(Because transparency is everything!)
Thanks to the long-time encouragement of my assistant, and a more recent push from my book publicity team to promote Body Neutral (click here to pre-order it now!), I am finally joining the world of TikTok!!
To get my bearing, I’ve spent the last few weeks watching a huge variety of TikToks to see what kind of content I connect with, and it's been… interesting.
Obviously there are plenty of people on there creating valuable, entertaining content with integrity and humanity– but there is also a lot of shit that feels icky, fake, and unethical. Despite there being a facade of “unfiltered realism” on TikTok, a lot of folks, (especially in the coaching, healing, and business space), seem to be more focused on making themselves look impressive and successful than they are on actually helping people.
And you know I don’t get down with that.
So today, in the interest of genuine transparency, I want to share a few highs and lows I’ve experienced in my business lately.
First off, the highs!
As the first trickle of feedback for my book has come in, a few very cool things have happened!
I’ve been a huge fan of Lindsay and Lexie Kite of Beauty Redefined for a long time, and am constantly recommending their TED talk (Body Positivity or Body Obsession?) and book (More Than a Body) to my clients struggling with body insecurity and self-objectification.
Well… Lexie Kite read my book (!!!) and had some really nice things to say about it:
“In Body Neutral, Jessi illustrates a liberating pathway to help people untangle their self-worth from their body image, healing their perceptions of their bodies as they go. Navigating the work of body neutrality through identifying ‘body image avatars,’ Jessi helps people get to the root of their body anxiety and utilize strategies to heal. This is an important book for people ready to interrogate their feelings about their bodies and move toward body neutrality in practical, manageable steps.”
I mean… right?? I’m geeking out about this so hard, and couldn’t wait to share it with you.
Also, I got my first first trade review from Publishers Weekly on the book, and it’s glowing! My editor said these reviews are “notoriously ruthless,” so it feels especially cool to read this, and I wanted to share a few lines from it:
“Kneeland presents a fresh approach to body acceptance in their thought-provoking debut.”
(OMGEE I have a thought-provoking debut!! Also, it feels so weird to read myself being referred to as “Kneeland” lollll.)
Also: “Kneeland outlines an inclusive attitude toward self-acceptance aimed at readers of all races and gender identities, and the advice is informed without getting preachy. Anyone hoping to repair a troubled relationship with their body should give this a look.”
These reviews are exciting, but honestly the best part is just knowing that people are reading and recommending my book already– it makes it feel so much more real!! I wrote the damn thing alone in my office, but it’s finally making its way out into the world. (Eee!)
Now for the lows.
To tell you this story, I need to back up a bit to around 2015 or so. I had only recently started my online business, I was still working full time as a personal trainer in NYC, and I was completely overwhelmed.
I had no systems in place to track clients or income, no strategy for marketing, and absolutely no idea what I was doing. I just wanted to write and help people, but folks kept telling me I needed things like a business plan, bookkeeping software, a DBA, and an LLC. I didn’t know what any of that meant, but I got a recommendation for a bookkeeper and CPA who worked with online businesses like mine– let’s call him Josh– and hired him immediately.
Those first couple of years, everytime Josh talked to me, I had to ask him to define at least three terms I’d never heard before. What’s a tax liability? What’s an adjusted gross income?? What’s the difference between an exception and a deduction? And WTF do DBA and LLC even mean??
I wish I could say I was an eager student and a fast learner, but the truth is that I really didn’t want to know about any of that shit, and I just didn’t care… so it mostly went in one ear and out the other. More often than not I would finish a phone call with Josh having understood very little, and saying “I trust you– just do whatever you think we should do!”
Fast forward to 2018. My business was growing rapidly, and Tr*mp had just made some legal changes that made it advantageous to file my business as an S-corp LLC, so Josh took care of that. To minimize taxes, he set up payroll for me (the only employee of my business) to run every month, and helped me start a tax deductible retirement fund.
He did a great job, and everything seemed to be working smoothly, but I still didn’t understand any of it. I had moved out of NYC and was living the digital nomad life at that point, with no “home address,” so I was having trouble getting all my mail. No problem– we started having important tax documents sent directly to his office! They didn’t mean anything to me anyway, I figured, and I trusted him.
Fast forward to now. *sigh*
Josh has been slowly disappearing off the face of the earth the last few years, making mistakes, dropping the ball, and not getting back to me for weeks or months at a time. He’s also been charging me for payroll every month, despite not actually running it for the last year. (Ugh.) So despite the fact that I’ve already paid him for the year of 2022’s accounting work, I finally took my business to a new CPA group and told them what was going on.
They promised to take care of me, and told me I just needed to send them a few things. (You can probably guess where this is going.)
The short story here is that I don’t have any of the documents they need. Josh does. He has the only copy of my articles of incorporation, as well as my bookkeeping and payroll records. And despite endless attempts to get in touch with him over the last six months (both by me and by my new CPA team), I still don’t have them.
I also haven’t paid into my quarterly taxes for 2022 because he kept promising me he’d take care of it, but uhhh… he didn’t. I didn’t pay the right amount into my SEP IRA to lower my tax liability, because he never told me the amount I was supposed to pay. And apparently I don’t know anything about my own damn business, because I just never bothered learn.
This is shitty and frustrating, obviously, but it’s also embarrassing. I let Josh do everything, and now I can’t answer even the most basic questions my CPA is asking.
When did I file my s-corp paperwork? No idea.
How much was I paying quarterly? I don’t know.
What software did I use to track everything? Uhh… none?
What payroll software did he use? No clue.
This all makes me feel wildly naive and foolish, helpless, and— honestly— like a child.
My failure to take an interest (and active role) in the legal and financial aspects of my own business was my way of rebelling against the boring “adult-y” parts of doing what I love, and now I’m dealing with the consequences.
On top of all that, I accidentally let both my health insurance and my life insurance lapse for months, because I assumed the payments would just be taken out automatically, and I never bothered to open my mail. (These problems were easily solved once I realized, but they still played into the feeling that I’m a failure at “adulting.”)
So there you go. I’m impressive and successful, and also a total failure at basic adult responsibilities. I’m a whole-ass three dimensional person with strengths and weaknesses, gifts and flaws. (And so are you.)
Anyway… I will never stop showing you the full picture, because the last thing the world needs is one more “inspirational” person in the public eye, only showing people their highlight reel.
Sending you a big hug, no matter how adulting is going for you right now,
PS My March flash sales are ending this week, which means this is your very last chance to read The Avatar Guide– currently on sale for only $7— because I’ll be retiring it on April 1st! (You can also grab any of my Body Neutrality t-shirts for just $24!!)
PPS Wanna watch me awkwardly enter the TikTok space?? Follow me and say hi on TikTok!!