Thursday, September 18, 2014

Starting My Business: 10 Things I Would Go Back and Do Differently

photo credit: Express Monorail via photopin cc
My previous workplace has been on my mind lately. The memories are still as clear as if it were just yesterday: sitting at my desk in my old office, in tears from the latest out-of-the-blue tongue-lashing, fighting Monday morning nausea, tearing my hair out in frustration because a time-sensitive email sat in my boss's inbox for a week -- again! -- and we lost another client as a result.

I was unhappy, yes. It was an abusive situation, yes. I had to get out of there, yes.

But there are still things I could have done to make my transition easier.

Ah, if I only had it to do over again...

1. I would have paid attention to the writing on the wall earlier on.
I was just coming off of four years of unemployment and was grooving on having a steady income again. But even six months into my new job, I had an uneasy sense that something nasty was coming down the pipeline. It was then-- three years before I actually quit -- that I should have started planning my exit strategy.

2. I would have started laying the groundwork for my transition earlier.
Knowing what I do now about the local job market -- basically, that there isn't one -- I would have started thinking about starting my own business much, much earlier.

3. I would have done way more market research.
I would have asked more questions. I would have mentioned to people, "Hey, I'm thinking of starting a dog walking business -- what do you think? Would that fly here in town?" Or, "Hey, I'm thinking of going into blogging and social media consulting -- what do you think about that?"

4. I would have started my business in a field that I really loved (blogging, social media, and online marketing. Here's my business website: symblemeservicesonline.blogspot.com).
I came across a quote recently that says, "If  your answer isn't 'Hell yes!', it should be 'Hell no!' I knew too much about the pet care industry from being a veterinary assistant and shelter worker, and I went into the field with reservations. I realize now that part of the reason that my dog walking business didn't take off was that my heart wasn't in it 110%. Without gung-ho energy behind it, even in a great market, a business's performance will only be mediocre at best.

5. While I was still being paid, I would have scaled spending back to the absolute bare minimum and paid it forward. 
I was pretty much there anyway, but there are still some things I could have gone without. For me, setting aside money in savings doesn't work very well, because the money is too easy to get to and spend. So I would have moved in with my fiancé sooner and used the money I saved from that second apartment to pay forward on rent. I would have foregone buying the bagpipes and the extra clothes and taken some classes and gotten certified in my new field. I would have invested in things I could sell later when money got tight.

6. I would have looked for and found a mentor sooner.
As a lifelong employee, from a family of lifelong employees. I had no idea how to run a business. I was totally a deer in headlights. I could have gotten some help with figuring things out that whole time.

7. I would have started networking sooner.
This is tough for me as a raving introvert; I love being a hermit. But while I was still out in the "real world", I would have started asking people about social media, or what they thought about dog walking. I would have floated more crazy ideas past everybody: clients, friends, businesspeople even family. Heck, my stepmother is getting an MBA--talk about missing out on a great resource!

8. I would have spent way more time and energy daydreaming about, studying, and researching my new business.
I would have read everything I could get my hands on. I would have built my website sooner, and started building my email list sooner. I would have tried harder to keep myself in that juicy, creative, positive place and get some really great spin about where I wanted to go, instead of wasting time and energy on my incompetent boss.

9. I would have spent more time "whatiffing" and "howtoing".
I would have tried my best to prepare for the unexpected. I would have asked myself, "What will I do if/when I run out of money? What is my bailout plan?" I know it's impossible to anticipate everything, but I could have done better.

10. I wouldn't have held onto my job nearly as long as I did.
Three years of my life, gone. It's okay; it was what it was. But I could have chosen happiness sooner.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes

photo credit: °]° via photopin cc 
I love this. And I've used every lameass excuse Leo Babauta mentions.

My quintessential favorite, however, is #2: "He/she can do it, but that doesn’t apply to me."

What's YOUR favorite?

~ Catharine

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By Leo Babauta

The mind is a wonderful thing. It’s also a complete liar that constantly tries to convince us not to take actions we know are good for us, and stops many great changes in our lives.

Scumbag mind.

I’ve had to learn to watch these rationalizations and excuses very carefully, in order to make the changes I’ve made in my life: a healthier diet, regular exercise, meditation, minimalism, writing daily, getting out of debt, quitting smoking, and so on.

If I hadn’t learned these excuses, and how to counter them, I would never have stuck to these changes. In fact, I failed many times before 2005 (when I started changing my life), because these excuses had complete power over me.

Let’s expose the cowardly mind’s excuses and rationalizations once and for all.

First, the main principle: the mind wants comfort, and is afraid of discomfort and change. The mind is used to its comfort cocoon, and anytime we try to push beyond that comfort zone very far or for very long, the mind tries desperately to get back into the cocoon. At any cost, including our long-term health and happiness.

OK, with that in mind, let’s go into the excuses:

1. I can’t do it. It seems too hard, so we think we can’t stick to the change. We don’t believe in ourselves. This can be countered from the fact that many other people no more capable than us have done it. For example, Oprah ran a marathon a little before I started training for my first marathon, and so I told myself, “If Oprah can do it, so can I!” I was right.

Read the rest of the article here:

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Emotional Cycle of Change

Graphic from connerpartners.com
This is a terrific article from The Simple Dollar, inspired by Don Kelley and Darryl Connor that was a godsend at this stage in my employee-to-entrepreneur journey. 

Experientially I know about this emotional cycle from my own recovery from alcoholism, but I didn't know that a smart apple had actually mapped it out. I'm definitely in the middle of the "Informed Pessimism" stage right now with regards to my businesses, pretty darn close to those bailout arrows. But I know from my journey with alcohol, and now I also know from this map, that if I can just...hang...in...there...

So, thanks to Don and Darryl for creating this map, and to Trent Hamm for spreading the word about it! I hope you find it as helpful and encouraging as I did.

~ Catharine

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By Trent

As many of you know, I had a bit of a financial epiphany in April 2006. I came home from work one day, picked up the mail, and sat down to pay our bills, only to realize that we didn’t have enough in our checking account to pay all of those bills. Because neither of us would get paid for at least a week, at least a few of those bills were going to be late, and it was going to be a tricky balancing act to get out of it.


That very night, I resolved to make some changes. I grabbed a bunch of personal finance books from the library – two of them, Your Money or Your Life and The Total Money Makeover, had particular impact – and started taking a lot of difficult financial actions.


I was caught up in a wave of optimism with regards to positively changing my life.

Yet, by late summer, I started to become rather pessimistic about things. All along, I had this sense that if I made all of these changes, I would somehow change – but that wasn’t really true.


I began to doubt that things could really change after all.


Psychologists Don Kelley and Daryl Conner actually mapped this phenomenon out very well in a sequence that they call “The Emotional Cycle of Change.” In it, they identify five distinct phases that people go through as they implement major changes in their life:

Stage 1: Uninformed optimism.
Stage 2: Informed pessimism.
Stage 3: Hopeful realism.
Stage 4: Informed optimism.

Stage 5: Completion.

Read the complete article here:


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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Google Hangouts, John Jurkiewicz, and My Launch to Fame and Fortune!

John Jurkeiwicz -- the man who will propel me to fame
and fortune. Well, hopefully just fortune. ;-)
I went to my very first Google Plus Hangout the other day.

(By the way, if you're not on Google Plus, you're missing out, big time. 95-99% of your Facebook Page fans never even see your posts after they like your page. Unless, of course, you pay for advertising. Lame. Google Plus is where all the cool business people hang out.)

Okay, as I was saying, I went to my very first Google Plus Hangout the other day. After I got over the whole video thing, it was actually really fun! There were only three other people there: James Fierce, Manolis Sfinarolakis the Google Plus crowdfunding god, and John Jurkiewicz



(I was actually the only one with hair, which was kind of amusing. :-)

Anyway, we went around the room and introduced ourselves, and when it came my turn, I mentioned that I lived in a "rural ghetto". 

Well, that caught John Jurkiewicz's attention, and we immediately hit it off. Turns out, he also lives in rural America, AND he's a "career development coach and consultant who works with both individuals and companies to help them reach their overall goals through their careers." 

Not only did he offer me a spot on his weekly Google Hangout on Air on the Career Corner community for next Wednesday, September 3rd at 7 PM, but he has held my hand through getting used to the Hangouts, offered me great tips on how the heck to make some money from my cramped writing fingers and all of these crazy ideas bouncing around in my head, suggested how to fan some life into my dog walking/pet sitting business, and brought some totally awesome Plussers to my attention, especially Meilani MacDonald, Mia Voss, and the Google Plus Community User2User -- great for us G+ noobs!

And he made me laugh my ass off the whole time. 

Let me just say that John has been EXACTLY what I needed in my current stage as a solopreneur, and, unlike the money-or-food-type of help I tend to get from other people (not that I mind free money or food), his has been truly MEANINGFUL help. The kind of help that isn't just here and gone, but stays with you for the rest of your life. 

So quit sitting here wasting time reading my blog (wait, did I actually say that?), and go check him out! He's at: 

Blogs:

Website:

Social Media:
  Twitter

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

7 Tips for Smoothing Your Transition from Wage Slave to Self-Employed God/Goddess

Not everyone is willing, as I was, to just chuck it all, throw caution to the winds, and leap. Perhaps you have a family to take care of, are locked into your current job by a bunch of debts and bills, or you give a crap about health insurance. In short, maybe you're more {{responsible}} than I am (Ew, shudder!)

When I leapt, I had the good fortune of being (a) healthy as a horse, except for a severe allergy to doctors, (b) debt-free (c) child-free, and (d) drug-free, including prescriptions, alcohol and tobacco.

While I believe that there is always a way to work it out if you think far enough outside the box and aren't afraid of taking risks, for folks who aren't quite as adventurous (crazy?) as me, here are 7 tips for making the leap from Alexis Grant, one of my new online business heroines. I must say, they're GREAT tips. If I had it to do over again, I probably would try to save myself some grief by actually heeding her advice.

By the way, Lexi's article mentions beefing up your online presence, and it just so happens that I wrote a series about this very topic on my other blog, Symblème Services Online. Of course I must promote my own work, right? ;-)

Enjoy!

~ Catharine

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By Alexis Grant 

This afternoon I had coffee with a guy who wants to leave his day job to work freelance.

He asked all the right questions — how to know when it’s time to make the leap, what he should do to prepare, whether it’s the right decision. And while I have my answers right here in my head, I figured I’d get them on paper the blog to share with you.

While I no longer consider myself a freelancer — this post explains why — I did start out that way, and the hustle is still a big part of my business. Whether you want to make a living as a freelance writer or start a custom carpentry business, it makes sense to set yourself up for success while you still have the security of your day job (if you can).

With that in mind, here are the most important pieces of advice I shared today:

1. Figure out the financial stuff

This is one of the biggest factors that keeps go-getters from taking advantage of the new world of work, and rightly so. (It’s so big that I’m working on an ebook on the topic!)

But while it feels like a huge, daunting obstacle, the truth is that you can break it down into manageable bits. Figure out just how much you spend each month, so you know how much money you need to make to avoid dipping into your savings or going into debt. You can always earn more later — and you will — but this is your baseline.

Then make a plan for how you’ll bring in enough work to hit that baseline revenue, and start doing it. These two posts offer more advice about the financial side of working for yourself.

2. Land a core client

Do this while you’re still in your day job, because this is the client that will help you make a change that will actually last.

A core client — that’s my own term, so if you haven’t heard it before, don’t feel like you’re behind on freelancing lingo — is someone who pays you a retainer month after month, a paycheck you can depend on. Once you have a core client under your belt, you can cobble together the rest of your income. Even a small bit of stable revenue makes that possible.


Read the full article here:

photo credit: jonycunha via photopin cc

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Real Payoff in Making the Jump

photo credit: abhiomkar via photopin cc

Just jump!

What I hope to do with this little blog is to document my own journey, and in the process educate and encourage those who are thinking of taking on the same challenges.

I'm probably starting my online marketing business under some of the most difficult circumstances possible: in a rural ghetto, during an economic depression, with no income except what comes in from a languishing dog walking and pet sitting business that might make $500 in a good month, plus a tiny trickle from my husband's startup coffee shop.

Have we had to make some sacrifices? You bet. Lots of them. And there were probably better/easier ways to plan for this transition. But if we can survive and pull this off, anybody can.

The big payoff for me has been twofold:

1. I now know that nobody else has the power to ruin my life or the life of my family by laying me off, cutting my hours, or outsourcing my job, and

2. I know I can survive some pretty extreme life situations -- like near starvation -- and those situations will never, ever scare me again.

My message to those who are thinking about jumping off of the wage slave treadmill and starting a business is: don't wait. No matter what the circumstances, it can be done. Some paths are easier than others, sure, but don't let difficulty or lack of knowledge or a bunch of bills and other "responsibilities" stop you.

Jump. The universe didn't let you survive all of those stupid stunts you pulled as a kid, only to let you starve to death in your 40's.

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9 Ways Your Employee Mindset Is Keeping You From Succeeding

Image credit: Donnie Nunley/Flickr
The most difficult thing I faced as an employee-turned-self-employed-entrepreneur-small-businessperson-freelancer -- or whatever the heck I am -- was changing my employee mindset. I wasted the first year of my new career being a "deer in the headlights". I kid you not, it took me a year just to learn to think like an entrepreneur! And I'm not exactly a master of the mindset yet, not by a long shot.

Maite Baron does a great job of summing up some of the biggest mental shifts one has to tackle ... and they are very difficult to put into words.

I would add to this list:

10.  You forfeit your right to blame anyone else for your situation. 

This is restating the obvious a little, because nobody else ever has the power to ruin your life, anyway...but there's nothing that brings this home like becoming your own boss.

11. You don't get to just focus on yourself any more.
If you're not constantly thinking about what your customers want and need, you're going to lose them. Period.

Do you have what it takes? Or, more importantly, can you learn it?

Read on...

~ Catharine Symblème

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By Maite Baron

Mindset is probably the major determinant of success in pretty much every walk of life. In other words, the thinking patterns you habitually adopt largely govern the results you achieve.

But different circumstances and situations require different mindsets, something that anyone looking to leave paid employment and strike out on their own, must be aware of. Unfortunately, not all would-be entrepreneurs understand the dramatic mindset shifts required, without which business success is unlikely.

So how, as a one-time employee, will you have to think differently to succeed?

1. You’re responsible for all decisions - good and bad. Entrepreneurs have an incredible opportunity to create something from nothing, in a way that’s not possible working for someone else. But this means making big decisions about what must be done, when and how. You can’t wait for things to happen, or for someone to tell you what to do, you must make them happen. Successful entrepreneurs also understand that opportunities may be short-lived, and so develop a sense of urgency that helps them achieve their goals.

2. You need to hold both short and long-term visions simultaneously. Work for others and you are mainly responsible for ensuring that what needs to be done now, is done. As an entrepreneur, you have to project your mind forward, thinking about the potential pitfalls and opportunities that lie around the corner, and making decisions based on uncertainty. This requires you to come to terms with the fact that what you do, or don't do, today, will have an impact on your business three months, even five years down the line.

Read the rest of the article here.

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