New Season of Possibility

trees-changeI love this time of year. The approach of Fall has always been the time for me to jump into something new. The possibility that the Fall seems to bring is something I’ve always looked forward to.

As a guest participant over at the very cool Collective Genius! blog, I have a post that talks about the changing seasons, and how they can remind us that with change comes growth.

Enjoy – A Season for Change

Invest in the Nest: Bootstrapping Your Home Business

Though much has been written about bootstrapping a business, I’m often surprised that many people I talk to about starting a home-based business don’t understand the concept. The term refers to “pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps” meaning to rely on your own effort and your own financing. According to Investopedia, bootstrapping is:

A situation in which an entrepreneur starts a company with little capital. An individual is said to be boot strapping when he or she attempts to found and build a company from personal finances or from the operating revenues of the new company.

I love the self-reliant nature of bootstrapping, particularly when starting and running a home-based business. There’s a big misconception that starting any business is expensive, and requires business plans, investment strategies, and business loans. The idea behind bootstrapping is that you forgo all that and use your own know-how, creativity, hard work, and money (and as little money as possible) to get up and running.

bootstrapper

One of the biggest benefits of a nest-based company is low overhead. You’ll find many articles like this one citing “Small-business owners spend about $10,000 to start their companies, mostly out of their own pockets…” I’m so glad I didn’t have any of this info available to me when I started, otherwise I would have thought “there’s no way I can afford to start a business.” I always remind people that these types of startup costs are not typical of a home-based business.

It’s hard to know where to look for good bootstrapping advice. There are tons of resources on the inter-web on the best way to bootstrap your business, some good, some bad, and some just plain wrong. But two that I consistently recommend are Seth Godin’s The Bootstrapper’s Bible (download in PDF format), and Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of Bootstrapping (a companion post to the excellent book The Art of the Start).

Starting a business, any business, is hard work. The most important lesson that I’ve learned is to find something you enjoy, that utilizes your talents and passions, and to get started quickly and as cheaply as possible. If you love it, the work doesn’t seem as hard. And by working from home and being self-reliant, you keep expenses down, making profits so much easier to achieve.

Yeah-But Rebuttals: Your Office Space

yeah-butt-headThis is the first in a series of periodic posts on rebuttals to common “yeah-buts” that I hear from people wanting to work from home.

Yeah-But

“Yeah, but, I just don’t have anywhere to set up an office in my home.”

The Rebuttal

This is a common one – and frankly, one of the silliest. I’ve had highly intelligent people, with well thought out home-business plans, decide to scrap their dreams of working from home, because of space. Crazy, huh?

They cite so-called “small business experts” who say you MUST have a separate office, and clearly defined boundaries. They think they need a big bonus room or office over the garage, decked out with all the latest home-office furniture and gear. Sure that would be nice, but it’s not necessary.

Often this is just an excuse masking doubt and fear about starting a home business. So the best way to alleviate it is to see the truth. You can really start from anywhere.

It’s pretty well known that Lillian Vernon got started at her kitchen table. It’s not an uncommon approach. I started in the corner of a guest bedroom, on a old table. You don’t really need much. The kitchen table works fine for those who are working while the kids are in school. If you have younger ones, and you don’t have help, you may have to work during naps and at night anyway. Just be sure that your business stuff is easily moved and set aside when not in use.

If your business is mostly done on a laptop, then you can really make your office mobile. The living room, deck, coffee shop. Unless you absolutely feel the need to have a permanent “space,” you can be a nest nomad. I know several people who work in a different spots every day, and love the freedom it provides. Their cell phone and instant messenger is their modes of communication, and their laptop is their office.

If you do want to set up a permanent space, be creative. Small and mobile workstations and desks make a great permanent or semi-permanent office space. A card table in the bedroom works too. Heck, you can even make a desk out of FedEx boxes if you want to.

The important thing is to decide, then do. It may seem more complicated, but its not really. Tell yourself, you’ll start with the FedEx box desk in the garage, and work your way up to the dream office. The key is to start, and not get bogged down in the misconceptions about a home office. If you have the desire to succeed as a nest-based professional, then you will. Regardless of where you’re starting from.

More Resources

Nest Success Elements – Family Support

There are several key elements to the work-from-home success formula. These are important ingredients – non-negotiables. Though much about being a successful nest worker is flexible – these items are not. And one that is on the top of the list (if not the first) is support from your family – especially from your spouse or partner.

Deciding to make the leap to self employment is hard. Add in the work from home piece, and it gets harder. If you don’t have the buy-in and full support from your spouse, you’re almost guaranteed to struggle.

spouse-support

A lot has been written about what you need to succeed as a home-based business. From my experience, as well as the many folks I’ve talked to and worked with, having the support and understanding of your spouse makes the journey so much more manageable.

Wendy Piersall from eMoms at Home has an excellent post that provides a very poignant example about support:

I will never forget the conversation we had when a six figure job dangled before me just a few short months ago. I came to you to discuss the situation, and you were open and fair in your assessment of the decision before me. Jump into another job that I would enjoy, that paid great, but I would grow bored with quickly… OR tighten up the reigns, trust me (even though my last home based business didn’t go so well at the end), and give me the time to grow a business I know in my heart I was born to do.

… this time, you held me close, and you told me you were committed to raising your sales so that I could follow my heart and start this business.

As part of the post, Wendy asks “Who is in your life that you appreciate?” When it comes to the opportunity of working from home and running my own business, I can say that it would not have been possible without the support of my wife. (Who’s birthday just happens to be today – Happy Birthday!). Through the ups and downs, she’s been there to give advice, listen to my complaining and crazy ideas, and offer unwavering support.

Getting the Support from Day One

For those in the early stages, here’s some practical advice about approaching your spouse about going out on your own. When discussing your plans about launching a new home-based venture with your family, it’s important to listen carefully to their concerns. It’s up to you to clearly explain your plans, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a one page business plan to show that you’ve thought things through. But be sure to explain with your heart, along with the business particulars. This is your dream, and passion will go a long way to garner support. Treat your spouse as an investor, because that is truly what they will be. By presenting your vision as a viable and well though out operation, rather than some hair-brained scheme, you have shown them that you value their view and want their support.

Gathering Twigs – Find Your Perfect Business by Griping

guy-thinkingThere are those people I talk to about starting a home-based business who already have a pretty good idea what they want to do. They’re writers, artists, programmers, designers, accountants, consultants – among others – who already know what they love to do. They just want to do it from home.

Then there’s those folks who have no clue what they want to do. They hate their current job, or are out of work, and have a clear idea of what they DON’T want. Which is actually a good place to start.

By taking a good, long look at what you don’t want in a career, some patterns will start to emerge. Get out a sheet of paper or fire up a new text file or word processor document and start listing all those things you don’t like in your current job, or absolutely don’t want in your career. Don’t stop and think. Just let it all flow.

After a while you’ll start to see patterns and a few (or many) clear areas that you want to avoid. This list represents some of your current reality – or at least your most current memories of what a crappy job entails. The key to changing that reality and finding your perfect nest career is looking for the underlying theme of the list. What does the list say about your work preferences? What picture does it create regarding your view of specific kinds of work? If you’re having a hard time seeing a common thread, give it to someone that you trust, and let them take a crack at it. Often, it’s easier for someone close to us to see things that we can’t.

Now here’s the real use for this list. Something most people don’t do. Begin to look at the opposite of not only the individual items on the list, but the opposite of the common thread. By using your list of things you don’t want as a jumping off point, you can start to understand what it is that you DO want. Rather than just complaining about what you don’t like, use it as a way to discover what you want out of life. Imagine that, griping as a tool for empowerment!