Today is officially my 15th year in business. I went to the courthouse on this date back in 2001 with the intention of setting up a business called Mitchell & Associates. The lady asked me if I had any associates and I said no. She then said I couldn’t call it that, so I had to come up with a name on the spot and the best I had was T T Mitchell Consulting. In 2007 I incorporated the business and not only got to add the Inc at the end of the business name but by law I was now the president and CEO of the corporation, which comes with its own perks and other issues. Since I’m the only shareholder I think I’m pretty secure in not firing myself any time soon.
I wasn’t totally sure what I was going to do with today’s post. Normally I post on Wednesdays on this blog but I felt this one should go out on the anniversary, and because it’s a later day I won’t have another post here until after the July 4th holiday, so I can give it some time to germinate. In previous years I’ve tried to come up with the same number of things to talk about as the date of the anniversary, and 2 years ago I did the same with a video highlighting the 13th anniversary. I decided that I would shrink that down to 3 items this time, along with sharing what I’ve previously put up and the video that went out earlier this morning.
Let’s start with the video, which explains how I got here in the first place and why I keep going on my own:
Next, let’s talk about what being self employed is really all about; it’s not all pretty:
1. It’s mentally hard
Let’s get this out of the way; being self employed isn’t for the mentally weak. No matter whether you start off with clients or not, what you’ll find out over the course of time is that this isn’t an easy thing to do.
It’s not the work that’s hard; it’s the “not having enough work” and the “getting new clients” part that’s hard. It’s not the “I don’t have enough time to get things done” as much as “I have way too much time on my hands and need more to do” part that’s hard.
I came from a hospital background where, for the most part, the hospitals didn’t have to advertise because they were the only game in town. Over all these years I’ve found that the hardest thing to do, and I still have difficulties with it. I don’t worry about being shot down; I worry because it’s hard getting people to talk to me in the first place.
This is a reason I’ve diversified over the years. My initial intention was to only do leadership and diversity but I found that those areas are even harder to get through to people than health care sometimes, especially diversity. I expanded into customer service, ethics, executive coaching, communications, and a host of other related professions. All of these are integral to leadership, which works well.
I branched out into other areas when things slowed down because of the economy. Luckily I can write, as I have between 4,000 and 5,000 articles online and in magazines, two books on leadership and a book on social media marketing. I ran a SEO company for 7 years under the corporation and did some nice work, but that was hard because people know what websites are, but social media is a tough sell because there’s no guaranteed ROI (return on investment) like there is in other vocations.
I’ve also done budgeting, which doesn’t quite fit with anything I do elsewhere except for my finance blog, which oddly enough has made the 2nd highest amount of money for me online, with the first being my medical billing site and blog. I still have one client who has me helping her establish her budget every 6 months; she’s a great success story and I couldn’t be more proud.
The mental part is tough because it can make you question yourself, doubt yourself, and want to go back to bed a lot of times. It’s also a pretty lonely profession and, truthfully, it’s why I’m really happy I belong to a consultant’s organization where I can get together with other consultants who have gone through the same sort of things I have.
Still, there are days when it’s hard to overcome, days when you have to fight to get work done, days when you have to fight to do more marketing and phone calls so you can work on projects, do speaking engagements and write for pay…
At least I haven’t started drinking. 🙂
2. It’s physically hard
When I began my business I was 41 years old; now I’m 56. I had a lot more energy at that time, to the extent that I could actually work 16 to 18 hours a day on very little sleep and even less food. I only ate when my wife made dinner, which is a major shame. I was also only 4 years into my diabetes diagnosis, and I wasn’t really in any difficulties at that time.
As time has gone on I’ve found that I sleep even less than I used to, even when I spend more time in bed, and often need to take short naps to get through a day if I’m not on the road. I’m now on insulin where I have to inject myself twice a day, as well as take both a diabetic medication and one for cholesterol (even though my cholesterol levels are fine; that’s an interesting story). Once I started walking and watching what I ate the aneurysms that diabetes had caused in my eyes left but now my right eye on the bordeline of glaucoma.
My weight went way up to the point where at one time I was near 300 pounds; ouch! Once I started walking and, of course, watching what I ate, I lost a lot of that weight, but I also developed high potassium levels that lasted for 3 years because there’s no medication to bring them down, and it means you can’t eat a lot of the healthy stuff that’s recommended because a lot of that stuff is high in potassium.
You also tend to sit a lot when you work for yourself which means you start having back and leg problems, problems with your hands because you’re always typing, and a bit of anxiety. You can fight some of that with exercise, making sure you get up from time to time from your desk, meditation (which I’m bad at) and buying ergonomic equipment but that doesn’t help when you’re driving upwards of 6 hours to business locations or flying all day.
Yet, these problems are a step up from the mental side because for the most part they’re easier to address. Strangely enough, right now I’m probably physically healthier than I was 20 years ago based on how I’m working on taking care of myself and that’s nothing to sneeze at. It takes a lot of work and a lot of consistency but it can be done.
3. It can be immensely rewarding
The best part of going through the rough patches are the good things that can come from it.
The top 5 earning years of self employment total more than all the years I worked previously.
I’ve had the opportunity to travel to places I never thought I’d ever go (or even wanted to go), seen a lot of interesting things and had some intriguing experiences both good and bad, met some intriguing people, spoke to some very nice people and found a lot more people who agree with my principles than I ever expected to.
Even though I haven’t taken a vacation since 1999 (if family reunions count as vacations) I’ve had a lot of fun in a lot of the places I’ve worked in or visited such as New York City, New Orleans, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Washington DC, Las Vegas and Reno, Ogunquit (Maine), Tunica (Mississippi) and still haven’t had to get on a boat (can’t swim so I’m scared of being on the water lol).
I’ve had the opportunity to speak in 9 states, including the one I live in, and I’ve given almost 40 presentations over the years on a host of subjects. This year I’m actually going to my first non-health care convention, which would have never been possible if I was still an every day employee.
And I’ve helped a lot of hospitals generate a lot more revenue and bring in more money; helped some people become better leaders; helped some others focus on the important things in their lives; given business advice that have helped them be more self sufficient; and had the opportunity to write on this blog for 11 years, hopefully giving some pretty good advice while telling my tales with the intention of helping all of us be better at what we do and better people overall.
Self employment can be really rewarding if you’re able to work through the bad times to get to the good times. I wish I’d prepared better for it at the beginning but I’m glad to still be kicking around after all these years.
In closing I’d like to share the other posts and the one video from previous years of acknowledging my anniversaries; be lucky I didn’t do it for all 15 years. 🙂