Now that my new podcast business was online, I was faced with the following dilemma:
Should I immediately look for paying clients (for example sell a podcast series to B2B clients)
Do I make stuff that I feel best reflects my brand (for example make my own (unpaid) show).
I like to call this the Heart VS Money dilemma, and I have struggled with this before. Since I have started in the creative industry, I believe this is something many artists struggle with, but Entrepreneurs do as well.
Making very beautiful things is (unfortunately) also very expensive. Beautiful things take more time, and often clients have a hard time distinguishing between something that took 5 days to make and something that took 20 days. It’s a hard thing to put a price tag on.
This is when my business partner also would typically jump in and confront me with that reality. “Alex, you just spent a whole lot of time working on a script that maybe is better but we didn’t really get paid for all that extra time”. It was never nice to hear but it was what was necessary to go from a fun passion project to building a business.
My business partners comments made sure we focused our energy on the most effective way of making our productions without losing quality, by focusing on speed and humor. This helped us get to create up to 500 productions per year with a team of 20 people.
THE NEW PERSPECTIVE
Now that I’m again in the position of starting something, my first instinct was of course to make something I loved, regardless of the money. But somehow the voice of my down-to-earth ex-business partner still lingered in the back of my head “heart doesn’t pay the rent”.
So let met break down how I view my current situation in my new solo-business based on my previous experience.
BALANCE OF 3 TYPES OF WORK
To be realistic of how I invest my most precious resource right now (time) I first need to explain 3 types of work.
I believe these 3 types of work are available to any new entrepreneur starting out. The difference is how much of each you can afford to spread over a 5 day work week.
The 3 types of work are:
- Hustle work – Low risk and low reward.
- Comfort-zone work – Medium risk, medium reward.
- Aspirational work – High risk, low/high reward.
Let me explain each one in detail.
Hustle work is the kind of project that will be for more anonymous clients, and is often in very saturated markets. Let’s say you are a designer and you want to get started making logos for companies. There are tons of designers on cheap freelance websites that are willing to make a logo for as little as €5.
This kind of work is generally easier to get, but in order to make a full salary from it, you will need to do lots of it very efficiently. Also the client will very likely be in the lead of your creative freedom as you didn’t really build a reputation for yourself yet.
This type of work is great for very early stage in your career when you want to experiment your newfound skill and don’t want to do it completely for free.
COMFORT ZONE WORK
This is the kind of work you have done a hundred times and where you know what it is worth to a specific group of customers.
You are likely already an expert in the field, however you have not really put yourself out there commercially yet.
A good example is when you have been an employee in a company for 10 years and you suddenly realise your project management skills can also be marketed to other employers for a higher fee.
A good start can be quitting your job and asking your previous employer to become your first customer. This will generally be medium risk as they know what you are worth, however once they expand their workforce your might not be needed anymore.
In general this is work that you don’t mind doing, however it is also not really your dream job. This type of work is great on the mid term term, where with only a few clients, you can create a stable financial basis.
Finally, the kind of work we all dream of: aspirational work.
In university I was always kind of surprised how most of the students didn’t really aim for their dream job. Most people would focus on a decent career, that with relatively little risk would make a decent amount of money.
The reality is that even though we all dream of that one incredible job, not many people are willing to take the risk to get there. That’s why we have so many aspirational CEO’s, aspirational Entrepreneurs, and almost actors in the world.
This is the kind of work that big Hollywood stars get after being rejected hundreds of times. However getting to that point means you took some bold steps in making yourself known.
For example you made an excellent showcase of your best work and after years of posting content to an audience of almost nobody, you are finally getting noticed.
The hard part about this type of work, is that just because you think your work is awesome, doesn’t mean a paying customers attributes value to it.
This type of work generally gives a lot of personal fulfilment, however it needs a financial safety net for you to really keep going at it long term.
WORK ON THE ASPIRATION LEVEL YOU CAN AFFORD
Just like in the beginning of Funk-e, we had to make a clear distinction between how much time we would allocate to aspirational projects where we would often break-even or even lose money, and how much to comfort zone work.
In the first 3 years, most of our time was distributed more or less 50/50 between hustle work and aspirational work. We were in the comfortable situation of being students with a cheap student loan. We didn’t really need to make money to sustain ourselves and we could afford losing time.
Now 13 year later I have a mortgage and a family, and money plays a bigger role. I can afford doing 100% aspirational work for now, meaning I don’t need to advertise my podcasting services or my consultancy work and can really focus on what I want to make.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Distribute among these 3 levels of work in whatever way you think makes sense for you.
Typically, if you can afford it, you increase your aspirational work.
If you need to stabilise first, make sure you have enough runway on the short term and secure it through hustle and comfort zone work.