There’s a blog post by Andy Adams that has been making repeated appearances in my Twitter feed since it was published earlier this month. The post is Andy making his case: ‘Why you shouldn’t moonlight long term‘.
Andy’s audience is freelancers and software people. The post addresses the common activity of having a day job along with one or more side projects. The common wisdom recipe for starting something new is to scratch out pre-dawn hours along with nights and weekend time to work on passion projects to try to grow them to a point where they become beanstalks strong enough to use as an escape route from day job drudgery.
The point in Andy’s post that resonated with me was that if you do this dual duty for too long you will lose your joy. You’ll end up with depleted creativity, drive, and motivation.
I feel like I’ve had side projects forever. My current business started as a side project in 2007 while I was a bank IT department employee. Since then I’ve had multiple side projects from my own freelance work. I’ve experienced seasons of joyless work existence and near burnout.
Thinking through Andy’s exhortation and what my recent months of work have looked like I came to the realization that I silently closed the door on hustle. I’m done with late nights. I’m done with missing Saturday family events. I’m done with not having a rest day during the week. I’m done with trading my health for more time at a keyboard.
I’m done with hustle for hustle’s sake.
Beginning of a change
In June I moved into a proper office with a door, a security guard, and a coffee machine.
Since then I’ve stopped working while I’m at home on nights or weekends. I’ve even started taking extended breaks from my laptop.
I left my laptop at the office last night. We both survived the time apart.
— Daniel Espinoza (@d_espi) September 23, 2015
My wife is very supportive of me and would offer to take the kids out of the house so I could work on Saturdays. But, my time alone would not be very productive and I’d end up feeling guilty for missing family time. A few extra work hours on the weekend weren’t worth missing time with my family.
Fan the right flame
I recently listened to a SeanWes podcast where the theme was Focus. Sean shared a metaphor about side projects and business:
I like the bonfire on the beach example. Imagine you have little fire pits around you that represent your passions or the things you want to do. You’re going around and trying to stoke the embers to keep the fires alive so they don’t die out completely, but as a result, you’re not building sustainable bonfires that can keep roaring without your attention.
I took an account of the things that I was spending my time and attention on and counted four “bonfires”. I’ve talked about my side projects before.
Bonfire One doesn’t make any money yet. Bonfires Two and Three make a few hundred dollars per month while Bonfire Four makes several thousand per month and is my main income.
My audit revealed I was spending one third or more of my weekly work hours on Bonfire Three. The fire was growing, but growth is slow. While my focus was directed at the smaller bonfires Bonfire Four was struggling and this had a direct impact on my family’s finances.
I redirected my focus back to Bonfire Four and it is growing stronger. The other three bonfires are there, but they are getting time more alined with their size and the revenue they produce. As Bonfire Four grows, and as I make it more self-sustaining, I’ll use some of its flame to spark the smaller bonfires.
This type of growth will last long-term and doesn’t require me sacrificing any of my nights or weekends. I know what personal burnout looks like and I’m not willing to flirt with it anymore.
What I’m doing instead of hustle
Instead of burning the candle at both ends I’m focusing on three things that will help make my main business, Bonfire Four, more successful and sustainable:
Focusing on processes
I’m working on making everything that I do in my WooCommerce consultancy a repeatable process.
Building a team
I recognize that I need more people on my team to get to the next level. I’m building a financial base for hiring and working on defining the role of future team members.
Focusing on marketing
For years I’ve relied on referrals and recommendations from my network for the projects I work on. I’m now getting more organic leads from various marketing efforts and I’m going to continue focusing on those.
Being done with hustle doesn’t mean that I’m going to become listless and unproductive. Instead I’m going to dial up the hustle during work hours. Nights, weekends and the occasional mid-week day spent with my family are too precious to me to give up.