nicole entrepreneurIt has been 20 months since I made the leap into entrepreneurship. I’ve decided to take some time to reflect on my decision and think about things I would change if I could go back. Making the decision to quit my job and become an entrepreneur, while scary, wasn’t a difficult decision. I’ve always known that I wasn’t the type of person to stay in a job until retirement age. I wasn’t really sure how that was all going to happen but I knew at some point it would.

I didn’t really know how early it all started until I tried to set up a sole proprietor EIN and the IRS told me I already had one. Just an FYI – you can only have one sole prop EIN in your life time. It doesn’t matter how many different businesses you start, you will always use the same one. So I had to call the IRS to get the number because I had no idea what it was. The lady on the phone told me I’d had the number since 1998 and the name of my company was ByLadybug. “Oh Yeah!”, I said. That was my graphic design/invitation company that I started while working at the Getty.  I used to design invitations and cards all the time for friends parties, baby showers and what not. So I decided to start a company. It was all good until I was asked to do a wedding invitation and I met Bridezilla. At that point I realized I only wanted to do the designs that I wanted to do without input from the client and that probably wasn’t going to work. The next big leap I took was when I was living in Phoenix and my brother called. “Hey. Would you consider quitting your job and moving to Atlanta with me to start a karaoke club?” Sure, why not! Although for reasons that are way to DEEP to get into right now, the club never got off the ground that experience left me with the desire to eventually, one day, become an entrepreneur.

Now that I’ve had some time to reflect I’m pretty happy and content with the decisions that I made. Of course, there are some things that I would do differently. Let me start by saying I planned for about a year before I quit my job. I knew that I was going to become an Enrolled Agent. After nearly 10 years at the IRS, what else was I going to do? I felt I’d forced myself into a “specialty” that I couldn’t really do anything else with. But I also knew that I could be an asset to taxpayers who were in desperate need of qualified assistance.

  1. Trying to Pay Off Bills – I’ve never had much savings. But I did have some money in retirement. I also had a lot of credit card debt. I knew that it would be a few months before I’d have clients or bring in any income so I decided it was best to try to get my credit card debt down to reduce my monthly bills to buy myself some time until my income started coming in. In the November before I quit (I quit in January) I took out a $20k loan from my retirement and paid off a few credit cards. I also put $5000 in savings. I knew that I’d be cashing out my vacation and that would get me about another $3000 after I  left. Here’s the problem. It took us about 10 months before we really started making any money and that wasn’t really enough to live on – when you split it 3 ways. By that point I’d run the credit cards back up and taken more out of my retirement. What I should have done was taken the money out of the retirement and used that to live on. Paid the bills that I had every month and not used the credit cards. At the end of the year not only did I have the same credit card debt I also had a tax bill for the early withdrawal of the retirement funds. This might have been a good plan if I started it a few years earlier. My mistake was trying to do all of this 2 months before I quit.
  2. Having Partners – Okay. So I hope Norma and Melina aren’t reading this. Let me preface this by saying I LOVE my partners. It is great not being in this alone. And as partners go, they are GREAT. We pick up the slack for each other. Both Melina and Norma have bookkeeping clients. I do not. I only have tax clients. The bookkeeping clients bring in steady monthly income which means we have guaranteed income every month. So if the tax business is slow we at least know we are being paid on the bookkeeping side. All that being said it can be frustrating doing things by committee. For the  most part they are easy going. This whole “let’s quit our jobs and start a business” idea was pretty much mine and Norma’s but as far as the vision and the brand of SJC they let me run with it. But there are those times that I don’t want to consult and I don’t want to discuss. I just want to do what the hell I want to do. There are those times when, yes, I have to admit that I’m a bit of a control freak. Melina is the accountant. She is the one who controls the money. The one who questions the financial decisions. Who, see item #1, I probably need. Norma is my sounding board. She is the one I talk to all day every day. The one who I talk things through with. We figure things out. We make things happen. If I didn’t have her I’d basically be talking to myself. So why don’t I want partners?
  3. Doing it Sooner – As far as the tax business goes I couldn’t have done it any sooner because I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know enough to be an effective advocate for my clients. But in terms of my other entrepreneurial aspirations, like this blog for example, I’ve been doing this for a long time. Like I said earlier, I started my first business in 1998. I started the first rendition of this blog in 2007. I’ve had multiple opportunities but I never followed through. I laugh all the time and say I’m all ideas and no execution. My humor is self deprecating but true. By biggest flaw is follow through – getting shit done. My cousin tells me all the time I’m the smartest person he knows. I tell him he needs to meet some new people. But you can be too smart. So smart that you talk yourself out of things. Out of opportunities. Out of success.

I look at these Instagram accounts and various blogs with there 10k followers and ridiculous amounts of daily hits and think “why isn’t that me?” The truth is it could have been me. But I didn’t put for the effort to get there. And in many ways I still don’t. I may be spreading myself too thin trying to do too many things. Not focusing on what it is really important to me. But the bills need to get paid. Being an entrepreneur is about a lot more than posting pictures on IG and quoting Bill Gates. It is about hard work. It is about dedication. It is about making mistakes, owning those mistakes and learning from them. It is about figuring out what works and what doesn’t. It is about doing shit you really don’t want to do corporate tax returns. So you can do what you really want to do travel. Yes, there are things that I wish I could go back and do differently but for the most part I’m really happy with this life I’ve designed and I’m excited to see where I go from here.