What’s the Plan?

July 26, 2008

Matt writes,

“I was just a little curious about the logistics behind your move… You said you got the accounting job to pay the bills; I’m assuming you still have bills so have you saved up to get you through the rougher times? or created some sort of passive income, or just jumping in with both feet?

I’ve been tossing around the same idea, although I seem to get hung up on the logistics… I was just curious about how you’re approaching it, especially since it sounds like you’re probably just at the point of planning this all out… How long have you been working as an accountant?

Well thanks and good luck.”

I’ve been working as an accountant for about a year, and I definitely still have bills. My savings buffer is modest, and labeled “for emergencies only”. Step one in my plan is to transition my full-time accounting job into a flex-time accounting job. I need the support of my employer for this, and to get it, I have been concentrating on improving my work efficiency for the past two months. The boss has noticed, and he’s very happy with me. On the writing side, the first step is building my portfolio with pro bono projects. I am in the process of building a contact list of non-profit organizations in my area, and I will be calling all of them within the next month and offering my services as a volunteer writer. I have to write in my spare time for now. The purpose of the flex schedule is to wrangle a little more of that.

My next step will be to pursue paid writing work, and reduce my day job to part time. That works if (1) I build up my new writing business enough to fill the income gap, and (2) I can really fit my essential tasks into significantly fewer hours per week. I like the place I work, I’m just not an accountant. I’m considering suggesting that my boss hire an intern or lower wage part-timer to handle my clerical tasks. I’d be surprised if he didn’t at least hear me out on the subject of paying someone less than he pays me to get the little stuff out of the way when I’m not there.

Finally, I’ll announce that I’m changing careers, and will be available for another month or so to train my replacement. I may pick up temp work through an agency if my freelance income stream does not support me completely, but only for as long as I have to.

A lot of this plan comes directly from The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman, and its sequel, Back for Seconds. I recommend taking a look at TWFW, and also http://www.freelanceswitch.com for perpetually helpful articles.

Good luck!

An old roommate of mine has dared me to write a short story every month, breezily assuring me that she can keep up, given that she churns out at least three. Darn that girl, I introduced her to writing short fiction! So it’s on, and my goal is to have her shaking her head through the entire July submission.

This will not help me build my business. However, it will get me writing on a schedule, albeit a relaxed one. The practice will be good for my craft, and just doing it is fun for me.

Exit Strategy

July 15, 2008

I’m concerned that if I put too much information out there, someone who knows someone will stumble across the blog and figure out that their friend’s accountant is about to amscray. Perhaps I overestimate my exposure. Perhaps I underestimate my most energetically vindictive coworker. I don’t know. But I am sure that, when I leave, I would like my successor to find no mess.

Allow me to assure any potential cat-bag-openers of my plans for a painless transition.

I will:

– write a training manual that covers all essential tasks, in particular those that no one else is familiar with

– see to it that reference material is organized and easy to find

– NOT pull up stakes during a period that the office expects to be extremely busy

– get a few simple systems up and running so my replacement can climb the learning curve in the shortest possible time, and

– remain with the organization long enough to thoroughly train my replacement.

Getting organized over the past couple weeks has been good for me. I looked into some popular systems and found pieces of two that worked well together. The structure of my work week will soon be clear enough to be made into the structure for the manual.

My files are in pretty good shape. Some of the larger reference cabinets need a little work, but a day or three in between my major obligations should take care of that. Bits of the training manual already exist as leftovers from my training, my predecessor’s training, and that time I scheduled a vacation right on top of a time-critical task, and had to arrange to have my rear covered.

I am debating the relative merits of tipping my hand sooner rather than later. There are advantages and disadvantages; let me know what you think.

Thanks!

First Sacrifice

July 1, 2008

I don’t know who said it: To get what you want, you have to get rid of what you don’t want. That’s certainly true of my disgusting couch–I don’t have room for two. My problem for the past week, however, has been that I have to get rid of something I do want.

A few months ago, I joined what might be the best martial arts studio in my state. The people there are warm and wonderful. I loved training with them; learning from them. I’m new to the discipline and was just beginning to prepare for my first test. The head instructor complimented me for holding up under the general philosophy: anyone who hasn’t earned their black belt is just a guest. I understood. I didn’t mind. When he finally called me out in class for screwing up a technique I was ecstatic, because it meant I was doing well enough to merit the correction. And the parties… this crowd knows how to do it.

We hosted a seminar not too long ago. Afterwards, everyone headed for the backyard of a favorite training partner and spent the night discussing new moves, eating incredible potluck, and drinking around the fire to “Shake, Shake Senora” played on a gypsy violin. Did I mention these folk have fascinating talents off the mat? And I can’t train with them three-plus nights a week if I want to start a business in my spare time.

I emailed the instructor, letting him know what the situation was and that I hoped to return. He replied that he’d be glad to see me back someday. Training does take a time commitment to get good, “and you were on your way.”

Before writing this post, I did the dishes and cussed. I have to make it as a writer now.