If you've been following along as I write about my journey towards starting a business (part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4), you'll notice I haven't written too much about my struggles. Believe me, they are there. I think the challenges and phases are fairly well documented for new business owners, though, so I've been trying to work through those offline and stick to a primarily positive or at least thoughtful tone as I document my unique journey. Here's one article about the benefits of taking control of your story and making conscious choices about what that story will be.
Just this morning, I called a property manager in town to let him know I would be passing on the office space he had shown me. I started looking into office spaces because of a connection I had through an organization I'm part of, and initially the numbers seemed to make sense. For about the cost of two 1-day rentals with the current space I am using, I could rent an office space monthly. Of course, I'd have to furnish it, figure out internet access, and all that. After going back and forth for a week or two, I decided to continue using 1-day rentals.
However, in parallel... just a few days ago, I grabbed a coffee at my local fancy coffee shop early in the morning and headed in to Philadelphia for WordCamp US 2016. For me, solo driving is meditative, so during that drive I was brimming with creative thinking and ideas, one of which was this - that coffee shop was completely empty that early in the morning. It made me think, hey, what about trying to use their space? I checked their hours - they close at 5pm or 6pm each day, so evenings are free. I had recently had a brief conversation with one of the owners while checking out. And I knew that over in Asia, "night markets" make creative use of retail space that otherwise lies unused. So I pulled up their website contact form and shot them a proposal! Waiting to hear back, but I'm excited by the possibility.
Meanwhile, in parallel... just a week or two ago, as I was updating my website, I decided that I wanted to get out of the business of setting prices, negotiating with potential customers, and offering discounts upon discounts to entice them to register. Inspired by Quincy Larson of Free Code Camps' Medium.com post on the abundance economy, I read up on Name Your Own Price models (like Priceline), which led me to the alternative economy Pay What You Want model. Wrestling with the concept of a "fair price" for my services and whether "it was worth it" to work for less was plain and simple stressing me out. Instead of focusing on future possibilities and developing content, I was expending energy anxiously wringing my hands about what I "should" be making and how much money I "needed to make" to have the venture be worth my time. Now, I can advertise an alternative economic model as a unique offering, and also leave all that worrying in the past.
I can do this because... about a month ago, I reached out to some contacts about additional part-time work. I had already taken one 10 hour/week job at my local university, which randomly turned out to be a job that suits me better and is more fulfilling than my last FT job! I have also taught classes at the university on and off for the past 3 years, so I knew I would have an opportunity to teach one this coming semester. As it happens, I signed up for two! And one of my other inquiries turned into a short 2 month research project, doing work with big data. Lining up these "gigs" as it were means I will have much less time to focus on my business. But it also means I have guaranteed income for the next 6 months, more so than the past 3 months. With that economic security (and obviously this is all supported by my wife being the primary breadwinner and healthcare provider), I can breathe easier while still pursuing an iterative, design-based approach to growing my business and seeking a target audience and achievable business model.
My takeaway from all this? The future is cloudy, but there's a chance of success on the horizon if I can just keep it going. And keeping going means staying flexible, resilient, and open to opportunities, however they may present themselves - even paradoxical opportunities like spending less time on my business!