This post is going to be a little personal
Because having your own business is a pretty personal thing.
And after four years of running a business, it gets harder and harder to see the line between personal life and professional life. Is there even a line anymore?
When I started Paige Media, my number one goal was to make money. I was waiting tables in one of the world’s most expensive cities, and I was looking for something more exciting and rewarding.
I started doing some research and figuring out how to make money on my own. Video was a natural step for me because I’d been into video creation since I could remember. And turns out, I was really good at it. People were hiring me. My bank account was growing.
Suddenly, I had a business, it was incorporated and everything. Things were moving and grooving. It was great! I moved into my own studio apartment on the Upper East Side. I joined a weekly networking group. I felt like I was living my own version of the dream.
But little by little I was burning myself out. I got really sick for about a week. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t make money. That’s when I learned one of my first lessons of business building.
1. You can't do it all
I started hiring. My first hire was a freelance video editor. She would come to my apartment a few hours a week to edit client projects that I was too busy to work on. And you know what? I started making even MORE money. While Mary was editing, I was posting on social media, engaging potential clients on LinkedIn, and networking. All of those activities brought in more business. And that meant more and more projects for Mary to edit.
So this is how you grow a
I brought Mary on full-time, moved into an office, kept going to my networking meetings and building the business. We were working with all kinds of clients: doctors, spas, schools, attorneys, non-profits, tech start-ups. Our portfolio was growing, but not in any particular direction, and we were taking on projects that I didn’t totally love.
One day I was on the phone with a client, trying to wrap up a project that had become particularly frustrating for me. This project was pushing the six month mark, when a majority of our one-off projects would take no longer than a month or two.
After I hung up the phone, I started ranting to Mary about how frustrated I was, how I felt like my time and energy was being wasted: it was everything I wanted to say to the client, but wouldn’t dare. That’s when I realized I hadn’t actually hung up the phone and the client heard the entire thing!
I was mortified and downright sick to my stomach, and I couldn’t work the rest of the day. I got absolutely nothing done that day (this call happened at 11am). So here is my second lesson in business:
2. Don't be everything to everybody
My friend Pia Silva is the queen of specializing in one niche and making a killing off of it. I’ve learned a ton from her, and this little incident totally solidified all of her preaching. I was trying to be everything to everybody, I was trying to serve all the people I could possibly serve in the way I thought they wanted to be served. My expertise didn’t matter, my business was a dime a dozen, I was just another “videographer” (I still hate when people refer to me as a “videographer”). I had an expansive portfolio and no respect as an expert.
I took a pause after that. I stepped back. I said to myself “how have I created a generic business that I don’t love anymore?”
The answer: I hadn’t picked a direction.
So we did. We picked a direction. (We were a we by this point and no longer just Paige)
We realized that the clients we love most in the world are the solopreneurs, the personal brand builders, the people who are creating and building and hustling every single day to make a name for themselves. It felt really refreshing, borderline exhilarating to embrace this. And it felt like Paige Media had purpose again.
I felt lost, depressed, and desperately alone in this process...
I paused again.
Going back to the drawing board forces you to take a look at where your money is coming in and where it’s going out. Sometimes making a leap to a new niche market can be scary, especially if you have a lot of clients paying you a lot of money in a completely different industry. That fear overcame me and I started really doubting my own abilities to build a successful agency. I started asking everybody I knew for their advice: lawyers, accountants, my friends in finance, real estate agents, my parents. I was reading business books and articles that told me how I should grow a business.
I felt lost, depressed, and desperately alone in this process. I actually thought about shutting it all down and joining the Peace Corps.
I paused again. Breathed. My friend Ellie encouraged me to enrol in this women’s consciousness course so I could reconnect with my true desire for Paige Media. It couldn’t hurt, I thought. It actually did the opposite of hurt. It helped me realize my biggest mistake yet:
3.Stop listening to everyone else but yourself
Guidance is great. Advice can be a game changer. But putting so much weight on what other people think you should do is where you shoot yourself in the foot. My foot was shot up real bad. Much like I had done at the beginning of my business, I burned myself out. This time it was because of other people’s opinions. I was drowning in them. And I was so deep in them that I no longer heard my own voice. Intuition is severely underrated in business. Ignoring my own intuition caused me to hire some sleazy vendors, undercharge for my services, spread myself too thin, and lose passion in my business. Those are some serious consequences!
I cranked off the opinion faucet and started looking inward for guidance, doing what felt right, not what other people told me was right. My business felt like mine again. It was fun and rewarding once again. Selling my services became easier. And so did making money.
I’m writing this blog post on the day of our brand new relaunch. For the last two months, we’ve been going back to the drawing board and making some strategic, feel-good changes to the brand. These are changes based on the lessons I’ve learned and the direction I want this company to go.
There will be plenty more mistakes in the future. I can’t say this is my final “the mistakes I’ve made” post. But I feel a lot of gratitude for all the bad advice, the wrong decisions, the nightmare clients. I feel gratitude for the incredible team who is just as aligned in our mission as I am. And it’s really only the beginning.
Jamie Varon, Shatterboxx
Heather Thorkelson, The Republic of Freedom
Alice Chin, Your Other Half
Photos: Sasha Preziosa Photography
Makeup: SB Beauty
The Whole Team @ Paige Media
All of YOU who read this to the end