Writer, Speaker, Podcaster, and Life Coach Chelsea Austin on taking care of yourself first

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Describe your business in a few words?

I advocate for others to find their own self-worth and acceptance through self-care, love, respect, and storytelling.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

When I started writing my book and my blog, I don’t think I ever realized it would become a business. Looking back, I guess that was a little silly of me. I started writing because I was desperate to feel fulfilled and creative while working in real estate. While that can be a very fulfilling job for many, it just wasn’t for me and I felt like I had to put the full and authentic Chelsea in a closet every day so that I could go out and do my job well. I was having panic attacks and coming home to my husband in tears most nights. I knew I needed a change, but I had no clue what that change should be. I had many people in my life tell me I should write a book. And, as the 28-year-old daughter of two gay men to both of whom I am biologically related, I have a pretty unique story to tell. I had ignored all of those people. I didn’t know how to write a book. It was scary and intimidating. I had barely been able to write a convincing essay in school. But when I was struggling in real estate I saw writing as an opportunity to give back to myself creatively. 

Then, as my manuscript started to develop into something I was proud of, I decided to start a blog. My blog, The Girl With Five Names, was another way for me to tap into my creativity, and also start to build a platform for when I would be ready to sell my book. When my manuscript was ready to be taken to the next level, I realized that I had an opportunity here to take a leap and so I did…slowly. I gave my 365-day notice and began building my plan for the future.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Muhlenberg College with a degree in theatre and dance. When I returned home after graduation, I quickly realized the world of auditioning was not for me. I started working as the marketing assistant in my family’s real estate company and quickly got sucked into the world of real estate. I got my real estate license in 2015 and focused on selling small multifamily properties, and in 2016 I started MDW & Associates Property Management with my husband. In 2018 I got my broker’s license and became a license partner and broker for Engel & Völkers Los Angeles, as well as, MDW & Assoc. Property Management. It was a world I had never envisioned for myself, and I was able to learn so much about negotiations, contracts, sales, running a business, and beyond. Even though I struggled while working in real estate, I am so grateful for that time as it taught me so much, I was able to work with my family, and it allowed me to be financially able to support my current endeavors.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I really didn’t. I always thought I was going to be on Broadway. I feel incredibly grateful and humbled for all the twists and turns life has taken that landed me where I am today.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

I wish I could say I had a super marketing strategy from the get-go, but to be honest, I didn’t. I started following breadcrumbs and ended up hiring an incredible personal brand strategist and coach who guided me through the first steps of marketing my personal brand. It started with marketing to my sphere of influence. I started talking about myself and my business and all of the things I want to accomplish and putting them out there for everyone to see, even when it felt overwhelming or scary. The majority of my marketing has been done via email or with my organic reach on social media. When I was ready to start approaching publishers, even though it was early on, I hired a PR firm and a social media management company. I got good at delegating quickly so that I could focus on what I am good at and let the professionals handle parts of my business that I didn’t yet understand.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

I used to always take things very personally. I still struggle not to on occasion, but I’ve learned that only pleasing other people and not thinking about yourself is no way to run a business long term. I always thought I had to answer emails within a moment of receiving them or constantly be available to those involved in my business, but that led to a lot of anxiety and burnout. Ultimately, I’ve learned that it’s okay for there to be some unanswered emails at the end of the day. It’s okay if someone has to wait for a call back on occasion. The time I set aside for myself is just as valuable as the time I spend working, because if I don’t take care of myself, there is no me to continue running my business. I treat me-time as I treat an appointment with my publisher or a vendor. I wouldn’t cancel on them, so I refuse to cancel on myself. Taking care of myself has been the greatest revelation I’ve had in business: I become more effective, make better decisions, and I feel inspired way more than when I’m just scraping by to get everything done as fast as possible and burning the candle at both ends.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

I am very, very proud of becoming a published author. A year ago I thought I was going to self-publish, which is also a noble path, but I was only going to self-publish because I thought a first-time author couldn’t get a publishing deal… or so I had been told. I was making a decision out of fear. Then, I changed my mind. I decided to submit to publishers and ultimately I was offered a contract. My book will be on bookshelves across the country on April 26, 2022, and I could not be more excited. I never even thought I was a good writer and now, here I am. I truly feel like anything is possible if you just open yourself up to the idea that it is.

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

Why do you believe in my brand and me? It is one of the most important things I ask when hiring. I want to know that you believe in what I do as much as I do and it has been incredible to hear the responses I get. It’s also made it very easy to tell when someone is the right fit or not.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

I am so excited that my course sign-ups for my Flip The Script course are live! Flip the Script is an incredible one-month course designed to help us rewire the negative messages we send ourselves, tap into our self-worth, and redefine ourselves, as well as an opportunity to destress and create more space for creativity and fun in our lives. It’s a self-study program with two virtual retreats that include: yoga, a breath workshop, and more! Beyond my Flip The Script course in the immediate future, I am thrilled to be growing my platform with my book and other speaking engagements. It is my greatest joy to share my story with others and awaken them to their self-worth. I look forward to getting back in person, being with audiences again, and feeling the energy in the room once more. I also hope to turn my one-month Flip The Script course into an in-person retreat and I will be releasing a 12-month Flip The Script planner and prompt book next year, which is a project very much designed out of my obsession with planners. I am so excited to see where the next few years take me. I cannot wait to write my next book and I have faith that this is all just the beginning.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

Honestly, I’ve learned how to take a break for the first time in my life. I have always been someone that’s pushing, pushing, pushing and it’s really hard for me to slow down. But I found that when I take a break or am forced to take a break, I am more creative, less stressed and capable of so much more than I could have even imagined.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

That I was starting a business. No, really, I’m serious. I went into my current endeavors thinking I was just going to have a book and a blog – I didn’t even know what a personal brand was. Now I have a course, podcast, blog, t-shirt, planner and prompt book, and a memoir. I didn’t realize going into my new career that I was going to be running a business and for a long time I was uncomfortable looking at it that way. I wanted to be creative, I didn’t consider myself an entrepreneur, but of course, that is exactly what I am. I wish I had a more open mind about artists being allowed to also want to monetize and run a business based on their work. I felt a lot of guilt and shame for wanting that and it’s taken time to process that what I am doing is running a business as an artist and that is a beautiful thing, not something to be shied away from.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

Connection. Plain and simple. The best way for me to get back to feeling grounded has been connecting with those that I love even if I haven’t been able to see them in person. It reminds me of why I do what I do and keeps me fueled. I also take time to free-write and journal. It’s the best way for me to clear the mental cobwebs and remind myself what is most important in my life. 

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

Absolutely. I think it’s beyond important to have balance in your life. One of the ways I maintain balance is setting aside specific days or times where I am just with my family without my phone. It can be really scary at first, but ultimately so freeing and if I don’t really “turn off” I never feel fully rested and able to get back at it. I also remind myself that I cannot pour from an empty cup. I need to make sure that I am taking care of myself so that I can do my best work for as long as I possibly can.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

When I was eighteen I shared the stage with Barack Obama. I was speaking at the National Human Rights Campaign dinner and I happened to be the person speaking directly after him.  The night before the event I met him at an intimate gathering of HRC supporters. He was so kind, and I told him that I was beyond nervous to be speaking after him the next day. His response was, “Don’t worry, Chelsea, I’ll just warm up the crowd for you.” Needless to say, I almost spontaneously combusted right there. He was such an incredible and kind person and I will always be grateful for that memory. 

Also, I am the Executive Director of a non-profit organization, Dance In Color, which supports young dancers of color in pursuing their dreams through dance. I am incredibly proud of co-founding this amazing organization that just celebrated its first anniversary!

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

1. Set aside specific times to do emails and close your emails and messages when you’re working on a project

2. Take breaks so that you can come back to what you’re working on with fresh eyes and inspiration

3. Block out time in your day for projects so that you don’t accidentally fill it with calls/meetings

What does being an Entreprenista League member mean to you?

Being an Entreprenista [League member] means that I have an opportunity to be a part of an incredible community of women, where I can learn, and also share knowledge. It means that I don’t have to do this alone and that we have the privilege of having an amazing group of women that we can interact and grow with.

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