The $100 Startup, Self Employment on a Shoestring

$100 Startup with Chris Guillebeau

Me and Chris Guillebeau

I recently had the good fortune not only to find a great book for entrepreneurs, but to meet the author – the inspiring Chris Guillebeau. In case you’ve never heard of Chris, he has a blog called the Art of Nonconformity, runs a national event called the World Domination Summit, and offers unconventional guides  to traveling, freelancing, making money with your art and more.

I just finished reading his new book, “The $100 Startup,”  and I have to tell you, it’s terrific!  As the instructor of the “First Steps for Starting a Business” course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Small Business Development Center, I constantly come across people with great ideas who feel held back by a lack of capital and minimal online skills.

This book shows you how to turn an idea into an enterprise and create a good income by doing so. Chris provides you with a step-by-step process to start up a small business utilizing the power of social media, relationship marketing, and online tools. 

Sprinkled with humorous illustrations, inspiring quotes and success stories, this book is a fun read.  Each chapter concludes with a summary  of key points which I found to be helpful.  In addition, the author generously provides downloadable worksheets from his website,100startup.com to support readers on their entrepreneurial journey.

It was great to meet Chris at the book signing in Milwaukee.  He’s the real deal!  Sincere, humble and charged with purpose, he has “walked the walk” and turned his own passion for traveling and writing into an incredibly successful business.  His words positively impact not just entrepreneurial wannabes, but everyone who is seeking an alternative to the 8 to late full time job. 

I will be giving away a signed copy of “the $100 Startup” to one lucky reader on July 1, 2012. There are several ways to enter, and I will choose one entry at random (via Rafflecopter) at the end of the giveaway. You can do each of the things below once for additional chances (all are evenly weighted). 

With Chris’ permission, I’m creating and will be teaching a 3 session mini-course at the UW-Madison in Oct. based on his book.  Check out his website, enter the giveaway, and let me know what you think of the book once you’ve read it!  

 

 

 

 

Location Independent Careers

view of travel career setting

View from my “office” in Myrtle Beach, SC

With summer in full swing, many of us have trips and vacations planned, or are dreaming about long days on the beach. If you’re tied to an office job or have limited time off, this can be a challenging season, and one that gets a lot of people thinking about working for themselves.

It sounds great, doesn’t it? You could be working from home, or – better yet – poolside somewhere. Maybe you could design your schedule so you have the best parts of the day free to be outside and enjoy the sunshine. Or maybe your ambitions are bigger – a lot of people who want to work for themselves picture life away from the office as one full of adventure, traveling to exotic places, having the freedom and flexibility to just pick up and go. If you’re one of those people, then this series of posts is for you.

Whether you want to live abroad or just travel from time to time, there are ways to make a living on the go. Over the next few weeks we’ll explore the pros and cons of location independence and go through some of the how-to’s.

Thanks to things like laptops and wifi, being location independent is far more feasible now than it ever has been before. But that flexibility only exists if you’re not still tethered to one place, which means being very deliberate about the type of business you start for yourself.

If you want location independence, you probably aren’t looking to open a restaurant or a storefront. There are dozens of ways to have a virtual business by selling a product online, or offering a service that doesn’t require you to physically be present to do the work.

Thinking up a business that can be done from anywhere that you have a laptop and wifi can be a challenge, but with a little creative thinking you can find a way to take your skills and passions and make a living from wherever you are. Often times it is simply a matter of looking at the business you want to start or the work you want to do from a slightly different angle, or finding the niche within it that allows you to be on the move. You can also create a business that is partially location independent, allowing you to travel frequently but still having a home base.

Many savvy entrepreneurs are successfully doing this:

  • Chris Guillebeau is traveling to every country in the world and writing about it and making money doing it.
  • Barbara Winter ventures across the country and around the world speaking, writing, and teaching.
  • Lea and Jonathan Woodward have been making a living from Mexico.
  • Corbett Barr has built an online business that supports him regardless of where he happens to be from one day to the next.

My daughter, Nicole, enjoys a lifestyle where she’s got a home base and an office in Denver, but she travels at will – last weekend she was working from a resort in the mountains, and this week is sending me emails from funky coffee shops in Minneapolis. I took the picture above a few weeks ago while enjoying time with my mother at a Myrtle Beach resort (and still serving my clients’ needs) and will be traveling to Denver and Rochester, MN in coming months and conducting workshops.

Some of these people are writers, some are teachers, some are techies. There are many more examples out there, of people who sell crafts or products, do design or consultations – I’ve even heard of a woman who teaches remote voice lessons using a program like Skype! The thing they all have in common: they are inspired, innovative, and determined to find creative ways to earn a living while jet-setting, living abroad, or spending more of their time away from their offices than in them.

What do you want to do for work? How can you begin to reconfigure it to support your wanderlust?

Are You Thinking Like an Entrepreneur or Employee?

Having a JOB and starting a business do not have to be mutually exclusive.  The tricky part of this isn’t even about how much time you spend on each endeavor, although it can be very challenging to do both. The tricky part is where you focus your attention and how you perceive your work world.


Let’s look at the differences between the hypothetical mindset of an employee vs an entrepreneur:



Employee                                                                                Entrepreneur

Regular paycheck                                                                Unlimited income potential

Orders                                                                                    Options

The office                                                                               World headquarters

Co-workers                                                                           Collaborators

Grumbling                                                                             Gratitude

Stagnation                                                                             Innovation

Servitude                                                                               Freedom

Pleasing others                                                                   Pleasing yourself

Routine                                                                                  Flexibility

Having a boss                                                                      Being the boss

Blend in                                                                                 Stand out

Complacent                                                                          Curious

Victim of circumstance                                                       Creator of own destiny

Feeling small                                                                        Feeling tall

Commiserate                                                                        Brainstorm

The toughest one for most is the first, the money issue.  We live in a culture that trains us from childhood to follow the rules, work hard, know the right answers and teachers will reward you with good grades. These lessons groom us for the employee mentality.  Be at work on time, work hard, maybe you can get a good “grade” resulting in the reward of a raise. By virtue of our jobs, we live around set schedules of when to sleep, eat, go to work, take a break, go home and take vacations.  It is a very structured life.  Step out of the job world and you are suddenly free of the schedules, the structure, the expectations of employers and co-workers.  The very ambiguity sends some would be entrepreneurs back to the perceived security of the J-O-B.  With the recent trend of downsizing, furloughing, and layoffs, there is no longer security in having a job. (Was there ever?)

Why not consider doing your own enterprise?  Use your skills and talents in a way that is not only personally satisfying but also fills a need in the marketplace?  One of the advantages is actually the ambiguity. When you don’t know what’s coming next, you are pushed to be creative, to stretch your imagination and to live outside your “comfort zone”.  If you try out an idea, a service or product and you don’t get the results you want you get to improvise, improve the design or create something different.  It’s wonderfully empowering to use your own skills, talents and abilities to turn an idea into a product or service that serves others and brings you income.  Not ready to leave the JOB?  That’s okay, you can always do a little business on the side and see where it grows!  Just remember to focus on thinking like an entrepreneur.

“You can do or be whatever you want in your own life.  Nothing can stop you, except your own fears.  Don’t blame anyone else…you have the power to make the decision.  Just do it.”            – Nola Diamantopoulos

“Victory always starts in the head.  It’s a state of mind.  It then spreads with such radiance and such affirmations that destiny can do nothing but obey.”  –Douchan Gersi

And one more thing, a nod to Barbara J. Winter who taught me the importance of thinking like an entrepreneur.  Putting two columns and comparing employee mindset to entrepreneur was her idea and I borrowed some of her definitions.   Check out her site:  joyfully jobless for support on the entrepreneurial journey.

Entrepreneurship: the Path to Ultimate Fulfillment

According to renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow, our unfulfilled needs make themselves known through feelings of restlessness: “the person feels on edge, tense, lacking something.” When we feel this way, we are motivated to act to fulfill those needs. This is what propels us to make changes in our lives and to seek greater fulfillment in the things we do.

Many of us have felt this kind of restlessness in relation to our jobs and the work we do. When you feel restless, tense, or on edge at work, it may be a sign that you’re not doing work that is fulfilling to you, that you are not self-actualized. Self-actualization is achieved when we are successfully fulfilling all of our needs.

Maslow created a hierarchy of needs “Hierarchy of Human Needs;” the basic needs like breathing, food, and water are on the bottom and self-actualization is at the top. In order to be completely fulfilled, one must achieve self-actualization. When this occurs, many positive characteristics emerge. People become more accepting of themselves, more spontaneous, self-reliant, and independent. They gain a stronger sense of integrity, as well as an increased zest for life and sense of humor. Creativity and curiosity increase, self-esteem improves, and people become more altruistic, humanitarian, socially responsible, and adaptable to change.

What I find most interesting about this list is that the majority of successful entrepreneurs I know embody these traits. By stepping out of the world of traditional employment, they became more self-actualized and, in turn, more able to handle the challenges of entrepreneurship.

“If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves” – Thomas Edison

Thinking like an Entrepreneur

For most people, the toughest part about leaving a job is the concern about a stable income.   We live in a culture that trains us from childhood to follow the rules, work hard, know the right answers and teachers will reward you with good grades. These lessons groom us for the employee mentality.  Be at work on time, work hard, maybe you can get a good “grade” resulting in the reward of a raise. By virtue of our jobs, we live around set schedules of when to sleep, eat, go to work, take a break, go home and take vacations.  It is a very structured life.  Step out of the job world and you are suddenly free of the schedules, the structure, the expectations of employers and co-workers.  The very ambiguity sends some would be entrepreneurs back to the perceived security of the J-O-B.  With the recent trend of downsizing, furloughing, and layoffs, there is no longer security in having a job. (Was there ever?)

Why not consider starting your own enterprise?  Use your skills and talents in a way that is not only personally satisfying but also fills a need in the marketplace.  One of the advantages is the ambiguity; when you don’t know what’s coming next, you are pushed to be creative, to stretch your imagination and to live outside your “comfort zone.”  If you try out an idea, a service, or product and you don’t get the results you want, you get to improvise, improve the design, or create something different.  It’s wonderfully empowering to use your own skills, talents and abilities to turn an idea into a product or service that serves others and brings you income.  Not ready to leave  your steady job?  That’s okay –  you can always start a business on the side and see where it grows!  Just remember to focus on thinking like an entrepreneur.

“You can do or be whatever you want in your own life.  Nothing can stop you, except your own fears.  Don’t blame anyone else…you have the power to make the decision.  Just do it.”            – Nola Diamantopoulos

“Victory always starts in the head.  It’s a state of mind.  It then spreads with such radiance and such affirmations that destiny can do nothing but obey.”  –Douchan Gersi

Julie & Julia, Accidental Entrepreneurs

This past weekend I saw a fabulous example of following your passion: the movie Julie & Julia. The movie is based on the true story of Julie Powell, a frustrated state worker who spends her days in a cubicle taking incoming calls in the aftermath of 9/11. In search of a way to deal with her frustration and soothe her aching soul, she decides (rather on a whim) to prepare every recipe in Julia Child’s famous cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” She diligently works her way through the 536 recipes in 365 days and blogs about her trials and tribulations along the way.

In the movie we simultaneously get to view Julie’s experiences in modern day New York and Julia Child’s life during her years in France as she discovers her passion for cooking. As Americans in Paris in the 1950’s, Paul and Julia Child had a glamorous nightlife but when Paul went off to work at the embassy, Julia found herself looking for something with which to fill her days. After a few failed attempts at entertaining and educating herself, such as a hat making class which she found boring, and a bridge class with the same result, she decided to attend culinary school. Julia and her husband were enamored with the gustatory pleasures of French cuisine, and so it seemed natural that Julia would find her joy in taking classes at the renowned Cordon Bleu cooking school.

She delighted in the rigors of learning to prepare French cuisine, fearlessly attacking the tasks and holding her own in a class dominated by men. She thought about how wonderful it would be to have a cookbook in English so that “servantless” Americans could enjoy the pleasures of French cooking and collaborated with two French cooks in creating a mammoth manuscript.

Back in the states Julia Child not only got her book published but became the acclaimed “French Chef” on TV, introducing millions to the joy of boeuf bourguignon, chocolate soufflés, and the like. Julia never set out to become an entrepreneur, she simply pursued her passion and shared it with others. Similarly, Julie Powell rose to literary prominence after she was interviewed by the New York Times about her Julie/Julia project blog. Her story became a book and then a major motion picture. She has a new blog, was interviewed by Nightline (check out the clip, it has vintage footage of Julia Child!)and a second book soon to be released and isn’t working at that cubicle job anymore!

When we follow our passions, we flourish. We may find ourselves as these women did, making a living without a job.

“Don’t worry about what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.” –Howard Thurman

Imagine…

Last Sunday as I was enjoying my coffee John Lennon’s “Imagine” came on the radio. It must be one of the most wonderful songs of all time, and it got me to thinking about his incredible talent and the legacy of music he left us.

John was raised by his aunt who resoundingly told him he couldn’t make a living playing a guitar. What if he had believed her? Think of all the songs John wrote that we would never have heard. Imagine the last 30 years without the influence of the Beatles! Thank goodness John pursued his passion for making music.

The key to happiness is to do what you love to do, and do it very well. Use your talents, skills and abilities in a way that brings you fulfillment.

What have you thought about that you’d like to do “someday?” It could be anything from cooking to captaining your own sail boat, playing a musical instrument or presenting a workshop. An amazing thing happens when you connect to your creativity, you become energized, engaged, and excited. From this charged place, all manner of opportunities can arise.

I spoke with a woman yesterday who, having been downsized from her office job, decided to take the European trip she’d always wanted to do. Wandering through the markets in Italy and France, she found fabulous jewelry, handbags and other womens accessories. Back in the states, friends and strangers alike commented on her beautiful purchases. She decided to explore the market, to see if small retailers might be interested in carrying similar Italian and French imports. How great would it be to fund her travels to Europe and pay herself for going shopping? She has now made a couple of trips and has established several buyers. Her passion has turned into a profitable business.

What have you always wanted to do? What do you love? Please share your thoughts, and we’ll discuss how those things could be turned into viable and profitable business ventures in future posts.

Dreaming or Doing?

Inside all of us are dreams unrealized and wishes looking for ways to become reality.  How do we move our brilliant inspirations into action?  The first step is to imagine what our ideal work life could be; the second step is to move toward  that vision.  You can daydream forever but to reach your goal of a fulfilling work life, action must be taken.  Sometimes we know what we need to do to move forward in the direction of our dreams but we just can’t seem to take that first step.  Why?  Maybe we become overwhelmed by the possibilities or by the challenges of making changes.  Or maybe we just need more information to decide which direction to take.  Then there is the insidious often underlying obstacle:  fear.

You know that pesky inner critic that pipes in and says stuff like;  “you can’t do that because…” or “that’s a stupid idea” or “you don’t have what it takes”?  That is fear talking.  Inertia kicks in and we damp down our yearnings and convince ourselves that we are okay staying with the familiar, safe, and standard pattern of working.  (Not that it is any of those things given our current economic climate).  What if instead, we listened to the voice of our hearts, our brilliant ideas, our yearnings, and put real action into creating the career of our dreams doing work we are passionate about?

What is one thing you can do today to support your vision of an ideal work situation?  Is it starting your own business?  Working in a non-profit?  Being an independent consultant?  Working part time and writing a book? Owning a bed and breakfast?  Being a travel photographer?  The opportunities are endless.  Just taking action in the direction of your vision can kick you out of inertia, help you overcome your resistance, and silence your inner critic (for a while anyway).  It may be two steps forward, one step back for a time but once you get some momentum going, as Dr. Seuss said; “Oh the places you’ll go!”

Enterprising Ideas

I taught a class last week “First Steps to Starting a Business” at the Job Center.  You know, where everyone who has been “downsized” goes to file their unemployment claims.  The class was packed with both blue and white collar workers seeking an alternative to job hunting in a dismal labor market.  What many of them failed to bring with them was an idea of what kind of busness they could initiate.  I overviewed the contents in my last blog entry and then suggested they do some research.  Yep–market research on the web.

There are some terrific sites out there to help you get the gray matter moving.  One I frequently suggest is www.springwise.com .   They have 8000 or so spotters who “scan the globe looking for smart new business ideas delivering instant inspiration to entrepreneurial minds”.  What is so great about this is that many of the ideas that have been put into action are from Europe and Asia.  (Meaning that maybe no one stateside has thought of it yet). For instance, I recall a story of a clever enterprise using coin operated/card powered stationary bikes to charge cell phones at music festivals in England.  The attendees waited in line, cash/card in hand to jump on the bikes getting some exercise and the ability to text their buddies at the same time.  After the concert the guys simply packed up the bikes and moved on to the next venue. Brilliant!

Need some ideas?  Check out Springwise.  And if you find some other interesting sites, please post them in comments to share ’em.

Dee

On Becoming Entrepreneurial

In the U.S., we have been brought up to believe in the 40 hour work week being employed by someone else. There is of course another option; you can become an entrepreneur instead of an employee. Given current labor market conditions, being your own boss is mighty attractive. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. What do you love to do that you do really well? For instance, is it natural for you to be consistently on time, plan full and efficient? Do you like keeping your home or office neat and orderly, “a place for everything and everything in its place”? Do you get energized by this? If you answered yes to these questions, one of your transferable skills is being an organizer. Think about the many ways this talent and ability of yours can contribute to others. Don’t stop with one example, brainstorm until you identify at least five more things you really do well and enjoy doing.

2. Who needs what you have to offer? Once you’ve identified your skills, talents, and passions, it is time to determine where they may best be useful. Is there a need for whatever product or service you want to share with others? You may be the greatest cookie baker in three states but if there isn’t a need for a cookie store in your area it’s not a good idea to start a bakery. Consider all the life experience you’ve had, how might that be useful to others? How can you be of service in the world? Using your list of transferable skills from question number one will help you brainstorm some possibilities.

3. Is there someone else doing the kind of business you are considering? Identify those people and organizations. For instance, if you are thinking of doing a doggy daycare, see who else has one and check it out. Note what you like and don’t like about their advertising, facility, customer service, etc. How do they get customers? How might you approach your target customers differently? What might you improve on?

4. Is being self employed a right fit for your personality and lifestyle? If you’ve been an employee for years, you may find it challenging to switch your perspective to that of self bosser. It can be tremendously fulfilling to create you own business, work when, where and how you choose to, and not have to get someone else’s permission.

Are you ready to step into your power and put your talents to work?

Dee

www.careerlifecoaching.com