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Making networking, strategic guidance and business support accessible for all Australian women in business, no matter where they're located, is a key Mums & Co. purpose. With approximately 30% of our community working from regional and rural areas, we are always looking for unique ways to meet her where she's at. Today's guest not only shares this passion, but remote based working is core to her business offering.
Ready to Boss Legal is a virtual law firm for online business owners that founder Emma Heuston runs from the family home in Ballina on the north coast of New South Wales. She specialises in helping women with online business, protecting their business and creating more work life balance, which makes her a kindred spirit of Mums & Co indeed.
Emma, we are delighted to welcome you to Mumbition the podcast.
00:03:18:00 - 00:03:19:23
Hi, thanks for having me!
00:03:21:11 - 00:03:34:08
Now, we love encouraging the sharing of stories, we educate women on pitching with confidence. Please tell us a little bit about your business, perhaps with a 30 second elevator pitch.
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I change business owners' lives. I'm the founder and owner of Ready to Boss Legal, where we help women with online business build strong foundations so they are ready to be the boss. By supporting women and making them ready to boss, we create confidence and intention in their lives as a whole.
00:03:58:17 - 00:04:20:06
Now I have all these images that conjure up Boss and I'm sure you know, sometimes I ask what's the definition of a boss, a small business owner or an entrepreneur, how do you define a boss in that respect?
00:04:21:00 - 00:05:11:06
It's really interesting because on our website, we actually have a series of illustrations and I asked a group of business owner friends what they thought about when they thought about when they thought of a boss. It was interesting because people were saying, look, it's more a feeling. But then I needed to get it in illustrations. But it's that real sort of empowerment and being confident and I think confidence is really part of that.
You can be a boss and not be a business owner. It's more that confidence, self-assurance and knowing where you're going. Being able to make decisions, not second guessing yourself. So I would say that element, that confidence element as well.
00:05:13:01 - 00:06:07:19
It's such an intrinsic part, I think, particularly of women business owners. We talk about running the business and we've got very talented, experienced women who want to make an impact and a difference in their very different ways but driven by the purpose. But there's also another part of running a business, and it's kind of like this emotional, emotional bucket.
That's where I probably would view confidence to sit. So, I definitely agree with you in terms of, you've got the technical skills to run a business, but it actually takes something more than that. That mindset, dealing with those dealing with those hits and the high highs and the low lows and confidence kind of underpins that, don’t you think?
00:06:07:19 - 00:06:41:12
It does, and it's interesting because that's something that it's got to come from within. So for us, we're in the legal foundations, the documents, the boring bits, making sure you're protected. But by having us sort that out for people, then there is sort of freeing up that space to have that mindset and make those decisions from that level. So I sort of look at us as like the foundations of their business house when they're built, then they're building that confidence and mindset on top of that.
00:06:42:13 - 00:07:06:20
Okay, I'm really glad we got to that because you know having that as surety in those processes or ways of working or arrangements to make sure that should something happen, be covered, that gives you that gives you the confidence to actually do what you need to do, so it goes hand-in-hand.
00:07:07:13 - 00:07:37:16
It does and you don't want to be worrying about, oh, how do I get that employment agreement right? Or, Oh, I can't, I don't have terms of business, so I can't get paid, I can't enforce that payment. So that's the type of thing we sit underneath, I suppose you’d say, and help with that side of things to free up that emotional boss, embrace the emotional inner boss, I suppose.
00:07:38:15 - 00:07:57:02
That sounds like an excellent title for a book, The Emotional Inner Boss. Speaking of emotions, Emma, what is it that you really love about the business you're running now? What have you had to stop doing to ensure that you are feeling that way about it?
00:07:58:09 - 00:10:35:15
That has been a real journey. So, I have been a lawyer for 22 years now, and when I started out in country New South Wales, I was doing family law, crime and litigation and that just doesn't sit well with me, it's quite stressful, I don't love disputes, I prefer to be proactive rather than reactive.
I've had a couple of points in the last 22 years where I've wanted to give up law, write books, make earrings, do that. At that first point, probably about seven years in, I switched to commercial law, which is what I do now. But more than that, I made that decision probably about five years ago. I'm not going to do litigation, I don't do dispute work.
Then leaving someone else's business and running my own business has meant I can actually focus on that proactive side. So, we help people with terms and conditions, drafting agreements. If we get disputes, we refer it out, we don't do things like conveyancing or wills, we have a network of other lawyers I know who I know do that really well.
We focus on what we do well. I've been really purposeful in this niche about helping people with online businesses. We might do online course terms, online membership, client agreements for people who work online, but we don't then do their wills and we don't help them. I mean, I might do a few letters with please pay us, but if it's going to court, for example, that goes somewhere else and to someone who loves doing that, and it's not fair to people if I don't love doing disputes, I love helping them get themselves sorted out and to be proactive, so hopefully they don't need me or anyone else down the track because they've already had that sorted.
It's been that real purpose, purpose driven and purposeful, intentional side of things. It's been really interesting and I think my experience working for someone else is, you always get dragged in to do something. So for me, it's having to be my own boss, to be the absolute master of what I control, do and don't do.
00:10:35:17 - 00:10:55:12
I'd love that, and what I love about that the most is that you're not only protecting your own energy there and your own passion, but you're also, as you say, doing the best by your clients because you're referring them on to someone who does truly love the other elements, the other parts of it.
00:10:55:12 - 00:11:31:15
It's good having that niche and having other lawyers who are like me run boutique firms in a niche. I know they're getting the best help and we can also share work around as well, rather than having this big, big firm that tries to be like an octopus getting its tentacles into everything as well. It's a much more collegiate way and I think there is enough to go around as well, so it also leads into that side of things.
00:11:32:00 - 00:11:43:15
Now, Emma, where you live and work from can have a significant impact on the day to day running of a business. What are some of the challenges here for you?
00:11:45:17 - 00:15:07:15
So, nine years ago in a few weeks actually, our anniversary's up, we left Sydney, my son was born in Sydney. During pregnancy I had a near death situation, I had a sudden cardiac arrest with a drug issue. I was really mindful when he was born, I was not making our lives hard in Sydney and it got to the point where we couldn't even get childcare when he was born back in 2012 in Sydney.
We had to get a nanny and we were fortunate we could for a couple of days a week. Then we got childcare for two, then three days a week, but they were long days and it worked out better for my clients and for myself. My employer was quite flexible at the time, but childcare was pretty expensive and it got to the point where I wanted to work a few hours each day rather than three really long days over the week.
So for us that meant a move from Sydney to far northern New South Wales and that's been really good. So over nine years, the first year I worked for another firm locally it was better, I had halved my commute, but it didn't solve the issues of working in an office and having that lack of flexibility.
I then worked for a few years as a partner at a remote law firm, so from home again, I had the flexibility, but I was still not in control, I suppose, of what went in and out of my inbox, that kind of thing. So then for the last 4 to 5 years I’ve been my own boss completely, and that's been really empowering in terms of I can have a downstairs area at home, I have a really separate setting, but I can set my own hours to some extent and that for me is not taking client appointments on a Wednesday or a Friday. It's having only calendar bookings available between ten and one the other three days. It doesn't mean I'm not working, I can sort of control when I do that, but it means that I'm in control of the work we take in, it means I can say no, I can refer on certain types of matters, and it means that we were able to buy in to a regional area with a mortgage that's a lot less than we would have had in Sydney, which means we need less money to pay the mortgage and it's a bit less stressful from that side of things. It allows that freedom of that work-life balance and it also means we're close to the beach, we don't get stuck in traffic, my son's close to school, we try and keep things local and I think that's made the business easier to run as well.
00:15:07:15 - 00:15:15:06
Emma, I was asking for challenges, but I think you've made it. I wanted a positive story here.
00:15:15:16 - 00:17:33:24
The challenge would be getting work, but that comes. I think getting work and putting yourself out there to do that and that's why I did stay working for someone else for 18 years and longer than I should have, I think. That fear of that challenge of will I get clients, will my business be successful?
When we were leaving Sydney, I was asked by a partner, a consultant at our law firm who'd been a partner of a big firm, you may think, but what does that do to your career? He was in his 80's, so he’s very old school and it wasn't meant from a place of, you know, malice.
But he's like, well, what happens there? And the fact is, and I think COVID has proved it, I had started this business before COVID where, you know, people thought you had to be in the city, you had to be in an office setting to be successful. I think COVID has proven that that's not the case.
Being an early adopter has meant that that's happened. I think it would be a challenge if I still did court work, but I don't. So I'm not at the mercy of the court systems. For me, that's been a life by design of the type of work I do. I don’t do litigation which has those urgent deadlines on purpose and I think if I did, I would still have those challenges. So for me, it's been eliminating what has been a challenge and it's been 22 years worth of working that out and getting myself in that position, but definitely childcare again, this is a real challenge with that. My son's ten now and because I'm working from home, my husband actually works from home as well, working remotely, but it means that we don't have that such an issue, although it is a juggle during school holidays.
00:17:33:24 - 00:18:35:05
I think it's interesting. I feel like COVID was that leveler for a lot of women and business owners. You know, the 345,000 women across Australia who have actually been able to work at times very productively from home, in a capable fashion and and still make it all work. I think about half of them actually have worked from home.
That just makes me kind of excited because there's all this untapped talent there. I think now that people are realizing that, well, yes, we can actually have more flexible working terms and locations, etc.I'm really excited about what the future holds in the near term because these skilled women can actually return to work on their own terms.
00:18:35:24 - 00:20:06:16
It is, and it's so interesting because I'm hearing in the legal industry of colleagues who their employer is requiring them to come back to the office and work there. so they're leaving. It's actually really an employee's market at the moment, so they're leaving or setting up their own firms because they got a taste of it during COVID and they liked it.
I suppose I had been doing this before, but it just kind of normalised what had been happening and so much so that we've changed our name recently from The Remote Expert to Ready to Boss Legal because all of a sudden it was just normal and it was like, why am I called The Remote Expert? Everybody does that now, it sounds ridiculous.
It's been interesting and I've got two mums who work part time for me and spread their hours out over the week, one's in Hong Kong, one's on the Gold Coast, and I know they just get in and get they get it done more than if they were in an office, probably making cups of tea all day, getting sushi, which is great, having that connection. Sometimes I think it depends on your personality too, sometimes a blend of both is great, there's no right or wrong with any of that.
00:20:06:16 - 00:20:23:02
Now, being a lawyer, you're probably more hard wired than most small business owners when it comes to the world of risk. Do you have any core piece of advice that you follow when it comes to mitigating the unexpected?
00:20:23:02 - 00:21:52:12
I think I'll go back to what I said before about being proactive rather than reactive. I think a really good piece of advice is just to think about this thing you're doing at the time, when you're launching a new thing. So it could be a service, it could be a product, depending what type of business you're in. Think backwards to what happens if something goes wrong. What happens if I don't get paid? If you've got a product, what happens if someone swallows it? Get sick? What would protect me? How can I stop that problem from happening? Then look at do I have insurance? Do I have a service agreement or e-commerce terms and conditions?
So it's sort of you going backwards thinking, okay, what do I need if things don't go right? I usually say to my clients, about 95% of people are pretty good that things will go well, but it's that 5% you have to worry about and that's really about being proactive. So to think about being proactive, you have your terms, you can enforce your payment, you don't have it, you might have to start court proceedings and go that way which then gets messy, it gets expensive, it gets stressful. So just be prepared and part of that is having those foundations correct.
00:21:52:12 - 00:21:58:23
I love that, think backwards.
00:21:59:09 - 00:22:17:07
Thinking about the thing, it doesn't have to be the whole business. Oh my God. You know, it's just like, okay, well, I'm doing this service or this product, so yeah, think backwards and think in small chunks.
00:22:17:07 - 00:23:12:14
It reminds me, there was a discussion on LinkedIn the other day about someone attending an awards event and she's a single mum and she was recounting all the things she had to do before she even turned up to the event to get to the event. So I guess it's a bit like that, planning ahead and planning backwards and forwards.
So Emma, women running online businesses are pretty key to your client base and we've all certainly witnessed, as you were just discussing then, that exciting rising tide of women starting their own business. But what have you noticed in terms of the mentality of the people doing this now? Are there any really defining traits that you noticed among them? Based on that, is there any advice you have for someone who might be thinking about starting now?
00:23:14:05 - 00:26:12:06
So, I think the traits would be that they're self-motivated and they also have a need for freedom. I think freedom and time go together and then money can often buy both of those. So in terms of outsourcing or or just having that freedom to live where you want, do what you want.
I do think it's also that some of that scrappy nature or feisty is probably a better word, to build your own table rather than beg for a seat at the table. That's certainly what I found when we left Sydney and then I went and did remote work and then started my own business. It's sort of the structures we have in society don't really sustain what we need to do with our lives or maybe what we want out of our lives.
So I would say it's that, that feeling of self determination and the ability to make what you want out of that and I think not everyone has that entrepreneurial mindset. For some people working for another organisation is perfect, it's just what they need. It's really about working out what's right for you and if that is right for you to run a business, you really need to take small steps.
I would encourage you to think about an MVP or a minimum viable product. So, I'd get the laptop, get the business name, and then test the market, see if there's a market, you could have the best idea or business in the world. But if nobody wants to buy it or access that service or your ideal client doesn't have the money to pay you for that service, then it's not really worth building.
There's got to be a market for it and if you spend $10,000, $20,000 setting up a business that is not going to be viable, then that's a waste. So you’re best just to check it, see if it's working, and then you build based structures as you’re going, rather than I see people spending six or 12 months building whole courses and platforms and then no one buys them, then it's better to perhaps pre sell a course or do a test webinar to test if people want to come along to that and if they might buy your course, rather than taking the plunge but just building too much without selling and when I say selling, I mean you're helping your client, which is really selling as well.
00:26:12:20 - 00:26:41:00
How is networking? It's something that's been weaved through the conversation a little bit when you say you need to set up your business and the idea of not getting any work was a concern in the beginning and is probably continuing for some people listening to this as well.
Being based in a regional area, how do you consider networking in that big puzzle pieces as a business and what are you looking for when you connect you online with people?
00:26:41:02 - 00:29:56:23
Yeah, and I must admit, I think that's what stopped me the first 18 years of working for other people in my profession. What stopped me was I kind of had that old school vibe of networking with the suits and the BNI and the sleazy real estate agents shaking your hand, you know, send me conveyancing work kind of thing.
Whereas I think I just need to be me and I'm actually a really big introvert. So for me, I get really exhausted going into big crowds, so it actually kind of suits me. I am in a local women's networking group, I do get out there. Having said that, most of my clients are from around Australia through referrals and things, so I actually have very few local clients, which is quite nice, because I can go out and just be me and nobody recognises me.
But online, I get a lot of referrals from other lawyers as well. I'm in a group called The Club with a bunch of other lawyers and it's a really supportive group. It's not about selling or that, it's genuinely about supporting each other and what happens in practice. Then in groups,
and I will also get work through my socials, through Google, but also through groups, big groups on Facebook. I found that people tend to crowd source information, legal information, other business information, through these really big Facebook groups and that's not great and they probably don't even know what to type in Google because they really don't know.
They're at that point where they don't know and they don't even know they need to find someone like me to ask. So instead of just going and it's like seagulls on a hot chip in those groups like, oh, I'm a lawyer, call me, it's my big thing. You've got 20 lawyers with the details and it's really about just helping and every other lawyer, there's probably just as equally skilled. It's not about I'm better, it's about helping rather than selling at that point I think and we have a lot of really great blog articles, which often take people through step by step. So I'll often leave one of them and say, “Look, this is what you need to do. Happy to have a chat. Lots of good options here.”
I think with the law it's like that, it's not like a pair of shoes where you might see them online and go, “Oh, I like them, I need them.” You don't see a lawyer going, “Oh, that lawyer looks nice. I need some.” It's usually when you need someone and then think, “Who do I know, who I trust? Who do I ask?” So it's really just about showing up and being myself and helping people. I think then when they need a lawyer, they know where I am now.
00:29:57:07 - 00:30:21:18
Finally, we're definitely all about helping others achieve better work-life balance, it’s central to our purpose, I think it’s central to your work as well. Here at Mums & Co, we talk often about the pursuit of harmony and this shape is kind of like a triangle between our ambition, livelihood and wellbeing. How would you describe the shape of a good life for you?
00:30:21:18 - 00:31:51:14
I think for me, and it's been a bit of a journey in terms of competing between creativity and my professional life. For me it's creativity, work and rest. I think living regionally helps that, I have an earring side hustle called Earrings By Law, which is my creativity piece, which I've really got into in the last year, and I'm finding that’s been really great for lateral thinking in the legal business.
So for me it's sort of craft or just that kind of repetitive creative work that takes my brain away from that. I also like jigsaws, so it could be jigsaws for someone else, it could be gardening or swimming or anything like that. I think family time is really good, we both work remotely from home, so it's easier to fit that family time in earlier, to have better hours in terms of sleep and not running running around and keeping things local and fitting play in there as well and being more productive at the hours you do sit at your desk, you don't want to be at your desk all day.
00:31:51:14 - 00:32:24:10
I've had a look at your earrings, I love it. I love that I think it's quite a high portion of our community that actually have run more than one business, so absolute case in point here, too. Amazing to see that they're such diverse business offerings, one’s with the product, super creative and the other one’s professional services and legal realms, so amazing.
00:32:24:23 - 00:32:48:20
It's been really interesting because the product side of things is online. I'm actually living with what my clients are doing, I have an online business as well. But then to have the product experience, it's actually been really valuable as well to understand all of their challenges as they go through that.
00:32:48:20 - 00:33:21:17
Emma, thank you so much for joining us on Mumbition today. If you'd like to find more about the work that Emma does, either the legal side of things or the earrings, you can find Ready to Boss Legal on Instagram, her Earrings by Legal on Instagram and herself on LinkedIn or in the Mums & Co directory, and if you haven't already, please come and join the thousands of business owning women just like you at mumsandco.com.au
What's your favorite cafe in Ballina?
00:33:23:01 - 00:33:34:02
I would say The Belle General near Shelley Beach. Location but also they have a really great range of gluten free which is relevant to me, so I love it!