And the winner is…

The $100 Startup winner

I met Janis when she attended my “1st Steps for Starting a Business” class last month.  She is a fine art photographer and has been self employed for over 20 years.  Her photographs have been purchased by health organizations for placement in hospitals and clinics and provide wonderful uplifting images of nature.

Four years ago, she became interested in social media and how it could help her promote her business. Janis, who holds an Masters in Fine Arts, recently completed the Social Media Certificate program at Madison College.  She wants to assist other creatives to ramp up their entrepreneurial efforts by having a web presence and participating in social media marketing. 

She told me that her mission is to help others expand their artistic vision by reaching more people using the internet.  Using the Springboard for the Arts in St. Paul as a model, Janis decided launched a social media consulting business.  She assists artists, art organizations, small business owners and nonprofits to find marketing solutions using the internet.  Check out her website and her beautiful photos.  

Janis suggests that social media can “transform your business”.  She states; “Here you are , exploding with this fantastic, brilliant creative idea that you want the world to know about and beat a path to your door.  How can you possibly spend time on marketing and turn your idea into an art form at the same time?  The answer is to use social media to get the word out.  Those people who are listening, are following you, are your supporters and will buy your product.”

I asked her to give some specific benefits to using social media and she shared the following:

  1. Increases traffic to your website
  2. Improves your search engine optimization (SEO).  Better SEO = being found = more sales.  93% of all purchasing decisions start with an online search.
  3. Amplifies your message through word of mouth.  
  4. Communicates with and engages your fans.  Suggested channels:  Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, YouTube
  5. Spreads your content beyond your locality.  You have the potential to attract potential customers world wide!
Whether you are thinking about starting a business, wanting to expand your marketing or just want to share your latest pictures with others, social media can maximize your efforts!  Janis would be happy to be of service.  Please contact her for a complimentary consultation. 
 
Oh, and if you haven’t already done so, get your hands on The $100 Startup!

 

 

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!  

 

 

 

 

Career Independence

4th of July

Career Independence

As we celebrate the birth of our country on the 4th of July in the U.S., I got to thinking about what independence means from a career point of view.  For many people, the word career equals “full time job” and implies that we will be dependent on employers to derive an income for most of our adult lives.  Unfortunately with shifting economies and markets, long term employment is not always an option even if we chose that route.  Being someone’s employee is not always attractive either.  If you’ve ever considered starting a business or being creatively self employed, declaring career independence here are some things to consider:

What do you love to do that you do really well? For instance, are you a terrific organizer who excels at keeping everything running efficiently and timely? Do you enjoy re-doing closets and cabinets to make the contents more orderly and easy to find? Do you get energized by this kind of activity? If you answered yes to these questions, one of your skills may be in organizing. What can you do with this talent?  Here’s an example: Nancy McKinney launched her business; Successful Organizing Solutions in 1999 and loves being a “solo entrepreneur”. She added some coach training and received certification through BCPO, a professional organization in her field and has turned her talent into a successful business. Whatever you really enjoy doing and have competency in is worth exploring whether or not you could turn it into a business.

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 may not a good idea to start a bakery. Then again, there are many avenues to market products beyond having a bricks and mortar business. Gail Ambrious took her passion for chocolate and launched her business in 2004. Laid off from her “steady job” with the state, she decided to pursue her dreams and has since become known for “the best little box of chocolates” by the Food Network.

Besides what you are passionate about, think of all the life experience you’ve had, how might that be useful to others? How can you be of service in the world? Bottom line:  who needs what you have to offer?  Answer this question and you’ve identified your customer base.

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?

Is being self employed or starting a business 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 being the boss.  It can be tremendously fulfilling to create your own business, work when, where and how you choose to, and not have to get someone else’s permission. It also entails self motivation and requires you to be willing to accept failure, learn from it and keep moving your business forward.

 

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?

The 3 Keys to a Successful and Inspiring Business

In this video, I explain the 3 components that every business idea must have. Watch this and ask yourself, “Does my business idea have all 3 parts?” I have coached many people and I find that people focus on 1 or 2 of the keys. If they have already started their business, they come to me wondering what why their business is struggling.

Having all 3 of these parts of your business plan is essential for success (and inspiration).

Watch this video and leave a comment. Does your business have all 3 keys?

7 Steps of Career Transition

Whether you are just graduating college or are experiencing a mid-life career challenge and rethinking what kind of work you want to do, it is critical to do some self examination. What do you really want to do or be?  What are your natural talents, abilities, and skills?  How do you get energized, and what challenges you in a positive way?  Gaining self-knowledge; determining your priorities and identifying your values are important factors in choosing a career direction and are the first steps to a successful career transition.

Here are two possible scenarios to consider:

Scenario A;  Career Transition to a New Job

  1. Explore your wants and needs for career fulfillment by identifying your particular requirements (How much income must you have?  Where and when are you willing and able to work?  What are your top 3 things you must have in your next job in order to be happy?)
  2. Identify potential employment opportunities
  3. Research potential employers to determine corporate or organization culture, management style, mission and vision.
  4. Update and revise your resume to maximize getting interviews
  5. Build your network through informational interviewing, attending events related to your profession, joining professional associations, and using social media.
  6. Enhance your interviewing skills – practice how you will answer difficult questions
  7. Navigate job offers, negotiate your salary/benefits

Scenario B;  Career Transition into Self Employment

  1. Explore your wants and needs for career fulfillment by identifying your particular requirements (How much income must you have?  Where and when are you willing and able to work?  What are your top 3 things you must have in your next job in order to be happy?)
  2. Analyze ways of working to determine the best fit for you.  For example: be employed part time while building your business, or writing your book or going to school, etc., or jumping full time into starting a business.
  3. Conduct market research to be sure that your business idea is realistic.
  4. Launch your business and determine your niche.  What is the scope of your service or product line?  Who benefits from what you are putting out into the marketplace?
  5. Develop your marketing strategy for your business including your brand.
  6. Build your network:  create cross referrals with colleagues who serve the same customer demographic, utilize social media, blogging and article writing to establish your expertise.
  7. Navigate project offers, draft proposals to meet customers’ needs, determine pricing and distribution channels for your product or service.

In either scenario A or B you start in the same place: exploring YOUR wants and needs for career fulfillment.

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”  -Henry David Thoreau

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.

Most Frequently Asked Q&A's on Starting a Consulting Business

As a part-time small business counselor at the UW-Madison SBDC, I am the voice of the WI Business Answerline a couple of days a week. Callers ask a variety of questions such as, “I’m opening a pet store and want to import tropical fish from Asia, do I need a permit?”, “I’d like to sell fireworks out of my garage, is that OK?”, and “do I have to collect sales tax on mowing yards this summer?”. The answers in order are; “yes”, “probably not but check with your local municipality and your homeowners insurance”, and “yes”.

With the number of professionals downsized out of corporate America lately, there has been a lot of interest in self employment as a consultant. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions:

Q. How can I get started as a consultant?

A. First, identify your area of expertise. Define what services you can provide a potential employer. What problems can you solve? If you are not already recognized as an expert in your field, here are some suggestions:
– Volunteer to do a presentation at a professional organization that is interested in your subject area. For instance, I gave a presentation today to an organized job search support group on “Small Business Startup.”
– Start a blog
– Submit articles to www.ezineartlicles.com – Write a letter to the editor when you see a topic in the paper on your area of expertise.
– Get networking! Create and carry business cards at all times – you never know who you may run into that could be a great connection to a project.
– Put up a website ASAP and get into social media: Linked In, Twitter, Facebook.

Q. What form of business structure is best as a consultant, sole proprietor or limited liability company?

A. In general, I suggest the LLC as it enables you to separate out your personal assets and liabilities from what is in your business. If things go south, you don’t want someone putting a lien on your car, your house, or any other personal property. To learn more about the requirements and how to file in your state, contact your local Small Business Development Center: http://sbdcnet.org/sbdc.php . If you are in Wisconsin, go to: www.wdfi.org to file the LLC (or Inc for that matter). It’ll cost you $130 and there is a $25 annual renewal fee. You will also need to contact the IRS and obtain the Federal Employer Identification Number which will become your tax ID for your business. There is no cost for the FEIN and you can get it quickly by calling 1-800 829-4933.

Q. What tax deductions can I take working from a home office?

A. For starters, you can deduct the space within your home designated as an office. There are two ways to do this, either by the room itself or by square footage. You can also deduct mileage from your home office to wherever you conduct business with a client; their office, a coffee shop, whatever. The same goes for entertainment expenses. If you meet a prospective client over lunch, keep your receipt. Nolo.com has an excellent article: “What are some tax deductions for the self employed?” tinyurl.com/lf869b

More Q and A coming soon!

Have a topic you’d like to see a Q&A on? Email Dee [at] deerelyea [dot] com

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 2

Are you considering a business venture and need an infusion of creative ideas? Looking for some innovation?  You might want to get together some people and have a brainstorming session.   Writer Seth Godin and his team did exactly that and came up with over 999 enterprising ideas.  Here are a few I liked:

  • Disposable mittens made from biodegradable materials in vending machines I love the idea of disposables that are environmentally friendly.  Think of all the kids playing outside, losing mittens to thrown snowballs, or on tree limbs not to mention leaving them on school buses. With a mitten machine they’d be cheaper to replace and biodegradable in the snow.  Imagine the market opportunity in places with long winters.
  • Feng Shui online: Feng Shui has been gaining popularity for years, particularly with creative and healing arts facilities.  Imagine being able to upload your floor plan and other details and get input on how to layout your space and color your walls?  I know of an accounting firm in MN that said having their offices feng shui-ed increased their profit margin!  Do you know where your wealth corner is?
  • Herbal Flavored Gum: This one in my personal favorite! I suspect there are some currently on the market but what about adding ingredients containing health producing properties?  Along with the gum, introduce an alternative medicine or homeopathic online service that diagnoses your ailment and gives you the proper corresponding alternative treatment.

To view the entire list of interesting and sometimes wacky business ideas go to: http://www.sixmonthmba.com/2009/02/999ideas.html “Hamster Burial Kits and 998 Other Business Ideas”

I’d love to hear your ideas!  Please share them with readers in your comments below. No idea is too small or too outrageous.  Just remember the fortune made with patenting Silly Putty!

Dee