Charting My Own Path: 1 Year Later

Last year I wrote a post that described the timeline and steps I took to figure out that I was not happy in my day job and find something else to do that makes me happy.

Looking back on the past year I’ve learned a few things. Most importantly, I know I made the right decision in leaving my job.

Financially, it has been a big adjustment, which was expected but I didn’t think it would be as noticeable. If you compare apples to apples, my total gross revenue (which is comprised of my earnings as an employee and my self-employed revenue) for 2013 was a good chunk less compared to just the salary of my previous job. The other factor was that in 2012, I had a full time job and a part time job coaching and running my nutrition business, which brought in a nice little chunk of change. So when I compare my total income in 2012 to 2013, it’s a significant drop-off. To see the difference on paper was humbling.

I’m obviously not doing this for the money. I left a well-paying job that I hated to do something I actually enjoy and hopefully make a living wage, which I am doing.

My employment over the past year has been essentially two part-time jobs that make up full-time hours. For 25 hours a week (which has run over that weekly allotment more times than I can remember), I run the day-to-day operations of CrossFit Delaware Valley and coach a majority of the weekly classes. For this, I am considered an employee of the gym and that paycheck is taxed. For everything else I do (nutrition coaching, running nutrition challenges, personal training, and workshops – 95% of which was based out of CFDV), I am considered a contractor/self-employed and have to pay taxes on that income at the end of the year.

My goal at the beginning of 2013 was to earn as much (or more) in my self-employed income as I did from my salaried income. The reality of it was that, on average, only 27% of my monthly income came from my self-employed ventures. Looking back on it, I didn’t come close to my goal but when I compare this data to 2012 (doing the same things but also with a full time job), something jumped out at me. I only earned about $2000 more from my self-employment in 2013 than I did in 2012.

Initially, I was thinking “Well, when I quit my day job I will be able to take on more clients and I will supplement my income that way.” Sounded good in theory, but as it turned out, it didn’t work that way in practice. The way my nutrition coaching program was structured had me meeting with each client at least twice per month. They were paying for coaching and that was something I felt needed to be done face-to-face.

The problem I ran into was that most people can only meet in the evening because of work, school, family or other life obligations. That left a limited window of meeting times, and even more so when you factor in that I still needed to coach the majority of the evening classes at CFDV. What I found is that I couldn’t take on any more clients when I was focusing on it full time than I did when I was only doing it part time. And I found myself spending more and more time per client per month as I began adding more perks to the program in an effort to attract and retain more people, but still making the same amount of money per client.

Over the past two years of running this nutrition coaching program out of the gym I’ve never lowered my rates, offered discounts or run any promotions. I never needed to. I hardly had to advertise. It was all word of mouth referrals and up until around September 2013, I averaged 20 clients per month for almost 2 years.

Running this program out of a CrossFit gym in a middle-class suburban area of Philadelphia meant that almost all of my clients were already paying for a CrossFit membership, which isn’t cheap. Add to that a premium service and you quickly run up against a very low ceiling of what you can feasibly charge. Now, factor in that the gym owner takes a percentage off my gross revenue as a cost of running my business out of the gym, and I make even less. This was always the agreement even before I quit my job, but it still affects my bottom line.

Emotionally, coaching a good chunk of CrossFit classes Monday through Friday has been more draining than I thought it would be. Some days, I’m just not firing on all cylinders. Some days, I’m just mentally and physically exhausted and don’t have the patience for bullshit. But regardless, I’m still expected to be “on” and ready to engage, educate and inspire.

Most of the time, though, I’ve had fun with the experience. I make goofball jokes and references, play weird music and dance around during the workouts, and get to be creative on a daily basis while playing fitness puppet master. There is a huge performance art component to this that can be fun and taxing at the same time. I’m not complaining. This is just the reality of my past year.

For 2014, I think my energy will be best used if I focus on my writing and offering more workshops. I know I can’t keep running my business the exact same way I have in the past so I need to make a change. I will need to be more creative in how I offer my nutrition coaching services that won’t require as much of my time but still keep a steady stream of income and repeat business.

I know I won’t be doing all of this forever, but for now it’s what I want to be doing.


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