Anatomy of a Kickstarter project: Preliminary examination


If you are not a regular reader of the Accessible Insights blog, it will not require much poking around here to discover that, along with my pet topics of inclusion, accessibility, disability awareness and assistive technology, I often write about entrepreneurship.  In the spirit of "necessity breeds invention," I have been a solopreneur for years.  Recently, I’ve undertaken a new venture.

 

It is this new venture about which I write today.  Actually, I’m going to write about the process of getting my little project off the ground, with the assistance of Kickstarter.  If you’ve been curious about Kickstarter and how it works, if it would be right for you, or if you are just delighted to have the opportunity to watch a business go down in flames, like the ghoulish fixation people have with another person’s tragedy, then  you’ll get your fill here.  I’ll either be the hero or the goat, and if you like the idea of rooting for the underdog, you just can’t beat the odds that are stacked up against me.

 

My little startup venture is called Elegant Insights Braille Creations.  It is a line of jewelry and accessories that are embossed in Braille.   So far, the business barely qualifies as a hobby.  Still, my plan is to make a go of it, and that’s why I turned to Kickstarter.

 

In  case you don’t know, Kickstarter is the largest of the new "crowdfunding"  platforms growing like wildfire today.  The upshot is that you create a project profile, upload all the relevant info, create a video, post product descriptions, ask for people to "kick in" some cash, promise them a reward for doing so, and hope your project can attract "backers" before the expiration date you’ve set for your project completion.  Piece of cake, right?

  

According to the Kickstarter web site, www.kickstarter.com, just under half of all projects are successful, meaning that they’ve met or exceeded their funding goals in the allotted timeframe.  That’s a bit intimidating.  For those entrepreneurs who have found success, however, many of them have far exceeded their fundraising goals, and have gone on to take up and complete other projects.

 

The catch with Kickstarter is that you cannot post a project that is open-ended.  All projects must propose a finite goal, with a specific end point.  In other words, just saying that "I need money to start my business" is inconsistent with the Kickstarter guidelines, and your project will not be approved.  All projects are reviewed by the Kickstarter staff before they go live on the site.  You must also create and upload a video, wherein you can demonstrate your passion for your project  so as to convince  your hoped-for backers to contribute.  This is where Kickstarter loses me.  Without going into depth regarding my pathos about being seen in any sort of video, suffice it to say I’ll need to undergo some desensitization therapy before I tackle that particular aspect of the task.  Furthermore, this feels just a bit like begging to me.  I guess this is a personal weakness.  I’ve never been  good at asking for money.

 

As I learn the Kickstarter process, I’ll keep you updated.  You can ogle to your heart’s content, especially if you’re one of those fascinated at being witness to a car crash in progress.  Or, you can be in my corner and cheer me on as I blindly (literally and figuratively)feel my way through the minefield of funding a new business.  I’ll also point out any accessibility pitfalls about which to be aware if you are a screen reader user and considering Kickstarter.  Wish me luck, or pennies from heaven, or something. 

 

LL

 

 

Word Press v3.3.2 dashboard access issue


Let this blog post serve as a cautionary tale for all of my readers, but most especially for those of you who use screen readers.  So as to avoid losing you to mind-numbing boredom, I’ll just cut right to the chase:  Never update your Word Press blog until well after a million others have already done so.

 

Skipping…skipping…welcome to my nightmare.

 

The latest version of Word Press offers a super-cool new flyout style dashboard that is not accessible.  According to WP support (see the comment thread here), the flyout menus "are accessible & do meet access guidelines if you are using the latest version of JAWS (or at least that’s what the last round of testing appeared to indicate) but that may not be the case with other screen reader software."

 

Can we all just ponder that a moment?  Ahem.  Not everyone uses Jaws.  Just for laughs, and to toss in my two cents, my own testing “appears to indicate” it does not work with the latest version of ZoomText, or the latest version of NVDA, both of which I use.  Hey, I ought to try it with Narrator, see what happens.

So that you know, and so that I can save you from grief, the recommended plugin mentioned in the support thread does not work with my configuration, either.  I’m running Win 7 on a PC with IE 8.  Quit laughing.

 

I’ve actually tried two different plugins that purport to make the WP dashboard more accessible, but no luck.  If you find a solution to this latest access annoyance, besides schooling me on the benefits of being an Apple user, please comment and share.  So many will be so grateful, most of all me.  By the way, don’t bother asking just any random WP “guru” about this.  Believe me, they’ll treat you like you’re insane.  Just don’t go there, it’s a pathway to madness.  Only a screen reader user is going to understand this problem, not someone who claims to know about web accessibility and Word Press.  Let’s start writing to the good folks at WP, or appeal to the many genius plugin developers out there. 

I’m growing tired of playing “menu roulette.”  Come on, code cowboys (and cowgirls), drop a few lines of those mysterious symbols, letters and numbers that look to me as if you slammed your fist down on the keyboard, and I’ll be the first to promote it for you.  That is, if I can manage to install it with the magical invisible dashboard. 

 

LL

A question of hope, healing or heartbreak for people with vision loss


There has been a flurry of recent reports circulating around the web regarding some promising results for people who have vision loss.  These latest research results are showing the potential for the implantation of human embryonic stem cells and people who have degenerative retinal diseases, such as macular degeneration and Stargardt’s disease.    Below I’ve hyperlinked just a few for you.  Disseminating this news is not my purpose here, however.  I want to ask my readers a few questions about your feelings on the subject.

 

If I had to guess, I would imagine the responses to my questions would vary widely,  depending upon when, and under what circumstances, you lost your eyesight.  How likely would you be to participate in this sort of trial?  If your eyesight could be restored, would you leap at the chance?  What if the results were only temporary?  What if the treatment were of a nature that precluded later, potentially more promising outcomes?  What if the treatment worked for many, but not for you?  How would you feel about no longer being part of a community, such as the smaller RP community, or the larger disability community?  How much of your sense of self is defined by your vision, or lack thereof?  Would you choose a restorative treatment for yourself first, or your children?  If you are a sighted spouse of a partner who is blind, how would you feel about the change in dynamic of your relationship?  Is there any aspect of your character or personality that would be changed by restored vision loss?  What if the result was little more than an approximation of eyesight, say, the ability to perceive outlines, but no details or color?  Would you be satisfied with mere light perception?  I guess the ultimate question is, what would you be willing to settle for?     

 

I can think of a thousand other questions, but you get the idea.  Please comment and share your thoughts.  I think many of my sighted readers might be very surprised by some of the responses.

      Click here to read Stem Cells Bring Hope

Click here to go to The Lancet

Click here to read AARP blog

Click here to read article on Nature.com

Click here to read more on clinical trials

 

You can also learn more by following @fightblindness on Twitter.

 

So, what would you do if you could change everything?

 

LL

A few of my favorite quotes on gratitude


Honestly, I don’t know why I’m fixated on this topic at the moment.  I seldom post on the same topic twice in a row, unless the post is specifically identified as a series.  For whatever reason, I continue to feel a need to write about gratitude, not so as to take anyone to school, rather, to share with my readers the amazing boomerang effect of expressing gratitude.

 

Gratitude need not always be a showy display or composed in flowery language.  Sometimes, the simple act of paying attention to someone who has requested it of you can be enough.  Recently, I’ve asked a number of individuals to assist me by providing quotes for a couple of articles.  It has been interesting to me to make note of those who have responded with grace and gratitude, and those who have not.  As speaker and presentation coach and friend, Rich Hopkins (@richhopkins) said, ‘It’s one thing to be big-timed by someone who is a big shot, it’s another to be big-timed by someone who thinks he’s a big shot, but who isn’t."

 

Below are just a few quotes on gratitude that I value.  Feel free to pass them on, or add to the list in the comments.  Oh, and thank you for your time.  I always appreciate your input. 
 

Gratitude is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies.
— Charles E. Jefferson (1860 -  1937))

 

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.
— Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC), ‘Pro Plancio,’ 54 B.C.

 

Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.
— Jacques Maritain (1882 – 1973), Reflections on America, 1958

 

It’s a sign of mediocrity when you demonstrate gratitude with moderation.
— Roberto Benigni (1952 – ), in Newsweek

 

 

LL

Gratitude: A business-building basic


Forget the finer points of business etiquette.  Depending upon where you do business, with whom, and what kind, the intricacies of relational etiquette can require a survival guide, for sure.  It can be a walk on a wire, learning cultures and context and communication.  Never mind all that.  Let’s keep things simple.  In fact, let’s distill things down to two single-syllable words:  Thank you.

 

Gratitude is a universally understood currency that can be easily exchanged,  and is therefore extremely powerful.  I’m not talking about keeping a journal with gold leaf edges and pretty pink pages.  I’m not talking about the exchange of gifts, or the perfunctory thanks we offer for a kindness that barely registers on our personal Richter scale.  I’m talking about acknowledging and validating those who do a real service, enhance your life experience, or who go out of their way to attempt to engage you in some other way besides an RT on Twitter.  Now that I think of it, though, there’s nothing wrong with saying thank you for that, either.

 

It is appalling to me, not to mention incredibly hurtful and frustrating, how often we fail to recognize when someone is genuinely trying to reach out, to do a kindness, to be a friend, or to support another’s efforts, only to have that attempt met with silence.  I spend a healthy portion of my day reaching out to those with whom I hope to build some sort of relationship,  and whether you call that networking or sharing or promotion, there seems to be an abundant lack of understanding as to how this process works.  If expressing gratitude makes you feel uncomfortable, then you are flat doing it wrong.  All you need is a little less ego, and a little more listening, and then you’ll have it.

 

My view is that what all of us really want out of this life is to be acknowledged, affirmed and heard.  That is my recipe for dishing out gratitude in heaping proportions .  it goes like this:

 

"Thank you for your kind words earlier.  I think what you wrote was amazing.  In what way can I be of assistance?"

 

Then, stop talking.  What you’ll likely hear is your own gratitude, mirrored back to you.

 

The problem with all of this is, until we all get it, many of our relationships can often feel one-sided.  We take each other for granted, we just expect the other person will always be there to be our ‘fan," and we barely feel a need to say a special thank you for those who have affirmed us.  After all, we’re fabulous, right?  Who needs to say thank you when everything we do is wonderful?  Wrong.  How do you know you’re wrong?  When you feel empty, disconnected, lonely, or wonder why, when there are so many people in your life, you still feel alone.

 

There are days when we might feel as though what we do is nothing more than a thankless exercise in futility.  No one should feel that way.  So, how can you change it?  Well, you can start small.  For example, instead of viewing the "comments" area on someone’s blog as an opportunity to be critical, think of it instead as a way of saying thank you to someone who is likely not receiving any compensation whatsoever for their expenditure of energy.  Not everyone is a paid blogger, or has pages covered with lucrative ads.  Some people blog for the love of it, for the joy of helping others.  I know, I know…there is no such thing as altruism.  that doesn’t make it okay, though, for anyone to be a self-centered, selfish egomaniac who feels a need to demonstrate his self-proclaimed superiority at another’s expense.  Didn’t your mother tell you that if you don’t have anything nice to say, or at the very least, neutral or constructive, then don’t say anything?  And no, this post is not being composed as a result of some angry diatribe left in the comments section.  My readers have been nothing other than kind and generous in their support, for which I hope I have demonstrated sufficient gratitude.

     

One final word.   When someone does say thank you, please say "you’re welcome," instead of something flip or glib.  It is so irritating to me when I express my heartfelt gratitude to someone, only to get some clever little comeback as a response.  If someone is taking the time to acknowledge you, return the favor in kind.  I promise, it won’t hurt.

       

I would like to thank two gentlemen in particular who inspired  this post, John Bodette (@Bearmugs)and Jonathan Mosen (@jonathanmosen), both of whom acknowledged something I said, affirmed me with a kind word, and accepted my gratitude with grace.

 

LL 

Read them. Hear them. Quote them. Be inspired by American Rhetoric


Have you ever heard the Martin Luther King Jr. speech, "I have a Dream" in its entirety?  We’ve all heard the same snippets over and over, but hearing it from beginning to end is a whole new experience.  One of my favorite web sites is called American Rhetoric, and on it, you will find an incredible collection of speeches, audio, and text transcriptions of famous speeches for your review.  You can relive presidential speeches, movie speeches, and speeches inspired by the events of September 11th, 2001.  If you are a blogger, print writer, or just an admirer of a beautifully crafted sentence, you’ll appreciate this web site. 

 

Go here:

 

http://www.americanrhetoric.com/

 

As a speaker, I have repeatedly turned to American Rhetoric for quotes and context.  This site is a fantastic resource for education and entertainment.  You can also purchase some of their offerings.  American Rhetoric is a must for educators and information purveyors everywhere. 

 

To read or listen to the "I Have A Dream" speech in its entirety, click here.

http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm

 

Keep dreaming…

LL

Lessons learned from a cab ride from hell


Almost any story, no matter how tragic, can seem amusing after putting some distance between yourself and the crisis.  In editing this story, I found myself laughing, but at the time, I can assure you I felt no mirth whatsoever.  Now that I can achieve a little perspective, I think I can write this in such a way as to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek while offering a cautionary tale about traveling when you have a disability, and share some lessons learned.

Recently I returned from a business trip, and was anxious to get home.  After collecting my luggage from the airport baggage claim, I sought the taxi stand.  I live less than a half hour from the airport, and after such a long trip, culminating in a seemingly interminable travel day, I was thrilled to be headed home.  Unfortunately, the last thirty minutes of the trip proved to be the most hazardous.  Here is my tale of woe, shared in hope of helping other blind travelers to avoid my mistakes.

As the first taxi van pulled up to the front of the line, the airport public service attendant who assisted me with my luggage commented, "I know this guy.  He’s a friend of mine.  He’ll take care of you."  Mistake number one:  Accepting the word of one stranger about the trustworthiness of another stranger. 

Seasoned traveler that I am, I learned long ago some important safety tips regarding getting into a vehicle that I cannot see.  After all, just because someone says it’s a taxi, doesn’t mean that it is.  With no way to verify this information, I am very careful about only getting into a vehicle that I have requested in advance, whereupon the driver will confirm my name and other information.   I am usually vigilant about getting the name of the driver and the cab company before I get into the vehicle.  In this case, though, I was catching the cab spontaneously from the public taxi stand, and had not thought to gather this information in the moment. So, I took the luggage porter at his word that he knew the cab driver. 

As my luggage was being loaded into the  back of the taxi, I asked the driver to estimate the cost of the ride.  Since I took a taxi to get to the airport to begin with, I knew about how much the fare should be, but I always ask just in case the possibility of transporting a blind woman might inspire a taxi driver to lie. 

In this case, he did not lie, he was silent.  I repeated the question.  He stuttered and stammered and then said in barely comprehensible English that  he did not know.  I asked him to phone in to the dispatcher for the estimate.  he said he couldn’t do that.  I asked him why not.  After a number of excruciating minutes, I gleaned that he had never heard of the city in which I live,   and he said he needed to plug my address into his GPS, then he could tell me the fare.  Mistake number two:  Never enter a vehicle with someone who is incapable of communicating in your language. 

Mistake number 3:  If he cannot speak your language, ensure his technology can speak  HIS language.

The luggage porter was still standing nearby, so I turned to him.  "You are telling me that this guy is okay?"  I asked in an effort to confirm the driver was legit.  "Sure," repeated the porter, "he’ll take care of you." 

All of my instincts were telling me not to get into the cab, but I was anxious to get home, so I did it anyway. 

 

Mistake number 4:  Always trust your instincts.  Always.  .

My first clue that this was going to be a nightmare was when he could not understand me when I gave him my address, which he was struggling to enter into the GPS while struggling to drive off the airport property.  At rush hour on a weekday, navigating the airport passenger pickup area and departing from the terminals area is a scary proposition under the best of circumstances, but combine that with an uncomprehending driver who cannot operate a GPS unit and you have a ride like a demolition derby.  Granted, I may not be able to fully appreciate the nuances of adept driving, but based upon the number of blaring horns I heard in response to what the driver was doing, it was quite the symphony of road rage out there.                
              

No matter how many times I repeated my address, spelled the name of my street (two one-syllable words), or repeated and spelled the name of the exit off the freeway, there would be no getting through.  He was a stranger in a strange land, an alien with a fundamental illiteracy that would soon put me in danger.  Weaving through and swerving around traffic, and using his foot like a jackhammer on the gas pedal, we lurched onto the freeway.  He ignored my every effort to offer suggestions as to how to get me home, while he repeatedly attempted to type my address into his device.  "No work," he muttered, asking me to repeat my street name yet again.  "Not here."  Out of frustration, I finally insisted that he phone his dispatcher to get directions.  "Please understand," I implored, "I am blind, and if you miss the exit off the freeway I will be of little help to you.  I cannot give you directions other than what I know," I finished weakly, realizing that I had been living in my new city just a few months, and had not yet fully grasped the lay of the land.  "I don’t have much cash on hand…if we get lost, the fare may amount to more cash than I have.  I cannot afford to pay for your inability to use your GPS."  Mistake number 5:  Know how to tell someone else how to get to your home by more than one route.  Learn your new city layout as quickly as you learn your new address and phone number.   

The driver pulled out his phone and called a person he described as a friend.  this friend was supposed to give him directions, based upon my address, presumably consulting his own GPS, or Google maps, or his Magic 8 Ball, or something, and passing along instructions to my wild-eyed cab driver. 

I became alarmed.  I realized that the radio I was hearing in the vehicle may in fact have been tuned to a dispatch channel, but it was not a channel apparently meant for him.  This man had absolutely no idea where he was, or where he was going.  He could not understand a word I said.  he could not function with the GPS.  He was weaving wildly all over the freeway.  He could not pronounce, even with a spelling, the name of my street, and began to shout at me to say the names of the freeway exit and the name of my street over and over.  Still, even if he grasped this information, I realized that I would still need to explain how to proceed through the points in between.  I do not live twenty steps from the freeway exit.  There are a number of streets in between the freeway and home, and I had no idea how I would communicate this to him.  He was still jabbering into the phone, stabbing at the GPS with one finger, as if by random chance it might suddenly announce my destination, and trying to steer all at once.  "He say no street!  No street!" He insisted, going back and forth between me and the mystery dispatcher.   

By now, we were shouting at each other.  He refused to let me out of the car, call a home office, or tell me the meter reading on the fare.  He also would not tell me the name of the cab company or his own name.  I frantically searched the inside of the vehicle for pamphlets or business cards or anything that had his cab ID on it.  There was no Braille inside the van which provided the phone number for the taxi oversight authority.  I realized now that I was in a vehicle that I could not identify operated by a man I could not identify.  he could take me anywhere.  Then, he became so disoriented and agitated, he came to a stop on the freeway. 

"Are you crazy?"  I shrieked.  "Are you crazy?  We are on a freeway!  You can’t stop on a freeway!"  he told me to shut up and calm down, while he spoke in rapid-fire utterances to the person on the phone.  I wasn’t even sure I knew what language he was speaking.  Cars were streaking by us, rocking the van from side to side with the air displacement as they whipped by.  "I’m calling the police."  I announced, taking out my phone and turning it on, cursing myself that I had not done so when I deplaned.  "You are crazy, you are going to get us killed."  I declared, believing those to be my last words on this Earth. 

"Calm down," the driver yelled at me, "I’m trying to figure it out." 

My phone battery was dead.  It wouldn’t dial out.  Mistake number 6:  Ensure your technology is fully charged at all times while traveling.

While I was silently praying I would survive the trip home, the driver shot forward into the flow of traffic.  "Okay, found exit," he announced, as though that ought to quiet me.  "We go.  All fine." 

The story continues to deteriorate from here.  I’ll skip  the rest.  The upshot is that I did eventually get home, and after three stops at the side of various streets for consultation with his phone friend the cartographer and his uncooperative GPS,  I handed the driver every cent I had with me, which totaled fifty-seven dollars, almost twice the typical fare.  Unfortunately, though, this was a few cents short of the amount due.  Fearing that he would drive off with my luggage in the back of the car, I waited to exit the vehicle until it was unloaded, then handed him the cash folded up so that he had to stop to count it while I was dragging my bags up my driveway. 

"You really should tip me." he demanded.  "this is not enough.  The fare was more than this," he called after me, suddenly able to communicate. 

I was incredulous.  "Well, maybe it wouldn’t have been, had you not been running the meter while you stopped on the freeway and three other times trying to find my address."  I snapped.  "That’s all I’ve got, so take it and go."  I shoved my bags into my garage, quickly closed the door, and ran inside before he could assault me.  He waited outside my home for a long time before pulling away. 

I wish I had thought to take a photo with my phone.  I might have been able to snap a picture sufficient to identify the driver or the vehicle to the authorities at some point later.  but I didn’t, and I realize now that I could not have anyway, since my phone battery was dead.  So, with no identifying information about the driver, the vehicle, or the cab company, I had no one to whom to complain.

I did make a half-hearted effort to appeal to the local taxi authority, but with no supporting evidence, I came across as though I had conjured up the entire ordeal out of thin air.

The moral of this story is that one just cannot be too careful, and that hazards await at every turn, even those leading to your own driveway.  Please comment below and share your own travel nightmares.  Do you have any of your own tips for travelers who have disabilities?  Let’s start a list. 

  LL

A Christmakwanzukkah wish for my readers


Whatever you celebrate this time of year, I sincerely wish for you a healthy and joyful one.  Thank you for taking a moment out of your busy day to read, comment and share the content presented here.  I’ve made more friends through this medium than I would have thought possible, and I am deeply grateful for your readership. 

 

If you have any ideas, suggestions, story or interview requests, please use the accessible contact form on this page to submit your thoughts.  Have anything you’d like to promote?  Let me know. 

 

When I first began sharing my Accessible Insights online, there was little information available about assistive technology.  Now, there’s tons of it.  I realize that this blog is not the most technology-oriented of your choices, nor is it meant to be a platform for me to peddle my personal story.  It began as a way to impart accessibility information to the non-disabled community, a way for me to expand upon the workshops and seminars I presented pertaining to disability awareness over the years.  Now, I have more readers who have disabilities than readers who do not.  Whichever group you fall into, know that I am at your service. 

 

Best wishes for a 2011 holiday season, and a healthy and prosperous new Year. 

 

Warmest regards,

 

Laura Legendary   

What to consider when it’s time for Plan B: Entrepreneurship


With our economy and employment situation languishing in an apparent sea of unchange, you may have considered an alternative to traditional employment, such as starting your own business.  There are many articles you can consult as to whether or not being your own boss is right for you, but here are my observations, based upon my personal experience as a solopreneur for the past ten years or so.

There seems to be a certain amount of "conventional wisdom" about working from home, mantras oft-repeated but seldom questioned.  For example, the notion that you must dress for work as though you planned to spend your day in a typical corporate setting, in the belief that this will somehow raise your game and ready you for peak performance.  Below are a few of these pithy little wisdom pellets, and my own opinion as to their value.

      

1:  Anyone can do it.  No, they can’t.  When working in a corporate environment, you are usually being asked to specialize.  In other words, you are hired to fill a specific need, working within the limitations imposed by a specific job description.  When you go out on your own, you must be a master of many things.  You must be a great marketer, promoter, communicator, organizer, planner and supervisor.  Can you outsource many of these skills?  Yes, but how much money do you anticipate you will need to spend in order to meet a minimum, and can you afford this sort of outlay?  keep in mind that no one cares about your business as much as you do, and you might discover that other people’s standards are not at a level with your own.  You must require a great deal of yourself in order to successfully run a business, whether as a solo act or with a staff.     
2:  You must dress up, even at home.  Baloney.  Unless you are meeting clients, there’s no sense in "putting on the dog," just for the sake of your dog.  I can be more productive when I’m not required to spend an hour preparing a canvas onto which the face that launched a thousand ships must be painted,
strap myself into the various hydraulic devices intended to streamline and acceptably arrange my proportions, not to mention towering atop three and a half inch heels which elevate my 5 foot, eight inch sea-level self to an altimeter reading of nearly six feet.  If you want to dress because it makes you feel something you need to feel, great, but if you need to wear a suit to perform at your best, there’s something in there about being a superhero, but I’m not sure where to go with that.   
3:  You’re certain you will be a better boss.  If you think your lackluster performance at your workplace is solely due to the fact that your boss is a complete idiot, you’re likely to take your poor performance home with you.  Remember, your boss is constrained by the limits of HR policies, and cannot roundly badmouth you to everyone you know.  Your customers have no such constraints.  They can be just as cranky, flaky, schizophrenic, rude, and demanding as any superior in a typical workplace.  Just because you do not have an immediate supervisor, doesn’t mean you don’t have a boss.  You do, it’s just not the one you think.  It is your customer, your client.  Fail to grasp that little detail, and you won’t last long. 
4:  Your corporate job description will directly translate into a consulting context.  So, you are an administrative assistant at ACME Multinational, but you think that means you can be a "virtual assistant" from home?  If you have a supervisor who acts as your editor, proofreader, fact-checker or error-catcher, keep in mind that you will not have that safety net once you are on your own.  If  you are not a better writer than the published author for whom you hope to provide your virtual assistant services, you have no business proofreading someone else’s work. 
5:  It’s easy to manage distractions.  It takes an incredible amount of discipline to work from home, if you want to be effective for your clients.  I have had the most infuriating experiences with individuals working from home whom I’ve hired to provide technical or administrative services, who seek to fit me in between their child’s  play date, dinner prep, and their dog’s needs.  If you plan to hire yourself out to provide business support services, and hope to provide this service on your own timetable, you won’t succeed.  My deadline is your deadline, and if you don’t see it that way, that’s a problem.  business support services are just that…you exist to support another business, not to dabble in being a junior executive while your clients tasks are stacking up. 
6:  Being an entrepreneur is always satisfying.  No, it isn’t.  There is nowhere to hide, nowhere to run and no way to spread the blame around when things go wrong.  All it takes is one disgruntled customer to write a bad review about you, and your reputation is shot.  If you have never had the experience of taking the fall for something that went horribly wrong at your traditional workplace, you are unlikely to enjoy the feeling when you are on your own. 
7:  At least when you’re working for yourself, you’re not enriching "The Man."  Well, you’re probably not enriching yourself, either.  Most entrepreneurial ventures do little more than to provide some sort of income for the business owner.  Starting your own business is not tantamount to winning the lottery.  Long gone are the days when you could throw up a web site and expect the dollars to roll in.  There are now more web sites than there are humans on the globe.  You are just as anonymous, if not more so,, on the Internet as you are in the brick-and-mortar world. 
8:  But by working from home, I’ll  be saving so much money on transportation and child care.  Perhaps so, but that savings will be offset by the unpaid insurance, unpaid flex time, unpaid holidays, unpaid sick leave and forfeiture of other benefits.  most workers overlook the monetary value of the traditional workplace benefits.   Once you realize that bridging that gap can be very costly, these benefits become hard to take for granted.  Plus, you will have to pay your taxes in a completely different way than before, a much less convenient way than having them automatically deducted from your paycheck.  Just filing business taxes is more expensive than filing personal income taxes, and you may need the assistance of an accountant and tax professional.  The "hassle factor" of working from home and doing it all yourself can make the mindless efficacy of corporate benefits distribution very appealing.  You may not have considered automatic tax withholdings to  be a benefit until you have to prepare your own quarterly tax return.
 
These insights are not intended to discourage anyone from starting their own business, rather, it is an attempt to paint a more realistic picture as to what is required, as opposed to the romanticized notions that may be brought about by workplace dissatisfaction.  Of course there are positive and gratifying aspects to being an entrepreneur, not the least of which is that in many ways, you can make your own rules, rather than live by those of others.  Ask yourself, if you are the type of person who cannot "play well with others," are you really well suited for an endeavor that dictates "the customer is king?"  Along with confidence and a drive to succeed, a good deal of humility is also recommended if you intend to work in the service of others, which is a different mind-set than that of working WITH others.         
 
Please comment below and share your views.  What attributes do you believe to be fundamentally necessary to be an entrepreneur?  What advice would you give to someone thinking about quitting their day job and going solo? 

 
LL

Help bridge the gap of holiday hardship


I really struggled with finding the right tone for this post, fearing hyper sentimentality, offensive chastisements or a thinly-veiled projection of my own feelings of vulnerability.  Really, what I want to do is to find ways to bridge the gap for those reluctant to reach out.

 

Not to belabor the obvious, but many are struggling these days.  Our economic woes may affect us both physically and emotionally.  What more depressing notion, for example, than to be turned out of your home just prior to the holidays, be unable to afford gifts for your children, or even be able to put a Thanksgiving feast on the table?  To paraphrase a Chinese proverb, when life is going well, you may have a few problems, but when you have no food, you only have one problem.

 

Yes, there are charities and food banks and soup kitchens, but with so many people struggling with poverty, perhaps for the first time, taking advantage of these services may feel humiliating , and that feeling may keep many away.  Besides, it might be pretty hard to gather the family around to give thanks when you feel as though you have failed as a provider.  I believe we have paid too little attention to the emotional fallout of our recent economic decline.

 

Perhaps someone is forced to make the tough cuts in their budget, making it impossible for them to fly home for the holidays, and they will be alone, possibly for the first time.  I have spent several holidays alone, and the first time you have to face it, you may feel like it’s the end of the world.  I did.  If that’s you this year, my best advice is to do whatever you have to do…and I do mean whatever…in order to get through it.  If that means you simply regain consciousness on the other side, far be it from me to judge.  Or, you can do what I’ve done, and make a holiday just for yourself.  This can include decorations, a special meal, and yes…even gifts.  Hey, if I don’t take care of myself, who will?  This year I’ll be alone for Thanksgiving, and I have big plans.  You may think that’s pathetic, but if anyone out there has survived it, then you may have some important advice to impart.  Comment here and share your own tips for coping with  tough holiday times.

 

Posted below are some links to past holiday related articles that I hope prove useful to anyone seeking ways to reach out and lift the spirits of struggling friends, family members, or neighbors.  Isn’t that what the holidays are all about?  Share your story of hardship and healing, give us the gift of you.

      

 

How to Bring Home the Season for Seniors

Great Gifting Ideas for Your Donation Dollars

Holiday Tunes that will Make You Laugh

Tips for Giving Assistive Technology Gifts

 

Oh, and happy Thanksgiving!

 

LL