Christmas Day was always spent with Mum’s family.
Us, the aunts, the related uncles, and the dozens of cousins, out at the property. Keeping that many children entertained is not a small task, but fortunately the property had endless possibilities in the way of kangaroos, aboveground pools, dogs, and the best of all: the tractor ride.
The appropriate uncle would hook up his trailer to the tractor and take us for a spin around the back paddocks. The trailer had inflatable tyres, and there were hay bales to sit on, but the ride was still bone-jarringly jouncy. The trailer would go over a rabbit hole or a washout and suddenly you would find yourself in the air for one glorious moment, and then – click! – you would hear your teeth audibly come together as gravity took you back.
For a half hour on a hot Christmas day, this was a highlight almost on par with the number of presents one receives if your mother has five sisters. The discomfort and the jostling (and the dust) were the reason it was fun.
It was fun because it was just a half an hour, after which there would be lemon crush and running under the hose and opening presents and a barbeque. No-one in their right mind would want to stay on the shaking bouncing trailer for much longer than that.
But I have. I have spent this year riding a version of the trailer that doesn’t even have the grace of a haybale for cushioning.
That is what my business life has been.
Here is a list of potential shock absorbers under your business.
Which do you have?
- 2 months of savings
- A waiting list of clients
- Long-term contract work
- Retainer work
- A partner who pays vital expenses
- An emergency credit card
- A dragon hoard
- A pipeline of potential one-day clients
- Royalty payments
- Passive income
- Income protection insurance
- Regular referrals from a colleague
- A pension
- A part-time job
If you don’t have at least two of these things (or things like ’em), you aren’t going to enjoy your business as much as you ought to.
At one stage I had this nailed.
I had a couple of thousand dollars in savings, I had an emergency credit card, retainer clients, The Dude covering the food bills, and always five or six people who would turn into paying clients any moment now.
In the last six months, due to three months of illness, bad advice, and a change in business model, I have had maybe one of those shock absorbers in operation. Sometimes, I have had none of them.
The funny thing is, I am actually making more money than I was previously. On paper, on average, I am making more money than I need to thrive.
But without the shock absorbers… most people don’t talk about this, but it is possible to be profitable AND panicked.
When you have a cushion and bottom out for a moment – a bad week in sales, a major affiliate quits, unexpected expenses due to a tech failure, whatevs – it’s noticeable, but it doesn’t hurt you.
If you have no shock absorbers, then every single time the road becomes less than smooth, you’re gonna get bruised.
Living the I-have-$17-for-groceries-while-I-wait-for-this-$1500-to-transfer-from-my-PayPal-to-my-bank-account life, the constantly-playing-catchup-on-bills-and-rent game… it’s, quite simply, shit. Try to imagine sleeping on the rusty metal in the back of that trailer as it hits every pothole and rock. You get the occasional bit of smooth road where you can relax for a minute and then – BAM – wake up, we’re in the air again!
I don’t want to play this game anymore.
A couple of months ago, I realised: I miss my flawless eight hours of sleep. I am sick of freaking out every time the phone rings because I don’t have the money this week, I’ll have it next week. I am oh-so-very over forever being behind on everything because the slim weeks come before the fat weeks, and not the other way around.
So I made a commitment: I will do whatever it takes to change this.
The last two months have been full of realignment.
In the biz, Ash and I have been working hard to install springs and better tyres. We’ve already improved how we connect to new readers and build a relationship to potential clients. We’ve added a resilient and much more enjoyable affiliate system.
We’re also developing recurring income, like a paid Cash And Joy community, and bringing back the retainer work for the right kind of clients. These are good tools to even out the ride, and there are more on the way.
In my personal finances, I have been making big changes, too. No matter how tight things are, I have been putting 10c of every dollar into my security blanket fund. (I slept the whole night through for the first time in weeks when I had $75 in there. It is both wonderful and ridiculous how much difference that made.)
I hatehatehate to admit this, but I also bit the bullet and applied for government assistance. I expect that 95% of the time I will receive no payments, but one week in twenty it will be a profound relief to have a safety net under me.
And lastly, I’m contemplating getting a part-time job. Preferably something that builds my skills, or at least provides physical and/or social stimulation, but I am willing to be much less than fussy.
I am ashamed as I admit this.
I want to be a spectacular business success who never, ever needs to look at other options because everything is working so goddamn perfectly.
But you know what? It isn’t. I kept afloat while seriously ill for months, and I am proud of that, but it has had major consequences. It’s not really a question of cashflow – we have lots of new clients and expenses are goddamn minuscule.
It keeps coming back to that cushion. To that resilience. If you have resilience, then uncertainty isn’t too much of a big deal. You have resources to deal with it.
But without the resilience, everything is a problem. Every change is worrying. Uncertainty will murder your sleep and make you very, very unfun to live with.
In the last months I have had to rebuild the health of me and the business. And I have done it! But I have not succeeded in also building a surplus of resources to protect me from the next problem.
I realise that it is kinda stupid of me to be disappointed in myself for this.
To use a relevant Olympic metaphor, it’s like starting the 400m a lap behind everyone else and then being disappointed for only getting a bronze.
Of course, this metaphor suggests that my success is a competitive sport, instead of a solo event.
Because it is. It shouldn’t be, but it is.
I am often daft enough to compare my biz – recovering after the sole proprietor was out for the count for months – to, well, everyone who is talking about their wonderful businesses. I’m aware of how incredibly foolish that is, and I am working on not picking up the whip of but-so-and-so-is-doing-amazingly-well and flagellating myself with it, but not with remarkable success thus far.
(Because jouncing along on the rusty floor of a trailer is SO much better when your back is raw and bleeding.)
I know that I am not the only full-time biz owner who is casting an eye over the Help Wanted ads.
Plenty will admit to me privately that they’ve started a side hustle or an eBay store or a shift delivering pizzas. And I curse the culture that says, “But if you do that, you are a failure.”
Bullshit to that! Fie, fie! I do amazing work and I have remarkable clients. I should not be shamed by needing more regular income, too. I would prefer, of course, for it to be within the biz, and I hope that the paths we pursue to that end bear fruit. But deep down, I know that I would be a better businesswoman if I had two months of expenses in my bank account and I knew damn sure where the rent was coming from. I am willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen – to be strong and consistent in my biz.
This is what The Pilot Light is all about. It is, again, supremely embarrassing to be needing to do the work I teach, but that’s the spiral, yanno?
So my biggest priority is shock absorbers. And then I can start enjoying the ride again.
Speaking of The Pilot Light…
We’re starting again in just a couple of weeks and there are still two spots available. It’s your last chance to jump on board and off the rickedy-ass trailer, jellybean.
Email me TODAY if you’re yearning to smooth out your business’ ride. (firstname.lastname@example.org. DO EEET.)
I originally wrote this as a newsletter to my Rise and Shine peeps.
(Which means that if you’re not signed up, this is the kind of amazingness you are missing out on.)
I usually receive a half-dozen replies to my newsletters.
This time, I got three dozen in the first 24 hours.
All of them saying some variant of, “THANK YOU for saying the thing I have been thinking.”
If you can, please share your thoughts in the comments. Because clearly, there are lots of people who really wanna know they aren’t the only ones.
(And that, of course, includes me.)