Hello. You may realize that if I followed my normal pattern, this week should be a new interview episode. Those episodes are my favorite. I love talking to others and getting insight from their lives and careers. Plus, it’s way less awkward than talking to myself. It’s more comfortable for me to showcase others than what I’m doing. I have so many more interviews planned, guests I’d love to get on here, and every intention of continuing that as I have been.
But for now, we are nearing the end of the year. If you’ve been listening for a while, you know it’s been pretty chaotic for me, in a completely unexpected yet totally appreciated way. I do have to take my own advice, though, and I need some down time to decompress. I have one more big project in December but am actively turning down every other job offer that comes my way. I haven’t made much time for non-work self-care and it’s time.
It’s weird how it happens. I never feel the full effects of busyness until it’s over. I may be a little sleepy while I’m in it, but maybe it’s adrenaline or something that keeps me going. But then when I finally have some slower work weeks, it all hits me. That’s where I’m at now. The last couple of weeks I’ve been catching up on all those little things I haven’t had time for the last few months. Things like haircuts and car services and all that fun stuff. I think I actually feel more tired now. As the pro compartmentalizer that I am, when I’m in the moment, I do what needs to be done. I deal with the physical and mental feelings later.
I’m always checking in with myself, though. I think if we’re in tune with ourselves, it’s easy to know the right thing to do. Our bodies will tell us when to sleep, eat, hydrate, exercise, or take it easy. We can’t always listen to it, but I think it’s important to do what we can. All of that was my long-winded way of saying I don’t have an interview episode this week because I didn’t have the energy to get one done. Simple as that. I might take a little bit of a break, not from the podcast, but from the interviews. I need to refocus my energy right now, so I don’t get burnt out and lose the fun in this.
I have every intention of getting back to it as soon as possible, but I also know that as the holiday season rolls around, podcast listening tends to decline. So I may put together some best of interview episodes so you can catch up or get a refresher of all the goodness my guests have offered in the past year and a half. But who knows. I’ve only gotten as far as right now. I am putting together a wishlist of potential guests and would love any suggestions you have if there are people you’d like to hear. Or if there’s something I haven’t covered that you’d like me to discuss, feel free to email me any time at email@example.com or DM me @aardvarkgirl on social. I’m also renovating my studio to make some improvements and will hopefully resume my video plan early next year. Hopefully.
But until then, it made sense to do another Q&A episode, which is kind of like an interview, except it’s not live, and I’m asking myself the questions. But they’re all questions from listeners, so I haven’t completely lost my mind.
I hope you understand the temporary change in format. Since you’re most likely a busy self-employed person yourself, I’m sure you do. We all do our best to keep everything moving forward, but sometimes it’s best to pause, regroup, and come back stronger. Like I said, I’m not going away. I’ll keep releasing an episode every week so you don’t forget about me. Not that you ever would, right?
Okay. Here goes.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
I have my own positive spin on mistakes, mostly that I believe they happen so we can learn something. Sometimes it’s a better way to do something. Sometimes it’s a reminder to slow down and pay attention. Sometimes it’s a lesson in how to improve communication. I think we have to make mistakes to get better.
That being said, in the earlier part of my career, my biggest mistake was definitely not speaking up. I trusted the wrong people and naively thought that they were looking out for me, when I later learned they were not. I did bring up concerns, but I wasn’t persistent enough. I let things slide more than I should because I didn’t want a conflict, or I believed the reasons they gave me for why things couldn’t change at that time. Eventually, I learned to push back.
When I moved back to Vegas from LA in 2004, I took a job at a production company. It wasn’t the ideal position, but it was at least in the industry in which I’d been working. I needed to find work quickly and because of that, I didn’t negotiate enough for myself. I was 23 and the owner used my age against me. He made reasonable arguments, like the cost of living being lower in Vegas than it was in LA, but I should’ve pushed for more. It was a good learning experience though.
I will always remember a specific moment, about a year later. It was time for my annual review. I’d just gotten back from a 2-week trip to Australia and the company had hired someone to fill in for me while I was gone. I’m sure you can imagine how it felt when I saw her invoice and realized how much more he paid her than me. I knew she had a relationship with the owner, but that didn’t make it any better. That showed me that he did know the value of the work I did, but didn’t extend that value to me. So when we had our conversation, I was ready. It wasn’t just about what he paid my replacement, but I was prepared with everything I had done to improve the company since starting there, and all the reasons why the raise was necessary. You can never go into a negotiation thinking you’re owed something because you need more money or a certain amount of time has passed. You need to be armed with facts.
When we were done talking, he said he agreed with everything I said and that I was worth what I was asking for, but he wanted me to think about it from his perspective as a business owner. He was leaving for a meeting but said when he got back we’d finish our conversation. He came back and asked if I had a new number for him, clearly thinking I would’ve fallen for his trick. Instead, I asked for more and said that as a business owner, I’d want to make sure my best employees knew they were valued and would want their pay to reflect that. He didn’t give me more, but he did agree to my original ask. Even though he didn’t get what he wanted, I think he was proud in his own way. I was, too. Sometimes it’s hard to have those money conversations because you know there’s a chance if you ask for too much you won’t get the job, or the raise, or whatever it is you’re after. But by then I had realized that if you don’t fight for yourself, no one will.
As far as mistakes in my self-employed career, though, the only mistakes I’d say I’ve made were in the beginning when I was figuring everything out. I underestimated how long a job would take. I ignored some red flags and agreed to a project I wish I wouldn’t have. I spent too much time thinking about what I should do instead of actually doing it. That’s a big one. We’ve all probably been there at some point. Losing hours online trying to figure out the best thing to do. Spending days or weeks working on a website or some other busy work to make sure everything is ready, but knowing at some level we’re just stalling because that’s time that could be spent doing instead of thinking.
If you own a business, you are going to make mistakes. You’re a human and it’s what we do. No one reasonable expects perfection. It doesn’t matter as much that you never make a mistake. It’s how you react when you do. Most of the time you can correct it without too much damage, sometimes before anyone else ever knows there was a problem. It’s all about acting quickly and figuring out how to move forward from it.
Was there one moment you’d consider the most pivotal to your career?
That situation I just mentioned was definitely one of them. I took that experience and when I was being recruited by another production company, I went for it. I asked for more than $30,000 than what I was making at the time and made some demands as far as vacation time, what I required in my office, and more. I knew they wanted me because the owner had been calling me for months and I had been saying I wasn’t interested. I only finally took the meeting so he would stop calling me. But interestingly, in talking to him I realized that it was a much better fit for me than where I was at the time. But my hesitance made it easier to be bold because if I asked for too much and he said no, it was fine because I wasn’t sure I even wanted the job. But when he said yes, it really hit home that you have to be bold if you want to take a big step forward.
But, again, that was in the corporate world. Where Aardvark Girl is concerned, there have been a handful of pivots since I started, but I’d have to say, oddly, I got the best gift during COVID. During that initial lockdown when all of my projects got canceled, I had that down time to focus on what I really want to be doing. And by focus, I mean that I always had all these thoughts swimming around in the back of my head, but I didn’t have time to hear them all and figure out what it all meant, if that makes any sense. That quiet, undistracted time helped me prioritize all the things I do. I had 3 distinct parts of my business – production, management, and consulting. It was difficult to explain everything I did in a simple way because it’s not exactly a standard combination of services. And if it was hard for me to explain, it couldn’t be easy for potential clients to understand.
I knew I wanted to do this podcast as an extension of my consulting work, eventually leading to some online courses and other helpful content. And that made me aware that my website needed an overhaul. While working with Tara to redesign everything, she helped me simplify what was messy in my head. Through that process, I really concentrated on what I do and concluded that I should narrow it down to 2 divisions – production and consulting. The management piece is still available, but it’s not something I offer to everyone. It’s more for select clients and people with whom I trust to build that kind of partnership.
Then I took it even further and while I primarily work as a producer, I really prefer the production manager role. Even though it’s technically a step down on the call sheet, it makes more sense overall. There are a ton of producers out there, and a ton of types of producers, all with different skills and expectations. It’s a title a lot of people covet. But, all of those producers need solid production managers and I feel there’s more of a void there that I can fill while the others compete for the producer roles. In addition, I can do production management from anywhere. It doesn’t require as much, if any, time onsite, and that’s been one of my biggest goals for a long time, to move away from the long consecutive days onsite that wear me out.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that little piece of clarity changed everything. I made the decision, told Tara so she could integrate it into the new website, and even changed my title in my social bios. The next day, I got the call about Intervention needing a production manager in Las Vegas who could work from home for the next 3 months. And we all know what happened next. If you don’t, you can hear all about it in my previous episodes. I went from no work to more work than I’ve ever had, all from home, doing exactly what I wanted to do. The only downside is it was so much it took away from my ability to move forward with my plans for this podcast and that content I wanted to develop. But that will happen when the time is right.
Finally, at the end of each interview, I ask the same question: If you had one piece of advice for other self-employed creatives, what would it be?
I’ve always had a hard time narrowing things down to a favorite or one of anything. With me, there are too many options for everything and my answer is going to depend on a lot of factors in that exact moment. But, if I had one piece of advice, it would be to trust your instincts. I think it’s the most overlooked business skill because it’s difficult to quantify. There isn’t a step-by-step guide for how to trust your instincts. Well, I do actually have a checklist for that, so let me know if you want it.
A few things I know with certainty: You are not anyone else. Your business is not anyone else’s. There is no “right” way to run your business. And the only one who truly knows what’s best for you is you. You have to learn to turn inward and listen to yourself. Be aware of what you want, what you need, what works for you, and what doesn’t. It’s like the square peg round hole situation. You can work as hard as you possibly can trying to make the square peg that is your business fit into the round hole that is what everyone else thinks you should be doing or what you think everyone else is doing, and it’s probably not going to work. You can shapeshift into a circle, but is that what’s going to make you happy? I’m guessing it’s not.
Instead, take all the information you’ve gathered. All the research you’ve done. All the ideas you’ve come up with or found inspiration for online. All the input from those around you, whether you asked for it or not. Because we all know that people love to give advice even when they have no idea what you’re doing. I’m pretty sure you’ve discovered how different the perception of being self-employed is from those who have never actually done it compared to what you know is true. Take all of that and shut it out. That external noise is distracting you from your own truth.
If you’re being honest with yourself, you know what you want and you know what feels right to you. You know what your instinct says. And if you’re actively trying to fight it, coming up with excuses to do anything other than what your intuition is telling you, that’s just confirmation that you need to do it. You’re trying to talk yourself out of it because it’s scary or risky or a giant change and you’re letting self-doubt lead you. Tap into your confidence. Remind yourself of all that you’ve accomplished, even the things that feel tiny to you. Think of what motivated you to start your business. Where you were at that time compared to where you are now and where you want to go. Own your progress. Own your setbacks. Realize that you already have everything you need to succeed.
To take a word from Ted Lasso, Believe. It’s as simple as that.
That’s all for today, but again, if you have any questions, send them my way. You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social @aardvarkgirl. This podcast is for you, so if there is a topic that would be helpful to you, let me know. I always look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for listening.