Dave Gillen is one half of the dynamic duo that looks after Flying Solo’s forums (the other is Jayne Tancred who you can meet here).
Apart from being a super-nice guy and super funny, Dave Gillen also walks the soloist walk via his online marketing business The Consultant Killers where he helps clients with their content marketing, social media, SEO and Adwords (to name but a few). And given he has a smart marketing brain, he doesn’t spend his time in our forums idly! He actually considers it his secret weapon as it keeps him abreast of all the things that are particularly bothersome to small business owners.
With a young son and only 3.5 days a week to work, how does Dave fit everything in? Let’s find out. Here’s Dave!
Every Monday afternoon and every Wednesday are blanked out of my work-week. On Mondays my wife and I both take the afternoon off to spend some one-on-one time while our son is at day-care. We’ll go out for lunch together and maybe a walk or to the movies. Wednesdays I’m home with Lewis (he’s 4) and we try to get outdoors and hit some balls of some description and do some grocery shopping.
That leaves me with a 3.5 day work week, so I need to get up early!
My ideal wake up time is 4am – I find it easier to get up really early than just a bit early. I feel like my brain resists getting up early, but if it’s 4am it thinks something important must be going on (like we may have to escaping a burning house), so it kicks into action. But that urgency only lasts a few seconds, so if I don’t get up immediately I’m doomed to a 6:45 wake-up with the rest of the family.
We get Lewis off to day-care at 7:30 and I catch the train into the city. I used to work at home, but have found the structure of going to the office to be essential. I listen to podcasts on the trip.
Then it begins – the battle for focus. Like every service business I have to serve my clients and still find time for my own marketing. And within my own marketing there’s a list of tasks on the to-do list vying for my attention (SEO vs Social Media vs Blogging vs Advertising vs Email Marketing vs Direct Mail vs Networking vs Referrals). Having to continually make these decisions can be a huge source of mental friction, so I try to drastically limit my options. At any given time I focus on one marketing activity only, and I need a black and white set of tasks for clients. I’ve tried to juggle different strategies all at once but it’s never worked for me.
With my clients I still do a wide range of jobs myself, but I’m slowly bringing specialists on board to do the technical work as this allows me to spend more time on business growth and new opportunities for clients rather than the detailed stuff like keywords and code and proofreading.
I moderate the Flying Solo forums on Monday and Friday. It’s a valuable activity for me because I learn an awful lot about where people are struggling, and it’s a great place to find people to hire because the people who know what they’re talking about really stand out.
Knock off time is around 5:30 and make it home for dinner by 6:30.
Ideally I’d be in bed by 10 so I can get up early, but it’s usually later. Sometimes I start reading business or marketing articles and find it hard to stop. I think filling my head with inspiring strategies is my way of drowning out any worries I have for the next day, but I’m trying to quit because the truth is I need less ideas in my head, not more.
The biggest challenge I face in the average working week?
The battle for focus.
My mind wants to be filled with business ideas and 100 different marketing strategies at once. Although it’s more entertaining than repeating a single effective strategy over and over, it’s far less effective. I think it’s a mistake to expect every single thing I do to be fun, so I’m learning to love the repetitive actions that bring results.
The reality of being a soloist?
The fact that it involves more hours and more overtime than a normal job! So that’s a bit different to what I imagined.
What keeps me going?
Being on the soloist path feels like I’m sailing and navigating my own little boat. It may not compare to the comforts of a cruise liner at times, but the skills I’m building will ultimately give me more opportunities in life because I’ll have the ability to navigate outside the regular shipping lanes.