I was beyond thrilled (and humbled) when Sam Sawchuk, the author of In Their Shoes, reached out to me on Instagram. He had stumbled across my feed, and was interested in interviewing me about how I came to be a side hustling content creator. Even though my real secret is that I just do things that I like and post about them (shhh don’t tell!), it turned out that going over his questions and contemplating them ended up being a really gratifying exercise. It was tough attempting to voice what my thoughts and feelings are on this not-quite-something-big but kind-of-something-medium that I’ve been creating as a labor of love on the side. It forced me to have a real think about the path I’m on, and the choices that are to come. Mostly, it made me as grateful as ever for the folks who actually take pause to look at and read over what I’ve taken the time to create. We are bombarded by content left and right in this crazy world that we live in, so the fact that anyone would want to take a moment out of their busy days to see what I’m doing, quite frankly, means the world.
Read on for my Q&A with Sam, and you can read the original interview right here.
Q: What are some challenges you faced when developing your venture?
In all honesty, I think that my biggest challenge has been changing my mindset to think of my venture as a venture, and not just something that I do for fun, or a passion project. Having that mental shift towards thinking in a strategic way about what I’m creating has come slowly for me, but it’s also allowed me to be exceedingly thoughtful about how I want and choose to grow. I’m not trying to go from zero to sixty right away with this venture, nor am I trying to expand for the sake of expansion. I hope that anyone who follows me does so because they feel a genuine connection with what I’m putting out there, not because I’m buying them or are willing to “follow back.”
Q: Was there any point when you thought it was over? That you were going to fail?
I actually haven’t hit that point because I’ve never thought of this as a pass or fail situation. I’m making it up as I go, and am defining success on my own terms. My personal KPIs are really around the quality of my content, both imagery and writing, on Instagram and on my blog. I’m not waking up every day and checking my follower count, and letting that determine the tone of my day. What makes me feel successful is when I can look at the content that I’m putting out there and feel that it’s inspiring and engaging. Would I want to read my own content? Would it be exciting to me if I stumbled across it online from another source? I’m not looking at this in a pass or fail sort of way, moreso seeing every day as an opportunity to improve how I’m sharing my message.
Q: As an entrepreneur how important has flexibility been in developing your venture?
Flexibility has been absolutely key to developing my venture, as this venture is a living, breathing entity that changes as I do. I aim not to lock myself into any long term vision because I never want to lose sight of what’s happening in the present moment. I also think that flexibility means, to me, having the foresight to know that you don’t know everything, and sometimes you need to just trust your gut and see how things evolve organically.
Q: What was was your spark, where did it come from?
I think that my spark has always come from wanting to tell stories. Storytelling can happen in a lot of different ways – through images, through anecdotes, through a shared experience that’s translated onto a page. A long-standing love of reading and writing and experiencing the world is what this stems from for me, and it’s funny (and wonderful) how the right medium seems to come along at the right time.
4. What are your non-work habits that help you with your work-life balance?
So funnily enough, I actually lead pretty analog lifestyle for someone who works in the digital space. I go to the public library on weekends, listen to an old iPod, and generally try to be disconnected from technology as much as possible. Cooking and baking are my respite from this crazy city life, so you’ll often find me in the kitchen testing new recipes and pawning them off on friends. Ultimately, there’s no one way to achieve balance; I feel like I have a different relationship with the idea of balance every single day. You just have to find an outlet that feels like a recharge for you, whether it be reading a great book, whipping up a carrot cake from scratch, or getting lost in an old wing at the MET.
5. What is your best tip for entrepreneurs?
I think that in this over-saturated online culture where we are constantly being bombarded by versions of the “perfect” dinner, the “perfect” vacation, and the “perfect” life, we need to be better at cutting through the clutter and staying true to our authentic voice. It’s so easy to get caught up in the comparison game, especially with mediums such as Instagram and the world of blogging. Stick to areas you know and feel passionate about, and don’t feel the need to engage in activities because they are trending or omnipresent. Fulfill your own niche. There are times when I’ve looked at a popular type of post on Instagram and thought to myself “Do I need to be competing in this space in order to stay relevant?” but I remind myself that I don’t need to be everything to everyone, and where I’ll excel is where I am being my most authentic self. I don’t need to spend hours mastering the perfect avocado rose so I can post about it, nor do I need to visit a trendy restaurant that serves two foot-tall milkshakes because everyone else is doing it. Knowing when to say no and how to not be distracted by what is in your periphery will be some of the best tools at your disposal, entrepreneur or not.