3 Things I've Learned as an Entrepreneur (My Story)

Let me take you back to Spring of 2015...

After months of interviews and call-backs, I was seconds away from accepting a full-time associate producer position at the largest production company in town. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to launch my career, and I really loved the people I would be working with. I had been selected from hundreds of qualified applicants, and THIS was the conference call to iron out the details of starting date and salary.

My heart started racing, but not in a good way. There was something unsettled in me, and I had to speak up.

Suddenly, I heard myself say, "I'm sorry, but I am not able to accept this position."

What! It took me a minute to process what I had just said, and what that would mean for me and my soon-to-be husband just days before our wedding. But just as I exhaled those words, I felt a deep relief and confidence in the decision. I just knew I could not accept the job, even though I didn't have the "why" figured out yet.

In the months prior to that fatal phone call, I held very lightly to Sherwood Media, hoping it would just "get me through" till I found a job that I loved.

By choosing to turn down "the perfect job," I was also choosing to get serious as an entrepreneur, and choosing to commit to running Sherwood Media for the long-haul.

My husband and I prayed and believed that this business would be a blessing to us, not a burden.

There was no way I could have known on that last phone call the sheer amount of LIFE that we would experience in the months and years to come. We've planned a wedding, gotten married, moved, had a baby, faced difficulties and loss in our extended families, lost a pregnancy, bought a house, and am now carrying another pregnancy. And yes, through all of those moments, just as God promised, Sherwood Media has been a blessing.

Has running a business always been easy? No.

Have I made mistakes along the way? You betcha.

Has my family made sacrifices to invest in Sherwood Media? Oh yeah.

The great news is, when hard times come, you as a business owner can make the call - what needs to get put on hold, what needs more time, what should we do about x, y, z?

If you're a business owner or thinking about making the leap, I'd love to share with you some of the keys that have helped me establish a sustainable business model and avoid burnout or bankruptcy.

3 things I’ve learned as an entrepreneur

1. ESTABLISH YOUR PRIORITIES

I knew that my business would be a blessing, but I didn’t know how to define success. Did I need to grow enough to have a studio space and full-time employees? Did I need to rise to the top of the industry or take on 6-figure projects? What about my family? What about my own health?

I sat down to coffee with a business mentor who helped me gain clarity on what Sherwood Media could be. He said, “There are two ways of looking at your business - you could serve your business, or your business could serve you.”

Choosing to have a business that serves me has helped me SO MUCH in establishing healthy boundaries for my work. When I have multiple projects going on and deadlines to meet, I have the flexibility to hire a sitter so I can focus on getting things done. When I know I’ll need time off for travel or maternity, I can schedule projects and deadlines around those things to give me a break.

Striking this balance/flow hasn't always been easy for me. I've been there, pregnant and in the middle of an interview, running out of the room for a bathroom to be sick in. I've been there, in the hospital room hours after giving birth, prepping footage to hand off to another editor. I've been there, responding to emails and giving project updates from my phone while my baby was sick in the hospital. Even in those moments, my business has been a blessing.

2. REMEMBER YOUR STRENGTHS (AND WEAKNESSES)

When deciding whether or not to take on a project, I've learned not to automatically say "yes" to a project that isn't a great fit. Ask yourself - do you understand what the client is expecting, and can you confidently deliver what they want?

Sometimes what the client may want is far above and beyond the scope of what you can deliver. When this has happened to me, I usually refer them to a larger production company I know personally, or immediately find subcontractors to hire to make this happen. Taking on too many really challenging projects can quickly lead to burnout and frustrated clients.

Alternatively, sometimes the client has much lower standards than what you feel comfortable putting your name on. Usually their budget will reflect this. But even if they are willing to pay you top dollar for your work, a client without a clear vision or goals could very easily drain your energy and creativity. Again, knowing your strengths and taking on projects that you can execute well will save you a lot of frustration/headache.

It's also really important to remember what specific strengths and expertise you offer to your clients as you scroll social media and keep tabs on the competition. I've often caught myself wishing for the types of projects I see larger companies working on from Instagram, wondering if I'm not doing enough because I don't usually work with crews of 20+ people, incredible cameras and gear, and unfathomable budgets.

Is my business a blessing? Is my family well-cared for? Am I creating quality content for my clients? THEN I'M DOING ENOUGH.

3. SHOW UP WELL

One of my biggest personal challenges I’m working to overcome is the art of showing up well. By that I mean stepping confidently into a space and owning my creativity and decisions, rather than depending on the client to generate ideas, or being afraid to speak up when something wasn’t working. They call this “directing.”

This used to terrify me, because it requires vulnerability. It requires sticking to my instincts and owning my decisions, whether they succeed or fall flat.

But here’s the thing - the more I practice doing this, the more confidence I have in my work, and the better the projects turn out. It may seem like a big deal to stop the camera and ask the speaker to say something differently, or adjust lighting to fix a glare, but the little things add up and make a big difference.

My clients hire me because I have opinions, style and expertise that they trust me to bring to set.

The concept of showing up well applies to so many other areas - how I dress, how I write email, how I interact with my husband and my daughter, and how I prepare a rough cut that is as close to perfect as I can make it.

When I doubt myself or am tempted to take shortcuts on a project, I remember that God has given me this business as a blessing, and that I am stewarding the gifts that He has given me. He is the one who gives me the strength I need, the creativity and inspiration, and even the connections to clients and friends to keep me in business.

Psalm 121: 1-2
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
   where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
   the Maker of heaven and earth.

What have you learned as an entrepreneur? I’d love to hear more about your story in the comments below. If my story encouraged you, please share it with your friends and colleagues!

If you are interested in working with me to create meaningful video content for your business, connect with me here.