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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New Horizons. Different Hemisphere.

marketing and expat services in ecuador

PUERTO CAYO, ECUADOR – Two new client-based, professional service businesses are set to establish headquarters in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador on January 1.

Steve Watkins, founder of the agencies, said his corporation, The Legacy Firm, LLC, will launch a commercial marketing company and a full expat guide service beginning on the new year.

“With steadily improving infrastructure on roads and utility services, and the growing number of developments along the Ecuadorian coast, we see a valuable commodity in providing professional services for those who are working to promote their business, and the ever-increasing number of potential expatriates and tourists who are exploring new opportunities,” Watkins said.

Watkins said his agency recognized that many businesses and property development companies are looking to expose their work not only to local and regional population, but to a growing global market being drawn to all that Ecuador has to offer.

“And based on the current trends, we know the demand for these services will grow well into the future. Retirees, entrepreneurs and families who simply desire a new quality of life are researching and finding the Ecuadorian coast. We want to help them, acclimate them, and welcome them to a great way of life.”

OUR MISSION:
We passionately pursue and develop cutting-edge global advertising and communication strategies to partner with business clients and entepreneurs who lead and pioneer Ecuador’s emerging economic initiatives in tourism and related services.
ad and communications agencies in puerto cayo ecuador
OUR VISION:
Connecting Ecuador to the WORLD through mutually beneficial business relationships and alliances that collectively benefit from effective communication initiatives and an ever-increasing awareness of all that Ecuador has to offer.

PRO Ecuador Marketing offers strategic promotional counsel to businesses looking to grow their market and exposure. Services offered will include:

  • Website development
  • Ad campaign services
  • Social media branding and marketing
  • Professional photography
  • Blog development and coaching
  • Brochure, business card and other print services
  • Special event planning
  • YouTube video promotions, and more

expat services in ecuador

Ecuador Guided Tours will provide full expat services ranging from:expat guide and marketing services in puerto cayo ecuador

  • Airport transportation to and from
  • Real estate assistance and counsel
  • Coastal tours
  • Blog documentation with photos and text
  • One-on-One counsel and overviews: How to Live and Thrive in Ecuador
  • Golf & Fishing excursions
  • Professional downloadable photos
  • Artisan markets
  • Additional destinations including Quito and the Galapagos
  • Free email subscription to our semi-monthly newsletter: EXPAT ECUADOR

Full expat service marketing in  Ecuador“When our family made its first exploratory trip to Ecuador it was just us, a rental car and a map. The services of a professional guide would have saved us an investment of time and money, but those services weren’t available locally,” Watkins said. “Our team will help exploring expats and travelers make the most of their valuable time in a very affordable price structure.”

Services for Ecuador Guided Tours may be viewed at www.ecuadorguidedtours.com

Services for PRO Ecuador Marketing will soon be available at http://www.proecuadormarketing.com

For more information, contact Watkins at stevewatkins71@yahoo.com, or stateside, contact him at 870-926-4055.  Additional helpful information may be found at www.laspalmasecuador.com

Check Out House Hunters International – Tonight!

house hunters international in puerto cayo

Our friends Gary and April Scarborough on House Hunters International tonight!

Just a reminder to anyone who enjoys House Hunter’s International, or who’s dreamed about a beautiful home on the beach – check out tonight’s show featuring Gary and April Scarborough, two friends we made during a visit to Puerto Cayo, Ecuador last May.

The storyline: Natives of Atlanta, the Scarboroughs owned two thriving businesses in 2008 – a home construction company, and an electrical company. When the economy crashed, they did extensive research on “cheap places to live,” and were consistently pointed in the direction of Cuenca, Ecuador.

Gary, April, and their children, Peyton and Carson, packed up their two dogs and 22 suitcases and headed for a new life in Cuenca. When Gary received the opportunity to build a beachside community in Puerto Cayo, on Ecuador’s Pacific coast, they moved once again to the quaint fishing village of Puerto Cayo.

They live there today, and the development of www.laspalmasecuador is experiencing great success as a first-class expatriate community.

Dana and I know the Scarboroughs and count them as friends and partners, as they are now overseeing the construction of a home we are building in Puerto Cayo. We were sold from Day One.

gary april scarborough

The spectacular view from the Scarborough’s home in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador.

Check it out tonight at 9:30 CST on HGTV … and if you have further questions about life at Las Palmas please contact gary@laspalmasecuador.com or april@laspalmasecuador.com.

You can find a story I previously wrote about the Scarborough’s HHI behind-the-scenes experience here: http://wp.me/p2bjEC-Lq

-30-

The New Blog at Las Palmas

A new look for the blog at the Las Palmas Community in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador, thanks to developers Gary & April Scarborough.

Las Palmas Ecuador

Las Palmas EcuadorHola everyone!

Welcome to the blog for Las Palmas – your Paradise on the South Pacific in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador!!!

We have a new look, big plans and a genuine excitementfor all the things ahead.

Just a few of the all-new things you notice in the future are:

  • Feature stories on your neighbors and friends who are making Las Palmas their home.
  • A regularly-published electronic newsletter featuring the latest at Las Palmas.
  • News and current events from Ecuador and the Manabi Province.
  • A peak into the lifestyle of a few of our expatriate neighbors up and down the Ecuadorian coast.
  • And of course, visual documentaries of the construction progress at Las Palmas and the surrounding neighborhood.

Please share the new site with your friends, on your social media posts and to your peers who are looking for an adventure, and if you have additional information or suggestions about thing’s…

View original post 39 more words

This Little House Was Made of Cement

The work is coming along rapidly now on our South American home in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. Dana and I are getting more eager each day to take make the trip exactly four months from today.

Ours is not the only home under construction in the Manabi Province. To view photos of the beautiful coastal Las Palmas development, please see www.laspalmasecuador.com and read about our friends, Gary and April Scarborough who are developing this land we call the New West.

***

Front of the house with the second floor balcony (right) and patio (left) taking shape.

puerto cayo ecuador

Back door entrance and cement has made it all around the first level.

puerto cayo ecuador

Northwesterly view facing the Pacific, and the forms on the third-floor rooftop patio are in place. Going to be a great elevated view from there.

puerto cayo ecuador

Stairway up to master suite has been mudded.

puerto cayo ecuador

This guy is doing a really neat job. As you can see, electrical and water lines are actually buried in the cement walls. The cement helps regulate the house temperature. It can get hot on the coast one degree south of the equator.

puerto cayo ecuador

Mudding another electrical line.

puerto cayo ecuador

Smoothing the exterior south wall.

puerto cayo ecuador

South wall ground level complete.

puerto cayo ecuador

Mixing at the machine. It’s the “dry season” in Ecuador. You can tell by the overcast skies.

puerto cayo ecuador

Please see today’s additional posts @ http://wp.me/p2bjEC-Aw and http://wp.me/s2bjEC-2311

Change the World 2013 Blogger’s Summit

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

***

This is an idea in the making. Let me know if you may have interest, so that it may be further developed.

We are all on a mission – destined for something. Something that is bigger than ourselves. I’m curious about what it may be for a yet unknown group of us.

My wife, Dana and I, are interested in hosting a small-group bloggers conference at our vacation home in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador, most likely for a period of several days in June of 2013. I’m giving plenty of notice so that you may give this thought, prayer or whatever type consideration to which you are led.

There is no “charge” for this conference. You will be responsible only for travel, and your own expenses while there. Ecuador (except for airfare) is a very cheap destination.

The vision is for a group of smart, caring, people to come together, pool their collective communication expertise and use it for some higher purpose – one for which I believe a group of us is destined.

To qualify you need only:

  • Let me know of your general interest within 30 days of today. I will accept that any response means you are interested only in learning more about the possibilities.
  • Share with me any number of dreams you have to make a difference in the world.
  • Prepare yourself to have a very good time.
  • Enjoy the company of “thinking” people.
  • Know that your entire family is welcome.
  • Be very good at whatever it is you do.
  • Know that we will limit participation to 12 families or individuals.
  • Know that we will be discussing creating a MOVEMENT, whatever that may be. The inspiration is here:

Yes, it’s vague. That’s how good things start.

If you have an interest message me privately via wordpress or at stevewatkins71@yahoo.com. Make your subject line: Change the World 2013.

If  you want to know more about me go here: http://wp.me/P2bjEC-7

And if you know of others who may have interest, feel free to repost.

Sincerely yours,

Steve Watkins

Our Relational DNA: It Spans the Globe

This sweet lady sold me a pancho at The Middle of the World equator monument in Quito. She reminded me of my grandmother. The pancho is a rather GQ look if you ask me!

Dana and I had a number of reasons for undertaking a 10-day adventure in Ecuador, but chief among them was to immerse ourselves in the culture.

We knew there would be a number of challenges. We have an elementary grasp of the language, knew we would be traveling in unknown territory and had established only a few on-line relationships with a few American expatriates prior to our journey into Guayaquil and our ultimate destination to Puerto Cayo.

This Ecuadorian group of family and friends was on holiday at Los Suenos del Mar, and as they were posing for a group photo I ran to them to get a photo of my own. They were thrilled that I would want a photo for myself, and we spent the rest of the day, posing for more group photos together and sharing stories about our families.

For certain, there were many challenges, and we embraced them. Some have asked about our takeaway from the trip, and for one, I can say to no small degree that my faith in humanity has been restored.

This group of local tourists had been partying all night. As I walked to breakfast, bleary eyed at 7:45 on a Sunday morning, I was yet to have my first cup of coffee when they insisted that I share in a drink of the local spirits. I couldn’t say no! Viva la Ecuador!

People are good. I believe that again. And our last day in Puerto Cayo confirmed that belief.

This is my new friend, Manuel, and his two young sons. We are tough hombres!

Whoever we are, and wherever we live across the expanse of this globe, we have an innate desire to be relational … and it only takes a single kind gesture to make a lifetime of memories.

The woman at center is an Ecuadorian school teacher. She insisted that her daughter practice her English with my wife, Dana.

Vacation Not – Adventure, Yes

Dana and me in one of our more relaxed moments in Montanita, an hour north of our base in Puerto Cayo.

While we’re not particularly die-hard fans of anything on television today, Dana and I have always been drawn to the CBS reality show, The Amazing Race, where paired couples are challenged daily to travel the world in unknown territories and uncharted waters while the clock ticks away.

Unlike most of the other reality series’, Amazing Race carries a certain sophistication, and the huge benefit of taking people out of their comfort zone to experience a world created by the most creative of artists.

A few months ago when I began thinking about the possibilities for Dana’s 39th birthday, I wanted to create something memorable for her. A new blender and a pair of earrings, just didn’t seem pass the test for her upcoming milestone. She would have well appreciated anything she received, but an experience with a lasting memory was the gift which I sought.

Nearly three hours into our drive from the airport, we came across this scene on the extreme southern coast of Ecuador. At this point, we pretty much knew we were lost, though it’s not an uncommon scene anywhere you go.

A few years before we were married, Dana, at various times, served as a missionary in Mexico, Greece and Morocco. Among the things she’s experienced in her life, those times created some of her fondest memories. Her time in Greece and Morocco was solo, without the benefit of a guide or tour group, and so there’s a proven adventuresome spirit God put in her from the beginning.

So as the birthday possibilities streamed through my mind, I determined to create yet another memory – but this time, one that would be shared. I wanted an experience that would challenge us both, push us outside our comfort zone as a couple, so that every day would be a source of memories for years to come.

About a week prior to her birthday I purchased gifts that would have been adequate enough. They would be nicely wrapped with a loving card, presented at a nice surprise birthday party with a gathering of friends and family … but on one particular day the feeling came across that it just wasn’t enough.

Going back through some research I had done in the previous year, my heart led me to Ecuador. And to make a long story short, within the next 24 hours, the flight was booked, and rental car accommodations were made.

What would we be doing while we were there? I really had no clue. We’ll figure it out when we hit the ground, I decided … and so the adventure took form.

Though I’m not the most cosmopolitan of world travelers, I’ve been around some. Gulf Shores, Cocoa Beach, Bahamas, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, I’ve been there, done that and sipped all the poolside pina coladas a man could ever want.

The 10 days we would experience on the Ecuadorian coast, inland highlands and rainforests would not replicate our “vacations” of the past. We would push ourselves in territory that is literally uncharted. We would not be afraid to get lost, and we would immerse ourselves in the culture of this diverse land and its people.

After 9 hours of driving on what should have been a two-and-a-half-hour drive, we finally arrived at this scene, our base for the week, Puerto Cayo. Beautiful as it may be, the tranquility can be deceiving. This is a fishing village where the average monthly income is $300.

And it lived up to every expectation.

Five minutes after packing the rental car (A Chevy Spark with 9-gallon gas tank, stick shift and approximately 3-square feet of space within its four doors) we were as lost as two people could be. Our first miracle was simply finding a road that would lead us out of Guayaquil, a city of 3.1 million where the roads have no lines, no rules and it’s every man for himself. It was a driving fiasco. It took two hours to find our way out of the city and another 7 hours to get to our destination at Puerto Cayo.  Properly driven, it should have been a two-and-a-half hour leisurely road trip…

I left home with full intention to blog daily about our experiences in Ecuador, but it was not to be. In the beginning, 10 days sounded like a lot of time to read, write and record our adventure, but we realized quickly that every moment was precious. Too many experiences were to be had. Every moment was an investment in learning, and so I took feverish notes as time would allow to come home and share those experiences later.

This is 3-year old Carlos, the nino of Manuel and Ivonne, two friends we made at Los Suenos del Mar.

In the short time we’ve been home (less than 24 hours now) a few people have asked about our takeaway from the Ecuadorian adventure. It’s a hard thing to pinpoint, but to some degree, I can say, in a general sense, my faith in humanity has been restored.

We met and enjoyed time with some bold American expatriates who, over the next few years, will make a huge difference in the Ecuadorian economy. They are entrepreneurs of the highest caliber, and our time with them was well spent.

But we also found ways to spend invaluable quality time with local Ecuadorians who welcomed us with open arms, and even though the language barrier could be a challenge at times, the sharing of a drink, firm handshakes and hugs and kisses, warm embraces and smiles of realized friendships touched our hearts in an unforgettable way.

Yes, God’s people are good, and we find it in His finest creation (that which He created in His own image) around the world.

Over the next few days, I’ll be documenting the specific experiences we shared, and some tips should you ever decide to explore what many expatriates there now call the world’s last undiscovered frontier.

I’ll write about the best ways to travel, food, transportation, Ecuadorian culture, the economy and its potential, people and many other topics. We learned a lot. Some of it the hard way – just as we planned!

At one point in our travels I made a joking Facebook post about one night at dinner when Dana asked me this: “What’s the most amazing thing about being married to me?” All our friends wanted to know my response and so I’ll close by paraphrasing my response to those requests for an answer.

“You all tell me the right response is that Dana has a great heart, that she is beautiful, trustworthy, genuinely good and a bright spot in the lives of everyone she meets. Well guess what? I already know all that. But here’s the real deal.

“We’re not on your typical vacation here, and never planned for it to be such. We’re working with roads and roadmaps that have no similarity or relationship whatsoever, so you can pretty much throw the maps out the window. There are 3-foot potholes about every hundred yards. Donkeys, pigs and dogs dart out onto the road from nowhere. We have only an elementary grasp of the local language. There are no mohitos or cabana boys serving our heart’s every desire. Hot water for a shower happens about 33 percent of the time, and toilet paper is to be treasured. Yes, you’d better carry it with you at all times.

“This is not a vacation, it’s an adventure … and so any girl who would come along on an excursion like this and love every minute of it, is my kind of girl.”

That’s what I said.

Next post: “Day One: What in the World Have We Done?”

Just a Few Quick Shots from Ecuador

Dana and Me

Time has been too valuable to blog since our arrival in Ecuador six days ago now. Every minute is exploration. Wanted to post a few quick pics, though, and will recap all when we return home.

We have some great stories.

Tomorrow, driving from Puerto Cayo to Manta and taking the early flight into Quito to stand on the equator for a bucket-list check.

Good night, from the middle of the World.

Playing tourista in Montanita!!!

Sunset on the Pacific: Latitude Zero.