The unbearable silliness of being

I can't believe I work this hard to be this poorToday is not a great day. In fact, it’s the tail end of a not-a-great-fortnight, following hard on the heels of a not-great-month before.

What makes it so “not-great”, you ask? The simplest, silliest of things: cold, hard cash. Or rather, the lack thereof.

Not too long ago I was having a heart-to-heart with a good friend, and I was explaining how lucky I felt to have such simple problems. Really, our only challenge is a lack of cash flow. We have a wonderful, happy family. We rent a beautiful home in an amazing part of the world, for a very reasonable monthly fee. We have great health (sorta), and no scandals or drama to speak of.

But today I am less enthusiastic about our so-called “simple problem”.

To tell the truth, I’m downright despondent.

The essence of it is that I am the breadwinner, and I haven’t been paid (pretty much at all) by my clients in two months. There’s no reason for it, bar a poor economy, and the unfortunate knock-on effect of my clients not having been paid by their clients, who haven’t been paid by their clients, and so on. It’s not the result of non-delivery or poor workmanship on my part. In fact, they’re delighted with my work, referring me to all their friends and associates, and apologising profusely for the delayed payment. They love my work! They just can’t pay for it. Which would be okay …

But it’s all of them. All at once.

And we have no buffer. There are no credit cards or overdrafts or provident funds or savings accounts we can raid. We’ve even exhausted all the Banks-of-Dad we’ve ever had access to.

Yes, I hear you gasp out there in Internetland. How very heedless and poorly planned. Unwise. Foolhardy. Stupid.

We weren’t always like this. We had savings and budgets (for the next twelve years!) and planny-plans. We had medical aid and insurance (household, vehicle and life). We had money set aside for education. We had in-store credit and bank credit cards. We owned cars and houses. (Well, A house. But still. We owned it). And even when we ventured into self-employment it was far less seat-of-your-pants than it sounds. We had those savings I mentioned. We had resources. I did my research, I had my client base. I had another of those shiny planny-plans.

And I had faith. Scads of it. I believed my friends when they sold me businesses that would make us rich. (Free advice, kids: no one ever sells a SUCCESSFUL business. Why would they? If it’s for sale, step away slowly and tear up that cheque). I believed that our combined experience and wisdom and determination and work ethic and sheer grit would never fail us. I believed in our support systems, and the kindness of human nature. And I believed that, by doing my bit for God, He’d provide for me. Now, to be fair, the Bible doesn’t actually teach that. But churches do. Pastors do. Serve in Sunday School, pay your tithe and be faithful whenever the doors are open or there’s a job to be done, and you can’t but be blessed. It’ll all work out.


That approach leaves you over-extended, over-committed, burnt-out and bitter.

As it stands, I work all the time. From sun up to midnight. It never seems to end, Monday to Sunday. And I just can’t believe I have to work this hard to be this poor. For certain, I am doing something horribly wrong. Something foolish. Something unwise. But what in the world is it? No one seems to know. People offer platitudes: “It’ll come right.” “April is never a good time for small business.” “The economy is bad.” “The fault is with the customer, not with you.”

Pah. Again.

It’s not even as if our expenses are enormous, and they’d be even less without the sea-anchor of debt we’ve chained to ourselves in the last few business collapses. Having closed three businesses already makes me reluctant to close a fourth – and anyway, how would I support us if I did? I feel like Ross Gellar in Friends: serial divorcer, although the consequences are somewhat more devastating. (At least, so it seems to me).

So, if anyone out there has any ideas on how to get clients to pay, or get paying clients for what is generally acknowledged to be really great content creation, or how to make ends meet AND get sleep AND spend time with my kids, I’m all ears.



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