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I have been wondering how others manage their budgets while running a small business. Are you the sole or key earner in the house? If your business stopped tomorrow would your family be in trouble?

It is an added pressure and must make for some stress for people who might be finding the job tough. Personally my wife works full time but I consider myself to be the main earner. We're in the lucky position that either salary could maintain our modest lifestyle (10 year old car, maybe 2 holidays a year max, semi detached house, no smoking, barely any drinking and no habit of buying expensive clothes).

Do you have the luxury of being able to run your business as a hobby? Is this an advantage and helps you achieve things you might not be able to if you were driven harder by profits?

I expect few honest replies but it is something I think about.

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  • to be honest dan thats not the easiest quesion to answer, im the sole earner as my partner has gone back to college times are hard as ive lost 4 large contracts and had to reduce my business back to basics a lot of hard work for nothink, with such a uncertian future for our industry time are very hard trying to give customers good quality work at a fair price is very testing at time as there are so many odd jobbers cut my prices down, i personally couldnt afford to take time off work to go on holiday let alone see my only son as im working all the hours i can especially with our crazy weather in wales ? the only thing im lucky with is renting a property so if my business were to fail i wouldnt lose everythink atleast. 

  • My wife and I earn roughly the same, she is a psychological consultant for Scottish Autism.
    Two good incomes coming in but having to fund one son studying in Hong Kong and just finished paying for my daughter through uni, she's now a primary school teacher, sure does eat into our income !
  • My wife and I run our business as a partnership, so we're both 'main earners' and the business definitely isnt a hobby. It's too damn hard work to be classed as a hobby!

    Where we are better off than some is that I receive an army pension which is a nice 'cushion', or advantage as you put it Dan, it also makes the thought of an oncoming winter easier to bear and means that whatever the weather the mortgage, gas etc etc will get paid, so it does take some of the pressure off.

    Would we have to work even longer hours without the pension? Damn right we would!

  • PRO

    My wife Donna has been the main earner in our house for the last seven years. Without her support I could not have put the hours into Landscape Juice as it became established.

    I'm a registered artisan here in France and I've started to supplement my LJ earnings with small woodworking jobs. I also work on our property.

  • Myself and my partner work. She is an interpreter and is always 'on call' waiting for the next job. We share the available hours to work in the week as we have a young child . I get m-f, 8am -5 and she gets to work, if it's there, the rest of the hours. If she has to go during he day we have a nearby childminder. so a lot of evenings we pass each other at the door. Money wise if my work dried up we could manage,I'd be a full time dad, though her work is so hit and miss I think every mortgage due day would be stressful.
  • I am in a fortunate position that my wife is the main earner and can cover the essential bills, so at the moment my income is a bonus and contributes towards savings and probably 2 holidays. But in previous years, after her two maternity leaves, my income was the main one, and I do not see my work as a hobby. I set higher and higher targets for me to achieve and in the past this has helped drive me on. (I work by myself btw).

    I think the key for us though is that we never buy things if we do not have the cash, so apart from the mortgage we do no have any other overheads. It does help when a machine breaks down or I need something new, that I can afford it.

    My main problem at the moment is maintaining motivation. I have really lost it this year for various reasons, and as my income is not "essential", am wondering how I can get it back again, so I enjoy my job again. I am currently seeing if a cull of customer numbers,especially long standing, poorly priced small jobs will help.

  • James I fully understand what you mean about motivation. This has been a bad year for many of us. The plan for me is to keep hammering it through to the first or second week of November then take the time in the quieter months to rest, maybe change a few things for next year and to take my mind off it completely. Hopefully this will make the new season next year much  fresher, and if it's not as wet a season as this year things can't possibly be as bad. 

    I don't know how the business might change if childcare came into play; I'm 31 now and not getting any younger. Business may have to change significantly to accommodate life's changes. Having low debt makes a huge difference; not buying on credit may make things a bit harder initially but you reap the benefits.

    It would be good to see some designers come in to this discussion to share their perspectives.

    James Wells said:

    My main problem at the moment is maintaining motivation. I have really lost it this year for various reasons, and as my income is not "essential", am wondering how I can get it back again, so I enjoy my job again. I am currently seeing if a cull of customer numbers,especially long standing, poorly priced small jobs will help.

  • PRO

    Thats a very good question Dan, my wife does work but if our business failed then we would be in trouble although I always leave a pot of money left in the company to cover a drop in trade for a while. We have to hope the business does as well or better than the past two years as we are about to complete on a house in the next few months which means the next 5 years will be tight as we pay down the debt! On the plus side we could never of bought a house like this without the business and I'd hope I'd set up the business right with the right mix of customers, equipment, staff and work for us to continue to take profits/salary.  

  • I’m just starting up as my own business so covering the costs is the first objective.  This is definitely not a hobby I hope to get a serious return for my investment of time and money.

    My wife is the main earner- a part time nurse- so things have been tight for the last few months. Anything I can make over and above overheads will make us better off.

    I hope to be making a proper living by next summer season.  I’m steadily building up clients even though winter is approaching. I’m also using the expected down time for training and marketing. (LJN is really helpful for this!)

    So far so good.

  • Do you have the luxury of being able to run your business as a hobby? Is this an advantage and helps you achieve things you might not be able to if you were driven harder by profits?

    At the age of 53, I suppose I do have that luxury, Dan, yes. Rather than a hobby though, I choose to make it my full-time occupation, one that takes up a lot of time and effort.

    I'm at that inbetwixt stage of life; far too early to hang up the boots and consider hacking around a golf course each day, but past wanting to grow the business into a large thriving concern, with all the attendant pressures and headaches. I prefer to keep the business small and manageable, but no less professional for that. With a high-earning spouse who's happy in her career, and the kids pretty much off our hands, I'm very lucky and I suppose it is an advantage, but it hasn't always been thus.

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