I have been self-employed since I was 18 years old. I went full time self-employed when I was 21. Perfect timing considering that it was 2001 and two months after I quit my job to go full time after my business the biggest attack on American soil ever took place.
Since then I have had my share of setbacks as an entrepreneur, and a lot has changed in my life. When I quit my job and went full time into my business, I did not have any responsibilities. I lived on my own, so I had rent and a car payment, but that was it. If I ate ramen three meals a day because I had to put out money to order more product, I did it. I started my business with $2,500 in inventory and grew it in less than four years to a business that grossed $1.5 million in sales. In 2003 I was shipping products internationally from orders that came through my website when most companies were just learning what a website was. It was fun, but it wasn’t what I saw myself doing for the rest of my life.
My online business taught me more than just how to run an online business. Through that process, I taught myself how to code and that set me up for my next business venture as a web developer. Though I have had a few other ventures since such as Photography and running a Tech News and Review website, website design and development has been my constant since 2005.
In 2008 I had a rough year. The economy was down, and nobody was spending money. Businesses were cutting back on marketing expenses and Brides were spending less on wedding photography. I almost took a job with a company in Southern California handling search engine optimization for a large corporation. I stuck it out, and the market returned.
It has not been easy running a business and trying to grow that business. I have had some success, but it has been matched by frustration and some failure as well. Nothing has come easy.
During the slow days of 2008, I started reviewing iPhone Apps on a blog I set up and that turned into a business that generated an average of $13,000/mo over the course of six years with the best month earning me $32,000. It was pretty amazing.
Web Development started to pick back up in 2013, and I started focusing more heavily on what I knew would carry me over the long haul as a business owner. The app review site had garnered a ton of competition, and I could tell I would need to focus my attention elsewhere after that.
I have always found it necessary to reinvest in my company. If I am not reinvesting in myself and my business, I am stagnant. The revenues from the app review site allowed me to do this more freely. This was also a challenging time for me as I had started growing my family in 2010 and by the end of 2013 had three children. Yes, three kids in three years.
Now I love people, and I love my clients, but not all clients are easy to work for. I am very thankful that I have had more good clients than bad ones. The problem with bad clients is that they suck the life out of you and leave you beaten on the side of the road. I have always taken my work seriously and being that I don’t have a traditional education to fall back on, I always took myself very serious as well. Bad clients can make you question yourself and your core competencies. Like finding out that your significant other doesn’t love you anymore, it makes you question yourself and your self-worth. It’s hard not to get emotional about business when it’s your work and your business you are putting out there. I have never been able to believe anyone who says they can completely separate business from personal life. Business is personal. I do not trust anyone who does not take their business personally.
As I mentioned before, I have celebrated plenty of little wins in business, but I have also taken quite a few jabs to the ribs both from clients and from the logistical aspects of running a business. I have a wife and three kids. We don’t own a home, not because we don’t want to, but simply because it is very challenging for a self-employed person to purchase a home. We are a single income household by choice. We made the decision to provide our children with a Christian education. We are considering adoption.
I am closer to my 40’s than my 20’s, and my personal responsibilities will only continue to grow. My goal since closing my retail shop and starting web agency was to provide myself with more freedom. Running my shop, the online store, and a small parts distribution center was time-consuming. I found myself working 14+ hour days. I closed my store on Mondays simply so I could catch up without customers coming through the door. I knew that I could not live that way if I was to get married and start a family, so I shut that down. I pivoted in my life toward something that offered me more freedom, and since then, freedom has been my goal.
My professional life has allowed me a lot of freedom. Those that have known me since I started having children know just how much time off I have been able to take to be with my family. At the time of writing this, I currently work a regular 8-5 day, but I am working every day to change that to provide myself and my family more freedom.
About a month ago I was offered an opportunity to work for a fast growing company in my area. I always recognized that if I were going to quit working for myself, I would probably have to move to the Bay Area or Los Angeles to find a company that could afford someone with my skillset. The idea of working for someone else was desirable to me because it was something constant. There is not much in my life that is consistent other than the needs of my family and my clients. The concept of money getting deposited into my bank account every two weeks and only having one client to deal with sounded great.
Over the course of three weeks, I was all over the place. I was all for the job one moment and then the next I was totally against it. I was a wreck. I constantly prayed over the opportunity. I knew that if I took this job, I would not have time to run my business any longer. I didn’t want to run my business on the side while working full time. I was not going to let my work cut into the time I wanted to spend with my wife and kids. Whether I worked for myself, or another company, freedom still had to be my guiding cause.
If there were any time during the year that a consistent income would be welcome, it would be the holidays. I think anybody can relate to that. Being that my business does the majority of its business with other businesses, holidays are notoriously slow. Nobody wants to start designing and roll out a website or a new online marketing plan in December. Most of our clients are small businesses, and they are focused on the holidays. Turning down the job offer was very hard to do going into the holiday season.
Ultimately, I decided not to take the job because I have not yet had the time to flesh out all of the ideas I believe have a lot of promise. I often get too busy to work on my ideas because I am focused on my clients, but I never stop thinking and dreaming. If I wanted to start working on one of my ideas, I could by simply cutting back on client work. If I was working for another company, I would have to be all about that company during work hours. To moonlight on other ideas while on the clock would be giving less than 100% to the company I was working for. I am not ready to turn off that part of my brain, and I am not going to divert that energy to time I am at home with my family.
I am not going to say that this is the last time I will consider taking a job, but I can honestly say that it is the closest I have come to working full time for someone else. I work for myself, but I have clients whom I work for as well. My clients have expectations of me just as an employer would have. People often comment on how nice it must be to be my own boss. I explain that it is nice to be my own boss, but I also have a dozen clients I have to answer to as well, so it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be.
Another thing this opportunity has given me is a renewed drive to grow my business. I can not honestly say which direction I will point all of this renewed energy, but I do have a renewed focus and am excited about the future.
Who knows what will happen with Trump in office, but the last almost decade has brought more regulation and difficulty to small business owners than ever before in the history of our country. Regardless, challenging and uncertain times are often some of the best to start a new business. I am blessed to have been able to direct my own professional direction for the last 15 years of my life and I am not quite ready to give that up, even if the opportunity is great.
I have had job offers from other clients in the past, but I appreciate this one the most because I believe in the company and it’s potential. Even if I had taken the job, my life as an entrepreneur wouldn’t have been over; it simply would have been paused. I am looking forward to finishing this year strong and focusing on new things in 2017.