Post-corporate reflections…

It’s a balmy Sunday morning with a light breeze and butterflies circling above sleeping cats on the back deck. Inside our house in this quiet clearing in the woods, Gretchen is drawing a new still life and I am surfing the Internet in search of help with a software program for generating estimates.

Life is better then we could have imagined back in 2001 when I was separating from the corporate mothership. I had few prospects for continuing employment since I was 66 years old at the time and I was tired of the highly structured and politically correct life required in a large corporation.

We felt it was time that we reset our goals to adapt to a more human-sized lifestyle. We hoped to develop business opportunities that would provide us with income to live on and would allow us to integrate work and living into a unified whole.

In the ensuing six years, I have written two books and published one of them and written a thousand online articles about everything under the sun. We have consulted for a number of small businesses. I started a custom woodworking business and found that I could produce satisfying results by exhibiting at Farmer’s Markets. I found the release and gratification in blogging that I had been seeking from writing books.

In the process, I rediscovered the importance of Rule #1 in starting your own business.

Lower your cost of living to the point where you can pay for rent and food doing odd consulting jobs or nothing at all for the foreseeable future.

We found that moving to the country and living modestly opened the door to many more opportunities for self-employment and non-income producing volunteer activity.

There are a lot of ways to launch a business now that would not have been possible just a few years ago. Today we have Internet access to forums and free information that help new entrepreneurs find expert advice to guide them through the tribulations of starting almost any new business or craft endeavor. Starting a home-based business is not rocket science, but is can be a challenge for those currently employed:

We all may have the capability to produce goods and services that others will pay for, but not everyone is comfortable dealing with the realities of finding prospective customers who want what we can provide.

That is why so many successful small business startups began by producing a product or service that everyone wanted but could not find. A woman in our old neighborhood started making candy in her kitchen and soon had to install a commercial kitchen in her basement to handle orders.

Right now, there are many of you who know of business opportunities in your own area that could generate stable income if managed properly. Some of these require so little start-up money that you could finance the business on your credit card. Whether it is custom carpentry, pool cleaning, pet sitting, organizing services for homes and offices, or tutoring struggling students, there is a need and someone will provide that particular service when enough customers are identified.

The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to settle on just one business opportunity. As a self-employed business person, you have the flexibility to change business models as new opportunities emerge and old ones dry up.

For example some of our local musicians have found that there is a growing demand for music lessons which provide a healthy supplement to playing for tips at local venues and CD sales. These musicians are often contractors by day and performers on nights and weekends. They know the value of multiple sources of income and you should too.

Keep your eye open for people who need what you can provide and you will have more business than you might imagine. You may find yourself working seven days a week, but that is what most entrepreneurs do anyway. Just make sure that you are doing what really motivates you and the time will fly.

The major barriers to your success will be fear of moving out of your comfort zone and being stuck in the past glory of your role as a big cheese in some organization. Past glory does not pay the bills, nor does it make for an attractive lifestyle.

More and more people are joining the self-employment movement, some by choice and others through corporate attrition. You can create a life for yourself and there are a growing number of resources like a different kind of biz and Startup Nation which can give you some straight scoop on starting a home based business.

Meanwhile, I have to get back to work. I have estimates to complete so I can order materials Monday morning.

Gretchen has already left to open the Under the Sun Gallery for the Sunday afternoon Live Drawing session. (Today’s models are two local belly dancers. Check Gretchen’s website  later for the results.)

Wishing you all well. Enjoy the day…

UPDATE: Here is Gretchen’s pastel drawing of the belly dancers. I rather like the finished product.

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