Walking away from a good project brings up a lot of self-doubt and second-guessing. As a burgeoning entrepreneur launching my own business as a creative gift-wrapping consultant, I recently had to decide to give up one of my side projects.
The project in question was a blog called Dream Job TK (TK is editor's parlance for To Come, standing in for a fact or word in a manuscript that will be filled in later). It offered career advice to magazine editors—of which I was one—and was syndicated on a leading magazine industry website. For nearly five years, Dream Job TK was my thing. It was my self-branding and marketing strategy. It helped build my name and reputation as an editor in magazine publishing, and was a contributing factor in landing me at least one job that I know of.
And it was damn hard to let go of it. But after a few months without writing the blog, I now know that ending it was the right thing to do.
Letting go of a project you believe in is never easy. At some point, though, when you're trying to build a business, you need to make space for it. In order for your new venture to grow and become more than a hobby, you have to give up some of the other things in your life, even if you love them (or make good money from them).
Like many entrepreneurs starting out, I run my business part-time and still make most of my income from my day job. In my case, my day job is freelance editing and writing, which meant that the Dream Job TK blog was still relevant to me in some ways. However, as I transition away from being an editor and writer, and build my new business as a gift-wrapping consultant, Dream Job TK became less and less significant to my daily life, my career and my business objectives.
It took me two years to shut down Dream Job TK. Every time I decided that it was about time to end the blog, I would receive a heartfelt thank you from a reader or be introduced to someone new who would say, "I know you; you're the one who writes that editing career blog."
How do you turn your back on a really good idea?
Then something clicked. I was talking to another editor about Dream Job TK and he pointed out the obvious: Even though writing the blog might not be taking up that much of my time, it was still time that I could be spending on something else — like my new business. There are only so many hours in a week; what did I want to spend those hours on?
And he was right. Besides the ego stroke, what was writing Dream Job TK really doing for me anymore? After nine years as an editor, I already had a solid reputation and strong network in the magazine industry, so I didn't need the blog for that anymore. I was making very little money from it. And writing it had become more of a chore than a pleasure.
Dream Job TK may have been worthwhile and helpful to lots of other people, but it wasn't contributing to my life in any substantial way anymore. I was donating my time as charity to help other people with their careers at the expense of my new business. The blog was actually taking away from my life: it frustrated me, it took time and energy that I could spend on other things, and it wasn't contributing to my current business goals.
I finally gave myself permission to end it.
And I felt so much better when I did and, a few months later, I still feel good about the decision. I'm a little more focused, a little less stressed. Jettisoning a project that, while a valuable product, wasn't helping me reach my end gam was a very smart play, if I do say so myself. The time it has freed up is negligible, but more importantly, it has freed up brain space—I no longer have to come up with post topics and interview subjects. I can now dedicate that mental bandwidth to thinking about my company.
As I move forward with my business, I'm going to try to keep this lesson in mind when making plans and decisions. I will ask myself whether the project or initiative I'm planning, or work I've been offered directly, contributes to the growth or at least the maintenance, of my business. If not, I plan to say no.
Corinna vanGerwen is a creative gift-wrapping consultant, sole owner and only employee of her eponymous home-based startup, which provides gift-wrapping services, training and workshops, as well as packaging services for marketing and events.
Follow Corinna's journey of starting her own business