I’ve got a problem: my business has become my life.
Of course, this is a common problem for small business owners. When I had my own photography studio, my business was pretty much my life, too.
But the Women’s Theatre Festival is no longer safely categorized as a “small business,” and since it’s a 501c3, I don’t own it anymore; the board does. Plus, it’s kind of huge.
This year, we will have:
5 mainstage productions
24 staged readings
4 large fundraisers
1 theatre camp for kids
1 women’s theatre conference
2 devised works
1 year-long script-reading club
Various special access events for VIP members
Partnerships w/ Burning Coal, Seed Art Share, and the Carolina Ballet
We’ve also applied for three grants so far, a process which includes writing, researching, proof-reading, media-gathering and submission.
In addition, we’ve switched to paying most of our workers; a huge change from being a volunteer organization. The stipends are small, but it’s a start.
This doesn’t even take into account our vast membership program, our training and selection process for directors, our graphic design and playbill creation, our newly upgraded accessibility program, or our merchandise/swag, all of which must be created, managed, tweaked, reinvented, monitored, advertised, and paid for.
Exhausting, right? Yup, even for the phenomenal team of women and allies that we have assembled, and it's not all I do; I still work full-time at Shaw University as a Writing Instructor. I wind up working from 9:00am-Midnight most days on one job or the other.
The thing that takes up the most of my time, though, is not the actual work involved in making all of these things happen. It’s Facebook.
Now, Artistic Directors of large theatres like Vivienne Benesch and Ira David Wood III do have Facebook accounts, but they either don’t use them for business, or they are on there infrequently. Vivienne’s last post was February 11th, for example. Ira can’t be “friends” with you, because he has 5,000 friends already.
It turns out they have the right idea. Here's why:
1. Facebook messages reach me any hour of the day or night. This means that I never get to be off work, because when the phone dings, I have to check it. People expect instant service. They need answers to their questions. And they can see when I’m online, so if I don’t answer them, they know that they’re being ignored.
2. The people contacting me aren’t just clients, customers, and strangers, they’re my friends. The line between being an Artistic Director and a friend is already a tough one. As a friend, I know who wants which role. I know who hasn’t been cast in a year. I know who’s depressed, who’s getting divorced, who’s pregnant, who’s sick, who gossips, and who’s dating. As an Artistic Director, who casts/hires people, I’m not supposed to take any of that into account. It is, in fact, illegal in some cases.
3. Individuals always think they are the exception. Everyone does this, it’s a part of human nature. But every time we announce things, I have 10-15 people contact me personally who ask for things to be different. If they do that via email, I can forward it to the person who’s in charge of the event. If they do it via FB, I have to answer it myself. I spend 2-3 hours a day answering people’s business questions on FB.
Being constantly on-call for three years has taken its toll on my health, relationships, and time management.
I need to be a better partner, mom, daughter, activist, artist, and individual.
So, I’m going to try a new system.
I’m deleting FB and FB messenger from my phone. Instant access to me will be restricted to text, and I don’t share that number with people often. I’ll only check FB on computers.
If you FB message me about work, I’ll gently redirect you to email me about it instead with a form response like this. “Thanks for asking! I process WTF requests better via email. Would you please email that question to email@example.com?” If this happens too often, I’ll close down my FB account entirely.
I’ve separated my personal email from the info@ email, and from now on, I’ll forward any WTF emails I get personally to the info@ address without reading them first. The reason for this is that half the time, the emails I get aren’t even for me! They’re for our marketing director, our managing director, the person in charge of volunteering, the person in charge of fundraising. None of these people are me, but I wind up sorting through about 30 emails per day.
Of course, making this transition will be tough, and I am anxious about it. I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t care. The problem is actually the opposite: I care so much, that when you contact me, I don’t feel ok until I can fix your problem. This means that I feel not ok almost 100% of the time. That’s not good for me or WTF, in the long run.
So! All this seems complicated, and it is, for me. For you, it’s simple!
When you need me for business, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Various people check this many times a day! You will get a timely reply.
You can also FB message the business itself through our Women’s Theatre Festival FB page, instead of messaging me personally! This is a good answer if you need a fast response.
Thanks for being understanding as I make this difficult transition.