Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Burnout and the sole trader

I am spending most of my blogging time at my new poliblog Loaded Dogma, as well as the exhumed FanFooty blog, but this comment I made on Renai LeMay's Delimiter blog entry on him shuttering his paywalled Delimiter 2.0 project is suitable for reproduction here:
Renai, I’m sorry to hear that you have had to press the pause button. 
As a person in a somewhat similar position to you in a slightly different field, I can sympathise with the constant battle with burnout. You have ideas for new things and want to try them out, but there’s only one of you. As your life accretes commitments and relationships, it seems like there’s never enough hours in the day to get to everything you want to do. You launch things and then can’t do them justice because other events intervene. Burnout is the greatest foe of the sole trader. 
The solution which would seem obvious to those looking in from the outside would be to hire people to grow the business so it’s not just reliant on you. This is harder to do than it sounds, though. Bringing someone else in to inhabit the cocoon-like home that your business has become is emotionally difficult. I have had problems with it because I don’t want to exploit young employees and burn them out on my watch, because I had the experience of getting burned out working on someone else’s publication when I was that age - not sure if you’ve gone through the same process. Nevertheless, expansion through payroll is probably the right thing to do. I am only following my own advice on this very slowly, mind you. 
One of the early lessons I learned in my business is that you have to be constantly looking out for the trap of making the entire business about you and your knowledge base, such that it wouldn’t operate without you. Apart from the dangerous burnout factor, letting yourself fall into this hole means that you can’t sell your business and get out. Reducing it to repeatable processes that can be done by any competent journo who is parachuted in by a prospective buyer is the path to an eventual exit. I’m not there yet, and I’m guessing you’re not either, but IMO that’s the goal we should all strive for.
 I brought in Ben Gogos last year to help me out with the FanFooty liveblogging, which has been an excellent move from my perspective, and he is helping to recruit more bloggers to round out the stable so that I can concentrate on other things. My life has become more complicated over the last year with a wife, two mortgages and our first baby due in July with another one planned soon after, so it was necessary to step back from the weekly grind. The Mr Football project is currently down the pecking order, as is the BigDoor gamification platform which I have implemented on FanFooty but not done enough with.

Like Renai, I'd love there to be at least three of me so I could get to all I want to do. Don't even talk to me about my dreams of doing an Australian HuffPo, or an Australian SBNation - heck, anything Vox Media related. Well, on that last one maybe I'll explore some new realms this year. I'm just glad I'm not in the sort of trouble that Cricinfo and Cricbuzz are in.


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