Category Archives: Ways to Make Money

Should I Hire Employees or Contractors?

Definitely had this question when my small business started to grow--should I hire an employee or a contractor?

Women-owned businesses are growing disproportionately to small businesses in the rest of the economy.

These businesses tend to start out as an entity of one. But when you experience growth, you need to get more hands on deck to handle the workload.

At this point, you’re faced with a question: do I hire employees, or do I contract it out?

Hiring Employees

Hiring employees means establishing loyalty and priority, but those things come at a cost.


  • You’ll have to pay payroll taxes.
  • In all likelihood, you’ll have to pay for healthcare.
  • To be competitive, you may have to offer a retirement plan.
  • Once you get big enough, you’ll have to hire someone to manage all those people.
  • Unless you have a completely remote staff, you’ll have to rent a bigger space.


It’s not all bad, though. There are some added benefits of having a staff that’s W-2’d:

  • All those benefits mean people are likely to stick around longer.
  • Less competing priorities.
  • More ability to delegate without renegotiating contracts.
  • Though you may need a manager or have to become one yourself, your team will be far easier to coordinate than a group of freelancers.

Hiring employees? Be sure you follow this 12-step process to keep everything legit.


I operate primarily as a contractor. When I’ve needed assistance in my business, I’ve hired contractors rather than full- or part-time employees. While there’s good things about us, there are some undeniable hangups, as well.


  • Because there are no benefits, contractors don’t have as many scruples hopping from one job to the next. In fact, you probably aren’t your contractor’s only client.
  • Because you aren’t their only client, you may not always be priority #1. While I always try to make each of my clients feel like priority #1 and have been able to maintain some decently long relationships because of it, the fact remains that in order to pay the bills you almost always have to have more than one project going.
  • It’s difficult to coordinate contractors. They’re not all required to be in the same place at the same time for meetings, so communication may get fractured across different aspects of your project.
  • If you add tasks to a contractor’s workload, expect a conversation about contract renegotiations.


  • Contractors are cheap–even if you pay them more than you would a typical employee. No payroll taxes. No obligation for healthcare. No one’s expecting a 401(k) nonetheless a match.
  • Contractors tend to be extremely self-motivated. While coordinating between different aspects of a project may be difficult, once you sic them on a task they’ll likely require less management than a group of employees.
  • Contractors are much more likely to work remotely, reducing your overhead costs for rented space.
  • If you run into a budgeting problem, you can cut a contractor–or their hours–within the legal scope of your contract. This makes trimming costs easier when things are lean, and because you know they probably have other things going on in the background, you don’t necessarily have to feel like you’re putting them out of house and home (in most cases.)

The Best Way to Retain Workers

Once you’ve found good help,  you want to keep it, whether it’s coming from an employee or a contractor. The best ways to do this are to be fair in your compensation, flexible in your workplace structure and kind even in those teachable moments.

No matter who you hire, we’re all human beings, and the respect that breeds loyalty is a two-way street.

How have you handled new hires as your business grows?


Why Mothers Make Phenomenal Intrapreneurs

Intrapreneurship is like entrepreneurshiph but it changes businessnes from the inside. The reason why moms are so good at it is super interesting!

Though she was only twenty-two years old, Sam Paxson was going places with her career—and she knew it. Ambitious and driven, she secured a position at a large marketing agency where she worked on big-name accounts like Aston Martin, Billabong, Ford and Fender.

Her biggest priorities were paying off her student loans and having a vibrant social life. With a career that allowed her to increase her income proportionate to her performance, her financial goals were obtainable. Being so young, she was untethered by familial responsibilities and lived that vibrant social life she sought after.

Life was good, and she kept working hard to make sure it stayed that way.

A Step Up

Eight years passed. Sam was now 30, and she happened upon a job with a very different type of company. A little ATM network, called CO-OP Financial Services, was looking for a VP of Marketing.

Bold and unafraid, Sam applied for the position—and got it. Today she largely attributes finding and getting the position to luck. But if luck is when hard work meets opportunity, Sam had done her part on the “hard work” end.

“CO-OP offered me a job because I was a very driven person who was delivering. I was also probably the most inexpensive candidate,” she admits, nodding to her youth. “They were getting a great deal.”

Since Sam joined on twelve years ago, CO-OP has evolved into a FinTech company that serves 60 million consumers. As a back-end tech provider striving to help people lead better financial lives, the company helps credit unions connect to each other so they can share branches and ATMs. Add its digital apps and fraud protection services, and CO-OP plays a large role in helping credit unions compete with banks.

“It’s a very fun and purpose-driven business,” Sam relates. “We’re living in a tech world that’s evolving so quickly that we constantly have to race towards what’s next. It’s been really exciting as a leader to live in that world.”

Lead she has. Sam has helped the company grow, and she’s been rewarded for it. She’s a big believer in meritocracy—when you deliver excellence, you’ll be compensated well for it.

Getting Paid What You’re Worth

You have to do more than simply deliver excellence, though. You have to advocate for yourself and ask to be compensated according to the value you’re providing to your employer.

“A book that really influenced me was Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead But Gutsy Girls Do,” says Sam. “It taught me that it never hurts to ask. It never hurts to go for it. The more you do, the more you’ll get paid.

“Every time I add value to the company I’m in my bosses’ office telling them, ‘Look at the value I provided to you! You should pay me more because of it!’

“’You are relentless and hilarious,’ they all say. But doing so has served me over my twenty years in the workforce. You need to tell them, ‘Look I’m doing this great stuff–and you need to pay me well so I’ll continue doing it for you.’”

Changing Priorities

As Sam’s life progressed, her priorities changed. Today, her friends are still important to her, but her number one priority is her five-year-old son.

“He’s only going to be five for a year,” she says, “and I’m going to miss it if I’m completely focused on work. I was offered other job opportunities that required being in the office five days a week. I had to turn those opportunities down.”

One offer in particular came with a pay raise and a better title, but something about it didn’t feel quite right.

“You should always interview your potential employer as much as they’re interviewing you,” Sam notes. “During this interview, I could feel in my gut that the opportunity was more conservative and they would be more old school about how they were getting the best out of me.”

At CO-OP, Sam is given flexibility to work from home many days while still holding meetings with coworkers in their physical office on others. This setup gives her opportunities for creative engagement with others, yet also provides her with the time she needs to think and work independently.

The arrangement works best not only for the production of her work content, but also for her family as she saves hours per week that would otherwise be spent commuting. Those hours can now be dedicated to her husband and son.

Why Women are Great Intrapreneurs—and Why Big Business Needs Them

With the rise of technology, the business world is changing rapidly. As old companies try to adapt, they are in desperate need of intrapreneurs.

Intrapreneurs are the movers and shakers inside a traditional nine to five. They have the creativity and drive of entrepreneurs, but are able to direct their energy to change and innovation within an existing business rather than using their energy to build a new entity.

Sam identifies some of the necessary traits of an intrapreneur as problem solving, being creative, and possessing the ability to think on your feet. She notes that these same skills are necessary for women as they navigate motherhood.

“According to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, you become an expert at something once you’ve devoted 10,000 hours to practicing it. I think back on the first five years of my son’s life and what I had to juggle in order to make my life work.  As a mother, you have to problem solve, think on your feet and be creative to get things done. That’s a part of what women do. They have more practice than many people in the working world.”

Indeed, just before a child hits age two, mothers hit the 10,000 hour mark. And that’s if you’re accounting for eight hours of sleep each night, which any mother will tell you is a liberal estimate in the first twenty-four months.

Mothers have an incredible amount of experience practicing these skills, making them effective and powerful intrapreneurs.

Retaining Talented Mothers

You may remember Chatón’s powerful argument that by providing flexibility, employers can retain talented mothers and enhance their bottom line. Combine this with Sam’s theory on intrapreneurship, and there is a very real reason to accommodate mothers’ needs for flexibility.

Sam has seen this with her own team. In an industry where people climb the ladder and increase their salaries by hopping from company to company, the women and men she oversees have a typical tenure of six to eight years.

“They stay because they get to work on exciting things,” she explains. “They get to work the hours they want to work–where they want to work them. All they need to do is deliver excellence and they can keep working in that way. In return, I get a happy, connected and loyal team.”

Help Boomers with their Money and Earn Mad Cash

I have the perfect idea for this! Really cool contest that pays you money for coming up with FinTech solutions for baby boomers!

I love FinTech. I love apps that help people save money and apps that help people make it to payday without going broke or taking on massive amounts of debt. In 2015, when I was picking an event to volunteer for at FinCon, I made it a point to hop on the FinTech competition.

Largely, FinTech is aimed at millennials. It makes sense. We were the first generation raised with the internet, so we’re tech savvy. We also tend to be fiercely brand loyal. We’re a generation that makes up a quarter of the population, and we haven’t even reached our peak earning years yet. We’re good for quick wins, but also great for the long-game if we can be secured as customers today while we’re still working on amassing our wealth.

However, nearly a whole other quarter of the population, with less than one million fewer people, controls 70% of this country’s disposable income. They’re older, though, and therefore not seen as the same quick win as millennials in the tech sector.

These people are baby boomers, and despite being the largest generation at their peak, they have ended up largely under-served by the FinTech community. Creating apps and platforms for people who didn’t grow up with technology is more challenging and not perceived to be as sexy. But there are dollars to be made, and solutions to be created.

Baby Boomer Money Problems FinTech Could Address

Serving the under-served baby boomers means coming up with creative and intuitive FinTech that addresses the unique financial situations boomers find themselves in. These include:

  • Retirement. Many don’t have enough money for it. Besides 401(k)s, IRAs and pensions, you’re also looking at things like social security as real means of daily provision.
  • Wills and estates. We should all be taking care of this now, especially if we have kids, but for baby boomers, it’s more pressing of a generational issue.
  • Disability. The longer you live, the more likely this is to be a financial issue. Baby boomers are living longer and retiring later than previous generations, so it is a heightened financial concern.
  • Bucket lists. While it may be trendy for millennials to tick off their bucket lists before they turn 30, boomers took a more traditional approach. They worked their whole life, waiting for retirement to finally do all the grand things they had always dreamed of. Unfortunately, most of them haven’t saved enough money to make these dreams a reality. Are there ways we can change that now, to adjust their finances so they can achieve their dreams?
  • Spending on grandkids. Or anything, really. I only mention grandkids because I know my own children are largely spoiled by their boomer family members. But boomers, despite not having enough money saved, do still have a large portion of this country’s wealth in their control. (Maybe the seeming discrepancy is due to the growing wealth gap.) Are there ways FinTech could help them make those spending decisions in fulfilling,  yet wise, ways?

My list is by no means all-inclusive. There are other issues this generation faces financially. There are additional solutions that need to be created.

Your Creativity Could Earn You Mad Cash

There is a need for creativity to solve these problems, but knowing how to code an app isn’t a requisite for dreaming up creative solutions.

CO-OP Financial Services recognizes that need, and recognizes that this generation remains largely under-served. That’s why they’ve put together The Financial Longevity Challenge. The challenge invites everyone, techy or not, to submit their creative, technology-based solutions to some of the financial hurdles boomers face.

Have an idea? If yours is chosen as one of the best, you’ll get to split a $10,000 prize with other thought leaders. There can be up to five winners, meaning the prize will be $2,000 at least, but that’s only if there are five worthy ideas. You could end up winning more.

If you want to participate, be sure to get your idea in by November 27th.

Ready? Set? GO!

This Year’s Top Ideas

UPDATE! This year’s top ideas have been chosen! There were five of them, and they were pretty phenomenal, addressing a wide range of issues:


Originator: Natalie LeRoy, Chicago, Illinois.

Idea: This initiative seeks to help those over 50 who are looking to relocate or change their living situation to reflect their current life circumstances. Through a web and mobile platform, “Rightsize” will help users develop their ideas about retirement, housing and lifestyle and transition them into reality. Users are able to build a fiscal profile and check in with a self-guided map, get relevant information from the news and other users, as well as connect to resources and services.

The “Not So Retired Life” Podcast

Originator: Rachel Rosenbaum, Detroit Michigan.

Idea: This initiative seeks to empower individuals over 50 years old to re-frame the way they approach retirement so they can live a long, fulfilling life, in a financially-sustainable way. This proposed podcast will share stories of the real experiences of people in their late careers/early retirement. The plan calls for leveraging local journalists, entrepreneurs, credit-unions, and/or communities to find initial sponsors and interviewers.

All Generation Friendly ATM

Originator: Freddy Shimabukuro, Pueblo Libre, (Lima), Peru, in collaboration with the Peru Chapter of the OpenIDEO Community.

Idea: The Friendly ATM will give credit union members more confidence when using ATMs by allowing them to take time when setting up transaction details while they are at home. Once transactions details are confirmed, the transaction will be automatically brought up then next time the user logs-in to an ATM. This will minimize the time that credit union members spend in being vulnerable at physical ATM locations.

Leverage Trust to Create Personal Pensions

Originator: Wingee Sin, South San Francisco, California.

Idea: This initiative seeks to create personal pension products for individuals and distribute them via credit unions. It will support the dreams and obligations of 50-plus consumers by creating a steady income stream from their earlier savings. It will leverage the credit union client relationships and physical distribution network to offer individualized pension plans at scale.

Incubator Club for Credit Union Members

Originator: Lillian J. Warner, New York, New York. Warner is among a team of graduate students from New York University, under the tutelage of Anne-Laure Fayard, Associate Professor of Management in the Department of Technology Management and Innovation.

Idea: This team proposes an “incubator” for credit union members over 50, where they can pursue their small business dreams and connect with their community. In this way, people in this age group can remain active, develop a project they always wanted to work on and help someone by providing expertise. The club will provide support, resources and networking opportunities to its members.


What do you guys think? Have a favorite?

If you’re bummed that you missed it, no worries. This contest has been going on since 2011, so I’m willing to bet it will be around next year, too. Keep an eye out for it in the Fall!


Why Online Entrepreneurs Need a Plan B

Um, this was my Plan B. Important food for thought for all online entrepreneurs about the threat of net neutrality.

A couple of years ago, a regional work shortage pulled the rug out from under my hours at my day job. Luckily, I wasn’t a one-trick pony. I had this hobby called blogging that had turned into a side hustle in freelance writing and editing.

That hustle turned into my full-time job when that unexpected shortage happened. I was glad because, as many of us preach, it’s always good to have a plan B.

A lot of online entrepreneurs’ stories are similar. I use the word entrepreneur but really mean to include those who are self-employed (like me) or work remotely thanks the to the internet. We either lost our jobs or started making enough money online that there was no need to continue with old employers.

But do we have a plan B now? I’d argue that many of us do not. This was our plan B, and we’re proud of that. But not too many of us have an exit strategy should the floor fall out from our online journeys.

Net Neutrality and Online Entrepreneurship

Regardless of your politics, the placement of known advocates of the dismantlement of net neutrality into positions of power should be a huge wake up call. We’re in a time of massive transition in this country, and we don’t really know how things are going to turn out.

If net neutrality is dismantled, internet users will essentially have to pay for data like we do on our cell phones. Switching over to “WiFi” won’t save us anymore.

How sure are you that users will dedicate their precious data to browsing your site? Especially if you haven’t paid a premium to have your site load quickly with any given internet service provider?

How sure are you that your clients aren’t in the same boat?

How sure are you that you’ll be able to afford the data you need in order to complete your job–and still make a profit?

Another thing that could happen without net neutrality is that certain sites, likely those of larger corporations who have deeper pockets, will be able to pay service providers so that their sites don’t count towards a user’s monthly data allotment. AT&T already does this with their cell data.

I’m willing to bet there would be mega financial institutions willing to pay for their personal finance content to be sponsored. It would mean I’d have a much harder time attracting visitors to Femme Frugality, even though I’m proud of my content and think it adds a different value than that of those who are in the market solely to profit off of consumers.

Then there’s the manipulation of search engine results by different providers, and the not unrelated fact that net neutrality combats racism, classism and oppression of voices that would otherwise remain unheard.

You might feel confident in  your business model–maybe even confident enough that the loss of net neutrality doesn’t concern you.

But at the end of the day, are you willing to risk it? Are you willing to put all of your eggs in one basket labelled “online income”?

Analog Side Hustles

I’ve decided that 2017 will be the year that I pursue analog side hustles. I’ll be kickin’ it like it’s 1993–no internet allowed. Not for marketing. Not for production. Maybe to look up the occasional phone number and to do research while I still have access to a free web.

Some ideas I’ve come up with:

  • Art. Because it’s important in a time like this. And it’s marketable at the local level.
  • Writing children’s books. Because the husband and I have some pretty splashy ideas and my kids love the feel of paper between their fingers.
  • Maintaining ties at my old day job. I loved my old day job. It doesn’t pay as much as this does, but I still maintain it as a side hustle. I’d open up my availability should the internet become more closed off.
  • Print copywriting. If the overhead for online content becomes too high, I could always look at marketing my skills in print at the local level. I’m thinking for small businesses in particular, but I could look at print magazines, as well.
  • Opening a music studio. Between the husband and I, we could teach all kinds of music instruction.

Hopefully none of this comes to pass. Hopefully I’m wrong and paranoid and our judicial system will keep the other branches of our government in check.

But there is a chance that I’m not. Just like I didn’t anticipate the work shortage a few years ago, there’s no crystal ball that tells us the internet will look the same in the next year, four years or eight years.

I think it’s important that we practice what we preach, and don’t become one-dimensional simply because we’ve found a way to make a living online. We made it work with our initial Plan B’s, but it’s time to draft some new ones.

Stranger in My Native Land: Asian American Money

Today, Revanche of A Gai Shan Life  joins us for our weekly Friday series on women’s money issues in honor of Women’s Money Week, which will take place January 1-7, 2017. Revanche covers the xenophobia and racism she has encountered in her lifetime as it pertains to her finances as an Asian-American woman.

Please use the hashtag #WMWeek17 when sharing this story.

I never would have thought of the ways that prejudice can make Asian-American women feel like strangers in their native country--especially financially.

Stranger in a Strange Land: My Native Country

As a first generation American, I see my home country through different eyes than most. Not because I don’t consider myself American. Of course I am, as much as anyone who isn’t a First Nation native can be – I was born here, a natural citizen.

But I have dark eyes, dark hair, dark skin and no nose bridge to speak of, so the correct answer to “where are you from?” can be Japan, The Philippines, China, Cambodia–anywhere but here. California, or Los Angeles, are unacceptable answers. I can’t be from here. I’m not white.

Why does this matter? In some cases, it makes no difference. What harm do I suffer if the cabbie wonders if I’m from that one country he visited, or the other country whose cuisine he likes?


In most other cases, however, it matters a great deal, indeed.

The Financial Costs of Being a Target

It matters when you’re a target to profit from, based on your race. I saw this play out most immediately with Mom and had to get involved at a very early age. Her accent meant that vendors would dismiss her, disregard their own policies, overcharge, and fail to deliver. She had an accent and that made her stupid and unimportant, they decided.

Angry and frustrated sitting beside her listening in to one such conversation, I got on the phone, all of 9 years old but speaking in English unaccented, demanding that they honor the agreed-upon terms. Magically their inability to do so melted away. From then on, I made the phone calls, whether to renegotiate contracts, dispute billing errors or just to get simple information.

Being an Asian-American Woman in the Workplace

It matters when you hear and understand anti-immigrant rhetoric–when you realize that white or European immigrants are now acceptable, but the people who look like me or my friends are “immigrants taking the good jobs.” No matter that I’ve been a star in the workplace since I was 17; to those people, my race and my skin color define me, not my professionalism, work ethic or performance.

As Taylor pointed out, it’s tough enough to make it in the workplace as a woman with the wage gap. As a woman of color, racial stereotypes further impacts your ability to earn a living. So it matters a great deal when employers and colleagues consider you a “minority quota hire” on sight.

It matters when your first manager has a (well-known, internally) obsession with Asian women so his hires were dismissed as objects of his obsession. Work performance made no difference; they couldn’t earn raises or promotions because they were hired based on their appearance–nothing more–so far as the management was concerned.

A Long Way to Go to Eradicate Racism, Xenophobia and Prejudice

Twenty years later, the racism we face is still astonishing. Not more than a year ago, we were calling a mechanic’s shop regarding services and the shop owner declared he wouldn’t help people with accents. We don’t have accents, but he was suspicious and wanted to be sure, you see, that he wouldn’t have to deal with a lesser form of American. “Those people”, he calls them.

My white friends rallied to the cause, of course, offering to call him with their Canadian, British, Australian, and Scottish accents.

My perceived youth, completely normal for an Asian, still comes up when my performance is evaluated, more than my results. I still have to jump through more hoops than any other manager to ensure that I’m being taken seriously as a professional because my years aren’t worn on my face.

I am always mindful of the active racism that lingers in many fellow citizens when I look out for our money. I always get a second and third quote for services.

I’m not bitter about my particular journey, but I am frustrated that this is all old hat. I’m frustrated that my child will also be held up to a standard that takes into consideration zir racial appearance first, zir skills and results second–or last.

It’s not just Asian Americans

Despite all the barriers I’ve faced, the level of racism that I encounter on a daily basis is mild. Asians are the “model minority” so we don’t come in for the same degree of hate that other non-white minorities experience. We’re dismissed, demeaned, underestimated. But we’re considered harmless in the end. If you’re Hispanic or black, you always have to appear calm and collected, otherwise you’re a harridan or an angry Black woman.

I don’t have to imagine what it’s like to be them, I hear their stories and, to this day, I can only shake my head when people declare that we’re post-racism. The recent election, and the surge in hate for Jews and minorities since, clearly points up the fact that many Americans are in favor of racism.

Racism isn’t limited to the white residents of this country, of course, I’ve witnessed racism between non-white races, towards one another, and that also contributes to the wider harms done to our fellow citizens.

Xenophobia and racism are complex issues in this country and it’s critical to know that they are both present in the structure of this country.

It’s critical to know that people who object to hiring for diversity, stating they shouldn’t have to “lower standards,” are telling us what they believe: only a heterosexual white male can meet standards because that is the standard. Not skills, not experience, but race and sex. Anyone else, therefore, is naturally lowering the standard.

It’s critical to know that minority, women, disabled, LGBTQIA, any otherwise not standard issue white male candidates do indeed have the necessary talents and skills necessary to do the job. It’s our job to remove artificial barriers to finding them when you recruit new hires.

It’s critical to know that we have to actively dismantle our biases that point to hiring the people who look the same or fit the same “culture”, that manages to consistently avoid admitting minorities beyond the token woman, or token Asian, or token Black man, that consistently builds and maintains racist structures in which managers can refer to their colleagues as racial slurs.

These are complex issues. I can hardly do them justice here, but they’re worthwhile to tackle.

This country was built on the bones of Natives, with the blood of immigrants, and we must grow beyond what and where we are.

We have to start somewhere. We can’t avoid it simply because we aren’t able to solve it overnight.