Reasons to Be Profitable, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Triangle of Misery

I live in the middle of a Triangle of Misery.

It’s one of the reasons I do what I do. It’s one of my reasons to be profitable.

Let me explain.

About 25 miles north of where I live, there are a lot of big businesses with high paying jobs. And 25 miles west, there’s a lot of big businesses with high paying jobs. And 25 miles south… you get the idea. So when I was wrapping up my MBA – oh, gosh, seven years ago now – I started sending out resumes up, over, and down to each of these high commerce triangle tips. Working through grad school while holding down a full time job, a side gig, and raising two babies, I was feeling desperate for some payoff to my two and a half years of grinding and sleep deprivation.

“Finally!” I said, “with the proper credentials now in hand, I can get a job that will command a salary that will indeed provide comfortably for my family!”

But driving back from interviews at some of these companies, I would get stuck in traffic. And I started doing some math.

On average, it would take me over two hours to commute to and from any of these jobs. Over the course of a year, that would add up to about 230 hours in the car, listening to my favorite podcast… and hating my life, because I would know that I’m sacrificing almost a month out of the year of time with my family.

Actually, I’d be losing more than that, considering that I probably have to leave before my kids woke up, and I wouldn’t get back home until just two hours before bedtime. And if you’re a parent of young children, then you know that one out of the two hours leading up to bedtime is hectic garbage. S, now I’m looking at a possible 70% decrease in life shared with my children in exchange for what? A 30% salary increase, most of which would be gobbled up by the city wage tax and transportation costs?

Shoot. You could double my salary and I’m still not convinced it would be worth it.

So I pivoted. I pumped the brakes on my job search, and instead I focused on shifting my side gig into the next gear. And long story short, I started my own business. I scaled up and optimized my freelance work to the point where it could replace my salary. I quit my job. I freed up a lot of time and gained a lot of flexibility.

Now I can enjoy my family while working on some really cool projects and help other small business owners. And I love it. But the pressure is on now.

It’s not easy…

Transitioning into full-time self employment felt a lot like stepping onto a tight rope without a safety harness and learning how to juggle: managing time, and taxes, and legal stuff, and health insurance. But never mind all that. That stuff is all secondary to actually making money. If I want to continue providing for my family and enjoying this new found time and flexibility, I need to run a profitable business. If I can’t pull this off, it’s back to soul-sucking commutes and missed soccer games.

But I’ve learned a lot over the past few years. With the help from a few good friends and good folks like Mike Michalowicz and the Profit First method, Donald Miller and his writings, Pat Flynn and the SBI community, John Stange and the rest of the Platform Launchers crew, and services like Relay, who not only help me out by sponsoring this Self-Employment Sidekick, they have created resources that have made it super easy for me to manage my cash flow and make sure that I have enough money in all the right buckets.

I’ve had a lot of support along the way. And when I looked down now, I realized I’m not on a tight rope. I’ve got a nice, wide path ahead of me. And in addition to creating a future and financial peace of mind for me and my family, one thing I want to do with my time on this path is to help other people like you start your own self-employment journey.

…but it’s possible!

One of my other reasons for being profitable, and the reason I want to continue growing Self-Employment Sidekick, is to show that it’s possible. If I can do it, you can do it!

Quick little side story. I remember back when I was talking with my father-in-law about my plans to quit my full-time job. I was a little nervous about how he’d take my wanting to abandon a secure source of income. After all, I am providing for his daughter and his grandchildren. But he’s the one who pointed out that it was actually him who is in the riskier position. He has a pretty cushy job at a big insurance company, but who’s to say that he’ll have it tomorrow? Especially in this economy, he could get a phone call later today asking him to pack up his personal belongings, and it’s probably going to be difficult for him to line up something to replace it.

It’s not just a hypothetical. This happens a lot. I recently met somebody who had a job lined up, moved his family from out of state, and the company went under. Oftentimes it’s the people with the “secure” jobs that are actually on the tightrope, and there’s really nothing they can do to keep somebody else from running in and snipping it with a pair of garden shears.

When you run your own business and you run it well and profitably, I believe that gives you a lot more margin. You’re better diversified, you get your paycheck from many customers and clients instead of just one employer, and you have a lot more autonomy and flexibility to experiment with developing multiple streams of income.

Let’s wrap this up where we started.

Financial health and security are great, but that’s just a piece of the puzzle. Relational health, your personal life, your family life, that’s even more valuable. It’s not that hard to find ways to make more money, but you can never make more time. I’m so grateful that things played out the way they did. Instead of living in a Triangle of Misery, now I feel like I’m living in a Rectangle of Revelry… or a Circle of Satisfaction, or an Ellipse of Elation. I’ll stop.

Seriously though, I am blessed to be able to set my own schedule and maximize my time with my family. And I want you to be able to experience that as well.

I believe that when small businesses thrive, families thrive, communities thrive. But we have to work at it. We have to be smart. We have to be profitable. So that’s my reason to be profitable. What’s yours?

My favorite business banking platform Relay, along with Mike Michalowicz and the Profit First crew are hosting a contest. Share your reasons to be profitable and get a shot at some pretty generous cash prizes. I’m talking $50k generous, and some other goodies.

You can learn more and enter to win at the link below. And just for kicks, you don’t have to do this for the contest, but I would love to learn more about you and your business, what makes you tick. So feel free to share your story in the comments. And if there’s anything that I can do to help you grow your side gig into a profitable central gig, you can reach out.

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