"I take time away from work" with Emily Frank


Emily Frank is a career reinvention specialist who works with quirky, creative people and those who have lived overseas to help them find careers they love.  She has over 12 years of experience helping people find their passion and manage their jobs.  Prior to founding Career Catalyst, she worked in higher education and spent 3 years in Japan.  She has a bachelor’s degree in East Asia Studies from Smith College, and a master’s degree in counseling psychology.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

After I got back from my time in Japan, I was at a loss regarding what to do with my life.  I tried on so many hats—from escorting a group of Japanese middle schoolers on a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park to attend cooking school—that I finally had to see a career counselor.  When I realized what a positive impact she had on me, I realized that I wanted to provide that kind of help, too.

What inspired you to start your business?

I enjoyed aspects of working in higher education, but I tired of red tape and change-averse attitudes.  When I was offered a small grant to work with people who, like me, had been working in Japan, it seemed like a message from the universe it was time to do my work in my way.

Where is your business based?

I’m based in Denver, CO, but work with people from all over the world.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

I did some simple things first, like having a logo designed and getting some professional headshots, and having my website professionally done, but the best thing I did as a new entrepreneur was to hire a business coach.  She’s been instrumental in my success, and I encourage anyone starting her own business to consider finding a coach.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Although I’ve had several marketing strategies, I’ve found most of my success from organic use of social media.  I do a weekly Facebook Live, and then a slightly different version of that content on LinkedIn.  I write 2 blog posts a week and share those through my website and social media.  I also try to catch career-related questions that my social media acquaintances have and to answer those quickly.  I also have listings on Google and Yelp, which may not help in terms of business per se, but increases my visibility.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

My first few months in business were hard because of how much I didn’t know about running a business.  I spent money on things that didn’t work out, like print and Yelp ads, and spent too much time trying to crack Facebook’s advertising secrets.  When I finally started having success, it was because I had learned to focus on the clients I wanted to attract and had learned to manage my time in a sensible way.

How do you stay focused?

This can be such a struggle for a solopreneur!  I have tried various things, but what I’ve found most effective is to chunk my day out into task categories, and to put those tasks on my calendar.  I’ve learned that I need to be specific because a Wednesday afternoon that just says “marketing” means I’ll probably spend 3 hours doing something useless.  So now I still categorize things under titles like “marketing,” but then I add specific tasks: “Write 3 blog posts,” or “FB Live: managing your manager.” 

On busier days, I also make a focused to-do list of small things I know I can accomplish that day, so even if I have a huge task, I know I’m chipping away at it.  Finally, one of the most important things I do is take time away from work.  I don’t answer emails, texts, or phone calls after hours or on weekends, and I try to take 3-day weekends regularly.  Self-care lets me re-energize so I can focus anew.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

I don’t really see other career professionals as competitors because we each serve different niches.  I work mostly with cultural creatives and repats and am more than happy to send business to my colleagues when a client isn’t a good fit for me.  I also get referrals from other career counselors, so it strengthens my sense of being a colleague instead of a competitor.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

Consistency has been really key for me.  It would be easier to stop my weekly videos or to slack on monthly emails to my subscribers, but if I drop the ball once, it’s much harder to pick it back up.  So I need to make myself do all the things.  On especially challenging weeks, I will often give myself a little reward when I’ve accomplished some of my less-fun tasks.  Today it was a macaroon.

What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Take advantage of services available to entrepreneurs.  Your bank will help you set up a business account, your local Small Business Development Center will talk to you about processes, and your local SCORE chapter may even hook you up with a mentor.  Accept all the free and low-cost help you can find, and when you have a good sense of what you will do, invest in a business coach.

What’s your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

I love Allison Green’s Ask a Manager blog and book.  She’s funny and wise and gives excellent advice on navigating tricky career situations.  I send lots of my clients her way well, because she writes in a friendly, accessible way, and gives fabulously no-nonsense advice.

What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

Because I work with so many people who aren’t in my immediate area, I use the online meeting tool Zoom, and it has been precious to me.  It allows me to connect with people in a way that feels more personal than a phone call, to run larger workshops, and to avoid that ridiculous back-and-forth exchange of Skype handles.  The free version is probably good enough for most people, but I have invested in the professional version and have been thrilled with it.

Who is your business role model? Why?

My biggest business role models are Karen James Chopra (http://www.chopracareers.com/)  and Ronda Anstead (www.bethechangecareers.com) because they have thriving businesses without the pressure to get huge.  They have both focused on staying authentic, and have also both been very generous mentors to me.

What is your beauty routine? What are some of your favorite products?

Beyond working out 4 or 5 times a week, I can’t claim to have much of a beauty routine.  I focus on being clean and presentable, but I don’t do a lot with makeup and styling products. I use body wash and similar products by Lush because my skin is sensitive, and I love how their products smell.

How do you balance work and life?

As I mentioned earlier, I guard my free time zealously.  While I do sometimes take evening clients, when I leave work, I leave work.  No email, no phone, no texting, no social media.  (https://www.facebook.com/DenverCareerCatalyst/, https://www.linkedin.com/in/emilykikuefrank/)  I take my birthday off every year, and since it was on a Thursday this year, I also took off the following day, for a luxurious 4-day weekend.  When I have a late-night or two, I also try to make it up by leaving early later in the week.

What’s your favorite way to decompress?

I do yoga and Pilates once or twice a week, and I have a weekly dinner with childhood friends.  My partner and I also watch movies in the evening fairly often, and I garden and make fruit wines.  Anything that isn’t related to work does the trick for me!

What do you have planned for the next six months?

In August, I am planning to hold a workshop on protecting your career from unforeseen changes like layoffs, recessions, and restructuring so you always have plenty of possibilities. 

How can our readers connect with you?

I encourage anyone who is interested to look at my website first: https://www.denvercareercatalyst.com/. If that resonates, email is the best method of reaching out to me: Emily@DenverCareerCatalyst.com.  The phone is the second best: 720-839-9769.