I’m writing this one from the wonderful flourish café at Woodfield Park Doncaster, the home of true beginnings for my business and great friendships. Whilst I’d been in the world as Be More Learning and Development since 2012, it wasn’t until I joined the co-working space that was Helm late in 2018 that I thought more deeply about ‘how much is enough’.
At this point I was still working 4 days a week for British Shooting as their People Development Manager. Regularly traveling to Bisham Abby on the 6:07am train from Doncaster station and only returning home at 8:30pm in the evening. Or spending 2-3hrs a day on the road heading to shooting range’s around the country (then heading back avoiding – traffic jams and the more than occasional crash).
It was great pay and a really rich experience with some great people. But it was becoming apparent that this was not the life for me, a single parent of a then 4 year old who’s true desire at that time was to walk his child to school.
Success in who’s eyes
In the months that followed I spent time contemplating how I could take Be More Learning and Development from a 1 day a week side hustle, to a successful business.
This was my first check point – successful business? I mean what is that and who gets to decide this? What does this actually look like?
A quick google search will tell you business success can be measured in things like, turnover, profit, client number (and size), type of work, regularity of work, lead conversion rates etc… these metrics didn’t work for me. Mainly because I didn’t know how much was enough and what for.
I needed to take some time to consider how I wanted life to be, how I wanted to live, work and play. What income did I need to serve this?
I went back to my bookshelf and picked up two books;
- A guide to the good life by William Irvine and
- How much is enough money and the good life by Robert and Edward Skidelsky
Neither of these books I have read fully. But in the few pages I have drawn on and highlighted I have found wisdom to help me recognise that my definition for success is heavily dependant on how I wanted to live. Therefore I needed to describe this first.
The good life (in brief)
As the business was created (to the greater extent) to serve my desire to be a present father (and to make me feel valued and fulfilled), I chose to describe success differently. My metrics look like this:
- I can pay the bills that NEED to be paid (anything more is invested)
- Walk my daughter to school (minimum 3 days a week)
- Have time to myself (so work a 4 day week)
- Take one extended holiday (21 days) to South Africa each year
- To learn as I work/learn with whom I work
Note: These have evolved slightly (see forward) but remain pretty consistent
My question now is – what’s the true cost of this life?
When reflecting on this big question, do your self a favour – cut back on every cost that isn’t necessary. Especially in the early stages of your business. Basic math, the less you spend (expend) the less you have to earn. Cut back on everything from posh coffees to broadband, utilities, phone line, office costs etc. Doing this takes a little extra pressure off your shoulders and helps you focus on doing work over worrying about ‘enough’ work.
Note: I will try to develop some sort of life cost audit tool/template when I get the time.
This illustration is primarily suited to those who charge their time out as a day rate service rather than products/units sold. Although there are some parallel lessons.
Step 1: the Number
Lets imagine your life cost is £60,000. This is your desired annual salary. Now if you are working for someone you could probably add an additional 25% for benefits like pension, gym, life insurance, car allowance etc
So your number could be £60,000 + 25% = £75,000
Step 2: whats your maximum capacity for earning
What are the maximum days you can work in a year. No its not 365, that would be insane. So what is it? Using a traditional 5 day working week you get this..
5 days x 52 weeks = 260 days
Therefore your maximum capacity for work is 260 Days
Obviously you can work weekends, but really!!! Life’s for living. You can see where I’m going (and I aim to work 4 days a week so my capacity is 208)
Step 3: what about holidays
All workers (in the UK) are entitled to 5.6 weeks paid holiday per years, so your capacity takes a hit.
That’s 5.6 weeks x 5 days = 28 days (of which 8 can be bank holidays)
So lets be kind to ourselves and round this up to 30 days
Therefore your capacity for work is 260 – 30 = 230 days
Step 4: factor in other knowns and unknowns
What is your contingency for when you are ill/sick, how much time do you need to dedicate to professional development (to stay ahead of the curve). Saying ‘I’m never sick’ is not helpful, it happens. And neglecting the development of your skills is a quick way to allow competitors to take over.
Give your self 10 days (to cover sickness and professional development)
So your true capacity is 230 – 10 = 220 days
But how many of these are billable!!
Step 5: billable days
Unless you are awesome at marketing yourself in your sleep, or get paid to meet clients and build relationships you will need to factor in time to ‘catch clients’. Yes you may work everyday but you may not be able to invoice for every day. Some days will need to be allocated to all the things you do to find clients and create billable situations.
A rule of thumb here is that it would not be unreasonable to invoice for 60% of this 220.
Therefore 60% of 220 is 132 days (i.e. 3 days out of each 5 day working week)
Yes your earning potential is 132 days (only a 3rd of a year!!!!)
Step 6: the big equation
Remember that figure in step 1 – £75,000, lets see what that looks like as a day rate?
£75,000 / 132 days = £568.18 per day (3 days a week)
Therefore your day rate is £568
So to earn your desired £75,000 (inclusive of benefits) you would need to be charging yourself out at around £550–600 per day 3 days per week.
Its worth remembering that work-life is not linear and some weeks you be able to bill for each day and other weeks you may bill for one or none! I suggest looking at your income over a a month or a quarter and look at seasonal variations to help you acknowledge when the money will come and when it will be less prolific (this way you balance your income over the year).
Notes: this is only an estimate but I think a helpful one, we haven’t factored in travel costs and other operating costs that you don’t naturally charge to clients such as insurance etc.
A big question for you now is what’s your time worth and where are the clients that will pay this.
This is an exploration into your own value and worth. How you decide this is often an interplay between ‘perceived value’ – the value a client puts on your services and ‘perceived worth’ – the value you put on yourself:
- What is your value in the market – i.e. how much will people pay?
- What worth do you place on yourself – i.e. how much should you charge?
The only metric now to worry about is how many client days do you need at what rate. This will take a bit of tinkering, but if you can dial up your daily rate, you may need to bill for less days. Which means you can work less or take more time finding the right client
If you want to join me and a group of likeminded humans in this writing and publishing journey, just get in touch via the contacts page link or direct via firstname.lastname@example.org. From here we will grow together.
For further information about the book #BEingSuccessfulEnough or other blog chapters click here