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What’s Keeping You Up at Night?



Valerie and her rescue dog,
"Cokie Roberts"

By Valerie Young

This article originally appeared in Issue 198 of the Changing Course Newsletter.

The thing that keeps me up at night is not the economy. Don’t get me wrong. My …


Make Every Day Thanksgiving: How Creating a Better Future Starts With What You Do in the Present



Valerie and her rescue dog,
"Cokie Roberts"

By Valerie Young

This article originally appeared in Issue 197 of the Changing Course Newsletter.

This week most Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving. Our Canadian friends celebrated their Thanksgiving in October. Other …


Instant Career Change: Is There A Fast and Easy Way to the Top?



Valerie and her rescue dog,
"Cokie Roberts"

By Valerie Young

This article originally appeared in Issue 196 of the Changing Course Newsletter.

I admit it. I’ve watched more than a few episodes of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? …


From Food Stamps to Entrepreneurial Success

If you really are serious about wanting to look in the mirror and see the boss, then there’s someone I really want you to meet…

Valerie Young with Jeff Walker

Valerie with
Jeff Walker

One of the very best ways to be an entrepreneur yourself …


Want to Work for Yourself: Those Dream Jobs Don’t Just Happen, They’re Created



Valerie and her rescue dog,
"Cokie Roberts"

By Valerie Young

This article originally appeared in Issue 195 of the Changing Course Newsletter.

While traveling in northern California a few years ago, I happened to tune into a local newscast. …


Why Wish Upon a Star When You Can Reach for One?



Valerie and her rescue dog,
"Cokie Roberts"

By Valerie Young

This article originally appeared in Issue 194 of the Changing Course Newsletter.

It’s been over thirty years since Pulitzer Prize-winning author Studs Terkel traveled the country conducting interviews for …


How to Turn a Negative Experience Into a Positive Way to Make a Living Without a Job



Valerie and her rescue dog,
"Cokie Roberts"

By Valerie Young

This article originally appeared in Issue 193 of the Changing Course Newsletter.

You know the old expression, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. You’re about to meet seven …


Profit from Experience: The Key to Your Right Livelihood May Be Right in Your Own Backyard



Valerie and her rescue dog,
"Cokie Roberts"

By Valerie Young

This article originally appeared in Issue 192 of the Changing Course Newsletter.

We all know the story of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Swept away to the enchanting …


How to Make Money by Breaking the Rules



Valerie and her rescue dog,
"Cokie Roberts"

By Valerie Young

This article originally appeared in Issue 191 of the Changing Course Newsletter.

Too many people who want to work at what they love seem to suffer from the misguided notion that there are certain “rules” that must be followed. Let me give you a quick example. At the beginning of every career consultation, I ask clients to describe their ideal life. To prompt their thinking, I pose a series of questions such as what time do you want to get up in the morning, would you like to work at home or outside the home, do you want to work with other people or do you prefer to work alone? The question that gets the biggest reaction is, “Would you like to have summers off?” Invariably someone will say, “Oh, can you do that?”

I’m always tempted to say, “I don’t know, let me consult the official Work-Life Rule Book.” The thing is, I don’t know if you can have summers off or not. But what I do know is this – if the desire to have your summers free is not consciously on your mental radar screen, then the likelihood of it happening is next to nil. If, on the other hand, you were crystal clear that you’d love to take summers off, then you’d be in a better position to make a conscious effort to come up with ways to generate income that would allow for a lengthy work break.

This self-limiting belief that you somehow have to do things a certain way also hampers to a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs. For example, this week alone I’ve spoken with two people who had considered taking the
American Writers and Artists Institute course on how to become a freelance copywriter. The reason they decided against it was they didn’t want to have to write promotional copy for products and services they don’t believe in. Who would? I know I certainly wouldn’t want to pitch Dr. Zildo’s amazing watermelon diet or some shady work from home program.

But where is it written that you HAVE to take on clients you don’t like? I once had a client named Donna whose idea of heaven on earth is to have some kind of a portable income so she can spend months at a time with her daughter in England. Donna enjoys writing and even has a background in advertising. She’d considered the copywriting option in the past but again rejected it because she didn’t want to write about products she didn’t believe in.

Instead of letting this values clash be a show stopper, Donna needed to ask herself, “So, what do I believe in enough to promote?” For Donna it’s the whole mind, body, and soul connection. In fact, her dream job is to organize events for motivational speakers. Because it would be difficult living in a relatively rural area to make a full time living organizing events, we had to come up with a supplemental – and portable – income stream.

This meant challenging the idea that to succeed as a copywriter, or for that matter, in any business, you have to do things a certain way. What if Donna intentionally structured her copywriting business to focus entirely on motivational speakers and authors of mind, body, and soul type books? This kind of niche marketing offers a whole host of advantages.

For one, Donna would genuinely enjoy doing the research on topics she finds interesting. She’d also get a great deal of satisfaction from helping spread the word about concepts and practices she believes in.

Another highly practical advantage is that people in the same field tend to talk to one another. In football terms it’s known as going deep and wide. In my small world, I get to talk to like-minded souls like Barbara Winter and Barbara Sher. I’ve recommended good copywriters to them and they’ve steered me in the direction of great web masters and other vendors. In other words, when you niche market, ultimately you’ll have to do less self-marketing because your business becomes primarily referral-based.

Okay, so what misguided rules are you operating by? Do you think you have to come up with just one way to make a living? Think again. Think you can’t turn your hobby into your career, get paid to work with animals, or that changing course means having to choose between money and happiness? If so, check my ever-increasing list of Cool Jobs at
ChangingCourse.com/cooljobs.htm

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once said, “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” How can you stretch your mind today? Once you realize that some misguided rules about work and life can, and should, be broken, a whole new world of opportunity can open up.


Have a Great Idea for a Business? Test the Waters Before Diving In



Valerie and her rescue dog,
"Cokie Roberts"

By Valerie Young

This article originally appeared in Issue 190 of the Changing Course Newsletter.

Now and then I meet someone (usually a young person) who tells me they really like helping with people, so they’re thinking about going into Human Resources or HR as it’s commonly referred to. They imagine themselves sitting in their large private office eagerly awaiting a long line of interesting employees with interesting problems in need of interesting solutions.

Ask most people who are already in HR though and they’re likely to paint a very different picture. Instead of spending time helping people, most people in HR spend the better part of their jobs days dealing with the "administrivia" of the business
world – hiring, terminations, benefits, pensions, payroll, and all too often, petty grievances.

A lot of jobs seem different from the outside. Think about your current career or job. Now that you’re there, is it what you thought it was going to be? Probably not.

Fantasy vs. Reality

Entrepreneurs are not immune to this "leap before you look" syndrome. Take the classic bed and breakfast fantasy. Clients often tell me they love the idea of selecting the colors and the furnishings, picking fresh flowers from the garden for the breakfast table, greeting the guests, and generally making everyone feel at home. Once the guests check out, they picture themselves settling into a big comfy chair with a good book or perhaps puttering in a Zen-like perennial garden. Utter bliss.

Once the real estate is purchased, most people don’t have the capital to hire others to do the cooking, cleaning, and bookkeeping. As a consequence, once the decorating is done and the garden is planted, they realize they’ve become a combination short order cook/chamber maid/bookkeeper!

Every business has its more mundane parts – especially in the beginning when you’re bootstrapping your business or are a "solo-preneur." But still, the goal is to love more of the work than not. So, before you leap, you need to check out just how wide the expanse is between fantasy and reality.

How do you test out a business idea? Well, if you truly do want to run a bed and breakfast (and for people who are natural hosts, there are lots of wonderful aspects of running a B & B) the best way to get your feet wet without taking a financial soaking is to become a B & B sitter. Just like it sounds, sitters take over the day-to-day operations of established inns so the owners can go on vacation or otherwise get away. Companies like Deserve a Break actually match B & B owners in Australia and New Zealand with experienced relief workers. Similarly, in the UK, farmers can turn to a decades old company called Loring, King and Loring for relief and contract milking and agricultural staff.

Another option is to go to "school." Sticking with our B & B example, you don’t need to earn a four year degree in hotel and restaurant management to learn how to run an inn. Many B & B’s offer weekend workshops for aspiring inn-keepers and some owners do individual consulting. If there are no classes in your area, contact a local B & B and ask if they’d let you intern with them in exchange for some free staffing time once you’re trained.

Getting Prospective Customers to Put Their Money Where Their Intentions Are

Even large, well established companies look before they leap. Hotel giant Hyatt ran an ad in the New York Times Magazine for its new Life Care community in Briarcliff Manor, New York. What caught my eye was not the fact that a hotel chain is branching out into senior housing, but rather the clever way Hyatt went about testing the waters before making a significant financial investment. Here is the fine print:

Through this marketing material, Classic Residence by Hyatt is exploring the market demand for a Life Care community in Briarcliff Manor. By joining the Priority Reservation Program, you are expressing your interest in future residency at Classic Residence by Hyatt at Briarcliff Manor. A Priority Reservation agreement is not a Continuing Care Residency Agreement. All deposits will be held in escrow at Bank of New York. You may obtain a full refund of the reservation system deposit, with interest earned at the prevailing rates at any time for any reason. If a refund is requested, however, you forfeit your priority number and benefits. Your status in the program is subject to the terms of the Priority Reservation Program, which are explained in the Priority Reservation Agreement. Classic Residence by Hyatt is currently under development, with a proposed opening date of 2009. Hyatt is a registered trademark of Hyatt Corporation.

How smart is that? In this case, it paid off. Hyatt withdrew plans to open the community due to escalating construction costs.

Think you’d like to borrow from the Hyatt model to explore market demand for your own high priced product or service? Before you start cashing any checks, keep in mind that the people sending you money are not investors. And as such you can’t use prospective customer’s money until you actually decide to move forward with your enterprise and your customers have signed a clearly spelled out agreement on the front end. This is definitely one place where you’ll want to employ the services of an attorney. But still, if your business idea lends itself to a similar approach, it’s a fascinating example of testing the waters by getting prospective customers to put their money where their intentions are.

There are lots of ways you can look before you leap into a new business. For example, you can:

  • Talk to people who are doing the kind of work you think you’d enjoy. Find out what they love – and don’t love – about their work, what a typical day is like, and what they would have done differently if they had to do it all over again.

  • Read "how to" books. It may not give you the total picture, but at least you’ll know more than you did.

  • Search for "how to" Web sites. As with reading books, it is not the same as test driving a business idea, more like sticking a toe into the information pool.

  • Work for someone else in a similar business. Depending on the business, you may be asked to sign a non-compete clause. Then again, if your goal is to start a specialized summer camp, the smartest way to see if you’d like running a camp is to first work at one.

  • Take classes. Check with your local adult education program, do a search for schools specializing in your area of interest, or seek out online courses. You never know what’s out there until you look. For example, The Institute of Culinary Education in New York City offers courses in how to write a proposal for a cookbook, breaking into food writing, and how to be a food stylist/ photographer (ICECulinary.com).

  • Join an industry association. In addition to getting their publications, most associations offer conferences, seminars, and other opportunities to learn from and connect with people in your prospective line of work.

  • Hang out with people who are already doing what you think you’d like to do. If you’ve got an inventive mind but have never acted on it join a group like the Inventors Network in Minneapolis (InventorsNetwork.org), Washington, DC (DCInventors.org), or Springfield, MA (IRNetwork.org). You’ll find a list of networks by state at InventNet.com.

  • Find a mentor. Some people will mentor you for free. However, depending on how much time and training you need, you should expect to pay your mentor. If that person is successful in the business you’re considering, it will be well worth the investment.

  • Volunteer, intern or apprentice. I had the opportunity to chat with Steve Curwood, host of Living on Earth, an engaging environmental news and information program heard on over 300 National Public Radio stations. Naturally the first thing I did was pump him for information on how someone would go about getting their own program on public radio. Before trying to pitch an idea, Steve urged anyone interested in being on the air to first volunteer at their local station so they can learn first-hand how public radio works.

  • Take on a few clients or assignments for free. In addition to gaining experience, building confidence, and developing a portfolio or track record it’s a great way to see how you like the work before making a larger investment of time and money.

  • Start small. Everyone wants to go from nothing to having their own full blown business in a day. Not only is it not possible but you’d miss invaluable lessons. But perhaps most importantly, starting small once again allows you an opportunity to dabble in a new enterprise before deciding if it’s right for you. Small steps add up. Changing Course began when I sent away for a cassette tape on how to break into the newsletter business. That was over 10 years ago. Today I have over 22,000 subscribers. The key is to just begin.

Do you have a great idea for a business? There are lots of ways to test the waters before you dive in head first. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better."


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Praise

A New Direction

I decided to take the Work @ What You Love Workshop and also work one-on-one with Valerie. The workshop explored so many unusual and unexpected solutions to my specific questions. I made so many new connections to what clearly works for me in crea...

Julia Raymond
Curvology Studio

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