Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Clearing Out Worries

"Live without fear!"
     Command given by the celebrant before the final blessing and dismissal of an Episcopal service

I've been unable to make a major decision, telling myself I will take plenty of time to think things through, waiting until the fall to finally make a decision about whether to pull the plug on my business.

I'm stalling.

I am afraid I will regret leaving real estate. I am afraid I will regret not leaving real estate. The very worst thing I could do is never decide and continue to do a half-assed job at real estate while keeping a toe in my writing ventures. Success at anything requires commitment and focus and passion.

I've been in this sort of twilight world of non-commitment for a while now, long enough to have created habits of thought and attitude in danger of shaping me into a fearful, hesitant person. I want instead to be a fearless, open-hearted, adventuresome person!

To that end, and as a first step, I will drag my fears -- those niggly little worries that live in the dark crannies of my brain -- into the light. Here are a few:

Imagining What Others Will Think of Me.

I got my license a year and a half ago and have trumpeted it to all my friends and acquaintances. Will they think I'm flighty for leaving? Will they respect me less? I have four leads for next year, acquaintances/friends who want to list in the spring. What will they think if I walk away after I've promised to help them?

Disappointing my Broker.

I like my broker very much, and I know he's trying to bring new agents on board. The thought of disappointing him makes me queasy, and that's affecting my ability to think this through.


I alluded to this in my last post. I've just closed on the last of five contracts and am not currently involved in a contract process. I have one buyer client who is not in a hurry AT ALL and only two or three weakish prospects. I'm working on it, but what if I can't do it? If I decide to leave right now I won't know whether I would have failed to make it work. If I do leave, I might fail at my writing ventures and whatever Plan B turns out to be.


Related to the previous. If I stay and am unable to work at least one contract by the end of the year, I will have lost another $1,000 (or close to it) in business expenses. If I leave, I walk away from a lot of potential income, especially given that I have some prospects for this year and leads for work after the new year. And although the height of real estate season is winding down, surely I can drum up at least one contract which would pay my business expenses and give us a couple extra thousand. OTOH, the last drought I endured, between initial contracts shortly after receiving my license and this last spate of contracts, was nearly twelve months. I won't do that again.

Now that these fears are exposed, I can see what pasty little ghost things they are, especially the first three. Time to loosen their power over me.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, "You wouldn't worry about what people think of you if you realized how seldom they do." My friends and acquaintances may take a minute or two to wonder why I'm quitting (if indeed I do) and what I might be up to next, and their musings will quickly be drowned by their own worries. And as for those I've "promised" to help, good for me I happen to know several top-notch agents I can refer them to.

My broker is a big boy. He's been in the business a long time, and though I know he likes me and thinks I have potential, he's seen hundreds of agents come and go. And I'm not exactly a million dollar producer. I think he'll live.

Failure is a matter of perspective. If a venture doesn't turn out as envisioned, it is a failure measured against initial expectations, but the venture has succeeded in moving me along a path to a place I would not otherwise have been, and along that path I've picked up new friends, new skills, and new strength of purpose. (Ok, not much of the latter yet).

The money worry remains a more legitimate concern. It should be the primary concern actually. I started this business solely for the purpose of bringing more funds into the household. So far I've done that, but not nearly the amount I'd expected for the hours worked. Monitoring my business and household budgets and being realistic about projected income will -- I hope -- help me decide this rationally, without a bunch of bugaboos clouding the process.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Awash in Cash (Sort Of)

Here we are into July, and I'm no closer to making a decision about my business.

Tomorrow Kat and I go on a 5 day vacation with my family -- parents, siblings and their spouses, and lovely nieces and nephews. It's a frugal vacation for all of us. We meet at campgrounds on the nearby San Marcos River, rent tiny duplexes (with the required AC), and haul our own groceries. Five days of visiting, napping, playing cards, reading, and tubing down the river. Bliss!

The sticker shock for us is the price of providing care for our pets while we're gone. Our two big dogs are geriatric now, both with arthritis in their back legs. I researched the best place possible to keep them and found a kennel with private suites and in-door play areas that will give them quiet rest and air-conditioned exercise. For both girls, it's $75.00 a night -- choke! That's almost the cost of our own accommodations!! It's worth it though. We also pay our neighbor's kids $120 to take care of our cats, fish, outdoor ferals, and plants.

We've thought about a house sitter for all the pets, but we have one cat who is very crafty about dashing out the door. She is a house cat and would not make it outside, and we're afraid to lose her if we had someone here letting the dogs in and out. Also, the neighbor's kids are able to make money for back to school stuff, and I know their parents more than appreciate it. So this is just the cost of our going places, which is why we do so little of it (Something I am fine with, being a homebody and not liking to travel much).

We have better cash flow this year than we've had in a long time, and much less worry as a result. All of our travel expenses, including the pet care, will be paid cash, and at the same time, we've managed to bring the balance of our credit card from over $9,000 at the beginning of the year to $2,900.

But I've taken a look at our finances, and a lot of our increased cash comes from sources other than my real estate business. Kat received a significant raise at work last August, and in January of this year, the city extended medical benefits to domestic partners. My being on Kat's health insurance saves us nearly $200 a month, and the insurance is much better than my private insurance, so we're paying less out of pocket for physicals and such.

The cash flow has felt so good, I thought I was making more than I am. If I take my gross and subtract ALL business-related expenses, taxes, and tithe, I've made nearly $5,000 in profit so far this year. The expenses are more than I realized. As you know, $5,000 is not a living wage!! It's a nice supplement, and a big part of the reason that we're not worrying over money nearly as much, but is it worth it for the aggravation and the hours I put in? Could be too early to pull the plug, but I don't feel momentum going forward, and that's my fault. If I can't be passionate about this, I don't think it will work, but God I don't want another failed thing.

So as not to end on a glum note, I have to share that I feel unreasonably happy right now. Well, maybe not unreasonably. I WILL be with family tomorrow, with the very people who would not at all see this as "another failed thing" (and neither would Kat). That's one bad thought I need to somehow bar from this decision-making process.