I own my own company. It’s a real estate investment and management firm. It was not anything I ever dreamed about. It happened more because of unfortunate circumstances than a desire to make my mark on the business world.
I never wanted to be an entrepreneur, until I became a mom and realized it could give me the money I needed and control over my time and schedule — two priceless benefits that are so valuable to many parents.
For years, my friends told me that I was lucky that I discovered what I loved to do when I was young, studied it in college and developed a career around my passion. Once I started working as a reporter, I loved so many aspects of my job that the difficulties were far outweighed by my sheer joy in going to work every day.
Even after having kids and wanting to stay home with them, I couldn’t deny the tug to return to the career I adored and was grateful when I got the opportunity to fulfill my competing desires by working as a freelance reporter two days a week.
But things got complicated when my husband got laid off and had a hard time finding work to replace his previous income. As we faced more and more financial difficulties, I gave serious consideration to pounding the pavement until I found a full-time job — any full-time job that would pay the bills. I resisted this urge for multiple reasons — I didn’t want to leave my children every day; I thought I would be tempted by a good-paying job in a connected field like public relations that wouldn’t fulfill the same passion as reporting; and with the country in the midst of recession I thought it would be difficult to find anything that would pay enough to support our whole family unless I was willing to work long hours and spend nights, weekends and holidays away from my kids. The trade-off seemed too great, so we continued to cut our budget until there was nothing left to cut.
At that point, I turned to my hobby of real estate investing (which I was able to do with no money) and realized I could transform it into a full-fledged business that would contribute income to our family. I would have to devote time to it, but I could control how much. I would have to work nights and weekends, but I could adjust my own work schedule so I wouldn’t miss family activities.
I made the plunge and formally created my company and jumped full-time into running it. It was at once the best and worst decision I ever made.
Here are the reasons why:
1-PRO) Running your own business is an amazing accomplishment.
I didn’t even start calling it “my business” for months. It was like I couldn’t really believe I had my own company and I was the boss (even though I didn’t have employees, I could make up the rules). I eventually embraced the fact proudly that I had a business that was doing good work, building up clients and bringing in income.
1-CON) Running your own business generally leads to unpredictable financial returns.
I grew up in a stable, conservative environment, and I valued having a job that gave me enough money week in and week out to pay the bills on time. I always loved the consistency of a paycheck, even a low paycheck. I knew what to expect. I never wanted the insecurity of not knowing when the next check would arrive and how much it would be for. But here I was, spending hours every day pursuing real estate deals that might never pay anything or might generate thousands in income. It added a lot of stress to a life that was full of the unpredictable antics of children and the unpredictable moods of a spouse frustrated by his inability to find good-paying work in a terrible economy. It made paying bills on time nearly impossible some months.
2-PRO) Running your own business offers exciting highs when you land a big deal.
I was already working part-time in a field full of adrenaline junkies like me, who thrived on fast-paced work days with tight deadlines and pressure-filled moments of live broadcasting. But I had grown accustomed to these experiences, and while they generated a sense of accomplishment, they didn’t compare to the new milestone of creating income for myself by myself. There is no comparison between an achievement in your career while working for someone else, and an achievement that advances your own company.
2-CON) Running your own business introduces huge risks that it could all go away with the wrong move.
When you make a mistake while working for someone else, you might earn the scorn of co-workers, the admonition of bosses, even the loss of your job. But you can get another job. If you make a big enough mistake in your own business, you can bring down your entire company that you spent years to build up. And I made some big mistakes, as everyone does when they’re learning as they go. I didn’t realize how much of a minefield I had entered until I started seeing the repercussions of my mistakes. If your business implodes, you could lose more than a job. You could lose your savings, your friends’ money, your house, your reputation, the foundation you spent years building.
3-PRO) Running your own business allows you to delegate any work you don’t like.
When you have a job, it is your responsibility to handle all your obligations whether you want to or not. With your own business, you can bring in others to handle the tasks you don’t like, as long as you can generate enough money to pay them or come up with a creative trade. (In real estate, it’s common to receive management services in exchange for reduced rent.)
3-CON) Running your own business takes way more time than you can ever imagine.
You think kids can suck away your energy and time? A business is worse, especially when you are struggling to land a big deal or correct a big mistake. Every time your phone rings, you are compelled to answer it — at 6 in the morning and 11 at night. When you shut off your phone for your kid’s band concert, the next day your voicemail box is full and you’re getting nasty texts that you’re an unresponsive so-and-so. And forget about replying to all your email. Your email inbox can get overwhelmed with hundreds of messages a day. The more business you are trying to generate, the more you feel like you are drinking from a fire hose. No matter how much you delegate, there are so many things that seem like only the boss can deal with them. (You liked being boss, right? Until you realized how much baggage came with it!)
4-PRO) Running your own business gives you ultimate control over your time and your schedule!
No matter how busy I am with my business, if my daughter has a soccer game, I won’t schedule any meetings at that time. I won’t set up a deadline I know I can’t reach before that game. Because I run my own business, I can make the choice to never miss a school play, a piano recital, a chess tournament, a family party. I can take on all the Mommy volunteer roles that I crave — Room Mom, Girl Scout Leader, Soccer Coach, Birthday Party Host, etc. These are all things I wanted desperately to do for my kids and for me. I enjoy them and wanted them to be part of my journey of parenthood. I would have felt a big hole if I had a job that prevented me from taking on these endeavors.
Because I run my own business, I can also take off in the middle of the day to exercise, avoid rush-hour traffic by scheduling appointments creatively, generally wear what I want, and forget frantic mornings trying to get kids to day care and myself to a job at the same time. If you and your spouse run the business together, you get the extra benefit of some “afternoon delight” now and then.
4-CON) Running your own business means you feel like there is always work you should be doing — even when you are home!
I often work late at night. (It’s now 1:12 am.) I usually work weekends. I feel guilty not checking email and voicemail several times a day, every day. But I turn it all off at meal time, if I’m playing a game with my kids, if I’m rolling around the sheets with my husband, if I’m at an event with my family. I should turn it off when I’m bike riding or hanging out with girl friends — but I usually let the business calls interrupt me then. My entrepreneur mom friends understand!
I don’t regret starting my own business, and it gave me exactly what I wanted — to be the master of my schedule. I just never realized the kind of crazy schedule and financial ups and downs I was dragging myself into.
But to me, there is nothing more valuable than putting all my family activities in my calendar first, and building my working world around that. Of course, everyone has different priorities for their time, and I realize every mother does not wish to do all the things or even any of the things that I do. But every mother has her priorities that she wants to do every day, and to be able to schedule those first and then schedule the rest of your work hours around those is, to me, living a dream.
Now that my real estate business is being handled more and more by my assistants, I am embarking on a new business venture to create a TV Show for OverAchiever Moms — and you can be part of it by clicking here.
If you have the goal to control your time, you can accomplish it by starting a business and eventually leaving your job. What would you do if you were the boss of your whole life? How much is that worth to you?