One of the most important goals I personally have with this blog is to get to know more like-minded people who are on the way to or already reached FI. These people tend to be more interesting for me then 9to5-consumarist-rateracesers-for-life. I am constantly looking for people I can learn from and share their stories here.
Recently I came across a new European FI/RE blog called www.smellingfreedom.com. When I started reading it, I was happy to see that it’s written by an entrepreneur. Since I’m self-employed (and I very much like this idea), it was a pleasant surprise to see we’re not the only self-employed FI/RE bloggers in Europe.
Mrs Smelling Freedom lives in a “small” European country – as she puts it (start guessing :)) and started her own business, grew it then sold it. Now that she’s reached financial independence, she’s started blogging and that, folks is good news for all of us!
I’m really happy she agreed to write a guest post for us. Let’s see how she got to where she is today and what she has to say to about it. Over to you Mrs Smelling Freedom:
Mrs Smelling Freedom: Thank you Mr and Mrs W for inviting me to share my story on whatlifecouldbe.eu. I agree that sharing is a very important part of the journey to FI, so I am delighted to be able to exchange ideas with like-minded people.
My story goes back to 1998 when I started my business. I had just earned an MSc in International Marketing and was convinced that the internet was going to totally change the way companies interacted with clients. I jumped in at just the right time. Potential clients were starting to realise that they needed an online presence, but there were no service providers to meet the need.
I had the equivalent of 250€ in savings that I invested in the company. It was not enough to buy a PC, so I borrowed one from a friend. I also did not have enough cash to rent an office, so I camped out in the same friend’s living room for a few months until I had enough cash flow to rent half a room.
It was a pretty intense time. I was working 17 hour days, rushing from one prospective client to the next to drum up business to keep my one employee (a web designer) busy and generate enough cash to pay him at the end of the month. There was not enough money to pay me too, so I did not take out a salary. I got used to going out on Saturday night with just about enough money to buy a Coke in my pocket, and sometimes I did not even have that. Call it a course in forced frugality!
The hard work paid off. I started with one designer in 1998, then employed another one within a few months, when we moved to a room we shared with another start-up. By the end of 1999 we had grown to 5 people and no longer fit in the room, so we moved to a rented apartment in a down-and-out area where we could afford the rent.
Within a year we had outgrown that too, and that was when I took out a bank loan and acquired a building. Finally we had a proper base to grow in. Fast forward 17 years and the team had grown to 50 people. My company was acknowledged as the leader in web development in our area, and caught the eye of a large corporation that wanted to invest in digital. One year of negotiations and the deal was struck. The rest, as they say, is history that is still to be written.
So my advice to readers of whatlifecouldbe.com?
First of all I strongly encourage you to aim high and to work hard to achieve your goals. Nothing that is truly worthwhile in life comes easy. After all, if it were easy then everyone would do it! Setting up a business was not easy. Growing it and running it was not easy either. I have written a number of posts on my blog about the difficulties encountered by entrepreneurs – The lonely life of an entrepreneur and Entrepreneurial burnout. It was hard, but I do not regret any of it. It was worth it.
I also suggest that you invest in a pair of earplugs 🙂 You are going to come across many naysayers along the way, so steel yourself to ignore them and soldier on, harnessing the power of a CAN DO attitude. Many people thought I was crazy when I decided to set up a business. They could not understand why I had invested so many years of my life to get a BSc and then an MSC, only to then go on and work without pay for many years. It was hard to think that if I failed they would all turn around and tell me “I told you so” so instead of letting them discourage me I actually channelled their negativity to motivate me. I was determined to prove them wrong.
I also encourage you to be prepared to forego gratification now, in order to enable you to aim for bigger rewards later. It is tempting to buy a nice car, spend money on fashionable clothes and eat out at fancy restaurants. However the weekends I spent sipping a coke while my friends partied away were the foundation on which I built the future prosperity of my family. This applies whether you set up a business or get a job. You have to save and put money away in order to achieve financial independence, and that means that you must buy less stuff and hold back when it comes to throwing the cash around in general. Trust me, it’s worth it. Your future you will thank you for it!
So now that I have sold my business and started a new career I decided to start a blog – www.smellingfreedom.com to chronicle this new chapter of my life. As far as I am concerned financial independence is not a destination, but a journey. Getting there is the first goal but you must then work hard to retain your FI position.
Mr W asked me if I am financially independent and the answer is that yes, I am. My husband and I could stop working tomorrow and we would not have to change our lifestyle. However I intend to continue working, first of all because I have an obligation to my team and the organisation that acquired my company. There is massive potential now that we have joined forces and I am determined to realise it. Secondly I am a person who loves a challenge and loves to learn and grow, so I am excited by the opportunity to experience a new reality and a new career.
That said I am looking forward to executing my plans over the coming years (more of that on my blog since I will be sharing the journey with my readers) to create a number of future-proof diversified passive income streams that will not only finance our current lifestyle, but also feed our travel bug. We have just come back from a wonderful family vacation in Sri Lanka and we plan to slowly make our way around the world over the years to come. Life is short and we plan to live it to the max! And so should you 🙂 Good luck on your journey to FI and I look forward to having you visit me on www.smellingfreedom.com!
Mr W: First of all thank you Mrs SF once again for sharing your story with us and our readers. With you, the European FI community I am so passionate about won an inspiring new member! Welcome!
When I talk to people around me about self-made business owners or successful people, I feel that most of the time people envy their success. I think that’s a normal reaction. Unfortunately though, they envy them in a negative way and dislike them. That’s one of the reasons we don’t really want to share our situation with many of our friends.
Of course, there are some arsehole millionairs our there (both self-made and sponsored ones). I don’t mean them. I mean those like Mrs Smelling Freedom, who took risks, invested a lot of time and money and built something up from scratch instead of focusing on complaining and living in the rat race all their lives. These people are inspiring and we should all be very thankful to them for sharing their stories.
We shared some details about our investments with some friends. Some of them broke off all contact with us (without any obvious reason), other started sharing their own plans and thoughts about money/investments with us and our friendship got stronger, now we can talk about so many more things and help each other. That makes a lot of sense and for these people it’s worth sharing our story!
“You have to save and put money away in order to achieve financial independence”
… is what Mrs Smelling Freedom wrote. I’d like to take this sentence apart and write my take on it: yes, I would fully agree that one should think seriously about all expenses and make sure to only buy things that are necessary, make sense and make one happy. BUT, as I wrote about that in my post “Sidehustle Headhunting” you don’t actually necessarily need much money if you want to start a business. You do need time, but contrary to mainstream advice, a lot of money is not necessary for so many businesses! This is good news for many people out there who would like to exit the rat race!
One thing that Mrs SF pointed out well in her blog is how important the support from her family was. I am sure it wasn’t easy for her family when she worked crazy hours to build up her business. She is very lucky to have a husband who supported her during that time. (Hey Mrs SF, I think it would be apropriate to go and get him nice cold beer right now! 🙂 ) A business that size I’m sure needs a lot of attention, a lot of time and a lot of sacrifice from the family. I can very much understand that. That’s one of the reasons why I never really wanted to build a business with employees. While there are plenty of ideas and opportunities out there, one should weigh the full cost you invest in it (not necessarily money) against the potential outcome. This is not a right-or-wrong question, it’s a question of personality.
So, dear readers, give Mrs Smelling Freedom a very warm welcome and really, take your time and read through her blog. She just started in April 2016 so you can quickly read through all her posts (start here). If you’re not a business owner, that doesn’t mean you can’t become one, and I am sure you will find her blog inspiring (as I did) even if you will never become one.