I started my first job as a professional manicurist in 1992. The job I had previous to doing nails put about $200 into my bank account each week and that had been sufficient to cover my modest expenses as a starving non-college student sharing a two-bedroom apartment with four-and-a-half other people in Southern California at the time.
By the time I started doing nails, I had moved back to my home town with its significantly lower cost of living — and significantly fewer roommates.
Before the four-and-a-half-people-living-in-a-two-bedroom-apartment days, I had an office job for a small business where I occasionally got tasked with the lucky job of entering the business checking transactions into the ledger...which meant that I knew what each employee of the business took home in their paycheck each week. The graphic artist took home exactly $310 a week.
I was 19 at that time and for years after that job, I would hold that $300 a week paycheck in my mind as the tipping point between humble, keeping-the-bills-paid, good-enough-till-I-figured-out-what-I-wanted-to-be-when-I-grew-up work and making "decent money."
I'm not saying that I was looking at that magic number through the eyes of an 8-year-old — you know, like $300 a week meant I'd be rich. But it represented an income goal that meant I'd be able to afford to live on my own — without any roommatesat all. And that's all I've ever really expected from a "real" job anyway, enough money to support myself.
And then, sometime around doing nails for 10 years, moving back "down south" (this time to Torrance), moving back home to Visalia, opening my own salon, and living alone without any roommates for some time — I remember realizing that at some point, not only had I broken that $300 a week mark, but I'd left it in the dust of last century. Not only had I gotten used to consistently making more than $300 a week, but $300 a week was no longer an acceptable amount of money to live on! If I wasn't bringing in $150 a day, I wouldn't be able to afford both my business and my life. Which, of course, brings to mind a whole other tangent to go off on — maybe next post.
Of course, running a business means you need to earn twice as much money as you need to earn: You have to earn enough to pay the business overhead, and also enough to pay for your personal expenses. And as a booth renter or solo-operating salon owner, there's no one else to help bring in that gross revenue. And when you have a business that makes glitter tax-deductible, well, by the time you've written off your deductions you find yourself spending a lot more of your money on business than you ought to.
Sometimes I think back on that $300 a week mark and reminisce about how easy life and business were back then, and how much more expensive everything is now. And then I do the math and realize that minimum wage in California is $8 an hour. So a full time job at minimum wage still makes taking home $300 a week look good.
And then I do the math and realize how much money I spend on my business... and I'm pretty sure I'd make more money if I went out and got a minimum wage job.
Someday I hope to be taking home $300 a week.