011 Running your side-hustle productively with Megan Minns
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Paige: Hello, ladies and welcome! I am excited to welcome you to episode number 11! Today I am chatting with Megan Minns.
Megan has side hustled her business for quite a few years now and she is an expert in productivity! So if you are struggling currently, and your thinking, I want to start a business, but I still have a full-time job. So I'm going to be doing this on the side. How can I actually get work done and do the work productively? …then this episode is perfect for you! If you would like to find the links to the resources that we mentioned in this episode, you can find the show notes at paigebrunton.com/11.
Paige: Welcome to the show! I'm so stoked to have you!
Megan: Thank you! I am so honored to be here and excited to chat with you! It's been a little while since we chatted so I'm excited.
Paige: Yes. Totally! So I know your online business journey pretty well, but everyone else doesn't, so I would love for them to get to know you! Could you share with us how you started? You were working in corporate, and then a side hustle, and flip-flopped back and forth a few times. Can you tell us what your business journey has been from the beginning until now?
Megan: Absolutely! Like you said it has evolved.
So basically the shortest version of this is that after college I actually started working full-time in corporate human resources and recruiting, and I loved it! I loved where I worked. I loved the people I worked with.
It was really fulfilling at first, but like some people have experienced, I think after you are working full-time and the excitement of a new job kind of starts to settle, you start to realize that you're not really nurturing all sides of you, and that's really what I started to notice. I felt like there was this whole creative part of me!
I was very artistic growing up. I did sketching, and dancing, and painting, and everything. It was a really big part of me and in a corporate HR job that wasn't being nurtured at all and I started playing around with that. I'd actually built websites a lot as a kid big tech nerd loved the combination of design with the technical aspects of creating a website.
+ full transcript
Megan: So while I was working corporate HR, I started actually doing some web design and blogging on the side, purely for fun! It didn't start out as this thing, like I need to make money and quit my job. I just really wanted to play around and I started to realize blogging was a thing! I kind of knew in college, but I didn't really realize that people were paying other people to design their website for them, or their blog for them. So basically my first side hustle was doing graphic design, branding, web design, and custom handwritten services for other bloggers, and business owners, and friends – real life connections who needed help with that kind of stuff.
So I started super casual and loved it! After side hustling for a few years (I guess not a few years…It was like 2 years) I started to realize that I didn't actually like designing for other people, and if any designers are listening, it's one of those things that when you doing it for fun and doing it for yourself, it can feel really creatively fulfilling. But when you're doing it for other people, and their opinions start to affect what you create, it can just not be as fun. At least for me.
So I wasn't sure what to do. I wasn't sure where to go! I started by this point to actually want to have a business. I started to really like the business idea – the idea of quitting my job and working full time – but I knew it wasn't going to be in design, and I randomly discovered that being a virtual assistant was a thing!
A mentor of mine mentioned, “Well, your tech savvy, you like design, you’re really organized, you know…that's exactly what people look for in a VA!” So pivoted my business started doing virtual assistant work and pretty quickly booked out.
Because I was side hustling, I had very limited hours, so I had a very clear boundary of how much I could work for people and booked out pretty quick with a few clients and loved it! I felt like for the first time I was truly working in my zone of genius, and it felt so good!
And, no joke, that was at the beginning of 2015, and by November of 2015, I had quit my HR job and was fully self-employed! So it was really cool that once I was in the right thing, it felt like it clicked and came together, and the momentum to started to build which was really exciting.
So that's the first part! You would think, in a normal story, “Oh, I've been self-employed since 2015!”
I definitely loved being self-employed – the VA thing was great, I started specializing and becoming an online business manager, then a project manager, and a lot of momentum was building for me – but honestly, this part of my journey… it's interesting to reflect on because I don't know if I fully realize it at the time, but when I look back, I feel like I was a little lost, and I was just kind of following what people were telling me to do and what I thought I was supposed to be doing!
I kept looking for the next strategy that was going to actually make me happy while running this business, and not constantly on a burnout cycle (because I definitely was on a burnout cycle!) and I felt like I didn't know what the real purpose of this was.
I had one client in particular that I just loved working with who was one of my best friends, and I spent almost all my time working on her business anyways, and at this point in 2017, I was feeling unsure of my next step in my business, and my husband had sat me down and was like, “You're really stressed out all the time. Isn't the whole point to be enjoying your life and not just getting crazy stressed and burned out all the time??”
I felt so guilty when I wasn't working and so I wasn't sure where to go next. At that time, my client actually offered me a full-time job, and it kind of felt like serendipitous timing. I felt lost. Didn't know what to do, like, I love this client work. Maybe I should try being a full-time employee again because it's it's the right team. It's the right company. I'm still remote. I'm not having to go into an office and maybe this is the sweet spot for me…
So I said yes, and for pretty much all of 2018 and half of 2019, I was a full-time employee! I was the COO for her company of seven remote workers and it was an incredible year, but I did learn that the answer wasn't being a full-time employee. I really did have a calling to contribute on my own in my own way to the world and it wasn't just by being an employee. So as of May of 2019, I went back to self-employed!
I am now a business coach. I specialize in productivity and helping other entrepreneurs kind of go through the same journey. There are lots of things I’ve decided to do in 2019 to get out of the burnout cycle, to run a business differently than I used to, and to make sure I wasn't just following what other people were telling me to do, and instead really trusting myself and leaning into my own intuition!
So it's been very different in the past few months of working this way versus how I used to work, and there's a lot of different things we could talk about about why I'm loving it so far and why I feel really really good about it. But I've definitely had quite a few years of side hustling experience and love talking about it.
So that's that's the version of my story and how I got to where I am now!
Paige: Awesome! Okay, we actually will talk about burnout later too! That's really interesting! First, we'll talk about productivity, and then we'll come back to that because I think that'd be super interesting as well. Okay?
Paige: Okay, so you definitely have lots of experience with the hustling, as you said; can you talk about what your days or weeks look like? How are you getting work done in your business? What were you doing in your business, and what were you just skipping because you just didn't have time when you were doing it as a side hustle.
Megan: This is such a great question! So, I'll start with the schedule of how my time was being distributed. I did this in both instances (when I was side hustling, even doing graphic design in the past, and then when I was doing it again more recently!) I definitely woke up earlier to carve out even just an hour in the morning.
So usually for me, if I'm working standard hours like 8 a.m. to 5 p.m, then that meant I was usually waking up at 5 a.m. to do my morning routine and get at least a full hour of focused work in in the morning! And you know? That was hard! It didn't always happen every single day, but it was the structure I tried to do.
Then I pretty much was consistent all the time about evening work. I didn't really have a problem too much coming home from work and working on my own stuff. So the evenings were bit more reliable for me overall.
It was it was really interesting you know, as a side hustler, you have a lot of personal obligations that you have to do in the evening. You have a lot of personal tasks that need to get taken care of. So there's definitely that balance of when am I going to use all this personal time to work? And when am I going to relax? And when am I going to have fun? And when am I going to take care of all the personal errands that have to be done?
So it wasn't perfect, but I found a rhythm that worked for me, and most recently (the last time I side hustled) that one hour slot in the morning became critical! When I was doing it most recently, even though I am not a morning person, it became the only time I could guarantee that I could do work!
Even if it was just an hour a day for five days a week…that's five hours! That's not nothing! You can actually do a lot when you're really really focused and really intentional about that time! We can get into this more detail, but if you aren't focused and clear and intentional, that time becomes almost wasted because you're just spending it all figuring out what to do.
Megan: Yeah, so that was kind of the schedule.
I've always been really intentional about wanting to have a social life so that was hard. The first time around, I think I learned the hard way! Most recently when I side hustled, I intentionally made the choice to keep having social plans and to not let that become something that I viewed as a burdensome or resenting.
I think there's just a lot of intentional decisions that have to be made when your side hustling about how you want to view for your personal life, social plans, and work.
I know you were asking about some other things besides just the schedule…what else?
Paige: Yeah. So it was “What were you doing in your business when you just side hustling, and what were you just skipping because you didn't have the time to really get it done?
Megan: Yeah, it's so interesting…I keep referring to both times of side hustling, not like they were radically different, but I think as you get older you just have a little bit more clarity on things! So in general, and especially most recently, I really had to narrow down on what I was going to do, because the first time I side hustled, all I was doing was services, and all I had was client work. I wasn't really creating content. I wasn't really marketing! I was just supporting clients. That is all I did with my time.
When I was side hustling more recently, I was trying to create content and do more marketing. I had digital products, I had courses… so there was a lot more going on and I really had to get very very focused, and pretty much focus on one project at a time.
As far as things I wasn't doing…
At that time really struggled with creating content as a side hustler. I was trying to do YouTube videos, and I felt like I would go through waves of I did a batch, and great! I'm consistent for a few weeks! Then I just didn't have time for that next batch and totally fell off the wagon!
It wasn't until I started the podcast at the beginning of 2019 that I really started to find a rhythm with content creation. And if you're a side hustler and you are struggling with that same dilemma of how to create something consistently…Number one: I totally get it! Number two: you might need to pick a different medium, because I love video – I love watching YouTube videos. I loved recording them, planning them, creating them, doing the SEO strategy… like, there's not a piece of the YouTube puzzle that I don't love! The issue was just that for my lifestyle and my personal approach to content creation, it was so much harder for me to commit to doing YouTube consistently, especially as a perfectionist!
I would fall into the trap of over-editing. I was just over working to create a product that I was proud of, and for me, by switching to the podcast media without any video, I was able to really narrow it down to cut out that part of me that often tries to be perfect with stuff! So, that was key for me was switching mediums.
So if something you're trying to do right now just isn't working, the first thing I would do is say maybe you just need to do a different medium! One that feels lighter, and easier, and more enjoyable! So that was huge for me.
Things I wasn't doing… gosh! Just anything that wasn't the number one project I was working on! I was solely dedicated on the podcast until that became a system until it became something that I already had the process in place and was executing on seamlessly. I wasn't building anything else. I wasn't really focusing on anything else.
I've never been the type of person who was great at posting on Instagram every single day. I wasn't doing any Pinterest/Tailwind stuff. For me, when I was side hustling, I really had to get super clear. I was either adding in something new like a podcast, or I was building something new like a new product or course, but I couldn't be doing too many new things at one time.
Paige: Yep. I'm also the same way! I'm just so inefficient when I'm trying to do multiple things at a time. I can't get anything done well, so I just really also need to focus in on one project at a time!
Megan: Absolutely. I mean honestly, even though I'm self-employed now, that's still my philosophy. You can maybe have three projects at the same time (maybe), but you should really only be focusing on one.
Like right now, I have three projects technically in play in my business, but the next two weeks, I'm 100% focused on only one of them, and it's just very clear! It makes a lot of things easier! Shiny object syndrome is so real! So by narrowing it down, it's way easier to stay focused and on track.
Paige: Yeah, definitely! You mentioned, in terms of planning your weeks and days and everything, that you sort of figure it out eventually how to balance the social life, the life errands, and the actual business tasks we talked about… How did you figure that out? How did you organize your time to get those done while also getting your business done?
Megan: Great question! You know, I never want to come off as if I had it perfectly figured out and life was great…we're all human. Life happens! So it wasn't that every single week looked picture-perfect. But I think it kind of comes back to the perspective you choose to have.
For a very long time, I didn't realize it was a choice, but I had chosen to feel that any minute I wasn't working was full of guilt and self-hatred (not self-hatred…way too strong of a word!) But you know what I'm talking about!
I felt bad every time I wasn't working, thus when I was taking care of my home or being with friends, I resented those things, even if I didn't realize that was what was happening! So the way that I really started to turn this all around was realizing I was doing that, and then deciding that that wasn't how I wanted to live my life. Like, I love my friends. I love hanging out with them. I would like to view it differently, so I had to choose to change that narrative, which is honestly just a decision you have to make, and then you have to be a little bit more aware of your thoughts and redirect them when you start to default back into that old view.
As far as the “nitty-gritty” stuff like groceries and cooking, the secret for me, to be completely honest, was using other tools and apps and delegating. So I have a housekeeper that comes once a month. I understand that costs money, but for me, that was an exchange I could make, so I was willing to do that.
For groceries, I absolutely love Instacart! To this day I still use it! It allows me to just have a very simple clear grocery list. I don't overbuy because, you know, every time I go into the grocery store, oh I need these I need this popcorn. I need this… like, I'm throwing in stuff that I wouldn't actually intentionally buy, so it has helped me. Even though you're paying for the service, it actually ends up making my grocery bills lower because I'm only buying what I actually need, and the time savings of just sitting there and putting in your groceries for 30 minutes on a Sunday night, and having someone dropped them off Monday morning was huge (or in any day of the week)!
That was a big one for me and on busy weeks, if I was launching something new or if I had a really big work week and I knew I really didn't have the capacity to cook or clean, I would honestly do Snap Kitchen, or precooked meals that all I had to do is microwave them.
Also, I do have a husband, and I would just tell him (even when were dating years ago)… I would just have to be like, look…this is a stressful time for me. I am not going to be able to do the dishes. So I'm okay with that. Even though people think I'm this really clean person, I can happily put up with tons of mess around me and it doesn't really bother me. So I'm like, I'm too busy for the dishes and I just let it pile up. It doesn't bother me. It kills my husband…
So I have to just communicate like hey, I'm just like literally at capacity and cannot do that right now. Like, I'm okay if they pile up I'm not expecting you to do more but I just need you to understand.
So I think a lot of it was just communicating to the people – my friends, my family, my husband – who lived with me, and kind of getting that permission slip on those stressful times, or like it's okay to not be perfect! It's okay to let things go! Don't worry about that. You know, sometimes we just need the people in our lives that we are worrying about to say it's okay. Don't worry. So those kind of things were really helpful for me.
Paige: Yeah. I think that's fabulous! That's really good. Now, let's talk about goal setting, because this is something which I think you're big fan of. You recently launched a workshop about this!
Paige: Can you talk a little bit about your like goal setting strategy?
Megan: I love talking about my goal setting strategy, because I have always been a lover of goals and planning, but the problem that I ran into was that there is such a thing as “Procrasti-Planning”. (That’s what I call it!) It’s procrastination through planning!
You spend so much time planning your to-do list, planning your goals, planning out the next 12 months, that you never end up actually following through on anything and accomplishing it. I say this with compassion because I used to be the exact same way, and I realized that about myself: that I was honestly procrastinating. I thought I was being productive. It's one of the hardest things to really realize that you're not actually being productive when you're just planning unnecessarily, so that was a big change because I used to do the thing that I'm sure some of your listeners do where, you know, December rolls around and it's like, okay it's time. Let's plan out the next 12 months!
We get out this big calendar, and we probably enroll in a course, or buy a fancy planner…it's December, and we're like, next October I'm going to talk about this, and I'm going to launch this, and I'm going to post this blog post…
We're just going Nitty Gritty sooo far away, but that plan never will get executed. Even if you create those things, the chance that you'll actually care about them and be excited to do those things when October rolls around is so unlikely because we're just changing. Life changes a lot: business changes, the apps and the tools and the resources around us change a lot… there's just so much that can happen in that time period that planning out that far in advance is not the best use of your time! It's kind of a waste and it's just procrastination.
So what I have found is a good time frame is 90 days. Now, you could view that as three months or 13 weeks but loosely 90 days for all intents and purposes. The beauty of 90 days is that it's far enough away for us to have goals that feel exciting, but it's also close enough that we are much better at guessing what we can actually accomplish and your general direction. Our views, and wants, and desires, and life, are usually pretty similar within that container.
Once you go past that, that's where you never know what's going to happen, what you're going to want to do…So I usually never do more than 90 days. I do think it's helpful to have a vision for where you want to go. So I'm not saying you shouldn't have a bigger vision for the year, or a word for the year, or where you want to be in three to five years. I think those things are great and really necessary.
In my workshop, one of the things we do is look at where do you want to be three years from now? Where do you want to be one year from now? How do you want to be feeling and what do you want to be spending your time on? What does your personal life look like? And I think those are really helpful for kind of giving us a compass of where we're trying to go, but then we just like narrow it down to the next three months. So, here's where we want to go – this is the direction we're heading – now, let's focus on the next 3 months and how we want to take steps towards getting there. And so you do the 90-day goals!
Another key thing here is not having too many goals. So, actually, what I do is in the next 90 days, you set one outcome; one bigger picture outcome that you want to achieve in the next 90 days, and then one two, or three goals for how you're going to get there.
So for me, what I'm doing (and this could look totally different based on your life your business and what you're working towards right now) is I'm in the phase where I’m building a lot in my business. I'm really trying to ramp up my business, trying to hit at the next level of income for me, so my number one outcome for the next 90 days is a financial goal.
It doesn't mean it has to be, but for me it is an amount of revenue that I want to bring in in the next 90 days. So then I have three (you can have one, two, or three – but no more three) projects or goals for how I'm going to get there. It's like launching a group program, booking X number of one-on-one clients and hitting a certain threshold with affiliate income.
Now, there are other things that are coming in, like, I have products and courses that are bringing in money that will contribute to that. Oh, and I'm doing a weekly podcast! There are other things happening in my business, but the really important distinction here is that those things are already systemized. There's no new energy that needs to be put into those. The podcast is a system. It's a process. It's already happening. There's no new endeavor around it besides just continuing to execute that system, and same with my existing products and courses: I'm not creating anything new. I'm not doing any new funnels for them. They are just existing, and selling, and running. So even though they help me hit the revenue goal, they're not really a project that I need to be working on right now.
Does that make sense?
Paige: Absolutely! I think it's 100% true!
Megan: Yeah. Let's get a process down! Like, for me blogging, I've been doing it for years now. So it's not even a thing that I need to really think about that much. It just happens very easily. It is something I'm doing, but it's not really a project because it's very much systematized. It's almost like recurring responsibilities vs. new projects that you're working on.
So we do the 90-day goals, and then in the workshop (this is exactly what I guide people through in the workshop) we have the 90-day goals, and then we actually build what I call a 90 day action plan – the actual steps; the actual tasks (that you know of!) Maybe there are things that are going to pop up that you'll discover in the process… that's okay! But where we are right now, what are all the tasks that need to happen to achieve this goal and complete these projects.
As you make that big giant to-do list under each goal, and you're like, whoa, that's a lot…but you know, you have 90 days! It's okay! And the Secret Sauce, when it comes to actually executing on this in the planning, is that I have a two-week cadence for how I actually execute. Every two weeks, I look at that big to-do list and I pull over the tasks that I want to do in the next two weeks, and I just zero in on those and I don't worry about the rest! I just focus on those for two weeks and then every two weeks I do that again.
It allows you to stay really focused, and trust that the rest will get done. You know what's going to happen in the next two weeks. A lot of meetings and appointments don't really change too much in the next two weeks, so it's far enough away to give you flexibility where, if you get sick for two days, you're not totally, the whole week's a waste! You have whole week and a half still to get this done.
So it's been a really good container, I think, to go from the 90 days to the two weeks.
Paige: Yeah. That's really good idea. I like that! Now, last year when you were working full-time for someone else, your business was still generating some revenue through sort of like a super basic sales funnel for your digital products. Can you tell us a little bit about that super basic sales funnel? How are people finding out about your products when you weren't actively advertising them and really working on them?
Megan: Yeah great question.
It's such a great point, too, since I had been building my business since 2015. I had, over time, while being self-employed, created some digital products, and I did have those available on my site at all times. So anyone could just come across my website and buy it, and that was just a surface-level option.
I did have a funnel (I didn't even realize it when I did it, but it is technically a funnel). I was doing YouTube videos, and especially at this time when I launched those products, I was only doing YouTube. It was my only content. So what I did is, every time I had a new product, I created a YouTube video that was basically a sales page, like a sales video disguised as a tutorial, but it was actually a helpful tutorial!
The best example I can give is for one of my products which is a spreadsheet template. I have a few options; I did the same process for all of them. One of them is an annual planning sheet. It's an annual, quarterly, monthly, and weekly planning spreadsheet, and I decided to make a YouTube video about it. What I did in the video is I actually showed them the spreadsheet.
Now, a lot of people who do spreadsheets or digital downloads might hesitate to show the spreadsheet because it's like, why would someone buy it if they can just see what's in it!? But I decided I was going to go ahead and show them how I do this! So the tutorial is how I plan my weeks, quarters, months, and year, and the spreadsheet system I use.
I show them how I'm using the spreadsheet and they see it all – they see everything that's in there! But the pitch comes at the end…"“If you don't want to have to create this set of spreadsheets yourself, why don't you click the link beneath this video, and you could download the template right now and get started!”
So the call to action was really: “You can try to recreate this if you want, but if you want to save some time and just use mine, here's the link,” and then the link in the description of the YouTube video took them to buy the spreadsheet. It was as simple as that! I also had a blog post that went with it.
So people were just finding my content through SEO. Maybe I popped up on Pinterest. Maybe they were searching on YouTube and my video would pop up they'd watch it. There'd be links to go buy it and they just go by it and it was as simple as that. There wasn't even a price savings. So it was still the same price as what was publicly available
Megan: Yeah, it was just naturally gaining some traction and it kind of has become the secret way I do everything.
When I released courses, I couldn't do the exact same thing. I couldn't show them a set of spreadsheets! It was more about how to use Asana, or how to customize ConvertKit (that’s an affiliate link!) email templates. I would do a tutorial about part of it. So, maybe I can do a mini tutorial about Asana or a tech tip for ConvertKit, you know, and that kind of became a tutorial that turns into a sales video and then just links to the product.
That has worked so seamlessly for me, and it's still what I do even in more of a coaching business! Like, I'm gonna have a YouTube video that talks about my group program…like, in it's gonna be there! It's just what I do now and it works so super simple.
Paige: I think it's so great because so many people that think that a sales funnel sounds really overwhelming, but I think that's such a good example of a very super simple sales funnel and it just makes sense!
Megan: Yeah! It is super simple, and it's one of those things that as you get to learn more about marketing, and sales, and sales funnels… there's so much more that I could do. I could have emails; I could have limited time offers; I could do more, and those things are great! You should have all of the things, but when I'm coming at side hustling in particular, or even my approach to being self-employed right now, I'm really trying to be super intentional! Super selective! To be really ok with minimum viable, and for me, doing this little mini sales funnel worked. It was bringing in money.
Are there things I could do to turn the knob? Probably! But is it the best use of my time right now? No! It's not! So I just kind of leave it on the back burner. I'm aware of it, and maybe the next time I do a 90-day plan it will be, but for right now it's not.
It works as is, so that's good enough for me!
Paige: Absolutely! I think when people are side hustling (if you're all listening to this and you’re side hustling right now) that's a fabulous attitude to have towards a lot of things, because you can't do it perfectly as you should if your side hustling. Maybe you don't have enough time!
So, I don't know…if it's working good and its minimum viable – awesome!
Megan: Yeah, the minimum viable lifestyle is how I survived side hustling for suuure. Even with my podcast launch… we are hear “best practices” (and their best practices for a reason! They do work!) but at the same time, you can pick and choose what's going to make sense for you. So when I was sitting down to do my podcast launch, the podcast strategies tell you to have, like, three episodes go live the first day, maybe even drip out of few more within the first week. That's how you get ranked and all this kind of stuff.
Those strategies work! They are good strategies! But for me, I was side hustling, starting a podcast, and my biggest pain point that I was trying to solve was finally showing up consistently, because unlike you, Paige, I had never succeeded in consistently creating anything! Blog posts, YouTube videos…I never really delivered on my week-to-week promise.
So my biggest pain point – the thing I’m trying to solve with the podcast – was finally showing up every week. I knew for me, that if I recorded four episodes before the first one went live and I had a choice either release them all in the first week and have zero in my back pocket and have to record again and run the risk that I'm suddenly going to be week to week, you know, or really stressed about the podcast …and that went completely counter to what I was trying to do.
So I decided, let's just do this minimum viable. Let's just start. Let's just release one episode and then we have a whole month’s worth of content by making that choice, and that gives me more spaciousness to create, less stress to create, and my podcast is still doing great! It was it was a good trade off, and I think that's kind of the thing you have to do when your side hustling, however, you're creating content or running your business. You have to make certain trade-offs or you're just going to burn out, and it's not gonna be fun!
So, I think for me, that was a trade-off I made, and I was very glad that I did that!
Paige: I absolutely agree! I mean you launched it in record time! 23 days from the day that you decided to start it until you actually got it out there! I admit this, but I did the thing where I was like I need to do it right! And so I took months of thinking about it to actually get it out of there. So I launched it, what… is it beginning of June? I was thinking about doing this in January. So yeah.
Megan: Yep! Again, that was a decision I made on purpose. My nature is to overanalyze and to procrastinate to take too long. That was me. That's how I used to be, and that's why I was in the past and I kind of consciously decided this year that I didn't want to operate that way. I didn’t want to let that hold me back in the same way, personally.
I knew when I made the decision to do a podcast that I needed to do it kind of quick and dirty, and just start, and then just let it be easy. I think that's been the name of my game this year is just, what if it was easy? What if it was fun? What would it look like?
I would just start. I would just put out an episode and then figure it out. What's the worst that can happen? The worst-case scenario is the first episode doesn't go viral. Darn! Like, that's okay. (It's not even probably that good of an episode.)
Getting started was what I needed to do. I've kind of just been saying this year, what feels fun? What feels easy?… and that's even when I was hide hustling! It was always what feels fun? What feels exciting to work on? What feels like it's worth making the trade off? Because I am trading off time to relax or time with my friends, so what actions in my business are worth trading that time?
Paige: Yeah, definitely! So good. Now you have experience offering both services and products as a side hustler. Can you talk about the pros and cons of those two options?
Megan: Yes, they both have so many pros and cons. I'm definitely not one way is the right way! because I still offer both at this time. I still have products, and I still have services.
What I typically recommend to people who are just starting out and don't know which path to go…I do think services are a really good way to get started in your business because you really can just start offering it and start getting clients, and start gaining your expertise and your confidence in what you're doing. So I definitely think services are a great way to get started.
But of course, as any service provider will tell you, it's hard to scale services because you have a limited amount of time. Most service providers start out billing hourly or, you know, packaged hours. And so it's not a model that I think you should depend on 100%. I do think there is strength in having both options because with services, you only have a limited amount of time to offer, and I feel like I've seen so many people who are service providers make the mistake of overbooking themselves and over-committing and struggling to say no to a potential client, and then you end up just not having any time to do anything else that you want to in your business. That becomes pretty exhausting pretty quickly.
One thing that really helped me when I started doing services, and that I've been doing since I started coaching as a service, is having a very clear understanding of how many hours I truly have, and what my bandwidth really is, and allowing yourself to start smaller instead of starting bigger. So when I started coaching, I knew that maybe I could work with ten people one-on-one. I don't really know my capacity or how much energy and time it really takes, but I didn't want to start with 10 because if that was too many, then I would have a overcommitted. I would not have felt good about what I was delivering and not had the bandwidth and capacity to do all the other stuff I wanted, so I did the exact opposite and said well, I'll start with three. And if three feels good, then I'll go to four. And if four feels good, I'll go to Five, letting it be a stepping stone where I got to really experience what it was like to deliver the service before I had the even potential or risk of over-committing.
I did a similar thing when I was doing VA work. I looked at my schedule and was like, well I can do about 10 hours of this a week at most, and if people were buying my hours, that was a very clear line that I could draw. So I think that's pretty key with the services is starting out understanding your bandwidth so that you can hopefully build in a little bit more of the product side, because it is more passive. It is easier to make more money that way.
As far as the products go, I think the easiest place to get started is with things you already use in your own life and business. So, for me, that was templates and spreadsheets that I was creating for myself, that I was creating for clients…but people were needing them, and it was just such an easy thing to start making some amount of dollars. If you're really sitting there trying to make some money online and you're like, well, I'm going to make my signature course…that is a great option and will make you the most money. It might take more time.
I think that's just the trade-off. Are you in a position financially where you're cool with that trade-off? If yes, awesome! If no, and you are in a situation where you do need just any kind of money now, then something smaller that you already use in your day-to-day business that you can just create a template for might be an easier way to get the ball rolling, the focusing on some higher-income things like a signature course.
Does that make sense?
Paige: Yes, absolutely! So good! You nailed it!
Megan: Yeah, so I that's kind of a long-winded answer. But basically, I think both are super powerful!
The products don't really have as many cons, I don't think, just because once they're there their passive…but I've worked with some clients to create something, and then they never actually sell it or launch it. So I think as long as you're actually putting it available, making it easy for people to buy those things from you and showing up and talking about it in whatever form – whether it's your free content, or a webinar, or in an email, or on podcasts, or anything – then then I think it works.
It’s easy to just like create something and then kind of sell it once and never really talk about it again. So I think that's the risk you run with products.
Paige: Yep, definitely! Totally agree with that! Now, when it comes to your business in general, maybe it’s selling products or things behind scenes, marketing, whatever it is… what are some of the apps that you use to help you be as productive as possible in your business? To do your work better, faster, or in a more organized way?
Megan: Oh gosh. Well, there's a whole suite of tools that I use on a day-to-day basis in my business.
I think I just did an episode on those, like, 20 tools I use. I'm not going to make everyone listen to all 20….I think of my favorites – the ones that make the biggest difference and that saved me the most time – the number one would definitely be having some kind of project management system or task manager. So that could be something like Asana, or Trello, or Click up.
I have always been a lifelong Asana advocate, and I still love that platform, but I am personally using click up right now. I'm just kind of playing around with it because I am a systems lover and I can't help but test new software sometimes. I like both! I don't really think that one is better than the other. What matters more is finding a system that works for you, but I find that the having a project management system is key, and staying organized and understanding what you need to do next in your business.
My favorite app (this is probably not what you're expecting)…the one thing that tremendously helped me with productivity is an app called Brain FM. Basically, it is music that's meant to help you be productive or be in a certain mood. They actually have one for sleep, one for meditation, one for staying focused… I think they even have a few others as well. No joke, I listen to this app all day, every day! Like, I listen to it when I sleep. I pick the rain setting and I listen to it while I sleep, and then I usually do their focus playlist when I'm having those moments where I really need to put my headphones on and get work done! (Usually that's a lot of like writing or big picture thinking.)
It makes more of a difference than honestly anything else!
Paige: That's really cool!
Megan: Yeah, you'll love it! I mean, of course Spotify has focused playlist, so I think it doesn't even have to be that specific app, but finding something for you that kind of puts you in the zone I think is really helpful.
I use Slack to communicate with my team but I would say that the biggest piece here is the entire G-suite Google system: Google Calendar, Gmail, Google Drive, using their docks and their spreadsheets…those things are invaluable for me and are actually in my bookmarks bar in Chrome. It's literally folders. It’s brain FM, calendar, and the Drive. Those are my three. And Click up! Those are where I go. So those are my favorite productivity apps. I'm honestly not using anything that's shocking, or really new. I think it's just finding the right systems for you.
One thing that's newer that I didn't mention (not new to the world, new to me!) is Evernote. I'm such a Google Docs lover, but sometimes I find myself obsessing over the formatting of something in Google Docs when I'm trying to just get something out of my head. So I've actually been using Evernote lately for myself just to get stuff out of my brain and write stories, and write Instagram captions, and write emails. It feels less permanent. I'm less worried about the way it looks and more about the content that's in it. So that's been really helpful for me, too.
Paige: I think if people are using paper planners and they go over to a project management system, It will literally change your life!
Megan: Oh, it's a game changer! The thing is, I love paper. I have journals, you know, I still I do use a bullet journal to help me just like wrap my mind around today and like zero in on stuff, but it’s having these tools and technology to help you delegate and store ideas. That's the thing with papers: you might have this to-do list, but you lose that piece of paper, you stop using that planner, or you turn the page, then you might forget it! Having something online like Asana, or Trello, or Click up, can really help you keep all of those ideas in a place. That doesn't just go away, or you get you forget about it.
Paige: I'm trying to get my Fiancé on it because he's always like “Oh, we need to do that thing next week. Can you remind me?…” I read it my Asana to remind him on Friday or whatever, and I'm like, hey, you just use it yourself!
Megan: Yeah. Can we just have a shared Asana, please? I think that was one of my favorite things about using Asana is I got my husband to start using it. There’s no way he is using Click up… he could use a sauna and get on board with that.
Asana is a really great tool for combining your personal life with your business and having it all in one place, just because of the way Asana is built. I think it's a little bit easier to do that, and just have separate teams for your personal and your work, and then you can kind of see your whole life and your whole to-do list in one place. I think that's really powerful.
Paige: I totally agree! Okay, good. Let's talk about making the leap to full time! How do you know you're ready to go full time? There's obviously no one right answer, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on what should you have in place or what should be happening in your business when you go full time.
Megan: Such a good question! And it's funny… as you were asking this, I was just realizing that I did it differently both times. The first time I did it, I absolutely waited until I had basically a guarantee that my salary would be matched with client work. I was talking to my clients and they all wanted more time, and I was like, I can't give you more time until I can quit my full-time job! I made proposals like, I can give you this many more hours at this price to basically ensure that with accepted proposals on their part, I was able to not make any less money by making this leap.
So I basically had income ready to go when I was doing that, and that was because I was terrified! I wasn't sure if it was going to work, you know, at that time. My Mantra was: Well…what's the worst case scenario?
The worst case scenario is I spend six months being self-employed, learning a lot about business and myself and can I spin this into a resume builder if I need to go get another HR job! That was kind of my backup plan! Like, if this doesn't work or I don't enjoy it…because honestly, that was the concern I had… like, I enjoy side hustling in this small capacity, but will I actually enjoy being an entrepreneur or a business owner?
I had no idea. I really didn't feel confident that I would at that time.
So for me, it was like, the worst thing that happens is I get another job and that’s worth the risk for me. If any of that is resonating with anyone that is listening, I think the conversation to have with yourself is what's the worst case scenario? And what's my backup plan?
If it makes you feel better, like it did for me, put a time frame around it! Like, I'm going to try this for six months and see where I'm at…now, that's not like the exciting story of just like, follow your heart and take the risk, you know, but we're not all ready for that.
At that time I was single, so my expenses were much lower, you know, my family knew it was happening…I felt like I had a safety net around me where I was like, the true worst case scenario is that this totally bombs, and I'm sure I could go live with my mom or my sister or like I have people that love me that would help me if I really needed it.
That was the worst case scenario path, but it made me feel more confident doing it.
Paige: I thought the exact same thing when I was thinking about going full time. I was thinking about moving to Germany and going full-time at the same. What's worse that could happen? I figured, well, I'm not going to go home…
Like, I'm not gonna be homeless, my parents are not going to let that happen! And if it doesn't work, I could just say I like traveled to Europe for a year, learned German, and then came back and got a job in the field which I intended to anyway! So thinking about the worst case scenario is really useful!
Megan: Absolutely! I did the same. I mean, I guess that thought process was similar in both experiences, because even more recently when I made the decision, I went back to that. I was kind of like, well, what's the worst that could happen? The worst thing that could happen in this scenario is that I get another client, I go back to this client, I do something else, you know? My mindset was really different the second time because I knew I loved being a business owner even though I felt like I was stressed out all the time at the core of me.
I felt very secure that I like having my own business, and instead of my worst case scenario being that I could get a full-time job, it was like, I'm just gonna make it work! Even if the plan I have as I start doesn’t work, I feel confident in myself that I will make something work. And that was a really cool feeling to have.
As far as logistics, I did give my client (or my boss, since I was working full-time)… I mean, we had a conversation at least eight weeks before I actually left, and so there was a lot of time built into the transition where we were talking about it, and I had time to ramp up. So since I was doing coaching, I actually had three coaching clients already committed in advance before my first official day being self-employed. So as I said, I since I knew it was happening, I was able to start talking about it and get people on board. Even though we didn't start until afterwards, it felt nice to know that I was going into something already having a plan and already having clients, not feeling like it was starting from zero.
Paige: Yeah! So do you suggest having that before people go full-time?
Megan: You know, it's so tough because I think everyone's journey is different. So like if you're like me, then yes, I think it's great! The advice I gave myself was to have something in mind; to have the service that you are already talking about, have clients lined up, or have products that you're already making money from. I think that's your safest bet.
I have friends who just totally took a leave and it worked. So it's not to say that you can't do that. I think it just really depends on you and your confidence, and your personality. I'm really big into mindset right now…and I think you run the risk either way of coming into a new situation, or a new transition, from a place of stress and desperation, and feeling broke, and feeling all these negative emotions around it. So I think whatever you need to do to feel good about the transition – whether it's like excited nervous, or confident and calm, whichever direction you want to go – I think that can kind of be your compass for knowing which is right for you.
Paige: Yep! Definitely!
Megan: That's my non-answer. (Laughs)
Paige: I think some people also need the thing where it's like “burning the boats” behind you is the only way to make yourself do the uncomfortable things that are necessary.
Megan: I mean, I guess that's the part I didn't mention, too, is when I talked to my boss, I was terrified for that conversation…because anyone in a full-time job probably has this concern to go into this conversation. Maybe you're expecting to have two more weeks of pay or something, but you end up getting fired on the spot.
That was worst case scenario is that she tells me to leave right now, you know, and we’re not friends, and I like don't have eight weeks of runway. You know what I mean? I'm just done today! That would have been a bit more of a leap situation for me, because at that time, I definitely didn't even know if I was going to take one-on-one clients. I didn't know the plan, but I was willing to take that risk at that time. I knew it was the right move for me!
I knew it would work out if that was my worst case scenario. I'd figure it out and make it work good really good.
Paige: At the very beginning you mentioned burnout, and that you figured out a way to get out of the cycle of burnout. Can you talk about what that was?
Megan: Yes, and it's not something that I feel the flip “switched” and burnout is solved! I think it was definitely a journey for me, because I was on the burnout cycle, and I think I even put out a piece of content in 2016 or something about how I was burning out and how to overcome it. Then I would get burned down again, you know what I mean? So I think there's a gradual evolution of awareness of ourselves that has to take place to really really narrow that down.
I do feel like this year, in 2019, I feel confident saying that I have solved it for myself and that I can help other people, too, because you have to change the way that you approach decision making and taking action in your business. So specifically, for entrepreneurs, I used to approach things that they had to be very rigid and very strategic. Like, this is my schedule! I have to stay on track. I have to wake up at 5:00 a.m. I have to do x y z!
That was an expectation I had for myself, and the reason I kept burning out was because I was pushing so so hard that when you think of a pendulum, I was just getting pulled back farther and farther, and swinging so far this one direction that you have to scientifically, mathematically swing the opposite direction in the same energy. I was pulling myself so hard this one direction…working so hard and going so all in so rigidly, I had to swing the other direction and burnout and basically do nothing for a few weeks. You know what I mean?
Step one was just being aware of that, and step two?…when I decided to be self-employed again, I knew I didn't want to live that way again. I was like, I'm gonna do the self-employed thing again, but I'm gonna do it differently. I'm going to decide to not do that.
The only way to do that is to decide that you are going to have fun, and do what you enjoy, and acknowledge and change the story that I don't have to do anything. There's nothing I have to do in my business. All the things that burden you, or weigh you down, or aren't fun, or feel stressful – it’s all completely self imposed. All of it is self-elected when you're self-employed.
I had to make some fundamental changes in how I made decisions and how I approached my business and my life, so what I basically do is I actually still employ a lot of the same tactics that I used to! So on the surface, I still have a weekly schedule, I still have morning routines, I still have project plans, and action plans! Those things have been a piece of the puzzle for a long time because they do work, but what has changed is the way I execute them. So instead of executing them from this place of stress, and force, and rigidity, and pushing really hard, and working all the time, now, I do what I call “intuitive execution,” where on a day-to-day basis, I'm checking in with myself, and if it doesn't feel good, I don't do it!
I try to get into a place where it feels good, so if I'm supposed to sit down and batch record four podcast episodes, and I'm not feeling good about it that day, that might feel really stressful! Anyone can relate! On a day where you're supposed to do something and it just isn't happening, and it doesn't feel fun, and you want to do anything but!!
We try to force ourselves to do it, and for me, when I would force content or whatever it was that I was working on, not only did it take me way longer, I hated the entire process and usually I wasn't even excited about the end product (whatever it was), and I wouldn't want to really deal with it after.
Whereas now, when I'm intuitively executing, I have two options: I need to sit down and record and I don't want to. I can say, okay. Well, you know, I’m supposed to do that on Monday, but I don't feel like it today. So I'm going to do it Tuesday and just like be flexible in that or I can say, well what can I do right now that would feel good?
Maybe that'll make me feel more inspired or excited to record! Maybe it's going on a walk…I literally asked myself in that moment. I don't plan on it. It's like, what would be fun right now?
Some days, I really need to be in the sun…so I need to be in the sunshine. Like, let me just go stand outside on my balcony or let me go walk the dogs or let me go get a sweat on on the treadmill, or maybe I need to lay down on the couch and watch a movie, or maybe I need to read a book, you know? It can literally be anything , but the key is that it's something that actually feels good, and a lot of times after I've done that for like 30 minutes or an hour, I will feel so inspired and feel good and I can actually create what I wanted to create.
Oftentimes I'll create more faster and better. It happened to me a few weeks ago with the podcast, I just took a break, came back that afternoon, and not only recorded four episodes, but I outlined 10 and I did it all very quickly! Faster than I'd ever recorded anything! I felt so on fire about those episodes after that, like marketing them, writing emails for them…it was so easy.
So I think it's really powerful when we tap into what we actually want to be doing, and just making decisions from that place.
Another example, when I was doing coaching, I went into the process thinking I have to do sales calls… I have to do Discovery calls to get clients… and I was like, that sounds miserable.
So, I'm not going to do that! I decided that I wasn't going to do Discovery calls to get clients, and instead I make all of my sales through Instagram DM's and I don't even have a big Instagram following! Of all of my platforms, I have so many other people in other places and I talked about it there, too, but literally every sale has come from Instagram DM's!
Megan: And that's just because I decided that I really like sending voice memos to people, and I really like talking to people that way. So what if I just talked to people that way, instead of emailing them back and forth or getting them on a free call, and it worked! So it's really been this art of intuitively executing. That’s a lot of what I'm starting to coach my clients on and teach in a group setting, is kind of this idea that there's really three components to not only being more productive, but working less and enjoying your life more! You need to have the right planning system, because you want to be doing the right things to grow your business and go the direction you want to. You also need to have the right mindset because you know, I used to not be a mindset person at all, but man it changes everything when you realize how much your thoughts control your perception of your day and your life!
Then it's this execution piece; not only being productive, you know (because there are tactics you can use to use our time better) but also intuitively executing and listening to our gut, and doing what feels good. With these three things combined, the burnout cycle kind of goes away because you're not ever really pushing too hard, and if you start to you can see it really quickly.
Paige: That's so great! I'm really happy for you that you found your solution. I mean so many people have these ideas on how you get out of burnout, but it sounds like you really found a way that works for you. That's amazing!
Megan: Thank you. I mentioned that video I have a long time ago about like how to recover from burnout, and the tactics I share in that video were absolutely true for me. I don’t think they’re bad, but it it's one of the most commented videos I have because so many people put very negative comments, like “You don't know what burnout is!” and it freaked me out when it was happening, and it's like…I'm sorry? This was my experience! That’s three years ago now but I think burnout is very different for everyone! I've talked to several friends with burnout, and it seems like the common thread between all of us who are making progress on burnout and getting out of that cycle, is you have to choose to live your life differently because the same tactics will just keep you living the same way at a fundamental level. You’re just going to keep burning out!
You could get all the massages, and all the spa days, and all the acupuncture that you want…you're still going to burn out because you're still just pushing! You're working the same way! You're pushing so hard, and it's so exhausting, and it's not sustainable.
Paige: That's really interesting. I love that's so much! That is so great.
Megan: Thank you!
Paige: I did not expect that we would talk about that, but I’m so glad we did!
Megan: Yeah, I know. I don't know if it's not talked about enough, but I think that a lot of people experience it and don't really know what's wrong with them. I found that a lot of people, when they're burned out, maybe don't even realize at first that that's what's happening. They're kind of just like, why am I so tired all the time? Like why can't I do X Y and Z!? Why am I not enjoying this anymore? It’s like, girl! You're burned out! You tired!
And so I totally empathize with everyone going through it. And you know, I don't want to sit here and be like, I'm perfect. I'm never going to burn out again. My life is Flawless…I caught myself even last night – I started like feeling this intrinsic stress to push and work hard, and actively make things hard! But I caught it, and I think that's a huge improvement is to be like, oh, okay, let's not go down this path again. Let's not do that!
It’s redirecting and kind of trusting that it's all gonna work out, and I think anyone who's side hustling or doing this full-time, or growing a business, you start to realize that the to-do-list is never ending, and there's always more to do. But you kind of have to hit a point of, I trust that I'm going to get done what needs to get done today.
And ultimately? We're not doing brain surgery, here! Like, it's not really life or death! It’s all going to be fine. Even if if a podcast episode doesn't go out this week, it's all okay. We're going to live. It's going to be fine!
I think sometimes we just need to remember that.
Paige: I absolutely agree! When I started my business I was like hustling like a mad-woman, and just working all hours of the day and night, because I was like, I need money! I need to live!
Then I started making way more money than I could ever spend, and I needed to stop myself from being on this hamster wheel, because there is no purpose, really!
Megan: That's so true! And I think (going back to the side hustling piece of this) it's so easy to burn out as a side hustler because you have a full-time job! You have a big commitment, and you still want to do well there, and so I acknowledge that it is a unique situation to be in.
It's totally possible to do it and not burn out, but you have to just be patient! You have to do what we talked about earlier. We were kind of picking one thing to focus on at a time and just be okay with your timeline. Your speed doesn't need to be compared to anyone else’s or you're perceived speed of how fast their journey is, because it's probably actually not what it even seems like from the outside!
It’s hard! I kept having to feel that way myself, too! Just checking in with like, this is my journey. These are my trade offs…remember earlier I was talking about how I decided I wanted to enjoy my social life, and that meant I would be working less hours? That's okay. I acknowledge that and I accept that.
I think it's just changing your perception around it and being patient and to get nitty-gritty with how to use that time wisely. I think having something like a 90-day action plan, or a two-week plan, or something really specific where you know exactly what work needs to get done is really key as a side hustler, because that way if you only have an hour that day you sit down, you know exactly what to do!
I do think for side hustling, when it comes to true productivity and using your time the best, it is having that plan of attack for each hour that you're working.
Paige: Amazing! So good! Thank you so much for all this! This has been absolutely fabulous! I'm really excited for people hear!
Can you tell us what are some of the options that people have to potentially work with you, and where can I find you online?
Megan: Yeah, great question! So if you want to find me online, I do have a website at meganminns.com, and I have my own podcast as well called, “The Productive Life with Megan Minns.” I'm assuming if you're listening to this you like podcast as well! So, if you want to hear more about lots of different stuff we talked about today you can head over there!
As far as the different ways to work with me… I do have some courses and templates available that you can just go jump into including that Goal Setting Workshop, and I am coaching now, so I do take on a limited number of one-on-one clients. I am actually launching (at the time we're recording this it isn't live yet) a group coaching program where I'm really going to guide people through this process of not only creating the framework and the planning systems, but also working on the mindset and intuitive execution, so that we can work less, be more productive, and enjoy our life more! So all of that can be found at meganminns.com.
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