Many, many years ago, after the end of my 13-year first marriage, I went to a counselor for career and life advice. She recommended to me three books, books I'd like to recommend to those of you who may be facing life-changing, life-challenging issues with job or family.
The three books were:
1) How to Be Your Own Best Friend by Mildred Newman and Bernard Berkowitz (1971, 1986)
2) Feal the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers (1988, 2006)
3) Do What You Love -- and the Money Will Follow by Marsha Sinetar (1989)
All of them are available new or used on Amazon, for as little as 1 cent.
All are just as pertinent to life issues today as they were two decades ago.
It's Sinetar's book, Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow that came to mind this morning. I took her advice, and she was right. I followed my heart, my "passion" some might say, and while the money wasn't always there as I wished it had been, and while I made a lot of mistakes along the way, the money did follow and, more importantly, joy and a sense of being in the right place at the right time followed. I was able to create the life I wanted to live, a life that allowed me to work from home, work with writers, utilize my creative abilities, face a variety of challenges that have kept me interested and compelled me to learn new things, be young at heart, take risk, and embrace life.
There were times I thought of giving up...looking for employment instead of self-employment; but, ten years later, I am still making a go of it and, for the most part, love my work every day. For that I am very thankful.
At this time in our country's history, when so many folks have been laid off their jobs (as I was twice before starting my own business), and when things feel "beyond our control" in many ways; I encourage those who are thinking about starting their own businesses to do the research, ask advice of your loved ones, and then, if it seems like a good idea, jump off into that wonderful unknown and follow your dream.
I was fortunate in that my dream didn't have any more start-up costs than the cost of a computer, which I bought on a credit card in 1998. I'll never forget, or cease being thankful for, my first client, Arshad Kahn, a Kashmir-born California investment expert. Arshad enlisted me to edit and layout two books for him, the first being Stock Investing for Everyone. Later, he sold the rights to his books to a larger publisher, Wiley. I'll never forget hearing him say, "I'll be your first client," and his check arriving soon thereafter. Thank you!
I'll never forget my previous employer, either, who had laid me off, telling me he wasn't going to "f--k me over" (gulp, this was not a phrase I ever used in a business setting, or any other for that matter). And you know what? He didn't. He sent me referrals and many clients and though some former co-workers had a long list of complaints against this man, he was fair and generous with me. And those referrals helped me build my client list.
I'll never forget a women who hired me to design her books: she was elderly and had written two books about how she was abducted by aliens and, basically, everything bad in her life had happened because of alien intervention. I didn't judge her and I did my best for her. Today, I am able to pick and choose the projects I am interested in working on; at that time, I worked on anything that came my way. I am thankful for every client I had in the beginning, when they made the difference between one trip to the grocery store a month or two. I am thankful for every client I have today.
There were a few projects I wish I had not done. A few clients who I found very difficult to work for. Even a few I choose not to work for. But in ten years and over 200 books I've designed and/or edited, those amounted to, literally, to those I could count on one hand.
Here are a few things I've learned in "doing what I love." Perhaps it will help those launching out with their own creative business:
1) People respond positively to sincere interest in their projects. If you are not interested in what their dreams are, they are going to know it, and they are not going to "bring you into" their project; i.e. pay you to help them reach their dream.
2) All business is sales. All sales involve solving someone's problem. Being a good problem solver really helps one be successful at business. And at life. Problem solving should be taught in school.
3) Stay up on the latest technology or trends in your field. Stay engaged. Don't be an "old fogey." If you have an Internet-based business, no one need know your age. That can be an advantage.
4) Happy clients tell others about you. Therefore, keep your clients happy. If you cannot for some reason keep them happy, figure out how to courteously decline working for them any longer. Be diplomatic, but be honest. If this happens repeatedly, re-evaluate your skills, your promises, and your marketing.
5) Ask those happy clients for referrals. Post those referrals online. Don't be shy about it, that's how you will get more clients. You can see what I mean at www.janicephelps.com/references.htm
6) Be willing to give some things away. People respond to a generous spirit. To optimism. To positivity. Figure out what you can give as an added benefit, and do so generously. (See the new book out by called "FREE: The Future of a Radical Price" by Chris Anderson. I am just starting to read it (downloaded it for 0 cents on Kindle), so cannot say much about it, but it is worth considering.
7) Don't work all the time. It's difficult, when you are starting a business and you love what you are doing, not to work 60 hours a week. I did when I first started out in publishing--actually from 1997 until 2001. Sept. 11, 2001. My sister, eldest son, and I were in Manhattan. We had an appointment at Publishers Weekly that afternoon. That morning, first thing that morning, we planned on being on the observation deck of the World Trade Center so that Bryce could see "the most beautiful lady in America" the Statue of Liberty. But, we'd seen the Michael Jackson concert the previous night (see my earlier postings on Bryce and Michael Jackson). We uncharacteristically (really, truly for all three of us) slept in, and when this little midwesterner returned to her Ohio home, she re-evaluated all the hours she'd spent in front of a computer screen trying to earn money while her youngest son grew up and left home. I will never get those hours back, and when I think on those first three years of establishing my business I remember a lot of work, a lot of fatigue, and all the things I wish I'd spent doing with my son; the places I wished we'd visited, the activities I wish I'd had the time and energy to do.
I'm glad I was able to work hard and earn enough to support my little family, but it cost more than it paid, if you know what I mean.
8) Engage your family in the business. Share with them the joys and challenges of running a business. (Though, perhaps, not the financial challenges. Be sensitive to the ages and temperments of your children). Pay them to help you, if possible. By investing them in this endeavor, you will build family relationships and teach them skills they will use later in life. Your resourcefulness and optimism in the face of obstacles will help them too.
9) Be an optimist, but be a realist as well. I am an optimist; and this has definitely enabled me to accomplish more than I had dreamed when I started out. But, oftentimes I have not been realistic. If you have a tendancy toward Pollyannaism, harnass the optimism and be willing to listen to the concerns of others. Develop techniques and safeguards to protect your interests and compensate for any areas where you have weaknesses.
10) Review and Plan. Time will go by pretty fast when you are running a business. Take time to document the projects you work on; to keep an up-to-date database of customers and projects. Review what worked and what didn't and establish goals for the coming year.
If you are starting a business, I wish you all the best. Working for oneself can be wonderful -- you can't get fired and you may thrive knowing your success depends on no one but yourself. You can meet wonderful people and learn to do and handle things you previously could not imagine. You can, and you will.