Beyond the Internet

Whether  it’s a dream job, or a practical seasonal one that allows the time off you are seeking, it’s vital to research it. Here are five things you can do beyond just keywords and the internet.

One – The Yellow Pages

Despite the advent of the internet for advertising and information, the Yellow Pages are still an absolute must for many local businesses. Those ads aren’t cheap, and you’ll notice some businesses buy them year after year. I’ve had small business owners tell me NOT buying the ad one year cut their walk-in business in half. That said, the yellow pages can be a great resource. Most of them have a cross-reference index, so if you are interested in counseling, you can look at the index to see the various sections a “counselor” might be listed. Want to work with animals? Check out the cross-reference by type of animals – there’s a lot beyond grooming and vets. The purpose is two-fold. You’ll find out what businesses already exist in your town. And, you might get ideas for your area of interest by looking at other areas.

Two – The Magazine Rack at a Big Book Store

Have you ever really examined the magazine racks at one of the big box bookstores? It’s amazing how many different specialty and trade magazines exist. With advertising still in tough times, many of the weaker ones are folding. So, if a magazine is still being published, they’ve got enough advertisers to keep it open. See what kind of magazines might exist in your area of interest. Take it section by section and take your time. If the magazine rack is just too big and overwhelming, you can review the Writer’s Market publications, which list most titles and their content.

Three – Local Clubs and Associations

It varies by community, but the Library or the Chamber of Commerce usually maintain a list of active clubs, organizations, and associations with contact people, focus, etc. Look over the list and see if there is a group in any way related to your passion or area of interest. Consider joining, or contact the organizer to learn more about it.

Four – Community College Non-Credit Continuing Education

If you have a local college, see if they offer non-credit continuing education courses. These are classes for anything from digital photography, to Italian cooking, to yoga. They usually meet for one long day, or several times over a few weeks and are strictly for people to learn about something that interests them. See if there are any classes about your area of interest. If not, why not approach the school about teaching one next semester?   This can be a great place to pick up that skill you need for a temporary or seasonal position.

Five – Never Miss a Bulletin Board

As you are going about your day, make it a point to notice bulletin boards. They’re everywhere! Coffee shops, restaurants, grocery stores, community centers, libraries, club houses, and even gyms. These days many businesses have a bulletin board where customers or members can post business cards, flyers, or other requests. Check out your local ones and see what’s happening.

The point of all of these is to get you out in your local community talking about your interest and finding out if there are other people interested in it, doing it, or seeking it. The more you know, the more prepared you’ll be.

Question Ideas for Informational Interviews

When you arrive at your interview, or via electronics, be sure to thank them for their time and get their complete contact information. That way, if you get rushed at the end for any reason, you still have their information for future contact and to send a “thank you” note. Have your pen and paper ready, with your questions written down. Be sure to ask the following:

One – How did you get into this field? (Variation – What made you want to get into this field?)

By asking a question about the person you are interviewing and their interests, you are giving them a chance to speak about themselves. Also, it gives you the opportunity to identify common interests and find new ones.

Two – What do you like most about what you do?

Answers may surprise you. People choose to do things for a variety of reasons.

Three – What is missing in serving your field? (Variation – What kind of support do you need you can’t find?)

The purpose of this question is to think outside the box of the specific job or business the person is in. While you may love the idea of that exact position, you might be able to develop something that serves it well. Keeps you in a field you love, but in another function. Also may give you business ideas.

Four – What’s the biggest misconception about what you do?

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but you may suffer those same misconceptions. It’s an excellent way to get the real scoop.

Five – How do you get/find/keep customers or clients, and how much time do you spend on it?

This probably isn’t relevant for you unless you are planning a solopreneur operation.  One huge challenge for many entrepreneurs is dealing with the marketing and selling aspects of their chosen business. There’s nothing more frustrating than wanting to be a holistic massage therapist and having to spend more than half your time looking for clients. Get a feel for how it works for this person. You may find you would prefer to work for someone else and do the one thing you love for pay, than to start your own business and have to spend little time doing what you actually love and too much time finding customers.

Six – How do you get paid? And would you be willing to share a ballpark annual income? Benefits?

Again, depends if they are an employee or entrepreneur, but actually collecting payments may factor into what they do as well. Plus, it’s vital to know how much someone realistically makes if this is what you want to do. Also, follow this one up with how long it took them to make what they are making now.

Seven – What advice would you most want to give someone who is interested in this job, field, or industry? (Variation – What do you wish you’d known before you started?)

If they’ve been doing it any length of time, chances are they have a list of things they wish someone had told them up front. These insights are worth their weight in gold to someone like you analyzing and studying it.

Be sure to take notes, or ask them if you can record it if you’re a lousy note taker. You may think you’ll remember it all, but chances are you won’t. Stay on time and be sure to send that “thank you” note afterwards.

Try Informational Interviewing

You might remember the expression “informational interviewing.”  It was popularized decades ago in Richard N Bolles book “What Color is Your Parachute?”  A process that doesn’t get much press anymore, this technique can be REALLY helpful in identifying jobs or industries that you might love (or hate!), or how you might get your foot in the door if you lack relevant experience.

Informational Interviewing is not job-interviewing. It’s a process for you to learn about an industry or a specific job title, or a way for you to identify unmet needs and opportunities in fields that you love. Here’s how to get the most out of an informational interview.

One – Find the People to Interview

I realize that seems obvious. But how? First, decide what or who, by job type, you want to speak to. So, for example, you are interested in medicine and you want to speak to a nurse. Contact everyone you know who is a nurse, and contact the rest of your friends and ask them if they know any nurses. Explain that you are interested in finding out more about this as a profession, and that you are asking for fifteen to twenty minutes of their time to answer some questions. If you don’t know anyone and and friends can’t point you to someone, try the yellow pages, or human resource departments of local businesses in that field.

Maybe you just know you love photography. Same thing. If you don’t know any photographers, ask your friends if they do. Then, seek out businesses or companies in that field to find people. For that matter, go to a social media site like Twitter or Facebook and ask for photographers who would be willing to do an informational interview. You’ll be amazed.

Two – Make an Appointment

Set up a specific time, date, and place to conduct the interview. If it’s at their place of business, be sure to ask what hours are the easiest for them to break away for fifteen minutes. If you are meeting outside work, make sure you buy the coffee or lunch. Reassure the person that you are just trying to learn a few things about the field and that you have (give them a number – 7 or 8 at most) questions to ask. Make certain you have their contact number to reach them that day should a problem arise.

Three – Be on Time and Stay on Time

Be there when you said you would, and wrap it up in the time frame you originally asked them to give you. If they are willing to continue, then by all means continue to pick their brains as long as possible.

Four – Get Their Contact Information First

As soon as you introduce yourself and before you begin the questioning, get their contact information including mailing address. Ideally a business card, but if not, write it down at the top of your notes. Name (correctly spelled) phone, email, address. Do this first in case the person is called away or agrees to go over the time limit and then you get interrupted. At the end of the interview, be sure to ask if you may follow up with them as you continue to learn.

Five – Send a Hand-Written Thank You Note

Since this was not a job interview, you should not send a formal typed follow up letter. This should be a courteous, personal “thank you” from you to them for their time and information.  This is very much a lost art and it does get you noticed.  You never know when this contact may come in handy down the road.

In a separate article, I’ll address actual questions and topics to ask in the interview. For now, be sure to conduct it appropriately and secure the person as a future contact in the business by being professional, courteous, and appreciative.

**Dream Job Alert**

One of the things I love to do is showcase just how many fascinating part-year jobs are out there for the applying/taking.   While this one wouldn’t necessarily set my heart to pitter-patter, I suspect many would love this opportunity.

The pay looks decent too – $115 -350/day.

Check it out.  Even if this isn’t your cup of tea, it’s really fascinating to see how some businesses are set up, and what skills you might already have that they seek.  Frequently, degrees or formal education takes a backseat to good old-fashioned experience.

And, if you would love this, but DON’T have the required experience, contemplate how you might get it.  Find out how to get a Commercial Driver’s License in your state, and where you can get CPR certified.

Tour Guide to the National Parks – Private Company

Have a great day – you can make this happen!

How to Start Now

If you’d love to get out of the rat race and create a work/life environment that meets both your economic and happiness requirements, start here.

1) Making a “living list” of things you LOVE doing. Add items as you discover or remember them.  Don’t think about how to make money from these yet.  Just make a list.

2) Do you know someone who is self-employed and/or a seasonal or contract worker? Contact that person and ask if you can pick their brain.  What works?  What doesn’t? What are the biggest challenges and biggest rewards?

3) Read a book about combining passions and livelihood. One good one is Po Bronson’s “What Should I Do with my Life?”

4) Take a skills assessment test online or via a career support book. Do the results make sense? That is, do you love doing what you are good at doing? Think about this – and go back to number one. What do you LOVE to do?  Barbara Sher’s book “I Could Do Anything If I Knew What It Was” is great for this.

5) What was your favorite activity as a child? Go do it for an afternoon. Even if it’s the merry-go-round. Do you still love it? Why did you stop doing it? How could you do it now?

6) Have an “idea party.” Get ten friends together over a meal or coffee and ask them what they see you doing. Brainstorm on who would actually pay for such a product or service. Or, come up with your own idea, and ask the group to think of creative ways to accomplish it.

7) Take an afternoon, a day, or a week and go do something that interests you. It could be a class, or volunteering, or working alongside someone doing something you think might be your passion. How do you set this up? Call and ask.

8) Form a mastermind of people who also want to redesign their work/life relationship. Meet regularly for fellowship and inspiration. Or, see if you can join (or start) an existing group through a source like meetup.com.

9) Need additional education to follow your dream? Get started. Take one course – evenings, online, however you can get it. Just start now.

10) Be silly. Get a box of crayons and draw a picture of your dream life. I was once “forced” to do this as part of a seminar. Thought the leader was nuts. Two years later, I did just what I’d drawn.

11) Make a “dream” or “vision” board from magazine clippings, drawings, photos.

12) Read another book. I recommend “Making a Living without a Job” by Barbara Winter.

13) Subscribe to a magazine or periodical on your topic. Not necessarily about careers in that field, but just on topic. You’d be amazed at the wealth of publications out there on subjects that may seem obscure.

14) Start an “ideas” folder, and put articles or notes into it as a living reference file. This is especially helpful if you have many or varied interests.

15) Make a commitment to move this process forward at least once a week through a discussion, reading, taking a class, or other activity that adds to your knowledge and clarity of where you want to be.

The single most important thing you can do is start understanding just how many choices you really have to make your work fit your life.  You don’t HAVE to be a slave to traditional work.

I’m not saying it’s a piece of cake.  I’m saying you CAN do it.

Plan the Work. Work the Plan.

When I first graduated college and started out selling pharmaceuticals, I was stark-raving TERRIFIED of the work.  I suffered what is known in corporate selling circles as “call reluctance,” which is a fear of cold calling.

One of my trainers taught me the concept of Plan the Work. Work the Plan.   Although I never really enjoyed selling, that concept has stayed with and served me for years.

In short, it’s taking stock of where you want to be and what you have to do to get there.  Then, make a plan how you are going to do it.  It takes frank honesty of your strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes a big dose of patience and deferral.

If I pull back the curtain on my plan, you can see where I am versus where I want to be.  No mystery – I want to work three quarters of each year and take one quarter off.  BAM!  That’s it.  I am flexible WHICH three months I don’t work – so it’s not inconceivable that I might work four quarters before taking one off, depending on my options.

And, since I am a complete and total Barbara Sher Scanner, I’d love to do different things during the quarters I do work.  I may or may not be able to pull that off.  Time will tell.

But in planning for that, right this minute, I have a BIG obstacle in the form of my terrific teenage son.  He’s a junior in high school.  Since some of my wishes and dreams involve working or living elsewhere for a quarter – well, that can’t happen yet.  And that’s okay, because I want to be here with him during this time.  It’s a big part of why I went ahead and “retired” from my airline job.

So my PLAN is to set myself up to do seasonal or contract work three quarters a year – possibly here where I live, possibly elsewhere – after he is launched on the next part of his life.

Working my Plan means taking actions for the next year and a half that will set up to be where I want to be then.

For me, that means spending that time working very hard on getting more freelance articles published, and also putting this blog in front of people it could help.  It also means getting a JOB.

As a practical matter, bringing in a good solid regular income during that time period would help.  As much as I am enjoying my exposure to teaching, it might even turn out that is the perfect part-year job for me.

By working on publishing articles and this blog on the side, hopefully in eighteen months I will have a strong clip file, a tribe of fellow   Semi-Retiree buddies, and a list of jobs I’d love to tackle and take you along with me on the ride.

Plan the Work. Work the Plan.

 

Micro-Entrepreneurship is Ideal for Semi-Retirees

“Starting a business” sounds daunting.  But, it CAN be surprisingly simple depending on what you want to do.  Don’t fall prey to self-anointed experts who tell you any of the following myths.  You may need to do some of these things, or not.

There are all kinds of statistics out there to scare you away from starting a business – particularly the ones about failure rates. But, like most numbers, this information is subject to a great deal of interpretation and manipulation. Don’t let one of these five myths keep you from moving forward with your dreams.

One – You Have to Create a Huge International Presence

You don’t have to be that big or that famous to make an impact. What if you only want to have a business that is successful in your community? Do you have to want to grow it into something huge? The answer is a resolute “No.”

Two – You Have to Borrow Money

Many of the statistics out there revolve around the Small Business Administration and the loans available. But, many small businesses can be started for next to nothing. In fact, there are small businesses that teach you how to open your own small business on a shoestring using mostly free methods of marketing and sales. This is particularly true of service and information products.

Three – You Have to Have an “Entrepreneur” Personality

This expectation stops so many potential small business owners from ever getting started. But what is this mysterious character that entrepreneurs have? While many of us perceive the classic entrepreneur as vivacious, outgoing, and a super salesperson, the reality is that passion and belief trump almost everything. If you have a product or service that solves a problem, you just need to find people who have that problem and are seeking a solution for it. Seeking a solution is critical though; they have to want to solve the problem!

Four – You Have to Answer all the Questions Before You Start

This is often referred to as “analysis paralysis” and keeps many businesses from ever being launched. Don’t let your perceptions as to how you think it has to be stop you from just getting out there and doing it. Do you love dogs and want to start a doggie day care? Go talk to everyone you know who has a dog and ask them, “What do you need?” Find a client. Now find another one. Congratulations, you are now a small business owner!

Five – Definition of “Successful”

This one is more personal. Don’t let the media’s definition of a successful small business be your definition of success. What are you looking for? Do you need enough to pay your bills, put some money away for retirement, and love getting out of bed in the morning? If that’s what you need, and that’s what you’ve got, you are a successful small business owner.

Many people could start very successful small businesses if they didn’t hold these myths as truth.  So, if you want to “semi-retire” but just seasonal employment isn’t enough to satisfy you or you can’t find what you want, then starting a micro-business MIGHT be a perfect solution.

 

Dreams and Possibilities and Ideas

I don’t know about YOU, but I am seriously tired of talking about health insurance.

I know, I KNOW.  It is the THE thing that keeps many people locked in jobs that either suck up all their time, or suck up so much of the finances there’s nothing left.

I know.

So, let’s just all agree that in the U.S. at present, unless you have employer provided insurance, it’s a nightmare out there.   I’ll talk about it on the blog when it’s appropriate.  But, I don’t want this to be a blog about health insurance.

I want it to be a blog about dreams.

Dreams of having enough time off to do the things that really matter to YOU.   Dreams of freedom and creativity.  Dreams of travel.  Dreams of safe places for our loved ones, and safe spaces for our minds.

I want it to be a blog about possibilities.

Possibilities of trying things you always wanted to try, but couldn’t find the money.  More likely, couldn’t find the TIME.   Or everyone told you that you shouldn’t because you were too smart or too educated or too anything.

I want it to be a blog about ideas.

A place to get ideas.  A place to get ideas for ideas.  A place to mix ideas, and possibilities, and dreams into something that is different for each person that comes here.   That construct of life that works for YOU.   Doesn’t matter if it wouldn’t work for anyone else – no one else has to live it.  You do.

Going forward, I hope, fewer “articles” and more musings.  More dreams, possibilities, and ideas.

More.  Please.

I achieved many goals in 2015 and I’m doing my close out over the next two weeks.  What worked?  What didn’t?  What goals did I meet?  Where did I fall short?  What can I change?

Did you know only 1% of people actually do this?  Go back and review whether or not they met the goals they set?  Huh.  Me neither.

Interesting.  1%.  We hear that number often used in a derogatory manner.  Have to wonder if there’s a correlation though.

Have a great day!!

Income Ideas for Dog (Pet) Lovers

You can always start a business that is already clearly defined by how others have done it, such as pet sitting, dog-walking, or grooming. But what if you love dogs and you love being outdoors? Or dogs and being a nurse? Here are some ideas to get you thinking about the possibilities.

Doggie Personal Trainer

Love dogs and fitness? Why not offer your services to people who have overweight pets? You could partner with vets, groomers, and sitters to make pet owners aware of your services. You could actually take people’s animals out for exercise, or create excursions making it easier for people to exercise with their pets. Is there a doggie day care in your area? Partner with them to provide an extra fee-for-service to clients.

Sick Doggie Care

Maybe you have a health care background, or have a particular affinity for working with wounded or sick animals. What about a visiting or sitting service for people who have to work who have a sick animal at home? Giving meds, providing necessary clean up, and even just companionship for the animal while the owner is unavailable.

Doggie Vacations

Love taking your dog with you everywhere, or want to? I bet there are many other pet owners who feel the same way. You could start a newsletter about pet-friendly hotels, cruises, or other vacations, or a website. Earn an income by selling advertising to people who want to reach owners who travel (like dog friendly hotels). But why stop there? Got somewhere you want to go? Why not design and offer dog friendly tour packages? You could even specialize to breed, or to something such as single pet owners.

Doggie Art

Love dogs and either creating or shopping for art? You could offer an online store of unique dog art. What about combining the therapeutic benefits of pets and art? You could offer a service to retirement homes or schools to bring in animals and do artwork with seniors or students.

Dogs and Food

Love to cook? There’s a gal in New England who does cooking classes for how to make healthy food for your dog. An idea like that could be turned into a seminar people attend at a resort, a traveling class that people could sign up for in various cities, or even a video series people subscribe to.

Dog Sitting Extraordinaire

Pet sitting in your town might not appeal to you, but what about in the French Alps or Tasmania?  If you have the ability to travel – this website has pet sitting requests from all over the world.  Some are for weeks or months.  They rarely PAY, but you receive a place to stay while you take care of the pets.  Might be a snazzy condo downtown, might be a chateau.  Not a bad gig if you can source the income for food and travel elsewhere.  Pet and House Sitting

Bottom line, you can turn your love of dogs into an income.  And yes, you can make this seasonal too.  ANYTHING can be seasonal – it’s all in how you structure your business, and how you will get it running again the next season.

Income Ideas for Photography Buffs

So, you love photography, and would like to earn a living, or at least some income with it?  Here are five ideas you can use as a basis to build your own unique idea.

Teach Independent Classes

Finding a decent basic photography skills class is often limited to the local community college continuing education department, or  camera store. Why not create a portable class and take it to small groups, or lead small independent classes? Scrapbookers are a huge market that already gets together to assemble their albums and share stories. Partner with someone selling scrapbook materials, or organizing group crops to offer a variety of classes from basic skills on up. Another angle would be for a specific demographic such as kids, college students, seniors.

Lead Photo Expeditions

This doesn’t have to involve trekking around the world. Similar to the classes, but with the added allure of actually getting people out with their cameras to take pictures, and then receiving feedback. You could have theme classes, such as “photographing interesting doorways,” where you walk around with several students taking photos, then have a lunch and learn debrief where you upload the photos and critique them.  Sunrise or Sunset.  Dog Park.  Cars. The possibilities for this are practically endless.

Specialty Photography

Do you love taking pictures of something in particular? Why not become the known expert in your area for taking these photos? For example, one lady has a thriving business doing outdoor dog portrait photos. Heavily beach oriented, she takes photos of the dogs running, and playing, then creates a portrait photo or grouping of photos. She works on commission, makes a tidy income, and spends her days playing fetch on the beach with dogs, camera in hand.

Traveling Scanning Service

This one might be a better side-business to one of the above, than a passion in itself. But those scrapbookers I mentioned above, and many others, have reams of photographs in shoeboxes that need to be digitized. There are excellent quality high-speed portable multi-feed scanners than run less than $1000.  Priced competitively, this service could provide an entree to whatever other photography oriented income you choose.

Stock Photography

You want to work alone? Take some time and get serious about stock photography. While the old photography purists lament the loss of photography as fine art, the good stock photographers are getting rich. There are multiple sites, and you can choose to work with just one or several. The money here is made two ways – a few great photos that get downloaded frequently, or lots of photos that sell less often. Read the stock photo site’s information – they will usually tell you exactly what kind of photos they need the most. I know of one gal who was perusing a magazine rack, only to see one of her stock shots on the cover!

Yes, these all fall in to the category of an independent business, but there is no reason why it couldn’t also be seasonal.  Spend the season where you want and only offer your services when you are there.   If you are in a place during a high tourist season, that’s a built-in market right there.

 

Over Fifty And Two or Three Weeks Vacation Isn't Cutting It Anymore? What If You Could Get Two or Three MONTHS Off Every Year?