This week, we’re excited to speak with Laura VanArendonk Baugh, a professional writer, animal behavior trainer and so much more.
Tell us about your business. What does a typical day look like for you?
Well, I actually have few days which are “typical,” as my schedule and to-do list are varied. Some days I drive to clients’ homes, meeting with them for training sessions. Some days I stay home and do computer work, emailing or grading homework or writing. Some days I drive to teach workshops or do research at a museum.
How many miles do you drive in a typical week? Where do you drive as part of your job?
My lightest weeks may only be a couple hundred miles, but others have a lot more! This week, for example, I drove from Indianapolis to Toronto and back in two days, and then round-trip to Ohio on Thursday. But that’s a lot even for me. Most of my clients are in the Indianapolis metro area.
What’s changed since you started using MileIQ?
I track a lot more. Previously, I recorded mileage only for longer trips, because I never remembered for daily use. Or, it was just too complicated if I ran several personal errands in between drives to clients or en route to a workshop or conference. MileIQ records each drive individually, making it simple and fast to categorize each segment separately.
What other apps do you recommend to other small business owners? What’s the biggest challenge you face running your business, and how do you address it?
I adore Evernote. If you took away my Google Calendar I’d probably sob openly. I use Expensify for other non-driving deductions. And TripIt is a lifesaver for all my non-driving travel. Not only is it super-organized, but I almost always get notified of delays or gate changes faster via TripIt than the official airline or airport channels.
My biggest challenge is time management. I became an entrepreneur because I believed I could do things better, and so I (arrogantly?) have a hard time saying “no” to projects I think I could do well. Anything that helps me organize and streamline is appreciated.
What do you enjoy the most about the kind of work you do?
The animal behavior and teaching work gives me very visible results. I get to see human and animal lives changed, sometimes even lives saved. That’s fantastic. I work a lot with aggression, and there’s a pretty high rate of burnout in this field because of public ignorance and misinformation, where we feel we’re constantly tackling the same depressing and frustrating problems, so seeing real progress is always rewarding.
Writing is exactly the opposite of that. A writer spends hours, weeks, months on a project and then often doesn’t get feedback until months or years later. It takes a lot of either internal strength or blind stupidity, either may do! But when that feedback finally does come — I got an email today about a book I wrote three years ago, saying she was in love with the characters and wanted another in the series — when it finally does come, it’s so appreciated.
What tip would you share with other business owners?
Don’t do it for the money. If it’s just money you want, you can earn a steadier paycheck working fewer hours for someone else. But if you want to do something where you have total control (and total responsibility!) for the product and service, be your own boss. The upside is you can have efficient board meetings in the shower or the driver’s seat. The downside is you have fewer people to blame when things go wrong.
Is that a tip? Maybe a more traditional tip would be: Buy low, sell high!
Where can people learn more about your business?
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MileIQ’s blog does not constitute professional tax advice. You should contact your own tax professional to discuss your situation.