July 17, 2010

More Plans (in Specific)

As I now have a positive approach to job hunting (and getting), I am beginning to make some plans. Not only am I working on the assumption that I will get hired (and of course make some moola!); but also, that I will have the potential of working long-term.

I have been working from home for about ten years. I started out with part-time/contract work, and was grateful for the extra income. This part-time work became full-time work, which I found difficult to do from home. I didn't like being on-call all the time, having people contacting me at home. I also didn't like that my evenings and weekends were not free. I don't mind working evening and weekends, but it seemed like there was no time that was my own. I never answered the telephone because it could be work-related, and I wanted to be OFF the clock.

It seemed, though, that no matter how many hours I actually did work, my pay was not in relative perspective to my time. I mean, I was getting paid well (almost $100 per page); but when you worked it out, the ROI seemed to pan itself out after 10 pages (or a week's work). I was making about $1500 per website and some times would have 3-4 design projects running at the same time. Sounds great, right? That was the potential of earning $4500-5000. However, when it all came out in the wash, so to speak, collecting that income was often fraught with difficulty. Either I wasn't paid in a timely way or the client dragged the conclusion out for months. In one case, I waited nearly 22 months to finish a design -- 22 months! If I averaged it all out, it would take me about 8 weeks to finish three designs. That works out to about $550 per week. Well, not shabby, but really that is only $2k per month, and then it was never guaranteed to pan out. I had clients quit mid-design, and I also didn't always have more in the pipeline. I might get $2k this month, and then go 3-4 months without any new work. I supplemented my income with maintenance fees that ranged from $120-360 dollars per year. Some months I had $120 coming in; while other months almost $1k. The problem of course was inconsistency. By the end of the year, my monthly average was about $2k. Even when I write that out, I think, "Well, that is not really bad." The problem is that I was spending 24/7 to earn that income. I could have worked a standard 40-hour week, received two weeks vacation and sick time plus earned some profit sharing for my efforts. I also would have left the job at the office, and had time with my family without the phone or email hanging over my head. In short, I gave all my time to a job that didn't really pay me back in return.

There were other issues too. Often, I was without a car because the one we had broke down or finally died. My DH, who also worked as a consultant needed the car, so I stayed home. This kept me tied to the house, unable to go out unless he was here. Compound that with working 50-60 hours per week at home PLUS all the normal wife/Mom stuff (housework, cooking, cleaning, and schooling) and you can see how my life went from part-time extra cash to a living nightmare. I was never free, even though I could go to lunch when I wanted (my parents taking me out) or doing extra-curricular activities (needing a ride to them).

Moreover, being self-employed does a real number on your credit UNLESS you are successful. In my case, my credit was non-existent. When we needed a mortgage, my credit was used because it was better than my DH's. I was able to get one credit card, but with a very low line of credit. I could never get enough to finance a car and without stable income (and proof) it was difficult to get approval to finance anything. The upside -- we paid cash; the downside -- we often did without important/critical things because we had no credit or reserves to fall back on. We lived hand to mouth, all the while I was working my self into a breakdown.

Friends and family urged me to take on more work or charge more for my time. I couldn't do either because I was already stretched to the max, and I was at the very top of my niche market. I was stuck earning a certain amount and working like a dog to do it.

So now that I am seeking new work, my goals have shifted a bit:
  1. Repair my poor credit (with thanks to the economy, is now worse than ever)
  2. Get credit (as in credit cards or financing so that I can rebuild my profile)
  3. Save for repairs and emergencies
  4. Invest some for retirement
  5. Always have cash on hand -- never be without cash

My goals are simple and straightforward. I need a better credit score so I can get a mortgage again. I will need this within the year (my home is privately financed and I will have to refinance next year). I need a second car for my son. He can have my little Kia, but I will need a car that offers better transportation (manual is fine for around town, but long drives will be a killer. Plus a 6-cyl will have more oomph to get me to where I need to go). I want to finance a car to really build my credit score, so I need to save some money for a deposit. This is very doable, and I am not looking at a luxury vehicle -- something practical and something I will drive for years. It will be new/used, so perhaps a 2008 or 2009, low miles, and in excellent shape. I will save half my income, if possible. The rest will go to bills and monthly needs, and cash on hand. Of course, church dues are in there, as are some other small expenses. Overall, I think I can accomplish the above five steps fairly easily with about $3K income each month (steady, reliable). I am not looking for the big bucks just yet; I am only seeking a modest amount with enough to cover all my expenses and then allow me some leeway (for emergencies).

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