Browsing Tag

freedom

Blog

Cleaning & Clearing Continues

Hello Wanderers! Ok, that’s something new. Playing around with a way to address those of us who desire to wander and create more freedom in our lives. It is a fight at times so I’m going to refer to us as Wanderers for a while and see where it goes.

This week the cleaning and clearing have continued. In my first post, I spent some time explaining what This Week In Freedom was all about by giving you some of my backstory. I also shared that I was going through a process of getting back to the essentials by getting rid of stuff and being ok with getting rid of it.

I want to share with you these pictures of the shop at my office. The office that I am working on getting out of was where I conducted business for the last few years. I have had three different offices over the past eight years. Though I downsized a lot to fit into the office I am now moving out of, I will need to downsize much more to be completely out of there and not need a large storage unit, which I am trying to avoid. The shop was quite a mess because I had started to go through everything and had moved a couple of storage racks home. Before taking away the racks the entire floor was for the most part clear. Check it out.

So I spent just about all of Saturday going through everything. I wanted to make sure that boxes with personal documents such as prior tax returns or anything like that were removed. Some of these boxes have traveled with me from house to house and office to office. It was time to break that cycle.

I went through all of the emotions while going through this mess. Part of me wanted to throw it all in the dumpster or donate it all on the spot, but I knew that was not the responsible thing to do. There is a lot of equipment here that still has value. I would be shortchanging myself if I did that. I ended up listing about 15 things on Facebook Marketplace and most of it sold that same day within a few hours.

By the end of the day I had completely gone through everything and am ready to sell it all off or donate it. I fired off an email to my CPA last night asking whether it would be more beneficial to sell everything off or to donate it to an organization that would inventory everything and provide me with a detailed list. Once I have that answer I will decide which direction to go. Regardless of what I do, the shop must be empty by a week from now. Though I am in a lease until the end of March I want to know this place is empty. I will regain just a little bit more freedom in my mind knowing that this place is cleared out.

At home, we have also continued to go through our stuff and clear out more. I mentioned having several bags of clothes to get rid of, we have added more clothes, old toys and stuff we don’t really use anymore to the mix. Check out this pile, which doesn’t include a few bags that are in the garage. Now I didn’t know who Marie Kondo was prior to last week, but I think she would be proud. I think we have only begun to see just how much we can get rid of.

So much was done this week in the journey to freedom. Each week brings us one step closer to our summer road trip. To recap, our plan is to travel for the entire summer in our travel trailer. Pending something unforeseen, the only issue that could arise is the finalization of our adoption of Mikayla. We have been told that we could have a court date sometime in June or July but that is something we can schedule and as we get closer, we will have more details.

In the near future, I plan to bring my wife into the fold of This Week In Freedom as she was the one that made that pile as big as it is. My wife really enjoys organization and has had some really good ideas for our travel trailer that will assure we all have some space for the things we do decide to keep and take with us on our trip.

I have also created a YouTube channel for This Week in Freedom, but have not created any video content for the channel yet. I do plan to soon. Ideally, I would like to do these weekly updates in video form and include video from throughout the week.

Dreams don’t come to fruition overnight, nor does freedom. It’s a constant battle of will and the desire for something better. Even last night, my kids were bored. They couldn’t come up with something to do yet they have so many options. It would be much easier for them if they had fewer choices. I really do wish that our trip could start tomorrow, but until then we will keep working toward essentializing and ridding ourselves of the unnecessary.

Keep fighting the good fight Wanderers! What can you cut back on this week to create more space in your life? I look forward to updating all of you next week with photos of an empty shop with nothing in it.

Blog

To Freedom and Back Again

Welcome to Wandering Hills, I’m Jerad Hill, a husband, father, and entrepreneur. I have a bit to break down as to what this is and what I plan to do here so in the first post I will try my best to present a 30,000-foot view of it all and as time goes on I will explain more. The goal is to create more freedom in our family life. Not to be so tied down to the things we get ourselves stuck in. For those interested, I will share how I got here.

My first business was in retail. It started as a brick and mortar store and quickly went online. As I added product lines and services both instore and online, I found myself working insane hours. I would get to the shop around six in the morning to get working on online orders that came in overnight and work on customer repairs that still needed to be completed. I had food delivered or picked up for me every day and often didn’t leave the shop until around eleven at night. Sometimes I had so much work that I just slept at the shop. The shop was open six days a week and closed on Mondays so I could catch up on orders and service work. I did this for several years. Retail was also very stressful because I constantly had to worry about my shop getting broken into by kids who wanted free skateboards and scooters.

Fast forward to the summer of my 2005, I was 25 years old and I knew I could not continue working like that. I had closed my shop down at the turn of the year and was considering the closure of the online store as well. I decided to sell off my remaining inventory and start developing websites as I had been doing some web design and development on the side. I had taught myself how to code out of the need to grow and add features to my online stores over the past five years. I had some money saved up so I thought I would give freelancing a try.

I knew that if I wanted to have a family, I needed to change my lifestyle.

When I decided to sell off the remaining inventory I knew that I could not go on like I was. I had ruined a relationship I was in which was largely due to the amount of time I spent working. I knew that if I wanted to have a family, I needed to change my lifestyle. There was no way I could be a good husband and have any relationship at all with my children if I worked twelve hours each day.

Shortly after starting my freelance website design business I got into photography and quickly turned that into a business as well. By mid-2016 I was shooting weddings and in 2017 I photographed 32 weddings on top of my already growing workload with website design. I still had a lot more freedom than I did when I had the shop, but I was getting busy again.

The housing market crash caused me to rely more on both of my businesses because people were not spending as much money as they were. I booked fewer weddings and businesses were holding on to their money to see how things played out. Thankfully I was diversified enough with my businesses and clients that I was able to stay self-employed. In 2008 I married the most amazing women I had ever met and I continued on my path to create more freedom from being locked down to my businesses.

In early 2008 I had started blogging on the topic of iPhone Apps. The iPhone had just received an update allowing support for third-party apps and my immediate thought was that it would soon be just as hard to find good apps in the Appstore as it is to find good music in iTunes. I turned out to be correct. Within a few months, I had a new business reviewing apps. I called it the DailyAppShow because I produced a video app review daily which was published to our podcasts, YouTube channel and a variety of other places. Back then there were a lot of sites trying to become what YouTube is today. Now I had three businesses I was running at one time.

In 2010, we had our first child and I decided it was time to get an office so I could keep work at work and be fully present when I was at home. My wife quit her job a few months before delivering our first child. For the next eight years, I would go from a small office to a large office and back down to a small office again. During that time I had ten different employees, five of which were employed at the same time. By this time I had transitioned from a freelance style business to an actual agency which I named Hill Media Group. I also had two more children. Things were getting complicated.

In July of 2018, my last employee quit to pursue different work and I found myself working all alone again. By this point, I had cut back quite a bit on the wedding photography and videography because I wanted to limit the amount of time I had to work on weekends. My kids were in school most of the week so the weekends needed to be for them. I was so busy during the week with other work that I had to start turning wedding clients away. In 2017 I photographed and filmed a small handful of weddings and in 2018 I took on none. Though I haven’t really kept this website up to date I am still receiving multiple inquiries for wedding photography each week. I still do a lot of photography work but it’s mostly commercial work that I do during the week which keeps my weekends free.

After emerging from the cloud of work that I found myself in after my last employee quit I sat in my office realizing that I had created exactly what I was trying to avoid which was a business that I felt tied down to. I also realized that my daily routine has become toxic. I felt the need to get out of the house immediately in the morning so that I could accomplish everything that I wanted to get done and be home by 5 PM. Though I was spending a full eight hours a day at the office I didn’t feel very productive. Once again I knew something needed to change.

I don’t need a physical office to conduct business so I made the decision to get rid of the office and set up a small home office. The problem with having a home office in our current home is that there is no room for that. My new office in our home is in our bedroom, which is a room only slightly larger than our bed. We had to get rid of our dresser to make room for my desk.

Now having far less overhead and the freedom of working from home, I have started looking into other ways I can cut back. I had a lot to get rid of by closing down my office. My 1400sqft office was pretty full. By moving into a small home office in our bedroom, I could only keep the essentials. Though I have downsized to my small office space I am still noticing items I rarely use that I could get rid of.

It is so easy to end up with more than we really need to operate on both in business and in our home. I often feel anxiety over all of the things we have and we don’t have as much as most in our community. It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time to accumulate. Eventually, you need more storage and that leads to a larger house. It’s the American way and nobody will question your logic over it. We are great at justifying our actions.

On December 7th, we brought home an eleven-day-old baby girl we named Mikayla making us a family of six.

Early last month, we purchased a travel trailer and I started outfitting the trailer with new items. Amazon boxes were showing up daily. I wanted the trailer to be ready to go at any time. My logic seemed sound to me, but we already had enough stuff in the house to take from to outfit the trailer. I was once again accumulating more stuff.

Over the holidays, I started looking at what else I could get rid of. My wife went through her clothes so I did as well. I ended up getting rid of about 70% of my clothes which filled three garbage bags. I could get rid of about half of the remaining 30% and still have plenty of clothes. I have also started looking at other things I have that I have way too much of and plan to downsize even more. I am not downsizing to make room for more, I want small to be my new normal.

This summer we plan to travel in our trailer. The goal is to travel for two months while the kids are on summer break from school. Our trailer is a 28-foot town behind trailer which doesn’t have a ton of storage space. If we are going to spend as much as two months in this trailer, we are going to have to be very intentional about what we take with us. I am going to have to run my entire business from a backpack. My kids are only going to be able to take a few toys. We only have enough closer space for a few outfits. It’s going to stretch us quite a bit.

Two months of traveling in our trailer with limited stuff will be a reset for all of us. We will quickly learn what we can and can’t live without. By the time we return home, we will be used to less and my hope is that we can continue living a more minimalist lifestyle. I just want true intention for everything in our home. More does not bring happiness, it actually produces unrest.

My kids have a lot of toys. I have contributed to that as well as the rest of our family. When we travel, the kids are allowed to take a few toys with them and the rest stay at home. With less, they constantly play with their few toys. When at home, with all of their toys, they complain of being bored or not knowing what to do. I realized that in myself when I would get to my office and have a hard time figuring out where to start with my work. I had so much going on and so much stuff, it was overwhelming. It’s hard to decide what to do when you have so many options. You end up doing nothing.

We are getting excited about our road trip this summer. We will explore more than we ever have before and do more with less. As we move closer to our I will share more about how we are able to pull this off. Sharing our plans with others has generated a lot of questions such as:

  • How we are going to live as a family of six in a mid-sized travel trailer?
  • Where will we stay?
  • How will we wash our clothing?
  • How are you able to travel for two months of the year and run a business?

The concept of breaking free from the normal has never left my mind but I have taken some detours along the way. I could be a lot further along in my quest to be as free as possible, but we are here now and are working toward getting back to the freedom lifestyle I imagined having for myself and providing for my family. It will not be met without some resistance, but it is work we need to do. There is so much more out there and I need to experience it with my family. We have created a comfortable home and surrounded ourselves with things that make life more convenient, but that has not brought happiness.

If you are interested in following along as we make these changes in our life and travel as much as possible I would love to notify you of new updates when we post them. You can easily subscribe to our blog for free here.

What are your thoughts on living with less and creating more freedom in your life? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Here’s to Freedom and the Wandering Hills!

Income

March 2018 Passive Income Report

March 2018 Passive Income Report

March was an interesting month. We had a lot of Hill Media Group projects coming to a close so I focused on creating content. I put out a ton of videos in March and that shows in the numbers you see below. There are still a few passive income areas that finished correcting back to where they would normally be after the holidays and post-holiday sales.

I changed the name of this report from Side Income to Passive Income. The idea is that the income will grow into something that could become my main focus. Calling it side income makes it seem like something I don’t spend much time working on. The goal is to grow passive income streams that continue to pay me over time. As I continue to feed those passive income streams, that income will continue to grow and become an income source that will pay me even if I decide to take a month or two off on occasion.

With the large boost in content production, I am interested to see where Amazon Affiliate sales will go next month in April. Sometimes it can take some time before the increase in content and views result in more affiliate sales.

I still feel confident with how things are going so far in 2018. I have not had the motivation I had at the beginning of the year. I know that I need to get back to it and work on creating a new course. Hopefully, I can make more forward movement in April.

Make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to follow along as I continue to explore new ways to grow my personal income.

March 2018 Side Income Total – $4,895.51 (-9.5%)

YouTube

  • StateOfTech – $1,119.39 (+27.31%) Subscribers: 29,771 (+4.57%) Watch Time: 1,169,902 Minutes (+5.31%)
    This YouTube channel is part mobile technology review videos and part tech tutorial videos. I added a lot of video content in March which is represented in the growth see this month.
  • Ditch Auto – $440.79 (+32.12%) Subscribers: 24,785 (+5.31) Watch Time: 827,560 Minutes (+17.57%)
    My photography channel continues to lack content. I have not had time to put anything together for Ditch Auto. I started the monthly photo challenge but have not had the time to work on additional content and have not focused on any other photography content. This needs to change.
  • Jerad Hill – $42.87 (+9.02%) Subscribers: 5214 (+0.12%) Watch Time: 37,249 Minutes (+10.65%)
    This is my personal channel. I started uploading more content this month but am having trouble with it being found. This channel is so old and has been unused so many times. I think it is going to take a lot of content and consistency to get it to bounce back.
  • AltCast – $0 (0%) Subscribers: 1446 (+23.59%) Watch Time: 64,733 Minutes (+23.03%)
    AltCast is a new channel started January 2018 with a focus on Cryptocurrency Mining. I have seen a lot of growth here due to a give-a-way that was pretty successful. I still need to reach 250,000 watch minutes in order to monetize this channel. I am currently at around 155,000.

Amazon Affiliate

  • Amazon Product Links – $972.33 (+13.69%)
    The Cryptocurrency buzz has died down for sure but the new content produced for State of Tech has helped drive more affiliate sales this month. Ditch Auto is still going strong but I have not added new content. This month I also started posting videos on the website as well with a short write up and product affiliate links. I am hoping to see some growth in traffic to the websites as well.

Google Adsense

  • Google Adsense links/display – $27.61 (-44.39%)
    Google made a pretty sizeable algorithm change in January which put the hurt on one of my sites. As I mentioned above, I have started posting video content to my websites with small articles to work toward growing traffic back up on these sites.
    Sites with Adsense Integration: StateOfTech.NetDitchAuto.Com

Jerad’s Courses

  • Paid courses on Jerad.Courses – $637.00 (-18.75%)
    The Mining Rig course still continues to provide some income, though it is slowing down quite a bit. I need to produce a new course to help replace that income.

Udemy.Com

  • Paid courses on Udemy – $335.52 (-46.22%)
    Just like with my personal course site, the revenue has dropped a bit on Udemy. I messed around with Udemy’s marketing a bit and allowed Udemy to set sale pricing on my course. This led to more sales, but less revenue overall.

Other Income

  • Other monthly revenue streams from side work – $1320.00 (-28.65%)
    I am almost back to where things were before in this category. I am not selling mining hardware anymore. This category consists of passive income that comes in from various other past projects and content that I no longer work on growing.

Investments

This was a rough month for my investment holdings in these two spaces. I didn’t put any money or even really pay much attention to my stocks in the Robinhood app so I lost a little bit there. Cryptocurrency continued to get hammered but I believe this is the bottom. My plan with Crypto was to hold on to what I had (HODL) and wait for it to recover. My investment strategy is a long game here.

  • Stocks (Robinhood) – Holdings: $7,455.90 (-2.22%)
    In April I plan to start focusing on my stocks again. Hope to see some growth here and will also put more money in.
  • Cryptocurrency – Holdings: $3,482.12 (-36.66%)
    Crypto has been hit hard this month and continues to take hits into April. I am still mining which contributes to growth in my holdings but I have lost a good portion of value from when it was at an all-time high in early January. I decided not to buy any Crypto in March. I will wait a bit longer to see what happens in April. If you want to get started investing in Cryptocurrency, I suggest joining Coinbase. You can buy and sell Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, and Litecoin currently.

March was a good month for YouTube growth. My main focus was producing videos and we put out a lot of videos during this month which is why there was so much growth in this space. I find that it is too easy to work on things that do not contribute to passive income growth. I have to remember what the goal is and continue to work on what will get me there.

Thanks for coming along. If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments section below.

March 2018 Passive Income Report

Vlog

How Freelancing Changed My Life

How Freelancing Changed My Life

Before I even knew what Freelancing was, I was freelancing. I have always worked on the side. I wanted to build something of my own. Freelancing meant being able to set my own hours. It meant doing work that I wanted to do. That was the life I wanted. When I started freelancing full time, my goal was to have more freedom in my life. Though that has not always meant working fewer hours, it has led to having something that is mine which has resulted in the freedom to choose.

In this video, I talk about how Freelancing changed my life and what it has led to.

Vlog

10 Passive Income Ideas I Made Work and How You Can Make Them Work for You!

28:14 10 Passive Income Ideas I Made Work and How You Can Make Them Work for You!

Through my desire to find freedom in my life I have worked on projects that produced passive income. Passive Income is important because without some sort of passive income you are constantly trading hours for money. If you find yourself unable to sustain those hours, you take a pay cut. I have come to understand that life is not going to get any cheaper. Traditionally that would only leave me one choice, work harder. The problem is that I don’t want to have to work harder and harder until I get old. I want some freedom in my life to enjoy life as I live it. This requires passive income.

In the following video, I discuss 10 Passive Income Ideas I Made Work for Me and How You Can Make Them Work for You!

Vlog

On Work and Freedom

Work and Freedom

Every decision I make when it comes to working drives a desire to keep or strive for more freedom. There are occasional backslides when I want something really bad but the tradeoff is more work but my desire is to assure I have freedom from being locked down with no options.

Freedom doesn’t mean that I don’t have any responsibilities. I actually have more responsibilities than I have ever had before, but I choose which responsibilities I am willing to accept with much more thought and intention than before. In today’s vlog, I talk about why freedom is so important to me.

Blog

The Moving Blues

Moving

Late last year I found out that I most likely would be forced out of the building I was leasing for my business. Not that I was being strong-armed or anything, but the rate increase combined with the required terms would have been a little bit more than I wanted to take on. I like where I was because I had a lot of space and a shop for my trailer and racecars. It worked out really well when I had a lot of employees but my staff is less than it used to be and I am the only one working from the office now. I decided that now is the perfect time to lower my overhead.

I have never been a big fan of moving. It’s a lot of work to move, especially if you’ve been there for a while. I wanted to take this opportunity to go through everything that I have accumulated over the years for different jobs and clear out some things. This meant that the job of packing up and moving would most likely be a job I will do alone. Going through everything meticulously meant revisiting a lot of memories. There were a lot of items that I purchased for specific jobs, mainly photography or video production related. I have been lucky enough to get to do a lot of fun things for work that I enjoy.

As I went through everything I decided that I needed to downsize. There’re a lot of things that I may potentially need again but without knowing that for sure, I can’t just keep things assuming that I might need them again one day. My grandfather has a large shop and saves just about everything. He’s not a hoarder or anything like that, but he does hang onto a lot of things assuming that he may need them again one day. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that because there have been times where I’ve gotten rid of something only to realize that I should’ve kept it. The problem with hanging on to everything is that you end up spending more money to store it than you would to just buy it again later on when you again have a need for it. This move is forcing me to make a lot of decisions on whether or not to keep things.

The sad thing about getting rid of your stuff is that you have memories attached to them. I have worked for myself since my early 20s and have accumulated a lot of things over the years for a variety of different tasks. I’m not talking about a stapler that I’m emotionally attached to, I’m talking about photography gear, computer parts, and other technology that I just generally enjoy regardless of its use in my work life.

In my mid-20s, I closed down a business that I had built for the previous five years. I was completely changing industries and almost none of what I had would be useful as I transitioned what I was doing for a living. I remember being sad at that time because I had spent a lot of time building this business only to shut it down. There were a lot of memories tied to equipment I had and even some of the leftover product I had to get rid of. I also wanted to do things better this time around, which meant getting rid of stuff I had that was not up to the level I wanted to be at myself.

When I make a decision I don’t often dwell on the past. I want to move on and focus on what’s in front of me, not what’s behind me. I also want to improve, and you can’t improve if you bring everything with you.

Storage Rack

As I was packing up everything, I was deciding what to keep and what to sell. I found myself just wanting to get rid of some of it fast. There were some more valuable things that I listed on eBay, but the smaller things I wanted to just throw away. I just wanted to get that out of my mind so I can move forward. Even as I write this I have three large boxes of stuff and some furniture that I need to get rid of. I don’t even like the idea of having to deal with it. I am mostly moved into my new office location and everything I plan to get rid of is sitting in a corner at the old office waiting for me to do something with it.

About five years ago I had decided to open a co-working space. I had the business completely set up and ready to open, but I decided not to go through with it. I had all of this furniture just sitting there. I knew that I could list all of this brand-new furniture on craigslist and sell it off piece by piece, but the idea of having to deal with that required more mental energy than I wanted to give it. So I donated all of it to a new startup church.

As I’ve grown further into my adult years I have become more aware of the way I deal with things. I also recognize that I need to optimize my time and spending it dwelling on the past, or dealing with the things of the past, often cause me more stress than just letting it all go. Now obviously this is not a healthy thing to practice in all facets of life, but when it comes time to move on, I have no problem doing so.

I guess the reason that I’m writing this is just to publicly declare that I get sad and emotional about things sometimes that may or may not make sense to others. Early on in this move, I wanted to put a sign on the front door that says “Free” like my Business was some old couch I was trying to giveaway on the side of the road. Sometimes it’s just easier to start fresh then it is to move everything. I always want to improve, so maybe that has something to do with it, or maybe not. My new office is a lot smaller than the office before, but it’s going to add to my bottom line, which is having more freedom. Lower overhead means less worry about ongoing monthly costs. My new office is even closer to home and today, I longboarded home for lunch.

I’m looking forward to the next chapter at my new location. I still have a lot of work to do to be setup here, but I enjoy that part.

How do you feel about moving? Do you pack up every last little item you own, or get rid of a lot and start new? Let me know in the comments below.

Blog

I Almost Shut It All Down!

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.

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In Search of Success & Freedom

I have written on the topic of personal freedom many times. Since my early 20’s, my ultimate goal has been to work toward achieving freedom from the regular things that end up tying us down. I have had success and failure along the way through my efforts to achieve personal freedom and have learned a lot along the way. We moved across town this weekend and through that process, I spent a lot of time in the car with my father-in-law. We discussed work and life, which ultimately led to a discussion of basic life securities.

My father-in-law is a hard worker. He recently retired from many years of service to the same company. Though he is not old, or quite at retirement age to draw from social security, it was time for him to move on. Being that he and I are from exact opposite ends of the workforce spectrum, we occasionally discuss the topic of work and all that comes with it. Though he does not have any direct experience as a business owner, he recognizes the role differences between his jobs and my job.

Over the years, I have received job offers, usually from clients I have worked with. There have been a few years where business was slow and I actually looked around at what was available. I have never entertained anything to this point, but sometimes the concept most people refer to as “job security” is fun to fantasize about.

During our discussion, he brought up a few of my complaints I have had over the years such as rising healthcare costs for my family, taxes, and the challenges the self-employed have purchasing a home since the housing market crash. That led to discussing the various job offers I have received over the years. To most, the solution to my “first-world-business-owner-problems” would be to get a job where I had health benefits and a w2. I understand that perspective. Beyond that, most people would assume that a business owner can’t just turn off the work mindset at the end of the day. Society typically portrays business owners one of two ways:

  1. The Tyrant: This is the business owner who sits in his office all day counting money as his employees slave away for low pay.
  2. The Founder: This business owner works near 24/7 giving themselves little sleep and even less time to their family.

Through the many conversations I have had with people, most see business owners as one or the other. Media and the startup business community considers long hours as a requirement for being successful. There are popular online personalities such as Gary Vaynerchuk and Casey Neistat who broadcast a perceived lifestyle of working 14+ hour days. Whether that is the case or not, that simply is not healthy and should not be honored as a lifestyle to follow in the footsteps of.

If you are going to own or start a business, the mindset is that you are going to have to work extremely hard up front, in order to have success later. This makes sense as it’s the only way most people can wrap their head around rising to success. Before I talk about success to much more, I want to be clear that success means something different to everybody. My definition of success is different than yours, and that is ok. Besides being a business owner, I am a husband and father to three children. I see my wife and children as my most cherished worldly possessions, so that is the lens in which I focus my life through.

I want to be able to exist with the basic comforts we expect to have here in the United States. I need a home in a safe neighborhood with walls that has heating and air conditioning. I need a reliable vehicle and food to eat. I need clothing that is in decent condition and a few dollars left over to buy the occasional piece of technology. What I do not need is excess. I did excess for a couple of years in my early 20’s and it did not lead to happiness or contentment. At age 24, I was making more money than I have ever made to date with my retail business, but I was spending all of it. I was also working long hours. I have discussed this before in other posts.

My definition of success has changed over the years. It used to be all about money. I was a kid and had no real concept of what contentment was. My current definition of success is to be able to provide a decent life for my wife and children. Not a life where they get whatever they want, but a life where I can provide basic comforts and securities, without going overboard. I have been blessed with the ability to do that so far.

My definition of total personal freedom will also change, but right now the definition and goal is to one day be able to self-sustain financially. That means that the work I have done so far is producing enough income to cover our life expenses for a while without having to do more work. Some call this retirement, but I don’t really like the definition most people give retirement. Most people see retirement as the end of the line where they do not have to work or use their brain for much anymore. I plan to follow in my Grandmother’s footsteps and use my brain to the best of its ability until I take my final breath. Of course, I could work extra hard now in order to obtain self-sustainability much earlier, but at what cost?

It is important to have a clearly defined understanding of what being successful means to you. If you do not have that understanding, you will never reach a level of success you can feel comfortable with. I know plenty of people who make more money than I do and even more who have a dual income household. I know people who work twice as many hours as I do, and I know people who barely work what would be considered part-time, yet still make more money than I do. None of that affects how I feel about what I have or haven’t achieved yet in life.

It is easy to think that if I just worked two more hours each day, I could take an extra vacation or afford to have a bigger house, but what would that do to my freedom? I am not the best at it, but I try to weigh each decision I make that requires my time against what it would cost my family. That puts things into perspective quickly. I see time away from my family as a deficit regardless of what the result of that time produces.

Getting a job with a company would not necessarily make me feel any more secure or provide me with any additional freedoms. Having paid vacation might make it easier to take one vacation, but if you set it up right, owning your own business gives you the flexibility to take multiple vacations and occasionally work from them if need be. It’s getting harder to do that now that I have kids in school, but we still try. The photo above was taken a few years ago when we went to Del Mar on vacation. I worked while our kids napped and we spent the rest of the time at the beach (Look how chubby Cohen was!!).

For me, reaching total freedom does not mean never having to work again. That would actually be torture. My brain does not operate that way as I am always trying to solve problems and come up with solutions. Beyond that, I never tire of learning about new things. Whether I am working for myself, someone else, or in partnership with someone else, all must align with my defined goals of freedom and success. Anything short of that would lead to confusion and frustration.

The reality of it is that there is no true freedom from everything. We will always have obligations and requirements. People will always expect something from us. However, if you have a personalized definition of what freedom is to you and what being successful is, you will more easily be able to obtain it. As a side effect, you will also prevent the endless chase that comes from nothing ever being enough.

What would your definition of a successful person be? Are you working toward reaching that level of success? What do you consider “true freedom” to be? Are you working toward reaching that level of freedom?

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