Work From Home Course Lesson One: Have the sK1Lz

You need something valuable to sell – be it your ability to make jewelry, your skill with words, your skill with a needle, your ability to make herbal remedies…  That’s the first step.  Thing is, friend, it’s just a first step.  That skill is a tool just as much as a hammer or a ladle.  It means nothing unless backed up by knowledge and the will to use it.  Notice that I said knowledge and will.  Being self-employed is as much of a skill set as knowing how to be a chef.  You’ll need to work on that part or you’ll be screwed.

Remember when I said in the last post that you’d need to figure out 20 things you were good at?  Okay, you did it, right?  You didn’t because you know what you want to do, anyway?

<sighs>  I’ll wait.  You’ll need to do this even if you think you know how you want to make your living from home.  ‘Cause, friends, you do not want to get stuck on one idea.  That’s how most people fail.

Here’s my own list:

  1. Writing
  2. Knitting
  3. Being funny
  4. Baking
  5. Sewing
  6. Planning
  7. Jollying people along
  8. Figuring out technical material
  9. Building systems
  10. Swimming
  11. Being snarky
  12. Learning new material
  13. Improvisation
  14. Languages (Human or computer)
  15. Reading
  16. Making complex information understandable
  17. Thinking outside of the box
  18. Getting people excited about their own goals
  19. Anthropomancy (see item #11)
  20. Finding Useful Information

Of course, I’m good at more than twenty things and so are you.  That was what came off the top of my head.  If you have to think really hard about this, you’re taking it too seriously or being too modest.  For the record, please don’t map “good” to “world class”.  If you’re world-class at something, great.  I’m not world-class at anything, and I don’t sweat it.  I’m not an Olympic athlete or a major world figure, so I don’t have to be, either.

The reason this is so important is because if your goal is to make a living without having a Real Job, you’re going to need to be flexible, and you’re going to need to know your own skills.  When I started out, I figured I’d do a lot of Virtual Assistant work, with some writing thrown in if I were Really Lucky.  I’ve had one VA client and earn over 50% of my living writing.  When I was tossed a chance to teach classes in computer applications, I gave it a try, even though I’d crashed and burned at my last try, was terrified of letting this person down and had the worst case of stage fright before that class that I’ve had before or since.   But I’ve gone on to be a popular teacher of computer applications.  Those things I’m good at (snarkiness, explaining technical material simply, being funny, inspiring people) are all things I apply to teaching.

I was not wedded to any one way of making money, nor was I insistent that I had to do it in a certain way.  I was flexible and open to whatever came along.  And let me tell you, serendipity has already led me some places I hadn’t expected to go!

How do you do this? You need to ask yourself The Question.

The Question is:

What goods, services or talents can I trade for money?

Look back at that list of things you do well.  How can they apply?   Let’s say you’re really organized and understand the efficient use of space.  Maybe applying those skills to people who need help organizing their lives would be a good thing.  But even if you chose “professional organizer”, there’s dozens of ways to go about it.  You could offer a personal service where you come into their homes and get your hands dirty in the closets with them.  You could offer an online service where they take pictures and you make recommendations, laying out the necessary steps.  You could give seminars on the principles of organization.  Notice how many different ways there are to approach that single thing.

That’s the way you need to be able to think to make your living without a job.  What might someone pay me to do or make?  What am I good at that could be valuable to someone, especially on a short-term basis?

Barbara Winters, author of Joyfully Jobless, recommends that you create three or four income streams – jobs/services/whatever that will each bring in about a week’s worth of income a month.  I do something similar, simply because I’m not comfortable with all my income coming from one place.   You don’t have to, nor should you be, wedded to making your living in any one specific way.  Certainly I’d never set out to become a computer instructor.  It’s merely serendipity that I found out I love doing it!  I’d keep up with it even if I were making a decent living off of royalties from a best-selling novel with a big movie deal.

I can’t answer The Question for you.  In fact, while I can throw out ideas, the ones you generate for yourself are the ones that will be infinitely better than anything I can give you.  You know yourself, your talents and your life situation better than I do.  If dogs frighten you, a suggestion to take in dog-boarding clients is not going to be the best way to go.

Speaking of dogs…

I highly encourage you to hunt up Robert A. Heinlein’s “-We Also Walk Dogs”.  The service mindset of the corporation described in the classic science fiction short story is exactly the mindset you need to figure out ways to generate income for yourself.

But there are skills that are universally necessary to anyone who is self employed!  Next week, we’ll talk about some that are both universal to the self-employed and either learnable or things you can outsource.

As an exercise this week, I’d like you to brainstorm ways that your talents could be turned into goods or services.  Don’t be “realistic” here.  Brainstorming isn’t useful if the editor is turned on.  Try for at least 30 ideas, no matter how goofy.

Work From Home: A Fair Warning About the Course

The next lesson won’t be until next Wednesday, but I really feel this needs to be said and soon about the course.

You probably won’t follow through on this.  Chances are good you’ll quit.  Either you’ll decide that the insecurity is too much to take, you’ll look yourself in the face and realize that you need a boss to tell you what to do and when to do it, or you’ll get discouraged and disgusted and think I was “lucky” or am blowing smoke about this.    I doubt that more than one in a couple of hundred have the requisite character traits and skills to make self-employment a genuinely viable option.

Thing is, it’s not necessarily about self-discipline.   Certainly not in my case, as I’m hardly a self-disciplined person.  It wasn’t self-discipline, it was desperation.   I had a secure job with the best boss I’ve ever had, fantastic benefits and cool people to work with.  And the idea of spending the rest of my life in an office, even in what was genuinely a great working environment, made me gag.   I was willing to crash and burn hard if only I could say that I made a real, genuine, honest effort to be my own boss.  If you’re desperate and there’s Just No Other Way to bring in money, you might very well succeed.  “Root hog, or die!” has spelled the success of more than one entrepreneur!  But, I wouldn’t risk a nickel that anyone reading this will actually do it.

This is not something you can do because you’re looking for the easy way to do something.  If you are out of a job and you’re not combing the want ads for work, pounding the pavement and knocking on doors and willing to turn your hand to anything honest, if you turn down jobs that aren’t “good enough”, skip it.  Stop reading.  This isn’t going to do you a bit of good.  You have to have a passion to work – either for the idea, or because you don’t want your kids to go hungry.  If you’re thinking, “Oh it might be nice if…”  or  “I could pick up a little money doing…” you’re not coming from the place that will really work.  You need all the focus of “I WANT” that you did when you were two.  You have to be on fire to make this work.  Though, sometimes that fire can be banked coals…

To give you an idea of what I mean, I’ll give you a little story.

My family goes to Virginia Beach every summer.  We’ve been doing it since I was a small child.  So, this was our week at the beach.  I was sitting on the balcony about sunrise, with the bright orange disc beginning to push over the edge of the water, lighting a glistening golden path between myself and the horizon.  It was a clear morning with a gentle, rhythmic surf, and weight of the damp, bone-soothing heat you get on Southern beaches in August.  I had a cup of coffee at my elbow, laptop in my lap, writing an email to a client while my family slept behind the sliding glass door.

My father came out on the balcony with his laptop and a cup of coffee[1].   He opened up the machine, looked over at me, nodded to my computer and grinned, commenting, “That’s been a lifelong dream, hasn’t it?”

Yes, it was something I’d wanted and worked for from childhood.  That’s passion.

[1] Yep, I’m second generation work  from home.  Part of my unsuitability for offices was probably a result of specific training!

Intro to Work From Home Course

A Fair Warning About the Course

How to Make a Living From Home: a free course

You see a lot of scams about how to make a fortune while working from home.  The truth is that millions of people really do make a living as their own boss while working from home.  The sad truth is also that you’ll never be able to do this by taking a $250.00 seminar meant to get you excited and fired up.

So, because I’m a generous soul, I’ll tell you how to do it, and I’m going to tell you for free.  Why?  Because scams get on my nerves.  I’m not selling anything here.  This is my personal blog.  I’m writing it mostly because cheesy sales techniques and promises of riches get on my damn nerves.  I believe in real, so real is what you’re going to get here.

I am confident that if you follow these rules faithfully for a year, you will make a living.  You might or might not get rich.  But you’ll make a moderate living.  I’m not going to promise you the world with this.  I’m not going to wave as a success story all the people who made millions working from home.  Yes, they exist.  They’re also rare.

What’s not so rare, and is quite possible, is to be able to be self-employed and make an adequate living from it.   This course will not tell you how to do taxes, get you to decide on a business form or any of that stuff.  It’s important, yes.  Crucial, in fact.   But most of the books on self-employment out there talk about it.  I’ll be listing books I think are useful.  But for this piece it would be like having a cookbook that tells you to make a grocery list.   What you need to understand are the principles behind making self-employment work before you start trying to set things up.

I know whereof I speak with this.  Almost 20 years ago, I wrote my first (and for about a decade and a half, my only) professional piece for a client.  It was a book on how to open a mailing and packaging business.  It was a fun project, not only because I was writing something, but because I was researching how to open a small business and learning a whole lot from a small business owner.  It was great!

A few years later, I started a business with three other people.  We were very focused on incorporating, setting up the tax stuff and all that.  Now, that wasn’t wrong.  But the problem was that we got so into the administrivia that we didn’t spend nearly enough time on the parts of the business that would make the tax stuff relevant.  We were nerds and found structure cool.  What can I say?  It made enough money to pay for the toys of a household of geeks and wound up being a pretty good tax shelter, which was nice. But it was never a way to support the family as we had been hoping.

We were not thinking like entrepreneurs and we were not focused on why we’d started the business in the first place.

Some years later, after having spent about six or seven years as an administrative assistant, I realized I have about as much talent for being an admin as a rock does, but that I enjoyed it less.   My living situation had changed and I was in a position to take a bit of a risk.  So I spoke to my housemate and said, “You know I don’t want to be supported by you, but if I have to face another day of being an admin, I am going to go bonkers.”

“And this is a change how?” he asked.

I shrugged.  “Okay, fair enough. But I’m not happy.  I just figured out how much money I’m committed to bringing into the household and I don’t think there’s really a chance in hell I’d fail to do so.  I wanna quit my job and make my living being a bum.”

“Okay,” he said.  “If you’re willing to take the risk, I have faith in you.”

Two years later, I’m still making a living as a bum[1].

This information isn’t really new, though.  You’re going to read a lot of it and go, “But that’s just common sense.”

If you say “Yes, but I can’t do it that way because I’ve got a Special Problem” to more than one of the major lessons of this piece and are not already making the living you want from home, you might wanna examine why this might be the case.

If you’re already making a living from home and making enough to suit yourself what the hell are you wasting your time on this for?  Go back to your success and enjoy it, dewd.  I’m not trying to preach to the choir here!  Congratulations on making it work in your own way.

The next lesson is going to be, “Have the sK1lZ.”

As a prep exercise, think of 20 things you’re good at.  Not just the big exciting stuff.  Write down the little, dumb stuff, too.

The next lesson will be next Wednesday!

[1] My children scold me when I call myself a bum.   “Mama, you work,” they protest.  Kids…

Yet More Reasons Never to Get Television

Sci Fi Channel Aims to Shed Geeky Image With New Name

‘Syfy’ Will Announce Name Change, Other Plans at Upfront

I would say that television executives are stupid, but ya know… They’re not.  Thing is, they tend to be very, very good at generating money in an incredibly competitive business.  We call them stupid because we say we want quality entertainment.  But when we don’t get it, we’re still often in front of that damned box, watching the ads and thinking we’re immune from buying the products.  I’m not going to give myself airs here. There is television I’ve followed, even though I tend to watch TV through Netflix DVDs these days.  I did get sucked into the new Doctor Who pretty quick and really enjoyed Firefly.  I’ve seen every episode of the Sopranos up to Season Six and every season of the X-Files through Season Three.  I followed Dark Angel and South Park pretty religiously when I had broadcast TV.   When we had TV as long as the History channel wasn’t running Yet Another WWII Documentary, chances were good I’d be watching it.  I think the only thing I ever watched on the SciFi channel was Andromeda.  That was on the SciFi channel, wasn’t it? Except for Andromeda, which I really did watch to oggle Keith Hamilton Cobb as Tyr, the rest of the shows had good writing in common (Well, Season II of Dark Angel was pretty bad).  I don’t think network executives take good writing into account for their market research.   Why should they?  The public hardly demands it!

But the point is, even I, who am not a huge fan of television in general, do watch shows produced for TV — albeit a few years late.  So, yeah, I’m  a consumer, too, even if I’m to cheap to pay for cable.   The point is, none of us have stopped consuming and our consumption patterns are such that the network executives might be making a smart call for the population at large — never mind we minority who eyeroll the change and don’t find the geek image a negative.  Many of us will still consume the product.

However, they did miss a rather salient point about science fiction when trying to remove themselves from the “geek” image.  Liking SF is almost the defining characteristic of a geek!

Thanks to patgundpatgund for pointing this article out.

Mini Laptops

I was checking out the mini laptops when a friend of mine from online was reporting on her new one with squeeing positivity.

Now, I have a laptop.  It’s my only computer.  I don’t use a desktop at all, and don’t really need one.   But the idea of a lighter, more portable laptop sounds good to me and I’ve been thinking about a mini laptop for my next computer.

There are those who would say, “What about computing power?”

What about it?  There are mini laptops that have as much as my present laptop does.  That’s not my complaint about the laptop I have.  I use a low-end Inpiron.  Lousy battery power and a propensity for overheating so bad I have to use a notebook cooler if I use the machine for any length of time.  Also, I figured that 40GB would be PLENTY of disc space.  (Not for my music collection, it’s not!)   There are mini laptops with much larger hard drives than mine.

I don’t play interactive online games.  The most complex tasks I do on a laptop mostly involve text.  I could almost do my job on a smartphone,  though would hate to have to.  The smartphone versions of Office do have irritating limitations.  I do sometimes watch movies on my laptop and have a pretty decent collection of Doctor Who on my external hard drive.

What I actually use a computer for is to write, bid on jobs and do research.    I also travel as much as I can manage.  Something I can slip into a purse, feel comfortable opening on an airplane that has lots of battery power and won’t overheat sounds like bliss to me!  Firefox with a lot of tabs open is a far worse resource drain than any actual program I run to do Real Work.   I was looking at the Asus EEE 1000HD recently. (And by the way, Mom, if you’re reading this, you might wanna check it out. The screen and keyboard are small, but this has about the same power as my machine, is a lot cheaper!)

I’m not buying one right away, mind.  For all its limitations my present laptop is plenty useful for what I do and there’s no need to blow money away on a Nifty Gadget.  But when I need to replace this one?  Yep, I might consider going small.