Rianna M. Hill has been running Facebook Ads and Social Media for Business since 2014, after starting her professional career selling and designing ads for a newspaper in 2013. She formally incorporated this work into Pancake Digital Solutions, Inc. in May of 2017 and is currently working on a Doctorate in Business Administration online (ABD May 2020) while moving around the country as a Navy wife with two mystery-mutt pups and a crafting habit. You may frequently see her knitting, crocheting, or sharing IG stories on her latest baking adventure.
In May of 2017, Rianna founded Pancake Digital Solutions as an S-Corp with the mission to help people get their business online. At the time, she had a great full-time job in Charleston, South Carolina, several freelance clients, and was almost finished with an MS in UX Design. Her husband came home from work one day with the news his job was to move us to New York for just a few months, with future living locations unknown.
The next day, Rianna was on an airplane to a bridal shower in Wyoming reading YOU are A BADASS by Jen Sincero, and she knew what she had to do. Rianna has been working in the business ever since, despite moving coast-to-coast 5 times, officially planning and having a wedding, working on a Doctoral degree in business, and maintaining part-time work for another agency, and occasionally working for local shops.
What inspired you to start working for yourself?
When I first starting looking for a job, it was early 2009. After several weeks going door to door with my resume, I hadn’t received a single phone call. After watching a manager immediately toss my resume into the trash at a chain fast food restaurant, I realized I was going to need to look for different options.
Fortunately, I had an entrepreneurial father who worked in the tech industry. He helped me get set up on some freelancer sites where I started submitting designs for logos and such. Despite going to school for other things, working other jobs and for other agencies, I’ve continued with this for years, eventually formally incorporating my freelance work into a full-time business in May of 2017.
Busy startup entrepreneurs have lots of demands on their time and are often pulled in lots of different directions, do you have any tips for effective time management and what to focus on first?
This question holds a lot of truth in it. I have found I tend to be more successful the more full my plate is- to an extent. When you only have an hour to do something, you get it done in an hour. When you have three hours… it takes three.
However, you are only as effective as your planning, discipline, and execution.
The advice I’ve heard over and over again, successfully implementing in my life, is the importance of having a morning routine. This looks different for everyone and may evolve over time for you, but a morning routine is critical for time management.
For my morning routine, for three or four years now, I start every day with a cup of coffee and a journal. In the journal, I plan my day and set my priorities. Then comes the important step, honor the calendar. Last-minute tasks will pop up, meetings will be rescheduled, and projects may take longer than originally planned. Roll with the changes, placing top priorities first, and setting others for later.
Bonus: Get to work an hour early and complete two or three top tasks on your list. The rest of the day will feel like a win when you’ve started with success.
What traits do you look for when building a team?
“Figure-out-ability” is the most important trait I look for when working with a contractor or hiring a new team member. The nature of the digital marketing industry is change, and with a small business, I rely on people who can figure things out. Pretty much everything else can be trained, but good communication, kindness, empathy, and figure-out-ability are key traits a person needs to have to succeed on my team.
You want the person who will come to you with a problem and three possible solutions, or take the initiative to add the extra step to improve a Standard Operating Procedure. If someone is sending five emails a day that could be answered by a Google search, they probably won’t last long on a digital team.
Any advice for entrepreneurs on moving beyond a failure?
It can really sting to process failure, but moving on is something you just gotta do. Take the failure as a learning moment, and use the disappointment as fuel to ensure operations are better next time. Additionally, always remember the big picture, take a step back to that proverbial 10,000-foot view. It can help provide a better perspective on the failure that helps you digest it better. Finally, remember that you are not alone; everyone goes through failure.
What tips do you have for those who want to renew their life as in a new job, moving, etc?
As someone who has moved a lot, changed jobs several times, and spends time with a lot of people who moved a lot, I’ve noticed a common thing: many people will make the change to improve something in their lives, often trying to leave something behind. The idea is that a new city or a new job will give them a fresh start. However, if the original issue is not resolved, those changes aren’t going to fix the problem and you’ll find yourself right back in the same situation you were unhappy with originally.
Before you make a big change, my advice is to get really clear on what it is that you want in your life. If you’re unhappy in your job, what specifically are you unhappy about, and how will this new job fix it? If you feel disconnected from your friend group and want to try a new city, how will you establish a new friend group where you feel connected?
It may feel like “ah I just got to get out of here so I can think clearly” and maybe you do need to get out of a bad situation. But be sure you are intentional about the steps you take. Always be cautious of thoughts where “XYZ just needs to happen, then I can be happy.” Take control of yourself and choose to be happy now!
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Love the process. A lot of what we see out there is the before and after picture, just like a weight-loss commercial. You know the type, one day this person was overweight and unhealthy, introduce product, then the person in a fitness model. Or, a successful entrepreneur sharing how broke they were and now they are making six figures a month and you can too just by downloading this template. In both of these examples, most of the story is missing. The day to day process of going to the gym even though you are tired, or setting up your third workshop even though the last two busted and you’re operating in the red for the Nth month in a row.
Loving the process means you enjoy what you do consistently every day. Whatever that looks like for you, if you can enjoy everything that is in between the before and after picture, that is how you will have a good life and be successful.
How do you think modern women can be more fulfilled in their lives?
Finding fulfillment for modern women can feel challenging. We are often expected to have amazing careers as well as being full-time homemakers and mothers… not to mention crushing it at every other role in your life.
To feel more fulfilled in our lives, we need to embrace our life as it is, where we are. It can be easy to focus on the one thing we did wrong, despite the 100 other things we did correct. Embrace this human experience and enjoy every moment. Don’t compare yourself to anything but who you want to be, for yourself. And remember that most judgments come from people who are criticizing themselves even more severely.
I think this can be summed up easily into one phrase: listen to all those quotes and take them to heart.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
Ah, that long list of failures, or learning moments. I’ll start with three, but there have been many many more.
- Spending 6 months to land a rock star client and losing them in just over 30 days.
Early in 2019, I was able to do some work for some clients who have some fairly well-known brands. These folks are extremely successful, and I was thrilled by the opportunity. However, I doubted myself and brought someone in to do the work for me. Additionally I think I unfairly expected him to tell me what to do. At the end of the day, the client and contractor needed me to be a leader, but I did not have the confidence to do so losing the client, contractor, and potentially ruining some relationships along the way.
What stung the most was that I knew what to do, I just didn’t do it because I didn’t believe in myself enough. However, I have not made that same mistake and have truly stepped up into the leadership role being a business owner requires. I’m still making mistakes but improving every day.
2. Utter failure at gymnastics.
As a child and teenager, I was a natural at everything I tried, usually surpassing my peers in a way that isolated me. (Does anyone one to be friends with the girl who sold more cookies than the rest of the troop combined, or the new girl that just joined the softball team and got the MVP award in all categories at her first tournament?). However, I was terrible at gymnastics- despite spending more years practicing it than anything else I have done in my life. No matter the hours and hours I practiced, I could never make it past the back walkover, and eventually aged out of classes altogether.
3. Quitting a Job I loved too soon because that’s what I thought was supposed to do.
Right before I started my agency, I started remotely working for another company based out of St. Louis, called Atomic Revenue. It was one of those phone calls that started with a mutual friend suggesting we chat and ended with a job offer. Some of my work for that company was the best I ever did, and the most fun and rewarding as well! But I believed that I was supposed to only work a job until the business was on its own. I thought people wouldn’t take me seriously if I was a business owner and an employee. After a few five-figure months in the business, I quit working for the company, and quickly regretted it.
The feast and famine of being a business owner, along with being solely responsible for everything at the end of the day is a lot of pressure. The added pressure of that business needing to support your family can be too much. This was the case for me, and in those four months, I couldn’t close a new client to save anything. After some painful layoffs and a humble email, the company has taken me back with open arms. Since then I have closed several new clients, enjoy my workdays much more, and am less stressed when looking at my bank accounts.
Being a business owner can look like anything you want it to. There is no “supposed to” although I recommend that your work supports your life, not the other way around.
Tell us about your proudest achievement?
What I am most proud of is not one singular achievement, but that I keep improving myself and my business from day today. I’ve got a Thanksgiving-dinner-grocery-receipt-long list of cringe-worthy failures and mistakes but I’m still here. There are some days it takes me a bit longer to get to my desk, but I’ve always brought myself here and ended each day with gratitude, a lesson learned, and improvement for tomorrow. That is a life I am proud of.
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