Ta da! Yesterday my business received the largest check in over a year, which was appropriate because it was compensation for the largest work package for a client in over a year. The mail was delivered just before lunch. I toasted my work by including a glass of wine with my meal, sat back down to get some more work done, and listened to the propane truck back up the driveway. Money comes in. Money goes out. So it goes. The trick is to have less going out than coming in. At least for that day, that was the case, thanks to a simple, frugal lifestyle.
My home is small (and for sale). My propane tank is big. Keep the heat turned down a bit and the truck doesn’t have to visit very often, maybe two or three times a year. Each visit could be a large bill, and is relative to power and such; but, my neighborhood association worked out a great bulk buy a few years ago. Thanks, folks. But everything is relative, and relative to my income, last winter’s propane bill was big enough that I had to sell my kayak to pay it.
2013 is different and better. A fair amount of work for a client who was willing to help out by paying prior to the work’s completion meant I was able to make a deposit, have enough for the propane and probably the business taxes or my health insurance or both. I’ll know when I work up my taxes, real soon.
One simple, frugal act that made the balance easier was my judicious use of the thermostat. I’m not as temperature sensitive as some, to the point that I’m known for wearing shorts most of the year. But I also like hot tea, wearing sweaters, and lounging under thick blankets; not necessarily at the same time. Guilty pleasure: Take a nice, hot shower, then wrap myself in clothes or blankets that are fresh out of the dryer. I’ve hiked enough that sleeping in my sleeping bag is trip to a marvelous comfort zone. Add a layer. Brew a hot drink. Turn down the thermostat about three degrees. And the propane bill shrinks.
2013 is looking good. We’re only one-twentieth of the way through the year and my business has already made one-tenth of 2012’s revenue. Today’s class in Social Media (Getting Started with WordPress) was fun, and nudged the deposit up a bit. Another client or two have made progress towards commitment and payment. One is even considering paying me for all of the advice I’ve already provided as we sit and define the work package. Evidently, even casual conversations contain worthwhile insights. 2012 was a long string of possible collaborations, lots of negotiations, plenty of conversations, but only a few completed projects because only a few could find funding. This year people are more likely to say, “Yes.” They’re done talking, or at least are more eager to get to work. Fine by me. Trying to talk everything through before beginning one iota of work is an invitation to infinite digression and no progression. Squinting at the far horizon and trying to discern the exact path may work for GPS-aided navigation, but most human endeavours require a more iterative approach. Aim at the far horizon. Agree on the first step. Take it. Then decide on the second step. Repeat until a goal is reached. Take a break. Aim again.
After I taught today’s class, I drove into Langley, the downtown of South Whidbey, to make the deposit, check my lottery tickets (Sorry. Not a winner.), and visit the library. The architect of Langley’s Library is to be commended, as are the craftsfolk who built it, and the folks who found the funds to get the work done. I went in for a couple of reasons. 1) To get the proper IRS forms that must be filled out in quadruplicate and can’t be downloaded from the web. They’re not in yet. 2) To check on any advertising about a series of talks I’ll be giving there over the next three months. I was hoping to find some fliers or postcards to hand out. They didn’t have those. Instead they had an oversized poster announcing “Tom Trimbath Presents!” On one large well-placed sheet they publicized my upcoming talks about my most recent book, Walking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland; an overview of Getting Started With Social Media, an eight hour workshop condensed to a two hour talk: and Twelve Months at Double Bluff, my recently completed photo series of Whidbey’s everyday beauty.
Add it all up and the total is for a very nice couple of days. I’m even glad the propane truck came by because I now have enough propane for the rest of the winter, I hope, and because it proved to me that my frugal use of the thermostat had used much less propane than the same season last year.
At the same time that I have the fewest active job applications out in the world, I’m noticing that my work is picking up, and that my friends are getting busier too. I dropped by a couple for different reasons and different projects to see if they would be available to help, and they were so busy that they turned it back my way, asking me if I wanted to help them. Last year most of us were wondering what to do. So far this year many of us are busy while waiting for checks to arrive. Soon it may be that people are able to go beyond basic bills and start paying for things like fixing turn signals, or mending cracked windows, or getting some ache tended. I’ve got a long way to go before being able to pay the back mortgage, but there are hopeful signs.
In today’s class about WordPress, the topic of Social Media came up (note the caps.) What good are Facebook, Twitter, and the rest? (Sign up for February’s Facebook workshop and March’s Twitter workshop!) Sole-proprietors, entrepreneurs, artists, and active advocates can spend a lot more time in front of their computers that they could if they were working in a corporation. Recently, because of Facebook chat and Twitter feeds, I’ve noticed how many of them are working into the evenings and into the night, weekdays, weekends, and holidays. We use social media for mutual commiseration and encouragement. (Let me check. Yep, here it is Saturday evening and there they, we, are.)
Work is gaining traction. Somewhere, money started flowing into the system, positively reinforcing existing efforts. I hope this is the returning of the tide to the back bays of small business. The rising stock market suggests corporations in the deeper water are already floating free. Dare I hope? For me, others like me, people who have lost almost everything, people who have been forced to redefine their lives, maybe we’re returning to an economy where hard work really does pay, where fear is replaced with fervor, and where stress is replaced with ease.
For now, I may not turn up the thermostat, but I will turn on the little electric heater to take off a bit of the chill; I’ll heat up some nice, homemade beef and vegetable soup; and, then I’ll decide between going to tonight’s dance or watching a movie. Oops. I just remembered. There’s a bit more work to do first.