I’ve had a few weeks of failing things. Failing doesn’t feel good. I felt down, frustrated and angry at myself. But failing is what we need to improve and to make progress in our lives.

If we don’t get knocked down a few times to learn how to brush ourselves down and bounce back, we’ll never build up any resilience.

I had a domino effect of failures, starting with taking on new work at the start of November to make 3 YouTube videos a week for Riverside.fm. I was already pressed for time working my full-time job, producing the Indie Bites podcast and other client work for Striqo. But I thought with a bit of time management I could pull off making these videos. The money was good and it was going to help me pay off some of the credit card debt I’d built up over the past few months.

"That shouldn’t be a problem"

I’m living in my own flat alone, working remotely, and with a ton of time on my hands, so I figured it wouldn’t be a problem. Short term gain for long term gain, right? I was wrong.

As with any new project I started off with great enthusiasm and energy; going above and beyond what I thought should have been expected. It was good, but they wanted a little more each time. I started timing how long each video was taking me and how long each section was taking me using Rich Palmer’s Timo. If I could get efficient enough with how I was producing the videos, it could turn out to be profitable and I could schedule in the time for each section.

What went wrong

What I didn’t account for is the monumental crash in motivation for doing work you’ve undersold yourself for and as a result, working 100-hour weeks. I kept telling myself to push through, it’s just a couple of videos.

I was open and up front with Riverside, telling them that I was struggling to get the videos done to the level they wanted, with the amount of time we had. We tried a few different things to make it work; reducing the amount of videos, them writing the scripts for me (which never materialised) and upping the rate.

Still, writing a 1,000 word script, setting up the gear, shooting, editing, animating, subtitling, designing a thumbnail, writing the descriptions and publishing turned out to be too much, 3 times a week. If I’m being honest, I thought this was all possible for the amount I was charging and with the time I had. I wouldn’t have agreed to do the work otherwise.

What I realised, however, is making YouTube videos for a client is very different to making YouTube videos for my own channel. For my own videos I was able to fully control the output, I could do a rough script and the only person that needed to be happy with me. With client work, there is multiple rounds of revisions and an approval process to go through for each.

Just a few months ago I tweeted this;

Maybe I was a fool to think that I'd have no problem doing videos for clients again.

Cutting it off

After a couple of weeks of JUST about getting 2 videos out a week, I was really struggling to get the work done. I was resentful at the amount of time it was taking away from my other projects and my downtime. Every time I sat down to write a script or edit a video, I didn’t want to do it. I’d get stressed out and generally feel like shit when I even thought about the prospect of making another YouTube video.

I made the decision to cut it off on Thursday, after publishing just 6 videos in 4 weeks (against the 12 we initially agreed). It was my fault for not being aware of the amount of time the work would take me and I certainly didn’t realise how much my motivation would be impacted.

Knock on effects

I  mentioned it was a domino effect of failures. The amount of time and headspace the Riverside work was taking up meant that I had no time to spend on my podcast, Indie Bites, which had started showing some encouraging signs of growth. Having initially decided to do 8 episodes a month, I had only published 2 during this month.

My day job wasn’t as productive because I was constantly thinking about the additional work I had to do when I finished.

I didn’t have time to cook because I needed to make videos, so I was being more unhealthy.

I was trying to fit in down down-time but always felt guilty when I did.

All of this compounded for the worst side-effect of them all - my mood / mental health. When I was speaking with my family I was constantly angry and stressed, to the point where it was causing them stress too. I wasn’t pleasant to be around and I was just pissing people off.

None of this was worth it for the pay off.

The impact of the lockdown

I do think this all came at bad time too. In the UK, we went into lockdown at the start of November. Again, I didn’t think much of this because I work remotely, but there were 3 things I really missed out on that I didn’t realise had such an impact:

  • Gym
  • Tennis
  • Haircut

It turns out going to the gym sets me out for a positive start to the day and playing tennis is my outlet. When I didn’t have any scheduled exercise, I didn’t do any. I tried to go out for a few bike rides and walks, but just got bored, so I was inside 23 hours a day - I don’t think that’s good for anyone’s mental health.

Oh and my hair was just pissing me off. Haircut on the 3rd of December was a huge morale boost.

Black Friday fail

In the middle of all of this I thought I’d try and perk myself up by selling a bunch of my leather wallets. Get a few hits of dopamine from Shopify (honestly I put my phone on loud to get the ka-ching notification) and be back on my way making the YouTube videos.

I thought I’ll whack a sale on my site, tweet about it a few times and watch the money roll in. It didn’t.

I set myself a goal of making 1 sale on Black Friday. I made 0.

I had about 150 people visit the site, which isn’t too bad, but didn’t get any of those dopamine inducing Shopify notifications. Well, I did get one the day before when I tweeted it (thanks PT) and at about 1:30am the day after with my first sale from Instagram ?

So not all bad, I guess. Next time I’m going to do a lot more prep.

Learning from the failures

At the start of the article I said we need failures to learn from and to make progress. I’ve learnt a lot of things over the past 4 weeks.

Say no to things / stop saying yes to things
I don’t have a problem saying no to people, but I usually say it at the wrong time. For instance, I should have said no at the start to doing the YouTube videos but instead I said no to their amendments because I didn’t agree that they were worthwhile. I should probably get better at that.

Value your work properly
One of the biggest problems here was the price I was charging for the videos. I won’t mention it on here, but if you DM me I might tell you. My good friend David Miranda absolutely berated me when I told him how much I was charging. I told him “No, honestly it’s fine it’s all about the big picture as the money compounds”. He was absolutely right. I know that I could have charged 3x the amount that I did, but I believed in the company and knew the current value of the work I was doing (not the future value).

Chasing money is not always a good thing
I agreed to put this extra strain on myself because the money I would earn in the long run would be helpful. But that blinkered notion that money would make things better is wrong because I didn’t realise the impact on my mental health it would have. Good mental health > money.

Getting on with it isn’t always possible and don’t be too hard on yourself
During the past month I kept telling myself to just ‘get on with it’. ‘Get the work done and stop being lazy’. I got more and more frustrated each time I was telling myself that but it didn’t achieve anything. Be kinder to yourself.

Take care of your mental health
At the end of the day I had to put this first. After many conversations with people about what I should do, stepping back from the work that was putting so much strain on me, despite the money, was the best thing to do.

Now, I feel fucking great.

In other news

My favourite section of the blog! I’ve had a bumper week actually because in my new found freedom I spent 2 hours last night reading through a bunch of email newsletters, including 5 editions of Dense Discovery (it was euphoric).

  • Cycling brand Rapha have this extremely aesthetic magazine called Mondial that is currently on sale for £2 a go. I picked up 3 of them because they are just do cool.
  • I started watching Peaky Blinders because I love having a good TV series on the go. Now I go around talking in a Brummie accent saying “I’m James ‘fucking’ McKinven”. You should try it.
  • I borrowed mum’s Kindle because I wanted to read more and, my word, why have I never used a Kindle before? This thing is awesome. So small, so cute, so useable.
  • The Indie Bites site got featured on the showcase of Super.so’s new website. Super is what I use to turn my Notion page into a website, and it’s really cool.
  • I’ve been trying to learn all about e-commerce to sell some leather wallets (which has currently taken over my studio) so this podcast from Eric Bandholz (CEO Beardbrand) has been an excellent dishwashing companion.
  • Also in my quest to sell leather wallets, I found this cool brand called Craft and Lore. I love their aesthetic and brand, so much so I even bought a couple of their wallets on Black Friday. I must be one of the only people who makes their own wallets, but uses someone else’s ??‍♂️