Tell Julia Makin she can’t do something and she’ll not only make it a point to prove you wrong, she’ll do it in high heels just to make sure the point isn’t lost on you.
She’s a hilarious speaker I first saw in action at Soar Con, delighting the audience of female entrepreneurs with dad jokes, INXS lyrics and touching insight into her own journey, and the collective experience, of running a business. I sat down with Julia Makin for a (virtual, coffee-free) coffee date for a second time this week (because sometimes epic fails happen) and even though I’ve heard her favourite quote a few times now, every time I talk to her I find more funny, relatable and real truths in her story.
Zoe: So, who are you and what do you do?
Julia: My name’s Julia Makin. I’m a digital marketing superhero that runs a digital marketing agency called Vent2Me, as well as an online e-course platform where we do a ten week digital marketing superhero course. My philosophy is that I’m here to save the day when it comes to websites, social media, SEO, and anything really digital or marketing related.
I believe that business owners should do what they do best, and have someone else like myself or another agency helping them to become the market leaders in their industry.
Definitely, I think a lot of people get into business doing what they love to do, whether that’s something like making something like jewelry, and then the marketing side is just too big, it’s just too much.
Yes, and it’s not really that hard to learn. I’m more than happy for business owners to do it themselves but they need to learn the principles. It’s like when I started my business – I’m not good at bookkeeping, I’m not good with accounting, and I knew early on that I needed to get that side outsourced, because it would take me say an hour to do one invoice whereas it would take a bookkeeper two seconds.
I think business owner’s forget their time is worth something. You know, we all want to do everything, but you need to do what you can do best, and do the right things. Because if I’m spending an hour doing invoicing, I’m not doing work for a client, I’m not doing business development, and that’s what I try to explain to business owners.
Absolutely. So I know a bit about your story about how you started your business, but I think it’s a very interesting story, so what did ignite the spark in you to start your business?
What ignited the spark was a previous employer who was the biggest – and I’ll keep it G rated – the biggest jerk I’ve ever met in my life. Short man complex, (nothing against short people!) but he had the biggest short man complex. He was a real bully, not necessarily to me, but to other staff members. He thought he knew everything, thought he was superior. I wouldn’t say he was anti-women, but he would talk about how women have emotional issues and can’t run businesses, and this and that, and it was just a very low moral working environment.
I didn’t like the way he treated staff and I would often retaliate by wearing really high heels, all that sort of stuff that I knew would annoy him, and he would constantly tell me how lucky I was to have this job, how being a female I wouldn’t be able to run a business, you’re too emotional, you’re too this, you’re too that.
What he didn’t realise is that when someone tells me I can’t do something, I do the opposite. I will go out of my way to prove them wrong. I’d always in the back of my mind thought you know, I’m going to run a business, I knew I was going to, and he kind of gave me the spark to go, “You know what, I either do it now or I don’t do it.”
So I left, and from there was able to grow the business. I was really lucky that as soon as I’d decided to run the business people started asking me, “can you help us with this website, can you do this and can you do that” so it was quite an organic progression. It was definitely hard, I underestimated how hard it would be. But last year when a UK-based publication asked me to write the opening chapter for a book that they were working on about how to run a business, I obviously threw my hand up, freaked out about it, and did it, and then sent him a copy, signed it and inside I wrote, “I thought this might help you with your business“.
Oh my god, that is so good.
I’m cheeky, if you can’t tell!
Where do you stand on the work/life balance?
In all honesty, it’s the hardest thing to get right. I feel constant guilt, like last week I had off because of my birthday and we went away and saw pandas at the zoo and stuff, it was brilliant, but I feel constant guilt if I’m not working. And then if you are working you feel guilt because you should be spending time with friends, family, etc.
How I’ve dealt with it is that I’ve explained to my husband and my friends, that my business is my baby. My business is the thing that makes me so happy and inspired and excited about life, and so there are times that I’m going to get carried away, you won’t see me for three weeks, but it’s something that I need to do. A lot of my self-worth is tied in with my business which I think is a lot like what happens with other business owners. So I get sad if I don’t get a client job, and I think, you know, “What did I do wrong?“.
But I have learnt now that I’m the ripe old age of 30 to just let go a bit, to make sure my husband feels a priority, make sure my friends feel that they are a priority and so forth.
And doing to-do lists! I like to think I can do probably two days of work in one day. I feel like the Energizer bunny sometimes and I have found that writing down a to-do list first thing in the morning makes me realise how unachievable some of stuff was that I wanted to get done.
I had a client, her name’s Kara, who just said to me that you know, it’s your business, you need to run it your way. And she said for her, she’ll block out a whole Monday for example and not work that day, so I’ve started to kind of do that to get that work/life balance, because I have crashed before and it’s not a great feeling.
Yeah, burnout is massive. For me, it can be crippling sometimes.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
On that kind of guilt, that’s another thing that a lot of people feel, you wrote a blog post last year and you spoke about that guilt and anxiety. I would love to know your thoughts on, and maybe also how it’s changed since because that was about six months ago, about how you kind of conquer those moments, those stifling moments of doubt.
That blog post, I was so blown away by the amount of feedback and interest and the amount of people who came and told me they felt the same way. You know, because I’ve always felt like a round peg in a square hole, which I know can freak people out because they say “Oh, you can talk to anyone!”.
And for so long I was so unhappy with who I’d become, how I was, how I felt, how I looked, and I needed to write that down to really articulate what I wasn’t happy with about myself.
As a business owner, you need to realise that a lot of what goes wrong or goes right is your, is your doing, and I really needed to articulate and get it down on paper because 2016 was a really, really tough year, emotionally, physically, mentally, I suffered from burnout and so forth, and I realised that
the direction I was going in wasn’t the direction that was going to make me happy.
I’ve always been that, you know, you get to this level, and then you want go here, and then you want to go there, and I realised that the point of running the business was to help business owners succeed with their marketing, but I’d lost that. I’d lost that essence. Instead I thought, “Okay, I’ve got this sized client, now I want to get the next client,” and I started to become someone that I didn’t like. So that post, putting it out there, eating a lot of ice-cream, chocolate, crying over it, really helped me realise what was important and the one thing that I realised I didn’t do was that I didn’t put enough effort or emphasis on physical health.
You know, I would be working say 12, 14 hour days and not leave the house. And if I did go outside it was like I was a mole seeing the sunlight for the first time. And it started to make me feel a bit bitter.
I realised that a business owner like your Richard Bransons and so forth,
why they look like they have it all is because they prioritise their physical health.
I read somewhere that Richard Branson, it doesn’t matter what time he goes to bed he’ll be up at 5 every morning going for walks.
So I went back to playing sport. I play about 4 games of basketball a week and that’s my 40 minutes of just me, not thinking about anything else, getting my aggression out, my anger, hurt, etc, and that has really worked well for me. And I admire how you’re doing your runs and you’re putting your physical health first. I’m never going to be a stick and I don’t want to be a stick, I’m happy being curvy, but I knew that what I was doing was not making me healthy or happy both mentally and physically.
So definitely physical exercise or just even going to the letterbox and going out and coming back is really important.
Yeah, it’s definitely all related: your exercise, nutrition, your mental health and then your business as well.
I’ve also been finding my runs to almost like meditative, because I’m just like, “Oh my god I want to die, I want to stop running!” that’s all I’m thinking about, so it’s really switching off.
Yeah, yeah, that’s the one thing with basketball, it’s exactly the same for me. It’s this weird kind of meditative moment, where you don’t have a care in the world besides that goal of running around and being in the moment, and
I’m never really in the moment, I’m always stepping two steps, three steps ahead, and it gets exhausting.
Yeah definitely. Well we’re almost out of time but I will let you get in your favourite quote. I’ve heard it a couple of times now!
And you’ll hear it another couple of times too!
I’m sure I will!
INXS are my all time favourite band. Aussie underdogs who took over the world, have had tragedy, have overcome all those sort of things. I hope to one day be able to meet Chris Murphy, Andrew Farriss, and so forth, I would totally lose myself if I did, but I am constantly inspired by their music and the one song in particular that really, really inspires me is Never Tear Us Apart.
There’s this line in here, in this song that says ‘We all have wings, but some of us don’t know why’, and I think it’s so true.
I’ll talk to a client, I’ll talk to some random person on the train, because I’m that kind of person, I’ll talk to friends, and I’m really good at always being able to pick out what’s great about them, but they don’t see it themselves. And I’m sure I do the same thing myself, I don’t see what my great benefits or features are and that song reminds me that we all have potential and that we need to go out and seize the day.
So whenever I’m feeling down, happy, or basically any moment in time, I will listen to Never Tear Us Apart by INXS just to get me that buzz back. I don’t drink coffee, so INXS I guess is my coffee.
I love it! So where can people find more Julia Makin?
People can find me at www.vent2me.com.au, or you can find me at www.digital-marketing-courses.com. I’m happy to provide business owners a free 30 minute business tune up session here. Basically in this session we talk about what your marketing gripes are, and we put together a strategy and recommendations as to what you need to do, how you can do them and how to roll it out.
And sometimes it’s good, I know even myself, just talking to someone who’s a bit removed from your business, because there might be something that’s really frustrating you that you can’t see the answer, and I find through these business tune up sessions, you kind of get that lightbulb moment, and there’s nothing more exciting than seeing someone just get that spark, and go, “Okay I’m going to do it now, I get it now!”
Awesome. Well, thank you so much!