I Don’t Want an Empirefeatured

I Don't Want an Empire {the ponytail diaries}

I’ve been seeing a lot of online business classes and programs and webinars going around lately and I’ve realized two things.

One, it seems like the best way to make a lot of money online is to…teach people how to make money online.

Let’s not go into the massive side-eye I’m giving to most online business programs and classes right now. It’s like the life coaches I see whose only clients are…other aspiring life coaches. Um, what?

Two, I don’t want a massive, six-figure business that gets called an “empire.”

Don’t get me wrong. Earning six figures a year would be amazingly, unbelievably fantastic. But I’d be perfectly happy with something in the “low” six figures — a number I can earn while still running and managing my business by myself.

I get (way too many) emails popping in my inbox telling me “NOW IS THE TIME TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP IN MY BUSINESS” and “HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO EARN HALF A MILLION DOLLARS THIS YEAR (but first give me two grand please)” and I’m all, thanks, but no.

Part of why I left my agency job was because I saw my career path there — getting a direct report, another direct report, and another, and then I’d be a manager, and then a director, and then a VP, and with each step up I’d write less and less and manage more and more.

I have no desire to be a manager.

I used to see this at an old job — field employees would get promoted from sales positions to manager or regional director positions because they excelled at selling. But as a manager or director, you spend precious little time selling — instead, you’re training and managing and coaching other people who are selling. Some would still do well. Others would flounder and their performance would decline and the higher-ups wouldn’t understand why their teams got sub-par results. Because good salespeople are not automatically good managers.

I quit the agency because I want to write. That’s it. I don’t want to manage, I don’t want to teach or train or coach. I have no desire to start leading workshops or webinars about how to write better or earn a living as a freelancer (especially not now, since if you were to ask me I’d say “I have no freaking idea, I’m trying to figure it out”). I don’t want to create consulting or coaching “packages” instead of writing. Whether it’s on this blog, or for clients, or fiction pieces — writing is how I want to spend my time and earn the bulk of my income (I say bulk because I definitely see options to diversify my “income streams.” One day).

Which means I won’t take on crazy huge projects that I can’t handle on my own. One day, I may outsource some bookkeeping and admin tasks, but I don’t see myself ever hiring other writers to take on my projects. I don’t want to be running a “team” all over the country under my “brand” while they get to write and I get to do all the bullshit business backend stuff.

That sounds awful.

I think part of this is because my model of “entrepreneurship” isn’t the big Internet success stories or Silicon Valley tech companies or “serial entrepreneurs” who are so common today (insert another eyeroll). It’s my dad. I never even realized, growing up, he could be called an “entrepreneur,” but in a way, he is — he independently started an architecture firm when I was about six and he still runs it (successfully) to this day.

But he never used the word “entrepreneur” to describe himself. He said he was “self-employed.” (That’s what I always wrote on forms for school that asked my parents’ occupations and employers. Occupation: Architect. Employer: Self.)

He used to have an office assistant (and I worked for him for a couple summers. I mainly drove to the blueprint shop and various city building departments, and then Dad would treat me to lunch. For a 16-year-old, this was a dream job). He had an intern for a year or two. His friend worked for him as a draftsman for awhile. But for the most part, my dad was self-employed, employing none.

And, as far as I can tell, he’s been pretty happy, fulfilled, and successful doing that. He didn’t go after huge projects like skyscrapers or shopping malls that he couldn’t do on his own. He didn’t try to get projects across the country or be the next Frank Gehry or Arthur Gensler. Instead, he focused on “small” projects like custom homes and remodels and did them well and earned a solid reputation in the area. And he always had time to coach soccer and basketball and track & field and come to our thousands of games and meets and invites. We were able to take family vacations each year where he wasn’t constantly on the phone with clients or checking email. (I actually remember him changing the message on his answering machine to say “I’m out of the office until [date] and will return all calls by [date].”) He used to tell me he got through rough days at work because “architect” was just a part of who he was — he always knew he’d come home and have my mom, me, my brothers, our dogs, his volunteer coaching, and other hobbies. His job never completely defined him.

And that’s all I’ve ever wanted for myself. When I think back on my career aspirations, I never really pictured myself working in an office for a company. I’d be a writer, earning my living independently — and on my own. The type of writer and the way I’d actually earn that living has changed, but underneath? Still the same.

So maybe that limits how much I can achieve and how much money I can make and how big a “name” I’ll have, but I’m 100% okay with that.

photo from Death to the Stock Photo

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