Finding your ‘thing’.
This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from Detective Tom Snow, aka Anonymous. They say:
“Hi Frankie and Steve,
My partner is a very creative person, but is currently doing an employed job that helps others in creative education, but is bogged down with institutional admin, company politics, meetings etc. It doesn’t allow her to be creative herself.
I’d like to encourage her to take the leap to become self employed and find the thing she loves doing. Finding ‘the thing’ is the hard part — how do you turn your love of creating and making into a money earner? How do you find what your passion might be on the one hand, and also think about how it will bring in money on the other?
Thanks a lot, Tom”
• • • • •
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Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.
Here’s what was said in this episode:
Comments on the previous episode:
[00:02:53] – Frankie
Hello. You’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.
[00:03:05] – Steve
Hello, yes! Each episode, we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids Community, do our best to answer it, but we start each episode by looking back at the last episode.
Last time we were talking about ghosting.
[00:03:15] – Frankie
[00:03:16] – Steve
Oh, yes, Scooby Doo one, wasn’t it?
[00:03:18] – Frankie
For this reason, I’ve given all the comments this week just the first name, just in case. To protect your identity!
[00:03:26] – Steve
Lisa got in touch and said:
“Oh, man. No advice but sympathies. I was approached for some work, put a proposal together, spoke to the guy while I was on a family holiday in order to get it all done to his timings, reworked it, got it to the place of almost agreed. The work would take place in November/December.
He then asked if for cashflow reasons, he could stagger a third payment into March. I tried to call but couldn’t get hold of him. So emailed suggesting a rejigged timeframe and then NOTHING. Never heard from him again. What is wrong with people??”
[00:03:59] – Frankie
Double question mark. What is wrong with people??
[00:04:02] – Steve
Do you know what? After our success with the last one, I feel like me and you need to get in the mystery mobile and go around solving professional ghosting crimes. That could actually be a show, don’t you think?
[00:04:15] – Frankie
Talk about retraining. I really think that could be a winner.
[00:04:18] – Steve
We turn up on people’s doorsteps and try and get an answer as to why they never got back to Lisa.
[00:04:23] – Frankie
We should be pitching this to ITV.
[00:04:25] – Steve
Quite like it. It’s kind of like Watchdog meets Gary Vee. Oh, this is great. Let me get a pen and paper…
[00:04:31] – Frankie
“This is so frustrating. I was used to it when working for large companies, as so many agencies just didn’t respond to proposals. Still, no excuses. But as a small business owner who spends time fee-free on discovery calls and creating proposals, I find it so disappointing when people don’t provide feedback. Especially when they’re also small business owners”.
[00:04:51] – Frankie
[00:04:52] – Steve
“So, I’m with Frankie on this. As someone who does freelance on the side while also working for a ‘big company’, sometimes shit happens. It’s not personal. You just get sidetracked because it’s one of hundreds of balls you’re juggling. I just had to mia culpa on one of those today. I sent a ‘Hi. Remember me, who wanted to give you a contract? Yep. It’s been months…’ I don’t like it, but it happens.”
That’s a ghost. A ghost has got in touch with us from the other side.
Our answer to this week's question:
[00:06:48] – Steve
OK, episode 67. Here we go with…
[00:06:52] – Frankie
I know it’s anon. I told you, I warned you last time. Going to have a few anons.
[00:06:55] – Steve
Oh, yeah, you did. That’s right. Okay, here’s some detective names…
[00:07:00] – Frankie
[00:07:00] – Steve
If you don’t know why I’m picking detective names, listen to the last episode. We explained it then. Right? Vince Adams, Adrian Donovan, Adam Williams, Tom Snow…
[00:07:11] – Frankie
Yeah, I like Tom Snow.
[00:07:12] – Steve
This question comes from Tom Snow, aka Anonymous.
“Hi, Frankie and Steve. My partner is a very creative person, but is currently doing an employed job that helps others in creative education, but is bogged down with institutional admin, company politics, meetings, etc. I’d like to encourage her to take the leap to become self-employed and find the thing she loves doing. Finding the thing is the hard part.
How do you turn your love of creating and making into a money earner? How do you find what your passion might be on the one hand, and also think about how it will bring in money on the other?
Thanks a lot, Tom.”
[00:07:52] – Steve
Oh, interesting. So this is a question for a partner rather than for Tom himself. Very considerate.
[00:08:00] – Frankie
It would be interesting to know what Tom does. Presumably he’s self-employed, right? Maybe not. I don’t know.
[00:08:04] – Steve
Either way, listens to this old nonsense.
[00:08:06] – Frankie
Well, exactly, that’s true. Fair point. Yes.
[00:08:10] – Steve
Once upon a time, this was kind of you.
[00:08:12] – Frankie
This is literally what I was about to say! That sounds a lot like my life, because I was working in a job, an admin job, Arts Administrator, all about facilitating other people being creative, and I was doing, like, the boring side of it. And I hated it. I’m a creative! I don’t want to be watching other people be creative.
When I started, it was fine, but, like, five years in, I was like, no. And then in terms of… how did I find the thing? For me, it was like… there was essentially no graphic design on my job description whatsoever, but I always seemed to be designing stuff in my job. So rather than, like, pay somebody, I’d kind of bodge something together in Photoshop because I found it fun, that kind of thing.
Over a couple of years, it just became really obvious that I was like shoehorning design into my job because it was clearly something I enjoyed doing. And I don’t know if there’s something like that for her, where she’s naturally, like, drawn to something, even if it’s not within her job. Like, there’s something about what she does that she always enjoys doing or lights her up in a way that other parts of her job doesn’t. But then, equally, she might just absolutely hate everything about what she does, which is fine.
[00:09:21] – Steve
So to go back to you, though, when you recognised that… you then went and retrained, right? Did you do that in your spare time?
[00:09:29] – Frankie
I did a night course two nights a week while I was still working. But this was all kind of kicked off by the fact that my team was being relocated, so I’d either have to move or be made redundant. So I knew that was happening anyway. So I was like, “okay, I’m going to go retrain and then take redundancy”. And in my case, because I’m ballsy as fuck, was like, “I’m just going to go freelance. I’ll be fine! It’s a totally new industry I’ve never worked in before.”
[00:09:58] – Steve
So in terms of giving advice to Tom’s other half, we’re sort of looking at the fact, like… Trying to identify the things that you do enjoy, that you’re drawn to, give you energy. And then if you don’t necessarily feel like you have all the skills that you’d like to have in that area, then to develop those on the side. And the thing is that — and I’m going to put words into your mouth — but I imagine that, even if you weren’t enjoying the day job, the very fact that you were doing something that was advancing you into something that you enjoyed of an evening, makes the day job more bearable in itself.
[00:10:34] – Frankie
Oh, totally, yeah, yeah, yeah. And also, because I had shoehorned design into my job, it meant I was directly using the skills I was learning week by week to create better stuff for my team as well, which was a nice feeling. And also, for me, I had a hard end. It was very like — I know when I’m leaving and that’s it. Whereas you could build your freelance business on the side over an indefinite period of time. But actually, sometimes it’s good to have a, like “you’re out of here” deadline.
[00:11:04] – Steve
By the way, if you’ve missed ‘hard end’, it is not something we have said on this podcast for a long time.
[00:11:10] – Frankie
That’s me referencing, like episode two or something!
[00:11:13] – Steve
And I hadn’t heard that for a long time, right. Until we were doing a podcast recording with somebody in America recently and he went, “hey guys, just to let you know I got a hard end”.
[00:11:23] – Frankie
He said it legitimately??
[00:11:25] – Steve
Yes, I nearly spat out my tea. He was a lovely guy, but yeah, he had a hard end.
[00:11:30] – Frankie
Good for him.
[00:11:31] – Steve
What are you drawn to? Do you have the skills? Can you develop those skills and then can you put those skills into practice and start building up something to show for it I guess? Like a portfolio. Obviously this varies depending on what the heck it is that we’re talking about. But you want to be able to prove to yourself, as much as to other people, that this is what you’re doing now.
So you need to recognise what it is and then start to bring it to life and experiment with it. And then when you start to try and turn it into a business and start to try to find people who will pay you to do this… First of all, mention it to the people you already know, and then start to connect with other businesses and all the things we’ve ever talked about.
By talking to businesses, by talking to people, you will then start to explore different ways that you’re able to help them and that’s kind of key to making the business side of it a success. Yes, there’s something that you are passionate about and that you enjoy doing, but how does it help somebody else? Because once you’ve found that, that’s where people are then going to give you money to do it.
[00:12:39] – Frankie
So we’ve talked about her looking at the things she does enjoy about her job and using that as a means to work out what it is she wants to do. But also I think a lot of the clarity that you get when you finally find the thing, comes from having done a lot of things that you really do not enjoy whatsoever. I guess it’s a bit of like, you know, it comes with experience, it comes with age.
Like you do a tonne of different types of jobs and different types of things and you get a sense of what you find deeply, deeply dull and doesn’t light you up. And you may not know what exactly does, but it’s useful to be able to say, “I know I don’t want to do things with numbers. I’m not an Excel kind of person” or whatever it is. You learn as much about what it is you want to do from the things you hate, as well as the things you enjoy.
[00:13:24] – Steve
Do you know, this reminds me of an episode of Being Freelance where I spoke to a children’s illustrator and author called Maddie Frost from the States. She was a teacher, and she was, like, stuck in a rut. Her husband, one night, over wine, just said to her, “what is it you really want to do?”
[00:13:43] – Frankie
Big questions. Yeah.
[00:13:45] – Steve
And then they just sat there and discussed it. It became clear… “Well, I want to illustrate children’s books”. Now, okay, not all of us might have that clear answer, but if your partner sits there and thinks, what is it that you want to be doing? Like, in two years time or five years time, and then you can start to figure out how to get there.
[00:14:02] – Frankie
That’s a really nice anecdote in that…. well, A, she’s got Tom looking out for her, clearly! He sounds like a very good partner that wants her to be happy. And B, taking time to reflect on what you’re doing — a bit like when you’re running your own business and you’re just like, you know, churning through, doing the things — when you’re going to the day job every day that you don’t necessarily like, when do you have the time or the energy to ever think about what it is you want to do or to make a plan? So, yeah, like making some time to sit down with that wine, talking it through and giving her the space. She might not have the answers, but to just consider it, consider the things that she enjoys.
[00:14:38] – Steve
Maddie Frost did actually phone her boss and resign that same night with the wine.
[00:14:45] – Frankie
Oh, wow. Really? Such a good story!
[00:14:48] – Steve
She had a month’s notice, but in that month, as you say, having a hard end, she put her all into trying to find an agent and sort of making it a reality.
Now there’s a caveat. Like, I don’t know their situation. Maybe they could rely on the income from her husband’s salary? Clearly, you can’t just chuck in your notice, right?
[00:15:10] – Frankie
[00:15:11] – Steve
[00:15:14] – Frankie
I also think it’s worth saying that, I don’t know… I feel like maybe it’s an age thing or a generational thing, but there’s a lot of this chat about finding the thing at all, right? About finding your vocational calling in life.
But don’t allow the pressure of finding ‘the thing’ stop you from making a change because you don’t feel like that’s the thing you want to do forever and ever and ever. Because you may not necessarily do that forever and ever and ever, but maybe it’s going to serve you and make you happy now, at this point in your life, and if that changes in five or ten years time, that’s okay. And if you want to go back to an employed job in five or ten years time, that’s also okay.
[00:15:54] – Steve
Yeah, you know, it’s interesting you say about the employed job, because I think that’s worth bearing in mind here. Your other half, Tom, can explore these creative avenues if that’s what they want to do, on the side, but it doesn’t mean they have to become self-employed. It doesn’t mean that it’s right for everyone.
[00:16:11] – Frankie
[00:16:13] – Steve
But by exploring it on the side and gaining experience, that could then create something that can open the door to go and work in a different company doing the same thing. So, yeah, it doesn’t have to be about self-employment. It’s more about just doing something different.
[00:16:34] – Steve
I worry sometimes about hobbies being turned into businesses. Like hobbies have a role to play in our life. That creativity, that passion, that has something that doesn’t necessarily have to be turned into a business. So it might be that your other half simply needs a new job. Maybe they just don’t like that job and they can get a different job, but one that gives them the time to explore their hobbies, for example, in a better way. Not all hobbies have to be turned into businesses.
[00:17:04] – Frankie
I think we’re also saying that — and maybe I’m sounding a bit jaded? — but there is quite a lot of like smoke and mirrors in the creative community about making money and how much money people are making, blah, blah, blah. Like a lot of creatives I know, if you go to their Instagram page, they might come across as like all they do is make that thing and sell it. But in reality they’ve got a part-time job, they’ve got another income stream or something else.
[00:17:28] – Steve
[00:17:28] – Frankie
While I want Tom’s other half to jump fully into it and be able to make it sustainable, that would be amazing. In reality, a lot of creators don’t work in that way and are juggling. They’ve got a portfolio career and are doing a few different things that make money in different ways.
I guess what I’m saying is don’t take everyone at face value just because somebody who looks deeply successful and that’s all they do, that isn’t necessarily what’s going on behind the scenes, financially and businesswise. And I guess also don’t be afraid to do a few things for a while to make whatever it is you want to happen, happen.
[00:18:05] – Steve
Yeah. Start with the wine, Tom. Start with that conversation.
[00:18:09] – Frankie
Start with the wine.
[00:18:11] – Steve
[00:18:11] – Frankie
Not start with your why — start with the wine.
[00:18:16] – Steve
Oh my God. There is a book in the making.
[00:18:19] – Frankie
Mate, that’s a t-shirt for sure.