Only had a little work for a returning client this morning, so I spent some of the remaining work time thinking seriously about the future – even though that was mildly angst-inducing.
Char was out with Jay and so I was at home at the ‘office’ (my desk) while the workers upstairs rummaged around, and I had to take a few walks to get peace and quiet. I also had to remind myself that even if I only had a few hours, I should not stress about it – that would be fatal.
Most of my development-work on my webdesign business these days, with so limited time, is simply affirming that I will get more clients, then do whatever I can to get them with the time I have, give good service and hope they will refer me to more clients. And although December has been pretty shallow, client-wise, I still believe it is a sound strategy.
But sometimes when you get the chance you have to sit down and evaluate – for the umpteenth time – what is the future, in the short, mid and long term?
The usual disclaimer: I really can’t remember in detail how much I have concluded on this during autumn and what I actually concluded, but I feel I do remember some essence of all my considerations. And that essence is:
I don’t feel like product development
I don’t feel like content development and marketing to ramping up traffic to sell my own products, or even affiliate products
And objectively I don’t have time for anything else until Jay starts daycare, unless Char’s health gets radically better and nothing happens that will have me conflicted about going out and working full-time 40 h/week+ or helping out at home. Which Is Not Realistic.
I can ramp up hours, ever so slowly and then fine-tune, as I’ve talked about before. Char is taking laser-treatments for the hand (it speeds up healing), and she is generally more accepting of the situation, but we are not looking at her accepting or even being able to have Jay 40 hours a week alone. But as long as she is okay with that and with paying for that out of her inheritance, then the ship can sail. Even if the situation overall is neither tenable nor particularly satisfying.
Even if I ramp up hours just doing pitching and marketing and selling my time and doing projects for clients, then there is no guarantee for a steady income. That guarantee is not there either if you sell a product, it can never come. But it would be higher – if you had a good product and a large enough audience, composed of suitable potential customers. But to develop that you need time, energy and motivation and I have neither right now (see above).
Maybe once I get more time I will have more energy. Maybe once the situation with my mother stabilizes and other things out of my control stabilize, then I will have more energy. Maybe once I have come into a steady drill with my creative projects, with the little time I do have for them – then I will get more energy. But that’s a lot of maybes.
So until April and daycare it seems as if the best choice is to try to control my own expenses, and the expenses I contribute to the house-hold, as much as possible.
And make the best of what I can with the time I have to serve old and new clients and generate leads simply because people come back or recommend me.
And affirm and hope for the best. Which would be that I can just about make at least 3K USD/month, which after our 50 per cent tax would cover my debt payments and household contributions and some of the random stuff that you just have to pay for.
(Yeah, even with deductions that’s how it is. And I still have to pay normal income tax of the surplus from my one-man company, and that is high in my end of the world.)
So what is new under the sun? Is there really anything else I can do short-term that makes sense, other than to try to control expenses and do the best to sell the time that I have?
Honestly, it doesn’t look like it from my end. Not right now.
So what about the mid-term? Which would be … from April 2018 and, like, a year further down the line?
Presumably and all other things being equal and yadayada … I would have more time. As I have yakked about quite a few times.
Now, let’s hope that holds. Where to go then?
In terms of generating more income, the least I can do is to use the expected +hours per week to work to pitch, serve and retain more clients.
And do it well – again – and so gain returning customers and more leads, because people recommend me.
But assuming I felt the energy and motivation, then I should try to expand and generate more income streams.
I have already created a series of “webmaster packages” which are sort of semi-automatic for me to do (but not wholly). For example, security tasks which can be automated, so I don’t have to spend (much) time overseeing security personally on a client’s website.
Have not sold any yet, but that’s at least an extension of my offer-range – a way to “productize” my services, too.
I can do more of that, depending on how my first set of packages sell in the spring. Or do it in a different way.
I can also start on products, affiliates and that sort of thing but … perhaps it would be better to formulate a deeper and more resonant vision first, for where I want to end up in the long term.
Currently, I have a vision formulated and its basically about empowering small-business owners to take care of what they need to take care of with their webshop needs and as long as they need to. And not get run over or cheated. Not too much, anyway … There will always be a learning curve!
But that’s the vision and I like it.
However, I started doing webdesign as a more tolerable way to earn income than helping out in the health sector for low pay and long hours (as a helper in private homes for the disabled). Which was what I was mainly doing to earn a living from 2010-15. For all kinds of reasons, which there is no space for here. But that’s what it was.
There wasn’t any deep-felt mission-vision shtick about that – going into webdesign.
I have had to formulate that as I went along, and it feels like it could be even deeper. So what is it?
Well, I have thought about it long and hard and … I’m really not sure.
I mean, my gut-reaction would be to say that I’d like to make my web design mission international and start something that would help small business owners all over the world, but particularly in poorer countries, get access to free open source software for sites and shops and use this for their business goals.
So far, so good, eh?
But there are other sites already doing this – lots, in fact. And it feels … too big. Too unmanageable. And right now I really need to focus on earning more.
So I think as regards doing something more with my business that has a social purpose and not just a money purpose or a good service-purpose … we’d have to look at something more like traditional CSR. For example donations to a fund for a humanitarian purpose, related or not to IT use.
Problem still is … I don’t have the surplus. I can barely pay my own bills.
And it doesn’t solve the question on how to expand my business and pay more bills, and do this in a way that is in sync with my sense of meaning, of what is fun and of what I have the skills for – and the time and energy, of course.
I figure that an expansion of my vision and purpose for this business can best answer that, yes, but CSR is not that expansion. It is just and add-on. I could give extra surplus away to Save the Whales or something completely unrelated to my current business mission.
And that would be … okay. But it would be something like an add-on. Maybe even a band-aid, because I feel overall that there is not enough meaning or passion in what I actually do.
I might be able to live with that, though. I think I have already written extensively about how my biggest purpose-activity in this life may not be something related to earning income, but could and should probably be The Blog.
For my biggest passions likewise – currently they should be writing more Shade-novellas and doing that Hammer & Magic-graphic novel-something-or-other. But I don’t expect to earn anything from these activities, because I can’t commit enough resources for producing material, much less marketing it professionally and in the right markets. And I have bad experiences with using my creativity as a means to earn money – or trying to. I think I should leave that behind for good. It just does not work for me.
But long story short here … maybe I can live with my webdesign business as it is and just do whatever I am most motivated for and most energized for and have the most time for from April … to earn more money.
I don’t know what that could be, only that – as I have harped about many times before – it has to be something that makes earning income more automatic and passive. As much as possible. Otherwise it can’t scale. I can’t keep selling hours. And I won’t.
So product. Or content that can be monetized, e.g. via ads or affiliates.
Full circle there …
And then on the side do some CSR or other, when I have the extra surplus. At least it would heighten my motivation to find that type of product or other asset that I am motivated to create.
If I can use that asset to give something to more than myself. That is always a good motivation for me.
It is a mess in my mind right now, but at least I can see some threads that I can bind together.
Right now, though, I will have to wait and let time and my heart delve on this and come up with more precise answers.
And meanwhile keep trying lots of options.