Parts one and two really work in tandem. They are the thesis and antithesis that help you find synthesis. Fancy, right? Basically, in order to know what you are you have to know what you are not.
In my last post I talked about how I was burning out and had to evaluate why I got into doing video, in the first place. I also talked about how, when I started, I was taking on any job that had any money involved, at all, almost literally. I also mentioned how that is the kiss of death. Basically, this is because, unless you’re doing massive volume on these small jobs and the time investment is proportionate to the pay, YOU ARE LOSING MONEY.
So, getting to the point, how do you discover what you are not? I think it’s fairly simple if you will stay in tune with yourself.
My observation is that, as small businesses and entrepreneurs, we get so caught up in doing work that we stop paying attention to what brings us energy and what takes it from us. We manage to get busy, which is often mistaken for being successful, and one day we wake up and we find it almost impossible to go to work. But, that doesn’t make sense! I got into this industry/profession because I loved it. Why, all of the sudden, do I hate it?
Well, first issue here is that it wasn’t all of the sudden. It’s just been a series of poor decision that have been building and now it’s reached a bursting point while you weren’t looking.
The second issue, I’ve already alluded to, earlier: you have mistaken busyness for success and, too many times, you’ve been doing too much work that steals your energy and not doing enough work that gives you energy.
Just to clarify, when I say energy, it speaks more to emotional and mental energy, and not necessarily physical energy. We all have those extremely satisfying jobs that leave us physically exhausted, and, yet, it’s sooooo worth it.
No. What I’m talking about is the work that you dive into it, and you happen to look up 6 hours later and you realize you forgot to eat or go to the bathroom because you were so consumed. That is work that is giving you energy.
Conversely, you have those jobs that you’ve spent the longest 8 days of your life and look up at the clock only to realize that it’s just been half an hour. Sure, we’ve all seen the memes like that that are funny, but, it’s a real thing, and those are the things that you have to make sure get balanced out with the energy-giving jobs.
It’s also worth pointing out that I acknowledge that there are things that we all have to do that suck the energy right out of us. Especially if you’re a small outfit of one or two people and you have to take on these life-suckers because they are vital to the operation of your business. So, I am, in no way, suggesting removing those things from your work life. I’m simply suggesting that you will find more success if you find a proper balance.
Back on track…
How did we discover what we are not? I started looking at jobs that I loved and jobs that I dreaded. For us, the big one was weddings. There’s decent money to be made in that market, but, I got to a point where I realized, I didn’t care. The week leading up to a wedding was pure dread. The day of, I found myself frustrated, a lot, and after, it was all I could do to make myself do the editing and delivery. It was a lot of stress, and, while we were good at it, I hated doing it.
It was the same thing with low-paying commercial work. I couldn’t justify investing the time it would take to make the job creatively satisfying, thus, leaving me simply doing what I could to fulfill the requirements of the job.
That little bit of self-observation left me with two conclusions: 1) we were not a wedding video company; 2) we were not one of the cheap, cookie-cutter, all-jobs-look-the-same video production companies that got a ton of volume but no one could tell the difference between my clients commercials because they were all the same thing.
With that in mind, we could easily identify what we are: a top-end video production company that specializes in commercial, corporate, and promotional video services and produces unique content to every client and attempts to bring more value to every job.
Sounds great, right? We certainly thought so. There’s a catch, though. It creeps in under the disguise of confidence and turns into an attitude of being too good for certain jobs, then, suddenly, you’ve become a jerk that no one wants to work with.
This is also not to say that you can’t some of the small junk jobs that are below the threshold that you’re normally willing to work.
For example, in our line of work, we’re always being inundated with new gear and software, or there are things that we see that we have a need for and we’re in a position that we’re sitting financially sound. In that case, sure, we will invest our time into a job that may not pay really well, but, it will buy us lenses, or software, or apple boxes, or whatever. Or its around Christmas and it means doing some extra things, personally, that we didn’t think we would be able to do. At that point, all of your expenses are covered and this is just gravy money. I’ll be the first to tell you that we will definitely take gravy money. But, it’s also empowering because it’s the decision of whether we want to take the work, or not.
I’m tying up this article and I’m thinking that this is a lot to process. Luckily for you, you can read in bite-sized chunks if you want.
In the next, post, I’ll be diving into learning the power of “no” and standing up for yourself. I like to think of it as a way to take action once you’ve figured out what you are and what you are not.