Unexpectedly Self Employed: 10 Pros – 10 Cons

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” ~ Truman Capote

I’m 46 years old, and for the third time in 24 years I find myself in the wide-open world of self employment. Though it’d been on the radar screen for 18 months or so, it didn’t come about exactly as I’d planned, but it’s all good because my subconscious was mentally preparing for life’s next exciting move anyway. It’s all because the owners at my previous place of employment “…decided to make a change in direction.”

i.e., “Your fired.”

Again, it’s all good.

This go-around will be the decider. In the previous two immersions into the world of the self employed my record is one and one.  This time’s for the championship, and each morning I wake up early, adrenaline flowing, ready to get back in the game.

For those of you who blog, I’m happy to share this important reality: During the last 10 months, I’ve spent 3 to 4 hours a day blogging in my spare time. If it hadn’t been for that, I’m not sure I’d be in a position to take on a brave new world in the communications market. Blogging’s opened up countless partnerships, alliances, relationships and learning experiences that are simply invaluable. In the beginning, I had no idea where it was all going, but the blogosphere’s definitely led to something more significant and meaningful in my life.

e.g.- One of the most surprising, and rewarding opportunties came from a sister blog I set up some time ago – one designed for personal reasons only – that chronicled an adventure Dana and I set out on last April. Over the months, it’s connected us to dozens of others in the expat world, and now I’ve been given the opportunity to write for International Living magazine on a regular basis. See www.internationallivingmagazine.com. It’s a huge blessing and thrilling opportunity.

Steve and Dana Watkins, owners of PRO Ecuador Marketing and Ecuador Guided ToursOn January 2, Dana and I will launch two new businesses abroad in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. The web had already opened up an opportunity to freelance some social media management gigs, and now we’re ready to formalize it all into a more focused umbrella of targeted opportunities. I’m now thrilled to focus 100 percent of our efforts toward the work we most love.

professional marketing agencies in Ecuador

PRO Ecuador Marketing is a comprehensive marketing company that will manage ad campaigns (new and traditional media) for tourism-related industries along the emerging Ecuadorian coast. Its website is currently under development.

Ecuador Guided Tours www.ecuadorguidedtours.com is a full expat service assisting travelers and potential expat explorers looking for new opportunities along the Ecuadorian Pacific Coast. It’s an idea we had almost immediately after we spent two weeks exploring Ecuador on our own, and found no formal services to guide us in a way that would make the most of our time and money.

Full expat service agency for travelers and expats looking for real estate in Ecuador.

It’s an exciting thing to get back into the world of self employment. I’ve been thinking about all the pros and cons, and these are my thoughts so far:

CONS

1. Aside from the work itself, there’s a lot to learn, especially when you own a business that operates both from the U.S., and a foreign country. Different rules apply in both places, and it’s easy to see how a business owner could make serious, consequential mistakes in the complexity of it all. A legal, yet advantageous tax strategy is foremost on the list.

2. In the past, I’ve had the luxury of hiring really smart co-workers who compliment one another’s skills and talents. At least for now, it’s just Dana and me, and I’ll miss the synergy that comes from a small group of really smart people.

3. Also missing from the group dynamic is the luxury of specialization. Previously, I’ve been able to pass on the more technical work to people MUCH smarter than me, but now I’m required to be more tech-savvy than I ever imagined because I simply can’t afford (at this point) to hire highly specialized co-workers.

4. Because the business world is radically different than it was just three years ago, and because technology changes at the speed of light on any given day, there’s a ton of prelimary work that must be managed to properly launch a new business. There are business cards to print, websites to develop, social media distribution tools to create and link together, ad campaign strategies and much more. Our situation is all the more challenging because our communication methods must be effective in two very distinct cultures. I’d be totally lying if I didn’t say it’s all a lot of fun though.

5. It’s a given that income will fluctuate from month to month. That requires a lot of thought with regard to current debt obligations and the cost of necessary future investments.

6. Balance is critical. I’m old enough now to know my strengths and weakness. One weakness is the tendency to immerse myself in work, but experience tells me that’s a double-edged sword. I’m working hard to learn proper self-scheduling. It’s just not possible to monitor email 24 hours a day.

7. In our “spare time,”  Dana and I must become fluent in Latin American Spanish. Those six years of college Spanish were a long time ago, and today, I’m a gringo defined.

8. Today, we’re 38 days out from wheels up to from Memphis to Atlanta-Quito-Manta-Puerto Cayo. The checklist for things to do moves two steps ahead of us every time we take a single step forward.

9. I’ve always enjoyed responding to other bloggers’ requests for coaching or critique. It’s sort of my way of giving back. Now, I’m required to be much more selective in who I can help and whether it will be free or not.

10. There are rare moments when I’m scared. I never want anyone to see it, so there’s a mask to put on from time to time.

“A little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing.” ~ my banker

PROS

1. It gives me the opportunity to thank God for second and third chances. I’ve been praying the Prayer of Jabez for three weeks now, and it often brings a tear to my eye, because I believe those prayers have been answered in such an overwhelmingly unexpected way.

2. I’d by lying if I didn’t tell you it’s the most exciting time in my life.

3. The perks! Unlimited vacation, knocking off at 3 p.m., coming in late. Ha! I know I’ll never really do those things.

4. Never again (I pray) will I be subject to the whims of a pre-maturely elevated, 30-something whipper-snapper who thinks he’s got the world by the tail and has it all figured out.

5. For those us who have certain personality types … I’m a High D, ENFJ, there’s no substitute for sailing your own ship.

6. Pursuing a vision (whatever it may be) is the most fulfilling thing I know.

7. Technology makes the global business world smaller and smaller every day. Dana and I love the opportunity to meet and develop relationships with people in other cultures. A few months ago, I met a Peruvian lawyer and French-trained chef. His name was Caesar. When he first introduced himself, he said, “I’m a citizen of the world,” and it sent chills up my spine.

8. At 46, I’ve made a TON of mistakes in both my business and personal life. Lessons learned the hard way, yet invaluable. With a little luck, I’ll see those issues looming ahead this time, and take the appropriate detours.

9. Four years ago, I had a “great idea” for a business where I intended to be the sole proprietor – all me – and I went to visit several banker friends soliciting a loan to get the business going for a year or so. On my last visit to my last resort, this is what one banker told me: “A little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing.” He wanted me to solicit investors – to go out and sell others on my idea, and rather than take on the full risk of investment and the potential full rewards – to share both the risk and those rewards. I ignored his advice and the idea flopped in three months. Sidebar – I didn’t get the loan…  This time, that’s my philosophy going in because it’s quite true: A LITTLE BIT OF SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN A WHOLE LOT OF NOTHING.

10. Honestly, I’ve never been more alive.

What Pro/Con experiences have you enjoyed in the world of self employment, or what advice would you have for others considering a new adventure?

(Steve Watkins is a professional journalist and blogger, and a contributor to International Living Magazine. For more information, see his “about me” page @ http://wp.me/P2bjEC-7:  or contact him at stevewatkins71@yahoo.com.)

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What would a “Blog-You-Mentary” look like?

I’ve developed a web domain hording habit.

It’s just another quirk in the day-to-day life of an OCD wanna-be-make-a-difference-in-the-world blogger-dreamer, I suppose.

The wife says she prefers $9.99 domain buying to sitting at a black jack table, and so I’ve embraced the habit with her endorsement. Inevitably, it takes our bank account to the brink each and every month.

For years, my personal email at stevewatkins71@yahoo.com has carried a quotable tagline from anthropologist Margaret Meade I first discovered after watching a Nickelback video titled, “If Everyone Cared.” The video’s last few seconds fade to Meade’s quote:

“Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

It’s become something of a mantra for me because of its simple truth.

A couple of years later, I was further inspired by an award-winning documentary titled: “Playing for Change: Peace through Music,” and another great video that beautifully promoted its cause.

If you do nothing else for yourself today, please give this a watch, and be inspired. Talk about a magnificent collaboration…

Since discovering the blogging world and becoming an active participant a year or so ago, I’ve adopted the following beliefs about its potential:

  • The blogosphere makes the world much smaller.
  • It’s a great place to discover unbelievable talent.
  • Possibilities for world-changing collaboration are everywhere.
  • We’ve yet to conceive just how powerful this tool may become.

Some domains I’ve purchased are simply for future fun: i.e., www.BBQNazi.com; others are for promotion of future creative works: i.e. www.LightWins.com. In the grand scheme, they’re small ideas with which I’ll have a little fun and occupy some creative time.

But what of the bigger picture? There’s not a day goes by when I don’t wonder about a bigger blog impact and how it might be achieved.

I’m convinced the core of the human spirit is relational. Our most divine of inspiration comes from others.

Forget the presidential debates, Justin Beiber‘s last tweet, or the latest-greatest iPhone. Did you happen to catch the most amazing three hours in recent human history yesterday when Felix Baumgartner compelled the world to dream once again? That’s a story worth telling.

***

I have an ever-growing relationship with the support departments at www.godaddy.com and www.wix.com. For the record, they’re two of the most efficient and helpful support departments I’ve encountered. Real professionals, they are.

Last Friday, I called in to buy yet another domain: www.BlogYouMentary.com.

“This is really good. What are you going to do with it?” the support specialist asked as we went through the standard domain-buying gyrations.

“I’m not sure yet,” I responded, “but I like it too.”

So there it is: http://www.BlogYouMentary.com…

I’m wondering:

  • What exactly does a “blogyoumentary” look like?
  • What form does it take?
  • Is it a solo project, or one to be taken on collaboratively with other bloggers who have a desire to change the world … and, if so, who might be interested?
  • How could it be used for the greater good?

Endless possibilities, I think.

Wondering what you think…

What does a “blogyoumentary” look like, and where does it go from here?

I sincerely welcome your comments, questions and thoughts, and even a “reblog,” if you deem the question worthy.

~ steve

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Six Blog Post “Leads” That Will Lose Me in a Second

“Literature is the art of writing something that will be read  twice; journalism what will be grasped at once.” ~ Cyril  Connolly

LEAD (OR LEDE) –

A lead paragraph in literature refers to the opening paragraph of an article, essay, news story or book chapter. Often called just “the lead,” it writing for blogsusually occurs together with the headline or title. It precedes the main body of the article, and it gives the reader the main idea of the story. In the journalism industry, particularly in the United States the term is sometimes spelled lede. “Lede” refers to one or two sentences, not multiple paragraphs. Journalistic leads emphasize grabbing the attention of the reader. In journalism, the failure to mention the most important, interesting or attention-grabbing elements of a story in the first paragraph is sometimes called “burying the lead.”

***

It’s a product of having come from the “old school” world of journalism, I suppose.

While pursuing an undergraduate degree in journalism, I was required to take an entire 18-week course on writing leads.

A beautifully crafted lead is a work of art. A substandard lead tarnishes every word that follows. Your lead is a “make or break” deal. Readers make an unconscious decision whether he will read on, or click off, after the first 30 words.

Here, I’ve written six leads that will lose me in a second. Some were published on WordPress today.

***

1. “Hello people! Haven’t blogged in awhile because I’ve been busy up to my neck. I finally started working on Friday and it has been “fun” if I can call it that. My boss is absolutely the nicest man ever, my colleagues are equally awesome, there’s free wifi! What more can a sister ask for? Well along with the job came more  work.” (Well hello right back at you!!!!! I’ve been wondering where you were!!! You’ve been busy? Really!!!  That’s awesome. I have no idea what this post is trying to say.)

2. “If your (sic) wondering where I’ve been lately, life’s just been to (sic) busy to be on the blog.” (With two fundamental grammatical errors, and ending with a string of three consecutive prepositional phrases, I pass on this one quickly.)

3. “Here’s a collection of musings, rants and ramblings from the last week.” (I don’t have time for ramblings; if you’re going to rant, please do it without telling me so, because I’ll be much more inclined to read; and I have no idea what a ‘musing’ is.)

4. “The hubs and I had the most awesome lunch today!” (I’m thrilled you and ‘theBlogging tips hubs’ enjoyed your fare and that you were so compelled to end with a slammer, but I refer you to the author of this book, whose sentiments I could not share more.)

5. “Needless to say, I was scared to death, but when reality set in, I knew we’d make the best of it.” (Congratulations on setting the world record for most cliche’s in a single sentence.)

6. “Another week of me being semi-lazy…” (I actually found this one in my reader today. Oh, how it compels me to read more…)

Want more readers?

Write good leads.

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Pay it Forward: The E-mail I Thought About All Night

“Nobody ever has any success in life without the help of a friend.”

That’s what a successful businessman told me back in 2008 when I was on the brink of launching a publishing business from the ground up. I’d gone to solicit his advice, and his money, by way of advertising in a new publication.

He agreed to invest several thousand dollars in our publication, not necessarily because it helped him so much, but because he cared enough to pay something forward.

I’ve never forgotten that day.

***

husband wife relationships

This is Dana. My wife and #1 helpmate. There’s not another person in the world who’s given me so much of themselves.

I receive between 150 and 200 emails on any given day. Like most, I’m selective in what I read versus what gets “xd out” at first glance.

Late yesterday an email to my personal account carried a tagline “I value your opinion,” and almost certain it was spam, it was a good candidate for a quick delete.

I reluctantly clicked it anyway.

Turns out the email was from a fellow blogger with whom I’d struck up a casual relationship a month ago. We’ll call him Tom.

Tom basically said he was looking for a writing mentor. Here’s an edited excerpt from his email:

***

“I’ve dabbled in writing for a long time. I’m at the point in my life that I’d like to get serious about it. I’ve been a “closet writer” for ages, not letting anyone see my work (including my wife) for fear of being judged, an inferiority complex and being laughed at.
I’m desperate at this point in my life to make something of myself. I would be indebted to you if you could look over my post and critique my writing. I understand your (sic) a busy person and have your own life to move forward with. And totally understand if your (sic) just to busy, or simply didn’t want to get involved.
I’ve looked at many other people and their writing on wordpress, but for some reason I keep gravitating back to your site for “pointers.” I’m sure some of it has to do with your journalism background being that I came from a newspaper background myself. I drove a newspaper truck for 22 years in Chicago. Not the same as a journalist by any stretch of the imagination. But a sense of connection just the same.
In short I’m looking for a mentor in writing and would be grateful if you would help me. I’m not sure yet how I can return the favor. I’m not very good at anything unless you needed driving directions in Chicago (I thought I needed to throw in some humor). All I ask is you think about it. And please don’t feel obligated or pressured to help. I’ll understand.
I’ve agonized for days about sending you this email. #1 I didn’t want to bother you. After all you don’t know me. #2 I’m not accustomed to asking anyone for help. It’s just something I don’t do.”
***
Tom’s right. I stay pretty busy. Overly busy. But I get what he’s saying.

mother son relationships

This is my mom. Her love and suppor have been unconditional for 46 years.

  • He’s apprehensive about writing what’s on his heart.
  • Transparency is scary.
  • He really wants to make something of himself.
  • He hates to ask anyone for help.
  • But help is precisely what he needs.
So Tom finds himself in a place to which I suspect we can all relate.
  • Have you ever desperately needed to share your heart, but bottled it all up for fear of rejection?
  • Have you found yourself in a moment when you searched your heart for your true life’s calling?
  • Are you simply too prideful or fearful to ask a friend for help?
best friends and men

This is my very best friend in the world. He helps me by making life fun, being there at a moment’s notice and defining loyalty.

Interestingly, Tom’s communicated with me at the very time when I’ve determined to say “no” to more things than I normally do.

By nature, I’m an over-extender, spread thin, and in the midst of trying to simplify life.

But I get it Tom. Been there, done that. To you, I say “yes.”
I’ll do whatever I can to help Tom. Too many people have helped me by way of pure grace. It’s true – what my helper said back in 2008 – is still true today.
“You never have any success in life without the help of a friend.”
Do you relate to Tom’s sentiments? I’m guessing so.
About transparency, fear of judgment, making something of yourself and asking for help… what would you tell Tom?
Seriously, what would you say to him?
I’d like to know. I bet he would too.
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Blogging Home Runs – Sometimes

big mac home run recordMost bloggers would acknowledge a certain sense of satisfaction in receiving “likes” and commentary on the posts they make.

I receive feedback a number of ways.

Readers leave their thoughts/opinions in the “comment” section of my site. Others make simple comments via any number of social media used to broadcast the post. Occasionally, a reader will send  private inbox or email which means they really went out of their way to offer feedback.

Such was the case yesterday from a work colleague in response to this post.

In his 50-word email, Bob reflected that in his 40 years he’d always tried to live life to the fullest. Having an awesome, supportive wife by his side in their 12 married years was a big bonus that contributed to his ability to do just that, he said. Then, in his first response ever to my work, he said this:

“Keep on writing. Some days you hit a home run.”

That comment gave momentary pause to my morning.

Bob is a smart guy. I mean really smart – in a way I’ll never comprehend. One of those guys I label a techno-wiz. Give him a keyboard and a monitor and he can do anything. He’s also a pretty cool guy like me who doesn’t take himself too seriously, so we get along well. Since I’m Bob’s polar opposite, I’ve always admired his ability in that area and often joke with him that we ought to get together and develop some “technology” in the “lab.” It’s just my way of laughing at my own inadequacies in the area where he excels.

So when a guy like Bob pays you a compliment, you take a moment to cherish his words.

What Bob Didn’t Say…

Sometimes you hit a home run. Sometimes. Not always.

There’s a blatant honesty in the statement. What he didn’t say was this: Sometimes, your work’s not that great, or sometimes it doesn’t particularly resonate with me, or sometimes, I totally disagree with what you say.

Sometimes.

I love that Bob said it that way. I love what he didn’t say, and how he didn’t say it. Because it’s a great reminder, and a life lesson in some regard.

Some days are really good. Other days, we miss the mark, altogether. But once in a while, we hit a home run, and those days are to be treasured.

I’m asked fairly often why I blog. If I’m transparent in the reasons why, here are some.

1. I write because I can’t not (excuse the double negative) write. It’s the way I best communicate. My written words are much better than the spoken ones.

2. I blog to express opinions, make points and chronicle life.

3. A small percentage of the time, I blog for self-promotion; to create a brand of myself. That may sound egocentric enough, but it’s just business really. The reality is I’ll never be Lewis Grizzard, Pat Conroy or Cormac McCarthy. But I do have some books coming out over the next few months, and with a little luck I’ll publish: Writing for Boris: An Author/Writer’s Guide to Making the World Your Audience on Black Friday. The reality is people like buying things from people they know. I hope the blog allows readers to get to know me better.

4. I blog as an experiment. Sometimes, I’ll take a topic I think will rank high among the search engines, just to see how many “hits” I can get and where those hits come from across the world. Those posts are really fun.

5. But mostly, I think I blog to make people think. If my work can cause readers to pause for just a moment, like Bob’s words made me pause, reflect and assess, then for me, the job’s well done.

What Readers Say, and Where They Go

And I’ve had comments to all extremes.

  • The most read post on my site is this one. It’s the “About Steve” page. The fact this is the most read page on the site doesn’t surprise me – not because I’m awesomely interesting. But rather because readers like to “know” authors. It’s an advantage the newspaper reporter and TV anchors really don’t have.
  • In this post on a vote recently cast by U.S. Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) a reader called me a “left-wing liberal, extremist and unpatriotic.” I don’t agree with her, and I think she missed the message altogether. But it’s okay. I could’ve prevented her comment from going public, but I didn’t. If I open myself up to criticism through the blog, I must also welcome it.
  • This old post is read quite frequently. It’s one where I reflected on the death of my father 40 days after he passed away. It’s interesting how frequently the number “40” is searched on the web.
  • When a local TV anchor died about three months ago, I was compelled to reflect on his career. I knew there wouldn’t be that many tributes to his work, and it would be a shame not to have recognized his journalistic accomplishments. It’s obvious that people were hungry for information about Jack Hill, because his name is searched almost daily, and readers are directed to my blog just because it’s one of the few outlets that went into any detail about his life’s achievements.
  • Think “religion’s’ not an issue in the Obama-Romney race for the White House? Think again. The title of this post: Obama vs. Romney: What Would Jesus Do?, has been searched every day since publication. I think voters want to know which candidate most believes in Jesus, and it’s interesting that it’s something neither really talks about and probably never will.
  • This post holds the record for most hits in one day. It was one of those experimental posts made just a few days after Arkansas Razorback footballcoach Bobby Petrino was fired and justifiably denied the right to coach what could have been a national championship team. The post titled: “Here in Arkansas, It’s the Perfect Storm,” assessed the likelihood that Arkansas State University Coach Gus Malzahn would be enticed to make a new home across the state. For what it’s worth, I think the premise will still play out.

Some days you hit a home run, others, a simple single, and there are those many days when the bat never touches the ball. I’m just thankful to be in the game.

Thanks Bob, for inspiring a “metaphorical” post, and for making me a “daily read.”

See you in the lab.

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Wahhh Pig Sooie

Who am I? What am I doing here?” ~ vice presidential candidate, Admiral James Stockdale (1992)

The Woo is gone out of Woo Pig Sooie.

John L Smith fired

This says it all in Arkansas.

It happens to the best of them: the Tylenol scandal; New Coke, Coke-Classic debacle; Bill Clinton’s, “I never had sex with that woman.”

If ever there was a case study in crisis management, University of Arkansas Razorbacks Athletic Director Jeff Long now has one on his hands.

From the Spring Sunday when Bobby Petrino took an infamous motorcycle ride with a young athletic staff employee, to the Razorback‘s temporary Band Aid with John L. Smith, to losing to a “cupcake” in the Sun Belt Conference, to an embarrassing home wipeout at the hands of the Univerity of Alabama, then Rutgers … and in the midst of it all a series of incomprehensible statements made by Smith (including the latest today) and the apparent oversight of Smith’s $25 million in debt, Long is now far past the job of trying to prevent apathy among fans who were once hopeful for the Razorback’s first national championship in three decades.

He’s now faced with how to stop people from making a mockery of his school. That’s never happened before.

The word cited most often of Smith’s performance is “moronic.” He doesn’t even know where he is, folks.arkansas razorback football

A “Fire John L. Smith” Facebook Fan Page is gaining momentum.

Once loyal fans, even in the face of the most imaginable of circumstances, are now repugnant toward the program.

Truth is, Smith should have been dismissed in the post game following a historic shutout at the hands of the Crimson Tide when his team shut down. It certainly should have happened Saturday night after the Rutgers fiasco.

It’s no longer a matter of salvaging a football season. Now it’s a lot more.

It’s a control issue.

Some things are simply unpermissable.

Long is faced with the decision and showing his fan base the “unacceptability” of the circumstances.

I think you’ll see it in the next 24 hours.

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