It’s the first day of our new lives as a two-person business. Today, we take on bigger jobs than we ever have before, try to organize ourselves into a fully functioning machine and do our best to do an amazing job.
Today, however, is not going to be easy.
We already started with a late start for the wife, and it’ll be an early end with two meetings on my part, and a boy that needs to be picked up from daycare early at 3:30. That means today may suck.
Because of that, and because of the weight placed upon my shoulders right now, this is a short post.
Tomorrow is another day, but today is the start.
A few years back, I worked as the office manager at a local school bus yard. Every morning we’d have this meeting where we all stood around the time clock and discussed what we were going to do throughout the day. I’m not really sure why we had these meetings, because there weren’t too many occasions where the guys would do anything other than fix buses. But it was a part of our life, and that’s what we did.
I’ve been pretty content not to have a conventional business, one full of morning meetings and other busywork bullshit, but then yesterday I realized that a morning meeting might be just what I need. So how the fuck does that work?
Come Monday, my wife will be working with me full time at Whipps Industries as my assistant. Now that isn’t to say that she’s going to get me coffee and do stuff like that, but it’s more about helping me out with the little things that soak up my day and keep me from being creative — accounting, paperwork, misc. filing — stuff like that. In addition, I want her to be my boss.
There are often times during the day that I feel my interest waning in whatever it is that I’m trying to do. Either I’m bored or overwhelmed, there isn’t often an in between in these scenarios. These are the moments when I need someone to kick my ass and tell me to do something, which is when I need a boss.
Essentially, I need that in-house accountability. Since my wife started working at the office (she worked from home, previously), I’ve been quite lonely in the house all by myself. Sure, I’ve got two dogs and whatever else I want at my disposal, but it’s weird to sit by yourself and type away with no one else to talk to.
The concept of the morning meeting meant that I had that accountability. I have someone that I tell my plans for the day, and then report back to them later. It means that if I slack off, I’ll hear about it later. Obviously, I don’t want that. So the idea of having a morning meeting means that I can get that all straightened out.
On the flip side, Kirsten will need some direction as well. At first, there will be lots of finger pointing and directing, but eventually we’ll need to get into a rhythm. Problem is, my workflow changes from day to day, and that means that I’ve got to show her what I do and how I get things done. It’s going to be tricky, no doubt about it. But if I can get that system sorted out, then we’ll be OK.
The only real concern I have with this whole process is that I need things to start immediately, and she still has four days left of work. We’re never going to get anything substantial done over the weekend, and besides, it’s often easier for me to show someone what I’m doing as I’m doing it, not later. This is my current bit of drama. I’m tired of waiting for the transition, I want it to start now.
But since it can’t, I wait. And soon, we’ll have that morning meeting sorted out, and I’ll be back to my little OCD bubble. Until then, it’s going to be a bit finicky. But soon, as they say. Soon.
Right now, I have a full time job, two contracted positions and lots of other clients. Focusing just on the big three here — The Editor, The Day Job and AppStorm — why would I ever decide that I needed to add more work to my plate?
Well, it comes down to a few different reasons, so let me walk you through the process.
My wife hated her job, but we were stuck. Without an independent health insurance option that was affordable, either she had to stick with her day job, or I had to stick with mine. Even with that in mind, we knew that something was going to have to change in the next few months. Her job was a bottomless pit full of abuse, and I was butting heads with someone on my end. Something had to give.
After exploring our options, we came up with a few different healthcare solutions that we both thought would work. Then the shit hit the fan at the day job, so I put in my notice. I had already accepted the position as The Editor, so the finances were covered. We were going to get group coverage through Whipps Industries, so no worries. Kirsten would quit by Christmas, and all would be right with the world. We had it all figured out.
Then a weird thing happened.
Within 10 minutes of me turning in my notice at my day job, I received a call from one of the owners. Then the other owner called. I’m told that I’m a key player, and they need me on the team. What is it going to take to keep me there?
Umm … Shit.
This led to three weeks of conversations between myself and HR, and occasionally the CEO would pop in as well. Look, I’m nobody special, but what I proposed to the company a few weeks prior had apparently sparked something, and I was the key to making it happen. They wanted me back, and no wasn’t an option. But I was already The Editor, and entrenched in my first print cycle. How was this going to work?
Well the Day Job made me an offer, and frankly, it was a little insulting. For me to do what they wanted me to do was a bit obscene, particularly for that amount of money. There was no way that I could quit my other jobs and go solely with The Day Job, especially not for that number. But what if I didn’t quit? What if I just kept on plugging along with all three jobs? Could I do it?
It reminds me of an episode of Parks and Recreation I watched recently. Ron Swanson was explaining that if you half ass multiple jobs, you’ll just end up with half assed work. The answer is to whole ass your work. Makes sense.
But to make an informed decision on this subject, you have a lot of things that you have to consider.
First, look at my track record at magazines. As much as I love being The Editor, my time at most books is under a year. Whether that’s because I go mad or because they do, it doesn’t really matter. If history is to teach me a lesson, I know that I’ve got six months to a year before things go pear shaped. Understand that’s not my intent; I’m just commenting on what’s already happened.
Second, consider what I call The Rule of Quarters: No one client of yours should exceed 25% of your total monthly income. There’s a lot to this rule, but it all comes down to knowing that as a freelancer, nothing is sacred. I’ve been with AppStorm for two years now, but they could make a shift in the company and decide I need to be gone. I’ve also had clients for less than two weeks because of adjustments on their end. Shit happens, and by making sure that I don’t focus all of my income in one bucket, I’m diversifying. I know that if The Editor gig goes south, I’m OK. If The Day Job decides I’m not worth it, fuck it. And if AppStorm goes a different direction, I’ll still be able to put food on the table. It’s the only way that I’ve been able to stay sane in a completely fluid situation.
Third, there was the money. Although The Day Job wasn’t offering me enough money to quit everything else and focus solely on that, it was a good chunk of change — more than I ever made before Whipps Industries, which was enough in my book. The problem was the time commitment. There was no way I could work essentially 2.5 full-time jobs and keep my head straight. It was way more work than one person could do. If only I had some help.
And that’s when the lightbulb went off in my head.
In each of my jobs, there are moments when it would be nice to have help. These are little tasks that just eat up my day — email, story development, correctly labeling files — and with some kind of assistant, I could cut that time out. That means that I could — in theory — work these jobs and be more efficient. The problem was that I’d have to pay someone a salary to do that, and that cuts into the overall number. What’s the point then?
Unless that person was my wife. Then it makes sense.
By bringing my wife into the fold, it does numerous things for us.
Of course, there is a downside. It’s a fuck-ton of work. Here’s my rationale.
Kirsten is 17 weeks pregnant tomorrow, which means we have approximately 5.5.–6 months before K4 is due, give or take. This means we have 5.5–6 months to decide if this process is going to work for us. If it doesn’t, then once the kid is born we reevaluate. Maybe I take on an employee, maybe I drop one of the positions. Or maybe I get dropped from one of them beforehand, making it all a moot point. Either way, come K4 time, we take another look at our situation.
Life as a freelancer means being fluid and working with the changes that are going on around you constantly. If my wife and I can keep this going long term, then awesome. But if not, then we have at least earned the money and done pretty well. And if I feel that I’m half assing one job or another, then I lessen up on the workload in one form or another. I’m also not going to sacrifice my health for a cash grab.
It’s not a foolproof plan, but right now it’s sounding pretty good. Now it’s time to find out if it works.
When I take on a new role, there are certain things that just come standard with that position. There’s the filling out of the tax forms, the signing of the contracts, and sometimes, there’s the acceptance of the business cards. What I’ve learned in the past few years is that your value to the company can sometimes directly be attributed to whether or not you’re handed a card with your name on it.
Almost three years ago, I took on a new role: CEO and head monkey at Whipps Industries, LLC. I celebrated by ordering business cards — 5,000 of them in fact, even though I think I may have handed out 100 in my time at the helm. Shortly thereafter, I would get new roles — Editor in Chief, Writer, Editor, Copy Editor, SEO specialist, Webmaster — and only some of those delivered shiny bits of paper to me. It is true that I didn’t need a card for some of those roles, but for others, it was not only warranted, but it was promised — just never delivered.
And that’s when you learn what the company thinks of you.
I became editor in chief of Rebel magazine at a rough time in their growth. They didn’t know what the fuck they were doing. Their editor was also their designer, and she was giving bylines to people with blogger names like “Hip gyyyrl” or “Jamiebuggg124.” I came in, showed them how to make it work, provided the team to do so and was made editor in chief in short order. I was asked for my information for business cards. They said they ordered them. When they didn’t come, I asked again. And one more time. They never came.
When I became editor in chief at Jetset magazine, they were in a different position. They needed someone at the helm to really control the ship, and that’s what I did. My role was promised business cards. They took my information. They said they ordered them, not once but three times. Sure, the sales person who was in and out in 30 days had cards, but the face of their publication? Nope.
When the title of The Editor came up recently, I knew I had a tough road ahead of me. I had a shortened print cycle, no team and I was working on a topic that was so far flung from my comfort zone that I regularly worried about making a major faux pas just in producing the book. But I had my business cards in my hand before I received my first paycheck.
I get that not all roles deserve some kind of business card. I realize that it’s not necessary for certain positions because I’ll never go out and talk to anyone in public, or interact with someone in a way that would require paper be passed between the two of us. But as the editor/editor in chief of a magazine, you are the person who shapes that publication. You make it happen from nuts to soup. You’re the person at the helm, and you’ll be the one who goes out and networks with the people. You need business cards, and you should have them. And if you don’t, it’s pretty clear how management feels about you and, more specifically, your role.
I left both Rebel and Jetset after a short period of time because it was apparent that I wasn’t valued for what I brought to the table. Today, in my capacities as The Editor, I can say pretty fairly that’s not the case. It’s not the perfect gig, and I’m sure there are some surprises coming down the pike. But they still respected me enough to buy me business cards.
There’s too much going on in my head right now for me not to talk about this.
A week or so ago, I accepted a new job as The Editor, which meant that I had to leave my Day Job. I put in my notice, and figured everything would be alright. Friday the 21st would be my last day.
Thing is, it wasn’t OK. I won’t get into the specifics, but within an hour of my leaving the HR department’s office, I had spoken to the two owners of the company, both of whom expressed how important I was and how I can’t leave. I was a “key player,” and so on.
Now this makes you feel pretty good about yourself, but I was happy being The Editor and I was pushing forward with that, so it didn’t matter what they said, I was on my way. Yup. That’s what I was going to do. And then the Number Fairy appeared over my shoulder and said, “You know, they could offer you a fuck-ton of cash.”
Huh. Guess they could.
They didn’t. In fact, what they responded with was borderline insulting — not because it wasn’t decent money, but because it wasn’t equal to the amount of value that the owners had placed on me. The way I saw it, that number needed to go up a lot before I would move forward.
Flash to Tuesday. It’s my exit interview, so I go in to talk to the HR person (who had called me every day since I had quit, asking what it would take to make it work). She tells me that the CEO would be coming in for my interview, and he does, so we all chat it out.
Now, I’m sure I know what some people would do in this situation, but I was looking at the scene in a very different perspective. My advantage with the company has always been that I’m very candid with my thoughts. I say what I think, and because other people don’t necessarily act that way, I tend to shine a bit, I guess. Basically, in a sea full of ass kissers, I’m the guy who doesn’t care if he pisses someone off.
It’s the advantage and disadvantage of being me.
In addition, I had/have nothing to lose. I’ve already quit, I’ve already moved on. They can pitch to me all they want, at the end of it all, it’s still my decision to either continue or not. I’m halfway out the door, and I’ve already decided that whatever I do, I’m not going to screw over my new Editor position — that’s not how I roll. Somehow, I was going to make this work either as a group, or without the Day Job.
So I tell the CEO — in my normal language, complete with a few curse words — what the problem was. After an hour of back and forth, it was decided that I would push off my end date another week, and maybe assign out some work if necessary. They would get back to me soon.
Now it is quite flattering that everyone feels this way about me, particularly when I don’t think I’ve done anything to deserve it. However, remember that presentation I gave? Turns out that made quite the impression. So let’s get into that a bit.
Again, no specifics. But at The Day Job, my tasks were not what I thought they should be. I pitched this presentation as a way to keep the Day Job, because I knew that eventually, what I was doing would have no reason to exist.
Vague enough for you?
The concepts that I pitched weren’t revolutionary, they were just practiced methods that I’ve used over the years, and they work. Really, it’s all pretty straightforward stuff, but I guess at times it can appear revolutionary or something.
So now, I sit in the catbird seat. I wait for an offer, then I decide what to do with that number. I’m not sure if it’s worth my time, but if the numbers are right, well that might change things a bit.
Logistically, however, this would be a very difficult endeavor to pursue, much less keep consistent. This would mean a huge tax on my resources, and the question in my mind becomes, could I do this well, or would I lose everyone?
Fortunately, I don’t have to make that decision right now. For the moment, all I have to do is continue to work and do my best with the clients I have secured. As long as I make them happy, then whatever happens with The Day Job is secondary, and I can figure it out from there.
Again, I don’t need this gig, it just sure would be nice to have some extra cash before K4 is born.