The 5-year Experiment18 Comments »
I’d been setting aside part of my budget for an “opportunity fund” ever since I graduated with a master’s degree and started working at IBM. On February 17, 2012, after four wonderful years of web development and consulting, I turned over all of my projects and started on my own adventure. Two days later, I had a federal corporation that could be the umbrella for various experiments. By March, I had my first paying clients for consulting, and I was off and running.
Why this experiment?
Not many people have the time or space to find out what can happen if you don’t have to worry so much about making money. I wanted to see what could happen if you explored that.
Why five years?
Statistically speaking, most businesses struggle within the first five years. People have to learn how to run businesses. People have to find product-market fit. People have to figure things out. If I prepare for those challenges by remembering that it’s normal to struggle and telling myself that I won’t consider going back to employment until at least five years have passed, then I can hang in there even when times are tough. And if times are really tough, knowing that the experiment is time-bound will also help me stay sane.
I’m open to considering employment if our circumstances change drastically, but so far, I’m still on track.
What have you learned so far?
While it can be stressful learning about things like sales, marketing, and accounting — all the things you’re insulated from in a corporate environment — I also really like learning how to build a business. Lots of people are happy to help you out along the way, too. In addition to learning more about business, I also want to use this time to learn more about life.
How can you afford not having a regular paycheque?
I saved up a lot when I was working at IBM. Initially, I carved out enough from my savings to plan for five years of expenses, and that allowed me to give myself permission to start with this experiment. I had other savings beyond that, too. Since I’ve been adding to it with consulting and other things (and the stock market has been doing really well), it looks like my experiment can continue for quite a while yet.
How is the money working out?
W- and I are frugal, and that’s been a key factor in making this experiment possible. We keep our expenses low through cooking, simple leisure activities, and self-discipline. My personal finances are approximately where I projected they would be. In terms of business income, I’m ahead of where I expected to be (thanks to people taking a chance on a business that’s starting up, hooray!), but I’ve left most of the money in the business so that it can build its own emergency fund. (And to simplify paperwork…)
How’s W- dealing with it?
Wonderfully. We think it’s a great idea for me to be learning entrepreneurial skills. It’s the new job security, after all. This would be much more difficult without his support.
What are you up to now?
I share what I learn on my personal blog. One of my experiments has graduated into a business that I’m learning how to sell and market. Looking forward to learning even more!
What do you want to get out of this experiment?
You’re just lucky.
Yes, I’m incredibly lucky. I grew up reading personal finance books, and I started saving and investing early. I graduated with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree without student debt, thanks to support from my parents and various scholarships. W- is frugal, supportive, geeky, and totally awesome. I live in Canada and W- has a great health plan, so many of my health expenses are covered. I’m not completely worried about a gap in my resume because I’ve seen many women start second or third careers after taking time off. (It might be tough, but it’s not impossible.) I can communicate well, and my blog has helped me connect with people even though I’d be too introverted to reach out in real life. I’m not greedy – I don’t need to beat the market, so I don’t take crazy risks. So yeah, I’m really lucky.
You might be lucky too, in different ways. I’m not saying this path is for everyone, but hey, if you think it’s interesting, you might give it (or something like it) a try. =)
Can I hire you for stuff?
Read other experiment-related posts by clicking on individual posts below or reading the category of posts:
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- Accelerating my business learning: setting a goal for a new business every month - The first year of my five-year experiment is going well. I learned how to set up the structures for five different kinds of service businesses: web development contracting social business consulting illustration conference/event sketchnoting public speaking and two kinds of product businesses: writing e-books selling used books … and I got to my first sale […]
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