Introduce Yourself to The Women’s Money Talk Readers!
Hello All! I’m Laura Gariepy, a 34-year-old MA native now residing in Central FL. I live with my guy, Brad (age 37) of nearly 17 years and his mom, Sandra. We have one indoor feline child (Buddy, age 12) and support several outdoor feline friends as well.
We own our home and although we are pretty close to a city center, it feels very quiet and secluded most of the time. My backyard is a lake and I love it!
Tell us about your education and career path?
I have my Bachelors in Psychology and my MBA. I’ve also completed the coursework for my DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration), but have taken an educational hiatus to focus on my business. I hope to continue work on my dissertation in a year or so.
Up until early 2018, I worked a full-time office job. Although the 10 years I spent working in Human Resources was good in many ways, I realized I was no longer interested in climbing the ladder within the profession.
Right now, I aspire to earn my living in ways that are both location independent and schedule independent.
I’ve got the location independent angle fully covered. All of my income streams flow from a laptop and an internet signal—regardless of where I’m sitting. And I’ve got the schedule independent angle mostly covered. I still have client calls and deadlines to meet, but I can structure my work in a way that makes sense with the rest of my life at that moment.
How did your interest in entrepreneurship start?
Many life factors converged to make me reconsider how I was structuring my life. I realized that working a traditional full-time office gig was a serious impediment to everything else that I wanted to do or cared about.
It was emotionally very difficult to lose loved ones and have to grieve in accordance with my job’s schedule. I also knew that other important parts of my life were going to pass me by before I could reach financial independence while working a traditional gig.
So—I quit my decent, stable job that came with a good boss and good benefits and transitioned to working part-time from home until I could solidify my business plan.
I prepared for a steep reduction in cash flow by bolstering my savings account and was thus able to cover my expenses on a fraction of my previous income, supported by contributions from Brad and Sandra.
Here’s more on how I prepared to make the leap: Four Things To Do Before Quitting Your Job
I knew this would not be sustainable indefinitely. But I reasoned that I should have enough time to establish more robust income streams before it became an issue. Fortunately, I was right.
I started blogging and building an online network almost right away. In the summer of 2018, I started earning a little money freelance writing. Fast forward a year and it’s become my bread and butter. I stopped working the part-time gigs months ago.
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My financial picture at the time I made the transition could have been a lot rosier—but alas, I had significant debt. To be totally transparent, I owed about 300k (still do, roughly). This is a mix of student loans and mortgage. Believe it or not, I owe more for my education than I do on my house!
Here’s more about my finances when I started my business: I Started a Business 300K in Debt
While I really loathe being this far in the hole, I know I will someday climb out. Now that I’m starting to earn a decent living, I can re-focus on paying off debt and investing.
What are some of your favorite parts of being an entrepreneur? What’s challenging?
Hands down, my favorite part about being an entrepreneur is the schedule flexibility and location independence I have. My life takes top priority now and I weave my work where it fits.
I also love that my income potential is limitless. Of course, I know I won’t become a multiple 6-figure earner overnight – but that wasn’t even really possible on my previous professional path.
On the flipside, having lumpy income is tough. I was fortunate to have cash reserves when I started and am now rebuilding them fairly rapidly. This helps to offset slow months.
Fortunately, I’ve reached a point where, barring the loss of several key clients at once, my income will reliably stay at a level where I can meet my expenses. Longer term planning is still tricky, though. Variations of a couple thousand in income from month to month throw off projections. This pitfall is a small price to pay for what I’ve gained, though.
However, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss my corporate benefits package. Since I quit my HR job, I have not had health insurance (a real gamble, I know) or contributed to a retirement plan. At open enrollment last year, I couldn’t swing the premium costs for plans on the health insurance exchange. This year, I’ll re-evaluate.
I at least want to limit my liability by having an out-of-pocket maximum should something really major come up. In terms of retirement planning, I hope to start saving again by the end of this year, or the beginning of 2020.
For those considering the freelance route, it’s important to realize that being your own boss doesn’t really shield you from the annoyances of corporate life. Sure, you don’t have the commute and you set your own office hours. However, instead of having one boss, you’ll have several.
Many of them will want to meet periodically (which isn’t inherently bad – just don’t think you’ve attended your last conference call). Some of them will make odd requests with short notice or not really understand the value you provide. Sound familiar? The upshot is you ultimately can fire a problem client (providing you have enough other work). I haven’t done this yet – but I have come close.
Tell us about your income performance over time. What tips do you have for others who want to grow their income?
I started working at age 15 (part-time, of course) earning $6.90 per hour – which I believe was RI’s minimum wage back then. Flash forward a few years, and I was earning anywhere from $9-$13 an hour, working in childcare and retail while I was pursuing my undergraduate degree.
I was part way through my Master’s degree when I left retail to take my first salaried job in Human Resources. It was for a non-profit and I was making a whopping 31k. After doing that for a couple of years, I transitioned into an agency recruiting job, earning $18 per hour. By this time, I had completed my MBA.
Getting laid off from the agency recruiting gig in 2012 was one of the best things for my career. I ended up taking a temp job as an HR Generalist earning $22 an hour. 6 months later, they hired me on permanently and I negotiated a salary of 60k. (They came in at 55k initially.) I was so excited when I realized that in less than 2 years time I had practically doubled my salary!
When I moved to FL from MA, I experienced a reduction in salary. I anticipated this – I knew the wages would be lower, but the cost of living and the lack of a state income tax evened things out. It took me a couple of job changes and some salary boosts, but when I said goodbye to my HR career, I was earning 60k again.
My freelance income has grown much faster than my previous career earnings. This time last year, I was earning a couple of hundred bucks a month. By the end of 2018, I was earning $1,500ish per month. Now, I’m bringing in 2-3x that and taking on new work on a regular basis.
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Tips to grow your income:
- Know your worth! Check out salary data for your area and credentials. This will help you to negotiate. If you enter a negotiation confidently and professionally, the worst they can say is no.
- Understand the preferred skills and credentials for your profession—and then attain them. For example, if most job postings for the next level job require a certain certification, look into becoming certified. Once you have all of the needed skills, experience and credentials, consider applying for a promotion.
- Perform your role to the best of your abilities. This will come through in your performance evaluations and hopefully translate into the maximum merit increases possible.
- Take on side work to help you achieve specific financial goals. For example, I worked an extra job to fund my move to FL. Granted, it was awful to work 60-70 hours per week—but it was only for a short period and all of our moving expenses were cash flowed.
- If you’re freelancing, raise your rates as you build your portfolio. You should do this as you take on new clients and as time elapses with current clients. As a rule of thumb, think about the value you provide, the scope of the project, and the size of the client when setting your prices.
- In terms of my partner and my finances—we have separate accounts but joint goals. We both pitch in for the household expenses and for activities we enjoy doing together.
- But—we both also have funds reserved for independent goals. He likes to use his spare cash to buy parts for his car. Lately, I’m spending money on my business.
- We talk about money regularly and have a clear idea of where the other stands in terms of income, debt and money in the bank.
- What do you think is one of the most difficult money or career challenges for women?
Although I have chosen not to have children, I greatly admire women who balance being a mom with having a career. I’m not sure I could handle it. I get overwhelmed just thinking about adding mother to my list of roles.
Not only does the juggling act look impossible to me, I know having kids is expensive!
If both parents decide to keep working, day care costs are astronomical, placing a serious financial burden on the family. Single parents are left with few options.
On the other hand, I know those women who take a career break to raise their children often have a difficult time re-entering the workforce. When they do land a job, they will be earning less than those who didn’t take the time away (generally men).
That reduction in salary makes achieving financial goals more difficult, including saving for retirement.
I’m sure moms don’t see this as a sacrifice because they love their kid(s). But at the end of the day, they had to decide to have children, knowing that doing so would likely make their professional and financial lives more difficult.
Side note: I know there is an increasing number of dads taking the lead on child rearing. I think it’s awesome to see families divvying up roles in ways that make sense for them!
Did you have a big “aha” moment related to your finances?
I was the queen of financial mistakes! I overspent, didn’t track anything and racked up credit card debt. I don’t know if there was one major “aha” moment that caused me to change my ways (although meeting with a bankruptcy lawyer certainly shook me up). I think I just came to the realization that I was crippling my life’s choices for very little enjoyment.
Here’s a post that gets into how badly I messed up: My Top 5 Money Mess Ups
What does your work-life balance look like? What do you do to stay healthy?
My work-life-balance has been better since I left my 9-5. I’m still very busy—but I have a lot more say over how I arrange my schedule. I can step away from a project mid-afternoon. I can sleep late. I can get things done before my guy wakes up. It’s very freeing.
To stay (get) healthy, I modified my diet significantly. I was eating 80% carbs and 20% protein with a lot of junk mixed in. Now, there is much less junk and much more balance. I’m also cognizant that my work is sedentary so I’m trying to get up and move more. Walking, doing step aerobics, and riding the stationary bike are my go-to’s. I’m slowly moving toward my target weight and I’m excited to see what good health feels like.
How would you help a good friend who struggles with money?
I would say — spend in alignment with your values. If your cash goes towards your priorities, you won’t have to deal with regret. You won’t be taken in by impulse buys. With defined values, you’ll know how much income you need to fund a personally fulfilling lifestyle. You’ll know how much money you need to save and invest for your retirement. Get serious about that and the superfluous, dumb spending will melt away. But—allow yourself to be human. Old habits die hard. You will never be perfect. And allow yourself to refine and redefine your priorities as you grow as a person and as your circumstances change.
To see how I got back on track from my earlier mess ups: My Top 5 Money Moves
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our Women’s Money Talk readers?
Do what’s right for you. There is an ocean of information and advice out there. Not everything will apply. It’s OK to do things in seemingly unconventional ways. In my view, some of the most successful and happy people are those that craft their lives creatively, to suit their own unique needs and desires.
Tell us more about your business – and how people can contact you.
I own Every Day by the Lake, a content creation company. I take writing content off the plates of overwhelmed business owners. Although I mainly write blog posts, website copy, and email newsletters, I’m happy to fulfill other requests as well.
I offer package deals and al a carte services to suit a variety of needs and budgets.
- My website is: Every Day by the Lake
- And my email address is: email@example.com
- I’m most active on Twitter and LinkedIn and I’m always happy to connect!
Thank you, Laura, for sharing more about your work and journey on becoming an entrepreneur! We look forward to following your continued progress and major successes!