Just start and trust that what you want for yourself is possible. Figure out where you want to be in 5 years and let that vision guide you. Teeny tiny baby steps do add up to significant change, but only if you’re willing to start taking them! We interview career and life coach Tiffany Han on what it takes to to embrace your biggest dreams.
You started off going for the big house, big career and MBA — then everything changed! What made you decide to skip over to the road less traveled?
I realized I didn’t want it. I was ready to start applying for MBA programs, and all of the applications wanted me to answer the same question in essay-form: Why do you want to get an MBA? and I quickly realized that I didn’t! I wanted freedom and flexibility in my life and going to business school seemed like a “safe” way to put off making hard decisions. It was something that everyone in my life approved of and something that I could easily explain to people in my life, but it wasn’t what I wanted for myself. It’s hard to let go of things that look good on paper, but if they only look good on paper, you have to take that risk for something you really, really want.
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You mention mentorship played a big part on how you go where you are today. Could you tell us a little bit about that experience?
I started out by letting people on the internet serve as my mentors. I found those blogs and newsletters of women who inspired me, and, instead of being intimidated by their success, I let myself be inspired by it. I would say, “Well. If she can make this work, you can too” and used my secret-mentors as motivation when I was feeling down and needed to pull myself back up and get to work.
And I still do this. I try not to pay attention to very many people in my industry online as it muddles up my own ideas and confidence, but I do have secret-mentors in other industries: women or brands that I look up to.
Do you have any tips for moms seeking for a mentor themselves?
If you want to find a mentor of your own, I recommend starting out with a specific question or offer. It’s much easier for a busy person to say yes to a 15-minute phone call than a lunch to pick your brain. Also, think about what you have to offer this person. Mentoring can be very rewarding if you’re working with someone who is willing to take action on the advice you give. Make it a no-brainer for this person to be willing to help you.
You specialize in helping creative women who feel stuck in their creative businesses. How do you find coaching creatives differs from a more general audience?
Ooh, well, for one thing, it’s way more fun! For the most part, my favorite thing about my clients is how imaginative they can be – there are so many brilliant ideas in all of them just waiting to be recognized by the world. While this can feel paralyzing, it is so exciting for me to help them see things happen.
What’s the most common problem you encounter when coaching creative moms?
Time and energy. And overthinking. They all play into each other, so we tend to start by not outlining what needs to be done (because, let’s face it: no one needs more added to their to do lists!) but by looking at the why behind what they’re doing. By focusing on the end goal and the feelings behind that end goal, making intermediary decisions and taking action steps become much easier. I also help them focus on the teeny tiny baby steps that are usually all a busy mom can handle. The magic is, once you start taking those steps, things do happen, and often, they happen much quicker than we realize they will!
What’s your favorite aspect of coaching someone?
I think people are often surprised at how quickly they are able to get things done when they channel their creative energy. I had a client who came to me last summer because she wanted to get her business off the ground, and within weeks, she had launched her podcast and was working on her first e-book.
I love it when people have the moment of realizing that they knew it all along, that they can do things, and that success is possible. That is why I do what I do!
It seems like a big focus of your work is helping women start their own businesses — is that based on your personal intention or does it reflect larger shifts in work for creatives? What personal advantages do you find to running your own business over working within a company?
Coaching creative women around starting or growing their business is my sweet spot. It’s something that I slowly discovered in my years of coaching – the sessions where I was helping women on their businesses were always my favorite, so I kept doing more of those and less of everything else. (Sometimes it really is that simple!)
I do think that the internet has changed what’s possible for women regarding entrepreneurship and that there are many platforms that make starting a business much easier than it used to be. These days, the point of entry is very low. You can start a business with a Facebook page or an Instagram account and not much else. Of course, this low point of entry also means that it can feel like everyone in the world has an online-based business. (And — shameless plug alert! — that’s why having a business coach is so helpful!)
For me, I decided to ditch the MBA and work towards creative entrepreneurship because I knew that I wanted to have a family someday and have freedom and flexibility in my work life. I’m also super bossy and hate having to get approval from other people before making decisions or executing things. This can be both good and bad in running my own business!
What are your 5 favorite tools that help you keep your business humming along smoothly?
This is tough to answer because there are so many!
- Skype for connecting with my solopreneur friends who live far away and help keep me sane.
- Quickbooks because even though I put off bookkeeping for way too long, I love the easy reporting and reconciling.
- Google drive — I keep everything here.
- Asana is my go-to tool for collaborating with my graphic designer on blog graphics and keeping all of my ideas in one place.
- Paper and pens – Technology is great, but at the end of the day, I’m a paper girl and do my best thinking when I step away from the screen and move my body!
Even the most creative business has a lot of not so creative aspects, what’s your least favorite part of having your own business?
Bookkeeping! Actually, that’s a lie because once I sit down, I don’t mind it that much. There is a lot of administrative work that is less fun than the creative work, and I tend to put this off the most. There is always too much email in this world, but I do my best to minimize the time it takes. Ironically, I find that by checking email less, I’m able to get through my inbox much quicker, leaving time for a (literal) walk in the park or more writing time.
What’s one thing you did in the last year to make running your business easier?
I let most things go. I have very little extra time, so I’ve had to streamline most of my processes so that I’m only doing the Most Important Work. That meant letting go of saying yes to almost everything so that I can be sure that my business is my biggest priority.
You have twin daughters AND run your own creative coaching business, what do you feel like your biggest challenge is as you juggle everything?
The biggest challenge for me is prioritizing what needs to get done and letting that be my focus. There are distractions everywhere on the internet, so 30 lost minutes are 30 more minutes that I spend working after my girls go to bed (which is not my prime time for thinking!).
I wish I had a great solution to avoiding internet distraction, but the truth is that I do my best to minimize it as much as possible. I try to write in the mornings before I go online. I use apps like Self Control to block myself from social media sites. I break down my to-do lists into specific, actionable items. Most of these work pretty well, but honestly, it’s a daily battle against my procrastination. The thing that helps me the most is to only say yes to things that I’m really excited about and let go of the things I’m not excited about. This helps work feel less like work and more like fun.
Being a work at home mom and running your own business can be challenging — do you differentiate the two?
I do my best, but it’s hard. Luckily, I have a separate studio in our backyard, so when I’m out there I’m working and when I’m inside the house, I’m mama. As I said before, this works for the most part and the thing that helps the most is giving myself the grace to be okay with for the most part and not trying to find a perfect system.
I do my best to only be mama when I’m watching the girls and not worry about my work stuff until I’m able to be fully present with it. If I have a big day, I delete social media apps from my phone to avoid the distraction. Nothing on social media is so important that it can’t wait until the kids go to bed. Really. Promise.
How do you feel creative coaching fulfills your own urges to be creative?
I am a writer, and writing is the primary way I market my business. I also started a podcast last summer (right after maternity leave!) and that’s been a wonderful creative outlet for me!
How did living in France change your outlook on life?
Ah! This shifted things for me in so many ways! There was such an ease to our time there that I realized I needed this in my life all the time. I came home with the sense that I would do everything I could to have more ease and less struggle and I am still working towards that goal.
I’m also trying to figure out how we can move to France for at least a couple of years when the girls get a little bigger!
I love your series 100 Rejection Letters — what do you find motivates you in the face of possible rejection?
I started this project when I was coming off of my maternity leave and knew that I needed to start taking more risks in my business. I decided that I’d rather get a no than not know if someone would have said yes. Also, I get a gold star for every rejection I get, which turns the whole thing into a game!
Rejections still sting, but much less than they used to!
Outside of work and family, do you have other creative hobbies or pursuits?
Currently, most of my creative pursuits pertain to my business, so I do my best to relax when I’m not working. I do have a daily inspirational post-it project going on instagram, and that is about as much as I can handle these days.
What’s next for you? In your dream of dreams, where do you see yourself in 5 or even 10 years?
I’m currently gearing up to launch my 100 Rejection Letters program in the fall for creative entrepreneurs (or wannabe creative entrepreneurs!) who are ready to take fear out of their decision-making equation. I’m also working on a couple of book proposals and continuing my weekly podcast Raise Your Hand Say Yes.
In 5 or 10 years, I want to have an empire! (Ahh! It’s scary to say that out loud!) I want to speak and teach and inspire women to go after their dreams and make things happen, even when their dreams feel inconvenient. I want to be the Oprah for creative entrepreneurs!
Is there anything you wished I’d asked?
Yes! The question I wished you’d asked was, “Do you have any specific advice for moms who want to someday have their own business?”
Ah! Yes! I do! Start. Start now. Even though you don’t have time, even though you’re tired, even though it doesn’t make sense. Just start and trust that what you want for yourself is possible. Figure out where you want to be in 5 years and let that vision guide you. Teeny tiny baby steps do add up to significant change, but only if you’re willing to start taking them!
And do it — you’re not just an average person and you’ve SO got this.
Fill in the Blanks:
- The last book I read was: The Golden Compass – such a good before-bed book!
- I just got the keys for the time-machine so I’m heading straight for: I have no idea! I’m pretty happy where I am and would hate to alter any of the past or change anything! (That might be a cop-out answer, but it’s 100% true!)
- Shhhh, don’t tell anyone but my guilty pleasure is: Binge-watching tv shows made for teenagers! Reign is my current favorite.
- If I were a color, I’d be: Magenta.
- I suddenly have two hours sans enfants and work, I’m going to: Take a nap or go see a movie. All by myself. Extra butter on the popcorn and Cherry Coke please.
Tiffany Han is a business and branding coach who helps highly-creative women take bold, inspired action in their businesses . . . and their lives. She’s been called a Professional Yoda and helps her clients – ranging from bloggers, illustrators, and graphic designers to cubicle jailbirds who are tired of putting their creative dreams on hold – raise their hands and say yes: to those things they’ve always wanted to start, to those ideas that feel crazy, and to themselves. She is also the host of the weekly podcast Raise Your Hand Say Yes that is all about the creative adventures of (extra)ordinary people.