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EPISODE 023

Making Work/Life Balance a Priority in Your Creative Business with Megan Dougherty

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Megan DoughertyEpisode Links

 

Interview Transcript

Gabrielle

Work life balance, is that even a thing? I mean, we all struggle with it so much, especially with all of us working from home now and the majority of us creative professionals working from home, regardless of what’s going on around us. So today on the podcast, we’re going to examine the idea of work life balance and how we can really get the most out of it. I’m interviewing Megan Dougherty, who is a digital marketing specialist with a background in online small business development and digital course creation.

Now, she’s been working from home for years and she’s had the opportunity over those years to work with hundreds of business owners in a variety of industries. We talk all about working from home, working with a business partner and how to really get the most out of that situation so that you’re productive, happy and well-off.

So without further ado, let’s dive into it.

Hey, everybody, welcome to the Well-Paid Creative, I am here with Megan, who is a digital marketing specialist and I am so excited to interview her today. She’s got lots of amazing tips and I can’t wait to dive into it. So, Megan, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Megan

Gabrielle, it’s a pleasure. I’m happy to be here.

Gabrielle

Wonderful. So tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get to be where you are here and kind of let us know your path along your career.

Megan

Well, it was kind of an interesting path, I fell sort of backwards into marketing because I was a baker at the time and I was a little tired, I had dropped out of business school and I was working in a bakery, which I loved. It was great. But I was like, you know, a desk job is sounding pretty good now that I’m on my feet baking all day.

So I went to Craigslist, as all people did in the early 2010s, and I found an ad for a marketer’s assistant, applied to it, got hired and ended up starting at a very early stage startup, which let me grow with the company and kind of get a really good education in marketing. It was all about online marketing, education, business development. I worked there for six years, started doing some work, and left. You know, we parted ways.

I did a bunch of freelance different projects and then an old friend from that company reached out one day and said, hey, you want to start a business together? And I said, What with you? Absolutely. I love you. You’re great. Let’s start a business. And then we figured out with her background in commercial radio, mind and business strategy and development, we should produce podcasts. And we’ve been doing that ever since.

Gabrielle

So podcast production is kind of the main thing that you do now?

Megan

It is, yeah. We do a little bit of online course development as well. Tiny bit of video work, but really it’s about making the podcast week to week is how we spend most of our time.

Gabrielle

Oh, wonderful. That sounds fantastic. What would you say kind of guided that change from working for someone else to, you know, taking that leap to open up your own business?

Megan

A lot of it was I mean, it’s Internet marketing startup world,¬† is the industry that we’re in and it’s intense. It’s on a launch cycle, which I mean, if anyone listening has worked in a launch boom or bust kind of work, you’re working all the time and it’s really hard. And of course, I’d started my career there. I thought this was completely and totally normal. And after, you know, about six years of it, I just started to think, you know, this has been great.

I’ve learned so much. It’s been a really good experience. But I’m ready to try different things and do things in different ways. And I had been teaching people for so long how to run their own businesses. I thought, well, this is I guess the thing I professionally know how to do is run a business. So I just it seemed like the most appropriate next step was to try and do something on my own, having gotten all this wonderful experience, helping others learn how to do things on their own and being able to make the decisions about, you know, how much time you’re investing in when you’re working.

And all of these things has been tremendously satisfying. I really liked being able to be the person in charge of those decisions.

Gabrielle

Oh, awesome, yeah. I like being in charge to it, it feels good to feel good.

Megan

Yeah, it’s not for everyone, but boy, if it is.

Gabrielle

So what would you say has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way?

Megan

Well, in terms of like running a business and then building something from new, yeah, I think getting really clear on personal priorities is a huge one, because often, you know, day to day, even when you have like a really well balanced business with a great team members and wonderful clients, it can be really hard not to get sucked into every little detail and paying attention, every little thing and worrying about every little thing. So figuring these are setting the priorities list.

Now, these are the things that actually, you know, would need to keep me up at night or need to keep me working late or that I need to be devoting so much of my energy to and being really intentional about what those things are. I think that’s one of the bigger lessons I’ve learned in the last couple of years, is not everything can be a five alarm emergency. So you’ve got to decide what in advance what is going to be an emergency and kind of devote your energy accordingly.

Gabrielle

Oh, I love that because it’s almost another way of setting a type of boundary around your own energy and what you are willing and not willing to jump out of your chair for.

Megan

Yeah, and that was a particularly hard one to learn, I thought, because of the company that I worked at and that all of my learning at and where I kind of like started to understand this is what business practice is. We had a pretty firm 24 hour during the week response time on emails. I still haven’t quite been able to shake that. If I leave an email more than 24 hours, it really makes me anxious. But, you know, not everything needs an immediate response.

And that’s something I’m still working on.

Gabrielle

Oh, and I am totally the same way, because when I first started out, that was kind of one of my prided myself on to be able to respond to people really, really quickly and then unlearning that habit is definitely a hard one.

Because I don’t know, I noticed like when I’m emailing someone else, if I’m emailing a company or a provider.

I’m always kind of delighted, but surprised if they get back to me on the same day. I don’t expect it from other people, but I very much expect it from myself.

Gabrielle

Yeah, you know, that’s a really good insight. You know, what we’re willing to do in our own businesses and for our own clients is often not what we expect other people to give back to us.

Really good insight there, so we know when we were chatting a little bit about work life balance. So how does that present itself to you, like you started your own business? So I’m assuming that you’re working from home as you’re running this business. So what’s kind of been your experience with that? And how have you brought that work life balance into your career and your business?

Megan

Well, a lot of it had to do with, you know, earlier in my career, working a 60, 70 hour week would be a very normal thing, you know, working through weekends. That’s the way it is when you run this kind of business and figuring out how to change. That took a long time after making a change and then being, you know, a freelancer first and then running a small agency, having a closed door office within my dwelling has been super, super useful.

You know, I’ve got an office is not in my bedroom. It’s not in the main area of the room. So I can actually, at the end of the day, shut the door is an important thing. But I think even more than that, it is just setting a personal schedule and then sticking to it. And it’s kind of ties to what was I saying earlier. I wouldn’t expect my team members to be constantly available and constantly working whenever I happen to to send them a note.

Why would I expect that of myself and why should I train people to expect that of me? So, yeah, it’s pretty cool. I don’t answer emails on the weekend anymore, and unless there is a real emergency, I’m not working in the evenings for the most part either. So I think mainly it’s just been practice, you know, setting the boundary, deciding this is important. And then actually it takes some discipline to to follow that. But I think it’s well worth putting in the effort to learn how to do it.

Gabrielle

Absolutely. So what would you say was the first kind of steps you took to establishing that balance and those boundaries.

Megan

White knuckling through a weekend without checking email?

It felt it felt like white knuckling it because it was the business was so new. And my business partner and I, we were talking like, you know, were to be honest, we’re not making enough money to be paying attention to this 24/7, like we’re not there yet. And so she and I made the commitment together that we are going to work on more, let’s call them standard business hours. And that’s, you know, our clients work standard business hours.

That’s the kind of companies they have it it’s appropriate for us to be working at the same time they are. Let’s chill for the rest of the time. And we all kind of had to support each other a little through the first couple of weeks. And we were doing it. But it yeah, it was just getting through the first one. And once it becomes habit, it was so much easier to kind of turn off and make it set. The expectation with other people as well that, you know, this is a time when we’re not available.

So I think the first step was deciding to do it and probably having some accountability.

Gabrielle

Oh, yes. And accountability is a big thing. And it’s it’s so nice having a business partner because, you know, you guys can support each other in those kind of collective decisions and then also collective like execution of those decisions. Right. So if someone is just in business for themselves and it’s just them, what do you suggest that they do in terms of getting accountability around those types of boundary issues that they need to white knuckle through?

Megan

f someone is starting out now and if they have a friend, whether or not the other working in the same business, but who is also being self-employed or starting a new company, just teeing up with one other person, I think is a really good thing to do. Like networking groups and mastermind’s are wonderful, but there’s almost too many people, I think, for it to be a really good direct relationship. I think one other person is the most helpful amount of humans to help with accountability, especially if you’ve got similar goals and similar schedules that you’re trying to keep to.

And you can develop a business friendship as well. I think that that helps a lot to have someone who knows you and likes you well enough to say, hey, no, you said you’d stop working. Now you actually have to and feel comfortable saying that to you. So I say look for the people maybe in your area or online. However, it is someone in a related or similar industry who you can pull in together with.

Gabrielle

Wonderful, I love that and, you know, and that really helped me, too, when I was first getting started in my business, I had a really good friend of mine, Megan, who had we were kind of a powerhouse at our last actual real job.

She was a writer and the copywriter. And I did the design and development work and we became really good friends over the years. And as we grew and started our own businesses, she does a production and a playwright company. And I was doing this design and development. We would check in and we would in a lot of the times it did kind of develop into it, you know, maybe bitch sessions or gripe sessions and stuff. But just knowing that I had someone in my back pocket who I knew understood what I was going through and could maybe shine a light on what I wasn’t seeing because, you know, you’re so close to it.

Megan

I think that’s a huge point to as someone who gets it, because, you know, you going to have to say the most supportive spouse in the world are really great friends who aren’t aren’t entrepreneurs. And they’ll be empathetic and they’ll care and they’ll support you. But they don’t really have the same understanding of, you know, maybe the stresses or the responsibilities or the roller coaster that can be involved in doing it on your own.

——–

This has been an absolutely amazing interview, and I don’t want to take you away from it, but I just wanted to let you know that I have a brand new guide that I think you’re going to get a lot from. It’s called the Three Pivots for Creating and Selling Profitable Packages. And I know it’s going to be right up your alley. So if that feels like something that you want to work on, go to wellpaidcreative.com/pivot and grab your copy completely free today.

——-

Gabrielle

So are there any other things that really helped you establish that work life balance?

Megan

This one might seem a little odd, and it said I’m. And I’ll preface this by saying, I really like my company and I really like our clients and I really like the work that we do for them, it’s it’s fantastic. It’s stimulating. It’s creative, it’s interesting. It’s helping people. But it’s not my overwhelming, overarching passion. I like the business and I love running the business.

But I don’t stay up at night and dream about producing business podcasts.

And I think that has been a really important point because there’s so much of a culture of you have to do what you love and it’ll never feel like work translates into you can be working all the time and that’s going to be great because you love what you do. I think if you like what you do and you’re good at what you do, it’s perfectly fine to do that for seven hours a day and then stop. Because then you can do other things that you like to do.

So I think building a business that I like and enjoy and take pride in, but that, you know, doesn’t fill up all by checkboxes for things that I’m passionate about and that drive me forward as a human. I think that helps hugely. And it took a long time to come to the realization that, you know, you can start a business with something that you’re just good at. And like it doesn’t have to be the thing you’re most passionate about in the world

Gabrielle

Absolutely. And I love that. And you know what? And it kind of takes a little bit the pressure off, too, because we don’t have to feel like everything we love doing has to be monetized. And I remember in a previous episode I interviewed a fellow named Jesse Martin, and he is an amazing NLP and hypnotherapy coach. And we were talking about how not everything you do has to be monetized. Some things can be just for you.

So, like, I love to paint, I love to crochet, but I’m not going to be, you know, knitting baby blankets to sell on Etsy as my next passion project, because that’s just what I do for myself. Right. So taking that pressure off and then having that extra activity that you can do just for fun is so important.

Megan

Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you more. I do ceramics and treated exactly the same way as like I please don’t make me monetize my hobby. Yeah. Please don’t make me do it.

Gabrielle

Because there’s a lot of pressure that comes from that. And I remember kind of going through a phase where I thought, OK, maybe I will become a painter and sell my paintings and stuff. And that just made it not fun.

Megan

It just it sucks the joy right out of it. I feel like I’m nowhere near good enough of the potter to try to sell them anyway. So that’s quite relaxing. But, you know, I was in a conversation on just this topic on Facebook about kind of how our generation has lost hobbies because there’s this constant pressure to be monetizing. And it almost brought up the hurt that for a lot of people, there’s that pressure to be monetizing because, you know, traditional work is so scarce and precarious that it almost feels like you can’t afford to spend time on something that couldn’t be eventually monetized just because you don’t have the security to do so.

And that that stopped me, made me think about it for a minute, feel it’s a going to be very lucky to have time and money to pursue hobbies.

Gabrielle

That’s a really interesting insight, too, because, yeah, we have kind of grown up in this era where, like, the side hustle is kind of the thing. Everybody has something on the side that they’re trying to either eventually build to take over their day job or their career or something as well as what they’re doing, or they have three different businesses going at once. And it’s all in this pursuit of safety and security, because you’re right, the traditional job market is not as secure as it once was, like in our parents generation.

Megan

Oh, yeah, I was I was chatting with with my dad over the holidays by Zoom, don’t worry. And, you know, he’s talking about, you know, he’s getting ready to retire this coming year and he’s so excited and he’s got this thing that I’ve heard people talk about. It doesn’t seem real. A pension? Oh, like I mean, it sounds great. You know, I can’t imagine having one.

Gabrielle

We’re out on the hook, so to speak, to pay for our own retirement, so that kind of pressure just really takes away the joy from a lot of things like hobbies and just doing something and just relaxing.

Because if we sit there and we’re watching Netflix or we’re reading a book or something to just kind of decompress, there’s still that feeling inside of us. We’re like, I need to do something productive. I need to be productive. Otherwise somehow I’m doing it wrong.

Megan

Exactly. And then, like, the future is looming, you know, the age when you’re going to retire, it’s almost certainly going to happen. And, you know, if you know, you can’t rely on on anything else to help you through it, then that’s really scary. I can understand how it would kind of taint hobby time because, you know, there is this real threat of the future looming. And yeah, I guess that’s what things feel like.

Being an entrepreneur and having started a business makes me feel more secure than most of the traditional jobs that I’ve had, because I figure I can usually figure out something to sell. I know the basics. If pressed, I could I could sell a thing to a person or I could sell a service.

So I guess that’s another way of looking at it and it kind of takes the edge off.

Gabrielle

I like that reframing of it. Instead of being insecure, it’s actually more secure because you have all those skills and everything that you need in order to provide for yourself if need be.

Megan

Yeah, as long as the economy doesn’t totally tank I mean, you know.

Gabrielle

Well, I think we’re at the point now where we’re more of a global economy, so it’s not going to completely fall out from under us. So I hope I am not an economist. So don’t quote¬† me on that.

So is there anything you’d like to leave us with here in terms of your work life balance or what you’ve learned running your business? Any last takeaways here?

Megan

I think if you’re in a position to do so, make work as interesting as possible. So one of the things I love about work is being able to, you know, start new products or come up with new offerings or even start side projects, but all kind of fits within work time. So, you know, good processes, good delegating. I’m sorry, I’m just listing a whole bunch of other podcast topics for conversations you can have later.

Gabrielle

Thank you, taking notes.

Megan

Creating a company that doesn’t need you on hand every single minute to run is probably the best way to preserve your time. So if you can trust that you’ve got team members who know what to do and who can feel empowered to take the initiative to solve a problem on their own, you get a lot more of your mental space back. And that’s a really good thing. And it takes time to get there. I’d say it took us three, three and a half years.

But having achieved that, yay team, I love you very much. Thank you. And it makes work a lot more relaxing. Oh, exactly.

Gabrielle

And even if you’re not in the point or even have the desire to grow a team, there’s so many different systems and processes that you can set up. So many pieces of software that are coming out nowadays that are prevalent, that can connect everything for you and take a lot of the load. Yes.

Yeah. So even if you don’t want to hire someone, there’s definitely some support systems that you can create in your business.

We touched on this before, but I’m interested to see if maybe you have a different answer now. So I ask everybody that’s on the podcast, is there a hobby or creative pursuit that you do in your downtime? That’s just for you?

Megan

Yes, I grow vegetables. Vegetables, yeah, I mean, you’re in Canada, so you understand when I say, you know, only for six months of the year.

Yeah, a very short window, but yeah, I absolutely love growing vegetables. It’s completely different than anything I do work wise or even for most of my hobbies, which are, you know, knitting, crochet, fabric, craft, cooking, kind of the standard house things. But it gets me outside and just that the connection to the process of growing food is, is constantly exciting. So that’s probably the hobby that is the least commercial or commercial-izable and definitely the one I enjoy the most.

Gabrielle

So is there something you grew last year that just did really well?

Megan

Oh, let’s see. The thing I loved most from last year, it didn’t grow beautifully, but I grew three different kinds of potatoes and I didn’t get as many as I wanted. But they were the most delicious potato I’ve ever eaten. There were little blue ones and they were so good. Oh, yummy.

Yeah. And I absolutely love Brandywine tomatoes. They’re delicious, but very fussy, so I probably won’t grow them again.

Gabrielle

Oh OK. Yes, I’ve been looking for a good tomato strain to grow and like I mentioned before, I’m not really a good gardener / plant carer for. So it’s been many, many years of frustration.

Perfect. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Megan. I was I love this conversation. I had so much fun today.

If you want to check out Megan, we’ve got all of her links down in the show notes below. So definitely go check her out. Give her a like, give her a follow and tell her I sent you. All right. Thanks so much, Megan. You have a fantastic day. And thanks for joining me on the Well-Paid Creative podcast.

Thank you. Happy to be here


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