Entrepreneur’s lives are different from those with traditional 9-5 jobs.
We are often envied, when at times I think we should be pitied! I frequently have people tell me how lucky I am that I can “work whenever I want to”, and take as much time off as I’d like. While this is true, if I am not working, I have no income. I’ve never had a paid sick day or paid vacation in my life. I have no one matching a retirement contribution, or providing me with a low cost group healthcare, dental or vision plan. I pay for my own seminars, and business travel. Yes, everyone reminds me that it is a write off, but it is still money out of my pocket.
I was 23 when I started my Electrolysis (permanent hair removal) business. I was fresh out of college with a Bachelor’s degree in Theater Arts. I started school as a business major, but switched to something I knew would make my four years in college tolerable.
Upon graduating, I moved back home.
I had less than $5 to my name, so freeloading off my folks was a must. I was thankfully not burdened with student loan debt, or debt of any kind. I just had NO money.
I knew I wanted to start my own Electrolysis business. This required more school (ugh, didn’t I just finish 16 years of school???). The course required 500 hours of clocked-in time with the State at a properly licensed school. I had to come up with a couple thousand dollars to pay for my training.
I needed money.
I’d worked temp jobs during the summer in between school years. I decided that was how I was going to fund my Electrolysis education. Working temp jobs can be mind-numbing. The vast majority of my assignments were data entry. Sometimes I would have to alphabetize purchase orders, or put invoices in numerical order. As long as I didn’t forget the alphabet or how to count, I was qualified for these jobs!
Within a few months, I finally had enough money to pay for my Electrolysis training. It was located in a town two hours away from my home. I had family friends who lived near the school, and they let me stay with them during the week rent free.
Four months after beginning the course, I graduated and applied for my State Board exam. I passed my exam, and was issued my Electrolysis License. It was such a great day! I could finally start life as my own boss. Since my training took every dime I had, I had no money left over to start my practice.
I went to banks,
and contacted the Small Business Administration. I found that these entities only wanted to talk to you if you’d already been in business for at least 2 years. I was so disheartened. I wanted to purchase everything I needed to open up shop immediately.
I didn’t want to work another temp job in order to earn enough to start my business. The most I’d ever made working temp was $8.00 an hour, and it was usually less than that. It would have taken many more months to save enough to launch my practice.
A friend offered to loan me $3,300
so I could buy the bare necessities to start my business. We had agreed to an annual interest rate of 5%. At the end of 6 months, I paid off 50% of the loan. On the one year anniversary of borrowing the money, I paid off the balance in full. Even though my friend never commented on the loan, or did anything to make me feel indebted, I felt so free after I paid it off.
This particular experience of borrowing money did not turn out bad, but it easily could have. The feeling of having debt, on the other hand, was a terrible feeling I could not wait to get rid of. It went against everything that made me feel secure and comfortable. It may sound hypocritical, but I still would not recommend borrowing money to start a business. Yes, it did work out ok for me, but my youth and naivety prevented me from considering the risks. I could have lost a friend, or my friend could have lost $3,300. There was no guarantee I was going to have a successful business.
There was no internet, social media or cell phone
to facilitate marketing a new business when I started out. We had the precursor to Google, which was called the Yellow Pages! That phone directory was published once a year. If you missed the cut off date, which I did, you had to go an entire year with your business being excluded. This was the one place we all looked for every type of business. It was expensive to have an ad in the Yellow Pages, and the cost increased with every annual renewal. My last year advertising with them cost me over $400 a month. I now had more effective avenues to obtain new clients. The return on my investment for my Yellow Pages ad had dwindled to almost nothing. I had to reduce my expenses or I would not succeeding financially.
I prefer the “pay as you go or don’t go”
method much better than the “buy now, pay forever” school of thought. I had decided that other than a mortgage someday, I was going to live a debt free life. I did well on the debt free existence for a few years.
At one point, I borrowed $2500 for a car loan, after putting down $1500 cash. I actually had the entire $4000 sitting in a savings account, so I could have bought it outright. I thought I should get a loan to establish credit. I know this gets a lot of people into trouble, and I would not recommend it because of that. The term of the loan was 3 years. I’d been told that if I kept the loan for at least one year, it would enhance my credit. After my 12th payment, I took money out of my savings and paid the car off. I felt I had fully established my credit, and would never borrow again, except to purchase a house.
After three years of building my business,
I had money saved and felt more comfortable financially. I decided it was time to move out of my folk’s house and into an apartment. It was a fairly protected move, as it was less than a mile away. My sister wanted to move too, so we became roommates. We moved into a 4-plex my parents owned, and our grandfather was one of the tenants in the building. We did have to pay rent, however, so the freeloading days were over.
Only one month after moving, I met my future husband (who is now my late husband), and six months after meeting him, we were married. I had very little time to live on my own, and feel what it was like to be totally self-supportive. Though I had no debt coming into the marriage, he did. He had not been afforded the freeloading opportunities that I had! For better or worse, when you marry into debt, you have debt.
As I see friends beginning to take early retirement
from jobs they hated but had good benefits, I sometimes question myself. Did I make the right choice to start my own business doing something that I love, with no promise of security? I still need to work for financial reasons, so the thought of retiring with a nice guaranteed paycheck sounds appealing. The fun I have had at my job over the last almost 32 years, versus a soul sucking job for security makes me believe I made the right choice.
Not all jobs that have good benefits and offer security are bad jobs that make you hate your life. You can have a job you love that offers all kinds of financial rewards and perks. For me, I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do more than what I’ve done for the last 30+ years. (Except be a movie star, but I didn’t think that was going to happen….) Life is too short to hate what you do for a living. And I can say I really like my boss!
How about you? Have you dreamed of owning your own business? Do you like the security of a regular job? Do you want to venture out and try something new? Are you your own boss? I’d love to hear from you on my Facebook page at Elaine’s Lane.