As a volunteer for Dress for Success of South Central Pennsylvania, one of the perks I love taking advantage of is the Professional Women’s Group book club. This month we’re reading Marianna Olszewski’s book Live It Love It Earn It: A Woman’s Guide to Financial Freedom which is where I snagged the above quote. To her credit, I never realized that I could enjoy a book about financial management so much. When we think of improving finances, we tend to be overwhelmed at the thought of spending hours reading chapters about building good credit, paying down debts, and sifting through enough information about the stock market, ROTH IRA accounts, and bonds to make your head swim. But I think that one of the reasons that I enjoy her approach to discussing this topic so much is because she helps the reader to see financial opportunities from the standpoint of how we maximize our personal and professional activities and engagement. She made it more about building a sustainable financial cushion AS you are living a life of passion and fulfillment, rather than it just be about earning and saving money.
The reality is that many of us log way more hours working than we do anything else. Realizing this early on, I made it a point to make sure that the third of my day that I spend working to earn income, was spent doing something that I found to be meaningful and really enjoyed.
On average, we spend a little over 2000 hours a year at work, and that’s if you’re an hourly employee. When you’re salaried, you probably spend at least that many hours on the job. So when you break it down mathematically, there are 24 hours in a day. 8 hours of that you spend working. You spend another 7-8 hours of that sleeping, so that leaves the remaining 8 for time to eat, shower, run errands, keep your home in some kind of order, spend time with friends, take care of your spouse and kids and maybe read a book or watch some television. Sounds like enough time right? But that’s only the best case scenario. The reality is that many of us log way more hours working than we do anything else. Realizing this early on, I made it a point to make sure that the third of my day that I spend working to earn income, was spent doing something that I found to be meaningful and really enjoyed. And so far, I’ve been blessed to have embarked on what is now my 8th year in education, a career that I’m very proud of and very committed to.
Now, as I move into this new phase of being an entrepreneur, I realized that many of the principles I applied to my job search and building my career in college admissions and community education, could and should be used in building my business.
In this week’s post, I wanted to share a few simple tips for any of you struggling with marrying your passions to your bottom line.
Find your flow.
Marianna devoted an entire chapter to this in her book. It was the first time I had ever heard it described this way, but in a nut shell, “flow” is what you feel when you’re engaged in a stimulating activity that makes you feel fulfilled. Your mind is totally engaged, creative juices are flowing, and you could do this activity for hours upon hours and not grow tired of it. We also call it being “in the zone”. For me, my “flow” occurs when I’m creating things such as workshops, seminars, or lesson plans for class. The idea of building a lesson or program that will create an atmosphere of learning really gets me going. I also experience this feeling when I’m teaching or speaking about a topic that I’m passionate about, particularly about issues pertaining to our personal growth and creating positive change in our communities. Great conversations with colleagues and friends centered around advocacy for causes I’m passionate about, also does it for me as well.
So what are some things that you do that put you in your “flow”? Make a list of those activities and then…..
Put a price on your talents.
Admittedly, this was the hard part for me. When I first started the process of deciding what to charge for my services, I thought that there must be some kind of standard formula of how to determine your pricing structure. But after reading advice from some fellow bloggers who are also business owners and have been for much longer than me, what I discovered is that an arbitrary formula can’t tell you what your time and talents are worth. Only you know what you’re worth. And the truth is, you can charge whatever people are willing to pay. Now if you’re a newbie at this, like I am, I don’t advise charging some astronomical price straight out of the gate. You may find it a little difficult to attract customers, particularly depending upon what you’re selling. But what helped me was doing a little research on what similar people in the educational consulting world in this region of Pennsylvania are charging, and using that as a baseline. I also found it helpful to look at my target market, which are largely people in education and the general non-profit sector, and came up with a pricing structure that they could reasonably afford. And so far, my customers have been receptive.
Only you know what you’re worth.
Set aside time each day or week to promote your services and seek out opportunities to build your customer base.
So here’s the thing. You may work on your “flow” activities every day, but if you want to turn this into a business, you’ve got to let others know what you do and how it can benefit them. So as I mentioned earlier, I absolutely love to do public speaking, as well as workshop development and facilitation. And over the years, through my volunteer work at church, my sorority, my community work, and not to mention my full-time job at the college, I have had plenty of opportunities to hone my skills and develop a base of supporters who are familiar with and impressed by my work. So by taking inventory of the people in my network who have either asked for my services in the past, or could most likely use my services based on what their line of work is, I was able to start off with a solid pool of potential customers, as well as set up the beginning stages of a solid referral system for my business.
I also make it a point to post on social media regularly regarding projects that I’m working on to attract potential partners and customers who may want to hire me to develop a similar workshop. That’s actually how I landed a contract to teach a three-day professional development training at a local private school later this summer. I made the connection through a contact on Facebook who arranged for me to meet the school principal, and the rest is history.
You don’t have to stay locked in either a dead-end or unsatisfying job. One of my favorite quotes comes from blogger Alexis Grant, and I look at it every day in my office. “It’s never too late to create the life that you want.”