Since I began my part-time bookkeeping service business back in 2006, I have come into contact with many professionals both in and out of my field who, at times, posed this question to me: When will you quit your job and run your business full-time?
At the time I started my business, it was never meant to be the spring-board to eventually leaving my place of employment. It was meant, solely, as a source of additional income. My husband and I just bought a home and, not having any children, I had freedom and flexibility. I spent evenings, weekends, whatever spare moment I could creating my business and figuring out how to get a few side clients I could either travel to off-hours (at the time, I would’ve taken anyone!) or weekends or remotely. Soon, I had built up a portfolio of 15 clients which ranged from once a week to once a quarter IN ADDITION to still working full time. And, yes – for financial reasons – I still had to.
Did I dream about getting up when I wanted, shuffling in my slipper and jammies to my home office next door to my bedroom, plop down with a cup of coffee and work at my own pace? Did I want to make my own hours? Plan my client schedule around ME? Attend networking events? Meet colleagues and clients for coffee? Take online seminars and trek once a year to Scaling New Heights for the latest and greatest updates, apps and doo-dads in the Intuit/QuickBooks world?
Damn straight, I did.
But, alas, I couldn’t.
I had to continue a juggling act by being stuck at work from 8-4 while my bookkeeping peeps were commanding how their day went.
Over the years, I learned to accept it as a given. I had lost clients and gained ones to replace them. I even was able to carve out a day from my full time job to dedicate solely to on-site clients (I was up-front with my employer about my business and that it was for financial reasons and he had been very cooperative with me in allowing me to do this).
But June of 2013, things changed. Business changed at my place of employment when my boss partnered himself with another company which further strengthened our abilities and reach. It also meant having more duties, responsibilities as well as an increased work-load that would not be able to be completed in four work days. I had been asked to come back 5-days which meant I would have to give up the day I had set aside to visit my 3 on-site bookkeeping clients.
When I weighed the options, it was more money coming back full time as the flat monthly fee I charged to those clients was considerably less than the 32 hours I would be giving back to my employer on a full-time basis. Money-wise, it was the best move, but I felt as if I had a bit of control taken away from me. That one day during the week was not only to visit my clients, but also a day for me to re-charge in-between appointments. My laptop was my constant companion and Panera and Starbucks helped me not only kill the down-time, but enabled me to embrace it. I also was able to find some business networking events that occurred on my day off and try to work clients around that so I could attend. It was my only taste of what it would be like if I did this for a living until I woke up the next morning and head to my ‘real’ job.
I was a bit resentful at first, even though the decision had been fully mine to come back. I had to. I didn’t want to NOT be in line with the ‘new regime’. Fortunately, I had an awesome local bookkeeping colleague who was willing to take over my 3 clients so the transition had been seamless to where I was able to come on-board full-time by August 1st.
Along the way, my initial resentment faded. I began to embrace my full-time role and took up the challenge of the new responsibilities laid on my by our new financial controller, I felt as if it had replaced what I had lost. I then began to question WHY I was upset about not being able to venture out on my own full-time. Sure, I’d be my own boss, set my own hours, make my own rules, choose my own clients, blah,blah, blah. Those are the perks that have been sold to me by various colleagues and business peeps I encountered along the way who make their living by calling the shots while meeting clients and working on their business plan where ever free WiFi had been offered.
But what I’m sure a lot of these solo-preneurs realize is that venturing out on your own comes with a price. Where I work, I’ve been there 15 years. I have seniority. I have 4-weeks PAID vacation a year. I have 5 PAID sick days a year. I have 3 PAID personal days a year. I have PAID berevement and jury duty days. I have remote access to work from home in inclement weather. I have flexibility. And, most importantly, I have a boss whom I dig. Truly, he’s a fantastic guy. I wouldn’t have hung around that long if he wasn’t.
When I go on vacation, I get paid. When I’m sick, I get paid. When he decides to close the office due to bad weather, I get paid. If he sends me home because the server went down/electricity went out/he’s just in a good mood and feels like it, I get paid. He reimburses my medical insurance. He gives me annual raises and an annual Christmas bonus that’ll make your eyes pop.
Sacrificing all those things in exchange for career freedom, being my own boss and cracking my own whip was not a wise choice. On my own, if I don’t work, I don’t earn – especially if you’re in a business where you charge hourly. Even if I had a portfolio of 30 clients that I could work on one day each month, I could very well lose half of them without so much as a warning.
Then, where would I be?
I said all that to say this – I know there are a lot of you out there, like me, who are doing double-duty until such a time you can truly break free and run your business full time. But unless you are in a financial position to do so (meaning, you have enough back-up income, your spouses income, etc. to carry you over until you start making good money), then keep doing both. There’s nothing wrong with it. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure because you can’t break away. For me, I actually love my job too much to give it up in exchange for the stress of building up a client base that’ll equal not just what I make, but to cover my benefits. It’s my choice to stay with my employer AND continue to service the bookkeeping clients I still have – even after weeding out some problem clients to lessen my work-load and stress level.
So it’s okay to work for someone else AND run a little side business as long as you’re happy, it doesn’t burn you out and your clients and boss both understand your responsibilities to the other. This is where it’s important to set boundaries and rules and adhere to them. Maintain a monthly schedule and stick to it so that you can juggle both without it becoming overwhelming. Knowing you have the steady income of your full-time job allows you the freedom to say ‘no’ or ‘let go’ of that problem client. I’ve weeded three from my garden since the summer and feel a strange sense of calm every month when I know I don’t have to dread doing their work. Believe me, the lack of stress is work the loss of the monthly fee!
Are any of you in this position? I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or stories.
Happy working – always, always happy!