If I had a dollar for every time someone has said to us, “I want to do what you guys did!”, we could retire all over again! If you have read our history, then you know that we sort of got thrown into the voyage head first. Even so, there are some things we learned along the way that we can share. So if you are feeling crushed by your current job, and want to start your own Encore Career, here are some things that you might find helpful.
1. Have some sort of savings in place. That’s right – If you are going to strike out on your own, you need a bit of a safety cushion to cover the cost of day to day expenses for a few months while you get things off the ground. I’m not talking about your retirement account! Do Not Ever steal from an IRA, even if you think you’ll pay it back! It’s highly unlikely you ever will! I’m not talking about a business loan. It may be the case that you will secure a business loan to get your ideas off the ground – but you need some funds to sustain you outside of business expenses, at least for a little while.
2. Find your passion. I asked hubs what his dream job would be if he could choose. Figure out what the thing is that you would like to do every day, even if it didn’t make you a dime…then figure out a way to make money doing that! The whole point of the Encore Voyage is not just to be self-employed, but to be on a soul fulfilling journey! Decide what you want your dream life to look like.
3. Create an SOQ – A Statement of Qualifications. It’s where you sit down and write out all of the marketable skills you have that you wish to promote. What are those things you do particularly well? What goods do you have to sell? Here is where you showcase your talents and abilities, and describe them in a nice format.
4. Determine some short-term, mid-term and long-term goals. Where do you want to be in 6 months, a year, or even five years? How will you know if this voyage is working for you? Yes, not starving is a good indicator, but it shouldn’t be the only one! It should be observable and measurable.
5. Establish your business identity. What will you call yourself? How will you explain what it is that you do? Will you have a logo? A business name and website? Do you need/want to register your business with your state? Do you need to establish a separate business banking account? These were all the nagging little details that made the voyage seem scary and intimidating at first.
6. Establish a fee structure. Do some research to determine the going rates for services or products similar to yours, and to determine what the market will bear. Get an idea firmly written down of what you will charge for your services or goods.
7. Take as many steps as possible to minimize business debt at first. Just because you start “a business” does not mean you can take a trip and call it a business expense! You still need to consider profit and loss. Hubs and I have very little overhead, because we work from our home, and have no other employees. We are careful to keep control of our costs.
8. Keep excellent records. It has taken us a couple of years to wrap our arms around the record keeping. From costs related to each job, to keeping receipts and filing, you need to be able to see the bottom line quickly and clearly.
9. Network and advertise yourself. I think this was the thing that sets Jeremy apart from many others. He has a huge network of people he has met during the years, and I don’t believe he ever burned a bridge! He started smilin’ and dialin’ – letting people know what he was up to, what he was wanting to do, and what he could possibly do for them. Sometimes he met colleagues for coffee. He took others to lunch. He attended meetings of professional organizations and actively sought out places where he could make an impact. From helping others to volunteering, the idea is to stay in front of potential clients. This is not the time to adopt the notion that, “I’m good at what I do, so people will come to me.” We’ve known several fellow voyagers who followed this course, and have sunk!
10. Don’t. Stop. Moving. To be successful on the Encore, you need to have some hustle! Those who fail are the ones with an “I’ll do it later” attitude. If you believe that you can do this with a TV flipper in your hand, you are sadly mistaken. Success is not easy…and it is certainly not for the lazy!
I know what you are thinking…You’re saying, “Wait…I thought you guys were retired!!” Well, we are…sort of. We are designing a life doing exactly what we want to do, when we want to do it, where we want to do it, and with whom we want to do it! All of the steps above sound like crazy hard work, and initially, they were frightening, and nerve wracking. That said, the end result is that
We get to decide what to make of each day!
And as we’ve become more comfortable on the voyage, we often look at each other and say,
“Dang…This is a really sweet gig we’ve got going here!”
Here’s to hoping that you, too, can end up with a “sweet gig!”