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  willing to settle for the first person that comes along (and we all have had times when we’ve done that and regretted it later), this is a perfect  opportunity to clarify what you need from various service providers and make  certain that you’re getting it. If you are ready to add to your support  team, start interviewing potential sources of support.

Simplify, Simplify.  Been meaning to clean out your closets and pass things along to a charity shop? Get your office in shipshape? These are time-consuming tasks that aren’t very glamorous, but the psychic rewards are huge.

Get out some trash bags, put on some upbeat music and have at it. Get rid of the junk in the junk drawer. Weed your library. Update your filing system. Clean out your e-mailbox. It’s as liberating as losing twenty pounds.

Up Your Wellness. Use this extra time to walk or workout. Get a massage or facial. Read up on nutrition. Experiment with new healthier foods that  take time to prepare. Start meditating again. Plan a stress reduction program. Work these things into your schedule now and you’re more apt  to keep up with them when your busier times return.

Volunteer. Pass your gift of time along to someone else by helping out. If you live in a major metro area in the US and are needing ideas, go to www.VolunteerMatch.com which lists a wide variety of projects in search of  help. Why not volunteer at your kids’ school or at a local foodbank or shelter? You could even instigate a project of your own and get your friends involved.

Learn Something New. Build some brain cells with a class or seminar. Add to your computer skills, start learning a new language, take up salsa dancing. Use this time to saturate yourself in a new subject that catches your fancy.

Finish Things. Okay, not everyone has unfinished projects gathering dust, but chances are there’s an article you started writing or a home improvement project that got bogged down and abandoned because it didn’t seem urgent.  Imagine if all these loose ends were tied up before you plunge back into your business. It would feel great, wouldn’t it?

Take a Mini-Sabbatical. Got a stack of books you’ve been wanting to read? For years, Bill Gates has gone away on a reading retreat. You don’t have to be a billionaire to borrow this idea.

Been meaning to visit a historic site in a nearby state?  Need to refresh your creative spirit? Plan some purposeful time away. Borrow a friend’s cottage. Rent a motorhome. Don’t check your messages. A change of scenery may be just what you need to recharge your batteries and come up with some fresh insights.

Invest Sweat Equity in a Longterm Project. Been putting something off because it will require lots of hours to get to completion? This could be the time to start putting in those hours to get it launched.  Since most of us flourish when working on new projects, getting started has the added bonus of re-energizing other more familiar things.

Host an Idea Night Potluck. Invite four or five other positive self-bossers to share food and ideas with each other. Make sure that everyone gets equal time and that all ideas get a hearing. Idea Parties are more successful if you lay down the ground rule that arguing or discounting ideas is strictly forbidden. Guests go home with an inventory of potential  ideas which they can evaluate later.

Expand Your Visibility. Write a press release. Have a new photo taken. Start an ezine. Get yourself interviewed on a local radio show. Revamp your Web site. All this seed planting takes time and is easy to overlook when you’re busy. Why not do it now and see what doors might open?

Whenever you find yourself with a gift of time, think of ways to spend it wisely and creatively. It’s a worthwhile investment.

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If you quake at the thought of going out on your own and setting up shop, here are some fearbashers that can reroute you back to the road to success.

Do temporary work. March into a temporary help agency and get signed up for a short-term project. When you get an assignment, don’t think of this primarily as a way to earn money. Use this project to do some homework. No matter what business you are sent to work in, observe what goes on in a detached and analytical manner.

I’m willing to guess that you’ll quickly discover that all sorts of mistakes and mishaps (and even stupid decisions) will be part of every day. Now notice that despite this lack of perfection, the business manages to stay afloat. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get an assignment on a ship of fools who are oblivious to their own goofiness. You don’t have to be arrogant about it; just notice that every business has huge margins for error and it doesn’t bring them crashing to their knees. You can certainly do better than that, can’t you? So get out there and do it.

Observe a successful immigrant entrepreneur. A high percentage of people who come here from other parts of the world start their own businesses. Imagine how much harder that would be in a strange culture where you may not speak the language. Yet, many of these newcomers have such a desire to build something of their own, a desire that they couldn’t fulfill in their homeland, that the obstacles melt in the face of that determination. We look like wimps next to the hardworking and committed business owners who have been drawn to this land of opportunity. Let them inspire you.

Fail on purpose. Young children aren’t judgmental when it comes to trying new things. As we get older, many of us avoid any situation where we might not be brilliant. As a result, our world shrinks down to a short list of acceptable activities. That is not the road to personal growth. If you are terrified at the thought of failing, make a list of all the things that you are an utter klutz at doing. Then do something on your list as frequently as possible. At the very least, you may amuse your friends when you throw three gutter balls in a row. At the other end of this temporary humiliation is all the power you’ll gain by surviving a minor failure.

Develop a big roar. Next time you’re driving in your car, pretend you’re the Lion King. It worked in the Wizard of Oz and it will work for you, too. No kidding.

Make Nathan Lane your patron saint. A few years back, the wildly talented Lane starred in his own television series, which was downright awful. It was so terrible, in fact, that it only ran for a few painful episodes. Had it been even mildly successful, Lane would have continued taping the series instead of wowing audiences in The Producers, the biggest hit Broadway’s seen in years. If you try something that turns out badly, think of it as your own failed series — and celebrate the end of your contract.

Imagine your success. I am convinced that most people fail to go after their dreams or leave their comfort zones because they haven’t taken the time to really think about what rewards their ultimate success would bring them. When you are focused on the rewards that will inevitably come, setbacks and disappointments are easier to handle. Often, in truth, what looks like a setback is just a resetting of the course and may, in the long run, make the journey sweeter. That’s why it’s so important to be willing to defer short-lived gratification in order to have something grander in the future. But first you must envision it and sell yourself on that new and better life you foresee. After all, courage is not the absence of fear but, rather, the determination to act because the rewards are worth it.

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How do you become a household name? The simple answer: by relentlessly getting your message out, by generating publicity for yourself, by finding new ways to package information.

While this can be a time-consuming activity, having a monthly goal can keep you moving forward. Here are some basic activities to include:

Find a role model. Several are even better. They don’t have to be experts in your field, but they do have to be experts that you admire. Analyze how they’ve built their careers. It’s fascinating to see how others have done it — and it makes the process seem less daunting.

Have a current photograph taken — one you really like. People will remember you more easily if they have a face to connect with a name. When you have a picture you like, put it on your brochure, offer it to publications that are printing your articles, use it on flyers for seminars and events, and post it on your web site.

Compile a media mailing list. Keep adding to it as you find new sources that might be appropriate for you. Include local and national newspapers and magazines, names of reporters who write about your field, and radio and television interview programs that use experts as guests.

Speak up. Don’t overlook the publicity value of writing letters to the editor. If a magazine or newspaper does an article that covers your area of expertise, respond. Keep in mind that most people write letters only when they’re angry. You can use this same simple tool to praise or add another insight to an article. Make sure you also incorporate your qualifications for speaking up (e.g., “As a longtime resident of this community,” “As someone who has studied tai chi for two decades,” etc.).

Network. Let your peers and fellow professionals know you’re available to give talks, to participate in panel discussions and so forth.

Stay light. Keep a playful attitude about publicity — especially if you find yourself misquoted, relegated to the back page or mercilessly edited.

Recycle. Find ways to reuse your material. Turn a magazine article into a talk, submit a tip sheet to different markets, record a workshop and sell it as a CD set.

Resource. Get a copy of Marcia Yudkin’s 6 Steps to Free Publicity, which will give you the nuts-and-bolts information you need, along with firing up your enthusiasm and giving you new ideas for broadening your visibility.

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If you plan to package information, publish a customer newsletter or establish yourself as an expert by writing and/or speaking, you’ll find yourself collecting information all the time. After a while, however, it’s easy to depend on your regular sources and forget about the other options you have for finding useful material. To make your information gathering more effective, you’ll want to tap into as many sources as possible.

Before you do, however, set up a system for handling the material that you collect. A series of file folders labeled with the broad categories you’re most likely to use is the easiest system. When you see an item of interest in the newspaper or a magazine, you can clip it and file it quickly. Consider having a folder for random ideas, too, so when you think of a subject or anecdote that you’d like to use in the future, you can make note of it and slip it into its proper place. Since ideas are fleeting and can occur anytime and anyplace, you have to be prepared to preserve them on the spot.

Although you’ll be depending on personal experience for some of your writing and speaking, your work will be livelier and have more impact if you support what you have to say in a variety of ways. When it’s time to collect ideas and information, here are additional sources to consider:

Conduct a poll or design a questionnaire. Who would people most like to be seated next to on a long flight? The hands-down winner in one poll was Oprah Winfrey. We love to know what other people are thinking and doing. As a result, pollsters have created a lively business interviewing folks on every conceivable subject. You don’t need to be Gallup to conduct a poll of your own and publish the results.

Several years ago, Suzy Mallory instigated her annual poll to select the Most Watchable Men in America. Mallory, the founder of Manwatcher’s International, sent out a questionnaire to her members, who then voted on the men they found most attractive. Once the results were tabulated, Mallory would send the findings to newspapers and other major media outlets, generating a ton of publicity for her organization and, I assume, attracting more paid members.

If you publish a newsletter, you could follow Mallory’s lead and quiz your readers. Or you could spend a few hours at a mall or an airport polling anyone who will talk to you. Members of an affinity group also make fine candidates for polling.

Once you’ve got the results (and it doesn’t have to be highly scientific), write a press release or include your findings in some other work.

Interview interesting people. Experts in your field, your peers, and unusual folks in your neighborhood are all good subjects for interviews. The key to a successful interview is to come prepared with questions that you want to cover. Sometimes that means doing some preliminary research on your subject; at other times, you can ask your subject for suggestions about topics they want to discuss.

If your interview is taking place in person, ask your subject if it’s okay to tape record the conversation. You’ll have a more accurate account of your interview than if you rely on your notes or memory. If the person objects to being recorded, however, you must comply with their wishes. Some celebrities do not allow interviews to be recorded, but your local inventor will probably have no such objections.

Subscribe to related publications in your field. What are the trends in your industry? New discoveries? Who are the movers and shakers? Keeping up in the Information Age can be challenging, but the better informed you are, the more credible your work will be. Take time to glean information from trade journals, general publications and specialty newsletters. Online services are another vast source. As an expert, one of your jobs is to condense huge amounts of information and pass along the most pertinent to your audience.

Keep up with the latest books. Knowing the newest books in your field is, obviously, important. If you publish a newsletter or frequently write and review books in your field, you may find that book publishers are willing to send you review copies of their new titles. (Yes, for free.)

Here’s how it works. First of all, you must request titles that are new or nearly new — published within the last year. Make regular trips to your local bookseller to see what new titles have arrived. Another good source is Publishers Weekly magazine, which you can find at your library. When you come across a title that appeals to you, write to the promotion department of the publisher.

Not all requests will be granted, of course, but when you do review a book, send two copies of your piece to the publisher. You may even find an excerpt from your review included as a testimonial when the book comes out in paperback.

Do hardcore research. Your reference librarian can be a great asset to your research efforts. Take time to get to know what resources your local library has. Colleges and universities often let legitimate scholars use their facilities, even if they are not affiliated with the school.

Backing up your ideas with quotes, examples and stories from other experts in your field can add credibility and also demonstrate that you’ve done a thorough job of investigating your subject. Don’t skimp.

Sometimes your information gathering will take on the personality of a detective hunt. At other times, information will seem to drop into your lap. Either way, the search is endless and the more you have to draw on, the more interesting the search will be for both you and your audience.

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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 seem 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-mail box is full of money-making 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 $1,500/month PT, $5,000/month FT.

Suddenly, we seem to have entered a new era of schemes and scams. Many of them are nicely dressed and have photographs of appealing, supposedly successful entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, these aggressive Work at Home ads are targeting the unsuspecting. I can only imagine their appeal to someone who has just spent over an hour navigating icy roads to get to a job they don’t much like. Calling that 800 number for more information might seem like a welcome alternative.

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 $1,400 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 an Internet search using Work at Home as my keyword phrase and was astonished to see page after page 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 web site you must pay to enter) of Work at Home opportunities. These are particularly terrific for anyone interested in earning pennies for tediously stuffing envelopes. In many instances, 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? Nearly every offer promises a certain income. Jobs have predictable incomes; businesses fluctuate.

Besides the fact that few people ever profit from such plans, buying into a scheme is certainly not my idea of being Joyfully Jobless. 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.

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My flight to London had barely lifted off when my seatmate and I began to chat. I soon learned that the handsome man seated next to me was a former art teacher who reinvented his life and now is a fulltime painter. Since English landscapes are his specialty, he was a frequent flyer to England. “Do you live in the city?” I asked.

“I lived all over the Twin Cities when I was teaching,” he said, “but now I live in a small town south of there and I just love it. It’s so quiet. I go to my studio and paint to my heart’s content.”

Not long after, I found myself seated next to another small town enthusiast on a flight to Dallas. This man was a former pilot who had left flying when he was diagnosed with a serious illness. He had just become a flight training instructor, but he was most excited about the little bed and breakfast inn he and his wife owned in a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania. It was their second such venture and he regaled me with stories about his life as an innkeeper.

While small town living isn’t for everyone, relocating to smaller places is becoming increasingly popular. The entrepreneurial revolution is partially responsible for this new wave of emigration. Computers, modems and fax machines make it possible to do all sorts of work in the most remote locations.

If you’re dreaming about becoming an entrepreneurial villager yourself, you need to decide if you want to create a local business that only serves your community or if you want to serve a clientele unlimited by geography. Either kind of business is possible in the new world of cottage industries. Since today’s cottage is apt to be an electronic one, small towns are home to an endless array of enterprises that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. Here are a few ideas for profit centers that are especially suited to village life:

At your service. My old favorite, the service business, gets high points for small town enterprise. Even the tiniest communities can support a wide range of services.

On a recent visit to my old hometown, I noticed how shabby the houses and offices had become. This would be a great place to be a housepainter or to rehab buildings, I thought. Many small towns have a down-at-the-heels look following years of neglect as people moved away. Now that small towns are becoming fashionable again, renovation will become a popular pastime as residents spruce things up and make them charming places to live.

Even somewhat exotic services can be located in small towns if they attract a clientele from beyond their immediate area. Antique restorers and other repair specialists, for instance, often develop a reputation that attracts business from all over.

Put your computer to work. Although computers are becoming commonplace in rural areas (and the popular Gateway computers are even manufactured in a small town), many businesses in these areas use them to handle things like accounting and inventory control. If you have good desktop publishing skills, you could find an eager market for your services producing business materials, reports and the like.

Since most writers can live wherever they want, freelancers, as well as novelists, often live in small communities. With the Internet putting research sources within reach of everyone, freelancing from the boonies has gotten even easier.

And, of course, marketing online is open to anyone, anywhere. Whether you fancy selling used merchandise on auction sites or launching your own product line globally, computers make it possible to run your marketing empire from the tiniest of places.

Create a destination business. When a new highway threatened to close Betty’s Pies on the North Shore of Lake Superior, customers rallied to save this popular tourist stop. The effort paid off and Betty’s will continue to make pie eaters happy during the coming summer season.

Although many small towns have seen the demise of local businesses such as hardware stores and clothing shops, creative shopkeepers are bringing commercial spaces to life again with art galleries, antique shops, inns and unique restaurants that bring in out-of-town customers. On a road trip a couple of years ago, we stopped in winsome Goshen, Indiana, and visited a quilt shop that had collectors coming from all over the world to buy their stunning creations.

Charming villages in New England have long been home to wonderful local businesses that draw city dwellers to their shops on the weekends; this trend is gathering speed in other parts of the country, too, with artistic and innovative shops springing up in off-the-beaten-path locales. Archer City, Texas, might be just a quiet ranch town if it weren’t for bestselling author and local resident Larry McMurtry, who has turned this hamlet into a haven for bibliophiles, drawing booklovers from all over the country who love to search for used books. If it’s special, people will come.

Market products to the world. You don’t have to look very far to see that mail order has long flourished in tiny towns. Thousands of people will never set foot in Dodgeville, Wisconsin (pop. 3,458), but they’ll buy something from Land’s End catalog, which is based there. A quick survey of smaller mail order operations shows that geography is not a consideration for marketing products through the mail. You can order maple syrup directly from Vermont, Christmas trees from Michigan, and software from New Hampshire. Direct mail marketing has enormous profit potential and it’s fun, besides.

And it’s not just big catalog companies that succeed via the mail. All sorts of small specialty businesses sell their products to people all over the globe. Often a mail order business makes a great addition to other things that you’re doing. Mail order has long been popular with people wanting to live in smaller towns and still build a sizable business. It might make sense for you, too.

If small town living appeals to you, make your own opportunities in a place that you love. As Jack Lessinger says, “Build something, help something, save something. The possibilities are endless.” Small towns are still great places for entrepreneurs who also want to create a nice quality of life without the stresses of modern city living.

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For years, would-be entrepreneurs have been advised to “find a need and fill it.” Sometimes those needs are hiding in plain sight. A couple of summers ago, I decided to spend time uncluttering my life. I planned to go through every file, drawer and closet and get rid of anything that no longer seemed useful or fit my current lifestyle. If I told people what I was doing, there was an almost unanimous response. “When you’re done would you come to my house and start in on my stuff?” I was repeatedly asked. Clutter, it seems, is a nuisance that afflicts nearly every one of us.

Helping others get clutter under control is, it would appear, an opportunity whose time has come. The motivations for leading a less cluttered life are varied. Some people hope that more order will lead to increased serenity and efficiency; the environmentally conscious are motivated by eliminating human wastefulness; for others, a life transition means a change in priorities and reassessment of their material wants and needs. Whatever the reason, living a less cluttered life may require the services of others to bring about the order and balance we seem to crave. If organizing is a strong point of yours or you share concerns about a crowded planet, creating a business that helps make a dent in the problem may be a natural for you.

Reduce. Forty years ago, efficiency experts were all the rage. The new version of that occupation is the professional organizer. Although most organizers develop a specialty (i.e., law offices, home offices, personal environments), their aims are similar: to bring order out of chaos, to help their clients work and live more efficiently, and to reduce the accumulated clutter.

How does one get started as a professional organizer? Michele Hockersmith, owner of Creative Business Consulting International, says she began offering this service because it came naturally to her and it also fit in with the other services her business offers to small and home based start-ups. Eventually, she developed a very intentional science that she uses to help clients systemize both the tangible and intangible aspects of their business. Hockersmith emphasizes that she does not impose a system on her clients; rather, she watches a person to get a sense of their own natural organizing process and then fits the system around the client. The result is an organizing system that makes sense to the client and is easy to implement and maintain.

Whether it’s a business or a home that’s being organized, being a professional organizer involves a twofold approach. Initially, the organizer’s work may be hands-on — sorting, purging, filing. The client also needs to be involved in the process and educated about keeping order once the consultant has gone.

Reuse. There’s another huge opportunity growing from our desire to live less cluttered lives. Reselling unwanted or unused items is an increasingly popular enterprise. Clothing, books and antiques have long been the staples of consignment sellers. In our Reuse It culture, the idea of reselling items has taken on a wider scope. Toys, computers, records and compact discs, as well as sporting goods are showing up in stores devoted to selling previously owned goods.

Christine Fontaine ran a consignment shop for home furnishings. Her funky and eclectic store acquired inventory in a variety of ways. One source was what Fontaine called “decorator faux pas,” meaning special-order furniture that didn’t work out in the space for which it was intended. She also stocked samples from sales reps, as well as goods purchased from the general public. “I aim for furniture that is too good for garage sales,” she says. Also unique to her shop were handcrafted decorative items made by local artisans who recycled materials to create new and beautiful things for the home.

Another variation of this type of business are those which specialize in organizing and holding estate and/or household sales. The key to success in this kind of business seems to be having a tight focus, both in merchandise and market. Although eclectic antique and junk stores are still popular, reselling merchandise with a newer history seems to work best when the product line is narrow and clearly defined — such as baby goods or exercise equipment.

And, of course, eBay has made this an easy profit center for anyone to start.

Recycle. While most of us think of recycling as being environmentally responsible, businesses devoted to recycling the throwaway clutter of our lives are also enjoying renewed popularity. A story on the evening news featured two college-aged brothers who started a business recycling newspapers after their community program was abolished. Using rental trucks to pick up the papers and hiring college friends to staff the business, the brothers are earning thousands of dollars weekly, in part because the price of newspaper has skyrocketed from $20/ton to $150/ton. At the same time, their business fills a necessary void in community service.

The new interest in environmentally conscious businesses is reflected in a poll that cited that a third of all Americans said they would buy recycled products if they had the opportunity. As more people rethink their buying habits and experiment with simpler ways of living, the market for used and recycled goods continues to expand. There’s also a growing opportunity for inventors and entrepreneurs to apply principles of sound environmental management and saner technologies to their work. This, too, opens the door to numerous new business possibilities.

So whether you’re a committed environmentalist or a person who wants to relieve the stress caused by clutter, finding your business niche should be easy — at least until we have the entire planet cleaned up and running smoothly.

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It’s been 18 years since I first began teaching adults and I still find it an invigorating and profitable experience. Teaching adults has taken me all over the country and abroad, given me visibility in my community, brought interesting new people into my life, and led to the publication of my first book. Every class I’ve taught came about as a result of my own experiences.

Once you recognize that the things you know how to do could be valuable to others, how can you turn that expertise into a profitable teaching experience? Here are some things to keep in mind before you pick up the chalk.

Some adult programs are experience-oriented, others demand credentials. You need to determine which are which. Even community colleges offer non-credit courses taught by non-academics, so don’t rule out any possibilities until you’ve done your homework. Ask for catalogs from as many programs as you can locate in your area. Besides the obvious, don’t overlook places such as the YMCA and similar non-school organizations that offer classes.

In many areas, independent adult ed programs are being started. These programs are especially open to creative, even offbeat, program ideas. You may have a class that would be appropriate to several venues, each with its own audience. Research every local possibility.

Solicit wish lists from local programs. Independent programs and community colleges are often tuned in to similar programs in other cities and try to duplicate successful topics not offered in their area. In addition to your own class ideas, you might find a topic on the wish list that’s perfect for you to teach.

Call the program director to discuss your ideas. If they like your class topics, they may ask for a written proposal. A savvy program director will be knowledgeable about the students whom they serve and can suggest changes that may make your class more attractive to their audience. Take advantage of their expertise.

If you haven’t already done so, write a class proposal. Different schools have different ideas about what needs to be included in a proposal. Some will want a description that’s the length and format of the class descriptions published in their catalogs; others will want a more detailed description that includes your course objectives, a step-by-step outline of your class, and a copy of the handouts you’ll be using. The best class descriptions have a catchy title, a clear description of the content, and a short teacher bio. Make every word count.

While it may be good for your other business or your community visibility to align yourself with an adult ed program, make creating and delivering a good class your top priority. No program wants teachers who view this as an opportunity to do a long commercial for themselves. Check, also, on the school’s policy about marketing other products and/or services through your class. In some places it’s strictly prohibited, while more entrepreneurial programs encourage marketing as long as it’s handled tastefully and is appropriate to the class.

Realize that teaching adults is quite different from teaching children. Adults show up with varied backgrounds and more expectations. While most adult learners are wonderful, once in a while you’ll have a student you wish had stayed home. Don’t let the occasional thorn keep you from sharing your great information and thoughts with the kinder students.

Teacher payment plans vary, so ask about your options. Some programs offer an hourly teaching rate while others pay a percentage of each student’s enrollment. If your class needs to be limited in size, you’ll probably earn more if you take the hourly fee. On the other hand, if you expect to attract a large group, you’ll want to take advantage of being paid a percentage. Don’t be afraid to negotiate as generous a deal as you can.

Don’t be dismayed if your first classes are small. This can actually be an advantage if you’re inexperienced at teaching. Keep improving your material and build your confidence through repeated practice. If you really believe in your subject and give it your best shot every time, your enrollments are bound to grow. In the event that you miscalculated interest in your subject, go back to the drawing board and see if a new subject or angle might be a bigger success.

If you discover that you enjoy working with adult learners as much as I do, you’ll find continuing opportunities to expand your teaching. You can enlarge your repertoire to include other topics or you can offer your classes in other geographic areas.

Teaching can be a wonderfully portable occupation that can contribute to your growth as well as to the growth of your students. Once you’ve taken a class idea, smoothed out all the bumps, and proven it’s a winner, you’ll find new ways and places with eager new students waiting for you to show up.

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Helping others get clutter under control is, it would appear, an opportunity whose time has come. The motivations for leading a less cluttered life are varied. Some people hope that more order will lead to increased serenity and efficiency; the environmentally conscious are motivated by reducing human wastefulness; for others, a life transition means a change of priorities and reassessment of their material wants and needs.

Whatever the reason, living a less clutter life may require the services of others to bring about the order and balance that we crave.

If organizing is a strong point of yours, or you share concerns about a crowded planet, creating a business that helps make a dent in the problem may be a natural for you. A good starting point for uncovering ideas is the rallying cry of Planetkeepers everywhere: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Reduce. Forty years ago, efficiency experts were all the rage. The new version of that occupation is the professional organizer. Although most organizers develop a specialty, their aims are similar: to bring order out of chaos, to help their clients work and live more efficiently, and to reduce clutter once and for all.

How does one get started as a professional organizer? Michele Hockersmith says she began offering this service because it came naturally to her and it also fit in with the other services her business offered to homebased startups. Eventually, she developed a very intentional science to help clients systemize both the tangible and intangible aspects of their business.

Whether it’s a business or a home that’s being organized, being a professional organizer involves a twofold approach. Initially, the organizer’s work may be hands on—sorting, purging, filing. Then the client needs to be involved in the process and educated about keeping order once the consultant has gone.

To learn more visit http://NAPO.net.

Reuse. Reselling unwanted or unused items is an increasingly popular enterprise. Clothing, books and antiques have long been the staples of consignment sellers. As we become a Reuse It culture, the idea of reselling items has taken on a wider scope. Toys, computers, records and compacts discs, as well as sporting good and a wide array of household items are showing up in stores devoted to selling previously owned goods. Of course, many sellers are using services like eBay and Craigslist to sell directly.

Another variation of this type of business are those which specialize in organizing and holding estate and/or household sales. The key to success in this kind of business seems to be having a tight focus, both in merchandise and market. Although eclectic antique and junk stores are still popular, reselling merchandise with a newer history seems to work best when the product line is narrow and clearly defined—such as baby goods or exercise equipment.

Recycle. While most of us think of recycling as being environmentally responsible, businesses devoted to recycling the throwaway clutter of our lives are also enjoying renewed popularity.

I recall a story on the evening news that feature two college-aged brothers who started a business recycling newspapers after their community program was abolished. Using rental trucks to pick up the papers and hiring college friends to staff the business, the brothers were earning thousands of dollars weekly. At the same time, their business filled a necessary void in community service.

The new interest in environmentally conscious businesses just keeps growing. A poll found that a third of all Americans said they would buy recycled products if they had the option. As more people rethink their buying habits and experiment with simpler ways of living, the market for used and recycled goods continues to expand.

There’s also a growing opportunity for inventors and entrepreneurs to apply principles of sound environmental management and saner technologies to their work. This, too, opens the door to numerous new business possibilities.

Whether you’re a committed environmentalist or a person who wants to relieve the stress caused by clutter, finding your business niche should be easy—and keep you busy until we have the entire planet cleaned up and running smoothly.

There’s more where this came from.
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