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Episode 093: Defining Your Own Success with Haylee Gaffin

January 18, 2022

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I'm  Amanda — simplicity-focused content marketing strategist.  I'm here to help you fit your marketing into your business.

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What does success mean? The question we've all asked ourselves at some point. Haylee Gaffin is here to help us define it for ourselves.

What does success mean?

A new year means a new year of blank Powersheets, a new list of goals to work towards, and a new year full of possibilities.

But do you ever wish you could keep this new year magic alive, well, all year?

I know that I have in the past. By the time March rolls around, I’m exhausted, worn out, and unsure why I’m even working towards the goals I set. Or, at least I used to be. Now, I’ve done something that my guest today is hear to share more about – redefining success.

I’m joined today by Haylee Gaffin – who is the owner of Gaffin creative, a photography studio and podcast production company for creative entrepreneurs. She helps entrepreneurs take their ideas and strategically convert them into business building podcasts through her podcast launch, production and strategy services.

I’m going to let my conversation with Haylee speak for itself, but just know that if you are falling into the trap of holding your success up beside what others call success – you aren’t alone. And it doesn’t have to stay that way.

You’re listening to episode 093 of the Chasing Simple podcast, and I’m your host – Amanda Warfield.


Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:


Haylee Gaffin is the owner of Gaffin Creative, a photography studio and podcast production company for creative entrepreneurs. She helps entrepreneurs take their ideas and strategically convert them into business building podcasts.

Haylee’s Instagram

Haylee’s Website


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Rather Read? – Here’s the Transcript!

*Just a heads up – the provided transcript is likely to not be 100% accurate.

A new year means a new year of blank Power Sheets, a new list of goals to work towards and a new year full of possibilities. But do you ever wish you could keep this new year magic alive? Well, all year I know that I have in the past. By the time March rolls around, I’m exhausted, worn out and unsure why I’m even working towards the goals that I set or at least I used to be.

Now I’ve done something that my guest today is here to share more about, redefining success. I’m joined today by Haylee Gaffin, who is the owner of Gaffin Creative, a photography studio and podcast production company for creative entrepreneurs. She helps entrepreneurs take their ideas and strategically convert them into business building podcasts through her podcast, launch production and strategy services. I’m going to let my conversation with Haylee speak for itself, but just know that if you’re falling into the trap of holding your success up beside what others might call a success, you aren’t alone. And it doesn’t have to stay that way. You’re listening to Episode 93 of the Chasing Simple Podcast. And I’m your host, Amanda Warfield.

Hey Haylee I am so excited to have you on, like I said, in the intro, you were just such a great friend to me, and I’m so pumped to have you on here and to introduce you to everyone who hasn’t met you yet. I know a lot of my audience already do know you, but for those that don’t why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself.

Yeah, my name is Haylee Gaffin and I am the owner of Gaffin Creative, which we are a podcast production company for creative entrepreneurs. And then I also have a secondary umbrella in my business. That is a studio. So The Studio by Gaffin Creative, and it’s located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and I rent out to other photographers and shoot headshots for professionals.

And you do such cool collaborations. This is totally not related to anything we’re talking about today. Well, I guess it kind of does wrap around to that, but I just love seeing when you do the wall collaboration you did with someone recently, it looked so cool. 

Yes, we did a floral installation with Lane Floral Designs. I had this idea and I called her up. She was my own florist for my wedding. And I was like, I just really want this vision to come to life. I want it to be like happy and spring -like, even though it was like middle of summer and I was like, I need you to take this idea and create it.

And I just let her run with it and she crushed it. Like I was so happy with how it turned out.

 It looked so cool. I, and I just love watching the creativity behind all of that, but kind of unrelated anyways. I just think it’s so fun. This episode was inspired by one of your episodes on your podcast Clocking In actually. So I will link to this in the show notes, guys, if you want to go back and listen to that, it’s episode, number four of Clocking In with Haylee Gaffin, if you want to just search for it, but I’ll also link to it in the show notes, but. I know that something that you struggled with towards the beginning of your business was something that I think most of us struggle with, if not every single entrepreneur, because let’s face it, it’s overwhelming to start out as an entrepreneur, especially as a solopreneur.

And I know that you struggled with trying to do what everyone else was doing. Can you talk to that a little bit about what that was like for you? What specifically that looked like for you and your business and. Why it didn’t work well for you? 

Yes, so I, I actually started my business while I was still somewhat of a full-time employee. I was a contract worker for another company and worked 40 hours a week for them. And as I transitioned from like a full-time role to being a full-time entrepreneur, I had this idea in my head that like success for any entrepreneur was hitting a hundred thousand dollars in your first year or having, you know, 10,000 followers on Instagram or, you name it X, Y, Z, I was after it. And it got to the point where I was accepting clients that I didn’t like to work with, or that didn’t fit my brand or that I didn’t offer the service that they needed. But I was saying yes, because I wanted to hit those numbers. I wanted to be successful based on what other people were saying. And I overwhelmed myself. I got to a point in my business where I was like, what am I doing? Why am I doing this? Who am I doing this for? Because it’s not for me. It’s to put on a show that like, that’s where I was in my business. And so finally I just decided I’m dropping clients. I don’t like anymore. And by don’t like, I don’t work for them well. Like I don’t fit what they need and there’s someone out there better, or they did not fit my ideal client or the services I was doing just didn’t match what my long-term goal was, which at the time, I wasn’t sure, like, I didn’t know what that looked like. So taking that concept of doing for others, like what others were defining success as is no longer something that I am after like I’m defining what my success is and that’s how I’m going to make decisions in my business and also in my life. 

So could you describe what was the day-to-day like before realizing this versus now? What’s the difference in how you’re working every day? 

12 hours or work days. Like that? That was one of the biggest things of it was 12 hour work days. Every day of the week, like my off days were few and far between, and it also was a lot of complaining to my husband, like work would come into our relationship of, oh, I can’t believe I have to do this. I, I don’t want to continue to bring like the burden that my clients were putting on me. And it’s not that they were doing it. I was doing it to myself, but the burden of all the work and all the stress I was taking, you know, out of this home office, into my living room or into my kitchen and complaining about it. And I didn’t have anything good to say about being an entrepreneur. And I think that’s where, the shift kind of happened of. I was, you know, I was in between the transition of like still working for another company working on my own. And my husband just said to me, drop the things you don’t enjoy doing, like stop doing them, stop complaining about it by stop doing so that was a huge shift for me of like, I own this business.

I can decide what is happening in my business and do it the way I want to do it. 

So how many hours do you work now? If you went from 12 hours daily, what does it look like now? 

Yes. So now I work typically I work eight to four, Monday through Thursday and then I use Friday to catch up or, if I don’t have anything to do, I don’t do it.

and then I also have like a photography studio that I do shoot in like two Fridays a month. I’ll go in that’s I try scheduling all of my sessions on those days, just so that I can rent it out to other people. But realistically, I’m working between like 30 and 35 hours a week, which is where I like to be.

I, I was always a 40 plus hour a week person when I worked in a full-time job, because I had the side hustle of like doing weddings on the weekends and shooting all the time. So 60 hours a week was the norm for me for years, and now I’m down to like 35 hours a week. 

That’s amazing. So would you say that redefining success really gave you back a lot of that freedom that you were originally looking for when you started your business?

Yes, it absolutely did because I started focusing on how I wanted to work. So the 35 hours a week, one day, I would love for that to be 20. It’s not the lifestyle I’m living right now. I, I don’t need to only work 20 hours a week. So giving myself the understanding of you can work a full-time job because you have nothing else to do.

but also having the flexibility of, it’s a Tuesday afternoon and I’ve created space in my business to where if I want to take it off, I can go take it off. I don’t have to work today. but also like limiting the number of clients I have has helped that, not accepting every single client, just because they’re coming into my inbox has also helped that. Finding people to send those not good fit clients too, has also helped, I am supporting myself, but I’m also supporting another business and doing that. It’s not just about me. It’s about, I know someone that can help you. So I’m sending you to them instead and that’s supporting their business. It’s giving them an inquiry that will be a better fit for them than they ever were for me.

I love the idea of having a definition of success for right now, but then also having a definition for what successful look like in the future. And you kind of touched on that with the right now, I work 35 hours and that feels successful. But one day I’d love to work 20 hours a week. How do you navigate those feelings of wanting to be at that other point of success, but also feeling happy and okay, and fulfilled in where you are right now. 

That is a great question. So I think a lot of it comes down to what my life goals are. And, in my own episode about this, I do share a little bit more about it, but my husband and I have really defined, like what our idea of successes for us in our life. And for us, it was financial freedom and traveling and with financial freedom, it has allowed me to step into this role of entrepreneurship of our our home is not as reliant on my income as we once were because we. Have taken the steps to finding that financial freedom.

And with that, I can also decide how much I’m going to work so that we can travel more because entrepreneurship does not come with paid vacations. And I think that’s also been a big shift in our, life as I’m realizing this is, there are some times that I will have to take my laptop with me on work if I’m not planning ahead for it.

But as far as like right now the way I’m working is feeding into those goals and feeding into the success that we want for ourselves. But in 10 years we might have children. And the success that I want to have in that time might be spending more time with them. That doesn’t mean I want to work 35 hours a week or 40 or 50. It could be 20. And in that time, I don’t think I would be any less of a successful entrepreneur if I’m working 20 hours a week, or if I’m making half the income I’m making. If my success is based on spending time with those kids, and same for half of my friends, like the ones that are spending time with their kids over their job, that is their definition of success.

And let that be there. It’s like I don’t have to have the exact same success that my friends have. Because I have plenty of friends that look at me and they’re like, you’re almost 30 and you haven’t started a family. And I’m like, yes, I have two dogs and a cat. That’s my family. 

Those are my babies. 

So I think that that’s where we all have to look at defining success in any stage of life of, you know, everyone is going to be different.

We are all on different timelines and allowing yourself to accept that. Such a huge component of this whole like mindset of my success is defined by me only me. No one else can define it. You can’t define my success. I can’t define yours. if I share my success and no one else thinks it’s a success, that’s fine. 

So back in June I launched a product shop for my business. And what I thought would be a success is like selling 30 products in one month. We are, I don’t know how many months it’s been since June, but September. And I have sold four products from that shop. But the idea of success for me in that shop has changed because two of them.

Four products have turned into clients and two of them couldn’t afford my services. So that’s why they bought my products. So it’s serving a different purpose than what I set it out to be. So now in my eyes, it is successful back then, you know, by mid July, I thought I’d wasted all this time on a product shop that wasn’t successful. But it is like, we have to understand where we are, the success we wanted to find and why things are done and the the purpose that they serve.

 I love that permission to change your definition of success as you need to. But how do you know when you need to reframe what success is?

 I believe that only the person who is defining it will really know because.

 there are things that my business that I would call failures because they just, they didn’t work out. I onboarded clients that weren’t ready to launch podcasts and I would call those a failure of mine because I didn’t qualify the lead before I signed them on. And so I think there are going to be times that we fail and that’s fine. Like, you can’t grow unless you fail. Like everyone, you know, that’s a big phrase, but I also think that there is a time to understand, like why you’re doing things in your life and why you’re doing things in your business and when those things happen and you’re happy with them, like that’s when you’re okay to change, because I was not happy with a failed, like quote unquote failed product shop. But when I started to like, put two and two together and see which people were buying my products and like looking at them as people and not numbers, I started to realize, oh, she converted into a client and she converted into a client and I’ve made a new connection with this person who also bought my products, but has no intention of launching a podcast with me, but I’m building that relationship because I’m reaching out to them.

And so as far as like knowing when to change that, I really think it’s based on like how you want to see yourself succeeding and. If the path you’re on is not allowing you to get there. That’s when you can look at changing that definition, but then also changing the way that you are getting there. 

I love that. So do you have any tips for how someone can go from defining success based on whatever the current industry level of success looks like and redefining that into their own version of success. And I know that it’s a, it’s an individual, very much individualized kind of thing. But are there any tips or is there a process that you go through? Is there anything like that you can share to help others do that? 

Yeah. So the way that I do it is I before anything, like if you’re a business owner, if you’re not ignore your business for a moment and look at your life and are you happy in it? And if you’re not, what would make you happy? And if you are, why are you happy? Like, what are those things that are feeding into the happiness? Because honestly, I think that success. Is like directly derived from happiness. At least for me, I feel like that’s a lot of people could feel or agree with that, but whatever makes you happy in your life is what is going to be a success to you. And so if you’re looking at those things that make you happy in life, and then whatever you’re doing in your business or in your career, or. whatever this thing that you’re trying to find success in is if you take that item of this makes me happy in my life and you try making a goal around it in your business.

So for me, for a long time, success meant working that 60 hours a week because we wanted financial freedom. We wanted to pay everything off. We want to no loans, no mortgage, you know, no credit card debt that was our goal. So working 60 hour weeks led to that goal because I was bringing in almost double the income that I probably bring in now, but it also doesn’t mean that that is forever working 60 hours a week, no longer defines that goal for me.

So I reevaluated what’s important to me now. One, I don’t want to take out any more debt. Like I want to keep financial freedom. So that means any avenue I take in my business, I pay for, with cash. I have to have it. If I don’t have it, I don’t invest. That could be a six month program. I’m having that cash up front in case business fails in case a pandemic happens, because that also happens for my photography studio.

You know, like I saved up six months of rent.. Open my studio, October 2019 and a pandemic hit. Lucky for me, I had money saved up for studio rental when no one was allowed to be in my studio. I think just making sure that you are defining it, defining your goals and your success in your business, or, you know, whatever that is and directly tying it to what you want in life, because.

it is going to directly impact your life and whatever you’re doing in your business.

 Oh, that’s so good. Making sure that your business sustains and uphold all of those things that you find important in your life. Because frankly, as an entrepreneur, you can’t separate the two fully. It just, it never ends. It’s who you are as a person, it’d become such a part of your life that, yeah, that’s really important. 

So in case anyone listening, hasn’t noticed there has been an ongoing thread, as Haylee has been talking today. She’s mentioned collaborations with her own wedding florist. She’s mentioned finding referrals to refer people who come to her as potential clients. And even when she’s working with clients, I’ve seen Haylee do this in real life over and over again. If a client has a problem, that’s not in her zone of genius. She refers them out. She’s talked about building up relationships and being super relationship focused and how she’s taken this quote unquote failed shop launch that isn’t a failure at all and how she’s redefined that for herself.

And she’s so relationship focused on that versus number focused more than anyone else that I have ever seen do this, Haylee lifts up other women so much, and she does this all the time and it’s just, it seems like it’s so second nature to you, Haylee and it’s amazing to watch, why don’t you just go ahead and share a little bit why that’s so important to you. Before I get ahead of myself. 

Absolutely. So if someone, you and I both know very well, entered my life a few years ago. it’s Natalie Frank who found co-founded the Rising Tide Society. And she has just instilled into me how valuable community over competition is. Working side-by-side with her through so much. over the last few years, it’s almost like I needed that when I was a high schooler or, a teenager who compared herself to other girls or, thought the way I’m living my life is better than anyone else’s. And. That’s just not the reality. Like not everyone is going to live the exact same life or believe the same things or want the same things. And I think we have to get out of that mindset. So not only that, but I also, I’ve been around too many people in my life that have, put others down and tried pulling success, out of the grasp of another person I came from an ad agency world where like, I hate this phrase, but it was dog eat dog. Like you went after other people’s jobs all the time, and you found a way to blame someone else for the work that wasn’t completed, even if it was your fault. And that happened to me too many times in that world. And it got me to think. In my business. I don’t ever want someone to see me as someone who talks terribly about someone else, or to see me as someone who wouldn’t support another business.

Because in my mind, like I am one person, I can only take so many clients. I can only serve so many people. And. I’m also not the most knowledgeable on everything. Like content batching is not my zone of genius. So I am sending everyone to Club Content Batching, and not only that, but like web design is also not my top priority of things I do in my business. So I will refer other people out. If it’s like something small, I can do it for your podcasts, but I’m not going to do it for your entire website. And then not only that, but social media management, I could care less about doing someone’s social media management, because I tried it, I hated it. And I literally, a few months ago dropped my last social media client because I realized that’s not serving me. It’s not serving the goals I have for my business. And I know someone else that can do it better. So I’m sending them to them because honestly, like part of me. I feel karma is real. I believe that what you put out there will come back to you and the bad you put out there will also come back to you. 

And it’s so clear that that is a core value of yours because literally everything you do is just so infused with cheering other people. I mean, just hearing you talk about that, it, all of that is so infused with cheering on other people and lifting up other people. And it’s so obvious that it’s a core value of yours. What are some actionable steps that the listeners can do to use their own success, to cheer on other women?

Yeah. I think one thing that, especially for business owners is. Building up a, I hate the word network because networking kind of feels icky, but building up a network of people that you can trust and that you can share with your friends. I know for my own self, with all of my clients, I am sending them my other clients work because I want them to see like, oh, this person came up with a cool idea.

You should try it for your podcast. The reality is, is like you can just stop being selfish. That’s all there is to it. I think that there is, there’s a time and a place for being selfish in business and life, you don’t have to be like, there’s enough cake for everyone to eat in this world.

I love it. That’s perfect. Just mic drop right there. We’re done. Haylee if you could recommend one book for everyone to read can be business-related. It doesn’t have to be, what would it be? 

Yeah, I think he know what twin I’m going to say, because it relates so well to this conversation and that’s Built to Belong by Natalie Frank. It just came out a couple of weeks ago and it’s all about community over competition and cheering for other people and finding a space that you belong. And I’ve read it three times and I’m probably going to read it again this year. It really encompasses all that I believe in both my life and in my business.

Such a good book. And for those that haven’t listened to the episode with Natalie it’s episode number 72, it’s titled Built to Belong with Natalie Frank. And she’s talking about the book there. So if you haven’t listened to that episode, make sure you go back and do that. And also check out the show notes to grab a copy of her book yourself, because when you can cheer her on and lift up Natalie and what she does by buying a copy of the book, but also it’s just, it’s a must read for every entrepreneur out there. Period. It just it’s so good. 

Agreed.

 Now, Haylee you have been talking all episode about all the amazing things that other people do, but I know for a fact, because I’ve invested in some of your services that you do quite a few things as well. You’ve mentioned the photography studio, obviously you’re a podcast producer. You’ve got your podcast shop. So if you are a podcaster, or thinking of starting a podcast, I will link to all of that in the show notes as well. But you also do. SEO. Can you talk a little bit about that? Because I know even though I’m behind on my homework, I’m working on it and you just make it so much easier to understand.

 I actually got started in SEO, which is search engine optimization for your website. So basically everything that allows you to show up in Google. I got started in it when I was working in the ad agency world. And no one in the office knew how to do it.

So I, as the like lowest person on the totem pole decided I would learn. I understood the basics at the time. And then as I got into more like content creation and podcast production with, all of my clients and then my own work, I had the foundations, but then I wanted the strategy. I have started working on content strategies that help with your search engine optimization for podcasting. So all of my clients that are interested in it, or like they are using their podcast to build out and market their business. I am using keywords for their titles. I’m doing all that research. I’m creating show notes that focus on that. And then we’re working on optimizing their entire website to feed into that. So that could be building out landing pages specific to one topic and tying in podcasts episodes related to those topics. I just think there’s so much value that we are missing out on as creators with our website content, especially our podcasts, because there’s so much value that we’re giving away that if we’re not actively marketing it or sharing about it. No one knows about it and doing these small little tweaks on your website or optimizing your title or doing the little bit of research, it takes to actually get your content searchable on google is doing the marketing behind this, behind the scenes for you. Forever. It’s not like Instagram, which, I mean, share your podcasts on Instagram too, but it is doing the work for the longevity of your website. Like it’s not just happening for a few days or a few weeks. It does long-term and doing just a few small little things can change that entire strategy behind your podcast content. 

See guys, even when I give Haylee an opportunity to talk about her services, she just gives more value. So I’m going to link to all of her stuff in the show notes, please go check her out. Haylee, where is the best place other than your website for everyone to find you? 

Yeah, you can find me on Instagram @HayleeGaffin it’s HAYLEE GAFFIN a little hard to spell, but, that’s where I hang out most of the time. I’m not super active on my feed, but I am watching. I am a lurker on Instagram. I’m trying to be more active. That’s where I’m hanging out most of the time. 

Awesome. Haylee, thank you so much for coming on today and just sharing, not only a wealth of knowledge, but also really, truly sharing your heart and being vulnerable. And I think this, this topic of defining success for ourselves is so important because our industry does push that never work, passive income, make a million dollars, doing nothing.

And while that’s great, if that’s your true goal,

If It’s not, that’s okay too. And it’s perfectly fine to want to be a solopreneur that just makes enough to be able to work for yourself. And that’s fine too. So thank you for coming on and just being so open and vulnerable. I really appreciate it. 

Absolutely. I love that you said that, but you can you know, your success can be just working enough to be your own business owner. And I, I think that’s really important is you don’t have to hit that six figure salary to be a successful entrepreneur. Like you don’t, you don’t have to do the things that. All these experts are saying. And if I sat here and I told you what I think you should do as to be successful as an entrepreneur, then I’m not telling you what is actually successful for you. Like you have to, you have to decide that on your own. So thank you so much for allowing me to come on and share a little bit about this really passionate topic of mine.

Absolutely. Thanks Haylee. 


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