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Business for Self-Employed Creatives

Author: Aardvark Girl | Amanda McCune

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I am a producer, project manager, and business specialist. I created this podcast because I’m passionate about helping business owners, freelancers & other self-employed creatives succeed… and have fun doing it.

There’s nothing like the privilege of working for yourself – making your own rules, owning your time, and trusting your instincts to make the right decisions. But I’ll be honest – it’s not always easy. It can feel overwhelming with all the things you have to do, but you CAN do it – you just have to be motivated and willing to do the work.

My tips will help you handle the “business” side of things so you can focus on your talent. I’ll share the common issues we face, along with the solutions that have worked for me and my clients.

You already have everything you need to succeed. I’m just here to guide you.
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Let me know what you think about this topic, or if there's something else you'd like to hear about. You can email info@aardvarkgirl.com or DM me on social @aardvarkgirl on all platforms. -- It sounds so cliche to say, “I don't know where the time is going.” But I really don't. Last week, I was working on something and my phone went off as a reminder that it was the 15th, and there are certain things that I need to do on the 15th, and I almost didn't believe my phone. I thought it was lying to me, because it seemed like September just started, so I don't know how it was halfway done already. But that's what seems to be happening lately. I don't know if time is just disappearing into some weird vortex into that black hole of nothingness, never to be seen again, or what is happening, but it's going fast. Time going quickly compounded with being busy is not always the best combination, but that's where I find myself today. It is Friday as I'm recording this, and I have nothing prepared for the podcast. I have ideas, but I haven't had time to focus on the ideas and put together any kind of cohesive outline about what I want to talk about. So here is my rambling for the day, and it will probably be a fairly short episode because it's not planned. I think about something john McClain said in his interview: “It's not done, it's due.” I'm at that point. This episode is due, so I need to get it done. So maybe it won't be perfect, but when is it ever? Perfection, I've talked about before, it's not something that I think is attainable. It's not that it's not okay to try to be the best that you can, but I think sometimes we have to accept that we cannot be perfect. And sometimes we just need to get something done and accept that it is what it is. How's that for another cliché? I know I've talked before about the glorification of business and how some people like to speak about how busy they are as a point of pride. And that's not me, I really enjoyed my downtime. I've not had enough of it lately. But I also don't like to use busy as an excuse for not getting other things done. However, I do understand that it does complicate things when you are spending all of the time you have, and all of your energy, and all of your brainpower, on just getting through with all the work that you have somehow committed yourself to do. Even with the best plans in motion… and I think I said this recently, and that's where I'm at right now. I don't even remember what I've talked about in recent episodes because I'm just trying to get them done so fast, in the limited time I have available. But even with the best boundaries in place, and saying no, and doing all of those things, sometimes everything is going to fall at once and you just have to do whatever you can do to get through it. Yesterday, I was talking to one of my clients, and it's someone I consider a friend. He and I started working together when I was 23 years old, and there was a big chunk of time in between where we didn't really work together, but we would still catch up every now and then, see how each other were doing. We've only started working together again in the recent years. I joke with clients sometimes that my whole M.O. is infiltrating their business in a way that makes it so they can no longer live without me. It is really the strategy that I've had, and that's how I have all these loyal clients, because I make their lives easier. And I do it in a way that makes them almost dependent on me, but that's not really the intention. I do like to be there. I like to make sure that their lives are easier. That's pretty much the point in what I do. But also, it's job security for me, right? So it is strategic. It's a win/win. It's not just me giving and them taking. I don't work with clients who don't value what I have to offer. And this is what he and I were talking about yesterday. He made the comment that he didn't know how he would do all of this, referring to an upcoming project, without me. Also yesterday, a completely different client in a different type of business and a different working/friend relationship. She said the same thing. “I don't know what I would do without you, Amanda McCune,” is what she said. And I really love to hear that even though in my personal life, and who I am in general, I don't like people being dependent on me. It's a big part of why I didn't want to start a company when I left my job. I didn't want to be responsible for other people's well-being and their livelihood in terms of a paycheck. That was just too much pressure. I don't like to be dependent on anyone else, and I don't want anybody else to be dependent on me. Probably why I don't want kids, right? That all ties in together. But I do like these relationships that I have with my clients because I never really had that when I worked for someone else. I had clients who I appreciated, I enjoyed working with. I know I made their lives easier in that capacity. And that all served its purpose. But it wasn't the same because they were hiring the company. I just happened to work there. Now they want to work with me specifically. And that's something that I think is really important…if you're just starting out or even if you've been in business for a long time… is to think about what it is that you want to offer, and also who it is you want to be. And so for all the people who think your business and your personal life aren't the same thing, in a certain way they are. Your personality is who you are as a person, and that does translate into how you work and how you are to work with. It always baffles me when I talk to somebody, or hear a story about someone, who doesn't take any pride in what they do. The people who don't seem to care. They clock out at 5pm on Friday, and don't think about anything again until Monday when they have to. It's not that there's anything wrong with that. It’s just different than how I am. I do take the weekends off also, as much as I can. Sometimes lately that hasn't been possible, but that's okay because of why I'm doing it. Certain clients, in those situations, they didn't do it intentionally. And if I waited until the weekend was over to do certain things, it wouldn't be good for anybody. So always able to make exceptions. But there's this weird thing in production, and it seems to be happening a lot more, maybe because so much work is ramping up and everybody's really busy. They didn't work for so long so now any job that comes around, they want to make sure to take advantage. One of my other clients keeps running into this issue where he has people who he's hired, who have committed to jobs, and then they drop out at the last minute with no warning, and no replacement, no suggestion for who could cover for them. That's the part that I don't get. If you make a commitment to a job, or to a project or however your business works, your word should mean something. I know that's how it is for me. My word is everything because what I say I do reflects on who I am. And I will never be a person who doesn't honor a commitment that I've made, taking emergencies aside and those situations where you really can't do anything about it. What I mean by that is if I've made a commitment to your job, it doesn't mean that if something “better” comes along, I'm going to just go with that direction instead. I don't think that's the right thing to do, but that's what's happening so much. Somebody makes a commitment, then something better comes along - maybe it's a higher paying job, maybe it's more days of work. It ultimately benefits the person, so I kind of understand that point. But to just flake on the person who's counting on you already, I don't understand how that keeps happening. I have turned down work because I was already committed to something else. Fortunately, I am able to do that. I don't feel that I am obligated to take any job because I need a paycheck, I've worked really hard to get to the point where I don't have to feel that way. But I can't imagine ever leaving someone hanging like that. If I ever got to a point where I really had to back out of a job and go do something else, I would make sure that I found a quality replacement for me and did the work to transition that person so it wouldn't affect a client at all. I do understand that ultimately, you have to do what's right for you, but I think the way you handle certain situations goes a long way. Because that client is going to remember the time you flaked on him, and that person is never going to hire you again. Not only that, but people talk. I know how it is in the production industry, and I'm sure it's like that elsewhere. People talk. And they talk more about the bad experiences, unfortunately, than the good ones. When I teach the “Rates, Quoting and Billing” workshop with Melissa, we talk about the two lists. There are the lists that you want to be on, which is the list that says you are easy to work with and people want to hire you, so you're that first call. And then there's the list you never want to be on. And that's the one who causes problems. The “do not hire this person ever again.” Even if they're the most talented person in the world at what they do, it's not worth it if they're not reliable. I don't know if I'm making a solid point here. I hope that I am. But really, it's think about who you are, what kind of work you want to do, and what kind of reputation you want to have with your clients and the people they know. And I say the people they know, again going back to how my business is 100% referral based, meaning I work with someone they like what I do, they recommend me to someone else, I build relationships that way. I like to be on that list where people call me first. And if I'm not available, or don't want to do a job for some reason, even if it's not somebody I've ever worked with before, I do my best to offer alternative solutions. I'm going to talk more about that in an upcoming episode. It was the one I was going to be doing right now, but just couldn't get my brain into it to be articulate enough in what I want to talk about. So know that that's coming. But ultimately, what it comes down to is being solution oriented, making your clients lives easier, and being somebody that they want to work with any chance they get. Your talent and your skill and how well you do whatever it is that you do is really important, but who you are as a person sometimes matters more. So be the kind of person that you would want to hire. Be the kind of person you would want on your team. Be the kind of person that others can depend upon when needed. Be the kind of person who makes any project better, just by being you. I say this with all the humility in the world, that I do understand everyone is replaceable. It's not that I do anything so well that nobody else could possibly do what I do, but nobody else is me. It's my unique balance of the way I look at the world, the way I solve problems, who I am personality-wise. Yes, I'm a little bit awkward. That's totally fine. Sometimes that works in my favor. All of those facets of who I am come together to make me me. And I'm not the right fit for everyone, and that's perfectly fine, too. But for the right people, I feel that they appreciate me. I appreciate them. And that's why I have such loyal, quality clients and people I really enjoy working with. The type that make me want to say yes, even when I feel like I just don't have any more time or any more brain capacity to take on one more thing. I will always figure out a way because it's important to me. I hope you are running your business the same way. I hope you're being the best person that you can be, so that your clients see that, they value you, and they want to hire you more. I would love to hear your take on this. If I sound a little bit rambling, it's because I'm just talking off the cuff, which is not really what I'm comfortable doing all the time. I have a lot of thoughts in my head right now, and they might be a little bit scattered. Further proof that I am human, despite some people thinking that I may have robotic tendencies, myself being one of those people. Sometimes it happens. So I hope all is well with you, wherever you are, whatever you're doing. And I just want to say thank you for listening. I do appreciate every time I get feedback about an episode or a topic and I know you're out there listening. I don't look at my stats all the time, because I kind of find that stuff irrelevant, because that's not why I'm doing this. But I do see new downloads popping up from different states and countries all the time and it's really exciting to me. I don't know how you found me, but you found me, and I'm glad you're here.
The demand for remote work and flexible schedules was there long before the pandemic forced employers to let people work from home. Now that it's proven as a possible, and often beneficial, option, many workers are not willing to go back to that archaic 40-hour work week structure. -- If you have a topic you'd like to hear about on this podcast, let me know at info@aardvarkgirl.com or DM me on social @aardvarkgirl. -- When I first started consulting, I noticed a common theme amongst employees. They were annoyed by the standard 40-hour work week, having to be in the office every day, and being forced to work in an environment in which they weren’t particularly efficient. And this was in 2015, long before the pandemic forced businesses to allow people to work from home. At the time, I worked in an office full-time, too, and was equally irritated by what a total waste of time it was. It was an issue with a lot of people I knew, in different positions and industries. Why did we need to be in a specific space for a specific schedule that was based on archaic factors? We know I’m a logical person, and there is no logic in this framework anymore. I can accept Monday through Friday as a work week. That’s pretty much engrained into the American ritual and it’s fine. I think we should have more than 2 days off, but that’s not always feasible. But the 8am to 5pm with lunch from 12pm-1pm schedule doesn’t make any sense. For most of us, sometimes our work is going to take more than 40 hours a week and sometimes less. We need to be able to manage that time based on our workload. Our time working should be dictated by how long we need to get our jobs done, not based on a pre-determined and irrelevant number of hours. Also, chances are that the most efficient schedule is not going to be that regimented. It’s going to utilize pockets of time throughout the day, not just in that one big 8-hour chunk. If you have kids and you want to take them to their after-school activities, you should be able to do that. It might mean that you stop for a few hours in the afternoon and then work a little bit after dinner, but then you’re going to be much happier because you’re getting that important time with your family AND still doing your job responsibly. If you have personal appointments, or friends in town, or you’re not feeling well and need to rest for a bit, or if you’re not a morning person and spend the first few hours of the day not getting much done because you’re not fully alert yet, or whatever the case may be, it is counterproductive to try to force a work schedule that doesn’t actually work for your life. There are times when a team needs to be together for meetings to discuss things as a group. Some people are extroverts and get the energy they need from being in a room with other people. Others are introverts and that energy actually takes away from their ability to work well. Most are somewhere in between those two. So as the boss, if you are forcing one or the other, meaning everyone has to be there every day or no one has to be there any day, you’re preventing an entire group from being the best employees they could be. And the common thing I sadly heard from those owners back then was “I need them to be in the office so I can make sure they’re doing what they are supposed to do.” Most people are self-motivated when given the opportunity. Some do need to be managed or told what to do, but if you hire the right people, and communicate with them properly, you should never have to micromanage. A short conversation can reveal everything you need to know about them and their working styles, and how to create a schedule that maximizes the benefits to you and them. It’s not that hard. There’s a reason why, when I’m doing an evaluation for a company, I ask to speak individually with employees and not just the person in charge. It’s important to get all perspectives, and the employees tend to be more forthcoming with me because they can talk freely without any recourse. I use the information they provide to help with my suggestions, but don’t reveal who told me what unless they want me to. In nearly every consultation I’ve done, I’ve uncovered that the employees are unhappy because they feel confined to a situation that doesn’t make sense. Their energy is diminished because they are trying to fit their work into a schedule instead of creating a schedule around their work. They’re stressed out because they can’t find any balance. They’re missing out on personal and family obligations due to work, even if they could still get everything done on time. They’re feeling disrespected. They are willing to work extra when needed, but then they aren’t allowed to leave early in the times when they’re able. They’re always expected to give more, but if employers aren’t giving back, that’s when these employees spiral into burnout. Their quality of work often suffers as a result, and that hurts the company in a way that could’ve been easily avoided. When I had my Office Space moment and decided I wasn’t going to go to the office anymore, my theory was instantly proven. I saved so much time because I didn’t have to get ready and commute across town and deal with the frustrations of rush hour traffic which never really starts the day off with the right energy. I could have a proper lunch at home and didn’t have to go sit in my car just so I could have a few minutes to myself to decompress. I got my work done way more efficiently because I could focus without the constant interruptions and conversations in which I did not need to be involved. I could schedule my time around my volume of work and deadlines instead of the hours I was supposed to be in the office. That meant I could make more time for meetings with clients and other important appointments that helped the business. And I was much happier because I was in a comfortable environment. I didn’t have to freeze all day, or smell people’s microwaved lunches, or waste time staring at the computer when I was done with everything I needed to do that day but the clock didn’t read the right time yet. That decision, even if it wasn’t approved by my employer, changed my life. For those last 4 months, I only went to the office one day a week for a few hours. I still did everything I needed to do. I was still available to the other employees and clients and anyone who needed me. It didn’t negatively affect anyone. If anything, it saved the company some money because I wasn’t there all week using their power and Internet and office supplies and drinking their water. If that had been under different circumstances, without all the baggage from that previous year, and if I wasn’t already committed to leaving that company because of it, if they had allowed me to work from home, I would’ve been likely to stay much longer. It was part of my compromise… I say “my” because they didn’t actually agree to it… but my compromise for agreeing to stay when I told them clearly I was unhappy and wanted to leave, was that I would need to do it on my terms, and that meant working from home. They didn’t uphold their promises to me, so I didn’t feel like playing by their rules anymore. It never had to end up that way. I think this is why so many people go into self-employment or freelancing. They don’t want someone else dictating when or where they do their work, or what work they have to do. Working as a contractor allows you to build partnerships with your clients, hiring contractors allows you to build partnerships with your vendors, and all of that usually leads to more beneficial relationships where everyone feels respected and actually wants to do the work. If that’s not happening, you’re hiring the wrong people or you’re acting the wrong way. Remember, this was all an issue pre-pandemic. Post-pandemic, people just aren’t willing to put up with it anymore. 2020 proved that work from home was possible, and in many cases, beneficial. People learned that virtual meetings save time. They saw that people can be trusted to do their work without being in the physical office with someone watching over them. They realized that people are happier being comfortable and focused. Without the commute, many were able to move to the places they always wanted to but couldn’t because they had to be close to the office. It opened up opportunities to work with people from all over the world and not just their geographic area. It gave people back some ownership of their own time. For employers who have embraced the changes, and will continue allowing work from home, they have workers who feel more appreciated and are more willing to go the extra mile for them. There’s more of a reciprocal working relationship based on respect vs a boss telling an employee what to do all day. Some bosses might prefer that old school way of doing things, but those who are stuck in that are losing the talent and they’re not going to be able to hold on to good workers for very long. There’s been a huge shift in the power dynamic, one that favors the individual over the company. It used to be that the hiring person held the power. They had the job and the money that the employee needed. Not anymore. The employee has the talent and skills that the company needs to thrive. A job interview now isn’t just about the company finding a good fit for the available position, it’s also about the person finding out if the company is worthy of them. Similar to those of us who are self-employed, talented workers have learned to value their skills. They’re making demands, and it’s not all about money and benefits. Flexibility is a huge part of all of it. People need the freedom to do what they need to do, in the way that works best for them. They need to trust that the people they work for care about their well-being, and they need their bosses to trust them. They will get their work done on time if you give them the chance and don’t confine them to a time or place that doesn’t make any sense. Remote work is not going away. People are not going to forget what they learned during the pandemic. Some are ready to be back in the office and amongst people, but others prefer to stay home where they can be more comfortable and efficient and spend more time on the life part of the work life equation. The great thing about owning a business is that you get to hire the team you want and create the environment that works. Some jobs do require people to be in a certain place at a certain time, but if there’s room for flexibility, honoring some of those individual needs will benefit you in the long run. If you’re looking to hire some people for your company, keep in mind that you need to give as much as you want to receive. People will work harder for you and be more committed to you if you offer them some basic respect and trust. If you can’t trust them to do good work without constantly looking over their shoulder, there’s something wrong on at least one side that needs to be addressed. If you’re looking for a job, make sure to prioritize what’s important to you and don’t be afraid to ask for it. Compensation isn’t just the dollar amount they’re willing to pay you. And if they aren’t willing to meet your needs, move on to the next one. Or, maybe it’s the perfect time to start your own business so you can make the rules that work for you.
Gilda Graham is an actor, screenwriter and Emmy-nominated producer. She also helps others navigate the stressful nature of the film and television industry through her coaching program, "The Hero's Journey," in which she helps people write their own scripts by figuring out where they are now, where they want to be, and guiding them on their path to get there. In this episode, we discuss her passion for the film industry, and why she had to pursue that career path, even if it wasn't what her family wanted for her. Her journey, like the journey many creatives take, has taken many twists and turns along the way, but they all led her to the place she is right now - exactly where she's meant to be. Gilda explains the importance of understanding and managing your finances so you can afford the freedom to say no to jobs you don't want and focus on the ones you're passionate about (spoiler alert: you don't need to make a ton of money to be money smart). We talk a lot about trust - trusting yourself, the people you hire, and the people you work with, and also trusting that life will take you where you're meant to go, even if it happens slower than you might like. We also touch on the importance of avoiding burnout by taking breaks, honoring your visions, and finding a few minutes each day to do something healthy for your mind.   Connect with Gilda: https://www.gildagraham.com/ Instagram @miss_ggraham Twitter @gildagraham YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXTgk_yxX7qzEI2F6T6L7dw   Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl -- 00:18 I've always wanted to go into the film industry. When I was about 12 or 13, it was just something that I...something was calling to me. I loved storytelling. I loved being able to tell a story and to move people. 05:07 It took me a while to trust the process. You always want to be in control of your own life, and that's something that I've learned through energy healing, like doing Reiki. And then also just letting go, and surrendering, and understanding that you are in control of your life in a sense. But for me, I believe life also knows and controls that aspect and it just goes a lot slower than you. So, you have to be completely patient in some way but just kind of keep the ball rolling. 08:23 It's part of growing up in your first few jobs. Whether it's in studio, or corporate, agency, whatever it is, you're going to learn who you want to work with, and who you don't want to work with. It takes time. It takes energy to figure that out, and it does take money. And people don't realize that money and finances have a huge part to play in you actually working on things that you want, as opposed to you don't want. But it's a huge part of it, because you can afford then to say no to somebody. 13:21 And I think what you learn in acting, if you have a good coach, is trust. You have to trust the other people. You have to trust that they know how to make the right decisions. And if they don't, you come out of love, and you make it for them without making it seem as though you're choosing. And that kind of comes into all aspects of a job. You have to trust the people that you hire to do the job. You have to trust yourself to hire the right people. And then you have to trust the people to know that they love their job enough to do it correctly. 17:22 I was just at a Fortune 500 corporate company, and one of the only other female producers, I remember her saying something along the lines of, “This is dog eat dog. And if I have to just care for myself, then I guess that's how it's gonna be.” And it’s a small department, so if you’re eating somebody, you’re eating your coworker, and we all know it. We all understand what you’re talking about. 20:04 There is a lot of unhealthiness going on, and that you have to be around, to get the paycheck and the benefits, and all that good stuff that comes with it. And it got to a point to where, for me, I wasn't showing up to myself the way that I needed to. I went from a perfectionist to someone who was now mediocre at her job, because you were so tied down to only doing what they want you to do, and then being reprimanded if you did anything more or wanted more. And that's the sad part about being in departments. There's not much room for growth, and people don't really appreciate you, and companies want to keep you down, I feel. At least that was my experience. 25:32 We're all spirits having a human experience. There's the light and the darkness. You have to have darkness in order to see the light. We all have to go down the hill to then go up the hill. 27:25 You experience burnout when you keep going and you keep going and you don't stop and give yourself a break. And then your bills just keep coming. This is why I said finances are just as important because it allows you some freedom. And you don't need to make thousands of dollars to be able to do it. You just need to know how to manage it. So yeah, I did experience burnout because it was just like, go, go, go, go go. Pay the bill, pay the bill, pay the bill. And there were no breaks. There was no recharging of your batteries. And people will take from you if you allow. They will take everything that you have, if that's what you are giving them. 34:45 So many people do not communicate and keep things to themselves because they don't want to be judged. 39:24 In a script, you have the hero's journey, and they go through the whole process of the hero. And I realized, technically in films, these heroes, they're supposed to be us. That's why we look at them as heroes and it touches our heart, and we get inspired. We're all trying to be heroes in our own journey. Some people decide not to take those journeys or those steps, but the steps are there. They're there. It's just up to you to take them or not. And so, I use the hero's journey to show where somebody is in their point in life and where they want to go. I use the chart as a way to kind of gauge who someone is, and what they want in the industry, and to help them on their path and guide them. So they're writing their own script, basically. 44:14 If you're really passionate about wanting something here, there's no straight line to it. You got to go this way and this way and this way to get to it because that's called life. It's called life. I don't know many people that just go straight in one direction. And if I do, they really have kind of a little bit of a boring life, I suppose, but they like it that way. So it's okay, as long as you love your life. 46:45 I don't even think that I was even given a choice in the sense of what I like or don't like, because I was just born with big visions. I was born with ideas. And to not honor what I was born with in my mind, I feel like I'm not utilizing life in the correct manner. And if I'm going to confuse somebody as to what I'm doing in life, and that puts a pause on them because then they don't know how to hire me, then that's okay. 47:52 I think that we're in this world to not just live and take, but to give, and that's really important for me. And it's not just money. Sometimes giving your time means a lot more. And that's what people need a lot of times, is your time and your love. 48:42 If I were to wave a magic wand, what would your life really look like? Ask yourself, why aren't you taking those steps? What's stopping you from actually doing it? Don't be afraid to get the help you need to make that happen for you, because you're worth it.
Even with the best boundaries and understanding the importance of not overdoing it, we sometimes find ourselves in that situation where we've taken on too much. Here's how I got to that place and what I do to get through it. Please leave a review and subscribe so you never miss an episode! Questions and comments can also be emailed to info@aardvarkgirl.com Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl -- As I’m about to start recording, I’m reminded of this college English class where I had to write a paper that instructed readers how to do something, step by step. At the time, I worked a full-time job, a part-time job, and was going to school full-time, so finding time to keep up with silly things like schoolwork was a bit challenging. I’m not always great at coming up with topics to write about, and I had a hard time thinking of something I did often enough I could write instructions for it. And, of course, I was running out of time because it was due the next day, so I ended up writing instructions for how to drive yourself crazy by waiting until the last minute to write a paper for your class. My professor seemed to enjoy it because it was a humorous take on the topic. It was not unlike what I’m about to say now, many many years later. We all know I’m a big fan of setting and honoring boundaries. I acknowledge the importance of work-life balance and making sure self-care is a priority. I have no problem saying no or being transparent when I just don’t have the bandwidth to take on another project. But even when we’re armed with the best principles and the clearest understanding of how to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our businesses, sometimes we end up in a predicament where we’ve taken on too much. You’ve been there, right? You had it all under control, but then one deadline got moved up, and another project increased in scope, and one client really needs your help and suddenly you’re in too deep. What do you do? This is where I’ve found myself the last couple of months. It’s almost comical at this point, but it also kind of fits in with the norm. It seems like traditionally my work cycles are all at once or not at all. Feast or famine, so to speak. The… predicament, I’ll say, because it’s not exactly a problem… is that the last 2 years have pretty much been a nonstop feast. And while we know in reality I do like to eat, in this metaphor it wouldn’t exactly hurt for me to go on a diet for a little bit. I say this with my usual disclaimer that I am incredibly grateful to have had so much work during a time when my primary industry was mostly shut down, and when many others have not been so fortunate. But production has come back full force and I know so many people who are in a similar place right now, where the work is just flooding in and they’re trying to balance it all. I was talking to a friend recently about everything going on and she asked how I managed to get to this place when I’m usually so good about not taking on too much. It’s a valid question because it does seem like I’ve failed to take my own advice about saying no and putting myself first and all that fun stuff that I truly do believe. But, sometimes the best decision for yourself is actually the one that puts someone else first, and that’s kind of what happened. I’ve set my business up in a way that allows me to work on multiple things at any given time. It comes with a lot of perks. If one area is slow, I have other things bringing me income. This proved invaluable during that time when there was no production work. If that was all I did, I would’ve been in a bad place for a bit. It also keeps me engaged because I’m not doing the same things all the time. Every day is different depending on what projects I have going on. And it allows me to work with multiple clients at the same time, so I don’t lose momentum with them by being unavailable for long stretches of time. But, by doing that, it also means that there are times when a whole lot of people need me at the same time. That makes it even more important to do some of those things I talk about all the time, like prioritizing, communicating, and making sure not to lose sight of self-care. It also makes it difficult to take on those bigger jobs that require me to be on set for several days in a row. I can still do it, but what usually happens is that I have to sneak in time before call, during breaks and after wrap to do all the other work and that tends to seep into that important decompress & sleep time. I’ve been doing this long enough that I do consider all of these things before accepting any job. Sometimes I say no because I don’t have the brain space for one more thing at that time, or I need stay home for my own mental health, or a variety of reasons. I’m not one of those people who has a problem saying no, but there are times when I may not want to do something, I may not think I should do something, but ultimately I know I need to do it. And then all I can do is be as mindful as possible about what I need to do to get everything done without overdoing it. It’s a practice, kind of like yoga in a way, because you don’t really perfect it. Some days you feel like you’re great, some days you feel like a mess, and you just have to accept that you have different strengths and limitations every single day. Do the best you can and try again tomorrow. So how did I get myself into this predicament? First, I’ve been working on an A&E TV series since June of 2020. It’s all remote and they understand that I have other clients, too, but they are my top priority. They’ve locked me in full-time so they essentially have first dibs on my schedule. If they need me, I’m available. That’s the deal. It’s a good deal. I also have several retainer clients who pay me monthly for different services. Those don’t require set hours or a specific amount of time, so it’s all flexible, but that means it can also be a bit unpredictable. The main one is the Voice Actors Studio, where I manage a lot of the behind the scenes stuff with regards to scheduling, finances, and the daily operations. The studio’s customer base has grown considerably in the last couple of years, which has been really fun to watch, but that also means there are more people with questions and other needs that fall onto me. Because of that growth, we’re in the midst of completely overhauling the website and booking platform. That requires a lot of my involvement in weekly meetings to make sure it’s going to function how we need it to. This will eventually make my life much simpler, so I’m happy to be involved. Then there are the little jobs that come in that I can fit in between everything else, and maybe some medium-to-large-sized projects that I find a way to do also. But then there was the rocket launch. The big one where they sent people into space. My client said they needed me, and I never even officially said yes. I was on the fence because I was already busy, and I was dealing with those house repair issues I talked about a few weeks ago, and my cat is sick. There was just a lot happening at once and it did not feel like a good time for me to be out of town for a week and a half. I explained this to my client and said I would do all the prep work from home, but I couldn’t commit to the onsite days. As we got into it, it became clear that they really did need someone there. And it couldn’t just be anyone. It’s not to say no one else can do what I do. Everyone is replaceable. But this particular event had a lot of nuances that I knew about because I’d done it before. And I know how much of a learning curve was involved being the new person. Then there was the added pressure of this one because it was the first one where humans were getting sent to space on this rocket. The person in this role needed to be able to juggle a bunch of moving parts and go with the flow, while also staying calm under pressure, and trying to help the rest of the crew do the same. That happens to be one of my specialties. They knew it had to be me, and I did too. I talked to my client and explained my hesitation and why I didn’t feel like I could go, but at the same time I understood that they needed me. I thought about it for a while and had to really turn inward to listen to my instincts. And they told me I needed to do it. I did make some demands… in a friendly and reasonable way of course… about what I needed to make it work, and they were good about it. That’s what happens when you have good clients, and good relationships with your clients. That was the start of all of this. It was a lot. But I got through it. I always do. And I always focus on the positive. Was that week away exhausting? Sure. Frustrating at times? Of course. But will I think back on it and remember how hot it was or how the Holiday Inn never cleaned my room? No. I’ll remember the looks on everyone’s faces when it was almost time. I’ll remember the cheering of the employees when the rocket went into the air. And I’ll remember the tears in the clients’ eyes when those astronauts got out of the capsule, because it represented the success of something they’d worked so hard on for so long. Those moments make it all worthwhile every single time. I got back and I had a few things to do but planned on a peaceful week or so of recovery. I even planned a spa day with a friend, which was very much needed. That afternoon, though, I got the text that another episode of the series had been cast and pre-production would start the next day. Goodbye break. So I had the show. I had the retainers. I had the small projects. Usually that’s all manageable. But then the show cast another episode – a real doozy of a season finale that involves a much larger cast, which means twice the crew, and considerably more logistics planning than we’ve ever had to do for one episode. So now I’m working on two episodes at the same time. Meanwhile, the studio is getting close to completing that overhaul, which means there is about to be a whole lot of new stuff to learn because it will affect a lot of what I do every day. Then there was another small rocket launch that needed my support. And now there’s the Skechers marketing video that is starting now, along with the prep work for the next big launch. So maybe in another month I can have that break? I have turned down a handful of jobs during this time, so don’t think I’m just saying yes to everything with total disregard for my time. I’ve been able to refer that work to other friends in the industry, so that makes me happy. I love to see everyone working after such a crazy year. This has just been a weird time and somehow everything has landed at once. It’s definitely a much better problem to have than nothing landing at all. I love being the person people need. They rely on me because they trust me, and that’s really important. And it’s recognition that I’m good at what I do, and I think it’s important for us to acknowledge things like that sometimes. Not to be arrogant, but to be kind to ourselves. If I wasn’t good at what I do, these clients wouldn’t hire me, I wouldn’t get to work on these big projects, and I probably wouldn’t be able to sustain this business I love that allows me the freedom I’ve always wanted. And I don’t know, maybe it’s just part of who I am. Maybe it’s because I care about the quality of everything I do so I always give my full effort. Maybe it’s because I treat my clients and their projects and businesses with the same level of care I do my own. Whatever it is, it’s working, and I’m grateful. So when this happens, when you end up in a place where you have too much work at one time and you know you have to get it done, the best thing to do is break it down into manageable pieces. Use your to-do lists, or whatever system you have, and write everything down. Get it out of your head! Then prioritize it so you know what needs to be done first. And most importantly, take care of yourself while you’re doing it. Get up every hour and walk around. Those breaks are good for you and will help you stay productive. Eat the right food. Get enough sleep. Even if that means you don’t get to watch your shows or whatever you usually do with your free time. Sleep is important. Take the time to exercise, even if it’s only 30 minutes a day. Even if it’s 15 minutes. Do something. It helps relieves the stress and keeps you healthy. Find little pockets of time where you can and do something for yourself. And don’t forget to breathe. You will get through it and when you do, reward yourself with whatever it is that makes you happy. Eventually you’ll look back and laugh. Remember that time when you had to do all those things at once and weren’t sure how you would make it? Yeah, that was fun. You probably have some good stories about the craziness, too. And in the end, it was all worth it, right?
If you want to get started with your one-person business, you might not be sure where to start. Here is a super quick introduction to what it takes to become a solopreneur. -- Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl -- I’m still not sure how I feel about these made-up words like solopreneur, but they seem to be common so I’m doing my best to embrace them. I think the word entrepreneur has been overused to the point it hass lost its original meaning. Everyone is some kind of preneur these days. But I get the sentiment and this episode isn’t to challenge what’s appropriate in the preneur space. It’s about what it takes to be a solopreneur, or a single person business. The most common comment I get in my business sessions is “I don’t know what I don’t know.” It’s coming from people who are wanting to start their businesses but aren’t quite sure where to start. They often already have full-time job jobs and would like to leave them but how do you know when it’s the right time? If it’s the right decision? How do they know they won’t mess it up and regret the decision? The thing is, there never really is a “right” time. It’s all about choices and how hard you’re willing to work to make it work, if self-employment is actually what you want. It’s good to arm yourself with information, but not to overwhelm yourself so much you get stuck and don’t make any progress at all. To me, the biggest thing to keep in mind is that, no matter what service or product you’ll be providing, you will be running a business. You have to stay in that mindset. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a “business-y” person, there are certain things you’re going to have to do. So here is a quick Intro to Solopreneurship. First, form your business. Pick a name, get your licenses, define your services, and start offering them. Don’t spend too much time worrying about whether you need an LLC or not. You will not find the answer by Googling because it depends on a lot of personal factors. So if you want to save a lot of time and confusion, discuss it with your accountant to see if it’s the right choice for you. Otherwise, you can start as a sole proprietor and change it later if it makes sense. Second, set up your accounts. As soon as possible, you want to open separate bank accounts so you aren’t mixing your business and personal funds. It’s a huge red flag to the IRS if you don’t have that separation and can hurt you when it comes to business deductions. All business income should go into those accounts and all business expenses should come out of those accounts. It doesn’t mean you can’t transfer your money to or from your personal accounts as needed, but you need to show that paper trail of it flowing through the business account first. If you end up setting up or filing as an S Corp, keep in mind that how you withdraw money is going to be different than if you’re a sole proprietor or single member LLC, so make sure to discuss that with your accountant in that case. After you’ve done those two things, you’re running a business. Congratulations! So then what? Now you get to work. And as a single-person business, that means you’re wearing a lot of hats, so it becomes a balancing act of getting all the things done. It can feel like a lot in the beginning, but you’ll get in a rhythm as you go. You’ll figure out your systems, how to make the most of your time, and which things are worth outsourcing so you don’t have to deal with them. One of the most important, and most people’s least favorite hats, is the bookkeeper hat. You can’t get around it. You’re going to make and spend money and there’s this lovely agency called the IRS that needs to know about it. It’s so important to stay on top of your money. Not just for taxes but for your own decision-making, too. I’ve talked about this a lot and will surely continue to talk about it in other episodes, but for this one I’ll keep it simple. Get your bookkeeping in order as soon as possible, ideally from the time you start your business. If the monthly subscription cost of some of the accounting software out there scares you, check out Wave Apps. It’s free and has all the function you need to keep your financials organized. I have no affiliation with Wave Apps, but I recommend it to a lot of people because it’s hard to argue with a zero-dollar price tag. As a single person business, you’ll also be responsible for your own marketing and sales, too. That looks different for every business, but you usually need to make some effort towards getting new clients, maintaining relationships with existing clients, networking, and all that fun stuff that ensures you always have people needing your services. It’s easy to forget about that part when you’re busy and have all the work you need in the moment, but you don’t want to ignore it completely and end up in a place where the jobs have ended and now you have nothing lined up because you didn’t talk to anybody because you were too busy. It’s a cycle I’ve witnessed too many times. Maintaining your business is good. Growing it is better. Keeping up with your sales and marketing helps ensure you have a steady stream of work coming your way, and that’s a big part of earning that freedom we all love so much - the freedom that allows us to choose which projects we want to work on and which people we want to work with. You never want to get stuck accepting a job that doesn’t align with what you want to be doing because you need the paycheck. And along the lines with marketing and sales, is social media. These all kind of blend together, but each has its purpose. Social media can be used with different strategies. If you do it right, it can be really effective in getting you more business. Sometimes it helps you connect with new people and make new working relationships. Other times it’s just about staying connected so people don’t forget you’re out there. Some people avoid it completely, which is always an option, but I think we live in a time where we have to have some presence online, even if we aren’t posting every day. I’ve mentioned many times that I’m no expert in social media and could definitely utilize it more, but I’ve never prioritized it. I post more about this podcast than I do the actual work I’m doing. It’s a work in progress for me. Maybe I’ll figure it out eventually. Who knows. Then there’s the part that probably gives bookkeeping its biggest competition for most hated hat, and that’s admin work. All that other stuff you have to do to run your business but you probably don’t love doing. Scanning receipts, filing important documents, checking your PO Box, responding to emails, ordering office supplies, scheduling meetings, renewing licenses, payroll, all kinds of things that you now get to do as a business owner. You don’t want to get behind on that stuff because even though it’s usually just a few little things here and there, the more those little things pile up the more it can seem overwhelming and stress you out more than it needs to. Take a few minutes every day or every week and try to catch up before you get too far behind. And let’s not forget, you’re doing the actual service. You know, the thing you actually do for your business that people actually pay you for doing? Yeah, that. That probably takes up most of your time and deserves a lot of your focus. Just be careful not to give it so much time that you fall short on the other parts of running your business, or that you end up getting burnt out and don’t want to do it at all. Balance, right? It’s always about balance. At some point, you’ll probably want to hire someone else to do some of these things so you can focus on the work that actually makes you money. But where do you even start with that? The best things to outsource are the things you don’t like doing or aren’t great at doing. If you cringe every time you open Quickbooks, you might want to pay someone else to do your bookkeeping. Or if you know it takes you a long time to create content, it might be best to let someone else do that for you. Before you say, “but I can’t afford to hire someone,” think about the value of time. If you freed up that time you’re spending doing the things you don’t like, could you use that to make more money? For example, say your admin work takes you 5 hours a week. That’s 5 hours doing tasks you don’t enjoy and don’t bring you more income. If you were to hire a virtual assistant, chances are that person is going to be more efficient at those tasks and maybe it only takes 3 hours a week. If you’re paying that person $25/hour, that’s $75 per week. But you’re getting 5 hours back, which I’m pretty sure is worth more than $75, right? See? I told you this would be quick lesson. The reason I do these short podcast episodes is because most of you listening are solopreneurs, too, and don’t have a lot of time. So thank you for spending a few minutes with me. Now, go run your business.  
He's a business and lifestyle coach with a gender-free clothing line called Limitless. He helps other creatives not only think outside the box, but blow up the box entirely. Please welcome Aiden Clark McFarland. -- Connect with Aiden: https://www.limitlesswearables.com/ Twitter @AidenLimitless Instagram @aidenislimitless YouTube: Be Limitless and Queerate -- Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl -- 00:40 Instead of just a bump, it became a wall of like, do I keep wanting to push other people's visions forward or do I want to start finding my own? Can I build something that incorporates all these different elements of myself without restricting them? That's where I went, what can I do? How can I start building this? I literally started looking for ways to build an income from scratch. That gradually became a lifestyle. 03:50 I ended up leaving that company, just doing things on my own, and really cultivating my client roster until instead of "I'm just going to work and keep getting clients and keep getting income," I started fostering it down to which of these clients do I feel passionate about their projects? Do I feel they're including me versus me just being a cog in their machine? I really was able to fine-tune. By that point, I had replaced my job income. I set a date and I left my job. 07:24 I was not happy with the clothes I was finding off the rack. They didn't express what I wanted to express. If I went to the women's section, it wasn't built for my body. If I went to the men's section, it was drab and boring. I wanted to find more clothes that fit me, and then I finally had this duh moment of, well, I sew. I've been making costumes and stuff for years. Why don't I start making clothing for myself? Why don't I start a clothing line? 09:43 Then it just became, well, now that I'm making these clothes, of course, they're all going to have pockets. The first round of clothing is very unisex, very gender-free, with more tunics, robes, and things like that.  12:00 I was just going to tease it out like, here's an item. I'd take it to shows. When that became not an option, I had to really look at this, get really serious, and build a business plan. How much would it really take to create a full line out the gate? What would that look and how much would I need? I did the Kickstarter. It got fully funded. It's amazing.  19:05 I was just hearing similar themes through all the conversations of like, “But I don't, I don't want to offend anybody.” A lot of fear of being seen and fear of being heard. Also, “Nobody is going to be interested in what I'm creating. It's not good enough. I need to do more before I can share it.” A lot of that are holding ourselves back because we don't think we're ready or good enough. As I started getting out of my own way, really getting out there, showing my voice, getting on social media, starting a YouTube channel, and putting out the clothing line, I was like, I have this experience of my own to share plus my years in business and admin. 21:30 The more of our artist friends that I was helping with little business things, the more I was seeing that all the business help in the world wasn't going to get them where they wanted to be because they were still holding themselves back out of the fear of not being good enough, or “My product isn't going to do the thing or be what people want.” What they needed was to get comfortable with their voice, with their creativity, with putting it out there, and just letting it go into the world. Letting your child go out into the world and see what happens.  24:51 Look at the materials you've used to create that piece of art. What did they cost you? What practice and training have you done? Did you go to art school? Have you been drawing every day for 10 years and that's how you've gotten to this level? Did you buy better paints so that the quality is better? It's not just about you and what you think your creation in that little time window is worth. It's about everything that has built you to this point. That's what the charging is about. It's not just about the value you put on yourself. It's this culmination of all these different parts and pieces.  30:50 I've seen it happen with both arts, with my virtual assisting, and with everything in between. If somebody is going for your bottom rates, that is the client or commission that is coming at you every five seconds with complaints and concerns. “Can you tweak this? What about one more thing? What about one more thing? What if I add this?” Whereas if you start from your high rate, they're just like, “Great, here you go. Straightforward. I trust you, go with it.” It's so mind-boggling because it feels counterintuitive. 33:18 I think, honestly, one of the positives that have come out of the whole pandemic is, I think, people are talking a little bit more realistically about mental health and the need to treat that just like any other health issue. 34:43 Being a creative, having the business, and all the mental health and the self-care, it all has to be interconnected. That's a big piece also of my coaching and how I approach it. I don't look at it as, “Well, now I'm doing my job." "Now I'm having my life.” It's all integrated. It is my lifestyle, all of it together. I feel like I embraced "eff it" as a spirituality and that I was done with anything that didn't serve my lifestyle as a whole. That meant adding some things, taking some things out, but I am done fitting into what society has told me "life," "career," and "work" are supposed to look like. They made it all up. I'm going to make it up too. 39:17 I feel we tend to set these deadlines for ourselves that are so arbitrary. When you feel that pressure of there's too much, take a step back and look at the list and be like, which of these actually have deadlines? Which of them are self-imposed deadlines that the only person holding me to them is me? Also, taking a further step back with I love what I do. I'm passionate about what I do but it's not a life or death situation. If I don't get that done today, nobody's actually going to die. 41:54 That doesn't mean that there aren't going to be times where you do push and work a lot. It can come in spurts but you have to be very aware of, know where your limits are, and not consistently push yourself past them because that's where you hit the burnout. If you occasionally do it, you're okay. If all you ever do is push yourself past it, recipe for failure. 43:18 Any situation you're in, whether it's the idea of launching something new, putting something new out there, leaving a job to focus on your creativity, or raising your prices, any of it, if fear is holding you back, ask what is the worst thing? What is my worst fear? What is the worst thing that could actually happen? Realistically, look at that worst thing and go, if that happened, what would I do? By doing that, we often find we're much more resilient than we think we are. The fears that are holding us back are really things that aren't the end of the world. They only feel like it but when you actually take a step back and look at them, that's not that bad. It might mean a few things have to change a little bit, but ultimately I'd get back up and keep going. It's not the end of the world. Nobody's going to die.  
Even with all of the recent momentum in the right direction, women are still being mistreated at work. We're still being talked down to, ogled, touched, or otherwise made to feel uncomfortable when we're just trying to do our jobs. A lot of men don't even realize this is happening, even when they're at the same place. We need to keep speaking up for ourselves and others until this behavior stops. -- Please leave a review and subscribe so you never miss an episode! Questions and comments can also be emailed to info@aardvarkgirl.com Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl -- Assuming you’ve listened to previous episodes, you probably know I don’t like to focus on problems because I’m more interested in solutions. I’m an eternal optimist who believes everything works out the way it’s supposed to. I look for the best in everyone. I don’t hold grudges. I treat everyone with kindness without losing sight of my boundaries. I do understand that not all people do the same. With this podcast, I like to keep things light. I do have a bit of a tough love approach at times, but it’s always from a place of wanting to help. I talk about serious business topics but I’m not exactly controversial in my opinions. I stay out of debates and respect that people have the right to make their own choices, even if they don’t agree with mine. Some might say that’s playing it safe, but I’m not into the drama. It’s not my place to change people’s opinions. When I speak about business, I’m speaking from experience. And I give a lot of disclaimers that my way might not work for everyone because we’re all so different. But when it comes to how people, especially women, are treated, I don’t think it’s so subjective. There’s right and there’s wrong. It shouldn’t be controversial. But I don’t know why, especially in recent years when there’s been so much momentum, we’re still so far behind where we should be. I realize that one thing I’ve enjoyed about not being on a set in the past year and a half is that I haven’t had to deal with people misbehaving in person. My first job back I was reminded that there are still so many issues  with how women are treated, whether it’s being talked down to, expected to do certain tasks based on gender and not position, or being ogled or touched in uncomfortable ways. It’s not all men and it’s not on every job, but it’s happening far too often and I think we should talk about it. I’ve had a lot of conversations about this recently and what I’m finding is that most women are still experiencing this, and that most men don’t realize it’s happening, even when they’re working at the same place. They don’t think it’s an ongoing problem because they’re just not aware. I think part of this is because they don’t pay attention. I don’t even mean that as a criticism. It’s more that they’re focused on their own job and not looking at what everyone else is doing. Also, the offenders are usually smart enough to know they can’t act inappropriately when others are around to witness it. And some of them sadly don’t realize when what they’re doing is inappropriate or making someone else uncomfortable. The lack of awareness is an issue in itself. Based on a collection of stories from women I’ve talked to, here are some of the many things we shouldn’t have to deal with, but for some reason still are. These scenarios have all happened within the last year, so I’m not talking about the way things used to be. I’m talking about how they are now. We shouldn’t have to wear baggy clothes in hopes it will cover our figures so men don’t gawk while they talk to us or watch us walk by. We shouldn’t have to do our best to be “one of the guys” so we don’t attract the wrong attention. We shouldn’t have to get our friends to help us leave safely because we’re afraid someone is going to follow us home or back to our hotel. We shouldn’t have to worry that being nice, or professional, is an invitation for bad behavior. We shouldn’t have to explain why we don’t want to hug you. Even if you saw us hugging someone else, that doesn’t mean you are entitled to one yourself. We shouldn’t have to hear that we’re overreacting or reading too much into a behavior. If we’re uncomfortable, any reaction we have is valid. We shouldn’t have to walk the other direction when we see someone coming because we don’t want him to stare, or touch us, or smell us, or whatever other weird thing he does that we’d rather avoid. We shouldn’t have to ask men to stop talking down to us, talking over us, or otherwise trying to assert power where it doesn’t belong. Give us the same respect we give you, or the same respect you’d give a man in our position. We shouldn’t have to worry that an invitation to a “group” dinner is actually an attempt to get us alone somewhere. We shouldn’t be expected to answer phones, get coffee, order lunch, clean the office, or anything else that isn’t part of our job description solely because we are women. Men are capable of doing all of these things, too. We shouldn’t get texts out of the blue with inappropriate pictures or suggestive comments. We shouldn’t have to be rescued by other people on the crew because we’ve been literally cornered by someone and can’t escape. But we are glad those other people walked in when they did. We shouldn’t be excluded from company gatherings because we don’t golf or smoke cigars, or at least you assume we don’t. We don’t have to do those things to participate in conversations and comradery and we shouldn’t miss out on opportunities and promotions because we weren’t invited. We shouldn’t have to tell you to not touch us. It doesn’t matter where or how. Just don’t touch us. We shouldn’t be flagged as difficult because we spoke up when something wrong was happening. We shouldn’t have to ignore these things because speaking up about them could put our jobs in jeopardy. We shouldn’t have to talk about the time we got fired because the man who continued to misbehave, even after being asked not to multiple times, was deemed too important so the options were to deal with it or be removed from the situation. These last two play a large role in why more women don’t speak up. This is often happening in the middle of a project where there is too much to get done in a short period of time. Saying something could interfere with the necessary progress. It could put extra stress on other people. It could change the working dynamic in a way that causes more issues and could negatively affect the project, the company, or the client. We don’t want to cause problems. We just want to do our work and feel safe doing it. But we aren’t causing problems when these situations are happening to us. We are not asking for it. We do not deserve it. We shouldn’t need to lighten up or stop being so uptight or just accept that this is the nature of the business. It is not. Sometimes it’s not a coworker acting this way, it’s the client. And then what are we supposed to do? The client isn’t going to be asked to leave his own project. He’s not going to be let go for inappropriate behavior. We are the ones who will suffer the repercussions. Or we just have to suck it up and accept that it’s going to continue to happen, and that’s not okay. I don’t want to hear these stories anymore. I don’t want to tell these stories anymore. I want this behavior to stop. We need to feel safe speaking up when these things happen. We need to be heard and we need people to take action. There’s that whole idea of see something, say something. We need that. We need more people to open their eyes. We need people to listen to us when we tell them these things are happening. We need people to be more aware of what’s going on around them. We need men to consider how their actions affect us and understand that, even if their intentions aren’t ill-natured, their actions might be interpreted differently. There are plenty of good guys, nice guys, allies, out there. We see you and we appreciate you. But for the ones who don’t think what they’re doing is wrong, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
There are different choices you can make as a business owner, whether you’re a client or a vendor, a per-project freelancer or on retainer, or whatever your particular setup may be. These choices will impact your interactions with others on a job, and that may also affect whether you get hired again. But it seems people often forget, or don’t care, to think about these things. It all goes back to some common themes on this podcast – mindset, communication, and being a decent human. So, which kind of human are you? -- Connect with me @aardvarkgirl on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl -- I was recently on a project with a large crew. I had 35 on my team and there were hundreds of others working together to make a big event successful. It had been a while, about a year and a half, since I worked with anyone in person. Being there, I was reminded that one thing I do love about being on a set is that it feeds my fascination with people and how they act. You get so many different personalities, working styles, communication preferences, and somehow everyone has to work together as somewhat of a cohesive unit.   I had some really great conversations that week and someone brought up something interesting about production, but I imagine it applies to plenty of other job types as well. We often bring together these big groups of people. Some may know each other personally or from previous jobs, but many are coming in with no familiarity at all. They quickly have to form bonds, learn some particular nuances, and then do what they do to ensure success. Sometimes it’s a day or two, sometimes it’s a couple weeks or more, but these people work closely together, often for 10 or more hours a day, and then when it’s over, they part ways and may never see each other again. It’s an odd type of relationship building where you get close fast and then break up just as quickly.   Merging so many different personalities can be challenging, as I talked about in episode 59. That was more about dealing with others. Now, I’m asking you to be a bit introspective and figure out which person you are, and whether you’re making it easy for people to work with you or if you’re the one they have to deal with. Are you the one who complains or the one who makes the best out of it? Are you the one who gets stuck or the one who figures it out? Do you care more about yourself or the team? Think about the realistic answer and why you choose to be that way.   The One Who Complains vs the One Who Makes the Best Out of It   I’ve expressed my feelings about complaining here before. While I think it can be important to vent and get things off of your mind, there’s an element of tact that comes into play with how you do it during a job. If conditions are unacceptable, that’s one thing – if you’re being mistreated, put into uncomfortable situations, or something like that, it’s important to speak up. It’s another thing when you just aren’t happy about something and wish it was better. We have to remain professional. If something is wrong, talk to someone privately and calmly and give them an opportunity to make things better. But don’t complain to others and expect the ones who can do something about it to read your mind, and then go at them when things have escalated on your part, even though you never talked to them about it in the first place. All that does is shows the people around a bad side of you, which can unfortunately overshadow all of your good qualities. Nobody wants that.   My main rule with complaining is that you only get to do it once. Beyond that, you have three choices – accept it and move on, find a solution, or walk away. Each has its own repercussions, and I would never recommend walking away from a job just because everything isn’t perfect. And constantly complaining on a job doesn’t really do anything other than make people not want to work with you. To me, the best choice is the one-two punch of making the best of it AND finding a solution.   I’ll use the common example of food to illustrate my point here, because meals always seem to create issues of some sort. If you are onsite somewhere for the day, you need to eat at some point. Hopefully a meal is provided for you, or you are given an appropriate break to go get something. Beyond that, your expectations could get you in trouble. It is impossible to make every single person on a crew happy with one meal. There are so many factors that come into play, such as what’s available in the area, what the budget allows, timing restraints, and things like that. A client-provided meal for a large group probably isn’t going to be eligible for any awards or made by a top tier chef. If you’re lucky, it’ll be good. Sometimes we’re satisfied with edible.   As a vegetarian, I go into every job expecting that I won’t be able to eat. But instead of being high maintenance about it, making demands and whining that my special needs can’t be met, I show up prepared. I bring my own food. It might not be the ideal scenario, but I know it’ll make my life easier if I take care of myself. I do this in my personal life, too. If I’m going to a barbecue, I eat before I go, or I bring something with me so I don’t have to worry about starving. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect anyone, a client or a friend, to make special accommodations for me. I have the choice to eat what’s provided or not.   I just got back from 11 days in Van Horn, Texas. Let me tell you, they do not support vegetarians in Van Horn, Texas. We’re just not on their radar. It’s a small town with very few choices, and when I’m there I’m working long hours and the last thing I want to do at the end of a day is go sit at a restaurant with a bunch of other people, where I can maybe eat a salad if I order it without the meat. No thank you.   So in this scenario, I figured my options were: 1 – accept the situation as is and wish for the best, meaning I could show up every day hoping there was something there I could eat and deal with it. Or 2 – find a solution. Always my favorite option. So, before I even left Vegas, I shipped some food & other supplies to the hotel. Then, I got groceries in El Paso, 2 hours away but that’s where the closest Sprouts was, which I knew would live up to my personal standards. I got a bunch of produce and other fresh food I could keep in my tiny hotel refrigerator. It still wasn’t the same quality meals I’d normally be eating at home with access to my full kitchen, but it was a way to make sure I could get what I needed. And I was happy to do that so I didn’t have to worry about it. I also wasn’t going to create a problem for my client where there didn’t need to be one.   Notice how complaining wasn’t an option I considered? Because what good would that do me? It wouldn’t change the situation and it would just make more people unhappy. No point. The client did provide meals, they just weren’t what I wanted, and that doesn’t warrant a complaint from me. I have higher standards than some, but that’s not their fault. Not to mention food is such a subjective thing anyway. In that crew of 35, every day I heard some people say it was great, some say it was horrible, and a bunch of opinions in between. Again, there’s no way to make everyone happy, but you can make yourself happy if you get over the idea that you’re entitled to everything you want. Changing your mindset from a place of whining about what you don’t have to appreciating what you do have can go a long way.   The One Who Gets Stuck vs the One Who Figures it Out   In any job, you’re bound to come across some issues. Things aren’t working right, you can’t find something, you don’t have everything you need. A lot can go wrong. But when it does, what do you do? Do you go back to complaining and get stuck not making progress? Or do you figure it out so you can move forward? I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you to know that I always believe in figuring it out. When people ask that question about what’s your superpower, that’s mine. I figure things out. If someone comes to me and I don’t have an answer, I say , “I don’t know, but I will find out.” It’s the only way I know how to do things and that attitude has gotten me everywhere in my career.   Sometimes it’s just about using your brain to come up with a new way of doing something, or asking other people for help or guidance. There’s also your trusty old friend Google that can help with just about anything. But it seems like sometimes people are happier complaining and they don’t actually want to solve a problem. One of the clients on this job was telling me about someone who, for days, was whining about how he didn’t have a specific type of tape. But he made no effort to get it. There were so many people around who would’ve had that tape and would probably be willing to share it, sell it, or something. We could’ve placed an order, run into town to get some, all kinds of simple solutions but it never got to me or anyone on my team who could’ve helped. I don’t know why. You never want the client observing your lack of ability to get things done. That’s not a good way to be seen.   Finding an answer might take a little extra effort on your part, but it’s better than doing nothing. For example, we were in the middle of an important rehearsal for this event and a vehicle with some of our cameras was missing, so I needed to find them. I had no firsthand knowledge of where they might be, or even who would know, but it was important and urgent so I set out to find them. Staying calm and rational in this type of situation helps a lot as well. I wasn’t going to run around the whole jobsite looking for vehicles that could be anywhere. I knew someone on the crew who had been working with that team, so I asked him. He didn’t know, but he shared the information for the guy in charge. Within a few minutes, I had all the information we needed and everything was fine. I didn’t have the answer, but I figured it out.   And you don’t have to be the one with all the ideas either. A huge perk of having a solid team is that there are other brains around that are going to think about things differently than you would. During this last job I was dealing with all kinds of weather delays and other flight issues while getting the crew to Texas. At one point, someone was stuck in St. George waiting for a flight that kept getting delayed. As I was talking to him, it was clear he’d miss his connection and he wouldn’t be able to get in until the following day, which would put us a day behind, and that wouldn’t be good. I was talking to the PA about what was going on and he suggested that the guy drive to Vegas and catch a flight out from there. As it turned out, the timing was perfect and he was able to get in that evening. I never would’ve thought about that solution, and I made sure he got credit for it, too. The important thing is the success of the project, not who has the best ideas.   Which brings me to my last comparison.   The One Who Cares More About Himself vs the One Who Cares More About the Team   One thing I’m always observing on a set or in other situations is how people act. I’m curious what drives certain behavior. You’ve probably heard me say before that I think it’s important to reclaim selfishness, but what I mean by that is that you have to look out for yourself first if you’re going to be at your best for anyone else. I don’t mean that you should only focus on what you need and forget about everyone else. And you definitely shouldn’t overlook how your actions affect others. No matter what the project is, you’re likely on a team with others and the main goal should be to have a successful outcome. It shouldn’t be about making sure you get everything you want. It’s nice when that happens, but it’s not always realistic.   I think what complicates it for some is that the complaints are perfectly valid. It’s frustrating to be in less than ideal conditions – whether it’s the hours, the food, the accommodations, the weather, or anything else - we all wish they were better. But, a lot of these things are out of our control. In hindsight, it’s easy to look a situation and say well, had we known this, we could’ve done that differently. But you can’t just call an audible and expect instant results when some things need time to happen in the middle of a project.   I like to look at the bigger picture. With a crew of 35, if you only have 3 people complaining, that’s pretty good. It shows you who is there for the team and who is there for themselves. I’m sure there was more talk amongst each other about what wasn’t going well, which is normal. The difference is in how people act after they’ve vented to someone confidentially. You can be annoyed and still be positive. You can be upset that things aren’t better while also still giving your all to your job. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t speak up when there’s a problem, but I do think we should think about how to speak up. Is it an appropriate time? Is it reasonable to expect a change in that moment? Are you putting your own needs ahead of the team’s? If you think it’s the right thing to do, then by all means, say something and see what happens.   I think we all need to be realistic about situations, too. When your client is working the same long hours, eating the same food, dealing with the same conditions, what do you expect to change? It would be different if he was sneaking off to some luxury hotel to eat fancy meals and spend the day getting spa services while everyone else is working. But when he’s the first one in each day and the last one out each day, he’s showing that he’s not expecting anything from anyone on the team that he’s not willing to do himself. That goes a long way and I feel that action deserves some respect. Disrupting other people’s progress because your personal needs aren’t being met comes across as ungrateful and like you don’t care about the job itself. And if you’re just there to collect a paycheck, not to be an integral part of something special, these types of projects probably aren’t the right ones for you.   That being said, we’re all entitled to our feelings and we have to make our own choices about how to react. I just know that, from my perspective, I don’t care if you’re the most talented person in the world at what you do, if you’re not easy to work with, I won’t hire you again. I can work with anybody and remain calm and professional. It’s usually my job to put out fires and I do my best to lead by example, which means staying optimistic, focusing on everything that’s great about a job, and not letting that other stuff get to me. I like to work with people who are similar. The ones who will keep a job fun even under trying conditions. The ones who take pride in their work, but also in who they are. That matters to me.   When you’re self-employed, the way you behave in front of others tells them everything they need to know about you. If you make the best out of situations, find solutions, and work together as a team, chances are those people will hire you for more jobs, at which time you can discuss some of the things that maybe weren’t ideal on the last one. But if you don’t take that tactful approach, if you complain and create problems and don’t focus on what’s important, you’re likely to end up on the list you don’t want to be on – the one that says don’t call this person again. It’s up to you. Which kind of person do you want to be?
She's a social impact entrepreneur, a public speaker and a women's empowerment activist who's doing everything she can to make a positive change in the world. Please welcome Arzo Yusuf. Connect with Arzo @thearzoyusuf and @thesexybossbabe Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl -- 00:22 A social impact entrepreneur is really somebody that has a social impact business model. So it's a for-profit business with a social component. So something that contributes to the social good of the community in various aspects. It could be the environment. It could be some kind of social cause. It could be helping out animals, helping out people - something that gives back to the community to make the world a better place. 01:09 I really kind of have a bleeding heart. It runs really deep, nd I care about humanity. I care about people. I care about my community. And I try to give back in different ways, and the suffering of people really bothers me. It hurts me. So whatever I've been able to do over the years, I've done, whether it's volunteering my time, whether it's being involved in a charity organization sitting on a board, helping raise funds to be able to donate to different causes, things like that. And then I came to kind of at crossroads in my career and personal life and I ended up starting my social impact brand, Sexy Boss Babe, and having it structured as a social impact company made sense for me. 02:43 Just because you are someone with a good heart, and you do want to give back to a good cause, it doesn't mean that you should completely self-sacrifice. You can definitely do good in the world but still take care of yourself and make sure that your business is making money and thriving while you're giving back. 03:37 Sexy Boss Babe is actually a beauty product. There are these little cute glue on nails that saves you time from going to the salon. So that's definitely one way of getting self-care, and then it's a fun beauty product and the brand identity is all about women empowerment. So we have our own definition of what a sexy boss babe is - it's a breed of woman that's confident from the inside out. She can be thin or plus size, tall, short, athletic, any size, shape, or color. Her beauty comes from knowing her self-worth and going after what she wants in life. She is fierceful and empowered. So every box has a positive affirmation. And then the Sexy Boss Babe Podcast is about female-centric topics like self-esteem, empowerment, entrepreneurship, just different things that us women go through. 06:56 I think you're a pretty strong woman, and you're independent, and you're a go-getter and, you know, we have our struggles, but we don't let those titles and definitions or whatever limit us. Unfortunately, not everyone is that way, and it takes time to get to that place in our journey, I think, as being empowered women. 08:30 Self-awareness is really important, just really knowing yourself, knowing your limitations, but then also knowing what your priorities are and knowing the value of each priority. Sometimes people kind of just get stuck in the tasks of, I gotta do this, I gotta do that, but if you take your time and just look at, what's the value out of this activity? You're like, wait, this is not doing anything. This is actually a complete waste of my time, but it's keeping me busy. So you have to know those things and you don't always know them right away. Sometimes it takes time, through trial and error, to figure out, okay, wait, this was not a value added activity. 11:00 As a small business, social media is very important, but at the same time, it might not always be your revenue generator. And it takes a lot of input into social media to really get the return on investment.  13:34 I have these periods where I have three months of really hard go, go, go, and then after that project, or whatever it is, gets completed, it's like, okay, I have a decompress period. And then planning starts for the next thing and then I end up going really hard for another three months. It seems to work and it allows me to kind of juggle and balance all the different things. 14:53 Just after I left my job and my career to start Sexy Boss Babe, I gave myself the space to let it just flow and didn't force myself to be in a structure. But what I also noticed is what I was doing, I was very passionate about, and everything was very aligned for me, so it just flowed naturally.  16:22 I think as humans, the traumas that we go through in life, that stress management and being hard on ourselves, a lot of times it doesn't come from us. It comes from the voice in our head, which can be a mom or a dad, or a mean teacher or whatever. I think with entrepreneurship, it's an opportunity to self-reflect. You know, entrepreneurship, it's a stressful thing. You have to be a little unorthodox to do it. 17:32 I reached a kind of a crossroads in my career. I had outgrown the job that I was in. I had done well for myself. I could have gone to a competitor for a different type of a role or whatever, but I just felt like it doesn't match with my spirit. And I've come this far, but I don't know how much longer I can live as my avatar. 18:29 I got the idea for Sexy Boss Babe and I immediately started working on it, and I probably worked on it for about eight months before I quit my job. Then me quitting my job, it wasn't like I'm going to quit in eight months. It just fizzled itself out, you know? And it just was the right time. Sometimes life and your spirit or whatever knows this is time, it's time to go. So I ended up leaving my job at that point and fully focused on Sexy Boss Babe for the last few years. 20:28 I have a really strong sales background, and that has probably helped me tremendously with communication because when you are selling, whether it's a service or a product, you have to understand the other person. You have to kind of understand their psychology. You have to understand, is this somebody that's analytical? Is this somebody that's relationship-oriented? Is this somebody that likes to talk? Is this somebody that makes impulsive decisions? Is this somebody that takes their time? All of these things kind of play into it. So you really have to understand people really well, and doing that work for as long as I have, it taught me a lot about people. When you put the other person in mind, it helps create an ease and a flow with the communication, and then you'll get your chance to ask for whatever it is that you want or communicate the thing that you want. 23:51 At the end of the day, it's up to us what kind of experiences we want to have with others. Are they quality experiences or transactional, right? We can get something accomplished in a transactional way through manipulating somebody, but does that feel good at the end of the day? How many times can we do that and feel good about ourselves? Right? So definitely that higher quality interaction requires investment. It requires trust. It requires generosity.  25:53 If you're going to be in business, whether it's selling product or providing a service, what are you doing? You're providing something for somebody else. So you're giving something and, yes, you deserve your value. You deserve your money. There are some clients that are difficult clients. We've all had those. You're allowed to not work with difficult clients. That's a choice that you have, especially if you're a small business. If you're not going to have some flexibility, if you're not going to bend a little bit, your business is not going to survive long term, you know? 28:14 Another unfortunate reality is that most businesses fail. They don't live longer than a few years, three to five years. A lot of people go into business without customer service experience, without sales experience. It goes back to that communication piece. It goes back to the relationship and trust piece, and understanding people. If you're not a people person, business might not be for you. 30:00 The Sexy Boss Babe podcast and female-centric topics, it's not to put anybody down, it's to help us. It's to help women to say, "Hey, set the expectations upfront. Speak up." It's okay to say, "Hey, these are my rules. This is what you're going to get for this price. You know, if you want these extra ad-ons, this is what it is." Set the expectations so the client knows, and you know, there are your boundaries. 31:58 I was in an abusive relationship for about four years, and when I finally got out of that, I felt very broken. I am a pretty independent and strong person and coming out of that, it made me really question myself, like how did I get here? And I just didn't have that little spark in me anymore. I felt just kind of, as a person, as a female being in any kind of relationship where you feel taken advantage of, I felt like I betrayed myself in a way. So all of those things that affects your confidence, right? So that strong, independent, go-getter, it wasn't there. She was gone. So for the next year, I started just doing things to try to just kind of rebuild and refine myself and kind of reconnect that spark back in me. 34:54 I think every person needs to do some type of volunteer work on a regular basis. It doesn't have to be every day. It doesn't have to be every month, but one month a year, every other month, once a week, whatever your schedule will allow, do something that's not about you and it's about somebody else. If we did those kinds of things more, even just little things, it changes our perspective. It makes us, over time, better people. Then we are kinder and have more compassion for humanity. 38:06 I feel like humanity is at it's anger stage right now. Everyone's just angry. It's not healthy for anybody, but if you can realize the inequities in the world and know how horrible they are and, over time, get away from the anger, but don't forget that the inequities are there, and then do something about it. I always say, if everyone just grabbed a corner, you know, we can get the sheet folded. 40:38 You've got to take yourself out of your element sometimes and do something different that has nothing to do with your job and your entrepreneurship, business, goals, or whatever. 44:13 Growth happens when you're uncomfortable. Growth happens when it's scary. Growth happens when there are mistakes. You're not going to grow if you're constantly trying to be perfect. If you are going to do something that's perfect because you've already had enough experience doing it, you're limiting yourself. But I love putting myself in uncomfortable, scary situations that force me to grow. 45:07 Have patience with the process. Whatever you're doing, or whatever your end goal is, it's probably going to take longer than what you anticipate. So love it, and have patience.
Business Therapy

Business Therapy

2021-07-1906:58

The “Business for Self-Employed Creatives” club meets every Wednesday at 4pm Pacific on Clubhouse. Each week, we discuss a different topic that most of us are dealing with or have dealt with in the past, and we brainstorm solutions together. It’s really nice to have a group of other solo business owners to chat with about all this stuff. Sometimes when you’re doing everything yourself, it can feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to or that no one will understand. It’s a nice way to take a break from work for an hour to talk about what’s going on with others who get it. It's like a weekly dose of business therapy. Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl -- We took a few weeks off because we all had stuff going on and it seemed like a good time to take a break. But when we came back, we collectively realized we had missed it. It’s almost like a weekly group therapy chat and the conversations are pretty helpful. If you’re on Clubhouse, we’d love to have you join us. I have some invitations available so if you’re not on Clubhouse but want to be, send me a message – you can DM me on social @aardvarkgirl or email info@aardvarkgirl.com.   Back in 2020 when I was battling my never-ending quest to find the right description for my services, there was a period where I was contemplating business therapy. A lot of my coaching work is pretty much the same thing. It’s listening to others talk about their issues, making impartial observations, and offering some guidance. That guidance isn’t about me telling anyone what to do or even what they should do, but more about helping them realize the answers they already have within them. It might sound hokey to put it that way, but it really is the case.   We get so stuck in our heads sometimes, thinking about everything that’s going on, that we don’t realize what’s happening subconsciously, or what might be completely obvious to someone on the outside. Talking about things with someone else can be immensely helpful, as long as it’s the right person to whom you’re talking. It helps get all the noise out of your head and can offer a bit of a release and even help you find some clarity about your situation.   Venting can be incredibly important. Venting, not complaining. I differentiate between the two because venting is talking to a trusted person about the frustrations you’re dealing with, just to let it out and maybe commiserate with someone else who understands. But from there, you do what you need to do and move on. Complaining, on the other hand, is continuing to focus on what’s going wrong without making any effort to fix it. I don’t find that to be healthy. If you continue to have the same problem but haven’t done anything differently to solve it, I don’t want to hear about it anymore.   I don’t mean that to be harsh, but I’m not able to help people who aren’t willing to help themselves. I can’t fix anyone. I can offer my best advice, my strongest opinions about what would be the best move for them, but I can’t actually do the work for anyone else. People don’t always want to admit that. They go to a coach because they want guidance, but then they don’t want to make the effort. Just like with so many things, they’re looking for that magical solution. We tend to acknowledge that more on the personal side – you can’t lose weight if you’re not willing to change your food and diet. You’re not going to get a promotion if you’re not willing to take on extra responsibilities at work to show you deserve it. You’re not going to find the extra time you need to work on that project if you’re not ready to give up some of your tv binge-watching hours. This all applies to business as well. If there’s something you want to improve, you have to be willing to do the work to get there. You can’t expect it to just happen without the effort on your part.   I think it’s easy for people to forget the psychological aspect of running a business. It’s not just about doing a job. You have to think about things differently. You make all of the decisions for what’s best. You earn the successes and have to live with the let downs. There are time you have to develop a thick skin so you don’t take rejection personally if you don’t land that client you were really excited to work with, or the project that could’ve helped you a lot financially falls through. You have to hold several positions simultaneously and understand how to divide your brainpower between all the things that need to be done. It can be exhausting. And exhilarating. Sometimes it’s both.   There is also a lot more to it than creating a business plan and setting up systems. There is a lot of internal work that goes into running a business. Mindset is a trending topic because it’s a crucial part of living as a human. You can decide how to feel about things and how to react to them. You have to drown out the external noise and listen to your instincts. Sometimes you have to be willing to take a risk when you know one path makes more sense on paper but you feel yourself compelled to do something that seems less logical.   Before I decide to take on a new coaching client, I have them fill out a questionnaire about what they’re doing now, what they want to do, what their goals are, all the standard stuff. But, I also have them explain why they have those goals. I have them assign a point system based on practical things like income potential, timeframe required to complete it, and their current level of experience in that area. I also have them assign points based on passion and instinct. It’s maybe not the traditional way to look at things, but I think it’s important to factor it all into your decisions.   This is why what I do is more like therapy sometimes. It really does have a lot to do with feelings and other ideas not typically associated with business. And that’s why it helps to talk to others who are doing the same thing. Even if it’s not the same kind of business, there are parallels with everyone. And sometimes even your best friends, no matter how long you’ve known them, simply don’t get it. It has nothing to do with intelligence, but until you run your own business, you really don’t know what it’s like.   Even when I worked for someone else, though, I always felt like I was somewhat of a therapist. I was always listening to everyone’s problems and figuring out how to help them. At my last job, my coworkers would literally lie down on my couch and talk to me about their issues. I never mind though. Listening and observing are strengths for me and, mixed with my logical-leaning less-than-emotional approach to most things, I think I have a different perspective that, fortunately, people seem to find helpful. In other words, my brain is weird and that works for me.   So even if you don’t talk publicly in a place like Clubhouse, I strongly suggest talking to other self-employed creatives out there. It’s really helpful to talk about things with someone who gets it, or even better, a group of people who get it. They can offer you their own perspective of your situation. You can brainstorm solutions based on what has worked for them and maybe figure out some options you hadn’t thought of yet. And you can laugh, which is equally important. Not all situations are funny, of course, but there is something to be said for all the stories we have after we’ve made it through the frustration. We all have those worst client stories. The can you believe they asked me to do this situations. The times when everything that could go wrong, and then some, did but you managed to make it through and ended up looking like a Rockstar. It’s a good reprieve from your actual work.   You are always invited to join us on Clubhouse on Wednesdays at 4pm Pacific time in the “Business for Self-Employed Creatives” club for your weekly dose of business therapy.
Quality clients appreciate what you do, value your time, and respect your boundaries. But how do you build those relationships and weed out the ones who want to micromanage or bully you about rates? -- Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl -- We had a great chat on Clubhouse a few weeks ago about finding quality clients. Specifically, how do you find good clients who are willing to pay appropriate rates? This is something I feel like everyone in business deals with, no matter how long they’ve been doing it. It can be particularly challenging for those whose businesses are new but their experience is not.   What makes clients quality? They appreciate what you do and let you know it. They understand that all the time you’ve spent developing your skills has value and are happy to pay for it. They trust your workflow and know you’ll get the job done. They make you a priority whenever they have a new job for you. Sometimes they put you on retainer because they know they need you.   When is a client not quality? When they are demanding and inconsiderate. When they try to bully you into charging less. When they want to micromanage everything you do and make comments like “I don’t understand why that would take so long” when they don’t even know how to do it themselves. When they don’t respect your boundaries and expect you to be available whenever it’s convenient for them.   I’m fortunate to only have quality clients now, because I won’t accept anything less. But it took some time to establish my process and to learn how to weed out the undesirables more quickly. All of that comes with time and experience. There isn’t any way to guarantee a new client is going to be a good one. You don’t really know until you start working with them. What you can guarantee is that you are not willing to put up with any behavior that doesn’t live up to the standards you have set for yourself.   Only you can define what is quality and what is not for you. I think it’s helpful to define your business rules so you are clear about what’s important to you. I have rules about time, rate, and location. I have set office hours when I am available to clients that are based around my own personal schedule. I don’t work past a certain time, usually 4pm or 5pm depending on the day. I don’t work weekends (and working means responding to emails, calls and texts as well). There are always exceptions and if something is urgent I’ll make myself available to help, but I prioritize my down time.   I also stand by my rates. I feel that it’s important to be flexible to a degree, but I have a minimum and I won’t take any job that pays less than that because I don’t feel it’s worth my time. I’m always polite when I have to say no, but sometimes budgets just don’t align and that’s okay.   I don’t do in person meetings unless there’s a solid reason for it, and when I do, I charge a higher rate and include my commute time. My whole business is formulated on flexibility. I’m able to hop between clients and projects as needed because I’m at home and can prioritize and shift things around. When I’m somewhere in person, that client is essentially paying for my exclusivity during those hours, which costs me time I could be using elsewhere.   When you have clarity about your own rules, it’s easy to identify when someone isn’t being respectful of them. If, of course, you’ve communicated with the client about expectations – yours and theirs. You can’t expect anyone to read your mind, so you can’t really get mad if they aren’t respecting a boundary they don’t know you have, so keep that in mind. It’s important to talk about these things up front.   Another thing to keep in mind is to not concern yourself with others. I see a lot of posts in business groups, and hear from a fair amount of people, about everything that is problematic with people undercharging. It’s an epidemic and I don’t like it, but we can’t prevent people from offering services on Fiver for an insanely low rate or deciding to design their own social media posts in Canva instead of hiring a professional. That’s just going to frustrate you with no resolution. In most cases, there are going to be people who charge more than you and less than you. There will be people with more experience and less experience. You can’t worry about what they’re doing. You do you. There’s plenty of work out there for everyone, and you don’t want those clients who are paying peanuts anyway. Stand firm when it comes to your rates. Be flexible when it makes sense, but don’t be afraid to say it doesn’t work for you and you’re going to have to pass on the job.   I could go on about that for a long time, but that is a decision that’s made when you’re already having the conversation with a potential client. But how do you find those clients in the first place? There are a lot of different ways and it’s all up to you. We all have our own comfort zones when it comes to reaching out to new people and you have to do what feels good to you, although sometimes you might have to put yourself out there a little more than you care to.   Many people rely on good old fashioned cold calling. Or emailing, which is more accurate these days. It’s when you reach out to a complete stranger to talk about your services. A lot of people rely on LinkedIn for this because of the access to so many different people in different positions. With the right research, you might be able to reach out to someone directly involved in the hiring process instead of sending a message to the generic info@ email address.   Here’s where I find tact is important. Be strategic in who you reach out to and how you do it. I accept almost all LinkedIn requests. I’m not as selective there as on other platforms. But if someone sends me a request and then immediately follows up with a pitch, I’m instantly turned off from that. I understand that they have a business and are doing what they need to do, but I’m interested in building relationships, not just hiring vendors. I want to know who the people are, why they want to work with me, how we’re a good fit for each other. All those things.   It goes back to what John Masse said in his episode about selling who you are before what you do. Let me know why you connected. Why would we work well together? How do our values align? What do we have in common? Why would we make a good team? All of that is important to me. And, it has to be authentic. I have received my share of messages that are pretending to be relationship-building but are so obviously leading to a pitch and I see right through that, too. For me, a quick way to get me to rule you out is to make an assumption about me or my needs. I got one from an accounting team that was something along the lines of how they could relieve all the stress I have from managing my books and running my business. Well, I don’t stress about bookkeeping because it’s something I’ve been doing the majority of my career and it wouldn’t make any sense for me to outsource it. I am also triggered by certain words like “struggle.” If you send me a message asking what’s the number one thing I’m struggling with, or what’s holding me back, in my business because you think you can help, you’re making an assumption that I’m struggling, or being held back, and that’s not okay to me. If I hire someone it’s going to be because I am succeeding and need extra help. But that might just be a personal thing for me. The point is, don’t just reach out and pitch. That rarely seems to work.   The most important way for me to find clients is through referrals from my own network. Almost all of my business happens this way. My clients have friends who need my services and they recommend me. Then that expands my network even further. Even if you’re just starting out and you don’t have any clients yet, you can use your connections to put the word out there. You have experience of some sort, even if it’s from previous jobs. Talk to people you worked with there, or clients you used to have, if that’s appropriate. Let people know what you’re doing, what kind of work you’re looking for, and ask them to spread the word for you or to at least keep you in mind if they hear of anyone needing your services. Create a social media post and ask some people if they’d share it for you. You never know when someone is going to see it at exactly the right time.   Social media on its own is another way to find clients. This isn’t an area in which I am an expert, as I’m sure you know, but many people use it as an effective marketing tool. Think about your audience when you post. Share content that shows off what you do and also speaks to your ideal client. And there are differing opinions about this, but I think it’s important to share some personal bits on your business pages too. Not your whole life drama, but show people who you are in addition to what you do. And let them know what you need. It’s called a call to action and it’s important because people don’t always know what you’re asking for. Also, engage with potential clients and start building those relationships. Those are what will maintain steady success.   This doesn’t always work, but sometimes you can use trade for services to get a client relationship started. This only makes sense when both sides are getting something they value. An example of a time I did this is when I needed photos taken for my marketing purposes. One of my clients is an incredible photographer, so I wanted to hire him. I also do bookkeeping for two of his companies. So we made a deal and traded equal hours of each other’s time. I got some great photos and he got some free bookkeeping. Win win. It also makes me think to back in the day when the Vegas nightclubs would offer bar tabs in exchange for production services. That would never make sense for me because I have no use for food & drinks at a club. For some people, though, that was a bargain. It all depends on who is involved in the trade. But sometimes that’s a way where you can save some cash costs and still get something you need.   One situation that came up during our Clubhouse chat was someone working with an existing client but offering an additional service. The client didn’t want to pay extra for that service, which is pretty annoying. If she couldn’t offer that service, they would have to pay someone else for it. It was something they needed and it was convenient that she could do it, but they weren’t budging about the pay. Some people advised her to walk away, because that’s not a quality client. Others thought she should push back and be okay if that meant she wasn’t hired at all. Now, of course, that all depends on the person’s situation. There are times when you might not want to walk away from a job because you need the income. And that’s okay, but I also believe that by doing that, you’re giving someone permission to undervalue you, so I’d exercise caution there and make sure you’re stipulating that you’re making a one-time exception and it won’t be the norm. In this person’s case, since she works the main role at a day rate, I suggested increasing her day rate to include what she’d charge for the additional work. Sometimes with clients it’s a psychological thing and they don’t want to pay when they see a line item but if it’s bundled in with the project, it’s not a big deal. It’s not unusual for someone to increase rates as the economy changes and cost of living increases, so that was something else she could try. Hopefully it works out, but in any case, I’m guessing she’s now looking at that client differently. Maybe it was a quality client but no longer is. Working relationships change just as personal ones do, and sometimes you have to part ways.   When you start working with someone new, be open-minded and optimistic. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Do your research before agreeing to work with them, get references from other vendors if you can, talk to them on the phone or in person to get a sense of who they are and listen to what your instincts say. If you have a bad feeling about them or are seeing too many red flags up front, walk away. If you get a good feeling and start working with them just to find out it’s not a good fit and you don’t want to continue, finish up the project, give them notice, and part ways. Don’t stay in a bad situation longer than you need to. It’s not worth it. But if you’re lucky, that first job will turn into many and you’ll have a long-lasting relationship with the quality client you deserve.  
Brent Mukai had a goal to quit his job as soon as he was making enough money to pay the bills doing what he loved. He crushed that goal and is now thriving as a full-time voice actor. In this episode, we discuss how becoming self-employed has changed the way he looks at everything from business to dating and how he's started seeing opportunities instead of obstacles. We talk about his background in Improv, which he calls his religion, and how it taught him some important lessons about connecting with people. The pandemic gave him the opportunity to revisit his love of Improv by taking classes online at UCB, which led to a scholarship in partnership with SNL to help him progress with his career in comedy. We talk about the importance of living humbly, accepting failure as part of a success, and that it's okay to leave money on the table sometimes for the sake of your mental health. Connect with Brent @brentmukai Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl -- 00:26 All I wanted to do was make enough money to quit my day job and do it full-time. That was all I wanted to do. So the second that I was making just enough money to quit my job I did, because I figured that with all of the extra time I'd have, I wouldn't be in too much trouble if I was already making enough to support myself month by month.  02:55 I grew up very consumer-centric. I guess when I got broke, and in college, and was like, okay, I can't afford anything. I'm just going to not buy anything. That's when it sort of started for me. 05:54 If you're going to try to be self-employed, you have to sacrifice something. And if that something is perhaps you like jewelry, or you like buying a bunch of brand name whatever... it's unnecessary stuff and it's getting in the way of the actual thing that's gonna make you happy, which is being self-employed and going after your dream, right? 09:31 My brain has shifted into like ROI, return on investment, thoughts. Anytime I want to buy something, I'm like, what is the ROI of this? Is this worth that? Is this really going to be something worth it before I buy anything? And that really prevents me from buying a whole lot of stuff. 09:55 Working for myself has changed every single aspect of the way that I look at everything. Working for myself has changed every single aspect of the way that I look at everything. I look at the use of my time so differently now because now, for me, time literally equals money. Because if I'm working and I do more work, or do more auditions, or send more emails, cold emails to marketing and whatever, I can make money. And that, up front, really screwed with me, because it felt like any time that I wasn't working, I was leaving money on the table. And that's absolutely 100% true with any entrepreneur, with anybody. And it's coming to terms and to grips with the fact that no matter what you do, you will always be leaving money on the table. 14:11 As an artist, our goal is to experience and to empathize and to gain as much perspective as possible, I think. I think the goal of any artist on any platform across all boards, I think that is our goal is to have life experiences that change us and shift us and show us different vantage points, and nothing… There is nothing more valuable, in my opinion, than right brain thinkers being able to understand left brain thinking concepts and start adapting them in the exact same ways I think left brain thinkers get adapting and understanding right brain creativity thinking. In a way, that's what I've always sort of presented, so I'm fascinated by both facets of that.  20:11 I think that improv, in the same way business has now shifted the way that I think about a lot of things, improv for me early on, when I was 19, just starting to learn and figure out my own philosophies and my own ways I wanted to move through the world, improv was like my religion. It was like my whole… everything. It really shifted a lot in terms of the ability to listen to people, the ability to empathize, the ability to really stand there and try and connect with another human being. And the deeper that I went into improv, the more I started having these breakthroughs, and having these really life-changing moments that made me say, oh, that's really applicable to my life. 25:59 All you need to deal with and see is what's immediately right in front of you. And the more that you can start thinking in that way, I think the closer you've unlocked to like, some type of Zen-type of thinking.  27:49 Saturday Night Live decided to team up with UCB's diversity scholarship and said we want to have some kind of stake in the people that actually get this scholarship this year. So I was like wow, that's a lot of fun. That would be cool if I really got this. Let me just submit. As it turns out, I got an email saying congratulations, you won! By the end, they basically were like, look, we want this to be a long-term relationship. We want to check in with you, and we want to talk to you. Like, we don't want this to just be some like email correspondence or whatever. We want to actually have some stake in your future in comedy. And I was like, wow, that's incredibly generous.  36.23 I think people need to rethink their relationship with failure. If you really seriously want to get into working for yourself, you have to realize that there is no demerit system in the world of business. You're going to fail, and you just have to accept that, that you have to fail in order to succeed. Any success is only made and comes from the failure that you have. So why even care about it? We're gonna fail all the time. You know, you're gonna probably trip sometime today. You're gonna probably drop your cell phone or whatever. What are you gonna do? Just be like, oh, no, I'm not perfect? No! You got to just pick up your cell phone and keep on going with your day. That’s it. 38:41 My proudest accomplishments include teaching in a high school improv league for 10 years. That was so fulfilling, and so fun and so good, and helped me become a great teacher and understand how to teach. Everything that happens along the journey, to me, is something I'm extremely grateful for. So, like, milestones, sure, there are big milestones. But it's also paved with all of the little steppingstones there. And I value every single one. 44:31 You gotta go relax. I think that there is a serious problem in the idea that, as a creative, we have to be working at all hours of the night or doing whatever, doing all this other stuff. And the, you know, "I'm married to the game." But like, you also got to take some time and just go look at a sunset. You also got to go to a museum every once in a while. You also got to go, you know, just sit down and talk with somebody that's not at all affiliated with your career. I think that's extremely important. Relax, relax. Understand you're always going to be leaving money on the table in some way, shape, or form when you're self-employed. And come to grips with that and just understand your health and your sanity is so much more important.  
We can't always control with whom we work, but we can control how to interact with them. Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl -- Whether you work for yourself or someone else, you’re bound to encounter a variety of personality types. You don’t always get to choose who else is on your team. If you hire them, sure, but you might be on a crew with a bunch of people your client hired. You might have to communicate with different positions at their company. If something is just a bad fit, that’s one thing, but often the best thing you can do is learn to work with everyone, even if they aren’t necessarily your favorite. You don’t have to like them, but you do have to work together. Here are some things that have worked well for me in my career, where I’ve dealt with all kinds of people. The hardest, probably, is when you really don’t like someone. Something about their personality rubs you the wrong way. Maybe it’s the way they talk. Everything they say sounds condescending or cocky. Maybe it’s the way they treat others. That’s usually the hardest one for me to accept. Or maybe you feel they don’t do a good job and bring down the team. There are plenty of reasons why you might not like someone, but you still have to work with them. I find it’s best to find something good about them and focus on that. Perhaps they are really good at what they do, or at solving problems, or at motivating others. Find something, anything. If you still can’t, look for a common interest or anything that might help you connect when you have to. Concentrating on all the things you dislike about someone is only going to bring you down. In other circumstances, you might butt heads with someone. Maybe you’re both Type A personalities and want to be in charge but you have different opinions of which way is best. Both of you should give a little, but neither of you wants to. In those situations, it’s often going to be better for you in the long run to offer a compromise. Not saying you should give in or step down when you’re confident about something, but find a way so the other person can get something he wants and you get something you want. It’s basically a negotiation. For example, if there are two major components to a project, let her take the lead on one and you take the other. As long as you’re both communicating, you can probably find that middle ground. In other scenarios, you might be an introvert working on a team of extroverts. They always want to meet in person, have group chats, and because they work better in a collaborative environment, they assume you do as well. Or it could be the opposite and you’re the extrovert looking for some energy from a group where everyone else is quietly working alone. Instead of expecting them to know what you need, talk to them. I often explain to people up front things about myself I think will help. Like how after a long day of shooting, if everyone wants to go out to dinner afterwards and I politely decline, it’s not about being antisocial. I need that time to decompress to make sure I’m at my best the next day. My alone time is important. Having that quick conversation up front avoids issues later. It’s not that I feel I have to explain myself, but it helps me when others understand my working style up front so they don’t make the wrong assumptions. As always, communication is the key to all of this. Be mindful of the way you say things. If you disagree with the way someone is doing something, don’t start by saying that’s a dumb way to do it. Instead, ask them why in a way that conveys you want to understand, not criticize. Be open minded. Your way might work for you, but it’s not the only way. It’s not necessarily the best way. Sometimes it is, but there are always opportunities to learn from others. Our brains all work differently, and you never know when someone is going to show you a different way of doing things that will make your life easier. Be respectful of people’s differences. Everyone has their own way of doing things, and it’s dangerous to start comparing them as better than or worse than your way. The great thing about working with people is that you get all those different perspectives. So allow people to be who they are. This is something my mom said the other day when we were talking about this, because it’s something that’s helped her do really well at her job. Think about that. Let people be who they are. I think that’s good advice for all situations, not just business. You don’t have to try to change someone to help them be better. Above all, be kind. It’s that simple. There are people out there who think of kindness as a weakness, but those people are missing out. Being nice to people has gotten me far in my career. And it’s not about sucking up. It’s not being disingenuous. It’s about being respectful and helpful. I’ll never forget the time I asked a client, “Is there anything I can do to make your life easier during this project?” He stopped what he was doing, which is rare, looked puzzled, and said, “I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that before.” That was baffling to me because it’s something I ask people all the time out of consideration. I rely a lot on my observations, which are pretty helpful, but the easiest way to know what someone wants or needs is to ask them. Yet, for some reason, people love to guess instead and then get disappointed when they don’t get it right. I’ve never understood that one. That’s what a leader does. It’s not about morphing everyone else into you or changing their ways to be more like yours. It’s about embracing everything about who they are and extracting the best. They probably have different strengths than you do, so use that to make yourself better. Do your best to adapt to their communication style, even if it’s different than yours. This one can be tough, but I find that I have better results when I change my ways instead of expecting others to. I usually ask clients up front how they prefer to communicate – via email, text or phone. I prefer emails, personally, because it fits into my system and makes it easier to track what’s been done and what needs to be done. But some people really hate email and they aren’t going to respond. So if they need to have a phone call, as much as I don’t like to talk on the phone, it’s going to get me what I need faster than waiting on a written response. The only time I put my foot down is when people want to meet in person, and I don’t believe that’s an efficient way to do things. If it makes sense, sure, but usually I’ll offer a video call as an alternative. I find that in-person meetings are often a waste of time and there are better ways to use my clients’ budgets than paying for my time to drive across town, wait around every time they get another call, and all the chit chat. I like the chit chat when there’s time for it, but when there’s a lot to do and we need to be productive, I can do that better from home. That’s another case where I explain my point of view up front and then it’s not an issue. There are always going to be those emotional vampires out there. The button pushers who want to get under your skin. The troublemakers who like to start drama. Don’t worry about them. Treat them just like you would anyone else. Being kind to those people, and not playing into their games, takes away the power they think they have, and they’ll usually move on quickly. Before I started my last job job, the owner of the company told me there was a girl there who would hate me. She’d never met me, so it was an odd thing to say, but she felt she was entitled to my job, so they knew she was automatically going to resent anyone in that position. I saw it from day one. She was judging everything she could, looking for a flaw or something she could use against me. I didn’t add any fuel to her fire. I was nice to her. I took an interest in her. I was maybe even overly kind, even when she gave me attitude. I’d ask about her family and other things she was doing. After a week or two, she completely lost interest and moved on to someone else. We never became friends or anything like that, but we were able to work together peacefully, which is sometimes all you can really expect. With everyone, figure out how they respond. Do they thrive on praise? Tell them they’re doing a good job, if you believe it. You don’t need to pander to anyone, but maybe their arrogance is actually masking a great deal of insecurity and they just need to be told they’re doing good work. Some people need to know they’re trusted. Be careful not to micromanage those people. Actually, I don’t think anyone really likes being micromanaged. It’s tough sometimes, but you have to empower people to make decisions. You might not always agree with the way they do things, but then you can discuss it and have a productive conversation about how to do things in the future. Others want to feel included, so talk to them about what’s going on. If it’s appropriate, let them join in on meetings, or get their feedback about ideas that might affect them. You never know if they’re sitting on a brilliant idea. Whether you work for yourself or someone else, you’re inevitably going to have to work with different personality types. Instead of getting frustrated when people don’t do things the same way you do, embrace their differences and take those opportunities to expand your own point of view. You can’t change them, but you can change the way you interact with them. There is far more power in being adaptable than being right. And if you think about it, in most of the work we’re doing, there really isn’t a right or wrong way to do things. Just different ways. So don’t waste your time worrying about it. Do your best to be productive and keep things moving forward in a positive direction, no matter how many personalities are on your team.  
Reflecting on a year of this podcast, it also made me think about how to find clarity when working on any new project. It often starts with the basics - who, what, when, where, how and why. Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl -- It’s officially been a year since the “Business for Self-Employed Creatives” podcast launched. Some of you have been with me since day one, some found it later on, and this might be the first episode you’ve ever heard. No matter what, I appreciate that you’re here. This episode is about reflecting on how I got here, but also about the steps I took and how those can apply to starting any new project. In 2019, I started The Womanpreneur Podcast with my friend Melissa Moats. We had a proper studio and a team of great people who helped us look and sound our best. Then the pandemic came along in 2020 and complicated things. We tried for a short time to keep going, recording remotely via Zoom like so many others, but neither of us had the time or desire to learn how to do everything ourselves. We decided it was time to retire the podcast. That decision was the right one, but I also didn’t want to lose the momentum of the podcast. I had wanted to start it as an additional business tool. A way to connect with a new audience and share what I’ve learned throughout my career in hopes of helping others. I had a lot of fun chatting with Melissa every week, but I simply didn’t have the bandwidth to manage two brands. I found myself prioritizing that podcast because it involved someone else. Meanwhile, I wasn’t doing anything to help Aardvark Girl. With the extra time on my hands from production being shut down, I put my focus back on my own brand and pulled out the list of projects I’d been wanting to work on but never seemed to find time for. I saw that a lot of people were struggling, not knowing what to do because of what was happening in the world. During lockdown, I offered free business coaching for anyone who needed it. I helped people navigate the loan options that were available to them. I helped them figure out ways to be more productive with their time. I helped them brainstorm new ways to make money since the old ways were unavailable. It reminded me why I wanted to start my business in the first place – to help others in their businesses. At the same time, I had been working with Tansy Aster Creative to redesign my website and found more clarity about what I wanted to be doing. I decided I should still do a podcast, but one that was a true extension of my brand. It would be a way to offer the same type of help I was giving my coaching clients, but making it accessible to anyone who wanted to listen for free. I had a lot to figure out since I knew I would be doing this by myself. Fortunately, I have a lot of practice doing things by myself. And this was essentially like starting any new project, so I approached it with that framework in mind. It’s always good to start with the basics. Can you answer the standard six questions – who, what, when, where, how and why? The who was pretty easy for me to identify. For simplicity, I would be the only host. I would continue doing interviews because I really enjoy those conversations and think it’s important to offer different points of view because we can all find success in different ways. The target audience would be the same one I had already carved out for my consulting business. I was focused on single person, or very small, businesses because I felt I could make the most difference there. The bigger the business, the more complicated solutions become, and there are plenty of people out there for that. I want to help those creative individuals who were doing their own thing but didn’t know how to balance their talent with running a business. So self-employed creatives became my niche. And, in taking a note from Melissa and her husband who always said it’s best to name a business what it is, that’s what I called the podcast. It was simple and made it clear in the title what it was about. The what was the podcast itself. I decided on the format pretty early on. I would mix short solo episodes with longer interviews. As much as I’d love to do interviews every episode, those take a lot more time, and I wanted to make sure I was being practical about what I could accomplish. In addition, business owners are busy and creatives don’t always have the longest attention spans, so it made sense to keep most of the episodes short and to the point. The when was dictated by the end of the Womanpreneur Podcast. I wanted to be able to transition seamlessly from one to another so I could do my best to retain our audience. We had our last episode scheduled for the end of May, so I set June 1st as my launch date. I think it’s good to set a target date for any project because that gives you a timeline to work towards. It makes it easier to complete than leaving it open ended and saying I’ll start when I’m ready, because most of us then find excuses to delay. The where for recording was going to be my house. We were in the middle of a lockdown so there wouldn’t have been another option anyway, but that was the most practical. I don’t have a home studio or even a space that would make sense to convert into a proper studio, but I knew I could figure out a way to make it work. It might not be perfect, but with all shows being suddenly forced to do things remotely, people were being more forgiving about sound and not expecting absolute perfection. As for where it would be published, I stuck with Podbean, the same host we used for the other podcast, because I was already familiar with it and knew I could upload there and push to all the standard platforms. The how was the trickiest because I didn’t have anything I needed to do a podcast. I knew I needed to make the investment in some equipment and software to make the quality acceptable. I did a lot of research, consulted with experts, and tried different things. That part of it continues to evolve. I used the time as an opportunity to learn new skills. I quickly figured out that I don’t love doing audio work, but it’s a necessary evil with podcasting. But I also figured out that I would have to outsource my interview episodes. Mixing two separate audio tracks is not my forte, and with so many people recording from less than ideal spaces using less than ideal equipment, I wanted a pro who could keep everyone sounding as good as possible. Fortunately, my brother does this professionally through his company Tansy Aster Creative (sound familiar? They’ve become my go-to for a lot of my business needs), so figuring out who to trust with it was easy. I’ve already talked about the why. The podcast was created to help people. It is a way to offer free value to others while also giving another platform for people to understand who I am before they decide to work with me. I think it’s important to give without the expectation of anything in return. So even though my podcast has led to some new clients, that’s more of a bonus than the reason. Understanding the answers to those basic questions is always a good place to start with a new project. You want to be clear about what you are doing before you start doing it. You may change your mind along the way, but it’s best to have at least a basic roadmap figured out before you start driving. As I set on my path, I started working on all the behind-the-scenes stuff. Getting equipment, figuring out how to use it, defining topics, lining up guests, and recording episodes. It took a large investment of time and money to get started, but I was ready to go. I had this whole big launch planned for June 1st, but there ended up being some far more significant things happening in America that week and it didn’t feel right to talk about my podcast. So it was a quiet launch and I never really did a proper push, which was my own fault. Self-promotion isn’t exactly my strength. Throughout this process, I’ve made a couple significant observations that also could apply to any project. First, passion projects are called passion projects for a reason. You have to really want to do it. This podcast costs me a lot of time and money. It’s important to me, though, because the reasons why I started it still exist. Sometimes it’s stressful finding the time to keep up and I’ve thought about taking a break, but I believe consistency is important so I push through and haven’t missed a publishing date yet. I didn’t think it would be an issue since I launched when I wasn’t really working, but I haven’t had a slow period since mid-June of 2020. Oddly enough, 2020 was my busiest year ever and 2021 is definitely going to beat that record. I’m super grateful, but have definitely been feeling the pressure from all of it, all of which is self-imposed. Eventually, I do want to monetize so I can actually get some money to help pay for my costs and to improve the podcast, but I’m torn on the best way to do that without the traditional annoying ads. I would love to get some sponsors and possibly set up a Patreon or similar account, but I haven’t figured all of that out yet. Having some income from the podcast would allow me to hire more people to help with marketing, PR to get higher profile guests, and things like that. So it’s not about making more money for me, it’s about investing back into the podcast to make it a better show for you. The observation, though, is one I’ve made in other times of my life as well. You make time for what’s important to you. It doesn’t matter what you have going on or how busy you are, if it’s important to you, you will make the time to show up. That’s why I show up here every Monday with a new episode. And I plan on continuing to do that indefinitely. Who knows where the next year will take us. But thank you for being here now and I hope you’ll stay with me as this journey continues.
Jaimee Finney is a lot of things - a designer, a writer, a speaker, a coach, a mom, and so much more. She's the co-founder and CEO of Picture This Clothing, a company that turns your art into clothing. She's always experimenting her way into new ideas about what she wants to do. In this episode, we talk about how hard it is to answer the question "What do you do?" when you do so many things. And how trying to simplify it into a definition others understand can place unnecessary limitations on your abilities. We discuss our belief in optimism and how it's not just about looking on the bright side, but an active practice in finding the good in life. Even through the pandemic and a series of heavy personal events, she focused on the positive and came through stronger than before. One of her greatest strengths is her ability to help others understand the tools they already have within them and organize them in a useful manner. Her biggest piece of advice is to not put all your eggs in one basket. Having side gigs and other sources of income, along with doing different types of work, are what have given her the freedom to choose what she wants to do. So while some might say, "you do too many things," we believe that allows us to create new opportunities we wouldn't have if we stayed in one bucket. -- Please leave a review and subscribe so you never miss an episode! Send your questions and comments to info@aardvarkgirl.com Connect with me through your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl Connect with Jaimee @jaimeejaimee and @picturethisclothing -- 00:45 If you can endure a three-day road trip with someone, you know it's good. You could work together. 03:20 You look at Walt Disney, and you look at Jim Henson, and the vision they had, and how much resistance they got for their ideas early on. But they found a way. They had a dream. They had an idea. They had passion, and joy, and fun, and playfulness, and they brought that to the world in a huge way. And I just think that's hugely inspiring. 06:41 I feel like I have a lot of ideas, and things I want to try, and things I want to make. We're always trying things. We always have ideas, and so getting them out of our head and into the real world is just a practice for us. It's a life. It's who we are. What is it that's pulling your focus? So if it's pulling your focus, see it through, finish it up, and throw it out in the world and see what happens. That's how our business, Picture This Clothing, was born. It was a proof of concept. 09:14 What I started doing was figuring out how to just do. Do things, but not just start, actually finish. And so what I learned through that process, a couple of years’ worth of trying sprints and basically applying the product design process to my life, is something that I call Tiny Challenges, and it's kind of a silly little thing. But basically, you define a small window of time - it can be five days, seven days, ten days, whatever, one month - but do something very small for that amount of time. It's always a part of a bigger goal. You break it down into a really small manageable pieces, and you chip away at it slowly over time. You'll look back and go, oh my gosh, I just made like a 30-day body of work. That's huge. That's progress. 12:09 I’m a great collector of domain names and lost ideas. Something that I really learned over time is, just get this small nugget of the idea, enough to get the idea out, enough for it to be good enough quality for people to understand what you're doing, what it is, and how to work with it, how it's intended to be engaged with, with quality and thought. But don't dump every dime into your idea until you know it's worth it.  14:26 You ask if there's a process. I think having an idea, writing stuff down. Because you may get started on it and then get distracted in 1000 different ways, and actually come back to the idea. I think documenting your ideas is really important. 15:14 I think having a product, you depend on different things and different bodies of knowledge. I've done service providing as well, where I was coaching, where I was teaching, where I was doing workshops and conferences, and all of that. And the biggest difference for me is we have something that we have to physically ship to a person. 19:14 I don't think we're a clothing store at all. First of all, we're an experience. And so, just in case people are unfamiliar with what Picture This Clothing is, you print out a coloring sheet of a dress, a T-shirt, we have beanies, face coverings, and then we have leggings as well. So we have a few products, and you print out the coloring sheet. You design it any way you want. You upload a smartphone photo to our website. We send it back ready to wear. And that's what Picture This Clothing is. And so it's all about that design experience that you have at home. And it always was that, even before the pandemic. 26:38 It always drives me crazy when people shut it down without thinking of the bigger possibility, or the bigger vision. 30:09 People love experimenting, and playing, and sharing their own ideas and their own imagination, creativity, and we all talk about it and try things. And so that part's really cool.  33:43 Something that we've always done, but that really played well with the pandemic, was not having all our eggs in one basket. And I think as a self-employed sort of person, that's something I learned many, many, many years ago. Even if I had a full-time job, I was usually freelancing, designing websites for people or logos or whatever, on the side. I almost always had side gigs. And so even now, even though Picture This Clothing is the thing that requires most of my attention, I still have another business on the side. Ken still has another business on the side. So we have other things bringing in income. Don't rely on just one source of income at any time, if you can help it.  38:02 It's a struggle when people go, “What do you do?” to answer that. I do a lot of stuff and I hate being dropped into a bucket. Like, I am a writer, I am a designer, I am a CEO, I also do our books and our finances and I can do strategy. I am a social media person. And we wear a lot of hats when we're self-employed, do we not? I remember trying to simplify and say I'm a designer, but then it completely undermines my abilities. I am, in many capacities, a designer, but I am also much more than that, and I know that. And I think I'm limiting myself and holding myself back by simply trying to slap the label on so that people understand. And then I'm getting work that I don't want. And I'm like, No, this isn't what I meant. This isn't… No, this is an ill fit. And it’s my own doing, but untitled. I'm untitled. 43:34 I've been just really rethinking my own branding, and my personal brand, and what am I? How do I describe who I am and what I am? What do I really want to be doing? You know, people always ask that question, "If you had a million dollars, and you could do anything that you wanted..." Well, I'm not saying that I have a million dollars, but I'm saying I can do anything that I want to do. And I've put myself in a position where I've worked hard enough and that I can decide that I want to do this, or I want to do that. And I'm trying to decide what is it exactly that I do want to do for a while? And I never know. I've never had the answer. And I kind of just end up where I end up, and I do what I do until I don't want to do it anymore. And then I start experimenting my way into something else. And so that's where I'm at. 47:07 I've worked really hard to be able to make that a part of my life. And I'll keep working really hard. Like I love working on things I love working on. I just want to keep that freedom, you know? I want to keep that freedom because that's everything to me. 47:49 I don't know that I can prevent any burnout from ever happening again. But I know that I have the tools to survive, overcome and be resilient. That's what I'm really good at in my own life. I practice this regularly. And I find myself up against the wall regularly and needing to put those tools into practice. But I do feel like I always come out on the other side, and I'm okay. And I'm still going, I'm still fighting. And I think that there's just if there's anything I can do to help people understand their own toolset and how to apply it to get themselves on the bright side, that's probably one of my greatest strengths, and what I hope to be able to give to people. I believe that everybody has those tools within them already. It's just really discovering them and organizing them in a way that that's useful. 51:17 I know there's so much more to it than just looking on the bright side. I am not naive to this and not impossibly optimistic even, but I am a hardcore believer in optimism. It's a part of my soul. It's a part of who I am. And I can't help but to keep moving forward with hope. I will tell you that it's not easy at all times to do that. It takes practice and it takes thoughtful focus, dedication to mindfully choosing, like, what's good today. What's something good that happened? 52:11 Don't put all your eggs in one basket. I just think that's really helped me not get stuck. It keeps my options open and keeps my freedom as my underlying… and when I say freedom, my ability to choose. My ability to not have to go work for someone else unless I choose to. I hope I can always retain that. But I think having five or six little baskets with eggs in them has given me that freedom.
PSA: Imposter Syndrome is running rampant in creative industries and it's not okay. You are not a fraud! If you are struggling with these thoughts, this episode is a reminder that you deserve all the success you've earned for yourself. -- Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl -- A few weeks ago, our weekly Clubhouse meetup was supposed to be about money management for creatives. It quickly became focused more on making money than what to do with the money we’ve already made. Everyone was interested in how to set rates, be confident in charging what they’re worth, and how to avoid the all-too-common epidemic called “Imposter Syndrome.” It seems to be a rampant issue in creative fields, especially in those who are just starting out in business. What is imposter syndrome? It’s when you feel like a fraud for charging people for your services. It’s that internal doubt that you aren’t worth as much as you are. It’s tricking yourself into thinking you aren’t as competent as others think you are, even though you are. It’s undermining your talent and crediting luck for your accomplishments instead. It’s a lack of confidence telling you that people are going to find out you don’t actually know what you’re doing and everything you’ve worked for is going to disappear. Sound familiar? I hope not, but if so, you’re not alone. Imposter syndrome is affecting business owners everywhere. There is so much pressure, often self-inflicted, to be the best. And if you’re not the best in the world, then somehow you don’t deserve success at all. But that’s not true. I know I’m starting to sound like a PSA, but I don’t like hearing how many talented people are feeling like phonies instead of being proud of doing what they’ve always wanted to do. So, if you’ve ever dealt with those feelings, or are feeling them now, this episode is for you. I want you to know a few things. You are not a fraud. Stop thinking that you are. If you were a true fraud, you probably wouldn’t be listening to this podcast, so I’m going to trust that you aren’t ripping people off or claiming you can do things you can’t. I know those people are out there, but you know if that’s you. It’s not, right? No. You’re charging for your services because they have value. You are making other people’s lives easier in one way or another. You’re doing something they can’t do, don’t have time to do, or don’t want to do. You’re helping them personally, or their brand or company. You’re doing what you do so they can focus on all the other things they need to do. They pay you because they need you. An imposter pretends. You actually do. You are worth more than your doubts may tell you. Don’t let them win. And by worth, I mean not just your rates, but also your value as a human. You have boundaries in place for a reason, and if someone isn’t respecting them, you can and should end that relationship. There is a respectful way to do it, of course, but any client who acts like they pay you so you should do whatever they want when they want it isn’t a client worth having. Let them go and make room for someone who appreciates what you have to offer and understands the price tag that goes along with your skills. You absolutely should be doing what you’re doing. If you’re just getting started, that only means that you have plenty of time ahead of you to learn and grow and build your confidence. If you’ve been doing this for a while, you’ve earned your place. Why are you questioning it now? It’s okay to accept success and to be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Don’t let doubt, fear, or other people hold you back from saying, “I deserve this.” Because you do. The time and energy you’ve invested into your talent is valuable, and it’s your right to stand up for yourself. If there are people who are condescendingly questioning you, or trying to bully you into working for less, they aren’t worth your time. Working with them only takes away your opportunity to work with the right people. Those people won’t question your rates or expertise. They’ll gladly pay you and breathe a sigh of relief that they have you on their team. Anything less is not worth your time. If those demanding and demeaning people are making you question yourself, stop. If anyone is a fraud in that situation, it’s them, not you. If you’re having trouble believing in yourself sometimes, how about believing your clients? They aren’t stupid. They’re not giving you work or money out of pity. They’ve hired you because they believe you’ll do a good job for them. They will let you know if you’re not living up to their expectations. So If they don’t doubt your abilities, why should you? Some people feel all of their success is a fluke and is going to disappear at any moment. But that isn’t going to happen to you. You’ve worked hard to build your client base and your reputation as an expert. You will continue to do so. People are going to notice and think, wow. Look at what you’ve accomplished. That’s amazing. Remember that those who don’t, those who might put you down or try to minimize your success, those people aren’t really criticizing you. They’re criticizing themselves. They’re disappointed in themselves for not being brave enough to do their own thing. They’re scared to take the risk and they’re making up reasons to justify it. Don’t fall into that trap. You’re better than that. I don’t know why people treat themselves so much worse than they’d treat other people. Think about that internal voice that’s making you feel like an imposter. Would you talk to someone else the way it’s talking to you? If your friend came to you and said they were feeling insecure about their business, would you respond with something like, “Well, you clearly don’t know what you’re doing and shouldn’t be getting paid for it?” If you wanted to hire someone for services you need, would you respond with, “Wow. Those rates are stupid and no one should ever pay you that much?” If your family member had been working hard on her business for months and was excited about the momentum she was building, would you shut her down by saying, “Well, you’ve just gotten lucky because most people aren’t going to pay you to do that?” No! You wouldn’t say any of those things to others, so don’t say them to yourself either. You don’t need validation from anyone but yourself. Be honest. Are you proud of the work you’re doing? Do you find fulfillment in running your business? Do you appreciate the freedom you have since you’ve taken control of your life? Do you acknowledge that you are a successful business owner? Or if you haven’t started yet, do you believe you are good enough to pursue your passion and make money doing it? If you can honestly answer no to any of those questions, take a step back and think about why. What can you do to turn it around? And if you did answer yes, as I’m sure you all did, then ask yourself why do you feel like an imposter? I don’t know why it happens, but I don’t like it. Part of me wonders if so many people have been programmed to be falsely humble that they don’t know how to accept their accomplishments. It’s not considered good manners to boast or talk about yourself positively, but I think that idea is antiquated. It’s one thing to let your ego run wild and think you’re the greatest human to ever exist. It’s another to claim that you are better than anyone else. But it’s completely different to acknowledge that you are doing good work and have created something special. I think it’s important for us to allow ourselves to be proud. We are not imposters. We are self-employed creatives, we love what we do, and we deserve every bit of success we earn for ourselves.
When it feels like everything is falling apart, some perspective, acceptance, and understanding might help you make the best of a bad situation. I took my own advice this week and it helped me keep my sanity amidst some chaos. -- Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl -- Well, this isn’t the episode I planned on releasing this week. But, a lot of things happened over the last several days that I didn’t plan on either. I won’t bore you with all of the convoluted details, but essentially the plumbing in my house went haywire and now my kitchen island and master shower are out of commission. I’ve been dealing with these massively noisy dehumidifiers that make it impossible to sleep, let alone record, so I’ve had to move into my own guest room, use my guest shower, and the cats are pretty annoyed that all of their stuff has been moved. Now I’m talking to plumbers and water mitigation experts and insurance adjustors, trying to learn all the lingo and make sure I’m doing what I need to. There have been so many people in and out of my house to assess things, estimate things, try to fix things just to find out they can’t and someone else has to try something different. I’ve seen these various repair guys more in the last week than I’ve seen any of my friends in over a year. It’s kind of ridiculous. I think my house is trying to tell me I’ve been in it too long and need to leave a little more often. But no, this episode isn’t about wonky house woes, it’s about dealing with unexpected situations without losing your mind. I know I talk about certain concepts quite a bit. Staying positive, going with the flow, believing that everything happens the way it’s meant to. It’s one thing to talk about it, but it’s another to actually put it into practice. So I want to share how I’ve applied my own advice in this situation, along with some observations about perspective and control. There are so many times when it feels like the world is conspiring against you. Your clients all need you at the same time. You finish one thing and two more come up in its place. Everything is an emergency. The days are flying by and you don’t even know how long it’s been since you last got up from your chair. Add in the extra demands of your personal life, your family, and all those little things you need to tend to, and this is the typical life of a self-employed creative. It’s easy to focus on the stress of it all. What is going wrong. How overwhelmed you’re feeling. It’s all real. There are days you want to scream, or cry, or where you just laugh because that’s all you can really do. But, that doesn’t help anyone, especially yourself. Getting frustrated doesn’t help you do your work faster. It probably slows you down. Getting mad doesn’t fix the problems. It just makes you feel worse. Thinking about how unfair it is doesn’t change what’s happening. So while I do think it’s important to feel your feelings and acknowledge them, I also think it’s necessary to reprogram the negative ones. That’s where perspective can be helpful. I’m not happy about sleeping in my guest room. I love my tempurpedic bed and I typically don’t sleep well anywhere else. But, I am grateful that I have an extra bed in my home so I didn’t have to sleep on a couch or somewhere else. I also feel weird using my guest shower, but I am thankful I have an extra shower so I don’t have to hose myself off outside, which could be pretty awkward and not very effective. It’s nearly impossible to function the way I normally do without my kitchen island and sink. But, I’m fortunate enough to be able to swork around it, even if it’s not ideal. It’s difficult to get my work done with all of these people coming in and out all day, but how lucky am I to be able to be home while this work gets done? I really don’t know how people who have job jobs do it. I haven’t been able to go anywhere or schedule anything because I’m usually waiting for someone who could show up at any time, or who give me a 4-hour window for when they might get here. I can’t imagine how I would do all of this if I was still at my old job 30 minutes away. Thinking about how good I have it, even in the bad times, gives me that perspective to understand that it might feel like a lot at once, but it could be worse. Instead of focusing on all of the inconveniences, I choose to appreciate all that is going right. And when it comes to what isn’t going right, I have to remember that it’s completely out of my control. Now, I like to be in control. I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone. I wouldn’t call myself a control freak, because it’s not a necessity for me to be in charge. It just happens to be something I’m good at and often have to do in my work. But, oddly, understanding that I can’t control everything is part of how I’m able to solve problems. I’ve known a lot of people who can’t let go. When something goes wrong, they keep trying to fix it, where fix means make it exactly the way they wanted it. They aren’t able to step outside of the box and find a new solution. But as the Rolling Stones song goes, you can’t always get what you want. Everything that’s happened recently is 100% out of my control. I didn’t cause the leaks in my plumbing. And I couldn’t pretend they didn’t exist, because that would’ve created bigger issues in the future. I can’t do anything to speed up the process with regards to how long it takes for these different companies to get the work done. And I can’t stop doing my work just because I have other things to tend to, at least not without detrimental repercussions that I’d rather avoid. I can’t control any of it. I can only adapt and figure out ways to do what I need to do in the midst of the chaos. It might not be ideal, but I will get things done. I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason. I know that often sound cliché. It’s one of those somewhat empty sayings people use when they’re trying to make people feel better, even though it usually doesn’t help. But I really do believe it. Everything happens the way it’s supposed to, when it’s supposed to. I accept that and do my best to embrace it. This whole kerfuffle started with a tiny drip in my faucet. I figured that should be an easy enough thing to fix. I’m usually pretty handy, so I watched some YouTube videos and figured I’d try it since it was a weekend and getting a plumber would take a while. I needed to take off the handle to find out which part I needed to get. I learned that the valves under my sink that are supposed to turn the water off, did not work. Long story short, I got an unexpected cold shower and flooded my bathroom. I did fix the drip, for what it’s worth, but I could only get the handle on backwards so I decided to just live with that until I could get a professional out. But, while cleaning up the flood, I noticed some warping in the door frame by my shower that indicated it was water damaged, unrelated to that incident. My dishwasher had also started leaking whenever I ran it, so it seemed like the perfect time to utilize my home warranty and get someone to look at everything. I didn’t expect any of it to be such an ordeal, but I’m really glad I got them here when I did. Had I not noticed, or not called anyone, it could’ve gotten worse and caused more damage, or something worse like mold. So, not ideal, but probably a good thing it happened. The major issues also happened when I had a few slower days of work. I had plenty I wanted to do with that time, but if it was in the midst of what I have coming up over the next few weeks, it would’ve been a disaster. The next couple of months are jam packed with projects. The repairs will hopefully get started soon and will still be a distraction and most likely an annoyance, but it shouldn’t require as much input from me, so it’ll be fine. If this happened a couple weeks from now, I might have had to let some people down and that wouldn’t be okay with me. Timing is everything. And just like the timing of all the bad stuff worked out, so does the timing for some good. In the midst of all of this, Taylor, my future primary caregiver, graduated from high school and invited me to the celebration at their house in Boulder City, which is about 45 minutes away from me. It was on a Thursday afternoon. Normally that wouldn’t have been an issue, but I had 3 different appointment windows with people coming to the house and a Zoom meeting with a client. I really didn’t think there would be any way I could get there and that was disappointing because I’ve known that kid since he was born and it was important to me to be there. And not just because I’ve been bribing him his whole life so he’ll take care of me when I get old, but because his dad has been one of my best friends for 20 something years and certain moments are worth the effort. By some miracle, everyone that day showed up in the early part of the window, finished quickly, and I was able to get there and spend a few hours away from work, away from house drama, to laugh with good friends. Like I said, timing is everything. So, yeah. It’s been a challenging couple of weeks. My whole routine has been disrupted, I’m tired, and I have a lot to do. I’m feeling the pressure of everything that needs to be done with work, to get my house back in order, and to just maintain my sanity. But, my advice has helped me, as weird as that sounds. I keep grounded with perspective. It might be bad, but it could be worse. In the grand scheme of things, I’m still pretty lucky. I accept what I can’t control and adapt instead. Things still need to get done, and I can’t do them the way I’m accustomed to, so I have to figure out new ways. Maybe I’ll learn something in the process. And I remind myself that everything happens for a reason, and I’ll get through this. I’ll look back and laugh. I’m actually laughing quite a bit already because it’s all I can really do at this point. It really does help me feel better about everything that’s happening. I hope you are having some better luck than I am, and if you’re not, then I hope you can join me in making the best of a bad situation.
John Masse is the perfect example of a self-employed creative. He’s had a lucrative career as an illustrator, animator, creative director, scenic designer, and more. His creations have been seen all over the world, and while he loves what he does, he also prioritizes his family. In this episode, we discuss what it takes to run a creative business - managing your time and money, avoiding procrastination, knowing when to call it a day, and more. He can trace every step of his career back to his first job designing t-shirts in a shop in Vegas. That experience started the path that eventually led to working with Sting in Belgium and meeting George Lucas to develop a Star Wars apparel line for Skechers. John explains his "Seagulls and Sandwiches" concept and the abundance mindset - there is plenty of work out there if you find your empty spot on the sand. He also talks about the importance of selling who you are before what you do, relying on your network, and knowing how much you need to make each month so you can successfully steer your own ship. Connect with John @massecreative Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl -- 00:38 I had enough of an education and an experience in things I was interested in, to figure out rather quickly that I could make a living from the things that I was good at. 01:52 My career can be traced sort of in a linear progression. So one job, or one account, or one relationship, always begets the next thing.  02:52 I like the idea that when you're your own boss, and when you're a hyphenate, every day is different. Every day is unique. 05:23 I love being a dad. So I want to capture those little teeny moments, and I also can compartmentalize my life. And that's the biggest trick for being a self-employed creative is that you have to know your hours. You have to know your time. There has to be a familial understanding. And I know, for sure, from years of experience, you work way more than 40 hours when you work for yourself. So you have to be able to call it a day. And that is a discipline, especially if you are geared towards steering your own ship for the rest of your life.  09:44 I don't panic on the slow days. I know my nut. And that's just slang for knowing what the house costs, what the Target bill is going to be, what all these pay subscriptions are going to run up, what my health insurance costs. I know what I need to make every month, and everybody should know that. You should always, always know that. And that's your baseline. From there, I can handle my billing, I can handle my goals, my wants, my needs, my desires. I know how to sell myself. I know how to keep the ship running. The creativity comes so freely to so many of us that we suffer from imposter syndrome, that we're like, I shouldn't be getting paid for this. It doesn't cost me anything to draw. I can draw anything in a second. I can think up of a name and a story. I could write a book. Why would I get paid for that? Is that worth anything to anybody? And they're having these existential crises in their own head and I'm like, think about business. Business first. What are you doing? Pay attention to those things. 13:14 I think it's important to be liked before you can sell anybody anything. There is that balance of being liked before you can bill for it, but know when to bill for it.  16:11 This is a necessary thing that we do, and therefore we have created purpose and meaning to our lives in doing something creative, and being entrepreneurs, and being our own bosses. So there's a joy in it. I always go with an open mind because I'm going to learn something with every business account that I have, or every little venture that I have. And then that's fun. And I always finish off with “I can't wait for the next one!" 20:37 There are better artists. There are funnier people. There are taller people. There are younger people. There are people that are all charisma. There are people that are just perfectionists at what they do. But you have to carve out that little piece of your talent, and your skill, and whatever you bring to the creative world.  25:36 All the funny things that I did, all the experimental things that I did, all the goofy things have worked their way into this creative life of mine collectively, but it's because I picked one thing that I was very good at. 27:18 Seagulls and sandwiches goes with that concept of abundance, which is there's so much work out there. We're always like, you know, fighting for a job, or panicking, or nervous for a job. And it's like, no, no, the work is there. You've got to find the spot on the beach where there are no seagulls because the sandwiches are there. Some of them are under the sand. Some of them are everywhere, but you're going to find the place. And the trick is to look for a void. Look for a specialty. Look for something that you do that no one else does.  28:53 When you're in that creative world, you want to find that specialty. Start there. Start with that one thing that you're better at than anyone else is that gives you the most passion and that is your starting spot. That's your place in the beach where you can sit down, relax, and have a sandwich and no one's competing with you. I call it a void.  I created Muffalo Potato because I remember how amazing Mr. Rogers was when I was a kid. And I remember Captain Kangaroo. And I remember step-by-step drawing shows that I saw as a little, little kid, which I thought were fascinating. And I didn't see that anywhere in the market. I didn't see it anywhere in the world. And I was like, you know, since Mr. Rogers passed, there's no one else that's sort of taken his mantle as, you know, talking to kids. And I can't teach morality because I'm an amoral person at best, but I can teach kids how to draw, you know? And tell them that, look, it doesn't have to be perfect. It just needs to be fun. And I looked and I realized there's a void. There's a little spot in the YouTuber/influencer/social media world where nobody is teaching kids how to draw, and certainly not in the kind of weird way that I could figure it out. And that's been a wild success.  36:55 Know your strengths and know how much time you could dedicate to your curiosity. And because creative fields tend to serve as adjuncts to other creative fields... for example, I started in apparel design, which involves drawing, which involves copy and typeface. So it was very easy for me to get into advertising from there. Because I was good at drawing, I could get into storyboards. Because I was good at setting up storyboards, I could get into scenic, right? So now I've got scenic and design, then that gets theatrical. But I'm also drawing, and so I can get cartoony, so I can create characters, right? But because I am a character, I could come up with an imaginative story of how that character came to be. And now I'm a writer. So the flow-through almost occurs, it almost incurs invisibly. It's in the background.  The only thing, the only requirement, is that you have to succeed. There's no “I'm not going to try it.” Just do it. You can't fail at anything. Don't approach it like you're going to fail. It's about completion. It's about finishing what you start. There's no room for procrastination in this world, especially because you do want bigger projects, you know? It's nice to have a day rate. It's nice to have four days’ worth of work. It's nice to have two days’ worth of work. It's really good to permalance, or to be, you know, as soon as this project is finished, they call you right for the next one. And that's where you build that security, and that experience, and you really get some momentum behind you. 47:37 Star Wars is what changed my life when I was seven years old. The movie came out, and I saw it, and it flipped me out. And I was upset over the years that, oh, they were making the prequels and now they're making the sequels. And I thought at this point, I would have been one of those storyboard artists that would have sat on George Lucas's lap and drawn. “Is it good, daddy? Is that?” You know, I thought that was gonna happen. But lo and behold, Skechers got the Star Wars account. And the entire company said, “Alright, John. You're heading to Lucasfilm in San Francisco, and you're going to talk to him about the new movie, 'The Force Awakens,' and you're going to build the apparel line.” And there it was. It was that arc that happened.  There is the starting point. There is the through line, the mistakes, everything that's happened. The connection is there. I have zero regrets. If I did one thing differently, at a split second, just a different flap of the butterfly's wings, I'd have a completely different life than I have right now. 52:09 It goes back to who you are, because people like to work with you first, and then what you do second, right? And they're like, “Well, you sold me on the idea. Let's give it a shot.” The most amazing thing that you're going to do is the next thing. Always remember that. That's the way I feel, you know? What's the best thing you ever did, John? The next thing. The next thing is the best thing I ever did. But really, it's the kids. It's the two kids. 53:46 You've got to sell yourself first. Remember that. Not what you do, but who you are. You've got to lean on your clan. You have to know your nut. You have to know what you need to make. If you build it, and you break it, you can rebuild it again. So don't be afraid of stuff blowing up in your face, because you got there in the first place. Every little success is proof of concept. So take that, add value to everything you do, and earn a life away from your work. That's all you need to do. 
One of the most important skills for business owners is adaptability. If you are a person who gets frustrated when things change – whether a schedule shifts, an idea evolves, or a plan takes a different direction – you don’t have any business being in business. Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl and join the Self-Employed Creatives club on Clubhouse every Wednesday at 4pm Pacific time. -- I recently encountered a situation that made me shake my head. All I kept thinking is this… if you get frustrated when a plan changes, you probably shouldn’t be in business. So let’s talk about that. In this scenario, I was talking to a talent agent who represented an actor who was hired for a job. The actor had agreed to all the details, including the dates of the wardrobe fittings and the shoot itself. Then that actor booked another job and was no longer able to attend the fitting that was scheduled. The agent asked if it could be done via Zoom, which wasn’t possible. Zoom has made some things easy, but it has not given people the ability to try on clothing that is in a different location. So the solution was for the actor to drive to another city where fittings were happening. Production wouldn’t cover that cost, because the talent wasn’t honoring a commitment that was already made, but it allowed the actor to do both. If you’re not familiar with how wardrobe works for production, there is actually a lot of thought that goes into what on camera talent wears. There are many people involved in the decision and it’s all based on what achieves certain stylistic goals. Actors usually bring some of their own clothing options from home, based on specific directions in terms of colors, sleeve lengths, type of attire, and all that fun stuff. There is also a wardrobe department that buys clothing based on the same direction. This way, there are several options for each person’s look, which the director or someone else in charge signs off on for the final product. Sometimes it’s what the stylist bought, sometimes it’s what an actor already owned, and sometimes it’s a combination of both.   In this case, the actor did not follow instructions and brought clothing that wouldn’t work for any shoot because it all had logos for brands that were not licensed. Production wardrobe 101 – graphics and logos are bad unless they’re of the brand you’re promoting or otherwise preauthorized. That actor understood and offered to go shopping before the next fitting. Ultimately, the final look that was chosen included the pieces the actor had purchased. So back to that conversation with the talent agent. I got an earful about how it was messed up that the actor had to drive to another city, pay for the travel, and go to two fittings in person just to end up wearing something that could’ve been purchased locally. The agent brought up the fact that Zoom was requested and there was “no reason” any of this had to be done in person. No acknowledgment of the fact that all of it was supposed to be done locally but the actor booked something else and missed the original time and location that was scheduled to do it. Just frustration bordering on anger that things didn’t work out as intended. That’s the part that got me. No one knows ahead of time what the final outcome of anything is going to be. Nothing is certain, certainly not in production. It’s constantly changing from the moment prep begins until the final product is delivered. Art and creativity are subjective. They’re fluid. We often have to adapt and change direction along the way. It’s why it’s called a creative process. A script can be written in a way the author thinks is perfect, but then an actor delivers a line with slightly different wording and it changes everything. If it makes the show better, the writer shouldn’t throw a temper tantrum because their exact wording wasn’t used. It’s a team effort. If an editor chooses a piece of music for the cut she’s working on, but then a music supervisor gets licensing for another song that conveys the intended mood better, they’re going to change it. In this case, the creative director wanted to see multiple options on each actor, and his favorite one ended up being one that the actor found. There was no way to know ahead of time how that was going to play out, so hearing someone so worked up over it, really struck me. I started to explain the intention and how this works and had to stop myself because this person didn’t want to hear logic. For whatever reason, the agent just wanted to complain. Somehow, it had gotten twisted that this actor’s time had been wasted, not factoring in that the actor was the one who messed up the original plan. In addition, the actor was getting paid very well for all of the time spent in these fittings and on set. What it came down to was simply frustration over change. And I really believe that if you are a person who gets frustrated when things change – whether a schedule shifts, an idea evolves, or a plan takes a different direction – you don’t have any business being in business. Like with so many things, it all goes back to mindset. You can choose to get frustrated, or you can choose to go with the flow. You can choose to feel like you wasted your time because plans changed, or you choose to be grateful to have been hired. Especially when you’re getting paid for your time. That’s what I’m talking about here, when something changes within the scope of what you’re already getting paid to do. That actor doesn’t get paid based on what wardrobe is used. The actor gets paid for the time for each fitting and actually working on set. Nothing that happened took away any of that. I’ve worked with voice actors who have recorded a script for which they were paid. Then the client changed the script and the voice actor had to record it again. He got paid for it again, but for some reason he got really upset that he had to do it the second time. I never did understand why. The change had nothing to do with him. It just happens sometimes. If I think about how many times I’ve spent hours, sometimes even days, doing part of my job just to have the whole thing change and go in a completely different direction… if I let that bother me, I’d never survive in this industry. Or my head would explode. It’s not that I don’t understand why it’s frustrating. I’ve been there, too. Times I’ve put a lot of effort into something and then it turns out it wasn’t needed. That doesn’t feel great, but I always have to go back to the logic. I was paid for my time to do that. My client didn’t change direction because of something I did, or didn’t do. It’s just the nature of a project. So I could get mad about it and complain about all the time I wasted, or I can accept it and laugh about it. It’s another story about this crazy, unpredictable world where I get to make money doing silly things like finding lucha libre costumes, researching film-friendly cabins, or going behind the scenes at the soundcheck for a band’s residency show. Why should I care if I have to stop doing one thing and start doing something else? Why should you? It’s one thing if a client starts piling on more responsibilities than you agreed to, or they completely change the scope of the job. That’s a different conversation. But, if the change means you just have to do more of the work you’ve already agreed to do, don’t worry about it. We, as humans, have a tendency to make up problems in our heads. We give too much weight to situations that aren’t worthy of our brain space. We sometimes forget how much power we have to choose our reactions and how we feel. If you already spent time on something, and then it turns out not to be needed, that time is already gone. You can’t get it back. Getting frustrated about it isn’t going to change that. It’s not going to help anything. All you can do is move forward with the new plan, which might change again. It doesn’t mean you have to love change. I surely have moments where I would very much prefer for things to stay the same. But it’s not always in my control. What is in my control is how I respond. One of the most important skills for business owners is adaptability. There’s a reason it’s come up in almost every interview I’ve done in the last year. We have to be able to navigate changes or we’re not going to succeed. There’s a reason so many people use the phrase “the only constant is change.” There’s no escaping it. Change is inevitable and it’s what keeps life interesting, right? As self-employed creatives, change can give us opportunities. It’s all a matter of how we decide to interpret the situation. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but, to quote Beck, “Things are going to change. I can feel it.”
Anticrastination

Anticrastination

2021-05-1007:37

Using your down time to your advantage is what I like to call anticrastination. It's the opposite of putting things off. It’s taking advantage of the time you have right now to do things you might not have time for later.  Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl The Self-Employed Creatives club meets Wednesdays at 4pm Pacific time on Clubhouse. -- We are all familiar with procrastination. I was a pro procrastinator in school. I actually found that I couldn’t write a paper if I had too much time to do it. I couldn’t get in the head space and I’d distract myself in any way possible to avoid it. But, if it was the night before it was due, I could crank it out quickly. I guess I’ve always been one who works well under pressure. It makes sense that we put off doing things we don’t want to do. Because we don’t want to do them. We’ll find anything else to do to avoid things like admin work and bookkeeping. Or around the house, it’s things like cleaning or fixing that broken chair. We’d rather spend our time doing the things we enjoy. That’s pretty much common sense. I don’t think procrastination is always a conscious choice, though. Sometimes we don’t actively think, I’m going to put this off. Instead, we do other things and never quite get around to it. I may have been without working hot water in one of my bathroom sinks for almost 2 years. I wasn’t intentionally not getting it fixed. I just didn’t make the call because I didn’t think about it in the right moment. It sounds ridiculous, I know. And I’d love to say that I ultimately realized that and called a plumber, but I did not. My friend sometimes lets me borrow her husband for handy work, and she sent him over one day to fix it for me. It was such a simple thing and I laughed at myself for letting it go that long. It just hadn’t been important to me because the cold water still worked and there was another sink next to it that worked fine. But sometimes we have to put off doing things we actually want to do because we have other priorities. Time gets away from us and there is only so much we can do. So when we don’t have time to do everything, something has to give. For most of us, that usually means our personal projects get put on the backburner while we’re tending to paying clients. Other times it means letting things pile up because they don’t make an immediate impact. You know you need to scan those receipts so you can add them into your accounting software, but you’re not going to miss out on a new job because you haven’t done that yet. I recently found myself in a place where I’m sure you’ve been before. I overcommitted. I was already juggling multiple projects when a new opportunity came my way. I had turned down a couple of other jobs during the same time, but this one was more appealing. It was for a major brand, there was a celebrity involved, and it was a new client looking to build a team in Vegas, where he will be relocating soon. I knew some other people on the job and like working with them, and I got a really good vibe from the client. I was up front about my prior commitments, and we worked out a schedule that made sense for both of us. I knew it would be a busy couple of weeks, but I knew I could handle all of it. I would never sign up for a job if I thought I couldn’t deliver, so I want to be clear about that. My definition of overcommitting doesn’t mean I’ve agreed to 30 hours a day and am going to have to sacrifice sleep to get it all done. To me, it means that work might infringe upon my typical boundaries in terms of my normal hours, but within reason. Because I do prioritize my down time, I wouldn’t have said yes if the new project was going to push too much into the evenings or weekend. Based on the information I had, it was all manageable. Of course, by some twisted fate it seems the universe, which is normally on my side, conspired against me. Every one of those projects became chaotic and took up way more time than intended. They were billable hours, so that wasn’t an issue, but it made it impossible to do the other things I had wanted to do during that time. It all worked out, as it always does, but by the end of last week I was just laughing about the whole thing. That’ll teach me to say yes to a job when I know I don’t really have the time. I say that now, but despite the craziness, I’m still glad I took on that project. I would make the same choice again. During that time, I did have moments of feeling the pressure. It felt like every time I got one thing done, there were 4 more in its place to do. I really had to rely on my prioritization skills to make sure everyone had what they needed from me in a timely manner. I made sure to meet all of my client obligations, but I didn’t end up with any time to work on my personal projects like this podcast. And I like working on this podcast. We had a discussion about time management during one of our weekly Clubhouse chats and I mentioned what was going on. I said that the reason I wasn’t freaking out about it is because I always work ahead when I can. That’s what I’m calling anticrastination. When I have some free time, I use it to do the things I know I might not have time for later. That’s not to say I don’t take advantage of some quiet time when I get it, because it is pretty rare sometimes and I think it’s important to take a day or two to not be productive when the opportunity arises. But, when I do get a break, I have to consider the best ways to use it. When the Vegas season of Intervention ended, I suddenly had a lot of extra time that I hadn’t had for 7 months. I enjoyed have time to just breathe and take it easy. But, then I also started thinking about all the things I hadn’t been able to do during that time. My top priority in my personal projects is this podcast. I did not like the feeling of scrambling to get an episode done in time. I’ve never missed a publishing date, but there were a few close calls. So I thought about which parts of the podcast take the most time, and those are obviously the longer interview episodes. So I started scheduling interviews. I think I recorded 5 in about a week. As of now, I haven’t even edited all of those episodes, which means my plan worked. Because during those crazy weeks, there’s no way I would’ve had time to fully produce a new interview episode. But because I recorded in advance, I never missed a deadline. I didn’t know how long that break would be, so I didn’t want to waste it. I’m really glad I recorded those interviews. As it turned out, the break would only be 3 weeks and then I started working on another show. 9 weeks passed by before I had an opportunity to record another interview. If I hadn’t worked ahead, I wouldn’t have been able to keep consistent releases, and I would’ve let myself down. Anticrastination for the win. So how do you effectively anticrastinate? And by the way, I don’t think anticrastination is a word. The angry red squiggles in my Word document tell me it’s not. But I don’t care. You’ve probably learned that I make up words sometimes, and I’m okay with that. First, figure out what you can do early. Then, do it now. That’s it. No one can predict the future, and most of us never really know when jobs are going to come up, which makes it difficult to prepare. The best thing you can do is think about the things you know will have to get done, and then determine which of those can be done in advance. Things like social media posts – you can create the graphics and write the captions and then either schedule the posts using an app, or at least get everything ready so all you have to do on the day is post. If you’re a writer, think of some evergreen pieces you can write early so you’ll have them available if you’re in a bind and don’t have time to write something new one week. If you’ve been wanting to take a class or work with a coach, schedule it as soon as possible and get started while you have the time. Anticrastination is the opposite of putting things off. It’s doing them now. It’s taking advantage of the time you have right now to do things you might not have time for later. Instead of knowing you have things to do but you don’t want to do them, it’s knowing you’re going to have to do these things later anyway, so you might as well do them now when you’re not feeling pressured. Save yourself the stress and work ahead when you can. You’ll thank yourself later.
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