What It Means To Do The Work

A few Tuesdays ago I was Voxing back and forth with a friend while she was folding laundry.

“Are you not working today?” I asked her, LIKE AN ASSOLE.

What I meant was, “Is this conversation interrupting your focus?” 

But what I said was, “The things you’re doing aren’t important.”

Discounting the value of home activities is pretty much a given if you live in America. Even “empowered” women like me make the mistake of forgetting that these contributions are work, valued at a whopping $160k/year.

Women are no strangers to the conversation on invisible labor when it comes to the home domain, but we’re basically oblivious to it in the business domain. Dudes too. 

How many times do you feel completely depleted when you realize a week went by and your to-do list looks EXACTLY the same?

You worked the same hours. Enduring those shame-inducing life-coaching tropes about how you’ve confused important and urgent. When the reality is more like this:

Your to do list said: “Send email to list.”

Cool. You’ve got the email drafted, you just gotta send it out. NBD. 30 mins. Here’s what reality looks like:

Edit draft (1 hour).

Find all appropriate backlinks (30 mins).

Realize one of the links goes to a sales page, but it needs to be updated (split second).

Update sales page (3 hours because every change means you have to reformat the entire thing and have to check the browser AND mobile versions). Remember you also wanted to add a new testimonial (45 mins searching for the folder you saved and SWEAR you titled “testimonials”).

The “Buy Now” button doesn’t work (1-hour getting to the bottom of why). Your latest changes didn’t save (30 mins screaming FML).

Back to your ESP. FINALLY. But now you’re wondering if your subject line sucks, so you read about subject lines because even though you KNOW how to write them, you stopped trusting yourself (1 hour of Googling just to go back to your original subject line).

Realize no one can share this post to drive traffic to your site if it’s only in email and not on your blog (Split second). Open WordPress to create a new post, this will only take a minute since everything is already done (90 mins because you forgot you needed to choose a featured image, add categories, embed a form at the bottom, and come up with a headline).

HOW IS IT 4 PM ALREADY.

Wonder why you didn’t hire that VA. Search emails for what she’s been up to and what her rates are. Realize you would’ve had to do all this stuff yourself today anyway because you’re so last minute, there wouldn’t be much for her to do so nevermind (33 mins).

Email sent. (10 seconds).

Begin rest of to do list. 

Shit. Kid is home.

Dinner. Bath. Dishes. Bottles. Answer Emails. WHY IS IT 10PM. 

The end. 

Your entire day spent sending one GD email. 

We like to talk a big game about “doing the work,” but we don’t do a good job of valuing what it really looks like: tireless and thankless. Most days it feels like we’re going backward.

We value fun work: attending events, speaking at conferences, posting on Instagram, getting press. Work work, aka “The Work,” is different and it needs a formal definition, so we stop confusing the two:

The Work [thuh wurk] noun: A series of little seemingly-insignificant rage-inducing tasks that never end.

Like doing the laundry. You think you finished it, but is the laundry ever really done?

(Nope!)

We’re good at doing The Work when it comes to improving our craft, but when it comes to telling anyone about our work (or the administrative parts), we suck because we don’t register it as “The Work.”

The Things Getting In The Way of Your Craft Are Still The Work

When you turn pro, a lot of your time is spent doing things besides your writing or design or speaking or whatever your passion is. That’s why it sucks and that’s why most of us bail after a few years.

It’s also why you see so many people who are bad at their craft moving forward ahead of you. They’re doing the little things that take us away from our craft, but seem to grow audiences and sales (at the expense of their craft, hence the dilemma).

The invisible labor of being an entrepreneur is what takes talented people down.

People like us are combating decades of being told our job is to practice, study, specialize, do good work, and be the best at what we do.

Once you’re the best, so the story goes, the world will recognize it and then someone else will do all the administrative work of getting you gigs, building your audience, securing distribution, and making you wealthy.

Sit back, relax, enjoy the stardom, sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll. 😎🍾🥂💉💊

In fairness, the separation of church and state made sense. Being good at singing is not the same as being good at selling concert tickets. They’re different skills. But today it’s not so simple. Thanks to the demise of the gatekeepers, we now have to be both the creator and the promoter.

You Gotta Hustle, Bruh

Listen, I agree with you, hustle-bro-culture is annoying. Those douchebags deserve all the ridicule coming their way. But they got one thing right: Sometimes it is about putting in the hours.

Sometimes you can’t work “smart.”

Sometimes you spend 6 hours fighting with WordPress and you still need to promote the piece after.

And put the kid to bed and call your grandma and cook dinner and do the laundry and message 27 self-described “influencers” who make you want to punch your eyes out and reply to DMs and pitch editors and answer the 167 remaining emails in one of your 4 inboxes.

The work is never done.

Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s unfair. Yes, it’s mundane and, yes, it will almost always feel like a waste of your time.

If you value quality and craft this road is going to be difficult for you.

But for the love of all things holy, keep doing the work. The dumb shit you think you’re too good for. You are too good for it, SO GO BE GOOD AT IT.

It’s like being overqualified to be a barista. All the more reason to go crush it at being a barista.

Eventually, you’ll be able to hire it out (SOME of it), but at the end of the day, we are the ones responsible for getting ourselves noticed.

That’s what it means to do the work. You’re getting your ass in the chair to work on your craft AND you’re doing the mind-numbing work of outreach and admin when you’re not working on your craft.

And you do it like a GD professional.

In sweatpants.

Want to read more from Margo? Get on the list 👇🏼