Grab the reins – now is the best time of all!

December 23, 2008

By the way,  I just made this “Responsibility and Honesty- watch your back!” post at my APLawrence.com site.  It’s related to Self Employment but I posted it there because I really want some feedback and there are very few readers here so far..

Anyway, on my ride in to the job described there, I was thinking how easy it is to work for yourself today.

Think about reaching customers.  According to Google Analytics, my APLawrence site has seen 2,494,647 Unique Views so far this year.   Imagine what it would have cost to reach that many potential customers before the Internet.  Never mind the cost of producing two and a half million catalogs or letters to mail; just the cost of the postage alone is staggering!

Some years back, I had a national 800 number for the convenience of my customers – phone service has become so cheap today that nobody hesitates to dial any number in the same country – and even International calls aren’t all that expensive now!

Years back, I had to hire an answering service too.   A pager was an absolute necessity. Voice mail and cell phones took care of both those expenses.

This is an incredibly wonderful time to work for yourself!

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Sandbox

December 21, 2008

I’m not sure where he’s going with this, but..

http://mark-hayward.com/the-social-media-sandbox/


Attitudes toward self employment

December 21, 2008

You may already use Google Alerts. This is a free service where you tell Google that you’d like to be notified of any new search results that match keywords you enter. I have alerts set for a number of subjects, and one of them is “self employment”.

Alerts on that subject arrive almost every day, and are usually announcements of government programs encouraging or helping people to start small businesses. These come from all over the world, but I’ve noticed that very, very few come from the United States.

That seems odd to me. Small businesses are the very life blood of the U.S. economy. I was listening to a recent radio show about the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, and the strongest current throughout was the lack of small businesses. The mega-corps can of course roll back into New Orleans whenever they wish, but the Mom and Pop stores and services have a much harder time recovering from disasters like this. But it is these small businesses that are what is important, not the large corporations.

Our Congress is frantic over the idea that the large auto makers might fail, but really it’s the small business that matter. Of course it’s true that failure of the big auto firms would affect some small businesses too, but I don’t believe for a minute that Congress really cares about that. They may give that idea lip service, but I think that’s all it is.

The smallest of the small is the self-employed, and that group, although it is a large number of people and growing, is nearly invisible to Government.

I say there a negative attitude toward self employment in the U.S. Does the rarity of Google alerts referencing U.S. news on self employment show that?

This might just be a matter of terminology: reports of similar programs in the U.S. may use terms like “small business” rather than “self employment”, but even if that is the main reason, I think it points out an attitude that is pro-business but not favorable to self employment. The U.S. seems to be strongly in favor of “business” and “employees”, but has negative attitudes toward “self employed”.

Government programs to help the unemployed are common in the U.S. and most countries, but the U.S. seems to steer people toward looking for a job rather than looking for income. This report about
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors’ Attitudes Toward Self-Employment suggests:

In vocational rehabilitation, for example, even though self-employment is a legitimate option, supervisors may convey or staff may develop the attitude that competitive employment in existing jobs is preferred or that the use of self-employment as an option is discouraged.

On the other hand, the European Commission’s Directorate General Enterprise and Industry conducts a regular survey examining attitudes toward self employment. The results seem to indicate that Europeans are more likely to be afraid of self employment, while Americans have more positive attitudes.

Those are contradictory indications. It may be that the programs of other countries exist and are reported more because those countries realize they need to encourage small business and self employment: perhaps the U.S. has less governmental support because Americans don’t need much encouragement to be self employed?

I think there is evidence of both: American government may have bias toward larger corporations, but American workers are less enamored of that environment. The situation seems to be the opposite in the rest of the world, perhaps because U.S. politicians are less aware of how important small independent businesses are.

If this is true, I have to wonder why.  It seems that European politics is just as dirty and corrupt as it is here so the idea that Congress loves Big Business because that’s where contributions come from doesn’t seem to wash.


Home Office Guilt

December 21, 2008

I see a lot of people using two monitors now.  It’s great to have your main app on one screen and everything else on another.

I’d love to do that. I sometimes DO hook up another monitor, but mostly I sit here at the (relatively) tiny screen of my MacBook Pro.

It’s not so horrible – I Apple-Tab between apps – but I really would like to have two.. or three..maybe more?

But every time I hook the other one up I start feeling guilty about wasting electricity. This is from someone who never turns anything else off for “convenience”.

But all that stuff isn’t staring at me like that monitor does as it defiantly sips power. I can see the printer, but it only has a tiny light. The Verizon router has lots of lights but it’s under my desk. The half dozen vampire plugs ready to service my cell phone, the battery charger, the bluetooth and who even remembers what else are all on outlet bars that could be shut off.. but they are under the desk too.. and when the MacBook sleeps, that little blinking light is surely meaningless, right?

That darn monitor is just too big and bright.  I can’t ignore it, even when it is in power saving mode.

I should put the monitor under the desk. No, that wouldn’t work..


Did I mention that she hates Earthlink?

December 20, 2008

I help my neighbors with computer problems at no charge.

“Neighbors” here is about 800 homes – I live in an “Over 55 Active Adult Community”. I know, that sounds like condominiums or cramped apartments.. no, we have individual homes on quarter to half acre lots. It’s a nice place: http://oakpointhomes.com.

This week I went down to see a sweet little woman with an Earthlink problem.  The problem?  She hated Earthlink.  She had formerly used AOL, but her computer died, her son bought her a new one and he set it up with Earthlink.

Did I mention that she hates Earthlink?

Yeah.  AOL was already installed on her computer, but she couldn’t get it to work. She told me she had called AOL and they were unable to help her.  Very frustrating.

I quickly spotted the problem: AOL wasn’t set to dial “1” and it needed to.  In a few minutes I had her back on AOL and she was very happy about that.  I’m amazed that AOL couldn’t figure THAT out, but so it goes.

We chatted a bit.  Her husband had died before she moved here, her son lives far away.  She used to be a piano teacher, but now she lives only on Social Security – $21,000 a year.

You would never know that to look at her or her home.  The home is small, but neat, clean and nicely decorated.  She’s well dressed, bright, cheerful – really a lovely lady.  She confessed that it is hard for her to get by with so little.

This is why I help my “neighbors” for free.   In a community like this, some people have a lot more money than I do, but some do not.   You can’t tell by looking at their homes, their cars: that Mercedes in the driveway might have been  bought before a husband died, or might be a castoff from a son or daughter.  You just don’t know, and I’m not going to ask.  I just help for free and that’s it.

The funny thing is, sometimes the people who I know could afford it least will try to pay me.  I refuse absolutely and ask them to donate to charity if they feel they must.

This woman didn’t try to pay me.  She just gave me a hug.

I also do a website for the community.  You can visit that at http://oakpointcommunity.org

I’m still kicking around in this unfamiliar WordPress territory.. bear with me..

Psst – Wanna work for yourself?


Banging on that keyboard

December 19, 2008

The past few days I’ve been working hard on my newest E-Book project. Banging on the keyboard all that time nets me a whopping 31 pages..  it’s the research, the double checking, the moving this here..  it sure sucks up time.

But.. I’m happy with the results so far.  I have a few “internet virgins” who I am running the drafts by to get their comments and confusion – that’s been VERY helpful.

I figure another week and it will be done – except that next week we have our daughter and her husband visiting, so I won’t be able to do much.  Correct that: won’t WANT to do much.

We’ll be playing a lot of Scrabble – she says she can beat me this year, but we’ll see..

I’m still kicking around in this unfamiliar WordPress territory.. bear with me..

Psst – Wanna work for yourself?


Rocky Roads

December 19, 2008

Who hasn’t thought of working for themselves? I know quite a few who have more than thought it: they, like me, have actually done it and do run their own ship. If you are one who hasn’t made that switch but still has the dream, I wish you luck and hope that you can join us soon.

Maybe you want to be a consultant, or sell something on the web , be a full time “pro-blogger” or maybe it’s something else entirely. It doesn’t matter: you have a dream and (I hope!) a plan and you know you can get there.

I’m a big fan of working for yourself.  I think it’s the best choice for overall happiness, and I can be very enthusiastic when I write about it.  But today I’d like to talk about something else: setbacks, difficulties, and disappointment

My first brush with self employment was in 1978. I was in a retail store partnership with several other people and most of us also worked at the store. Retail can be fun, but the store owns you, so it felt much more like having a job and as I was only a minority “owner”, in reality that’s what it was. After a few years I saw the business was heading for trouble, so I sold my interest and took a “real” job again. At that time I had the dream of working for myself, but didn’t know what I might do.

Over the next year I thought about just that, and realized that what I wanted was something to do with computers whether I worked for myself or someone else. So I took a job with Tandy Corporation in one of their now long gone Tandy Computer Centers as a Customer Support Rep.

I enjoyed that, but shortly Tandy started losing badly to IBM, and my income, which was mostly based on store profits, sank to a dismal level. I had gained some skills by then and knew a few people who needed them, so in 1983 I went out “on my own”. That first year wasn’t much better than working at minimum wage, but it improved quickly, and by 1985 I was doing pretty well. Well enough that I took on a partner and three other employees.

That was a complete disaster. Only one of the employees was productive, and one was actually stealing from us. That first partner was ineffectual and a money sink and by 1987 I was nearly six figures in debt. I fired all but one employee and took him on as a partner after getting rid of the first partner. I was angry, disappointed, full of recriminations and self doubt. Then the “good” employee moved cross country and I was once again alone. I had that debt, no savings, no 401K, no investments.. I was depressed, angry and near broke.

I struggled by for a couple of years, but these were dark times. The money was OK, but the crush of the incurred debt weighed on me. In 1991, one of my better clients offered me a job that would allow me to keep operating my consulting business as a profit center within their business. It seemed like a good idea, so I took it, and actually was pretty happy there. I had the benefits of a “real job”, but I also had many of the benefits of working for myself.. it wasn’t bad.

But then they got bought out by a larger corporation and I felt I had to leave. I can’t work in a large company: the politics, the difficulty of getting simple decisions made – it’s not for me. So I left, and went back to me, myself and I once again.

Less than a year later, another client offered me a job. This seemed like a real opportunity: manage the tech department of a growing sales organization. My lone-wolf business wasn’t doing badly, but this would give me the opportunity to grow, to learn some things I just couldn’t find time for on my own.. after almost a month of kicking it around, I took the job.

I realized it was a horrible mistake within a year. However, I had burned my bridges and my old customers had mostly not transitioned with me to this new outfit. Can’t blame them: this group charged very high prices and was sometimes hard to deal with, but the final line was that I was a little trapped – the money was good, and if I left, I’d have to start mostly from scratch. I swallowed hard and hung in, but things got worse and worse there and in 1997 I bit the bullet and left the job.

That was eleven years ago. I actually recovered business much more quickly than I thought I would and only had minor cash flow problems for a few months. After that, everything settled down and business was good and remains so today. The only debt I have is a small mortgage, I have substantial retirement funds – well, I did before the crash this year –  and savings: the dark years are long gone. Not that life is always easy: working for yourself requires constant effort; tomorrows income needs help getting here. But I am where I want to be.

So, all is well that ends well, I guess. A lot of twists and turns getting here, but here I am just the same. I tell you all this because you may face disappointment and setbacks too: most self-employed people have experienced bitter failure at some point in their careers. Somehow they found a way to pick up the pieces and get back to the goal.

I’m still kicking around in this unfamiliar WordPress territory.. bear with me..

Psst – Wanna work for yourself?