For a long time now, I’ve been a one woman show. Last week, after a number of interviews, I selected three lucky (or unlucky) applicants to become part of a team. This wasn’t exactly the plan, but it’s turned out better than I’d hoped, and is already helping my work in surprising ways.
A few weeks ago I decided to get an assistant. It was an idea I’d been toying with for months, but always thought that it wouldn’t be worth it, that I wouldn’t be able to offer them enough or that they’d be twiddling their thumbs thinking, ‘so when do we actually get on with stuff?’ And this is all down to my terrible habit of never delegating.
I know it’s bad, but in the past it’s been quite useful doing everything myself. No emails going back and forth, no mix up over documents, no wondering if something would actually get done. I only had to rely on myself, and on my bad days I usually just needed a strong cup of tea in order to get on with things.
But last month there was a (sort of) turning point. It wasn’t dramatic, it wasn’t huge, it was barely even noticeable. I looked at my ultimate to do list – which is a list of absolutely everything I have to do – and realised that about 40% of it were tasks I didn’t want to do. It wasn’t that I just couldn’t be bothered with it, the tasks seemed beyond boring to me. Kind of like when you have homework for your least favourite subject at school. For me, it was a toss up between maths and chemistry. I knew I belonged in the arts, and the entire subjects were entirely wasted on me. 40% of my to do list felt exactly the same. It was all research, or endlessly chasing up people/companies/general emails. It was the last thing I wanted to be doing and I realised that if I did it, I would do it so badly that it would affect the people and productions I was doing it for.
So I put out an ad, and was pretty surprised by the number of responses I got. I think it must have been because the example tasks I listed were fairly vague or general, and I got a wide variety of people applying for the post. I had filmmakers and non-filmmakers alike, some working in events, some in writing, some straight out of uni with no idea of what they wanted to do other than ‘get into films’. It was great to talk to so many different and interesting people.
After a couple of weeks, I made a shortlist. I narrowed it down to five, and then to three, and then I got stuck. Each of the three had their own skill sets, their own training, and their own goals of where they wanted to end up. As I had quite a diverse list of tasks that I needed my assistant to do, I struggled to pick which one would be best suited to all of the tasks. Frustrated, I left my shortlist for a couple of days.
With a clearer head, I looked at my list again and suddenly though, (in a possible moment of madness), ‘why can’t I hire all three of them?’ I realised that there was no reason why I couldn’t, and it would be a lot better than trying to pick just one.
I’m starting to sound like a girl born with a silver spoon in her mouth, or whatever the producer’s-assistant-equivalent is, but it was honestly the best option. With three team members I could tailor the jobs to more specifically suit them, and I’d get a more varied list of things done. It also meant I could explore new avenues that I hadn’t had the time, training or sometimes willingness to venture down. What had started out as me maintaining my one woman show with an assistant doing some ad hoc research for me had now become a proper, talented and exciting team!
What was more surprising was my happiness in delegating tasks to them. I think I’ve gotten to a point where I know what I’m best at, and by delegating other stuff I can focus on what I’m best at. Overall, that benefits everyone.
So we all know I love a notebook. I have bought new notebooks on even the slightest whims. Fun fact: during a moment of Meghan Markle-inspired creativity, I decided I would start a calligraphy business. I have an entire notebook for that with a couple of pages of it with some interesting (terrible) lines in silver ink, and nothing else.
Moving on, I was so excited by my new team that I immediately bought a new notebook for the whole thing. Previously, all of my company stuff went into my general work notebook, but I now had three other people to coordinate. It was a big leap, and one I wasn’t really prepared for. My notebook for this has a monthly calendar at the beginning, which is turning out to be invaluable. I keep track of the deadlines I set for each tasks, when everyone is away, when we have calls or meetings planned – it’s a great way of looking purely at my team’s future plans.
Because I also do ad hoc on other projects, the new team (and notebook) has renewed my inspiration and excitement for my own company and really developing that into what it already is when I dream about it during boring train journeys.
So what’s the end result? One assistant who’s passionate about scriptwriting but also has production experience, one who is passionate about photography but working in marketing and one who studied Korean, worked on the Winter Olympics and now wants to get into filmmaking. Each has their own niche, and I’ve already got tasks for them that are what they’re most interested in. I’ve also got a lot more done!
Thanks and welcome to Emma, James and Hannah!