We had the good fortune of connecting with Bill Conway and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Bill, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
My work/life balance has shifted dramatically in the last few years, and not just because of the worldwide plague that changed how we do everything. When The Hard Times first started it was just meant to be a side-hustle, something we do in our spare time for fun. We realized we needed to increase our output as the website grew and we attracted a bigger social following because the people were clamoring for more jokes about Danzig and Henry Rollins. They were begging for these jokes.
When we first started I worked full time at an electrical supply warehouse called Eoff (pronounced oaf, it’s German) Electric Supply and in between customers and orders I would edit articles, schedule social media posts, and so on. Thankfully I had a boss that encouraged me to do this, as long as I wasn’t neglecting my usual work duties. After work I would go home, eat a quick dinner with my wife and then go out and do stand up at open mics around Portland. When I got home I would do another hour or two of Hard Times work before going to bed and repeating the process. I tried my best to carve out time to spend with my wife, but when I did give myself a day off I might feel too tired to do anything fun. I eventually started to get help at The Hard Times when we brought on another editor named Krissy Howard, and suddenly it wasn’t all up to me. I changed to another warehouse job in Portland because my warehousing skills are some of the best in the country, the owners of this warehouse were generous enough to give me the keys to the place and I would use their offices as my office on weekends to do Hard Times work. The bulk of The Hard Times book (The Hard Times: The First Forty Years) was written in those offices on the weekends.
Eventually my wife and I decided to move to Los Angeles and I continued having a day job, this time at Baller Hardware, the best hardware store in Los Angeles. Balance was always tough, there was the day job, and then grinding away at night. In April 2019 I finally took the plunge and went full-time at Hard Times and I thought that would help, but it turns out it was even more work. Working from home sucks, you think it’s going to be great, but it sucks. I think a lot of people realized that this past year. There are so many distractions, you eat a bunch of junk food, you find ways to justify your procrastination and you never feel like you have actually clocked out for the day. The balance for me still was not there.
At this same time my wife and I also got a dog. At first, he added to the stress, puppies are kind of tough, but as he grew things got easier in a lot of ways for me. The dog, named Murphy, the cutest dog in the world, provided a loose schedule for me. I wake up at a certain time. I walk him at set intervals and this provided me with a regimented schedule that actually works for me. After 1 1/2 years of working from home I think I finally figured out what works for me. The main thing is having a schedule. Having a set start and stop time has helped me mentally deal with the fact that I’m technically never “off the clock.” Delegating tasks has also helped free me up so I’m not constantly in front of a computer screen. The other big shift was in my mindset, I’m a broken gutter person from a working class Massachusetts family and I just assumed I would die in a workplace accident after volunteering for an 18 hour shift, my boss would find my mangled carcass on the ground, kick me to the side and carry on. I’d be buried in an unmarked grave in a refrigerator box, the American dream. But now I set boundaries. I look at what needs to be done, and I do a little more than that every day. But now I never work until my fingers are worn down to stumps all to make a joke about crust punks smelling bad. I’ll probably always “work too much,” but right now I really enjoy the work and I don’t feel guilty about not working in my free time. I’ve been letting myself off the hook, skateboarding more, exercising more, and feeling better all around. Balance isn’t easy to find, but you can find it. Surround yourself with good people and it’s even easier.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
The Hard Times is a satirical news site that focuses mainly on musical subcultures with an emphasis on punk and hardcore. Have you ever been to a show in a basement where a guy pushing 275 smashed you into a wall, then ran across the room and did it to someone else? We write about those moments. Do you have a friend who plays in a band and invites you out to see them play every weekend and then you finally agree and you are literally the only person that showed up? We write about that too. We grew our site organically the entire way, it turns out a lot of people have a shared experience when it comes to the subcultures we touch on. Growing our brand happened fast, monetizing our work was another story. We struggled to stay afloat thanks to the big dogs like Google, Facebook, and Amazon taking all the ad money on the internet. But, through persistence, and probably stupidity we kept on going and we continue to entertain our small corner of the internet. Even though it’s been hard for us along the way we still consider ourselves very lucky. We are thankful to everyone that reads the site, buys a shirt, or leaves a nice comment on a post.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
This is fairly easy. Los Angeles is full of historic skate spots and I would make a plan to hit as many spots as we can as long as our old bodies could hold up. The Santa Monica Courthouse, you bet. The curbs at Costco, of course. The Baxter Street hill, sure as fuck ain’t skating down it but you know we are going to go look at it. Grabbing a burger at Monty’s would be essential. The Badass Breakfast Sandwich at Locali is a must. I don’t drink, so my friend is on their own if they are hitting any bars, I’ll be at home icing my knees by this point.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Aside from my wife, and all the contributors and editors I work directly with at The Hard Times there is one person that stands out as someone that encouraged me from the start. I mentioned him earlier, he was my boss at my warehouse job and his name is Justin Johnston. When he came on as my manager he encouraged me to go full blast at The Hard Times. Where some people might have questioned the project and taken a more “practical” view he went the other way. Little things like that can go a long way. Thanks Justin.
Group photo by Senny Mau