I seem to be having a run when it comes to big announcements these days. I’ll be gearing up to launch something and suddenly life will throw itself square in the way and force me to take a good, hard look at my priorities.
You’ve already read a few months back about how a podcast based on the game of Deathwatch that some friends and I were having got shelved when my wife helped me realised that I was being selfish with my time right when she needed my help. Well, just recently, it happened again to a less game-y, more entrepreneurial initiative I had underway – and while it sucked at the time, I think I got a lot out of it.
Being in the podcasting game gets you in touch with a lot of podcasters, many of whom have explored ways of monetising what they do. Some of the folks I’ve chatted with have started earning incomes through editing other people’s podcasts, and based on those discussions, it seemed like a great way of getting some extra money in for only a few hours’ work a week.
There’s always money pressure, of course, especially as, at the moment, we don’t have much extra. We’ve had to refinance a couple of times, first to fix the house after out tenants while we were in Sydney made a mess of it and then to cover urgent cataract surgery for Vickie, so loan repayments gobble up around a third of my salary and Vickie’s pension. My recent splurging on an Xbox One was only possible due to a very generous fortieth birthday gift, and even then most of the rest of the money went on paying down some previous expenses, like new tyres for the car and credit card debts.
A couple of months ago, I was listening to a podcast where the host was chatting with a lady by the name of Tracey Minutolo, who specialises in helping folks get sideline businesses going. I joined her Facebook group, The Side Hustler’s Haven, got chatting about my idea of being a podcast editor and wound up investing in Tracey’s services.
(Side note: This has been my first time working so closely and consistently with a mentor, and the results have been great so far; if you’re thinking about putting a side initiative of your own together, make sure you join Tracey’s Facebook group for some great advice and support form fellow hustlers – and then check Tracey’s one-on-one services out!)
I’d made myself around an hour and a half of time each morning that I could devote to hustling. Across August, Tracey would meet online once a week so she could mentor me in putting the idea together, doing some research and reaching out to potential customers; on the other days, I’d do the work on checking the offerings of other folks in the sector and their offerings out, develop my own service suite and making connections via Facebook.
By the end of the month, I’d got a Facebook page for the new business (which I’d called “Radio Rob’s Podcast Editing Services”) together, engaged a customer on a trial basis and had the announcement post on here almost ready to go –
– and then came September.
In that post about setting the Deathwatch podcast aside, I’d mentioned Vickie’s health troubles. Last year and earlier this year, it had been renal issues (liver, kidneys). But slowly over the past few months, a comparatively minor issue suddenly flared up and made Vickie’s life utterly miserable. Vickie’s GP has known about the rash on her lower legs that had occasionally been keeping her up at night with itch for the past couple of years, but the best diagnosis he’d been able to give was “lichen planus” – which, as we understand it, is the diagnosis that gets given when the doctor can’t work out what’s going on.
In the last couple of months, the itch turned into outright pain that Vickie would describe as someone hammering nails into her legs. On top of that, she started getting leg cramps. It’s a problem Vickie’s had on and off for the last few years and is the reason why she won’t go to the cinema any more; the thought of being halfway through a movie and being struck by pain so bad it makes her scream and not being able to get up out of her chair as a result, wrecking the movie for everyone, horrifies her.
The result was a lot of sleepless nights for both of us; Vickie would stay up as late as she could so that she’d be tired enough to sleep solidly and still be woken in the early hours by pain bad enough to make her cry. The rash began to spread and swell so much that the skin around her left ankle split and wept.
While the GP put her on an every-other-day cycle of dressing changes (needing trips to the medical centre by taxi as I have to use the car for the daily commute), Vickie’s requests for painkillers strong enough to do the job fell pretty much on deaf ears; there’s a big concern in Australia right now about addiction to painkillers. It’s such that tracking systems based on personal identification are being implemented and a lot of painkillers that pharmacists could previously sell over the counter are heading toward prescription-only. Despite Vickie’s explanation of the symptoms, even the first call to the ambulance resulted in them leaving her at home as the only thing they reckoned the Emergency Department at the hospital would do would be give her over-the-counter painkillers and send her home.
In those days, getting a solid night’s sleep became much more important than the early morning hustle. I postponed meetings with potential customers and my weekly get-togethers with Tracey in the name of making sure I could get my day job done and take care of Vickie when at home. When I did get time to do the trial work that my first client had given me, it took me almost an hour to edit twenty minutes of show time, way more than I thought it would after five years of editing my own show.
On top of that, I started realising that it was taking energy that I needed elsewhere – and that I needed to spend what spare time I had left on the things that would help me relax and give me energy back instead of sapping it.
And shortly after that, I realised two things:
- I’d need to put a lot more time into getting better and more efficient at podcast editing if I wanted to earn the sort of money I’d thought I’d be able to get – and I wasn’t interested.
- If I was spending my precious spare time on something that was taking more from me than it gave, regardless of what it might pay – why was I doing it?
After a few days of pain so bad it made her cry (if you know Vickie, you likely know that that would take a shitload of pain), Vickie called me on the afternoon of Monday the 18th, asking me to come home so she could call the ambulance (they ask that you put family pets away, unlock the front door and ensure someone can meet the paramedics when they arrive; Vickie wasn’t going to be able to handle that on her own). This time, they took her in and kept her in while they examined her problem. It was this Monday gone that they let her come home with some scripts for antibiotics for the ulcerated ankle and some decent painkillers.
Thankfully, over the last week since Vickie got back from hospital, her leg has stabilised. She occasionally gets sharp pain in it, but between the (finally decent) painkillers the hospital doctors have prescribed, she’s sleeping stably. Having my mornings back (and a week off in preparation for her seventy-fifth birthday party) has given me the chance to feel stuff through.
There’s a saying in entrepreneurial and life circles: If it’s not a “Hell, yes!”, it’s a no. The idea is that signing up to things that you’re not really into is just going to lead to average results and more of the kind of work that people tend to associate with “day jobs”, that you should settle for nothing less than what genuinely excites you. Looking back, most of my entrepreneurial efforts have been choosing the less-than-hell-yes because I’m afraid of not having enough money to meet expenses or deal with emergencies.
So, I’m aiming instead to do the really scary thing: Deciding not to worry about where more money is going to come from. It’s a real challenge, given that I have a strong tendency to worry about the things I can’t control. And maybe, as a corollary, I think I need to give up on The Idea of Being an Entrepreneur, and instead just do the stuff that both challenges me and lights me up with people whose company I enjoy. As long as I stand up for myself if a working / paying relationship come from that, it’ll be good.