On Three Kings Day my daughter Jessica received three soft juggling balls in her shoes along with an instruction sheet on the art of juggling. As with any new endeavor, she took to it with great enthusiasm, confidently tossing all three balls in the air expecting to be able to keep them aloft with relative ease. After all, people make it look easy all the time. After a few attempts she got frustrated so we pulled out the instruction sheet which directed her to practice juggling with only two balls and to add the third only when two could be consistently kept airborne. Though juggling two balls doesn’t seem overly complex, there is a recommended way to keep the balls moving so as to easily incorporate a third. Without practice with the rhythm it’s hard to smoothly transition to an additional item to juggle.
I have thought a lot about juggling this week as I try to keep myself and my family aloft while tossing a business into the mix. When we’re faced with an unexpected or new endeavor life invites us to practice juggling more than we’re used to. Initially it can feel overwhelming and frustrating, especially if other people seem to have a handle on it and we find ourselves with not one but maybe all three balls falling to the ground despite our frantically flailing arms. I’m a firm believer in practice and respect for growth. I may not be able to juggle those three things proficiently now but with patience and a focus on my established rhythms I think I can get there. You can too, with whatever you’re trying to juggle in your life. In the meantime, if you see me dropping the ball just give me an encouraging smile.
As I wrapped up work with most of my “seasonal refresh” clients this week, I started to contact some of the people who wanted landscape consultations. It’s been an interesting process to see what the market will bear by offering different prices to people. I determined relatively early (like Day 2) that running a business at a $20/hr rate is not viable because once I’m up and running, sales tax, payroll tax and overhead costs not to mention supplies, scheduling and job preparation will eat a large chunk of that amount and I will basically end up volunteering. Now I volunteer quite a bit each week but I’m trying to learn more about business and by definition businesses earn a profit.
I’ve been more busy than I want to be at $20 but so far I haven’t had very many people take me up on my consultation and landscape design offers which, depending on what they wanted, ranged anywhere from $40 (for a troubleshooting consultation to address remediation for a specific area of the yard/garden) to $300 (for a landscape review, a full front and backyard design plan, 2 revisions, a full plant list with sources, phased and detailed installation instructions and an HOA ACC submittal packet). I’m looking for that sweet spot, the one where I have enough work to occupy the hours I want to devote to this each week at a price that’s worth it for me to spend time doing the work (supply) and where the work I do adds enough value that the individual is willing to pay it (demand).
I have had quite a few people ask me to quote other seasonal clean-up work (for the backyard or a friend or neighbor) and my little family crew and I have been doing that for reasonable and profitable rates. I’m wondering if seasonal maintenance is something people are more interested in in my neighborhood than well-designed landscapes. I’m grateful I had so many people interested because I’ve been able to conduct a ton of market research these last few weeks. Here’s to a deepening understanding of economics!
I’m not sure exactly what’s going on here but something beautiful is growing. One of my gifts is being able to see potential and this humble little endeavor holds a lot of promise. That’s what I tell myself when I hear myself saying things like this to my clients:
“Well, I mean, I’m not exactly licensed at anything…”
“In my Master Gardener Classes, they told us we had to kill 100 plants to qualify as a Master Gardener.”
“Oh, you don’t need me at all.”
“How long have I been doing this? Well uh, this is my 3rd week.”
It’s a good thing I can laugh at myself and that I’m also imparting massive amounts of plant wisdom. I’ll get the hang of this. Growing to greatness, that’s me!
So it turns out when you accidentally start a business there are quite a few things you have to learn really quickly. Here are a few tidbits I picked up this week:
Important Acronyms to know:
FEIN (Federal Employer Identification Number)
LLC (Limited Liability Company)
JSN (Just say no…especially important when people ask you to do something you REALLY don’t know how to do-like remove a tree)
TAGQ (Pronounced tah-gque, “That’s a good question”….turns out there are quite a few of these coming my way)
Live & Learn
Don’t apply for your Federal EIN number before your LLC paperwork confirmation comes back. Because maybe the name you wanted is taken (it turns out checking domain names and the federal EIN site isn’t the same thing as checking in with the State Comptroller. Who doesn’t buy their domain name when they file their business paperwork!?) and then you have to file a bunch more paperwork to make your EIN Number match your LLC name.
Applying for insurance when your previous experience is a volunteer apprenticeship and the person you worked with is now deceased (but lives on in everything you put in the ground) presents an interesting series of hoops to jump through. Additionally, submitting a resume, payroll estimates and gross revenue estimates is challenging when you’ve been in business for 2.5 weeks. But having insurance to bring in jobs and earn that revenue seems like the responsible way to operate. So much for the advice in $100 Startup to just try something out and see if it works, write the business plan later.
Sometimes things work out and fall into place. Sometimes they don’t. Ritchie and I have been trying to figure out a way to create a revenue stream that we could use for humanitarian endeavors. We’ve sorted through and planned a few different things now but kept hitting roadblocks. Then this opportunity just kind of opened up and I feel hopeful and confident that Esteban, our newly-sponsored high school student training to be an Agricultural Technician will give this whole endeavor added meaning, motivation and success. It’s a blessing to use our freedom, gifts, experiences, time and opportunities to empower others. Until next time, happy landscaping!