To build and sustain a practice, financial planners often find themselves working overtime. But some still manage to squeeze in another job on the side.
Advisors with wide-ranging interests and skills may pursue side jobs such as freelance writing or teaching. Others flex their entrepreneurial muscles by launching businesses in related fields.
The trick is deciding how to divvy up their time. In their eagerness to tackle side hustles, they can take on too much and wind up undermining their core advisory business.
“It helps to start with a written plan and vision of what you want to create,” said Jason Smith, a Cleveland-based advisor who’s also a coach, speaker and entrepreneur. “Every quarter, I step away from working in my business to work on my business.”
Smith began his career in 1995 working in his father’s insurance agency. Eventually, he became an advisor before starting a series of side businesses over the last decade.
“Early on, I identified what I was best at and what I had the most passion for,” he said. “Then I surrounded myself with people who are good at what I’m not good at.”
In order to launch other ventures, such as advisor coaching and insurance marketing, Smith sought to hire more skilled — and sometimes more expensive — help than he needed at the time.
In 2005, for example, he hired a chief operating officer for his modest advisory practice.
“(Industry peers) made fun of me,” he recalled. “They said I didn’t need a COO, I needed an office assistant. But I was thinking about the future” and trying to run a tighter ship to free up time for other pursuits.
Use ‘Surge Meeting’ Approach To Boost Efficiency
To afford high-level hires, Smith seeks to offer benefits that top candidates crave. For instance, he accommodated the COO’s request to work from home with flexible hours.
In some cases, he offered equity in the business to key outsiders who provided marketing and practice management expertise.
“They took a little piece of the upside,” he said. “That helped me bring in talent that I couldn’t otherwise afford. And by making them a partner, they worked harder” to help the business succeed.
Running an efficient operation is paramount for advisors who take on side endeavors. They tend to organize their workweek with precision and delegate tasks freely.
Derek Tharp, a certified financial planner in Portland, Maine, also serves as an assistant professor of finance at the University of Southern Maine. While he started his teaching gig three years ago, his advisory practice continues to grow.
“I get summers off (at the university), so that helps,” said Tharp, who also has a Ph.D. in personal financial planning. “But time management is huge.”
He’s a fan of scheduling client review meetings at specific periods during the year. Using what he calls a “surge meeting” approach, Tharp condenses most of these sessions into his summer and winter break from teaching.
“It’s taking a two- or three-week window to get these client meetings done,” he said. “It’s intense, but it opens up your time for your other work.”
Educate Clients — And The General Public
Clustering client meetings also enables Tharp to focus on key themes at certain times of year. For example, he can suggest year-end tax planning moves and discuss clients’ goals for the coming year during his December meetings.
“I do a better job for my clients because of the cycle of meetings and when they’re held,” he said. “It focuses our conversations” on what matters most for clients at that point in the calendar.
Like Smith, Tharp doesn’t try to do everything himself. He uses contractors to provide live phone answering support as well as other services such as paraplanning.
“It’s like the doctor model,” he said. “A doctor doesn’t do initial intake, but reviews the file and the results. My (paraplanning) team hands me the file and then I meet with the client” to refine their financial plan, make specific recommendations and answer their questions.
Some advisors pursue side passions tied to their primary job of counseling clients. Such activities may generate only modest extra income, but they’re gratifying in their own right.
In addition to educating his clients about financial planning, Allan Roth reaches a wider audience as a freelance journalist.
“On average, the writing is about 15% of my time,” said Roth, an advisor in Colorado Springs, Colo. “It started by accident” when a magazine editor asked him to write a personal finance piece about 18 years ago.
“They’re all paid gigs,” he said. “I’m not doing it to get business. I’m doing it to warn people” about questionable investment products and address other topics.
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