A Letter to My Niece

My “niece” asked if I’d have a talk with her, or tell her what I know about business, networking and some other shit. Sure, sure. I’ll get to it. Well, I did… Eventually. Took me a couple of months. It wasn’t until my Cousin, my “niece’s” mother, asked “would you have a talk with her? She’s having a rough time…” Sure, I said.

I am posting a heavily edited (for stronger than usual language because I like to cuss at people I love. Lots! The more I love, the more F-bombs you get. True story). But this piece was also important to me because of things that I’ve been playing and replaying through my head of late. So my own words here were a good reminder, if you can believe it…


Dear Niece,
I’m sorry that I’m only now getting you this note. This is something that I knew would take time to put together and I really wanted to write something meaningful and actionable that I think can help you.

I don’t know your business and I don’t know what truly motivates you. But I know that you’re going after what you want. And that’s damn impressive, follow that and it will take you as far as you want it to.

What I can tell you is this; follow your heart and follow your gut; do what you love. The rest will fall into place. If you can be one thing, then be true to who you are. Lastly, expect no handouts from anyone; don’t expect that you’re owed anything. No one owes you a damn thing; the world doesn’t owe you anything; I don’t owe you anything; neither does your mom, dad, or anyone. This is your journey and you’ll get by with a little help from your friends and family. Love YOU and you make me proud!

Okay, that’s out-of-the-way. So, you want to do your job well. You want to cut your teeth and strike out on your own. Great!

What do you need to do in your industry to get work? You can go work for some other Salons or what have you. Again, I don’t know your industry, but it seems this way to me:

  • Work for someone else and their business. Stable, you’re fed clients and a steady wage. May not be what you want to do, but hone your craft. Get better at what you do.
  • Work for yourself. Not as stable, not as many clients; but what clients you have are loyal, they’ll come back to you. Pay is scarce and inconsistent. Life will suck.

The goal is to work for yourself. Great! But that’s not going to cut it out of the gate. You will need to build experience and a body of work. How?

I can tell you how I got started. I’m still a work in progress who might well fail at all of this.

Things you need to understand, first.

  • You are not as smart as you think you are.
  • If you need help just ask.
  • You will learn from others who have been there before you
  • You will fuck up.
  • Be quick to take responsibility and own it. In all facets of life.
  • Be humble
  • Help others
  • Be open with how you feel
  • Do right by yourself and by others
  • Understand that trust is among your most treasured prizes. Don’t just fuck around with it.
  • Excuses are the tools of the weak and feint-hearted. Accept. Learn. Grow. Own. Move forward.
  • Be professional. Love yourself.

Do shit for free.

Find people who need your help. Do it for dirt cheap and/or free. That’s the best call you can make. You can potentially make loyal clients and recurring income from folks that you treat right as you’re getting started. Focus on those arrangements where you can do great work that you can showcase. I did about five sites before I started advertising.

Start looking for smarter people than you.

You’re not smarter than a lot of other motherfuckers out there. The same is true for me. I talk to people who have done this longer than me and I ask them questions: 1. How do you get your clients? Word of mouth, from your website etc. 2. What do you use to bill people? That will be an important question to you but it is to me. 3. How do they approach business? What are they doing to build themselves; understand how people think. It doesn’t mean you’re wrong; but understanding is essential to overcoming. Think of questions specific to your line of work and ask people what you don’t know. Find the folks that other people go to. You’ll know who these folks are. You’re trying to find a mentor, someone objective that you can bounce ideas off of; someone who will tell you you’re being an asshole.

Where do these smarter people gather and hang out?

For me it’s a little different. Here, we have ‘Meetups’ where we gather, discuss topics, do presentations etc. There are Meetups in and around PDX for Hair and makeup stylists. You need to be at those meetups! “But I have to work…” Fo’get you. GO! “But, but, I have school!!!” Fahgedda about it just GO!! “But I miss my man and he’s upset when I’m gone…” Pfft! GO and while you’re at it drop the dead weight. Building your personal brand (You are a fucking brand!) and business requires dedication and sacrifice. If you can’t do either one of those; if you can’t deal with being busy; if you can’t deal with not being there for some family events, or to hangout with your friends, then shaddap! Go work for somebody else!! Seriously. That’s a small fraction of what it will take. Gather where like-minded people will be. Whether it’s at school; or a meetup; or a salon or similar, find these places and GO. There’s no excuse not to. You will feel out-of-place sometimes; no excuse. Just fucking do it.

“Be present in all that you do.” — Greg Douglas

Start sharing what you know and practice.

I heard this from a friend of mine. It’s a simple and often overlooked morsel. I do a lot of presentations around Los Angeles and beyond. Here’s a talk from your Uncle: http://wordpress.tv/2013/07/02/alex-vasquez-plugin-workshop-wordpress-seo/ – When you share what you know, techniques etc, people will look to you as an ‘authority’ on that topic; they’ll pick your brain. The more you talk, the more faces and people you get in front of. Most of my business is word of mouth because people know me. I get several referrals a week. It’s pretty awesome. So get out there and start sharing what you know. Of course, this is after you’ve established yourself in your community.

Help People. A lot. AKA ‘The Rule of Reciprocity’

Someone said to me once: “The rule of reciprocity means that the favor you do for someone will be valued at twice as much by the person you’re doing the favor for. Meaning they will value the favor more than you will, probably.” While not always true, this rule is good to live by in general. Not just because it can help you. Help others; don’t be a fucking shit head. If someone asks you for help, help them. Be a bigger person and give of your time. People will appreciate and find ways to pay you back. So, when my mom asks you for help, do be a good niece and help her. She’s an old woman and she loves you, fucker, so be nice and take her to lunch please. (Note — My niece did take my mom out for lunch recently. Dawwww)

A fact of life is that there are people who will be ahead of you in the ‘game of life’ and there are those that will be behind you. How you treat this simple fact will affect how people see you and how you see yourself. There are many folks ahead of me, certainly. But there’s even more behind me. I choose to reach back and help others come forward with me, or beyond. In other words, I help people; I answer questions; I make myself available. People remember that and it comes back some how, in some way… Be the person that people think of when it comes to helping out with something.

Bring people to you.

Remember Meetup? I suggest doing something like that. Host an informal (casual) meetup where you can discuss business with your fellow stylists. Be the leader; lead the discussion, share knowledge ask questions. I’m telling you, this works. This, again, gets you in front of people. Be diligent and be consistent, regardless of what life throws you. Because guess what? Nobody else gives a fuck that you had a shitty day; that someone died; that life just shit on you… The world moves on while you deal with your bullshit. So, deal with it, but keep hustling, keep moving.

Host a Meetup where you can practice your techniques on people. Either do it free, or super cheap. Again, be a leader in actions and thoughts. Events like this will raise your profile, skill and make you feel good about yourself because you’re helping others…

OH, what? No one wants to do this in your area? Oh, what, it’s too far to do this where you know you’ll get people. Oh, your car is busted up? Hey? Forget YOU! MAKE. SHIT. HAPPEN!!!

Do good things for good people.

Yeah, more free shit. I’ll tell you, some of the most rewarding things is to do great work for non-profits and organizations that can use the help. There will be organizations out there that need someone with your skills. Donate a few hours of your time for a good cause. You’ll feel better and you’ll be a part of something bigger than yourself.

You’ll notice, undoubtedly, that my methods involve giving back in some way or other. Humbling yourself and learning. That’s not just for business, but for life. The things that have brought me the most joy is community; giving back and helping others and just learning. If you do these things, I promise you’ll be happy and people will come to you. Just give it all that you can.

Stop Doing Shit for Free

You’ll have gotten to a point where people know about you, they think about you and want to do business with you or refer others who might do business with you as well. You don’t have to do everything for free. Help others, where it makes sense, but know that your time; your smarts; your ingenuity is worth something. It’s worth a whole fucking lot of somethings. You can do things that few others can. Know this and charge what you’re worth. Don’t be a dick about it; charge what you’re worth.

Lastly.

Don’t game “the system,” just work hard, be eager to learn; LEARN and don’t go screwing off. Get shit done. Trust your gut. In all things. There will be times when it seems like the world doesn’t agree with you; remember that just because their voices are many doesn’t make them right. Believe in what you’re doing.

I love the shit out of you, Niece. I’m pulling for you and I’ve never, never been more proud of you now than I am today. All I ask of you is to try. All life asks of you is everything. Be present and stop fucking around.

“If you’re coasting through life, it’s because you’re going downhill” – Mehrdad Modjtahedi

I love you.

Your Uncle,
Alex

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