When I drive the 40 miles or so to Ventura, much of the trip takes me through an agricultural area. There are vineyards and fields bursting with a variety of fruits and vegetables.

The road is also lined with produce stands run by farm families. It’s a lovely contrast to the big city environment of Los Angels.

One October trip was especially memorable. In the springtime, this drive reminds me of Ireland because the craggy hills are so lush and green. Right now they’re festooned in shades of beige and brown, but it’s still a pleasant drive.

The road goes through an agricultural area with two small towns on the way. There are orange and lemon groves alongside a little red schoolhouse, a honey tasting place and small stands selling produce.

Something had been added since I made the drive a couple of weeks ago. The produce places now had big displays of pumpkins for sale. I passed a field where big fat pumpkins laid waiting for buyers to come and pick them.

That got me thinking about the folks who grow these autumn favorites. If you’ve taken my Making a Living Without a Job seminar, you may even recall my talking about pumpkin growing as an example of a seasonal business.

If you’re a pumpkin grower, I point out, you don’t have much cash flow for most of the year. Then around the first of October, millions of us are suddenly eager to go out and buy a pumpkin or two.

A cash flow avalanche for the pumpkin farmers ensues.

Then it stops until the next pumpkin season rolls around.

Of course, it’s not just pumpkin farmers who deal with long income gaps. Anyone who grows crops learns valuable lessons in patience while dealing with uncertainty of every sort.

When I passed another pumpkin patch on my drive, I began thinking that all of us who are self-employed could learn important lessons that we could apply to our own undertakings. There’s no picking if we aren’t planting, I thought.

As I was musing on such things, I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw a large black pickup truck advancing rapidly in my direction. Since I have a policy to avoid tailgaters, I slipped back into the right lane and he soared past.

Even though he was speeding and driving aggressively, I couldn’t help but notice that his rear window was painted with a large ad for his plumbing services. “Hey, Dude,” I wanted to yell, “you’re driving a billboard.”

I made a mental note never to use his services.

The Impatient Plumber. The Patient Pumpkin Grower.

During the days when I taught high school English, I would never have assigned a book that I hadn’t read myself.  That carried over into my self-employment journey where I vowed to only recommend things I’d found worthwhile

That showed up in other ways as well. I decided to treat my business as a laboratory where I would experiment, test ideas, pay close attention to what worked—and what didn’t. I vowed to never teach what I hadn’t learned myself.

What I didn’t know back at the beginning was that the learning would never end. My curiosity never went on vacation.

There have […] Continue Reading…

Trendspotters agree that the market for unique and customized items is having a resurgence as more and more of us are learning to cherish the work of human hands.
Not all artisans are taking advantage of the opportunities, however.
Several years ago, I met a man who was a masterful carpenter who loved restoring old houses, flawlessly repairing woodwork and cabinetry.  At that time, he had abandoned his craft believing that no market existed for his services.
He had bought the myth of the starving artist and was living proof.
Happily, that myth is becoming outmoded as artisans are carving out […] Continue Reading…

Every business has times that are less busy than others. You can use this time to fret and worry that your entrepreneurial life has come to an end—or you can view it as a gift of time to do some of those things you’ve been telling yourself you’ll do when you have time.

It just makes sense, it seems to me, to spend this time wisely and well.

Here are a few possibilities.

° Review and revise your support system. Is it time to hire a virtual assistant? Find a new tax accountant? Get expert advice?

Unless you’re will to settle for the […] Continue Reading…

 
Blessed are the curious for they
shall have adventures.
Lovell Drachman
Small, Sassy & Successful
Time Out to Build a Better, not Just Bigger, Business
Got an idea but you don’t know where to take it?
Think your business is ready to move to the next step?
Are you sitting on the next big thing?
Have an idea that’s suffering from neglect?
If you said “yes” to any of those questions, it’s time to roundup your good idea, take them to a roomful of creative thinkers, and see where they want to go next.
Barbara Winter here. I’ve been fretting lately about a frustration I’ve seen in folks on […] Continue Reading…

Coco Chanel, who said a lot of smart things, once observed, “There are people who have money and people who are rich.” It’s not hard to figure out which is which.

The people whom I think of as rich are those who have a practical prosperity consciousness. My sister Margaret is such a person. I have long admired her ability to use whatever resources she has to the max.

When we were in a pottery shop in Sienna, Italy, Margaret was captivated by a beautiful plate. We left the shop to contemplate making such a hefty purchase and as she considered […] Continue Reading…

During my brief stint as an employment counselor, I spent all day every day talking to people about jobs. It wasn’t usually a cheerful conversation.

Not only did most of these folks arrive at the Employment Service in a state of frustration, they seldom had any idea about what kind of job they wanted. “I’ll take anything,” is the career plan of the desperate.

Like so many of us, these folks considered work a necessary evil. In this perspective, a job was the price you paid to get the money you needed to buy the stuff you wanted. And it lasted […] Continue Reading…

When I was digging around in my office this morning, I came across an old scrapbook that I hadn’t viewed in years. It was filled with memories of places I’d been and people I’d spent time with about twenty years ago.

One of my favorite discoveries was a letter I’d written to the editor of Minnesota Monthly magazine. I’ll let it speak for itself. I wrote:

As a one-person business and self-employment advocate, I was delighted to see the cover story on “Making It Small” in your July issue. Like the people spotlighted in your article, I am ferociously devoted to […] Continue Reading…

In Living Out Loud,  Keri Smith’s a fun book of creative exercises, she writes, “In recent years lifestyle stores have become the rage selling products related to all aspects of living, eating, decorating, bathing, sleeping and dressing.

“If you were to open your own lifestyle store, what would you sell?”

Here’s how I answered that question.

The first thing you notice when you walk up the stone path to the sprawling English cottage that houses Cottage Industry is that the front yard is a luscious garden where flowers and vegetables grow side by side.

Pass under the rose-covered archway and you’ll enter a […] Continue Reading…

As I was reclining at the end of my recent blood donation, a young nurse came to tidy things up. We began chatting and she asked me a few questions about myself.

I told her that I was self-employed, did seminars and (almost as an after thought) said, “Oh, and I wrote a book called Making a Living Without a Job.”

The moment I said that, she got tears in her eyes. “You were sent to me,” she said softly. She regained her composure and told me how she dreamed of quitting her job and traveling.

I grabbed one of my cards […] Continue Reading…