Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Workin' for the Man -vs- Workin' for Yourself

One of the best pieces of advice I didn't follow before going into business for myself was "Before your leave your regular job, save up $10k and put it in an account you can access immediately." Right! My first thought was, "I'm going into business for myself because I couldn't save $10k while workin' for the man". "If I could safe $10k at the drop of a hat I wouldn't bother workin' for myself".

Looking back, it was the best advice I'd received and should have followed.

Stepping off the dock of "the Man" employment and into the boat of "self-employment" was certainly exciting.
While standing on the dock and looking out at the calm water, life was sure to be full of good times and adventure. I didn't realized that once I untied the boat from the dock and "pushed off", my footing would be incredibly unstable. I wasn't alone in the boat. With me was my wife and kids, our home, our dreams, college educations, dreams after high school, retirement.

When the waves would pickup and crash against the boat there was no way to secure it and it was difficult to guide. The boat may crash against the rocks. It may take on water and sink. It was me against whatever the waters could through at us. Enough with the boat analogy...

In the 3 years that I worked for myself we almost lost our home 3 times. Summer vacations were less about relaxing and more about creative financing to get through the week without income (Thank God for my family, who always knew how to divert my attention and make me laugh). Always being attached to the phone. Dealing with frustrated clients while out of town.

During the winter business was slow. This meant finding contract work to "get through". New Orleans, Wilminton NC, Beloit WI... Contract work was Never close to home. Work was every day as long as there was sunlight (and often when there was not). Money was good, but we were one more missed payment away from loosing the house. So the money was designated. Keeping expenses low meant living in $30-a-night hotels and living with the "riff-raff" they attract. Trying to help out with Teens at home but knowing that giving that help over the phone was a big part of the problem. In 2007 I lived over 6 months out of the state.

Living the dream wasn't supposed to look like this.

Getting the opportunity to go back to working-for-the-man was the lifeline I needed. The phone call to workout the details was like a big Coast Guard spot light hitting me in the face as I clung to the boats remains, cold, tired, scared. (Alright, no more boat analogies... I promise)

A deposit in the checking account, religiously, every other Friday... paid time off... vacations without a cell phone... I admire those who build their business on their own. There is also a lot to be said for Workin'-for-The-Man.

Now when I stand on the edge of the dock and stare out at the water things look different.

It's Good to be Me!