When it comes to any creative small business, you have to strike a balance between the business side and the creative side. Focus only on the creative side and the business can start to stagnate. Bring in too much work and it can lead to Creative Burnout—when running the business in addition to keeping up with demand has you so drained that you lose the excitement of starting a new project. You start to feel like nothing you’re creating is good and it all starts to feel like…work.
Most creatives get into the industry in order to escape the monotonous, over-worked lifestyle that comes with many corporate desk jobs, so it’s a scary feeling when your dream job starts to lose its initial vibrance. But don’t worry, you haven’t lost your touch and it’s easy to regain the joie de vivre you felt at the beginning of the whole journey, you just need to get everything back in balance.
So what do you do when you’re getting popular and more people want to work with you, but you just can’t handle the demand on your own? You try to do it all yourself but you’re starting to get burned out. Something’s gotta give, but what do you do? There are many potential solutions to consider. Let’s look at a few different routes you can take.
Turn Down The Work
This solution is the most obvious, but also one of the most difficult to accept.
No one really wants to turn down opportunities to create ever more stunning and artistic films. After all, it’s why you got into the creative field in the first place. More work must mean you’re good. But as the work starts to suffer from an overwhelmed schedule, you’ll start kicking yourself for trying to do it all. Oftentimes it’s better to do a few amazing films than pushing to do more and risk depleting your creative energy before you’ve finished all the projects you signed up to do.
But then again it all depends on what your goals are for you and your business. As you’ll see below, there are ways to take on more work, keep control of everything, and still maintain your brand standards. They just all come with their own upsides and downsides. The important point to remember is that there is a choice.
Check out the video below where David Reynosa from Forestry Films shares some deep insights into the heart of this problem from his own experience. He chose to decrease bookings in the face of increasing demand in order to keep himself creatively fresh, balance work & life, and maintain the standards of the brand he had established.
Better Work / Life Balance
More focus on each project
Higher prices to amount worked
It’s hard to say no
Lower Overall Sales Revenue
Potential for missing bigger opportunities
Hire Team Members
Ok so you don’t want to turn down the work. Why should you? Why not grow your business instead?
It’s a fair point, but there are very real challenges involved in hiring, training, and managing a team. Not only do you have to find and hire someone who can perform at your level, they have to be reliable and relatively easy to get along with. After you find someone who’s good and personable, you still have to train them on how to do the job right to ensure they’re completing tasks to your standard. And for every hour they’re working, you’ll have to dictate what they do, when they do it, how long they take, check the quality and provide feedback, and maintain a steady stream of work for them to keep them busy and happy, or they might leave.
But you also have to make sure the work they’re doing is productive and benefitting the business, so they aren’t just doing busy work, or worse, sitting on their hands and getting paid for nothing. Employees are expensive. In addition to the money they’ll actually see, you’ll have to at least pay taxes, worker’s comp insurance, equipment for them to use, and the space for them to work in. This is without even discussing sick time, PTO, or benefits.
At the same time, finding the right employee can completely transform your business and take you to another level you’d previously thought impossible. They can provide strengths to counteract your weaknesses or even bring a brand-new skill set into your offerings. A new team member will not only help manage your workload, but could also potentially bring fresh ideas and energy to revitalize the business.
Take Calen and Kristine from White In Revery as an example: Although they were already a successful operation, they made the move to expand their team, including the move to hire Levi who not only helped them manage their business so they could do more, but he also helped them expand into Photography, a new side of their business, and put on the largest Venture Workshop to date. Check out the video below (@2:10) to see them talk about not having enough time in the day to do everything they want to do and why they chose to hire in the face of this problem.
Get more done in-house
Inject fresh energy
Bring in additional skill sets
Employees are expensive
Hiring is difficult
Managing takes time
work with Freelancers
But they don’t have to be employees: There’s no shortage of contractors all over the world.
Just take a few minutes looking through Upwork, Fiverr, or any job site and you’ll find a diverse selection of potential collaborators—students looking to gain experience; professionals looking to take on more work; people from all over the world looking to gain access to the lucrative US Market. Unlike hiring, you don’t have to be limited to who’s in your immediate area. With this wide variety, there’s a good chance you can find someone who will fit into what your company—and your budget—needs, though it still may take quite a bit of searching and vetting.
Finding one person is a reasonable endeavor, but the reality is, they can only do so much while still maintaining a high-quality deliverable. They’ll be single-handedly juggling multiple clients besides you. This kind of multi-tasking can manifest itself as a lack of consistency in the work performed. And if you’re trying to offload anything beyond a small number of tasks, you’ll have to find multiple options to ensure someone is available to take on the work when you need them.
Plus, there’s no guarantee they’ll be a permanent solution. They could become unavailable at any time if they start pursuing an adjacent skill or stop offering their services altogether, leaving you high and dry. Beyond that, there’s still the tricky matter of dictating how they complete the work and training them on your style, which they have no obligation to follow. Otherwise, they may be classified as an employee during an IRS audit, leading to a hefty fine and payment of back taxes.
Variety of options
No additional taxes, equipment, or rent
Access beyond geographical limits
Lack of consistency
Can only take on so much
Balance of Training and Classification
Work With ANOTHER BUSINESS
But if you need a more consistent, long-term solution, a self-managed team may be the way to go.
Relying on someone else to do the majority of your creative work can cause a certain type of identity crisis. People choose your business because it’s you and your product they’re getting, so having a different business do the work is cheating, right? Plus, there are only so many businesses out there to choose from, so there’s no guarantee any of them will offer exactly the services that you need. On top of all that, it’s going to be more expensive than nearly all the options above.
But working with another business gives you access to a full team of skill-specific professionals who have the experience of not only digging deep into their technical trade, but also functioning within the team as a cohesive unit. And these additional resources come without the additional management, so you can just give them the work—even a lot of work—and it’ll get done. You don’t have to worry about keeping on eye on everything. Instead, you can focus on the next step for your business.
Take a listen to this episode of the Studio Sherpas Podcast to get an idea of how you can rethink and redefine your role within your own company in order to go from technician to entrepreneur, developing not just your craft, but more importantly, the business itself. In this episode, Chris and Toni Wheaton of Heart Stone Films talk about how identifying their strengths and weaknesses allowed them to define each of their ideal roles within the company and remove the limitations of doing every single thing themselves. This included taking the leap to send all of their edits to a post house. (Start around 20:47).
Team of skill-specific professionals
Can take on a higher volume of work
It’s not you doing the work
It’s more expensive
Making The Decision
No matter what you decide to do, taking action will certainly be better than remaining in a state of overwhelm. Buying yourself just a few more hours in the week to work on your business rather than being stuck working in your business can be transformative, giving you the time to resolve issues, plan for the future, and take what you’re building to the next level.
We’re here to help you stay on top of your creative work and keep inline with the goals you have for your business. Looking to build a team? Let us coach you through the common pitfalls of hiring, training, and managing. And of course, you can always send us an edit, or let us help with any part of the process. We want to help in any way we can!