maggie’s dream report: week eighteen

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Are you a success or a failure?

How do you measure success? Is it being free to do your own thing, enjoying the work that you do, or spending quality time with your loved ones? Or does it maybe have (just a little) something to do with money?

Here’s the tricky thing with working for yourself: I’ve been busy. I’ve gotten guest post spots. I’ve had more readers to my blog. I’ve had more clients, and been featured on blogs that seem to (really!) like what I do. But I’m making about the same amount from my business now than I was from business activities when I was working a cubicle job 4 days a week. Sure, I’ve made a couple extra hundred dollars a month, but I haven’t met my financial goals – as in, my just bread-and-butter goals.

Do I feel like a success? Not right now. But yet, re-read the first part of that paragraph: I’ve been busy. I’ve gotten guest post spots. I’ve had more readers to my blog. I’ve had more clients, and been featured on blogs that seem to (really!) like what I do.

Sounds pretty successful.

When I’ve sheepishly admitted to other entrepreneurs (new and old alike) that I’m barely making any money, they nod in understanding. So at the very least, I don’t feel totally alone. But come bill time, I’m starting to sweat and I wonder how other people do it. How do they get by? Wealthy husbands? Fifty grand in the bank? Massive piles of debt? Sure, one of the reasons I’m able to take this leap and not totally drown is because Ryan is working full-time. But he’s not making a ton and it would be nice to be putting money INTO savings and not just taking it OUT. Luckily something always comes through at the last moment, but not before a few sleepless nights.

We’ve talked a lot recently about me taking on a part-time job close to home while the business is still getting off the ground. But the very act of looking for jobs makes me feel like a big fat failure. Writing it on here makes me feel like a loser. I don’t want to make coffee or file other people’s papers or wear business attire I want to be working on my OWN business! The few jobs I’ve been interested in I’m probably not qualified for.

If success is a measurement, then to determine whether or not I’m succeeding or failing, I need to know what I’m measuring. At the beginning of 2011 I wrote a business plan – mostly for my own interests as I wasn’t approaching financial backers. I set statistical goals of every sense. And by August, I’d blown every one of them out of the water. My goals for number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers – passed and doubled. My goals for monthly visits, passed. My goal for record number of hits on one day, hit in June. My etsy sales (before dwindling and the shop closure last month) had already surpassed 2010’s revenue. But design clients (where the majority of my income should be coming from) show only a slight up-tick, despite my optimistic projections in January of 2011. And here I am, four months into Living the Dream and I’m wondering if I should be perfecting my espresso skills.

So I guess what I’m looking for from you, readers, is: What makes a person successful? If you’re an entrepreneur, how scary is the money part? Were you making ANY money the first year? And if you’re hoping to be an entrepreneur, are you socking away every penny you can while you’re still working a day job? Every dollar comes in handy, you can take it from me!

Maggie Morgan is an interior decorator in Seattle. Visit her website to see her work and read her blog, Maggie Rose.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Cathy

    Hi Maggie! Thanks for your honesty. I’m not an entrepreneur, but would love to be. And yes, we’re socking away money for all sorts of things. From the sounds of it, you’re pretty successful, just not in all the areas that you’d like to be (read: money). I was at a financial blogger conference this past weekend and one of the speakers brought up a good point, “If you’re doing the right thing, the money will come.”

    And I don’t think you’re a failure if you take up a part-time job on the side. I think the additional income from making lattes (or whatever) will allow you to be more creative with the design business. You’ll have the chance to say “no” to clients that don’t match with your style or personality. Or you can say “no” to people that low-ball your services since you’re not as desperate to bring in income any way possible. You might have the opportunity to work on other projects, like another e-books.

    By the way, a bunch of the big-time personal finance bloggers I met over the weekend (who’ve been writing for 3 or 4 years) still have a full-time job. Their blog might be bringing in more money than their 9-to-5 job, but they’re diversifying their income in case the blog or full-time job hit a slow patch.

    Don’t give up hope! I saw some of your recent design boards and think you’re on the right track.

  2. Tab

    I am not out on my own yet, but am dreaming about it. The biggest thing holding me back is money so I can completely understand were you are coming from. I am a designer also and have been working an unrelated office job trying to payoff debt and re establish my savings after being unexpectantly unemployed for almost a year so I can start my own business. I don’t think taking a side job makes you a failure. I think just the opposite. You are a success for recognizing what you need to do to ultimately sustain your dream. You could even try looking for a job that may introduce you to possible clients like a home decor retail store or home improvement store. You could even approach one that does not have a design department about a possible partnership. Good luck and keep you head up. You are doing it!!

  3. Sarah

    Thanks so much for this post Maggie. I have recently gone out on my own too (just scored my first edesign client -yay!) and the clients & money have not come in as quickly as I had hoped. I too am contemplating a local part-time job and it makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong. Like admitting defeat in a way. I knew before going out on my own, that finances would be tight and there would be scary times along the way but I wasn’t really prepared for how tight and how scary it could be. It’s encouraging to know I’m not the only one feeling this way.

    I’m going to look at taking a PT job as a means to an end. A way to take the a little of the edge off being a full-time business owner. I’ll sock away some cash and like an earlier commenter said, it’ll make it easier to be more selective about clients/projects.

    Just a slight detour on our way to being financially successful entrepreneurs! Who knows, you may pick up some skills at a side job that help you in your business. Best of luck to you Maggie!

  4. First off, I think it takes a lot of courage to share your concerns like this. I, for one, am inspired by it. There is no shame in having to find to a part time job while starting a business. In fact, with a shift in thinking it could do wonders for your business. Look at it as a paid networking opportunity. Even if you’re overqualified, you could be a part time receptionist at a local interior design house and network with their designers or get work at a local design store that offers a discount (yay!) and a possible link up with clients. It may feel like failure, but it’s a great opportunity in disguise! Good Luck!

  5. Jill

    I love Cathy’s comment and Addison’s advice.

    I struggle with this all the time too – but there is one thing that is true, only YOU can decide if you are successful or not. A million people can tell you that you are and you may not feel it or a million people can tell you that you aren’t when you actually believe it to be true. And when it comes down to it – you will be right, whatever you believe in your heart will be true and your actions will follow your true belief.

    Also, ignore the cheese factor here, it’s a little cliche, but seriously: watch the Steve Jobs commencement address at Standford circa 2005. I just watched it (my husband demanded that I do when I was feeling down) and you will be inspired to presevere!

  6. Taking a part time job, does not make you a failure. You do what you got to do to get through tough times. I know it sounds cliche, but you’re only a failure when you stop trying.

    If you do get a part time job at a design house, make sure they don’t have a non compete agreement. I once worked at a photography job that stated in their contract that their photographers couldn’t do portrait photography 3 years after quitting or being fired.

    Good luck!

  7. I agree with others who have said you are not a failure for taking on a part-time job to “make ends meet”, so to speak. I think getting a job at a home interiors shop (that doesn’t have an in-house designer) could very well boost your business. Plus, you’d be networking a bit with the shop’s owners and learning how to one day operate a store of your very own.

    Chin up, girl! You’re doing a wonderful job!

  8. Helena

    Don’t underestimate the courage (aka “success” – in my book at least) it took to go out there and start doing what you want! Many of us are too afraid to do that!

  9. Julie

    While I agree with everyone else that getting a part-time job doesn’t equal failure…I would encourage you to only get one if it’s necessary. Yes they can be useful to take the edge off and even teach you valuable skills. However I found that once I quit my part-time jobs and focused solely on my own business I became much more motivated and successful. Every time I thought about applying for a job or even went to interview it just fueled the fire to redouble my efforts on the income generating aspects of my business. You’ve already shown such great success in so many areas. Now it’s time to concentrate on the tasks that bring in money. Creating income always sounds more tangible than it is but keep going and trying new things. Best of luck!

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