Updated: Feb 14
For the everyday small business owner, entrepreneurial spirit isn't enough.
Jesus Christ, why couldn't you shoot for a cushy w-2?
I asked myself this question as I sort tax documents, again, too far into the year than is comfortable. I'm fairly certain this desire for flexibility in achieving an enjoyable work/life balance vis a vis self employment entirely originates from my father's DNA. This year I am to not only organize mine but assist in my mother's who more recently transitioned to living to us. It wasn't lost on me the the various side projects and revenue streams Dad could find a way to support, promote and engage that I felt I was now failing to deliver as well as he did.
Dad's desk was more organized, restrained. Mine reflects the madness of an arts and craft teacher masquerading as an accountant. Learning how to be smarter and more adept at understanding self-employment and now, senior living experiences, were still course corrections I was learning to manage and insure we were free to live. As much as I disdain my entrepreneurial spirit angel, I knew it afforded the opportunity to be attuned to the people and responsibilities in my life, if only I could stay in business long enough to afford it.
Only one in seven small business makes it through year one. I had the fortuitous advantage in tapping out in year four when target market shifts, financial investment and opportunities lagged. It's great to be a fish in any pond but the preference is to eat without being swallowed whole. We ate but not heartily and not from a diverse palate of clients. In those failures there were lessons whose value I've only been able to appreciate after the screw-up.
How does one practice owning what one has yet to possess? By screwing up, over and over while hoping one has thoroughly planned to be a screw-up for some time. The amount of cash reserves for said screw-ups is inversely proportional to the likelihood of having and continuing as a business. In the world of the small business owner, screwups are part of the game.
Screwups like discovering muffin top only cupcakes aren't as much in demand as estimated. Maybe no one likes your approach to editing work. Or the mail order crabcakes don't stay as fresh as guaranteed. Maybe there wasn't enough thought given to paying estimated quarterly taxes.
It's unnatural to plan for loss unless one understands that loss is baked into growth and learning. Who upon looking at their financial aspirations wants to acknowledge worst-case scenarios? Consistency requires failure. Failure requires loss. Those with excess and liberal helpings of disposable income recognize the power in claiming losses. Self employed and freelance work is about understand how to mediate and offset the sluggish times between the plentiful and creating moments to capitalize on as many meaningful opportunities as possible.
In theory, taking charge of one's future is a reasonably feasible desire. The grind of piping out those result, hard. While we are all free to try our hands at any goal, for the majority of self employed individuals, what's more important is understanding and planning for the barriers that consistently impede this goal and restrict growth and engagement with the demographic.
After Dad passed away, I discovered a project tucked away in his file cabinet, a small business development and financial literacy plan initiated thru Shreveport-based Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program. By offering a host of services revolving around education, access and resources to assist in understanding and leveraging the economic landscape, EAP helps pack the weaponry for small business owners. For Dad the dreamer and encourager of believing in oneself, recognizing the need to teach self and others to prepare was a kind reminder of the learning curve of life and entrepreneurship, and that it's perfectly acceptable to ask for the help.
*The Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program offers mentorship programs designed to accelerate ideas, products or existing business into a thriving company quickly by providing intensive startup support. More information can be found at https://eapla.com/