Most of us have jobs that are too small for our spirit.
Jobs are not big enough for people.
~ Nora Watson

When Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, “How do I love thee, let me count the ways,” she wasn’t talking about her life as a poet, but  I’m borrowing that idea anyway.  My list isn’t nearly as poetic as hers, but it’s every bit as passionate and includes things that other self-bossers love about working on their own.

  1. Control over time. Self-bossers are more likely to plan their work around their biorhythms, not a time clock.
  2. No supervisor. Being self-directed builds confidence and maturity.
  3. Imagination stays fit. Our creative spirit is like a muscle and needs frequent workouts to keep it in top operating form. The entrepreneurial life depends on constant creative thinking.
  4. Office can be anywhere. We get to decide if we’ll work at the beach, in our RV or in our home office.
  5. Time for creative excursions. Knowing how important it is to gather ideas all the time, we work frequent jaunts into our schedule and let ourselves be inspired.
  6. No rush hour traffic.
  7. No fast food. Not only do we save money but eating healthy is easier when we have time to prepare good food.
  8. A more balanced life. Smart self-bossers begin by figuring out what’s important to them and find ways to spend time on the top priorities which include not working too.
  9. Lifelong learning. Having experienced jobs where continuous learning was not valued, we now design our own curriculum of formal and informal learning.
  10. Pet friendly office. Fluffy and Fido can be part of our staff.
  11. Custom-tailored benefits. While we have familiar benefits like health
    insurance and vacation time, self-bossers might give themselves other benefits like weekly massages or exciting sabbaticals.
  12. Constant personal growth. Our businesses call us to keep growing and discovering new talents and wisdom.
  13. The coolest friends. Entrepreneurial souls tend to be fun and fascinating. Building a personal network of such friends is a joy.
  14. No office politics.
  15. Great tax deductions. Our tax system favors the very wealthy and the self-employed.
  16. No dress code. Whether you’re funky or conservative, your wardrobe won’t be decided by a memo.
  17. A variety of work. We resist doing the same thing day in and day out and our businesses reflect our love of different activities.
  18. Learn talent management. Self-discovery leads to finding our biggest assets and making the most of them.
  19. Be a positive role model. When we follow our dreams, we set the best example for our kids and others who we don’t even know are taking inspiration from our lead.
  20. Longevity. Yup, we’ll probably live longer and happier lives by honoring the prompting of our hearts.
  21. Master crowd control. We can go to the movies on Tuesday afternoon or to the bank when there’s no line. Not only is this efficient, it eliminates a lot of stress.
  22. Practical mental health. Do you think it’s healthier to spend time problem-solving or complaining? Entrepreneurship, by its very nature, enhances mental health.
  23. Meet fascinating people. As our businesses take us out into the world, we begin to encounter new and interesting folks we’d have never met any other way.
  24. Feed our adventurous spirit. What others call uncertainty, we see as a passport to a rich life that keeps our curiosity busy.
  25. Learn personal responsibility. If our parents and schools didn’t teach us this vital lesson, our businesses certainly will.
  26. Naps.
  27. Unlimited financial potential.  We get to decide our money goals and create ways to reach them. What a lovely notion.
  28. Harmony. Self-bossers are more likely to live in alignment with their deepest values.
  29. FREEDOM.

In the absence of capital, creativity flourishes.
Robert Stephens, Founder The Geek Squad

Lately, we haven’t seen much of Juan Valdez, the fictional iconic Colombian coffee grower featured in television ads, but that’s about to change. The National Federation of Coffee Growers of Columbia are about to spend $75 million on a new ad campaign. In addition, they’ll be opening an international chain of Juan Valdez coffee shops. Some of their products will bear a message stating that coffee beans are the primary source of income for more than 500,000 peasant families in Columbia.

In reading that story, is your first reaction, “I wish I had such a fat advertising budget,” or are you wondering why the coffee growers are still peasants? Either way, something seems a bit out of kilter in this story.

Struggling entrepreneurs often convince themselves that if they only got their hands on some money, it would solve all their problems. Not only is that position not very helpful, it also postpones the possibility of lasting success.

I once received a letter from a man who told me he’d been homeless and living in his car when the old adage, “It takes money to make money,” came to him. Realizing that he couldn’t test this notion, he continued to contemplate his options and came to the new realization that “It takes ideas to make money.” Having hit upon this thought, he started to get excited about solving his problems with his imagination. That led him to start a little service business that’s grown and prospered. As Paul Hawken reminds us, “Money follows ideas. Money doesn’t create anything.”

Real estate people talk about sweat equity—investing time and energy rather than cold cash. Creative capital is a similar concept, but it goes a step farther. When we use our imaginations to grow our businesses, we not only generate bigger and better ideas, we keep our passion alive and build confidence in our own ideas at the same time. Those are powerful ingredients for any successful undertaking.

No one has understood creative capital better than Body Shop founder Anita Roddick. For instance, she showed a natural flair for what I call Hansel and Gretel marketing. When she opened her first little shop in Brighton, England, she would spray a trail of scent from the main street to her side street location, hoping people would follow the smell. She writes, “Believe me I was prepared to try anything in those early days to get customers into my shop. I wanted to get passersby to stop, so I put big, old-fashioned sandwich boards outside promoting one or another of the products. I drenched the front of the shop in the most exotic perfume oils so that it always smelled wonderful.”

Early on, Roddick came to understand the power of free publicity. After many runners in the London Marathon complained about sore feet, she got busy concocting a foot lotion and the following year got permission to stand on the sidelines of the marathon and hand out free samples. The media took note. She also became a regular on talk shows, plugging The Body Shop as much as she could politely get away with.

Instead of spending  money for advertising, Roddick has insisted on finding creative ways to communicate her unique message. “How we communicate is gob-smacking,” she wrote in her autobiography, Body and Soul. “We use every available medium to preach, teach, inspire and stimulate, and in everything we do our single-minded passion shines through. One of my favorite quotations is from the French philosopher Descartes: ‘The passions are the only advocates which always persuade. The simplest man with passion will be more persuasive than the most eloquent without.’”

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family.
Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.
~ Jane Howard

One of the major obstacles to successful self-employment is not having a circle of entrepreneurial friends. When I point that out in Making a Living Without a Job seminars, I often see participants who look doomed. Not knowing anyone who is joyfully jobless does not have to be a permanent situation. It can be a call to expand your horizons.

“Where do you meet self-bossers?” is a frequent question that I hear. A good starting place, I point out, is to be entrepreneurial yourself and then go to their natural habitats for closer contact. Here are some ways to track down those dreamers and doers so you can study their habits up close.

  • Starbucks. Yes, the ubiquitous coffeehouse is loaded with entrepreneurial energy. In fact, new businesses have been dubbed Starbucks Start-ups because so many are conceived there. It’s also a popular meeting place for home based business owners, their clients and peers. It you have good eavesdropping skills, you can learn a lot while sipping your latte.
  • Seminars. Spend an evening or an entire day in a business oriented seminar and you’re bound to make a connection—if you bother. In observing behavior in my meeting rooms, I notice that not everyone makes the effort to introduce themselves to other participants. Many people don’t even greet the person sitting next to them, unless it’s an opening exercise. What a waste of potential opportunity to connect with a kindred spirit.
    In a recent seminar of mine, a young man came up to purchase a copy of my book and I asked him what his plans were. When he told me he was on his way to Japan, I said, “You’ve got to meet Patrick (another participant). He just got back from working there for eleven years.”
    I’ve had students come back from a break who met someone in those few minutes and saw a potential joint project. This can only happen if you let people know who you are. Do talk to strangers.
  • Conventions and trade shows. As writer Alan Epstein points out, you can get a list of such
    events in your own hometown from the Chamber of Commerce of Convention Bureau. Some of these events will be entrepreneurial beehives. You can meet other attendees and talk to exhibiters. Not only can you get some valuable information, but, as Epstein illustrates, “You’ll undoubtedly come away with a greater awareness of the cutting-edge trends and developments in the business that interests you. And you’ll refresh that interest by being among people who share your enthusiasm.”
  • Associations. While many small business organizations have had a short shelf life, niche groups seem to do better. Perhaps the kind of business you’re passionate about already has a group in place.
    How do you locate such an association? You can check the Yellow Pages, watch your local paper’s meeting calendar, or contact your Chamber of Commerce to see if they have a directory. A valuable locator tool is the extensive Gale’s Encyclopedia of Associations which you’ll find in your library’s reference section. Once you’ve tracked down a potential group, see if you can attend a meeting as a guest. Groups have personalities, after all, and you may or may not feel rapport, so check them out before you join.
  • Retreats. I could go on a retreat every month. There’s nothing quite so powerful as spending several days with a small group of people who are actively engaged in building their dreams. Most importantly, the longer time frame makes it possible for participants to get to know each other and share specific ideas and suggestions that can move mountains.  Of course, if you’re self-employed, such experiences have the added benefit of being tax deductible, but that’s not the primary reason to take a retreat. As monks and mystics have long known, putting yourself in a beautiful environment can be miraculous in many different ways.
  • Field trips. Every entrepreneur should set aside time occasionally to visit other small businesses. If you plan such an excursion, try to pick a time when the business won’t be too busy so you can chat with the owner. Do this only with entrepreneurs who are excited about their ventures, however. As Sarah Ban Breathnach reminds us, “A disgruntled dreamer makes a risky mentor.”

You can also observe entrepreneurs working at flea markets, art fairs and community festivals. Be conscious of behaviors that you find magnetic—and those which you don’t.

Begin tracking and observing the habits of Genus Entrepreneurus and you’ll soon see what Jim Rohn was talking about when he said, “Formal education will make you a living. Self-education will make you a fortune.” It just takes a willingness to learn from others with an entrepreneurial spirit.

All of us want to do well. But if we do not do good,
too, then doing well will never be enough.
~ Anna Quindlen

The most passionate environmentalist I’ve ever known was Chris Utterback. To her, all offenses were equally serious whether it was defiling a public space with graffiti or chopping down a rain forest. She cared deeply for the earth and couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t feel the same sense of responsibility.

One day we were driving through the quiet Connecticut countryside where she lived and came across a pile of trash heaped on the roadside. She slammed on her brakes and we jumped out of the car, picked up the litter, bagged it and put it in the trunk of her car. As we got back in, I sighed and said, “Planetkeeping is a full-time job.” Chris looked at me and without saying so, we both volunteered to be Planetkeepers, even though it was long before environmental problems were getting much attention.

Planetkeeping isn’t just a full-time job; it’s a demanding one that requires a vigilance and a willingness to do more than our share simply because it’s the moral choice. Planetkeeping is motivated by a sense of responsibility to nature and other people— whether we know them or not. It assumes that we’ll take care of whatever is ours to care for no matter how difficult or challenging that may be.

A genuine Planetkeeper refuses to be influenced by the indifference or apathy of others—not even when surrounded by Pillagers. Pillagers are the folks who go through life consuming and destroying with no thought for anyone beyond themselves. I suspect that most of us fall somewhere between the two behaviors, acting responsibly in some areas and less so in others.

“If you want to change the world,” Paul Hawken advised, “don’t join the Peace Corps. Start a business.” As I look at the history of social responsibility, entrepreneurs seem to have played a leading role. In the small Minnesota town where I grew up, it was the local business community that spearheaded charitable projects. Fundraisers as well as pitching in with labor were common events. If Habitat for Humanity had been around, I’m sure we’d have seen our small town leaders swinging a hammer.

Although many big businesses have been more Pillagers than Planetkeepers, one company is working diligently to raise awareness that leads to more responsible business practices. That business is Home Depot whose  mission statement is to Improve Everything You Touch.

It’s a practice worth a closer look. Imagine how quickly things would change if everyone went through their days actively working to improve everything they touch. What would happen to road rage? To rudeness? To the environment? To self-esteem? To greed? To our communities? To litter? To hunger?

How can we as small business owners improve everything we touch? I believe it starts simply with a willingness followed by a commitment to put such lofty thoughts as Improve Everything You Touch at the heart of our relationships and activities. Planetkeeping also demands that we stop withholding our own gifts and talents and put them to work in the service of making the world a better, happier nurturing place.

If your operating policy is to Improve Everything You Touch, your creative spirit gets engaged, showing you solutions that others haven’t seen, pointing out opportunities awaiting a champion, and adding a dimension of purpose and meaning in everyday activity that the Pillagers can never know. Planetkeeping isn’t just a philosophy, after all. It’s volunteering to care for the world.

If money is your only hope for independence,
you will never have it.
~ Henry Ford

There was no shortage of candidates for the Most Annoying Person Award that I was mentally planning to bestow. At the top of the short list was Billy Mays, the guy who screams at us in tv ads to buy wrenches, foot powder and cleaning products. But he had stiff competition from Stephanie, a young woman who had shattered the silence on the airport bus one recent Friday evening, by dialing up a series of friends to plan her weekend.  Oblivious to the weary travelers around her, she babbled on and on. When the calls finally ended, it was all I could do to keep from yelling, “Thank goodness Stephanie’s run out of friends!” She certainly had not  made any new ones on the bus, but she had become  a strong contender for my award.

Both Billy and Stephanie dropped lower on the list when I rushed to answer the telephone only to be greeted by a disembodied voice which said, “Hello, we are canvassing  your neighborhood to find people who want to work at home.” I hung up before the recording finished, but a few hours later I knew who the winner of my award would be and it’s not a single person at all.  I call them the Work at Home Opportunistas and they are on the prowl. In fact, these folks seemed to be causing an inescapable epidemic.

When I go to check my e-mail, a flashing banner screams, “Earn $10,000/month working from home!” My  junk e-mailbox is full of moneymaking offers every day. Driving around town, I see posters stapled to utility poles with similar come hither  messages.

My personal favorite Work at Home promoter was the woman (I can only assume) who plastered the toilet stalls at the Mall of America with Work at Home cards promising  $1500/month PT, $5000/month FT.

After weeks of avoiding this avalanche of opportunity, I happened to see travel guru Peter Greenberg talking about going on a “free” cruise—another popular offer. The cruise ended up costing $1400 and was dreadful from beginning to end. Maybe I should follow his lead and check out the home business offers, I decided.

Posing as an eager opportunity seeker, I began responding to every ad that crossed my path. I did a Google search for Work at Home and was astonished to see pages of offers. It would have taken me days to check out every listing on Google, so I only went for the most intriguing. What I discovered was a pattern or system to all these offers that was soon familiar. Maybe there’s a Scam School where they teach this stuff, I mused. Answer an ad and here’s what you’ll find:

  • The emphasis is on the big money you can earn. Very often the actual business is just alluded to. Breathing seems to be the only required skill. The focus is on opportunity with a capital O. Request the free information offered and you probably will get a brochure offering to sell you the real scoop.
  • Especially popular right now are offers you can pass along over the Internet. From the comfort of your own home, you can reach millions around the world and rake it in.
  • Another familiar offer is listings (either a booklet  you can purchase or on a website you must pay to enter) of Work at Home opportunities. These are particularly terrific for anyone interested in earning pennies for tediously stuffing envelopes. You are not told that you have to acquire the names and addresses that will go on the envelopes.
  • The offer that most amused me is the one that trains you to track down deadbeat parents and collect unpaid child support. Now doesn’t that sound like something anyone could do?
  • And what’s this repeated promise of  a monthly income? Jobs have predictable incomes; businesses fluctuate.

With all the possibilities for creative self-employment, these plans do little more than give working at home a shady reputation. Sadly, as long as people lack self-confidence, there will always be shysters eager to take advantage of them. Hook up with one of these Opportunistas and you’ll spend both cash and confidence—with nothing but a sad, hard lesson in return.

Somewhere someone is looking for
exactly what you have to offer.
~ Louise Hay

For thousands of years, anyone running a business was at the mercy of geography. If you lived near a river or the ocean, you had opportunities not available to your landlocked neighbors. Being an entrepreneur usually meant plunking yourself down in a convenient spot and dealing with whomever happened to pass your way.

Needless to say, most entrepreneurs were not great visionaries. And, of course, millions of business owners still operate that way, going to the same place at the same time and serving the same customers day after day. No wonder that the more adventurous among us didn’t find this an attractive proposition.

With the advent of automobiles, trains and planes, horizons began to expand. Legions of traveling salespeople took to the road to sell their wares to customers farther afield. While merchant travelers had long searched the world for exotic goods and brought them home to eager new markets, itinerant peddlers had mostly kept close to home.

Mail order marketing opened another window on the world with the likes of Sears and Roebuck sending all manner of merchandise, including prefabricated houses, to customers living in remote corners of the country. That revolution, later aided by services such as UPS and Federal Express, made it possible for imaginative entrepreneurs to live in attractive places without being dependent on the local population (or lack thereof) to support their businesses.

Now we’re in the midst of another revolution, one that has exciting possibilities for building a totally new kind of business. And that possibility exists only because geography is no longer an obstacle. Where business once meant marketing goods and services to those in close proximity, it now is more about reaching out to those who share values, concerns and ideas—no matter where they are located. In the Twenty-first Century, our clients and customers are more likely to share a consciousness than a zip code.

So what does it take to be part of this globe-spanning phenomenon? First of all, we must have more than a little spirit of adventure, imagination and vision. While we may be happily ensconced in our home office, we need to reach out to people far and wide who want what we have to offer. That may require giving up our limited notions of what’s possible. If you want to create a business that is satisfying in every possible way there’s a critical attitude that needs to be part of your basic operating plan. That key attitude is this: free yourself of any notions, conscious or otherwise, that you must please everyone and decide instead that you will build a business by finding and serving your own kindred spirits.

That’s exactly what a couple that I saw featured on a Canadian television show did. After moving to a sparsely populated island near Vancouver, they opened an international art gallery. This business is run virtually and puts them in touch with artists and buyers from around the world—while giving them the pleasure of having a serene (and low overhead) environment from which to work. Their success is the result of having clarity about the people with whom they work and serve.

If you haven’t already done so, give some serious consideration to writing a profile of your ideal customer. What do they think? What do they value? How can you enrich their lives? You have a few billion people to chose from, after all, so why not decide in advance who your preferred customers are? ( I’m not talking here about exclusion and prejudice; this exercise is about identifying the most mutually rewarding relationships you can imagine and then seeking them out.) If you make finding like-minded people the focus of your business, you will automatically eliminate much of the fear that keeps so many people from moving ahead.

This is equally true if you offer a service that does rely on personal contact with people in your own vicinity. If you’re a massage therapist, for instance, you need to have access to bodies, but you’ll build a richer business if you decide ahead of time about the minds and spirits that accompany the bodies of your ideal clients.

Author Sonia Choquette has some bold advice for how to participate in all of this opportunity. She writes, “Give up the excuses. Give up the drama. Give up the mess. Give up attachment to the wrong things and ideas, and use that freed-up energy to cut a wide swath for your dream to enter your experience.”

When funnyman Steve Martin’s book Pure Drivel came out it enjoyed critical raves and enthusiastic sales. Although the author has long been recognized for his fertile comic mind, he told the Today Show’s Matt Lauer that the book would not have happened if he hadn’t taken time off. His sabbatical unleashed, Martin said, an avalanche of creative ideas.

Martin is not alone in discovering that taking time away can reap enormous benefits. Nicola Freegard was a successful (and frazzled) Hollywood music production executive. After a particularly stressful project, she decided to spend a year driving around the United States with her cocker spaniels as companions. Eventually, she settled in Tucson and began to clarify her goals. She decided she wanted to combine design and textile production with her concern for the environment. Furthermore, she wanted to work with great people and travel to exotic places. Today she heads Earth Works, a company that markets environmentally sensitive products for the home.

Despite numerous stories extolling the profound rewards of taking time away, it’s an idea that is not being as heartily embraced as it might be. In fact, many people find the whole notion downright terrifying. Not surprisingly, I’ve noticed, these are people with the least to lose.

Because the notion of regular sabbaticals throughout our lifetime has been so ignored in recent times, there’s some confusion over what constitutes a true sabbatical. People often claim to have taken a sabbatical when they actually took a sidetrip — usually not one of their own choosing. Divorce or a job loss frequently sends people into a tailspin, causing them to drift until they get their bearings. Calling such times a sabbatical diminishes the true objective of time off.

My definition of sabbatical is time away with a purpose. The purpose of such a time is not to abandon your life, but to enrich it. In the original concept, first defined in the Old Testament book of Hebrews, a sabbatical was to be taken by everyone, every seven years. During this year off, fields were to lie fallow, debts were to be forgiven, relationships were to be repaired and introspection was encouraged. Over time, of course, the notion disappeared and today many people don’t even observe a weekly Sabbath, much less consider taking an entire year of restoration.

After taking my sabbatical seminar a few years ago, Veneta Masson wrote an inspiring article about it for a health care magazine. In the article she said, “In 1998, I will have been an RN for 35 years. I should be coming up on my fifth sabbatical. …What if nurses, especially nurses in clinical practice, were granted time away from the physical, mental and emotional intensity of patient care for personal renewal? Wouldn’t nurses nurse more effectively if they themselves are well cared for?”

Obviously, my answer to the questions, “Who me? Take a sabbatical?” is a hearty, “Yes. Why not you?” And I’m not alone in singing the praises of such an adventure. The authors of Six Months Off interviewed over 200 people who had done so and without exception they all found that doing so enhanced their lives and careers. I have never met any sabbatical-taker who doesn’t rank it as a top life experience.

Like every worthwhile undertaking, a sabbatical requires thoughtful planning plus a creative approach to shifting gears for a while. Just like starting a business, taking time off seems fraught with obstacles until the right idea occurs. Then enthusiasm for the envisioned project begins to create momentum and attract necessary resources.

A good starting point for thinking about your own sabbatical can be as simple as this little exercise. Start writing down your own thoughts by completing this sentence:

I want time away in order to accomplish_________.

Once you have the big picture in sight, begin to list all ideas — both tame and wild — about how you might fulfill the mission. Then get busy carrying out the logistics.

Whether you want to see the world, find time to complete a project without interruption, study a new language or jumpstart your creative spirit, a sabbatical is an old idea that deserves to be rediscovered and put to use by those serious about discovering their biggest selves.

Is It Time for Time Away?

Here are several signs that it is the perfect time to consider a sabbatical:

  • You can’t remember the last time you had a new idea that you were excited about.
  • You’ve reached all of your goals.
  • You’ve reached none of your goals.
  • Your kids think you’re a nerd and you suspect they’re right.
  • You have a nagging suspicion that you’d be really good at something if you only had time to learn how.
  • You get wistful every time a plane flies overhead.
  • Nobody ever asks you what’s new.
  • A longterm relationship or job has come to an end. It’s time to write a new chapter.
  • You’re tired of being an armchair traveler and want to see distant lands for yourself.
  • You’re ready to find a new hometown.
  • You feel drawn to donate your time and talents to a humanitarian cause.
  • You need time to do research or start a long-term project.
  • Your soul is weary.

The world is like a book. He who stays
home reads only one page.
~ St. Augustine

The place that Amy calls World Headquarters is a townhouse filled with beautiful objects gathered on her many travels. Her business was intentionally designed to include plenty of opportunities to feed her wanderlust and her friends and business associates consider her one of the most creative people they know.

It wasn’t always this, Amy says. In the days before she became an entrepreneurial gypsy she worked for several years in a retail store. Even though that brought her into contact with many different people and the store’s inventory frequently changed, she credits her travels with opening her creative spirit. Now Amy comes back from every trip with a notebook full of ideas she’s gathered along the way. “There’s something about being in a new place, with new people that seems to make me more alert,” she says.

Go Where Your Muse Is

Amy’s not the only one to discover that a change of scenery can be a creative catalyst. Monet, Signac, Browning and Ruskin are just a few of the artistic souls who left home to find fresh inspiration in Venice. Frances Mayes was an unknown college writing professor until she shared her passion for Tuscany in her popular books.

Although it’s wonderful to have a faraway place that can be a source of creative renewal, your Muse may not require you to travel so far. My friend Peter has taken to walking around a favorite lake in Minneapolis. After checking out several lakes, he chose Lake Harriet because of its serenity. He claims that his best writing ideas are generated on those walks which get him out of his home office.

On one of his walks, Peter, who also does career counseling, realized that often the solution to an unhappy work situation is to relocate to a different environment. As he says, “It’s not just the what of our work. It’s also the where.” It’s hard to know where Where is if we haven’t done some exploring and discovered those places and people that call forth our best self.

In Praise of Small Excursions

Julia Cameron, best known for The Artist’s Way, is an enthusiastic proponent of regular adventures. Cameron also nudges her creative spirit by dividing her time between New York City and Santa Fe, New Mexico—two very different environments.

In Walking in the World, her book on practical creativity, she writes, “Once a week I take some small adventure, an Artist’s Date. And I do mean small. I go to the fabric store. I visit the button shop. I sneeze as I enter a dusty secondhand bookstore. I take myself to a pet shop and go to the bird section. I might visit a large clock store and hear the rhythmic ticking, steady as a mother’s heart…I declare an hour off limits from hurried production and I have the chance to marvel at my own being.”

This is a splendid idea that anyone can borrow, but in order to get the full benefit of small excursions they need to be given the same commitment as any other important appointment.

Build a Travel Component Into Your Business

A life coach I met in San Antonio, Texas has another business selling Venetian glass beads. Two or three times a year, she flies to Italy to restock her inventory. Another woman I know, who published a cozy mystery newsletter, led a tour group of booklovers to England every year.

Entrepreneurs who have expanded their business while earning money as they travel agree that it adds a new dimension to their work, but there’s more to this than just supporting your wanderlust. In The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton writes, “It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are.”

A change of scenery can give us a new insight into who we are and what we can accomplish. When we step outside of the familiar and into a strange environment, we are challenged to be more alert, more aware, more open and curious. Those are some big rewards for jumping on a train or airplane—or taking a walk in a new neighborhood.

British entrepreneur extraordinaire, Richard Branson, has long been noticed for his willingness to do outrageous things in order to promote his empire.  The irrepressible Branson, who reminds me of a naughty gnome, explains his frequent media appearances by saying, “Everyday television and newspapers need visually interesting stories to feature. We just try to help them out by doing interesting things in public places and making sure they know where we’ll be and what we’ll be doing.”

As the entrepreneurial revolution continues to grow, so does the media interest in stories about engaging small businesses. It’s up to you to take advantage of this curiosity by helping reporters and interviewers discover what makes you newsworthy and being willing to share your story and information with them. Here are some simple ways to get started right in your own backyard.

1. Make a list of local media outlets and possibilities. Study all of the newspapers, even the giveaway ones, in your area. Listen to radio stations and find out who does interviews on talk shows. Check area television programming to see who does stories and interviews with local people. Make this an on-going project, since the media is a changing environment.

2. Get to know the interviewing style and interests of local reporters. Listen to talk radio, read the newspaper, and study regional magazines with an eye to analyzing the slant and area of interest of various reporters. The more familiar you become with their work, the easier it will be to find a “hook” that will interest them in what you’re doing.

3. Keep looking for opportunities that are appropriate to you. One Sunday, I noticed a tiny paragraph in the business section of our newspaper which said, “Have you left corporate life to start something on your own? If so, we’d like to hear from you for an upcoming story we’re doing about career changers.” I promptly called the reporter’s voice mail, introduced myself and explained that while I hadn’t done exactly what she was looking for, I did have some information that might be of interest to her since I do seminars on self-employment around the country, had written a book on the subject and had talked to thousands of people wanting to leave corporate life. The reporter called and interviewed me a couple of days later. When the story appeared— as a front page headliner—my comments were sprinkled throughout the article giving me the appearance of being the local expert.

Another of my favorite tools is the lowly letter to the editor. If you see a story that deals with an area related to your business, your professional comments may be welcomed. You could write to applaud the original article or add additional information or disagree with what’s been printed.

4. Find ways to be visible and the media may find you. Numerous invitations and interviews have come to me because of my teaching in adult education. One of those interviews, went out on the wire services and was published in newspapers all over the country. In fact, Making a Living Without a Job became a book because an editor saw the course description in an adult education catalog and contacted me, starting a chain of happy events in motion.

So agree to be part of a panel discussion, accept the speaking invitation from your local Rotary club, donate a prize for your church raffle. Well promoted local events often get media notice—and some clever journalist might just track you down. Never underestimate the value of community involvement.

5. Pay attention to Joan Stewart and Peter Shankman. Joan, a former reporter, now helps small businesses get media exposure. Her Web site, Publicity Hound, is loaded with useful information and her weekly mailings are always full of fresh insights and resources. Be sure to sign up.

Peter Shankman is the genius behind Help a Reporter which sends out mailings three times a day with requests from journalists, freelancers and bloggers looking for folks to interview on specific subjects. I had two interviews that resulted in exposure in national magazines as a result of responding to requests on HARO. It’s a bit tine-consuming to monitor all the resources, but absolutely worth the effort.

6. Don’t be discouraged if your efforts don’t produce immediate, measurable results.  Of course, it’s always wonderful if your telephone starts ringing or you’re flooded with orders after you’ve made an appearance. But that doesn’t always happen. I remember a small business expert being interviewed in Time magazine and then publicly complaining that it hadn’t brought her any new business. She simply didn’t understand the process, although it’s easy to sympathize with her disappointment.

Frequently, the main value of media exposure is that it helps people become more familiar with you and your name. That may not translate into new business overnight. I often have people who show up in my seminars clutching old, yellowing newspaper articles about me that they clipped years ago. Treat media interviews as seed planting expeditions and trust that good will come from every effort sooner or later.