What if it was never about the money?

June 23, 2012 at 5:11 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

Being self employed I am rather used to feast or famine in my monthly finances. Putting money away isn’t even a question but rather a mandatory part of the process. I have also learned the valuable skills of barter, trade and borrow. 

In refining these skills in my day to day life I have met many interesting people and learned even more skills. 30 years ago my sole purpose was to make as much money as possible for some far off retirement where I globe trotted, drove a great car and generally lived in the lap of luxury…silly me!

For years I worked hard at jobs in my field but for less than ideal wages and under often exhausting, stressful conditions. (Who thinks high heels for 9 hours a day selling Rolex watches is a good idea)? I assure I could have sold them in bare feet or flats. I always thought of these positions as rungs on that ladder to the “good life.” It wasn’t until I went into my own business full time and ran up even more bills in the name of inventory, office supplies and flights to see buyers that I started to shift my thinking. I began to think more locally.

Being self employed means you are where the buck stops…every time. No longer working for wages I was now slaving away for the good folks at Capital One, Chase, American Express and Discover each month in order to service my debt. No one ever tells you that besides no longer having a paycheck when you go solo you will also have more debt as your needs outstrip your sales the first year or two. If you are one of the lucky ones you survive and thrive after much brow sweating and sleepless nights.

I figured out if I only sold to retailers and galleries within a 200 mile range I could save on flights, rental cars, hotels and time to get there. So with one exception I cut out the long distance travel. I kept my San Francisco contacts as they were a key part of my income and would need them to make the shift to locally sustainable. I immediately saw results and picked up more Southern California clients. I was green when it was just a color! My colleagues were heading overseas to set up sweatshops and contract manufacturing just I was embracing Made in the USA with greater fervor.Although my costs per piece to manufacture were higher so was my quality and my lead times where so short managers and buyers had to restate the times back to me as if I were speaking some strange and efficient language. This in turn opened more doors as time is of the essence as they say and in the luxury goods world the client wants it sooner not later.

I also started noticing a shift in my time…I was able to get my work done and be there when the kids returned from school. I could make plans at the last minute and I was learning how to have fun on a shoestring. I planted an organic garden for better food and a place to sit and contemplate. I was chipping away at my start up debt and building a small savings portfolio at the same time. I bought a better used car and sold the old sports car for more than the “new” old Mercedes workhorse diesel. I used the difference to buy tires. At this time diesel was cheaper than gas! 

I went on to have a very successful run designing jewelry for television. Sitcoms, dramas, talk shows you name it the stars were adorned in my California made creations. I paid off my debt entirely and invested enough to take five years off to go to college do a study abroad and buy my very first new car…which I am still driving seven years later. The things I learned when I was struggling was that it is never about the money, but rather the ability to get what you need. I learned many ways to get what I needed without going to the mall and buying it. I learned about the fine art of barter. One year I traded jewelry for high end French perfume from a leading vendor and all my women friends got something they might never have bought for themselves and a much more expensive gift than I would have bought using  $$$.

I don’t think I ever would have become so expert at my finances and resources had I stayed in a traditional wage or management position working for someone else. I have to say the most valuable outcomes of my self employment have been owning my time and learning to seek alternate ways to fulfill needs.

…and that’s my two cents on that topic.



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