Work twelve. Book six. Actually, work thirteen hours, book six-ish; but hey, let’s not get picky here. Either way it’s a long day. My life has improved. Last year I was working ten or twelve hour days, working on lots of projects, and making far too little money. This year I am working ten or twelve or thirteen hour days, working on just as many projects, and being paid for about half of my time. I’ve also recently learned that I probably qualify for a massive modification to my mortgage if I can double my income. That can work, as long as it doesn’t require me to double my working hours. Ah, but there must be a solution. Many agree and are searching too.
The inspiration for today’s post comes from too many of my friends who have similar work schedules. We may think we’re running our own businesses, but our businesses are also running us. A lot of socializing has stopped. I no longer hold parties, partly because of money, partly because the house is for sale, partly because many of my friends don’t have spare time, even on weekends. My Sunday evening oasis, when I don’t work after 6pm unless absolutely necessary, has had a dearth of dinner guests because I’ve been to busy to invite folks, and the invitations I send out can’t be accepted because they’re too tired. In a way, this is actually good news. I miss my friends, but I know they are making more than last year; and I don’t want to get in the way of that.
The inspiration for today’s title comes from friend and blogger, Erin Waterman.
“What the heck does elucubrating mean, you ask? I’ve been “burning the midnight oil” this week with several contract jobs and studies, and the verb elucubrate meant to work studiously by candle light. Because this word has become extinct, I decided to bring it back.” Elucubrating and Car Repair – Erin Wateman
Pardon me as I step away to light an oil lamp on this grey and rainy morning.
The hardest workers I know are sole-proprietors. It is commonly accepted that the first few years will be tough. Ah, but then they finally start making money. But it isn’t enough, and because the business is under their control, they can work harder in hopes of making more. Usually though, such businesses start out by charging less than the competition, so all of those extra hours may not add up to enough. Raising prices can scare away customers and clients, but it becomes necessary. Imagine the celebration of success though when working extraordinary hours finally makes enough. Great! Of course, there may not be much time for celebration, or even a bit of life. Now, the choice becomes growing the business by working even more, raising prices and risking the business, or hiring someone which drives up costs which means the business must grow that much faster – or giving up and using the experience as a great resume line as a proprietor tries to become someone else’s employee. And finding time to apply for jobs is not easy. I’ve been so busy making half of what I need that I haven’t been able to apply to as many positions as I did three months ago. In some ways, the luckiest business owners can free themselves by selling their businesses, but that can be difficult emotionally.
I know printers, framers, seamstresses, herbalists, bookkeepers, artists, writers, healers, and more who are in such a situation.
As tough as I make it sound, many would only consider taking a job to gain security and benefits, and recent corporate history discourages them from expecting that. One friend managed to get a very nice job at T-Mobile, only to get laid off months later. So much for stability. Her response is to keep applying for jobs, but to also finish her manuscript, build out her micro-farm, and reach out to others to build a community.
Pardon me as I step away to handle a job email.
I’m an advocate of personal financial independence. Getting there through a lottery jackpot is fine, but most folks have to save to get there. I managed to retire (temporarily evidently) at 38 because I spent less than I made and invested the rest. It turns out to be the simplified version of the 9-step program championed by New Road Map Foundation (where I’ve been the Board Secretary and am now the Information Manager) and popularized by the book, Your Money Or Your Life, which includes me as a case study in the new edition. The trick for most folks above the poverty line who haven’t encountered any of life’s misfortunes, is to spend less than they make. Staying out of debt is major as well. The trick for many early entrepreneurs is to make enough, then to grow enough, then to finally begin paying themselves with time for themself, and paying into their future by saving. The same potential exists, but the steps may take more effort.
This is no startling revelation, or deep analysis of the news. This is an acknowledgement of how many hidden steps there are on the entrepreneur’s path to financial security.
There’s a solidity to corporate dealings. For employees: paychecks are usually regular, raises are usually a few percent, benefits vary (or decline) around a norm. For customers: prices are what prices are, complaints can be moved up the line within a faceless bureaucracy, returns are relatively easy.
For small businesses the paychecks are called invoices or receipts and may get paid at the customer’s convenience, raises only make sense when there’s a history of surpluses, benefits are expensive, and customers are more likely to negotiate prices, and may not believe that the person they are complaining too is the entire organizational chart and that a return actually has an impact.
This may be no startling revelation, but as the prospect of a life-long career or of being re-hired into the world of cubicles becomes less common a new segment of our population will follow a path of many steps created by others out of necessity. My friends that are on the cusp of success may find themselves being valued as guides because of their experience. Who else better to turn to than a seamstress who has 12,000 people visiting her site every week; a couple of fine herbalists that are enjoying the business in bitters, and who have that much more to offer; and a print shop that is getting to be nationally known for innovation and quality work? And of course, there’s me and my businesses, including my role as a consultant for which another consultant has suggested that I am charging too little. My hourly rate for individuals is $60. My daily rate for corporations is $1,500. He figures I am worth $3,000/day; but, you see, I have to build the business and I’m not quite making enough yet, and I don’t want to scare away customers, and – that’s why I am an optimist. Because that potential is there, and my best next step is to continue stepping in the same direction. And to go out and make sure I have enough lamp oil. In the meantime, I’m going to get back to elucubration.
PS This post is a fine example of how I must manage time. I refer to my necessarily long acronym:
If I Had More Time I Would Have Made It Shorter