If Working for a Jerk Motivated Your Self-Employment, What Are You Motivating?

Bucket-Head BossI would rather work for an up-turned broom with a bucket for a head than work for anyone else in this office besides myself.” ~ Stanley from The Office

One of the top reasons that people set out on their own is that they hate their boss. Often, it’s the last straw. It’s the motivation they need to make the leap.

It’s pretty common to hear horror stories of bad bosses. Sometimes, they’re mixed with stories of great bosses — ones that become like mentors.

[Read more…]

Is Your Success Outgrowing Your Nest?

Outgrowing Your NestChar Polanosky has an interesting discussion going on over at Essential Keystrokes regarding business growth. I’ve been in Char’s situation a few times, so I know what a struggle it can be. As I began writing out a long comment, I decided it would be much better as a post.

When it comes to growing and expanding your home-based business, there are some important things to consider. I recommend a 2-step assessment approach to help decide if, when, and how to take your home-based business to the next level.

[Read more…]

Branching Out Part Two: Multiple Home-Based Businesses

spinning-platesIn yesterday’s post I talked about offering “add-ons” as a way to allow your home-based business to branch out. Today, I’m going to talk about the second most common way to branch out – running multiple home-based businesses.

Spinning Plates

So you’ve been running your home-based business for some time, and it’s going well. You love it, but there are one or more other ventures you’d like to pursue. How do you go about it?

A lot of people tend to use a juggling metaphor to describe running multiple businesses. I like to think of if more as spinning plates. You set one in motion, let it spin, then move on to the next, and the next. Always making sure each stays spinning at the right speed to keep it balanced. Running multiple home businesses is a similar responsibility. You want to make sure each is getting the right attention and stays balanced. Here’s some tips on how to do that:

Managing Your Time

This may seem like an obvious first step, but I’ve seen many folks just jump in without knowing how they were going to manage it all (myself included). Think about how you intend to run things. Are you going to separate your day into segments, one for each venture? Or are you going to mix and match throughout the day and week? There’s no one right way. Depending on your personality and working style, you will favor one approach over the other. The important thing to keep in mind is that along with the actual tasks involved with the newly added business, comes the administrative stuff too – email, phone calls, billing, paperwork. It’s easy to budget time for the key activities you foresee for your new business, but as you know, there are a lot of auxiliary tasks that tend to take up a big chunk of your time. Figuring out in advance how you plan to manage it all will help you get a handle on what will actually be involved.

Some examples include thinking of each business as a project, and the actual projects and tasks as sub-projects. Another (in GTD parlance) is to create a separate context for each business. It helps separate things out, and allows for easy tracking of specific actions.

Testing the Waters

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the best things about starting a home-based business, is the minimal investment needed (in most cases), and testing the waters is a great way to get an idea of how things are going to work. Applying the same principals to a second (or third, or tenth) home business makes sense. It gives you a chance to see how you are going to manage the different aspects. It also lets you get a good idea of how much time will actually be involved. Paper plans are almost ALWAYS wrong. Test out the additional business on a trial basis, and see how it’s going to fit into your existing structure.

Getting Feedback

The only way to know if something is working or not, is by gathering feedback – both your own and from others. If your spouse is talking about leaving you (and NOT taking the kids), your existing customers are wondering were the heck their stuff is, and your eye starts twitching, it’s a good indication that you’ve taken on too much. Often, we think things are just grand, flowing right along, and then reality gives us the old smack-down. Feedback in its various forms helps us to gauge from a realistic standpoint what’s working and what’s not. It also allows you to adjust and make iterative changes to help your new venture better fit into your life. Listen carefully to the clues you’re getting from others and your own gut, and make adjustments accordingly.

Marketing

Marketing several businesses simultaneously is an art more than a science. It also deserves its own post (not a cop-out, really). For the time being, know that marketing takes on a whole new meaning when you are the president of multiple solo-run companies.

Phasing out

Over time you may come to realize that one or more of your home-businesses are no longer thriving. You may be losing interest, customers, time, etc., and decide that its time to lay it to rest. Phasing out will happen pretty naturally if the time is right. The most important thing to address is your customers. Be up-front and honest, letting them know your plans. This is one of those times when having a list of your colleagues that you know and trust comes in handy. If you decide to phase out a business, this ensures that your customers have somewhere to go, that provides the same level of quality and service that you do.

Making the Leap, Again…

The key to managing multiple home-based businesses is balance (did I mention that already?). It’s important not to become spread too thin, and have quality drop in your ventures. You also need to make sure you have a life outside of your businesses. Balancing family life with business life is crucial to any home-based business. As you add more to the mix, it becomes even more imperative – and more difficult.

Know your limitations. Remember why you started all this in the first place. Making sure you remain grounded in your values and purpose will help you to stay on track. And above all, if it stops being fun, you might as well be working for someone else.

Branching Out Part One: Multiple Incomes from Your Home-Based Business

branching-outIf you’ve been in business for a while, and you’re passionate about what you do, chances are you’ve come up with lots of ways to expand your business. Or maybe you’re just starting out, and already can see the potential for some other products or services. Carefully considering how, when, and if branching out into other areas is best accomplished, is critical for running a successful home-based business.

Many Eggs, One Nest

Some home businesses just lend themselves well to multiple streams of income. Coaching, consulting, writing, designing, among many others, offer a wide variety of ways to package and sell your knowledge and skills. The key is to know what types of “add-ons” will enhance your business, as well as your reputation, and which ones to avoid. It’s also important to ensure you don’t leech all the value out of your business by “commoditizing” your stuff. So if you’re considering expanding your offerings here are some things to think about:

  1. What to offer? Of all the ideas you have, which gives the most bang for the buck – both to you and your customers? Also consider how much effort is involved. There are only so many hours in the day and you don’t want to rob Peter to pay Paul (or is that Peter and Paul to pay Mary, or John, Paul, and Ringo… I can never remember).
  2. Does what you’re offering provide any real value to your customers? I have lots of ideas that would be fun, or easy, but that don’t provide much to my clients. The goal is to expand your offerings, and if there is no value, nobody’s going to want it. You end up looking like someone just trying to make a buck – any way possible.
  3. Is what you’re offering going to be another source of income or a freebee? Even if item #2 is iffy, free is always good (well, unless it has no value, and it’s crappy). But an even better approach is to offer something of real value for free. It’s a great way to build your brand, show your expertise, and get your message out. Another option is to offer a limited free version, and have an expanded version available for a fee.
  4. What do the add-ons say about your core business? Anything you put out there is going to reflect on your brand and how you’re viewed in the marketplace. Make sure anything that is associated with your business, has the same level of quality that you provide as part of your core services.

When I get asked about expanding, most of the folks I talk to already have a sense of the best way to proceed. My guess is that if you know your business, are passionate about what you do, and focus on providing value, you will know instinctively if a direction is right for you.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the other way of expanding – multiple home-based businesses.