Do you ever stop mid task and ask yourself how you got to where you are in that moment? I have had that happen to me a few times over the last few months. Since moving out of my home office in 2011 I feel like I have been chasing after too many things. When I worked from home and was only responsible for my own wellbeing I could do whatever work I felt was right in the moment. As long as it resulted in getting paid for my time, I was ok with it. Now having tried to scale a couple of things with a roller coaster ride of limited success, I have been finding it hard to focus lately.
Lately I have felt like my own worst enemy. I have taken focus off of a few long-term projects that have not been producing as much fruit as they once were but still allowing myself to be distracted by some of the aspects of those projects. In my mid twenties, I was good at limiting distractions. I had laser focus, but it had to be that way. I was so busy with the company I was running at that time that I had to pull late nights and work 7-days-a-week to keep up. Somehow I was fine with that. Busy is easy because you can see what needs to be done. When you are busy, the work comes at you and you can take it on full force. The real struggle is when you are caught in between busy and slow. That middle ground can be dangerous and it has been eating away at me like a cancer for the last year.
I have some great clients. We have been blessed with clients that have fun products and they trust us to do the work they hired us to do. At the same time we have had a few stinkers that have made it hard for us to do our work. It is all part of being in business. Over the last year specifically, we have had steady work from regular clients and a small amount of growth, but nothing that has stretched us too thin. Being in this place is what allows my mind enough energy to dream but does not leave me with enough time to execute on any of those dreams. I have always been a dreamer and often find myself laying in bed at midnight considering a new idea. Late night thought sessions as I lay in bed is what led me to at one point having owned more than 350 domain names. I have my own representative at GoDaddy who calls me from the office of the CEO. That might be some marketing ploy to make me feel important but I do know that I own way too many domain names. Every domain name was purchased because of some idea I was mulling over in my head. Most of those domain names never made it past a GoDaddy Parked page and expire a year later.
When I was 18 and almost out of high school, I was utilizing everything I had some knowledge in to make money. Besides working in retail management at the local mall, I was building computers for people, setting up small office networks, and trying to start an online business selling cell phones and accessories. I was going in too many directions. I found myself prioritizing what I enjoyed doing the most. The retail job was a constant paycheck. Building computers was fun, but being available for any and all questions that my customers had was not. I enjoyed setting up small office networks but when AOL didn’t load fast enough, I got a call. It was an early lesson in doing too many things at once. Now almost 20 years later, I am having the same problem.
As I have written about before, I started building websites to give myself more freedom. The business I was running prior to that was taking too much time and was not going to scale unless I could clone myself. I started a photography business to fund my desire to buy new camera lenses but that quickly turned into a business more profitable than my website design business was at the time. During my later twenties, having both businesses was nice. I was single for a few of those years with plenty of time to work when needed. After marrying, my wife worked on some weekends so shooting weddings on weekends was not a big deal. After we started having kids, I wanted more weekends available, which meant shooting less weddings. Having moved out of my home office, one of my goals was to grow my website design company as well. I have had some measurable success there but I have allowed myself to be distracted a lot along the way which has stifled growth of Hill Media Group.
Running your own business is very emotional. Some people refer to their business as one of their kids because it is that close to them. I have always been able to work for myself and stay motivated. Motivation has never been the problem. The problem has been allowing myself to get stuck because of decisions I have made or allowed myself to be distracted by. Let’s take a quick inventory of what I currently do or offer as a service. Some of these services are related and this definitely is not an exhaustive list. What follows is a list of services that I offer and deliver on at least once each week in one form or another. This list also includes jobs performed to maintain our own projects and websites at Hill Media Group.
- Website Design
- Custom Development/Programming
- Website Hosting
- Email (Google Apps for Work)
- Google Adwords (Paid Search Marketing)
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
- Social Media Management
- Social Media Marketing (Paid Social)
- Website Technical Support
- Project Management
- Data Management
- Commercial Photography
- Wedding Photography
- Photo Editing
- Video Production
- Wedding Video Production
- Video Editing
- Product Testing
- Product Reviews
- Editorial Writing
I will have to come back to this list. I know there is more. This list does not include tasks required to run a business, nurture new and potential clients, manage employees, and whatever else I can’t seem to think of at this hour. Some of the above listed jobs I share responsibility with employees and occasionally outsource from time to time, but for the most part, I have my hand in all of those things. I recognize that I am not a top level professional in all of those areas but I am a professional in each of them to the extent that I believe I could focus on any one of them specifically and make a good living. The problem is allowing myself to do that.
It’s hard to avoid doing everything that I have a professional understanding of because there are so many people out there offering substandard service in just one area. In online marketing, there are a lot of scam artists out there who might as well be selling snake oil. Companies take advantage of naive business owners who simply want a professional to handle their online marketing for them. When you know that you can offer a better service and more value, it’s hard to just not do it.
This leads me back to the question, “How Did I Get Here?”
Just about all of these services I offer came from me needing them as a service from myself. I taught myself how to build Google Adwords Campaigns that perform using my own money attempting to market my own businesses. Though this article is all over the place, I developed my writing style from years of writing. My formal education stops just above high school level. I taught myself how to film product reviews by making videos and striving to improve along the way. Where I have led myself astray is that I turn that knowledge into a service and make it available to others.
When you turn something into a service you are stating that it is available for anybody. When I offered my website design skills for sale, I had to build websites for anybody who wanted one. When I started filming projects for clients I needed more gear, so I started offering those services to anyone. Hill Media Group has become this agency that has the knowledge and tools to be a full service agency handling everything from website design to film production but we don’t do end up doing enough of most of those services to justify the costs associated with them. What I mean is that we have everything we need because we have invested in the tools we need to produce quality work. The problem is that some of those tools end up collecting dust because we are not focusing on that specific area of business enough. People have short films in festivals and own less equipment than we have.
All of the services that my company offers are services that I enjoy spending time working on. There are so many cool things out there and so few hours to get to spend doing them. What I truly enjoy is learning something and deploying it. It really doesn’t matter if I am doing it for myself or for someone else. I just enjoy the journey. But I do understand that specializing in a smaller subset of things leads to being better at them. This goes not only for me, but for those who work for me. Most people get bogged down when they are jumping between multiple unrelated tasks. It’s impossible to get into a grove when you don’t know where you will be next.
I have already started making changes to limit what types of work we do and will offer. I removed a once very profitable offering from one of our websites because it has been more of a distraction over the past several months. I plan to make more changes this year as I attempt to discover what areas I would like to specialize in and cull the rest from our offered services. About a year ago I started selling off some of my equipment I use for video production projects and simply rent the gear when I need it. I am already doing the same with my photography equipment. I simply don’t do enough volume to justify having all of the equipment I have. I love having the latest and greatest equipment, but I can no longer justify owning all of it.
I am thankful for this clarity I have been praying I would receive for over a year now. Sometimes you end up down a rabbit hole and are not quite sure just how you got there. Working for yourself or being an entrepreneur is a constant lesson in understanding your strengths and recognizing your limits. I am looking forward to further clarity as I continue to remove things from my work life that have stretched me too thin. I love my business, but I love my family more. Anything that takes away from that is theft in my opinion. Allowing myself to go in too many different directions has robbed my family of my focus and attention. Narrowing my scope will be better for everybody involved. When I stopped building computers for people I referred them to another local business. I look forward to doing that with some of the services I have provided in the past. Sometimes you have to cut the fat, which leads me to a blog post I really need to write about being more healthy.