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Monday, October 15, 2018

Musings as a Frugal Entrepreneur



I've been an entrepreneur on and off ever since I became an adult. I always worked and I almost always worked for myself. But in the past month I've gone from using my income to supplement the family's income to needing to be self sufficient and completely self supporting, which means needing to tremendously increase my income and consequently my work hours. It also means that I've needed to up my entrepreneurship game, and as I have, I've noticed quite a few things. This post is my musings as an entrepreneur. While it's not completely frugality related, it's "bringing-in-money" related which affects my overall finances and my frugality.

The first thing I noticed is that over the years, people would tell me that most of what I write on my blog isn't relevant to them, because I'm a full time stay at home mom with lots of times on my hands to do frugal things and they're full time workers, so they don't have time to do time consuming frugal stuff.

However, with all the hours I'm working, I'm not finding my frugality to be changing. I'm still doing the same frugal stuff as always, plus or minus a few small things. My food is still made from scratch as much as it was before (I haven't made gluten free bread for my kids school lunches in a while so that has stayed the same) and I'm still doing the same frugal shopping.
If anything my frugal shopping strategies are even more useful than ever, because stockpiling groceries and shopping sales means that I can fit my shopping into my schedule when it works for me, buy what is cheapest, and don't need to run out last minute to go grocery shopping because we're missing necessities. Additionally, years of from scratch cooking have taught me how to be very efficient in the kitchen, so that now that I have little time available to cook (there have been days when I only returned home after 10 pm and needed to cook a whole fancy dinner for the next day) I can do so very quickly, without needing to buy ready made items.
Yes, sometimes I do make decisions to spend a little more on something so that I can have more time to work, but honestly those are pretty infrequently; I am not finding my working to get in the way of frugality.

Another thing is that, I'll admit, in the past I was envious of people who had money to spend on "frivolous" things. When money was really tight, it was hard to see people who had money to spend on things. My social circle largely consisted of people in similar financial positions to myself, because that was more comfortable, and I felt less pressured to spend on things.
Now that I'm working more, I'm realizing that I really am glad and am appreciative when people have money to spend. Because I travel in circles of people who predominantly aren't well off financially, I feel a lot of guilt charging them any money, for anything, let alone enough to make a living wage. Some of what I offer is essential and very useful to people on a tight budget, but much of what I do can be considered extraneous and not something that people who are struggling financially need.
For this reason, when people have money to spend, I no longer feel envious of their financial ease, but rather, I feel happier because this also means that they have the money to pay me what my time is worth, and I don't have to feel guilty taking their money. Its like when one person is blessed, there's more to go around, and then everyone can help each other, like one big happy cycle. Its so refreshing to be able to see people's wealth in a positive light instead of from an envious perspective.

Another thing I've realized is that availability is a tricky subject. As someone who needs to be bringing in a steady income, I need to know that I have regular work coming in, so I've packed my schedule (as much as I would like) with regular cleaning work (which pays nicely per hour, round here, although less per hour than the other specialty things I offer), leaving blocks of time available for other things, whether important errands or meetings, or the "specialty" things I offer such as foraging and/or cooking classes, home organization, or working as a personal chef.
When people call me up to hire me for something (usually something specialty), I've noticed they tend to want me available as soon as possible. If I'm not available right away, they seem to be frustrated and disappointing. However, I've definitely heard people being concerned about why specific people are available, like "Is there a reason this person isn't fully booked? What is wrong?"
It's a lose lose situation; be fully booked and people are disappointed and frustrated, or be not fully booked and have people wonder what is wrong with your business, why you aren't in demand enough to be booked already. It then leaves you wondering how you should really schedule your time so that you aren't giving the wrong impression to prospective clients.
And then it also makes you think that, in order to not disappoint clients, you should take on clients even when you're "fully booked" and then find a way to manage to do that job as well, even if it means taking away time from your home life, your kids, your sleep, or your necessary down time. Because when you're working for yourself, you don't have set 9-5 hours, and you wonder if, maybe, you should be working any time that you possibly can, feeling guilty for not jumping at any money making opportunity. And this eats away at your "me time", your family time, and it is really hard to know where to draw limits. Because you don't want to disappoint prospective clients. I don't have a solution here, and if any fellow entrepreneurs wants to weigh in about what you do, I'd love to get your input.

Similar to this previous issue is figuring out how much to charge. Everything I do, I get people telling me that I charge too little. But if you charge "too much", especially as someone who promotes frugal living, people start thinking that you aren't living true to your values, because how can one offer "non frugal pricing"? People also have this idea that I'm trying to sell my services to other "frugal people", but as I said above, those aren't my ideal clients. My ideal clients are people that do have extra money available to spend on "extra" things such as cleaning help, fun events, or educational classes. Additionally, I've learned from many different people, that if you don't charge enough for something, people assume that you aren't giving something of value (because why else would you charge less for it than other people, it must be that you aren't a "real professional). For this reason, I find it hard to figure out how much I should charge for so many different things. I kind of feel like I've found the middle road for pricing in certain areas when I have some people telling me I am not charging enough and other people telling me I'm charging too much, but for other areas, I'm not sure...
For fellow entrepreneurs, how do you decide how much to charge for your services?

And my last musing for today is that, as I mentioned above, as an entrepreneur there's this feeling that you need to work every single job that you can, because you don't have a steady paycheck coming in, and you can always make more money. But I've realized something. I only want to work in places that make me feel good about myself. I've had some places I started working and it did bad things for my emotional well being for various reasons. It's not worth the money! If you don't take care of yourself emotionally, it'll have much greater costs, in both the short term and the long term. Life is too short to work somewhere that makes you feel unworthy. As an entrepreneur you have this benefit in that you can decide which clients you want to work for; don't feel any shame saying no to a client if its not someone you want to work with. But even if you have a regular job, if it is soul sucking work and makes you not want to get up in the morning, even if you desperately need the cash, start looking for another job, because, as I said before, life is too short to spend it with people that make you feel unworthy.

Are you an entrepreneur or employed by someone else or currently unemployed? What do you think about my various musings? Do you agree with them or disagree with them? Any feedback on my questions?

11 comments:

  1. Dear Penny,
    I notice that you say, that you do house cleaning and personal cooking among other things. I notice that your English language skills are excellent. Have you considered teaching English as a second language, or tutoring school children in English,either individually or in groups? I am certain that you will make a great success of it if you decided to pursue it and it would not be as physically demanding as cleaning. I wish you all the best in your future and admire your attitude. Eve from Australia.

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    1. Thank you! Where I live there is actually more demand for cleaning work than English tutoring, and cleaning pays more. I actually enjoy it! Thanks for the suggestion!

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  2. Doesn't your husband work?

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    1. Its complicated. There's been changes going on here lately that I've been asked not to post details of on the blog.

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  3. It's always going to be a balance. You are never going to please everyone, so being between "too much" and "too little" is a good place to be.
    As far as how hard it is to be frugal with a full time job or while staying at home - there is a difference. But realize: LEARNING the new skills is what is really hard. Trying to learn how to be frugal, shop differently, cook more often - that's easier to do when you are home full time. But once you have those skills, they are easier to maintain.

    Plus, you can gradually get tired with all of the work. Even my older sister - who was a SAHP - when she went back to work and the kids were long gone - had a problem getting all the "stuff" done. She actually asked me and one other full time sister how we did it. Well, you do it differently. (Plus my husband does half of everything.)

    As far as housecleaning goes, I think you have a good attitude. Housecleaning pays well here (we pay ours $20-25/hr). This is more than many skilled workers can get. Is it frugal for me to have someone clean my house? No. But spread the wealth.

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  4. May you succeed in your endeavors.

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  5. Just keep in mind that you are paid based on the value of your work - not based on how frugally or frivolously you will spend your paycheck! They wouldn't be obligated to pay you more just because you wanted to buy a Ferrari, and they cannot justify paying you less simply because you foraged part of your dinner.

    As for scheduling, some people will always find a way to be critical. A subtle way of signaling here is to use phrasing such as, "I have a cleaning slot available on X day at Y or Z times" or "My next catering evening is ___day the 3rd." It sounds more businesslike and it offers less information about how busy the rest of your time really is. So if they're worried why you're not fully booked, it hints that your other job is loaded - and if they're frustrated that they couldn't get in sooner, it reminds them that you do more than one kind of thing. Does that make sense?

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    1. Best reply :) I use the app calendly and a card or email signature that says "click here to book an appointment that suits your schedule and mine" Game changer.

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  6. I don't remember what it was but I read about some revolutionary cosmetic product that didn't sell well. The problem was that it was priced too low. No one believed it would work. The company increased the price (a lot!) and it sold well.
    Some people have a sliding scale where those who can afford more subsidize those who can't. That would only work if you have some way to evaluate the client.
    I hope you and your friends brainstorm - an excellent way to develop ideas! Maybe the same is true of these comments.
    I will keep reading your blog and wishing you health and happiness.

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  7. I have no experience of being an entrepreneur but appreciate contractors who charge a fair price. Too cheap and I do wonder how they’re going to cut corners, too expensive and I feel like I’m being ripped off.
    I live frugally in some ways but employ a cleaner because of health issues, and appreciate being able to employ someone who enjoys their job and does it well. Hopefully you’ll get to the point where you have regular customers and regular hours (set by you) for all your services, and then people will be queuing up to get on your waiting lists.

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  8. It sounds like you are just starting out and building a client base. Here is my advice, for what it’s worth. Price your services at a fair to high market value. So if for cleaning the rate is 20-25/hr then charge 25. Then do a good job and be a nice person (I am sure you do & you are already so it’s easy). Be as flexible and available for your ideal clients when you find them (nice people with disposable income who are pressed for time and need cleaners/caterers) as you can. If you can help someone last minute out of a jam (unexpected mother in law visit, other caterer cancelled last minute) they will love you forever. You don’t have to jump at the offer, definitely make them sweat it a bit, but then ‘shuffle your agenda’ and do it if you can, but only for the people you like and / or you like working for. These people know people like them and will refer you. You can mention you have a cleaning slot open if they know anyone, or they may ask if you have a slot for a friend spontaneously. If it’s catering or cooking then have some simple business cards made (someone can do an awesome design for you on Upwork for $10) and leave them out. As long as you do a good job you should be confident in your work and charge a fair rate— I suspect it would be higher than you are charging now. If you clean someone’s house as if it were your own people notice and respect that and It will allow you to choose your clients and set a higher price. And don’t be afraid to ditch difficult clients when you find better ones to take their place. Also being frugal isn’t about how much money you make, that is your personal life and this is your job. And it’s ok to cancel on people, if a better client needs something urgently it might be worth it long term to cancel or reschedule to free yourself up. I hope I was helpful, I really enjoyed your post, and I wish you all the best.

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