Much of the conventional wisdom about self-employment actually qualifies as Urban Myths (and we know how those can circulate).

Sadly, many people who think about becoming Joyfully Jobless are stopped from doing so because of these commonly held, but unfounded, beliefs. Let’s take a look at five biggies.

Only extroverts can be entrepreneurs. A recent study found that almost all kindergartners exhibited entrepreneurial traits. By the fourth grade, however, innovative thinking was on the decline.

Being and introvert or extrovert isn’t nearly as important as wanting to solve problems. Best of all, the opportunities for creating a business that is a perfect fit for the owner means that anyone so inclined can do so.

You need the security of a job. What a Twentieth Century concept!

Even as jobs are disappearing all over the place, people still cling to that outmoded notion about security. Successful self-bossers know that you can only have as much security as you produce for yourself.

Or as Helen Keller pointed out, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do children as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.”

Starting a business is risky. So is driving, eating and sex. It’s a matter of how you do it.

In fact, self-bossers who have done their homework, visualized their business and are committed to laying a strong foundation don’t consider what they’re doing to be risky. Preparation makes a huge difference, of course, as does a willingness to ask for help, to experiment and to be flexible.

You need a lot of money to start a business. Another outmoded belief.

While it’s true that some businesses require heavy capitalization, that’s not the only option. More and more modern entrepreneurs are mastering the art of the shoestring start-up, learning to generate cashflow and build slow and strong.

Most businesses fail in the first five years. Even the Small Business Administration likes to tout failure rates, but these statistics are skewed and based on heavily capitalized, conventional undertakings.

The success rate for lean enterprises, which are often overlooked in the success/failure studies, is actually high. If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, be committed to taking advice from informed sources. In starting a business, that means learning from those who have successfully done so…not the fearmongers, dreambashers and those who’ve never even tried.

I love this advice from musician and avocado farmer Jason Mraz:

Go be that starving artist you’re afraid to be. Open up that journal and get poetic, finally. Volunteer. Suck it up and travel.

You were not born here to work and pay taxes. You were put her to be part of a vast organism to explore and create.

Stop putting it off. The world has much more to offer than what’s on fifteen televisions at TGIFridays.

Take pictures. Scare people. Shake up the scene. 

Be the change you want to see in the world.

You’ll thank yourself for it.

As you may or may not know, Las Vegas was particularly hard hit during the economic downturn. Consequently, the local news featured at least one Job Fair being held in the city every week.

Long lines of folks showed up for the slim chance of procuring one of the few job openings. It was all rather glum.

During one such news story, a question popped into my head. “Why isn’t anyone talking about alternatives to getting a job?” I was talking about that, of course, but I couldn’t just ramble down Las Vegas Blvd. sharing that option.

Then the idea of creating a really informative event started to take shape. I envisioned an Un-Job Fair where people could learn a about self-employment in one day.

What are the myths and misconceptions about working for yourself? How do you get started? What legal obligations do you have? What kinds of businesses are easy to open?

As I was playing with this notion, I happened to have lunch with Don Woodruff, an old friend from the adult ed circuit. Don had been living in Las Vegas, too, but was headed to Denver.

At our farewell lunch, I shared my idea about the Un-Job Fair. He liked the idea as much as I did.

A few weeks later, I heard from Don who had contacted Helen Hand at Colorado Free University and told her about this wild notion of mine. She loved it, too, and decided to sponsor the first Un-Job Fair.

Helen tapped into her talent bank of teachers and soon had a great line-up of workshops. Steve Veltcamp and I flew in for the event and were thrilled at the response.

Not only were the workshops a wonderful blend of topics, I loved lunchtime when small groups of participants gathered on the lawns and got to know their fellow seekers over a picnic lunch.

Another highlight came as the day ended with a panel of speakers answering questions from the students.

Needless to say, I was thrilled when CFU decided to do it the following year. And the one after that.

On May 31, the fifth Un-Job Fair is happening again and if you’re in the area and want to gather tools for your own Joyfully Jobless Journey, this is the place to be.

See what’s in store at the Un-Job Fair and register now.

When I woke up on Saturday morning, I realized I was halfway through my seminar series at UNLV in Las Vegas. Little did I know that the day was also going to bring a parade of unusually fascinating people.

After getting ready for the day, I headed to the hotel coffee shop. As I was having my first (and only) coffee of the day, I decided to check messages on my iPad.

There was only one other person in the shop, a young man with his MacBook set up, checking messages on his iPhone while listening to his iPod.  Ah, I thought, a fellow member in the Cult of Apple.

A few minutes later, he interrupted me and asked if I’d watch his things while he ran to the restroom. When he returned, I asked him where he was from. “Where do you think?” he countered.

“I think you’re from the UK,” I replied. He said I was correct and we began talking. He told me that he was on a long trip to the US that began in Miami, continued in Austin, and after his week in Las Vegas he planned to head to San Diego until his return home in the early May.“I need to get some work done so I’m ready to be in one place for a while,” he said.

Since I interrogate everyone I can about their work, I asked him what he did. Turns out he runs his own online business.He said the first two years had been difficult, but now in the third year he had made some changes and was seeing  success. He confided that he was eager to be totally portable.

I asked him if he’d encountered Marianne Cantwell, but she wasn’t familiar to him. Within a minute he had located information on her book Be a Free Range Human and was ready to acquire a copy.

When I casually mentioned that my testimonial was on the cover of Marianne’s book, he asked if Making a Living Without a Job was available on Kindle. He said he was going to order that, too.

That jolly encounter was just the beginning, however. Both of my Saturday seminars were filled with delightful students.

There was an enthusiastic young man who told us that he was annoyed about all the plastic straws he was throwing away everyday. So he found someone on Etsy to make him his very own reusable wooden straw. (Who knew?)

There was Pete Young who had flown in on Friday from Seattle for my programs. He said that for years he’d been in sales and traveled constantly. “This is the first plane I’ve been on in six years,” he grinned.

Before my final seminar of the series, a man came in the room, walked over and asked if I recognized him. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t get any farther than that. “1998. Burnsville Community Ed. Norm Kunselmann,” he said.

Of course!

Norm was the permanently cheerful program director I’d worked with back in Minnesota. He had relocated to Las Vegas and was about to start working with UNLV’s continuing education program.

Then there was one of my favorite moments of the day. When Patrice Snead, a returning student who coaches women entrepreneurs, walked up to ask me a question, I asked one first. “How tall are you?”

She laughed and said her official height was 5’11’’. Then she said, “When I’m at networking events or out meeting people, I sometimes say, ‘I’m so tall I can see opportunities you might miss.’”

Best of all, there had been plenty of networking and resource sharing going on in all four of my programs as this curious group got to know each other.

Apparently, it was a fine weekend to be a gypsy teacher. This morning Tama Kieves had this to say about her time in New York:

Last night after my A Course of Miracles workshop in NYC, a bunch of us spontaneously went out to Whole Foods. We closed the place down with laughter. Doing the work you love can create soul “family” for you, income stream, & joy. What is not “safe” about this?

Banana Republic co-founder Mel Ziegler gave the best advice I’ve ever heard about how to create a business. He said, “I would not think of starting a business unless I was its first customer. All it takes to launch a business in which you are the first customer is to find a second customer and sell him the product.”

Although Banana Republic eventually was sold to The Gap, the early days were a study in building one step at a time.

Ziegler was a writer who, with his artist wife Patricia, began importing casual clothing which they originally sold at flea markets. As their inventory and customer base grew, they moved into a store front in Mill Valley, CA which they decorated to create the image of a jungle trading post.

Before their demise as  a mail order company, Mel  and Patricia Ziegler’s Banana Republic catalog produced some of the snappiest ad copy around.

Banana Republic didn’t just sell clothes: they sold adventure. The most prosaic items took on a new dimension when the Zieglers described them.

Since you can no longer acquire their catalog, here’s a glimpse of the magic.

Cover of the 1985 Holiday Catalog

Gifts for myriad and sundry dreamers, adventurers, lunatics, mavens, explorers, wordsmiths, pundits, rebels, divas, visionaries, adversaries, newshawks, unnamed sources, mysterious strangers, dilettantes, debutantes, seers, dears, moms, dads, or for that matter any character on your list who has better things to think about than clothes but, nonetheless, would like something as unique and authentic as he or she is.

Freelance Briefcase

Though chronically out of work, freelancers nonetheless wish to appear employable, and there’s nothing like a briefcase for conveying the message. Still, a hardshelled encumbrance would seriously undermine one’s spontaneity.

Like freelancers themselves,our Freelance Briefcase works when it has to and plays when it doesn’t. It’s multiple compartments can conceal files, pencils, tape recorder; but when the assignment’s done, they issue forth granola bars, paperback mysteries, even a pair of actual briefs (for the extemporaneous overnighter).

An office-on-a-strap for those who believe that imagination opens more doors than a manicured resume.

Women’s Outback Pants

Dashing, loose-fitting pants in which Matlida could waltz, wrestle a wallaby or brew black billy tea beside a billabong. Whatever the occasions, she’d find six compartments for necessary sundries—enough to make any marsupial faint from pocket-envy.

The Ziegler’s went on to co-found The Republic of Tea with a young entrepreneur named Bill Rosenzweig. They wrote a marvelous book about that business adventure called The Republic of Tea: How an Idea Becomes a Business.

If you can track down a copy of that book, you’ll find one of the smartest stories written about the adventure of starting a business.



Although it’s been years since I bought a copy of Woman’s Day magazine, when I was whizzing through the market express line with my muffin, the bold headline on the cover caught my eye. The attention-grabber read 12 Ways to Make Money at Home.

It wasn’t just the information that had me snapping up  the issue. Even though I live, breathe and dream about self-employment, the conventional career advice has often treated working for yourself as a last resort, a stop gap, perhaps, between real jobs.

When I see mainstream media giving the joyfully jobless path some attention, I am both curious and supportive.

On the same day I bought the magazine, I received a message from Kristina Rupert who was busily exploring Making a Living Without a Job. She didn’t just write a nice fan message, however. She had a personal experience to share.

Kristina wrote, “I graduated from college 3 years ago with a B.S. in Entrepreneurship and when I chose the major my advisor said, ‘I don’t know if that is a good idea, what kind of business are you going to start?  This major is more for people that are getting into a family business.’

“ I proceeded to ask him, ‘Do you ask theater majors what Broadway hit they are going to star in?’  He didn’t answer the question, but then, he didn’t have to.  I knew the truth.

“So I went against that terrible advice and stuck with it because I knew it was right for me.  Your book has validated that decision for me.

“This is the wake up call I needed to get out there and start making a life for myself, on my terms.  I just had to stop reading to write and tell you how utterly wonderful this book is!”

So hooray to Kristina for listening to her heart and hooray to Woman’s Day for flaunting alternatives to getting a job.

(My favorite idea in the magazine article is the woman from Newport Beach, California who writes people’s messages in the sand at the beach and takes a picture that she then e-mails to them. Who knew there was a market for this?)

Of course, the same issue also has plenty of traditional career advice, and their work at home advice is limited to online opportunities. Still, I’m optimistic that they may be getting the attention of more readers who have been diverted from the joyfully jobless path by uninformed sources.

After all, making a living without a job is about much more than just paying the bills. Sadly, Kristina’s advisor, many career counselors and amateur advisors haven’t discovered our secret.

They do remind us, however, that if we’re going to blaze new trails, turn our passions into profits, create things that have never been seen before, we need to stick together— and encourage entrepreneurial spirit wherever we can find it.

Several months ago, there was a big Twitter event in Los Angeles that was live streamed. Since there were several speakers scheduled that I was eager to hear, I planned to check in throughout the day.

On the morning of the event, I woke up with a touch of flu so changed my plans and spent the day in bed with the Twitter conference streaming nearby on my laptop. The audience was enthusiastic and most of the speakers were too.

One of the speakers was a famous motivational speaker. I won’t name names, but I always think of him as a Too-Cool-For-the-Room kind of guy. The venue seemed a bit small for his broad performance which has been fine tuned in auditoriums with audiences in the thousands.

I don’t remember what the title of his talk was, but all of a sudden he bellowed, “Eighty percent of all businesses fail within the first two years.” Just in case his audience (full of self-employed folks) weren’t horrified enough, he repeated that shocking statement.

I sat up in bed. I may have hollered something back at him. I might have even called him a liar. (I was sick, remember?)

Where did he find that statistic? This was even crazier than most of the failure numbers that seem to be pulled from thin air.

Based largely on conventional, highly capitalized business failures, the statistics aren’t based on an accurate count that includes less conventional enterprises. Adding to the inaccuracy is the fact that if a business changes hands, the original owner may be lumped into the failed business category—even if the business was profitably sold.

What struck me as even more ridiculous in the claim that eighty percent of all businesses tanked  was something even more obvious: despite the closing of many businesses during the current recession, we’re not even close to that percentage. If we were, every mall and business park would be filled with rental trucks and moving vans.

That’s a sobering thought, but it’s not what’s happening.

Of course, we can listen to the statistics without questioning them and scare ourselves away from our dreams.

Or we can listen to successful entrepreneurs and see what they have to say.

People like Sir Richard Branson has a different take on things. “The world is a massively more hospitable place today for entrepreneurs than it was twenty or thirty years ago,” he says.

We also need to recognize that business in 2010 is transforming into something new. Consider this experience shared by the wonderful and visionary Paul Hawken:

When I started the natural food business in Boston, my business knowledge was scant. I did the best I could and began reading everything I could lay my hands on.

I subscribed to The Wall Street Journal. It confused me. I read the major business magazines. Their Fortune 500 world seemed irrelevant.

I sneaked into classes at the Harvard Business School. Their case studies were lunar in their usefulness to my enterprise.

The more I searched, the more confused I became. The more exposure I gained to the “official” world of business, the more I began to doubt that I was in business at all. I seemed to be doing something entirely different.

I get that same feeling today when I read most of the standard business literature.I believe that most people in new businesses, and some in not-so-new businesses, have the same problem. They don’t feel connected to the conventional wisdom…as if a small business is just a flake chipped off the larger corporate world.

Hawken and I have discovered the same thing: the Quiet Revolution that’s been growing for the past couple of decades is thriving in all sorts of ways, in all sorts of places.

And we’re going to continue growing—whether anyone is adding us to their statistics or not.

After all the wonderful discussions at Saturday’s Un-Job Fair, I got thinking about this post from a few months back and decided it was worth another visit.

All sorts of folks are blogging about whether it’s too dangerous to start a business during our current economic challenges. Some of them have lengthy arguments against taking such a radical step.

I’m not sure where they’re getting their advice, but the Joyfully Jobless folks in my life are some of the calmest people around. After all, they’ve already demonstrated that they can bring an idea to life, understand multiple profit centers and consider themselves to be wonderfully flexible.

So what do the people who are doing it say?

A perfect example of what I’m talking about came via an e-mail message from Lisa Sellman, owner of Aloha Pet Care. She wrote:

I was just watching a little of the news about our poor economic times and how anyone could be ready for a lay off at any second. The expert in the field suggested that everyone get their contacts together because as one firm lays off another firm could be hiring. So even if your company looks good, any minute your life could change.

It was a story completely fear based. I kept waiting for the news to encourage people to start their own business and create their own destiny but not a word about that.

I am so glad that I started my own business four years ago and I am completely secure with my clients. Even in this economic times, my clients still completely need my services.

My new pet portrait business is going extremely well and I had my first art show two weeks ago and I am working on my comissions currently. Also, I have another art show on the 22nd of November as well as one in January.

It is very exciting to create my future and to feel safe and secure knowing that no one can take this away from me.

Thank you, Barbara, for encouraging entrepreneurs everywhere. Entrepreneurs Unite!

Entrepreneur Tom Breitling wrote a brilliant piece called The Art of Entrepreneurship. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever read about what it really means to ben an entrepreneur.

He says that a good idea is recession-proof. How come? “Entrepreneurial minds don’t stop thinking creatively just because the economy is hurting. This is when creative minds focus.”

(When you have a moment, do read his entire piece. You may want to print it out and save it.)

Seth Godin, the most popular business blogger on Earth, had a piece called Looking for a Reason to Hide. He ended his piece by saying, “Inc. magazine reports that a huge percentage of companies in this year’s Inc. 500 were founded within months of 9/11. Talk about uncertain times. But uncertain times, frozen liquidity, political change and poor astrological forecasts (not to mention chicken entrails) all lead to less competition, more available talent and a do-or-die attitude that causes real change to happen.

If I wasn’t already running my own business, today is the day I’d start one.”

Person who says it cannot be done must not interrupt person already doing it. ~ Chinese Proverb

I was busily working on my book revisions when a call came in on Skype from my daughter.  Jennie called to ask me to settle a mother/daughter dispute. It seems that Jennie had told 4 1/2 year old Zoe that when she was a little girl she’d made books and went door to door selling them to our neighbors. Zoe loved the idea and promptly recognized a hot business opportunity right on her street. It was also a natural for this pint-sized artist. Jennie wasn’t comfortable with the idea, being new in the neighborhood and all. 

I listened to both sides (although Zoe was more whiney than persuasive) of the story, then suggested to Zoe that she sell to people she already knew. “I’d buy one,” I said. “How much is it?”

Zoe perked right up. “Zero dollars,” she said.

I suggested she rethink her pricing. We finally decided that $3.00 would be the right price. “I bet Margaret and Jim and Becky would each buy one, too,” I said, committing my siblings who didn’t even know about this fabulous product we were envisioning. 

Then I asked Zoe if she took checks or credit cards, or if this was a cash only business. Jennie chimed in and said they weren’t set up for credit card sales. I said  that was not a problem and I’d tuck $3.00 into Zoe’s Valentine.

Then Jennie asked, “Would you like to have it mailed or would you prefer to wait and pick it up when you visit us in a couple of weeks?” I said I’d be happy to wait. “Oh, Zoe,” she said, “she’s saving you shipping and handling.” Zoe broke into a big grin as if I’d done her a huge favor. She went off to begin production.

So here’s what Zoe learned that timid people ten times her age haven’t figured out yet. In order to start a business, all you need to do is:

1) find a product/service you love

2) then find your first customer

Now you’re in business. Period. Begun. Open. Then just do it again. And again.


Zoe’s too young for teleclassses, of course, (and she gets free consulting from Grandma Vegas whenever she wants) but you’re probably just the right age.  Want to learn  how to generate a steady stream of good ideas? Join Alice Barry and me for Better Than Brainstorming on Wednesday, February 18, 8-9:30 PM Eastern. 

The following week, I’m on my own for Outsmarting Resistance (which Zoe wouldn’t need yet) on Monday,  February 23, followed by I Hate Marketing on Wednesday, February 25. Both teleclasses are at 8-9:30 PM Eastern.

When Gary Buehler moved from Nebraska to Colorado, he brought with him his wife Duncan, toddler Adam and Hasselblad camera. After years of honing his skills as a photographer, he was ready to set up shop. They settled in Nederland, a little mountain town above Boulder. Shortly thereafter, we were introduced by a mutual acquaintance.

We began talking about ways that Gary might launch his business. He decided he wanted to have a brochure so I suggested he visit area photographers and collect their brochures to see how they were promoting themselves. When he showed me his collection, I was struck by the fact that not one photographer had their own picture on their brochure so we promptly decided that Gary would use his picture (with his beloved Hasselblad) in his marketing. 

We also talked about getting free publicity. I still remember getting a call from Duncan who was wildly excited because the Nederland newspaper (I believe it was called the Mountain Ear) had just contacted her and was sending a reporter to interview them. I didn’t want to dampen her enthusiasm, but suggested that this small circulation paper might not bring in a flood of business.

I was wrong. As soon as the story appeared, Gary got a call from a couple about to be married and in desperate need of a photographer. Gary got the assignment and that started the wedding photography side of their business. Because he had introduced himself to other photographers in the area, he also started getting referrals from them. Gary the Photographer was launched.

In exchange for helping them with their marketing, I bartered for a photo session. I had never enjoyed having my picture taken, but it was so much fun working with Gary that we giggled our way through the entire shoot. I loved the resulting photos and told him that I had never been so relaxed working with other photographers. “We want people to leave a session with us liking themselves better,” he said. 

I was impressed and thought he should write a tip sheet about how to work with a photographer. He did just that and came up with some terrific suggestions. (My favorite was to interview potential photographers in person before booking to make sure you have rapport.) I published his tips in Winning Ways newsletter and then he reprinted it and used it as a handout at bridal fairs and to include when people requested his price list. 

I haven’t had much contact with Gary since I left Colorado about a year after he arrived. However, I got thinking about him again when I decided to give my granddaughter Zoe a gorgeous photo he had taken of her mother when Jennie graduated from high school. That led to tracking him down via e-mail. He wrote back to update me on his family and then told me about the changes that he’d made to his business with the advent of digital photography. Then he added, “After all this time, I still love it.” 

Connect. Collaborate. Care. Change. These are all things that helped Gary build the business of his dreams. And, of course, there’s his passion for taking pictures that would last a lifetime.

Vocation does not mean a goal I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. ~ Parker Palmer