Join me for part two of answering your questions. In today's episode, I'm answering questions about business and homestead finances.
If you missed part one of this series, be sure to check out this podcast on Answering Your Questions: Homestead Edition here. This is episode #409 of the Pioneering Today Podcast. Be sure to check out the links below for more great content.
In This Episode
- How many hours per day do I work on my business?
- Setting up a homestead to be financially self-supporting. Check out this post on achieving financial sustainability and food security with a garden. As well as this post on whether or not homesteading saves you money and this post on how to earn a living from your homestead.
- Check out this podcast on how I quit my day job to become a full-time homesteader with my current job.
More Posts You May Enjoy
- Does Homesteading Really Save You Money?
- How to Plan Your Homestead Year w/ Budget & Time Restrictions
- How to Meal Plan – 8 Easy Steps for Easy From-Scratch Meals
- 7 Time-Saving Tips When Cooking from Scratch
- Batch & Freezer Cooking – 12 Time-Saving Tips for Homemade Meals
- Traditional Cooking Tips to Get Homemade Food on Your Table Every Day
- From Scratch Christmas Dinner Menu – From the Garden
Hey pioneers. Welcome to episode number 409. Today we are going to be talking about business and finances on the homestead. So this is part two of our listener Q&A. So if you missed part one that was last week, you'll definitely want to go back and listen to that one. But I had two questions come in specifically about finances and the homestead in business. And I know that this is going to be a larger conversation. And to adequately answer these two questions, we're going to need a whole episode. So here we sit.
So the first question that I have comes from Mare PA Ascends and says, "How much time do you spend on your company webpage, podcast, Pioneering Today Academy, and how many employees?" So this one is going be the easier of the two questions, honestly, to answer. So we're going to jump into this one first.
So if you are new and didn't know, I am the founder and owner of melissaknorris.com, obviously the Pioneering Today Podcast, which is what you were listening to, we have the Pioneering Today Academy, which is my online homestead membership site. I am the author of five books. We have the Melissa K. Norris YouTube channel, which you may be listening to the podcast doing video formats of that now on the YouTube channel, etc.
So right now, at this moment in time, for all activities... So I'm also the co-founder of the Modern Homesteading Conference, which will be this coming June 28th and 29th of 2024 in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Super excited. It's our second annual one coming up, as well as the co-founder of Homestead Living Magazine and Homestead Living Media. And so those, I calculate my time in because I kind of divvy up my working hours between all of those different projects. And it is a lot. Suffice to say I didn't start out that way. And so I kind of feel like I need to preface this, because when I was first starting out, I first started by building a website and that was melissaknorris.com.
And in the beginning I did everything. I worked about 40 hours a week while also commuting and working 32 hours a week as a pharmacy tech, and then having a full on homestead, and husband, and kids, and all the things that would normally have in life. So I share that because I want you to know if you've maybe not been with me through the whole journey, I first started my website in blogging, it was actually November of 2011. And so basically 2012, because it was right before we hit that New York 2012. And that is when I started.
I didn't start doing this full-time, meaning I quit the pharmacy. I quit the pharmacy in August of 2018, so five years now that I've been doing this full-time. But prior to that, I did it while still working a day job.
So I share that because when I share where things are at now and how many people are helping, I want you to know that that was the progression of that. Because I think sometimes, we can take a look at where someone's life is right now in the moment and not necessarily see all that came before that. And we compare our journey to where we are, and maybe it's to where the point that we're wanting to be and we don't realize how different that it can look at those different spaces. So in answer to your question though, how much time do I spend?
I typically start my day in the office, at the computer, etc., at 8:30 AM in the morning, and usually go until about 3:30 in the afternoon, sometimes 4:00. And that kind of depends on the day. And then I usually will take a break because I have to prep dinner, [inaudible 00:04:11], cook dinner, go feed the chickens. I always feed the chickens and the ducks. So if I don't do them in the morning, then I do them at that point in the afternoon. Any of those outside things that need to be done, go picking up my daughter from turnout, those types of things, have dinner, get cleaned up. And then sometimes, though I try not to do it very often, I do come back into the office if there's a specific project or just something that has to be done on a deadline that hasn't been met yet, and we'll work for an hour in the evening.
But I try not to do that, because when I was working at the pharmacy, I would have to get up at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning to do work before I had to leave for my day job. And then the only other time was after the kids went to bed and then I would work until midnight. And I did that for quite a few years. And so I really am trying to not work at night anymore unless it's absolutely necessary.
So that is... Oh gosh, that's about probably about eight hours a day. But the beauty of being at home now is on a lunch break or in between something, I can run in and throw clothes in the laundry. I can put something in the slow cooker. I can run out to the garden. There's little things like that. And the nature of my job is because I'm filming so much of what we are doing and sharing through either podcasts, or the YouTube video, or especially if you're in any of the courses or inside the Pioneering Today Academy, is I am filming what we're doing in homesteading.
And so as part of my job, I might be out in the garden planting something, or harvesting something, or preserving something, which we are benefiting from as a family as part of homesteading. But then I'm also recording that or taking pictures of it for a blog post if it's not going to be a video, that type of thing. So a lot of times, those two things coincide. Now, not always, but for a good portion.
So that is usually Monday through Thursday, and then Fridays I usually do a half day of office work. So I usually will come in the morning about 8:30 and usually work until the afternoon. And that just kind of depends. I might have to switch schedules up for just different things.
I typically don't do a lot of office work on Saturday. Usually, I'll come into the office and maybe only work an hour or so on the computer, unless we're in a launch or a really heavy deadline for something. And I don't touch the computer at all on Sunday, so I don't come into the office, I don't turn on the computer, I don't do anything in the office on Sundays. But there is some flexibility.
So usually it ends up being about 40 hours a week give or take, because some weeks there's a lot more that's going on, and I'll be putting in some extra hours. And then other weeks there's some flexibility there and I'm not. So it's about 40 hours a week, but then there's also times where I'm doing something and it's not in the office necessarily. Or I'm not necessarily filming it, but we're prepping something that I know that I will be using at a later time for work. So I feel like there's a lot of great areas there, because so much of what our lifestyle is, is also what I'm teaching and what my business is. So a lot of times, they go together, or I'll be out doing something and I'm like, "I need to make a video on this."
And so even though it's not technically office or work time, I end up pulling out my phone and going ahead and shooting a video, shooting some content, that type of thing, anyhow.
And then how many employees? So this is where it can get really technical, because technically, the only employees we have is for the farm stay. So last June we bought Norris Farmstead. There's some videos here on YouTube that share about that. I've done some podcast episodes, etc. And so technically the only employees that we have are actually for Norris Farmstead, and that is the people who clean the farm stay after people come and stay or will do specific things down at that farm. Technically, as you would look at the books.
For Melissa K. Norris, which is so weird to say, because it's my name, but it's also my business, there aren't any technical employees. We have a lot of subcontractors, but there's quite a few of our subcontractors that only do a little bit of work for some other companies on the side. And they're working pretty much 40 hours a week, maybe 30 to 40 hours a week, depending on where we're at in the seasons, for me. But it's as a subcontractor. And then there's some that only do 10 hours a week, whatever.
So if I'm adding all of those up, there's probably about 10 people. But like I said, some of those people are only working 10 hours a month, some are working 10 hours a week. And then there's just two people besides myself who are working close to 40 hours a week.
And so if you're part of them Pioneering Today Academy or you email in is Rachel who does customer service and is also a huge part of the academy as well as Michelle, she's also part of the academy. Michelle is my podcast manager, so she helps coordinate all of the episodes, and scheduling people, and scheduling my interviews when I'm on other people's podcast.
And then I also work with some other subagencies too. So not just subcontractors, but actually have some agencies that help. Especially when it comes to technical support, I am not super techie. And so we definitely have tech support for the website and just different things like that that you just need IT for. We've got that. I'm not a graphic designer, so we have people that help with some of the graphic designs, the editing.
And then I also have a videographer who is a subcontractor. He comes to my house and we film one or two times a month. And so when he comes, we start filming at 9:00 in the morning and usually go until 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. So usually I will film almost a full month's worth of YouTube videos in that one timeframe with him, and then he takes all the footage with him, he edits it, and then shoots it back over to me, and then we publish it wherever it goes. And then we usually have a day where we'll do the same thing where we're filming new courses for inside the Pioneering Today Academy, and those types of things where we're working on those videos. So depending on what we have coming out for new courses for members, sometimes I film with them twice a month, sometimes it's once a month, kind of depends.
So it's really hard to put an actual number there on employees, because they do work with a lot of different subcontractors and agencies who do just different things. And sometimes, that's once a month, and others it's more often. But one, it's not just me. So if anybody has seen any part of the podcast, or YouTube, or social, or looked at the website, it is not just me anymore. It hasn't been for quite a while.
But it's really funny because I also see the side of having been on social media so long and having grown is you see a lot of people's opinions. And it's really sad because they see a lot of people, if someone starts to have success, they get almost ornery about it. Whereas I'm like, I feel so blessed to be able to make an income from helping other people be able to homestead. To me, that is incredible, to be able to work where you're actually helping other people and helping them improve their life.
Because I worked for a long time in pharmacy, and I did not feel like I was improving people's lives. In fact, I felt a lot of it, which is what I ended up getting out of it, and turning so much to the homesteading lifestyle even more so is because I saw the negative effects that that had on my health and the difference that homesteading made in my health. And that's what I want my legacy to be is helping people and improving their quality of life in all the ways that homesteading does that.
But being able to be successful enough with the homesteading side of the online business to be able to pay people to help, which is helping other people, because the level it is now, I could never do that all on my own. In fact, I almost burn out. And that was in 2017 where I said I was working my full job and then doing this on this side at the full level. I came to a point where I'm like, "Okay, you've got one year. And this either flies and you can quit your day job, or you're quitting this and just doing the day job," because I physically could not do it all anymore. And I knew that there was a limited amount of time left that I could continue to work those hours.
So I think that's a really beautiful thing that I'm able to pay other people to help, and they get to work from home, and they get to support their family by helping other people too. So I see it as a beautiful blessing all the way around. And so I find it very interesting when I see comments online, and not just directed to me, though I have gotten them myself, but I see them directed at other people on like, "Well you make money doing this now," like it's a negative.
And I'm like, that's not a bad thing. Money of itself is not a bad thing. And I often see a very misquoted Bible verse that money is the root of all evil. No, no, no, no. Love of money is the root of all evil. As long as you are not putting money in a place of love or idolatry, money can do a lot of great things, and I don't think it's always in best interest to look at money itself as being a bad thing.
It's very interesting seeing people's mindsets around money, which I'm sure this episode because it is about money, I will probably get some interesting comments as well.
But that's kind of where the business is at. And I would say with podcasting, I probably personally spend obviously the time it takes to record the podcast. So there's that actual time. Then there's the time deciding the content, outlining it, researching if there needs to be research done on a specific topic, finding out, deciding, "Okay, what is the actual title of the episode going to be? Now that it's on YouTube, what is the thumbnail of it going to be?" So probably about two and a half hours a week is spent on one podcast episode.
And then this next one, trying to pull it up here. This is from Rebecca Carr, and she asks, "How do you set your homestead up to be financially self-supporting?" And this is an excellent question, and one I've really been thinking about ever since it came in knowing that I was going to record this episode and answer that question.
And so one is, what do you consider to be self-supporting? So what do I mean by that? Because, is that where the homestead is supporting... So for example, beef cattle. Is that where you are considering self-supporting where you have sold the extra beef that you're raising, and that covers the cost of your feed, and your other cows, and/or fencing? So that would be self-supporting of the beef portion of a homestead in itself, but not necessarily in a profit where it's supporting you financially as a family, as an income source, because it will only provide it enough income to cover the expenses.
And so I think a lot of times, what I see is people wanting to come into homesteading and they look at homesteading as all they want to do is homestead, and that it will support their family entirely, and they don't have any outside other source of employment. And can it be done? Yes. Will most people be able to do that? No.
And I'm probably going to catch some flack for this, maybe not, but I think we need to have a really honest conversation about homesteading, and it being self-supporting, and what does that actually mean?
And I've also heard where people have been talking about profitable home setting. And you can have a profit of $1 and you can say technically that is profitable, right? If I raise my beef cattle and then sell one of the extra cows or a half cow at butcher time, or sell off some of the offspring and is live on the hoof, etc., and after the sell of that and then deducting all of my expenses, I have $1 leftover extra above that, that's technically profitable. But is $1 going to support a family or even one person? No, it's not. So I think we have to be careful talking about profitable and what that actually means. And again, that self-supporting, what does that actually mean?
So I'm just going to lay out what I have seen for obviously ourself, family members, and a lot of other people in... Because I've been in the homestead niche now long enough that I get to see a lot of people's homesteading journeys over the long part, because sometimes you can see part of someone's journey for a year or so, and something might work for a year or so, but does it work? And I think that's what we really need to look at and to think about.
So when it comes to homesteading, can you have aspects of homesteading be self-supporting of and themselves? Yes. We have always operated our beef cattle, and I said my husband and I have been raising beef cattle for 20 years to where it pays for itself. Meaning we make enough each year by selling an extra beef or two to cover our hay expenses for the whole herd, covering our expense of if we're buying some new genetics, so a new cow or maybe heifers, etc. That part's all covered for. And then our butcher fee because we would obviously keep some of our own beef. So basically, we feel that we were getting our beef for free as far as looking at it financially. So the beef cattle operation was self-supportive, but was it providing enough for my husband or I to quit our day job? No.
And if we were to calculate out an hourly wage for our time, would it have supported an hourly wage for all of the time that we put in feeding during the winter, getting hay during the summer, fixing fence, all those things? No, it wouldn't have, but it did cover our hay and it did cover our major expenses. And so we were very happy with that. I mean to have grass fed, grass finished beef with no money out of pocket, and sometimes a little bit extra to help for... We weren't calculating in our property taxes because we would be paying those regardless, because that's where our house is. So that type of thing.
So can you get that with homesteading? Yeah. And a lot of things you absolutely can help those aspects of homestead be self-supporting. The homestead as a whole be self-supporting? Again, that so depends on your values and what you're needing from your homestead. I feel like this is all very specific to each individual person in their circumstances.
So if you have a couple of acres, up to 15 acres, which is what we had until we bought the 40 acre farm down the road from us last year, which is allowing us to expand our beef operation, and we're hoping with that grass fed beef operation so we can expand it beyond what we had, then my husband will be able to come home and that will be his full-time thing.
However, especially with beef cattle, which I'm just going to stay with that analogy because it's the one that I have the longest, as I said, 20 plus years experience in, and have also seen from my dad raising beef cattle and many different people that I know personally, their experiences. Most of them are still working some type of day job. And the reason that I share that and I say that is because unless you are doing something at large scale, which most homesteaders aren't doing these things at large scale. That's the beauty of homesteading is it's meant for the individual family and maybe a few other people in your community, but it's not large scale.
But in order to make enough income off of homesteading specifically, you have to be making enough profit to obviously cover all the expenses of the said thing, the beef cattle that I listed before, but then to actually pay yourself an hourly wage or a salary if that's your only income. And then you're looking at having to some type of healthcare or go without insurance.
And so there's a lot more things that come into play there. And most people, for a family especially, unless you are doing larger volume of the homesteading itself and/or supplementing, and I'm going to talk about that, aren't going to be able to make a comfortable living in my experience and opinion. So my husband still works the day job.
Now we're increasing the cattle, because if we're butchering two to three cows a year, after expenses, depending on what you're paying or charging per pound, excuse me, and paying for things, that is not enough to make a living for the whole year.
And when it comes to cattle, we don't butcher until they're two years old, because that's when we're going to make the most money. You push to three years, you're not getting that much more gain as far as pound on the animal versus the cost of feeding them that extra third year, etc. So for us, we butcher at two years old. But if you're buying a cow and breeding her, it's a nine-month gestation period, and then you've got two years until that animal is big enough to butcher roughly. So you're looking at three years out.
So in order for us to increase our herd, we just purchased seven more cows. We've had to add them up, seven more cows. And so we have that expense, and then they all just had... So we bought those, they all just had babies. So now we've got 14 more cows, seven babies, seven cows, but we're not going to get any money from being able to butcher those for two years from now. But we've got all that upfront cost.
And so at that point, two years down the road, provided nothing happens to any of those cows and they all make it until two year butcher and etc., that's a long time to wait for that payoff and to have enough volume for that to be something that could sustain you for the whole year.
Now of course, you can look at lots of different things like okay, well maybe you only have this much of the cows. But if you raised and butchered chickens, and sell eggs, and maybe you also do pork, yes, there's lots of different ways that you can make money on a homestead. But are any of them enough together or large volume enough that they're going to be coming in income every single month that will support your family, or where you have a butcher date of obviously once a year when it comes to cows? But that amount will take you through at a comfortable place.
And I have seen people who live primarily from their homestead income and do okay, but they're living very close to paycheck. And what I mean by that is they're just barely staying afloat. And if emergency happens, they don't have an emergency fund, and that type of thing.
And so for me, I have been in a position where we lived paycheck to paycheck, and we had medical debt, and a lot of things. I don't want to live my whole life that way. And so I worked still as a pharmacy tech, until we were at a point where I was confident that the business would bring in enough money on a consistent basis to not just replace my income, but actually be higher than what my income was as a pharmacy tech when I quit my job.
And I've done some episodes. It's been a while, but when I quit my job, and walking you through that process. If you want to go back and listen to those, we'll link in the video description.
But I think it's just important to really be really clear on what you want. And then when it comes to the homestead being self-sustaining, we provide ourselves with a lot of our own food. And so is that self-sustaining? Absolutely. Is it our full income? No.
So my husband still works a day job, and I am very hopeful in two years from now that when the cattle have reached that point and we're growing other aspects of the farm, that we'll be able to have him, that will be his income is running that aspect of the farm and what that brings in. But that is beyond what we were just doing homesteading for ourself and a little bit extra, that's actually running that as a business and increasing what we do have for sale.
And I think one of the things that I really see with homesteading is a lot of people, I'll hear people will say, "Well, I'm going to start a YouTube channel." And starting a YouTube channel is great. I have a YouTube channel. But starting a YouTube channel and just having a YouTube channel is not a business.
And so just sharing about your homestead journey on social media is not a business. Can it be part of a marketing plan for a business? Yes. Can it be monetized? Absolutely. But if you don't actually have a product and understand product development, understand marketing, understanding business, then I would not start a YouTube channel specifically for that as a way to make money, if you don't already have a product in mind and don't have a business plan.
So do I do YouTube videos? Absolutely. But, I didn't start doing YouTube until I was using it as part of a way that I already had my own products developed. I already had courses for sale. I already had books. There was things, it made sense. And I do love helping people. So there is that aspect too.
But when you're looking at it from a business standpoint, having just a YouTube channel and being completely reliant on ad money from YouTube, that is a very scary thing if that is your entire business model. Because we have seen where algorithms can change, YouTube can go down, YouTube can take content down. I have seen myself, because I do get ad revenue from YouTube, but I have seen huge fluctuations. And if I and my family were dependent on that alone, that would make me very, very nervous.
So I have to say, when I look at the amount of time that I put into a YouTube channel in order to grow it to a point where it actually even brought in enough ad money to be worth anything, if I hadn't already had the other side of my business, I would've been much better off going and working per hour from somewhere else, and been able to put that money towards my homesteading stuff.
And so can YouTube channels still pay off? Absolutely. But as I said, I really caution people from just starting a YouTube channel, or an Instagram channel, or whatever social media, TikTok, whatever it might be, if just having that and growing that following is your business plan, because that's not a business plan. You need to have an actual product and you can use that as part of your marketing, but you really need to take some time to educate yourself on business itself, because it'll be much better spent.
I know people who have been creating content on YouTube for years, and the amount of time that they've devoted to doing that from just an income standpoint, and I know that there's other motivations, and there's other reasons that people do it, and that is completely fine. But if you're doing it from a financial standpoint, you would've been much better off and further ahead to go and work somewhere else and brought in that money, in order to get things set up on the homestead and to learn certain things, than the time that was invested in that.
So there's a lot more that could be said about going into it. And so if you would like to hear more about this subject, I know it can get kind of touchy and funny when we start talking about money, and finances, and business, and all of that. But if you have specific questions or would like me to talk more about it, I would be very happy to do that. You can let me know in the comment section if you're watching this on YouTube, or you can shoot me an email, that type of thing.
I actually find business fascinating and I really enjoy it. I love homestead more. But I think that business is very, very interesting, and it's actually one of my other passions. You just probably don't hear me talk about it nearly as much, but I am happy to if it's something that you guys would like to learn more about, or hear more about, expounded on, etc.
But there are definite ways that you can use the homestead, as I said, and each unit can become self-supporting. Our beef has been self-supporting. The chickens, sometimes. And that's just because I don't really have a ton of excess eggs that I'm selling from the chickens. They're more just for us. So they don't bring in very much of an extra income, just a little bit. So I don't know that they completely offset themselves, where all of their feed, and care, and coops, and everything when we repair chicken tractors, or build them, etc., pay off, but probably pretty close. You can definitely supplement your income with the homestead and grow different aspects of that.
But I guess the whole moral of this big long podcast and this big story is I see a lot of people having the hope, and the dream, and the expectation that they're going to start a homestead, and within the first year or two, that it's going to provide them with all their own food. It's going to provide the income for their entire family. Everybody's going to be able to quit their jobs and just work the homestead, and it's just going to provide for every single need. And I don't see that in reality being the case. Now, there's always outliers, but I have not seen that be the case.
And so having clear expectations. In homesteading, can it save you money? Absolutely. We spend very little at the grocery store, because so much of our food comes off of our homestead now. And with the continued rise obviously of food cost, especially good food, the savings that we have on that alone are huge. Because honestly, there's so much that we raise ourselves now, I don't even know what the cost of the items are at the store. And when I go to look at them, if I'm just doing some research or just in the store and curiously look at it, some of the stuff you guys, I have not bought in over... Oh gosh, probably 12, 14 years. A lot of things, we've been growing an entire year's worth that take us through continually. So I don't even know what they cost at this store.
So when I look at it, as I said, some of that's been like 10 years, and I see the price that it is now when I do happen to look, I'm like, "Oh my goodness." So can homesteading save you money? Absolutely. Can it be self-sustaining and self-supporting? In a lot of instances. Fully, that's a little bit harder of a beast. Can it be done? Yes. But it's usually because a business has been created, and it can be from homestead things. I know where people have started growing microgreens, but they've turned it into a business. So they have a whole production side, and a whole marketing side, and a whole distribution side. It's not just growing a few extra rows of something, and expecting that that's going to support their whole family.
So I think just making sure that expectations are accurate and knowing what is your specific goal. And I said when I was reading this, I don't know exactly what you meant on the self-supporting side, if it was for the whole family or just for specific items on the homestead. So hopefully, that's not clear as mud now. But I felt that it was something that really needed to be talked about without necessarily just the rose colored glasses. But also, not wanting to throw a bunch of water on the fire, because there are ways to make that work. It's just not a lot of times what I see, someone will say something, and it can get misinterpreted of course. But I feel sometimes, I see something shared about homestead business or about making money from homesteading, and it's not been dove into quite enough for people to have a true expectation from that.
So I hope that this was helpful, and I really enjoyed answering your guys' questions, so thank you for sending those in. And I will be back here with you next week. So blessings, and mason jars for now, my friends.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.