Search & Replace Episode S01E10: Erin Breeden

Erin Breeden has spent the last two decades working in public relations — a field that’s notorious for demanding hours. After launching her own successful boutique firm, Blue Tide Creative, Erin started to realize that her business was taking a little more out of her than even she expected.

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Announcer: [00:00:00] Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialist at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode. 
Joe Taylor: [00:00:10] What happens when you start telling your clients that you are only available from 9 to 5? A lot of good stuff, it turns out. I'm Joe Taylor, Jr, this is Search and Replace.
Erin Breeden has spent the last two decades working in public relations. That's a field that's notorious for demanding hours. After launching her own successful boutique firm, Erin started to realize that her business was taking a little more out of her than even she expected. 
Erin Breeden: [00:00:40] I have been out on my own with my business now for four and a half years. When you're getting something off the ground, you really gotta be committed if you want to see it through and take it as far as you can, or even further than you can even imagine.
So I know that my first two and a half, three years I was going at a breakneck pace. I was constantly working until I would almost make myself sick because I wasn't getting enough sleep. I was just exhausted. And then I just had this epiphany of, I can't sustain the business that I am creating and grow it the way I want to grow if I'm exhausted all the time.
And I felt like I was losing my identity, where I was becoming too associated with my clients. So I actually invested in myself and got a career coach. And with some tough love, she definitely called me out on some unhealthy practices that I was doing. And one of them was the amount of time I was investing into my company, especially to the point where it was at, where I had grown significantly.
I really needed to look into delegating projects and authority to other people. And then finally getting to a point where I was ready to admit that. And I wanted to just be Erin again. 
Joe Taylor: [00:02:00] That outside perspective from her career coach helped Erin institute, some stricter boundaries for client work. Boundaries that still respect the fact that emergencies sometimes happen, but not everything constitutes an emergency.
Erin Breeden: [00:02:13] Usually I try to do 9 to 6, 9 to 5. That's when IÕm working specifically on things and I always take a lunch break. That's a luxury that I have at this moment and I don't take it for granted at all. But if I know specifically, and if my clients know specifically, that I'm working between 9 to 5, I've just found that it ends up being much more productive.
It also keeps the clients very on point where they know if I want to get a call in or have her answer my email, I've got to get her on this time. So I've just found that it's made me more focused and diligent worker, and I haven't had any complaints from any of my clients. 
And then also I found on my personal level, it's really nice. By having those boundaries and those rules I can cook dinner. I can, pre COVID, I could go out and have a drink with friends, or I'm just having moments where if I want to sit there and binge something on Netflix I can do that without feeling guilty of, man I could be working on this project or X client right now. It's let me have a more, I don't say balanced, but I want to say a more fulfilling life.
Where I know, okay, this is my time now. And I just feel like professionally, it makes me work harder for my clients, because I know these are limited number of hours that we work. So I think it's just ended up making me overall a better worker, a better boss, a better team member, just a better human. 
Joe Taylor: [00:03:47] So what do Erin's clients think of the changes she's made to how she operates? 
Erin Breeden: [00:03:51] Especially when your clients know that you're a solo practitioner. They're very much like, Oh well, she's available all the time. You know, sometimes your clients just assume they're your only client. And they're like, Oh, she's fine. She can take care of this. It's, you know, 9 o'clock at night on a Saturday, she's not doing anything. But I think you have to set up you have to have expectations and you have to set those up ahead of time and something that I didn't do at the beginning. But now getting closer to year five, I do set up like almost a welcome packet. And where it sets up expectations where it's my hours are this to this. If it's an emergency-- and that's only if you're about to have your everything splayed out at the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times is about to put some expose about you and your shady dealings-- these are the hours that I can be reached. And it's hard at first because you want to make your business successful. You want to make your clients happy. Also, you just want to do a good job because your name's associated with it. And I found that working on contracts and building that in, or having frank conversations and even doing a welcome packet. When, you know, they come on to work with myself and my company Blue Tide Creative, they know what to expect from a Blue Tide experience.
Joe Taylor: [00:05:14] Erin recognizes the paradox between all the so-called conventional wisdom in American business culture and her experience of working fewer, more focused hours. And her advice? Maybe don't take so much advice. 
Erin Breeden: [00:05:27] The biggest thing is always trust your gut. Don't trust what the internet or what a book or somebody else's telling you have to do to be successful.
You can go down the rabbit hole and find all those things as an entrepreneur of, you need to have this many hours and if you're not doing this then you're going to fail. And that's not true at all because there's no one size fits all for every business, every person. Trust your gut. Get your foundation solid. Make sure you have all your filings correct. Get some really solid contracts. Making sure you have the systems that are easy for you. And then the biggest thing, I think, is to realize that you can't do all of this alone. 
Joe Taylor: [00:06:10] That's Erin Breeden, founder of Blue Tide Creative. We've got links to Erin and to her work over on our website,
Also in today's show notes, if you're the kind of creative professional who can't imagine clocking in at 9:00 AM that's okay. One successful startup founder explains how you can set time boundaries that work for you. And an online business manager writes about how to really enforce your time boundaries by learning how to say no and mean it. You'll find the links to those stories and more over on our website at 
Search and Replace was produced by Nicole Hubbard with support from Christine Benton, Connie Evans, Amelia Lohmann, April Smith, and Executive Producer Lori Taylor. Our theme music was composed by Alex DuFire. I'm Joe Taylor Jr.
Announcer: [00:07:05] This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production. Support for Search and Replace is provided by Johns and Taylor, user experience specialists serving media and technology companies that want their websites to work. Learn more about how top performing businesses eliminate barriers between customers and their goals at

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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