In order for you to fully understand my perspective while you read this blog, I think it helps to know a little about me. First of all, my name is Eric, I’m 29, and I currently live in Chicago (Illinois). I’m currently a full-time CPA (specifically, an accountant at a large international law firm), but I’ve always had entrepreneurial dreams and periodically do act on them.
You’re probably wondering: “Why My 4-Hour Workweek?”
When I started this blog back in 2009 (WOW, I can’t believe it’s been going for that long), I was inspired by Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek.
Finding ways to make more money while working efficiently (and ultimately working less hours) was infinitely appealing. It still is. Who wouldn’t want passive income?
I’ve come a long way since then, and while I still strive to build an income online, I’ve taken a much more realistic approach.
A lot of people are quick to dismiss the “9 to 5″ job as a part of a sustainable lifestyle. I’m sure you’ve seen tons of blogs where people have either already escaped “the rat race” or are aggressively trying to. Everyone has that same image in their mind: sitting on a beach somewhere tropical, working remotely on a laptop for just a few hours a week. It sounds amazing, and truth be told, some people actually have made this a reality. In some ways, I genuinely do envy those people.
Here’s what this blog is about today: Working a job you enjoy (or can at least tolerate), while building up a great “side income” and managing your finances effectively. If you could take a “make money online” blog and cross it with a “personal finance” blog, you’d find My 4-Hour Workweek.
The true 4-hour workweek may be a myth, but it still represents the ideal that we should strive to work smarter, not harder.
(Below, you will find a more extended explanation of my background.)
Professional Background – The Jobs I’ve Held
High School: Computer Repair Business
To give you a complete picture of where I’m coming from “professionally,” I’ll go all the way back to high school. I never really had a “normal” high school job, but I wanted to combine my hobby with some kind of income stream, however minimal that was. I was (and am) very interested in computers and technology in general. Back then, I built computers for everyone in my family, and was known to family and friends as someone who could always be called upon to repair computer issues.
This led to a logical fit for a job – I put advertisements all over my town and had my family and friends spread the word that I was repairing computers. I didn’t get a ton of business, but I charged $30/hour, so what little work I did have amounted to enough money for a 16 year old kid.
College: Poker Player, House Painting Business Owner
Flash forward to college. Between being a student and enjoying my free time, I wanted to limit my work to a) work that could be done anytime (i.e. not a typical hourly job) and b) summer jobs. For “work” that could be done anytime, I took that route that many college students take – online poker/gambling. Back in 2004, online gambling was in much more of a gray area than it is today (i.e. there was no legislation making it illegal – even today, the legality is up for debate).
Without going into much detail, I derived most of my income from exploiting online casino bonuses (note: this was perfectly legal within the terms & conditions of the various casinos). Once these dried up, I became a student of poker – I read books, participated in online forums, and managed to refine my skills such that I could beat other players online and generate a modest income. I wasn’t getting rich, but it was enough to pay my bills and leave some money left over for eating out/going out.
During the summer following my freshman year of college, I started my own exterior house painting business. The idea was to mimic the other established college house painting companies in the area with a similar name and logo (yet different enough to not infringe on any copyrights). I went door-to-door at people’s homes on Sundays in the spring, set up appointments to give free estimates (i.e. my sales pitch), hired and trained college students to paint, and basically managed the operations when the summer rolled around . I did the same thing during the summer following my sophomore year, taking on my brother as a business partner.
The up-front work was challenging (finding clients), but the summers were nice – being able to relax while my painting jobs were completed. The money was decent, the experience was great and in retrospect, I could have made more had I worked harder in the spring (isn’t this always the case?). It was my first real taste of entrepreneurship, and believe me, it was sweet. I worked harder than I ever had before with respect to a job, but the rewards were great.
Life as a Professional CPA at a Public Accounting Firm
After graduation, my “real” professional career began. During the summers following my junior and senior years, I was a tax intern at a “Big 4″ public accounting firm. After graduation, I went to work for this firm full-time, and worked there for nearly 3 years. Without a doubt, this was an excellent foundation for my career. Not only was I working for one of the largest accounting firms in the world, but I had the pleasure of working with many smart people (and very large, successful clients) who helped me learn a lot about how the world of business works.
After working there for a few years, I began to burn out. Tax seasons were incredibly tiring, having to work 80-90 hour weeks on a regular basis. It’s not that I couldn’t handle it – in fact, I was one of the higher performers at my level. However, I thought long and hard about whether this would be a good long term fit. Although I enjoyed the work, I knew I wanted to have time to pursue a side business. I’ve always been entrepreneurial at heart, but that was never going to materialize if I was to continue working there.
So, I did something sort of unusual – I didn’t only change jobs, but I changed careers.
Executive Recruiter for Accounting & Finance Professionals
During my search for a new job (while still working as a CPA), I was in discussion with a few recruiters who were helping me find potential opportunities. One day when I was talking to a recruiter, he asked me, “Have you ever thought about transitioning into being a recruiter for people like yourself?” (i.e. people in the accounting and finance field)
Of course, I never gave that any thought, but it was intriguing. So, given the fact that I wasn’t too married to the idea of being an accountant, I gave it a shot, knowing I could always fall back on my background as a CPA.
Going into it, I knew a lot of the job was sales. Although I would spend half my day talking with potential candidates (i.e. people looking for job opportunities), I would spend the other half of the day reaching out to businesses and attempting to secure job searches.
The way this field works is this: When a company hires a recruiter to fill a position, they don’t pay anything up front (in most cases). If the recruiter successfully fills the position, the commission is typically 20-30% of the candidate’s first year salary. That can be a hefty commission!
I worked as part of a team – so if someone else I worked with had the job search, but I had the right candidate to fill the position, we would split the commission. It was definitely the kind of job where, if you’re successful, you can make really good money (like most sales jobs).
Nevertheless, despite being pretty successful in my first year, I realized this wasn’t for me. I just didn’t like constantly feeling like I was chasing my income, but even worse, I didn’t like working a job where I spent 80% of the day on the phone. I could handle myself just fine, but I missed accounting.
So, after a year in the recruiting industry, I decided to go back into accounting.
Back to Accounting: Getting Re-Established in Public Accounting and Moving to a Corporate Job
I knew I wouldn’t be able to land a corporate job right away, even though I had the qualifications. Most companies weren’t really interested in hiring a recruiter to fill the role of an accountant (and I can’t blame them). So, to re-establish myself as an accountant, I found a job at a mid-size public accounting firm, doing work that was similar to what I had done in the past (but on a smaller scale – working with more individuals and smaller businesses).
After a year and a half of doing this, I knew I had my resume back on track and landed the job I work today as a Senior Accountant for a large international law firm in downtown Chicago.
It’s a very relaxed job (more so than any I’ve held in the past), but I enjoy the work and enjoy the people with whom I work. It allows me enough free time outside of work to pursue the things I want to pursue, so there’s no reason for me to even think about leaving it anytime in the foreseeable future.
Despite a strong interest in computers and technology, I began my educational career in 2003 at the University of Illinois (in Champaign-Urbana) as a business major with an undecided concentration.
Like most people, my major changed a couple times, but I stayed within the same field. I went from general business, to finance, and finally to accounting. I know what you’re thinking – I couldn’t have picked a more thrilling area of study. I can’t say I ever really enjoyed it, but I was good at it, and I thought it would make for a solid foundation in business, which is something I knew I wanted to get into.
I graduated in 4 years with my B.S. Degree in Accounting and stayed an additional year to complete my graduate studies, receiving a Master’s Degree in Accounting with a concentration in Taxation.
During my year of graduate studies, I passed the CPA exam and now have my CPA license.
You can follow my journey here, at My 4 Hour Workweek. If you’d like to stay in touch with some of my tips and ideas that I don’t share on my blog, please sign up to Muse News, my free muse creation newsletter. You can sign up below, and read more about it here.
Last Updated: May 26th, 2014