because we let fear of failure, rejection, or change stop us. On more than one occasion I’ve realized that what I thought was fear was actually excitement about beginning. I try to remember that whether something is scary and whether I should do something are two completely different questions, and I should respect that by answering them separately.
Back to my firing – at some point I had to act. I got more active about my own career path and got busy doing and learning what I could. I didn’t always get my way. I didn’t avoid mistakes. It wasn’t easy by any stretch. But the choices were all mine, instead of reactions to the choices of others. When it’s up to me I try to get the information I need and make informed decisions rather than letting anyone else choose for me. I consider failing at something to be ‘failing forward’, instead of failing by failing to act at all.
It is easy to become solely focused on benefitting the customer – but that becomes more like clocking in at a job instead of running a business. Likewise, treating it like a hobby is no good either – something that benefits you and really no one else. In my opinion when you are truly running your own thing, the focus is on creating a win-win. If you are going to spend all the extra time and energy that being a business owner takes, you deserve both to make an impact and actually make your work your own!
Face it. This. Is. FUN. You wouldn’t be reading an article about small business bookkeeping and entrepreneurial journeys if what you do doesn’t make you feel completely in your element and thriving! And that feeling is amazing.
Your customers want that feeling too. But they often feel like they are in too deep – either because they aren’t tolerant of their own beginner status or they think they should already be at level two right when they begin. This can be especially true with financial stuff. But this is where we shine. There is nothing better than finding the thing that will make a client suddenly feel successful again.
I really like Veem–it is a fantastic app. It helped me differentiate my business. It still does! That is why I was glad to do the interview with them back then, and why I am still a partner with them today. But as lovely and useful as Veem is as an app, that is not what made me love it.
Finding a solution like Veem made both my life and my clients’ lives better. That is still the win-win, the reason to go to the trouble of owning a business. Being able to affect change is what I first loved about being a bookkeeper then, and it is what I still love today. Seeing your work actually move the needle for people? Not to mention, to make a living at it? That. Is. FUN.
Everything I have listed here really relates to something bigger. There is not a certain date on the calendar when you ‘get it’, or at least not a day when “getting it” means you will never have to deal with that issue again. These ideas are not to-do list tasks to be checked off.
These are skills you learn through practice, day after day – on purpose. It is this approach that makes what we do as bookkeepers and accountants and business owners a craft. There is not a moment where you master good boundaries or planning for change. There are only a bunch of smaller moments when you acknowledge what you have done well, but still reach for how to do things better. The world spins, the needs of business change, and there is always something else to improve. You are never really done learning and growing – if you are doing it right.
Seeing my practice as a craft means accepting that a part of me has to remain a beginner. If I don’t, I am not watching, absorbing, and refining nearly as much. Thinking about where I was when Becoming Totally Booked was published and where I am now; it is the parts of my story that are steeped in ‘beginnerness’ that end up resonating with people most. And with me too. I am most proud of the accomplishments that took me from zero to level one. That is where the growth is: allowing yourself to be bad, a beginner, at something so you can then get good at something, so that later you can be great at something. It is in that first step as a beginner where the moxie comes in. But that is what will make your practice a true practice.
Get curious and start as a beginner on Veem. They provide so much support, resources and tools to ensure you and your business are successful. One of the many reasons why Veem is my top choice for payment processing. Start learning today – your future self will thank you!
About the Author:
Mix a creative mind with a number-cruncher, then throw in a dash of New York City attitude and what do you get? Kelly Gonsalves – a true entrepreneur that is all in, all the time. Her first endeavor began just five years ago when Kelly founded Totally Booked (™). The purpose: to assist every small business in becoming more profitable by utilizing efficient accounting processes. She soon followed up by founding Totally SEO, a boutique service for the accounting industry and co-founding Leading Lady Machine Works, a project devoted to making swag better for companies and the accounting community at large.
Kelly is a QuickBooks Advanced Certified ProAdvisor (™), a member of the Intuit Trainer Writer Network, a HubDoc Top 50 Cloud Accountant, on Avalara’s Social Media Top 100, an Insightful Accountant Top 10 ProAdvisor, as well as the host of Insightful Accountant’s QB Talks: App Neighbourhood Watch.
When Kelly isn’t busy starting and growing companies, making merch, and engaging with the community, she loves to cook, paddle-board, and chase after her dog, Nina.
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