Thriving Independent

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A blog by the Staff and Users of

Send us stories and reflections about your good little business; we’ll post them in guest blogs so that others can learn from your journey.

The #1 Threat to Freelancers and Self-employed

We have seen the enemy and it is us

Many of us who launch small service businesses do so because we are skilled and we want to serve. It's natural. And many of us do excellent work.

While that fire in the belly can source excellent service, it can also be a killer if we don't learn to focus on what our business needs in order to thrive. The fact is, the #1 threat to Independents is working too much IN our business - serving customers - and not enough ON our business.

And while we're at it, I believe the #2 threat is trying to do everything ourselves - thinking it will be cheaper, and therefore better for the bottom line. The opposite is the case.

In fact, #1 and #2 are related.

#2 Re doing everything yourself because you think it will be better for the bottom line, consider this: you do a few tasks very well, producing excellent value. And then there are all the other tasks - some of which you don't like - which you don't do well. What if the people who did those tasks for your business did them as well as you do your best work?

You'd get much better use of your time, you wouldn't get worn out by tasks you're not that good at, your customers would get more of your best work, and your business would get taken care of.

Many excellent teachers who serve Owner/Operators are providing guidance via blogs, websites, Twitter, and other social media. Much is free or very reasonably priced. Self-employed people are often open to trading. The big barrier is committing the time to take proper care of your own business.

The most common feedback I get about is, "When will I ever find the time!?".

Making the time to work on your business requires a bit of discipline. Handling the mission-critical tasks has to be part of your business model: you can't plan to serve Customers full time. It means getting your pricing right. (A free GoodLittleBiz worksheet; requires registration on the site.)

Daunted by the task? Don't try to go it alone. Get help. There's somebody out there who loves the tasks you don't like and don't have time for. Give them a chance to do their best work, you'll be able to do more of yours, and your micro business has a much better chance of thriving.


Hard to Thrive Self-Employed?

Two excellent - and fun - posts caught my eye. More and more of us are Freelancing and entering Micro Businesses (there are over 27 million of us in the US alone.) Wouldn't it be nice if it were easier?

From Molly Gordon's Authentic Promotion

Do you ever wonder if a person like you just wasn't cut out for self-employment?

The problem is, when you start working for yourself, you become an entrepreneur. Yikes!

Then I saw, Twenty Secrets I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Started a Business by Gini Dietrich. They're all good; here are #s 2 and 3 of her 20

So you want to start a business? Well, here are a few things no one tells you, but you should know!

2. Lots of people are going to want your product or service. But a majority of them won’t be willing to pay for it. Choose very wisely who you spend your time with.

3. When you build your business and it begins to sustain itself, you no longer will do what you started the business to do: Your craft and, probably, your love and passion.

I've been self-employed for 30 years. Until launching GoodLittleBiz this year, I've run my business as a boutiquie professional practice, so that I could continue to do my best work and sidestep some of the management aspects of being in business. These authors are right on. As soon as you start Freelancing, you're in business. Avoiding the realities of that is costly. Better to face those secrets, step up to the plate, get the help you need - and learn to thrive as a MicroBiz.

Learning isn't hard once you decide to do it. Not deciding to learn - and floundering around - is really hard.

Have examples of good tips and teachings? Please comment; I look forward to seeing them.

Differentiating - A Natural for MicroBiz

A blog targetted to Mental Health Pofessionals caught my eye this morning. It began:

What is it, as a therapist, that you can do that no one else does?

What is it that all other therapists do, that you can do differently?

What is it that other therapists NEVER do, that you can start doing?

Reminding me how simple it is to differentiate your services or small business around your own best work. You might be surprised how friends and customers experience it. Try asking them how your services are distinct. One answer that jumped out at me 15 years ago has stayed with me, "You make everyone in the room feel smart - as smart as you, and then it's easy for them to do their best work..." My business? The BestWork® People

Late last year, just as the recession was landing in consumers' awareness, I watched my daugher open a new shop. She confidently built a business model, based on impulse buys, "People can't afford a new outfit, but they can enjoy a whole new look for $35...", designed a space, and opened to locals' delight. The press responded with 3 full-page articles in the first few months. "The store is adorable, the hats are adorable, and she's adorable...browse at your leisure; no pressure to buy..." What may be the most distinctive aspect of the store is how genuinely interested she and her two staff are in what makes their customers feel stylish and good-looking. People are at home trying on [what looks to me like] everything in the store. They come in for a hat and buy 2 or 3.

How to apply that principle to your Micro Business?

  • What fascinates you?
  • What would you like customers to have/be able to do that they cannot have/do now?
  • What would you love to be doing for people?

The natural fire in your belly revealed in your responses to these questions will be different than competitors'. Build your brand promise around it. (Want some help? Free GoodLittleBiz worksheets fill out details.)

Articulating your own best work can feel awkward at first, but let yourself be surprised: people will gladly help. It's worth the investment. Once you clarify how you're different, you can build the right brand promise and start attracting the right customers. For a small business, it's like striking gold.

Four Golden Pauses Will Power Your MicroBiz

At the end of a workshop this week I asked participants to take a moment to provide feedback, " support my learning, with what are you Satisfied, Not Satisfied, and Over The Moon?" One comment, "I especially loved the pauses. You didn't talk too much; you let us think...," set a number of heads nodding.

On the way home, my husband commented, "You really have to speak more about your Golden Pauses - they're some of your best work."

Golden Pauses? They're a goldmine for Freelancers, Professionals, and small businesses. A perfect entree to the advantages we enjoy over big biz, they enable you to enrich every exchange, deepen client relationships, and co-invent the future with customers and vendors.

Consider the ROI of the example above. The conversation took less than 5 minutes. Participants had enjoyed learning from me, and were happy to reciprocate. They collected and articulated their thoughts, we began designing the next workshop together, and they're now looking forward to attending and bringing friends and colleagues. A lovely return on 5 minutes' investment.

Pausing to assess what's been done and to harvest learning - what we did at the end of the workshop - is the 3rd of my 4 pauses. Here's a diagram.

The model is based on the view that we humans make our living by exchanging with others; exchanges are an inescapable part of our lives. Each of the pauses is an opportunity to make every exchange more valuable, by exploring with your prospective trading partner:

  • 1)What concerns do we want to address?
  • 2)What results or deliverables would have us satisfied, what would have us delighted?
  • 3)How did we do? What can we learn from the effort?
  • 4)Expressing thanks for the results and gratitude for partnering in the exchange

Though in some cases the pauses can take more than a few minutes (my all-time records are several months for #1 and several weeks for #2,) they can often be done much faster. And no matter how long they take, they're always Golden. They enable you to invest energy wisely. Sometimes you won't go beyond #1 or #2, and won't pursue the exchange. If you do, the Pauses ensure that any effort you choose to invest will be relevant to the other party's concerns, that you both agree before you begin about what satisfactory completion will look like, and you'll be in good shape to learn together and to complete the exchange in better shape than when you started.

The Golden Pauses will deepen your business relationships. Nothing is more important for a microbiz. They're simple, though perhaps not easy -especially is our faced-paced world. But that makes them even more precious, and your services more distinct.

Power your business by investing at least 28 minutes a day in the Golden Pauses. The Pauses are Master Moves. The work of a lifetime, and never too late to start.

Do you have examples of Golden Pauses? Please comment.

Carpe Diem - Small Biz Has the Advantage Now

This Tweet caught my eye this morning:

swap some help?

It speaks to how a number of Cultural Creatives are responding to the downturn. They - we - Freelancers, MicroBiz, Independents - are building a new economy. We're creating new exchanges - some monetized, some not - with new people all over the world, from our strengths and vulnerabilities. I find it inspiring.

Took me back to what I wrote on New Year's Day this year,

The Industrial Age dinosaurs of the 20th century are dying. Some don’t know it yet; for some who do, it’s a frightening specter. To me and many others, it’s a moment of opportunity. Jean Houston calls it Jump Time. I agree; it’s like the time - around 65 million years ago – when the earth cooled, and the huge dominant reptiles couldn’t adapt. The small warm-blooded mammals – our ancestors – were advantaged. They could maintain their body temperatures without depending on the environment. They could survive with far less fuel, because they were small. They could pass on adaptive habits to their young. They quickly explored new niches and grew thriving communities.

Enterprises who know how to learn – who do not cling to the ways of the past – who do not depend on the market climate for their vitality - can do the same now. As the 20th century monsters shrink, let’s re-invent their industries. Let’s be ingenious about including our neighbors who can no longer be employed by them. Let’s join our thoughtful young president about re-building Main Street.

Commerce is a powerful force. Let’s reclaim it.

All of that shows up for me everyday on Twitter, in the blogosphere, and among small business people I'm meeting all over the world. It's our moment. We're nimble. We can invent value with our Customers and Colleagues in real time. And we're doing it.

Carpe Diem. Please share examples from your world. Let's keep each other inspired.

Independents and Small Business Very Important to the Economy

The UK will be celebrating Freelancers November 23 this year, recognizing their growing importance in the workforce.

In New York City

One of the few municipalities that tracks self-employment carefully, there were 807,750 self-employed workers in 2006, according to new numbers from the comptroller’s office. That’s about a fifth of the roughly 4 million nongovernment jobs that existed in the city before the current financial crisis. (These days, after all the layoffs, the proportion may be even higher.) And of the 773,000 jobs that Gotham added from 1981 to 2006, a stunning 491,000 were people working for themselves, making self-employment the biggest source of job creation in the city.

The same trend seems to be playing out across the country, though the numbers are slippery, thanks to varying definitions of self-employment, people who hold multiple jobs, off-the-books work, and other factors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the national self-employment rate—the proportion of total employment made up of the self-employed—has hovered between 7 and 9 percent since the 1970s, but according to the Census Bureau, the number of “non-employer businesses” (that is, one-person shops) rose from 15.4 million in 1997 to 20.8 million in 2006. Further, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) reports, the country had 4.5 million businesses with fewer than four employees in 2005; the owners of these businesses have much in common with true solo workers.

CNN Money, May 4, 2009, reported that Freelance professionals now make up more than a quarter
of the U.S. working population, or 26%, according to a survey by human resources consulting firm Kelly Services, Inc, up from 19% in 2006.

In New York state,Freelancers Union is leading a movement to promote legislation that removes some of the barriers to Freelancing - especially high in NYC. In the UK, PCG is taking on a similar role, in its 10th year driving to have Freelancing recognized as a profession.

A number of burgeoning websites broker independent services, matching employers and projects to skilled professionals all over the world.

We're a huge segment and growing. We can help enliven our communities and power a thriving economy. This site is dedicated to that job. Let's get it done.

I'll be blogging here about all sorts of interesting stuff...

...relating to Freelancers and small businesses.

My blogs about more general business subjects are at

Very much looking forward to being in dialogue with you

- Marsha

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