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When Your Business Feels Like an Arranged Marriage
Q. I was laid off six months ago. Jobs in my field are scarce so I moved to a new town to start a home business. People have paid me for everything from website maintenance to pet sitting.
But the money seems to be small and slow. And frankly, I really want a corporate job with benefits.
A. Welcome! You're what I call a reluctant entrepreneur. Often we start a business, write a book or develop a talent out of a deep and boiling passion. But sometimes we begin reluctantly, out of necessity. Sometimes the odds of finding a job are considerably less than the odds of succeeding in self-employment.
Still, we feel like we're trapped in an arranged marriage - not a romance.
The good news: Arranged marriages can become success stories! Working towards one goal, however reluctantly, will eventually lead to success and fulfillment - which may come from a totally different direction.
1. Listen to messages from your environment ("the universe," if you prefer).
You're getting business right away, while your job-hunting efforts are going nowhere. When clients are willing to pay you real money - regardless of the amount - you're getting a message, "You have a market for your services." And when you attract clients effortlessly, you're getting a strong "yes" message from your environment.
So should you stop job-hunting? If you really want to return to corporate life, keep looking. Don't be surprised if you lose interest in a "real" job as time goes on.
And, most of all, pay attention to what is happening.
2. Evaluate your most lucrative options.
Can you command a high price for your services?
Some services have a ceiling and people won't pay more, no matter how great you are. If the ceiling is ten or fifteen dollars an hour, you'll need to review your strategy.
Can you tap into a market with deeper pockets? Or package your services to avoid the dribs-and-drabs syndrome? Even a simple pet-sitting service can come up with creative strategies. Consultants, designers, coaches and professional services: package for profit.
3. Expect to invest time before you get results.
One newcomer to my town complained, "I'm not seeing any money. Maybe I should just take a low-paying job."
I asked her how many hours a week she would work in the low-paying job. Thirty to forty, she said.
And then I asked, "How many hours are you investing in your new business?"
"And how long have you been building your business?"
"A few months. Okay, maybe a few weeks.
"Put in thirty to forty hours a week, for six months, and you'll be amazed at what happens."
4. Get a second opinion.
If you're working hard but seeing no results, add a new brain to your team: a consultant, coach or mentor.
Choose wisely! Bad guidance will feel like driving ninety miles an hour going against traffic on a busy Interstate Highway. Based on my own experience, I've put together a collection consultants who really help - not just tell you to "dream and you can do it" or "clear clutter."
Tip: Best question to ask: "What have you learned lately? What are you doing differently now, compared to six months or a year ago?
5. Be ready for surprises.
As you work, you'll encounter new ideas and new people. You'll actually become creative and confident.
Accept any assignments and clients that match your skills, talents, experience and personality. If you're not sure, offer to do the work "on spec," which means you'll get paid if and only if your client is satisfied.
Don't be surprised if you find your niche by accident. Most people do.
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., helps midlife professionals create small, medium and huge career changes, start a business or start over. Fr^e Report: Ten secrets of managing a major life change.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 505-534-4294
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