Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Next Four Weeks

Here is a preview of what we’ll be covering over the next four weeks of training …

This is the approach we will follow in launching “Talent Hub” over the next several months in the Workforce Connection service region:

  1. Familiarization. Before launching a formal training program, it will be necessary to gauge the interest and to appropriately set expectations for this opportunity. A series of familiarization sessions could be held throughout the region to explain this concept in terms of the emerging technology-based job market, what it takes to be competitive in this space, and an overview of the resources and potential work.
  2. Assessment and Interests Inventory. Once there is sufficient interest in the program to form training classes, a local education partner will host the training session in a technology-enabled learning lab, and candidates will complete an interest inventory assessment to determine the best fit for working in this environment. It will also include an evaluation of their previous work experience and academic credentials.
  3. Contracting and Crowdsourcing 101. Using real examples of projects that are available, this session will focus on how to bid for the work, how to evaluate projects and how to price on an hourly or project basis to compete for the projects and/or tasks.  Participants will complete online profiles and registrations on one or more sites as appropriate to improve their visibility and competitiveness for these projects.
  4. Skills Development, KSAs Needed to Compete. Based on the outcomes of the assessment stage, participants will be directed to various training resources, some classroom based and some online, to improve their skill set and to learn in “real time” how to perform certain aspects of the project.
  5. Project Management 101. A real-world project will be used in a learning lab setting to give multiple participants the ability to work on a part of the project that is within their area of expertise, and this collaborative lab will include direct input from the contract manager and/or employer to give the participants the feedback they will need to work on these types of projects in the future, independently or in a co-working, collaborative setting.

Just One Word … Wow!

A few weeks ago, I got a call from Rusty Skinner at Workforce Connection asking if it would be possible to set up some training on freelancing for workforce customers in the Citrus-Levy-Marion region. And, of course, being a good consultant I said “yes.” You’ll see how that works when we do this training … kind of like this quote from a recent BusinessWeek article, “How to Look Like You’re in the Special Forces”:

Never say “no.” Your first reaction has to be, “Yes, I can do that,” and then you figure out how. If the president asked me to go to the moon tomorrow, I’d say yes. Then I’d say, “I’ll need some training. And someone who can fly a rocket.”

So, we set up a couple of orientation sessions, one in Ocala, Fla. (that was last week) and one in Lecanto (Citrus County) Fla. – that was where I spent the afternoon today. When Rusty and I set this up, I remember him saying, “Maybe we’ll have some interest, maybe about 20 people or so will sign up.”

Last week’s session in Ocala was great … we had outstanding turnout and people were very interested in the concepts that we covered, ranging from what it takes to be a freelancer to how to navigate the online project market. If you’re interested, you can see the slides from that presentation here. To set the right tone for the meeting, we watched this intriguing video produced by oDesk that provides some insights about the “New World of Work.”

After the meeting, we did have about 20 people sign up to participate in the 4-week training program. Rusty was right. Right? Well … kind of.

We anticipated about 40 people at today’s session at the College of Central Florida – Citrus Campus. We had closer to 50 people, and this group asked some great questions and had some definite ideas about how this Talent Hub concept could work for them. I had to let them know that we were pretty close to a full class (our capacity was capped at 24 because of the computer lab we are using for the classroom training) and a few people actually signed up on their phones and other mobile devices during the orientation.

In the two hours it took to drive home from Lecanto, 40+ people had signed up for the Talent Hub training program. That’s 40+ people over and above the number already signed up. Now we have 80 people signed up and we’re scrambling to expand the training to a second location and an additional series of classes. So, now you know what I mean when I say “Wow!”

Thanks so much to the great people who joined us last week in Ocala and today in Lecanto, and I am really looking forward to working with you to launch as many as 80 new Me, Inc. businesses and solopreneurship ventures! This is going to be fun! And a very special thanks to the team at Workforce Connection and to College of Central Florida for hosting our training and making this all possible!

What’s RIASEC?

Realistic – people who like to work with objects, tools, machines, and things in nature. Mechanical ability and technical competence are encouraged; people and other interpersonal issues tend to be overlooked. As coworkers, they tend to have traditional values and take a concrete and direct approach to the world. Rewards come from having a straightforward, relatively simple life and seeing tangible results of one‘s work.

Investigative – people who work to conduct thorough investigations of physical, biological, or cultural phenomena. Scholarship, math skills, and scientific ability are encouraged; direct leadership tasks tend to be overlooked. As co-workers, they generally are very involved in their own tasks and not too interested in frequent interactions with other people. Rewards come from freedom, satisfaction of curiosity, and a chance to develop one‘s own work style.

Artistic – people who work with words, music, or artistic media to create original results. Expression, sensitivity, intuition, nonconformity, and independence are encouraged; routine organizational tasks tend to be avoided. As co-workers, they tend to be emotional, expressive, and unconventional in dress and/or behavior.

Social – people who work with other people, teaching, caring, curing, leading, or helping them in some way. Cooperation, sociability, understanding, and flexibility are encouraged; physical tasks involving machines and tools tend to be avoided. As co-workers they are generally friendly, helpful, and interested in discussing problems. Rewards come from helping others, receiving appreciation, and being in a warm and supportive environment.

Enterprising – people who work with other people, selling, persuading, and leading. Assertiveness, competition, self-confidence, speaking ability, and leadership are encouraged; complex problem solving involving intangibles tend to be avoided. As co-workers, they tend to be concerned about power, status, and influence; they like to be in charge. Rewards come from a sense of achievement and being where the action is; the rewards are often in the form of money, power, and/or status.

Conventional – people who work with computers, manage records and communication, and perform administrative tasks. Organizational, computer, and financial skills are encouraged; artistic, individualistic, and nonconformist activities tend to be avoided. As co-workers, they tend to be orderly, persistent, and calm; stability is valued. Rewards come from seeing how one‘s input contributes to the smooth operation of an enterprise or community.

The Double-Edged Sword of the Freelance Economy

One thing that concerns me about how crowdsourcing is being depicted is that it is somehow exploitative by design. Listening to David Alan Grier’s talk about the history of crowdsourcing did nothing to dispel this notion. And whenKeniks founder and CEO Patrick McKenna shared his formula for crowdsourcing, he essentially ruled out the possibility that it is viable to harness real talent but that we should instead focus our business model on the low-end work.

Here’s what I think: what we are really talking about is tapping into the global talent supply chain in ways that were never before possible, and in doing so we have the opportunity to create meaningful work and viable opportunities for people who were marginalized as a result of the Great Recession and other seismic changes in the employment market.

There’s certainly a global perspective to explore, but for the moment I want to think about the domestic implications here in the United States. By some estimates, we currently have 15 million people unemployed in the U.S. My bet is that the number is higher than this. Most of us are now beginning to realize that many of the jobs that have vanished over the last decade are not coming back. Ever.

People who have followed the accepted employment model are used to job descriptions and career paths, and while empowerment is a popular buzzword most workers have a finite amount of latitude in what they do and how they do it within the corporation. In other words, people are used to being told what to do. Here’s the upshot: as part of the obsession to streamline and automate, coupled with the availability of outsourcing services, those positions which could be tightly defined in a job description are mostly gone, either to an “offshore” service provider or simply eliminated.

Our education system is more closely aligned to the 20th century model of employment, but what if the 21st century Knowledge Economy actually requires a completely different orientation to employment? For example, what if the estimated 42 million or so “free agents” (sole proprietors, contractors, consultants, etc. – according to the Human Capital Institute) are actually on the leading edge of the next economy? What skill sets do they need to have to succeed? And how prepared are we as a workforce to take our skills directly to the marketplace and earn a living based not on a more-or-less predictable employment model but rather in the fluid free agent market?

Here’s where the lessons of crowdsourcing come in. The “game changer” which makes 21st century crowdsourcing possible is the Internet, and its ability to link people anywhere in the world. The Internet is the backbone of the new global talent supply chain, and the participants in this new economy can participate whether they are in the corporate parks of Bangalore, India or the rural counties of Indiana.

More to follow …

Heeeeey, It Must Be the Money!

Today’s post is inspired by an article in the Wall Street Journal that talks about the importance of keeping track of financials when you are running a small business. The article, “Starting Up and Conquering the Numbers,” is an excerpt from a WSJ publication called: The Complete Small Business Guidebook.

The article accurately points out that many people start a business to support themselves doing what they love. And too often they neglect to focus on the numbers side of the business.

If you want to be successful, you’ll need to ramp up your accounting knowledge. While you can certainly rely on an accountant, bookkeeper, or trusted employee to provide advice on your company’s finances, it’s critical that you gain a comfortable understanding of the numbers. As the owner, you’ll need to make important decisions concerning the purchase of inventory or equipment, expansion into new markets or the hiring of more employees. To do so, you’ll need to have a handle on your company’s finances.

The article tells the story of Wendy Goldstein, who opened up Costume Specialists in 1981, selling custom-made costumes to corporations, schools and theater companies.

After some major setbacks, Ms. Goldstein rolled her sleeves up and got to work.

First priority? Getting to know her company’s finances—something she’d made the mistake of never doing before. At the time, she had an eighteen-year-old college student working part-time on the books. She called him into her office and said, “Okay, I need to know every Friday these three things: how much money we have in the bank, how much people owe me and how much I owe people.” She remembers him laughing and saying, “You mean you want cash flow, accounts receivable and accounts payable.” Her response was: “I don’t care what you call it. I just need to know it!”

It is that simple, and it is that important … when you are running a small business it is amazing how quickly those fees and charges and expenses add up. Good record keeping is absolutely essential, as is always having a clear picture of how fiscally healthy the business is.

For more advice on good financial practices for small business, check out this article on the Entrepreneur’s section.

Free Agent Nation, Here I Come!

These days, when you hang out your shingle and go into business for yourself, increasingly you are doing so in a virtual way. If you haven’t noticed, there is an accelerating trend of “free agency;” the notion that we are plying our trade in an entirely new context and moving from project to project like digital bedouins.

When you’re working a full time job for an employer, a concept like “free agency” can both inspire you and scare the bejeezers out of you – often at the same time. After reading Daniel Pink’s “Free Agent Nation” I realized that there are so many compelling reasons to test the waters, and to do it sooner than later to see if I have what it takes.

The big challenge right out of the gate is answering this question: “What do I have to offer?” Or more specifically, “What do I have to offer that people are willing to pay me for?” And then of course, you also have to ask the question, “Can I earn enough to live on?”

The answer to the first question was tougher than I thought. There are things that I do well: business writing, strategic planning, project management, team leadership, marketing strategy, and many other things. In fact, that starts to look like a “Jack of all trades” as I type it out. Much of that work only “works” when you are part of an organization, from the inside looking in as it were. So in order to make a living with these skills, it is essential that you can also offer context for practical application of these skills.

Here’s my top five list, in no particular order, of the value that I believe I can offer to an organization that needs help in these areas:

1. Developing marketing and awareness communication strategies for special projects and initiatives.

2. Assessing an organization’s readiness for change, and providing guidance for change management projects.

3. Specialized writing in support of corporate programs, public policy and employee/associate engagement.

4. Training on teamwork, time management, supervisory skills, project management, goal setting and staff development.

5. Solving business challenges through the targeted use of technology, including productivity software, social media/Web 2.0 resources and project management tools.


11 Hours a Day

11 Hours A Day Starts With an 18 Minute Plan for Managing Your Day
An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day (by Peter Bregman)

STEP 1 (5 Minutes) Set Plan for Day. Before turning on your computer, sit down with a blank piece of paper and decide what will make this day highly successful. What can you realistically accomplish that will further your goals and allow you to leave at the end of the day feeling like you’ve been productive and successful? Write those things down.

Now, most importantly, take your calendar and schedule those things into time slots, placing the hardest and most important items at the beginning of the day. And by the beginning of the day I mean, if possible, before even checking your email. If your entire list does not fit into your calendar, reprioritize your list. There is tremendous power in deciding when and where you are going to do something.

If you want to get something done, decide when and where you’re going to do it. Otherwise, take it off your list.

STEP 2 (1 minute every hour) Refocus. Set your watch, phone, or computer to ring every hour. When it rings, take a deep breath, look at your list and ask yourself if you spent your last hour productively. Then look at your calendar and deliberately recommit to how you are going to use the next hour. Manage your day hour by hour. Don’t let the hours manage you.

STEP 3 (5 minutes) Review. Shut off your computer and review your day. What worked? Where did you focus? Where did you get distracted? What did you learn that will help you be more productive tomorrow?

The power of rituals is their predictability. You do the same thing in the same way over and over again. And so the outcome of a ritual is predictable too. If you choose your focus deliberately and wisely and consistently remind yourself of that focus, you will stay focused. It’s simple.

If you have a great way to plan your day, let me know … every second counts these days!

Don’t let friends “go it alone” …

We’re starting a “Mastermind Group” in the Ocala area, to bring together small business owners, “solopreneurs” and others who are either currently freelancing or setting out on their own path. The group is not your typical networking group, but rather a “board of advisors” that serves as a sounding board, resource or voice of reason in helping to make smarter business decisions, network more effectively, focus on the value proposition and market services in a challenging market.

The basic premise is this: We all face way too many tasks and feel pressured by all of the responsibilities that are involved in owning and running our own business. And with a team of similarly situated business owners, we are not alone.

Here are the things we’ll be covering over the next several weeks:

– Marketing action plan
– Mastering rapport skills
– Building powerful connections and first impressions
– Setting you apart from your competition
– What to say to influence potential customers
– Discover your client’s buying strategies and motivations
– Designing your office space for success and productivity
– Streamlining your day
– Learning to serve not sell
– Creating power questions to impact your target market
– Creating powerful presentation and speeches
– Optimizing your website success
– Article marketing
– Utilizing webinars and teleconferences for profit and exposure
– Creating enticing intro’s that speak directly to your ideal client
– Develop your personal brand
– Building a sales cycle process and program
– Using social media so that it work for you

If you’re interested in learning more, send an email to or visit our Facebook page.

In the News … Citrus Chronicle

Seminar offered on alternative work training

By Shemir Wiles
Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 12:00 am (Updated: April 28, 12:01 am)

LECANTO — Downsizing has led to a growth in the contingent workforce made up of self-employed professionals, solo entrepreneurs, freelancers, independent contractors and other nonpermanent workers.

From 1995 through 2012, the total workforce of self-sufficient workers grew by an estimated 4.3 million workers. As estimated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, despite economic downturn, the overall contingent workforce has held steady and is projected to grow to 40 percent, or 64.9 million by 2020.

However, as the independent workforce prospers, other benefits like flexibility in one’s work schedule, supplemental income and becoming one’s own boss has influenced more and more people to leave the 9-to-5 daily grind and work independently.

To help people make the transition, Workforce Connection is launching “Your Talent Hub,” a new alternative work initiative to assist professionals in navigating the new work world of freelancing and crowd-sourcing.

The program provides access to tools, resources and strategies designed to lead to earning opportunities, project work, contracting and full-time placements in creative, technology and related fields.

“We’re excited about this innovative alternative workforce strategy,” said Laura Byrnes, communications manager with Workforce Connection.

In partnership with the College of Central Florida (CF), an orientation is Monday, April 30, at CF’s Learning and Conference Center, 3800 S. Lecanto Highway in Lecanto. The orientation begins at 3 p.m. and is free.

Rusty Skinner, president and chief executive officer with Workforce Connection, recently told the Chronicle editorial board there is a whole pool of people who have skills they can use to snag freelance opportunities.

“We’re trying to get people to define their skills and think differently,” Skinner said.

Starting in May, training sessions will introduce alternative workforce strategies and opportunities such as online research, technical writing, virtual assistance, web development, project management, content development, technology and help desk support and social media management.

The orientations and training sessions will be lead by Orlando-based workforce strategist Steve Urquhart, founder of T21 Solutions of Orlando and the nonprofit VETsourcing, which helps veterans — particularly those with disabilities and other limitations — transition from military service to civilian careers.

Over the past three years, Urquhart said there has been an erosion of the traditional job as businesses seek to hire remote workers with certain skills on a temporary basis to complete specific projects. The goal of “Your Talent Hub” is to give people a survival skill set so they can freelance or launch a small business. It’s about learning one’s marketable skills, he said, and then using social media to reach a newer, broader consumer base.

“You have to be plugged in,” Urquhart said.

To learn more about the orientation, call  352-291-9551 or 800-434-5627, ext. 1147 or visit or Updates and information are also available on Twitter @YourTalentHub and at

To register for the orientation, send an email to

Chronicle reporter Shemir Wiles can be reached at  352-564-2924  or

Look Before You Leap

Here are several things that will help you as you get started with your freelancing or consulting business.

  1. Test your idea. Are you going to be a consultant or entrepreneur? A consultant gets paid to work. Entrepreneurs makes money while they sleep. Is your product or service remarkable, and significantly better than the giants who offer the same thing? Don’t compete with the giants; set yourself apart. Pick a niche where you excel.
  2. Test your passion. Do you really love what you’re about to do? Or, are you doing it because you might make money? Can you do both? Passion is a natural and powerful motivator. Get together with others who are doing the same thing, and learn from them.
  3. Develop a business plan. Do you have the assets, tools and technology you need to get started? Can you cover the cash flow needed in the beginning? What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT)? How does your SWOT compare to competitors – do you stand out? Keep your business plan simple and short.
  4. Choose your structure. Are you going to be a sole proprietor, or limit your liability through an LLC or corporation? You tax preparer can probably give you good advice.
  5. Pick a business name. Start with a domain name so that there’s a direct connection between your business and your domain. Get a dot com and avoid all the other extensions.
  6. Get a business bank account. Keep your finances separate from your personal account.
  7. Get health insurance. For many, this is the hardest and most-expensive part. If you are leaving a full-time job, COBRA can provide a soft landing for insurance for 18 months. To check out the possibilities in your state, click here.
  8. Establish your value proposition and price. Compare your value proposition and price to your competitors. Can you offer more for the same price? If so, you’ve got a powerful selling point.
  9. Use your down-time effectively. Starting up a new business typically requires lots of hard work in the beginning that does not bring in income. Whenever you have down time, work on your website, value proposition, breakthroughs, etc. Keep ahead of everyone else.
  10. Getting paid. Are you going to chase your accounts receivable? Or, will you get paid up front? Be ready to explain to your customer how your services work in detail.
  11. Manage your finances and taxes. There are plenty of software programs available to help you do both of these. Or, get an accountant to do them for you.

Source: Mark Hovind, JobBait