Cathy Stucker, the Idea Lady, has helped thousands of people discover creative paths to success on their own terms. She is a frequent speaker and seminar leader on business topics and has appeared on many radio and television programs. Cathy has also been featured in The Houston Chronicle, The Houston Business Journal, Black Enterprise, Woman’s Day, Woman’s World. Visit her site for great success resources at www.IdeaLady.com.
Do you look forward to going to work every day? Do you enjoy your work so much that you can’t imagine doing anything else? If so, don’t read any further. But if you’ve noticed that Monday through Friday the clocks seem to run slower than they do on the weekends, read on to learn how you can get paid to do work you love.
It is generally believed that you have only two choices when it comes to earning your living: you can be an employee of someone else, or you can start a business and have others working for you. As an employee, you have to perform up to the expectations of others — your bosses. That means working the hours they set, and doing the work they give you, in the way they tell you to do it. In exchange, you get the security of a regular paycheck. Of course, we’ve all seen in the last few years that there is nothing secure about anyone’s paycheck. Entrepreneurs work on their terms, but that doesn’t mean they have it easy. Launching a business requires a commitment of time and money, and may take all of both that the entrepreneur can scrape together. Often, the entrepreneur has not gone from slave to master, but has merely traded one master (the boss) for another (the business).
There is an alternative–Solo-preneuring. The Solo- preneur chooses the work he wants to do. She decides what hours she will work. He is not faced with the pressures of making a payroll, nor does he have to go, day after day, to the same old job. Most importantly, the Solo-preneur controls her own destiny. No other person decides her fate. Solo-preneuring is getting paid for doing what you love. It is taking control of your work and your life. Solo-preneuring is a form of self-employment, but it is much more. It enables you to integrate your work and your life so that you feel good about what you do for a living.
The Solo-preneur has the best of both worlds– freedom from corporate bondage, without taking on the shackles of responsibility required to run a traditional business. Imagine waking up in the morning excited and happy. And doing work that is so in tune with your talents and interests that it hardly seems like work to you. That’s what Solo-preneurs do.
The Solo-preneur finds ways to make money doing the things he enjoys, while minimizing or eliminating the tasks he doesn’t want to do. As a Solo-preneur, you may choose to do only one type of work. Or, you may combine two or more related functions (e.g., a desktop publishing business and a mailing service). You may even combine two or more completely unrelated pursuits.
My own experience is a great example. I enjoy teaching and speaking, so I conduct seminars and deliver speeches through my own company, and as a contractor for other companies. Writing is another favorite activity, so I write books and magazine articles. Most of my traditional business experience is in insurance, and I am a licensed agent. Instead of selling insurance, though, I do contract enrolling. It allows me to use my insurance background as well as my public speaking skills, and I can accept work when I want it.
It’s important to remember that there aren’t a lot of rules about Solo-preneuring. The key is flexibility. Your enterprise can be as big or as small as you wish. You may start out small and grow to a large enterprise employing many others, or you may keep it small enough that you remain the only “employee”. You can pursue it full-time or part-time, or even in your spare time for extra income while you work at a traditional job.
The secret to success is starting small (without a lot of up front expense) and adding new profit centers to build your income. In every other area of your life it seems that people will advise you not to “put all of your eggs in one basket”. No financial advisor would recommend putting all of your savings in only one investment. But when it comes to the key to providing financial security for you and your family, everyone from friends to a guidance counselor to your mom will tell you to go find a good job and stay with it. If that’s not putting all your eggs in one basket, then what is? We’ve all learned that the days of getting a job right out of school, staying there for 40 years, then collecting a gold watch at retirement are over. The work force is changing rapidly. And many people have found themselves pushed out of a company just when they need the job most.
The answer does not lie in the advice given to entrepreneurs, either. The entrepreneur is told to take all his time and money and put it into one concern. Think of nothing else, work on nothing else, and focus completely on making that one venture a success. The reality is that, even with that dedication, many entrepreneurial companies do not succeed. So the entrepreneur is left with nothing after working night and day.
And whether you are an employee, an entrepreneur or a Solo-preneur, you will find that business cycles impact you. Various types of businesses are impacted differently by these business cycles. If you operate more than one venture, each will react differently to change. One may slow down while another picks up. In this way you are not going to lose all of your income because of changes in the economy.
Don’t tie your success to one job, one customer, or even one line of work. Be flexible and follow your wishes and dreams. Start one venture, get it rolling, then start another. The time and energy to manage multiple ventures will be there for you, because the work itself will energize you. Do you remember The Ed Sullivan Show? Ed often had performers who balanced spinning plates atop high sticks. These performers could keep ten or more plates spinning at a time by following a couple of simple principles: Start them one and a time, and tend each one as necessary. Think of Solo- preneuring that way. Start small, then build on your successes. Keep the whole thing in motion by tending whatever requires your attention today.
If your goal is to make $30,000, you may think that there is nothing you can do that would generate $30,000. That’s probably not true, but instead of looking for one thing you can do to earn $30,000, why not look for three ways to make $10,000? These enterprises may be related or not, you may do all of them part-time throughout the year, or you may do each one for only a short time each year. Whether you want to make $30,000 a year or $300,000 a year, the principles are the same.
Virtually anyone can be a Solo-preneur. The key to your success is having an interest in something and a way to make money with it. Most of us can easily identify our interests, so the next step is to determine how to make money with them. Once you start, the problem will not be coming up with ideas to generate income, it will be finding the time to put them all into action!
What Can You Do?
You have skills and abilities that others do not. We often undervalue the things we know and what we can do, thinking, “If I can do it, anyone can.” Well, “anyone” can’t. Maybe you are an excellent cook, or a Civil War buff, or you know all about computers. Whatever your knowledge or skills, they are of value to others. All you have to do is figure out how to package and market them. Ask yourself: What do I know that others don’t? What can I do that others can’t? What will I do that others won’t? What can I do for others less expensively than they can do it for themselves? Be open-minded and creative. You may not immediately see how to turn your interest into a profit center, but try looking at it from a different perspective. If you know how to make the world’s best cheesecakes, one option would be to bake and sell your cheesecakes. But how else could you use that skill to generate income? You could write and self-publish a cookbook of cheesecake recipes. Or you could teach a class on making the perfect cheesecake. There are probably many other ways that you could think of once you open your mind to the possibilities.
Get Started Now!
The best time to start is always now. Stop saying that “someday” you will take charge of your life and do what you have always wanted to do. Get out your calendar and look at every page. Do you see anything labeled “someday”? I didn’t think so. “Someday” is a code word for “never.” Don’t wait for the kids to go to school, or finish school, or move out. Don’t wait for the day when you have more money, or more time, or more whatever. And don’t think that you are too young or too old, not smart enough, or creative enough, or somehow not good enough to do this. There will always be more to learn and do, so don’t think that everything has to be perfect when you start.
How can you get started? An ancient Chinese proverb says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Take that single step today. It might be as simple as making a phone call to get more information about something that interests you, or you might sign up for a class, register a business name, create a flyer to promote your services, etc. Just pick a step, do it, then go on to the next step.