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Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Preston Lee, Founder of Millo

Preston Lee is the founder of Millo, where he and his team have been helping freelancers thrive for over a decade with their in-depth articles, free guides, podcasts, and social communities.

He is also the creator of SolidGigs — a job-finding service for freelancers – and co-host of Freelance to Founder, a podcast for freelancers who are ready to scale.

We’re looking to partner with companies that share our passion to promote healthy work-life balance around the world. Get in touch with us!

1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

Sure thing. I’m currently the founder of Millo.co where my team and I work hard to improve the lives and businesses of freelancers. We do that through our blog, podcast, free mastermind group, and newsletter. We also run SolidGigs where we help freelancers get fresh new jobs to keep their pipeline full.

My work at Millo started over a decade ago when I was a student at university. I started a small blog under a different name as an experiment in blogging and online business.

In the meantime, I got a job after school and continued to build my business on the side. I got a few promotions, changed jobs a couple of times, and in the meantime changed the blog to Millo.co and started generating quite a bit of revenue from it.

In 2017, I took a job at a small tech startup and, seven months later, they laid off half of their workforce due to bad planning and poor management, in my opinion.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me. For years I had wondered if I ever would have the nerve to quit my job and work on my business full-time.

At the time, my business was making almost as much as I was at my day job—fueled by just a few hours a week of my own time and the dedication of a small team.

Getting laid off was the “do or die” moment I needed to finally take my 8+ year side-hustle full-time. In September 2017, I started working for myself full-time and I couldn’t be happier about it.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Making the switch to working for myself has empowered me to put my family, my faith, and my health ahead of my career—a conscious decision I’ve made that has been life-changing.

That means that a lot of my daily routine is tied up in spending time with my wife and three children.

Each morning, I’m woken up by my sweet daughters—instead of an alarm clock. Every workday starts with breakfast with my wife and children where we also study from scriptures and talk about our faith together as a family.

After that, I routinely go for a nice long run (a habit I adopted after ditching my commute and harsh corporate schedule) followed by a second breakfast (yes, really. Something high in protein.)

Following my run, I have a nice long shower, chat a bit more with my wife and then either head to my home office or drive to the local library where I’ll do most of my work for the day.

From there, you might find me working closely with my team, reviewing finances, brainstorming, writing, networking, doing a lot of business development, recording a podcast episode, or exploring a new business model.

It all depends on where I feel like I can get the most done for the day, what my team needs from me, and where I feel most inspired.

I’m almost always home for lunch with my youngest daughter who hasn’t started school yet after which I work a few more hours and come home for dinner.

After dinner, it’s all about family and faith again. I’m either spending time with my kids and wife doing things we love to do or serving in my church helping people I also love.

For me, work should be a side-dish to your life, not the other way around.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Absolutely. Since I run my small company, I make all the decisions on that.

We’re a ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) meaning, there’s no set number of hours my team and I are required to work.

Instead, we focus on results and therefore reward ourselves by figuring out to achieve the same (or better) results in less time and effort.

I’ve never met a single person on my team face-to-face. I currently live in Utah, United States. One team member lives in Tennessee, United States. Another in Pakistan. And another in New York City.

We primarily communicate and coordinate via Slack which means we can all work when we need to to accommodate 4 different time zones and working situations.

Everyone except for me is an independent contractor on the team, but I appreciate and need them like full-time members of our staff. I couldn’t do nearly as much for our readers, listeners, and customers without my incredible team.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

As I mentioned before, I think work should be a side-dish to your life—not the other way around.

Far too many of us spend the vast majority of our time working in an office while our life ticks away.

A simple exercise can wake you up and snap you out of this zombie-like existence if you fear you’ve been trapped there:

  1. Take a sheet of paper and make two lists 1-5.
  2. Title one list “My Top Priorities” and fill it out completely before moving on.
  3. Label the second list “Where I Spend My Time” and list the top 5 things you spend your time on each day (by total hours spent).

What you’ll probably find is a MAJOR discrepancy between the two lists. For the average U.S. worker, your list might look something like this:

My top prioritiesWhere I spend my time
1. Family
2. God
3. Career
4. Health
5. Hobbies
1. Career
2. Sleep
3. Netflix
4. Sports
5. Family

Now, for some people, this might be an exaggeration. But I’m afraid it’s closer than you might guess for most people.

I’m also not here to shame anyone for watching too much Netflix. I probably watch 2-3 hours of TV a day in some form or another.

But writing these two lists can open your eyes to what your actual priorities are. The difficult truth is you can say your priorities are one list of items. But where you actually spend your time is where your true priorities lie.

Some people might argue: “well, I work a lot so I can provide for my family.”

That may be true. But it’s not “for your family” when you stay late at the office, missing a dance recital or a baseball game (or even just a casual night at home with your kids) all to impress your boss and maybe get a promotion one day.

When I was working my day-job and building my side-hustle, I passed up a few promotions or job offers because I knew they would take me away from my family more and take me away from building my side-business.

In the short-term, I missed out on money and prestige. In the long-term I aligned my two lists much more closely which has led to immense happiness.

For me, work-life balance is about focusing on the right things at the right time. In doing so, your two lists will begin to align more closely and you’ll begin to experience true happiness.

In today’s world, there is absolutely no reason to stay at a job you hate, climbing a corporate ladder only to end up with the ladder leaning against the wrong wall.

This conversations is brought to you by SolidGigs, the best freelance jobs, hand-picked & delivered daily. Trade your worst clients for some of the best companies in the world with SolidGigs.

5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

I’m so glad you asked this question. I am all about habits! They’ve changed my life.

I actually recently wrote about the power of habits to change your life and business. In the last couple of years, I’ve used simple habits to grow my business by 87% and to lose around 70lbs (and keep it off) while becoming vastly healthier.

Here are a few habits that have helped me get to where I am (and I still have a long way to go). Please note (taking my own advice from the last question) these are not all about work. They’re also about family, health, etc.

Work

  • Work on my side-business every work day. Small actions add up massively over time.
  • Set reminders in my calendar for daily or weekly actions that add up over time. For example, business development, SEO, doing interviews 😉, etc.
  • Review my finances weekly or monthly. Without revenue, I’m not running a business—just fiddling around with an expensive hobby.

Family & faith

  • Eat most of my meals with my family.
  • Engage in daily faith rituals (for me, this includes prayer, study, and service).
  • Dedicate time every day (multiple times if possible) where I focus only on my family. Not “family time” where I’m tethered to work on my phone.

Health

  • Spend 30-60 minutes every weekday exercising in some way that I enjoy.
  • Eat at home for 99% of my meals; when I eat out, I eat vegetables.
  • Eat more fruits and veggies every day (I eat a salad for lunch every day because I like them) and cut out cheese from 90% of what I eat.
  • Limit sweet treats to one day a week.

6) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

Absolutely! Where do I start?

Books have played a major role in my personal and business development. Here are just a few off the top of my head. There are dozens more.

Chris Guillebeau’s The $100 Startup will help you reframe how you think about business in the modern age. His book titled The Art of Non-Conformity will encourage you to question everything about your life and career (in a VERY good way).

Rework by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried is a fantastic look at what’s broken in how we work in most companies and organizations with solutions for improving.

7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

To be honest, I don’t worry about that. Some days, I don’t get the most I can get out of it. Isn’t that what balance is all about? If I was always cramming to be perfect at everything, I’d mostly be filled with disappointment and regret.

Could I be a better dad? Of course. Could I make more money and work harder? Absolutely. Could I lift more or run farther? No question.

But if I tried to get the most out of each of those things every day, I’d burn out.

Instead, I have a lot of pretty average good days. And you’d be surprised just how happy your life can be with a very long string of “just good” days.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Probably Jason Fried.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I think I’ve rambled long enough, so I’ll end with this.

In today’s world, there is absolutely no reason to stay at a job you hate, climbing a corporate ladder only to end up with the ladder leaning against the wrong wall.

There’s so much more to life than money and career.

Yes, we all need a certain amount of money to sustain ourselves. Don’t get me wrong: I’m hardly a philanthropist. I LOVE making money.

But beyond supporting our lifestyle and maybe a little extra, there’s a lot more to life than just making more cash and buying more things.

Realizing that (and actually acting on it) is incredibly freeing.

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This conversations is brought to you by SolidGigs, the best freelance jobs, hand-picked & delivered daily. Trade your worst clients for some of the best companies in the world with SolidGigs.

About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.