In August 2016, we officially began our new life traveling full-time in our RV and relying on our self-employment income to keep food on the table and fuel in our tank. Already, we have made some great memories despite the mistakes and usual challenges of going through a new learning curve.
So far, our pattern for travel is determined by a specific destination we have in mind for where we’ll be staying for one or more months, usually near family. Therefore, our time on the road pulling the RV occurs in one to two week spurts getting from point A to point B. For example, we spent the month of September in Montana where most of Janette’s family lives. We were in Virginia and wanted to get to Montana as quickly as possible to maximize our time there before we headed south for the winter. That meant long days of driving with me behind the wheel. Janette has more recently begun doing some driving but initially I did all the driving when pulling our fifth-wheel trailer.
Except for the occasional scheduled teleconference or video chat, in general, as long as I meet project deadlines for my clients, I can shift my workload to occur at any time of the day and any day of the week. This flexibility is one of the things I love about being self-employed and it fits nicely with our full-time RV (and homeschooling) lifestyle. However, on our first road trip, after three days of driving all day and working until 2:00am this new life of freedom and flexibility was turning out to be an exhausting grind!
The 230 Rule with a Twist
Janette, the ever vigilant surfer of RV blog sites, introduced me to the 230 rule (a given day of driving ends at 230 miles or 2:30pm, whichever occurs first). We prefer to get an early start when driving, leaving around 6:00 am. (I don’t know about you, but driving in the afternoon seems to cover only half the distance as driving in the morning!). However, leaving that early meant by 10:00 am we had hit our mileage ceiling so we modified the 230 rule to allow us to drive until noon. Upon arrival at our daily destination and a bite to eat, I can put in a full day of work and still have time in the evening to relax with the family. Often, I am able to take in a wine-tasting with Janette, a hike or some other tourist activity with the family and still accomplish what I need to for the business without pushing late into the evening hours.
With multiple clients for our CPA business and the need to track hours for billing purposes, I use a handy App called TimeStation. TimeStation is a digital version of the old time clock system where employees would “punch-in” and “punch-out” on a physical card to log their start and end times for work. TimeStation works the same way except of course there is no physical card and the “punch” occurs by keying in a simple 4-digit employee PIN.
Since my business has only one employee (me), I use TimeStation to track the time I spend by client. So instead of employee PINs, I created a unique PIN for each of my clients. With some clients, I have multiple projects each with different billing rates. In such cases, I create a unique PIN for each project. It takes just a few seconds to punch in or out. If I’m working on a project for client 0100 and I receive a phone call from client 0200, I simply punch out 0100 when I answer the call and punch in 0200 if the call needs to be tracked as billable time.
In addition to tracking billable hours, TimeStation is a handy tool to use for overall time management purposes. If the phone call mentioned above was from a prospective client, I have a PIN for business development that I use to track my time invested in building the business. If I’m working on a client project that pays me a flat fee regardless of how many hours I work, I still want to track my hours, so I create a unique PIN accordingly. To maintain my CPA and CMA licenses, I am required to complete continuing education each year so I have a unique PIN to track that activity. I also have a unique PIN to track my time doing tax returns and other administrative work for my own business.
TimeStation has a variety of reports so I can view my activity online in real time as well as export to Excel for backup purposes. TimeStation allows up to 10 unique PIN numbers for free so you can start with no out of pocket cost and upgrade into a paid plan as you grow. I use the TimeStation App on my iPhone and iPad. The same functionality of this handy App is available if you prefer to use a web browser at www.TimeStation.com.
[Note: this blog post was originally posted on the Xscapers website at https://www.xscapers.com/articles-and-blogs/entry/balancing-work-and-life-on-the-road-timely-lessons-we-learned-during-our-first-year]
Tim and Janette Ewing travel the country living in their fifth-wheel RV while homeschooling their one remaining child in the nest. All total they have five children and five grandchildren. Tim has been a CFO for 30 years working with small businesses and non-profits and now operates his CPA practice while on the road. Tim specializes in helping self-employed RVers with their business and accounting needs. Find Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.