Is 2016 The Year to Realize Delayed Dreams?

My oldest son is sixteen and he’s in the middle of the frustrating process where the whole world starts to ask him what he wants to do for the rest of his life. He has to start thinking about a career, so he can plan on a college, so he can plan his high school classes, etc. Like most kids his age he doesn’t want to think past the next comic con.

Through him I’m remembering that time in my life when I considered so many options then had to discard some as unreasonable, too expensive, out of reach. Each career path I considered spoke to some part of me; my creative side, my logical/planner side, my feminist side, etc. I eventually aimed in the direction of advertising and PR then wound up in special events and teaching. (Because face it, very few end up where they thought they would at sixteen.) But some of those dreams never died. The part of me they represent never got a moment to shine or at least step up to the plate and try. It’s those delayed dreams that I’m tapping into now as an entrepreneur.

Now, this point in time in history, is a unique time that is perfect for so many people to be able to keep their day job (or not) and try something new, something they’ve always wanted to do.

Writing novels is that for me, and I get to combine it with owning my own business, another path I’ve always been interested in. I met a woman today who had always thought being an editor would be great. She’s a librarian (a great job for a lover of words) but we talked about how she could easily do side work editing books for self-published writers. It was such a fun conversation. I loved seeing the wheels start spinning and the lights go on that long-forgotten dream. It was fantastic being the person who is already on the path getting to point it out to her.

So, what are your lost dreams? Did you write them off because in the past you had to open a brick and mortar store and start-up costs would be too high? Did someone tell you that you didn’t have the skills to compete in a particular market? Did you hear scary stories about how little creative people make and that you might end up living in a cardboard box if you take that career path? Well, the world has changed. You, my friend, and I are lucky enough to live in a time when anyone can open an online “store” and reach customers world-wide. You may not be an expert but you are still ahead of someone and they could seriously benefit from your knowledge. And creative work is still hard, but it’s easier to go around the gatekeepers and find your audience than ever before.

Next month I’m going to teach a series of classes on how to self-publish. Am I an industry leader? Hell, no. But I’ve been there and learned a lot of good lessons along the way. I’m green enough to remember what it’s like to be starting out with no clue what to do. Industry leaders are great but they can be so deep in an industry that their advice is too complicated for a beginner. It’s just another way that I’m following those dreams, going back to the what-if’s and exploring all the possibilities I saw when I was sixteen.

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The Black Lace Business Model

Tonight I’m running my business from the bed in our guest bedroom. This is where I’m writing this post, planning a class I’m going to teach and generally working on connecting with as many smart, sexy, supportive women as I can. I’m wearing my new Hello Kitty slippers and the leggings and tee shirt I put on for yoga this morning.

Despite my appearance and my lack of a real office, I know that the work I do is no less important or valid than that of suited men in nondescript glass towers. Because I represent the new business model, the entrepreneur, particularly female entrepreneurs who are rewriting the way business is done and what’s considered true commerce.

I’ve been working on refining the keywords for Karen Gordon, Author. These are terms and ideas I want tied to my work. When you type these words into Google I want my writing and teaching to appear, somewhere near the top of your results. I’m still in the process but I’ve got more direction now. Through this process I noticed that the main continuous thread in all my writing is strong females characters. Even future novels revolve around women who live their lives on their own terms.

I support women’s sexuality in my writing–in all forms. I want women to feel free to choose,without fear of social persecution, to be as sexual as they want to be or not be. I’m creating characters who are solid in their feminine power and energy whether they are sharing that with another or enjoying it just for their self.

My heroines are engaged and busy, making bank, making a home or both; they are not wasting time bringing other women down. Drama sells, but my brand is not cheap drama generated by small people. Believe me there’s enough real excitement in raising children or building a business to fill a thousand novels.

I love the idea that married or single, working inside or outside the home, all women can contribute to increasing our value in society. It’s not only the CEO’s and Vogue cover models, but women’s with much quieter goals too who are erasing old stereotypes. My writing, my business is about and for all of them.

I’m still in the process of fleshing out my exact keywords but along the way I started to think about images and the idea of black lace and my geek glasses came to mind. Alone they represent female sexuality and intellect but combined they create a potent mix. Once thought of as opposites, madonna or whore, smart or sexy, mind or body; I now see them as the perfect combination or balance of all that women can be.

I’m going to be updating some of my artwork to encompass these ideas and honing on the keywords that will hopefully bring more smart, sexy, supportive women into my tribe. It’s one of my major projects for 2016.

So what are your keywords? Whether you have a business or not, what words encompass who you are, how you want to engage with the world. Share yours with me and I’ll share mine as soon as I can pin them down. Black lace is looking good though.

 

 

Ways That You Can Value Your Work – Chick in Charge Part 2

In my post last week I looked at ways that women, especially those who work from home, often diminish the value of their work. Whether a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) a home-business entrepreneur or a combination of both, millions of us do jobs that are undervalued by both ourselves and society.

While I looked at some of the reasons why in last Sunday’s post, I want to point out specific changes I have made in my life that remind me of the importance of my work. Most are not huge or expensive, but they remind me that my time, skills and goals are important to me and others.

Schedule

As I pointed out in my post “3 Things You May Not Have Considered About Working From Home“, your schedule becomes fluid and flexible without an office to report to. It’s both a blessing and a curse and some of the best advice I ever got about making it work for you was from a book about treating SAHM work like a real job. I wish I could remember the title, but I read it so many years ago that I can’t give this fabulous author credit. Her suggestion was that I look at my mom job as a split shift. Shift one was morning to after lunch and shift two was from late afternoon until bedtime. The break in the middle was nap time which is when so many mom’s would frantically clean and, in effect, never take a break; sometimes not even a lunch break. If you re-imagine your day to be work in two shifts, the break in the middle becomes more obvious and necessary. Long after my kids stopped napping they still had an hour or two of quiet time in their rooms every afternoon. This was important time for me to recharge my self and mentally prepare for my second shift. Using this time wisely made a huge difference in my energy and enthusiasm for the work that needed to be done every night.

Her technique still serves me well. My days don’t break up quite so nicely, but I’ve learned to work with the rhythm of my days to get my work done and give myself necessary breaks. If you work from home and you’re a night owl, it is possible to keep working until one or two a.m. but the key then is to either sleep in or take a nap after your family’s morning routine. It is amazing how productive you can be when you allow yourself to follow your natural rhythm and schedule in breaks.

Another important and easy technique is putting your work on your family’s schedule. The power of this didn’t become obvious to me until I had an at-home job with a regular paycheck. As a university instructor I have frequent deadlines and online meetings I must attend. These obviously went on the family master schedule because they involved others and therefore were important. I’ve never missed one. Somehow I’ve always managed to arrange all the practices, field trips, dentist appointments, etc. around my paid work. So why couldn’t and wouldn’t I do the same for my unpaid work (or marginally paid, like writing). It’s just as important to me. If I want it to be my main source of income someday I need to allocate time and energy to it. So I’ve added writing and marketing time to my schedule. Once it’s on there it is much less likely to disappear under a lot of other tasks that might feel urgent at the time but don’t fit into my big picture.

Surroundings

Creating a work space that supports you is another way to value the work that you do. Too often when we work at home our “office” is carved out of left-over space, cluttered, or non existent. To do your optimum work you have needs. They will vary from person to person and if you are doing more than one job from home you may need different designated spaces for each type of work. Homemaking magazines love to feature clever and crafty kitchen spaces for mom to manage the family schedule, grocery lists, school information, etc. The convenience of the location might work great for some, but that room is too busy and chaotic for me. Not to mention that all office supplies within view in the kitchen are considered fair game. For me I need a space to spread out, where I won’t have to move things every time I need to cook, and where the pens and scissors I like will not constantly disappear.

When looking at the work space(s) that support you consider things like; amount of sunlight, proximity to fresh air, heat or air conditioning; view of the TV (whether necessary or a distraction); ability to close yourself away from interruptions or noise; and space for supplies (that won’t be pilfered). This is your office so decorate and organize it in a way that makes you want to use it. Paint is cheap, decorative folders are cheap but both can do a lot to make your space uniquely yours.

After a recent absolutely heavenly massage I decided to add the scent of essential oils to my home office. For less than twenty dollars I bought a diffuser and an oil blend designed to encourage brain activity. I don’t know if I’m having more brain activity but I’m loving the scent and the quiet little motor is fantastic white noise. The most important thing about the diffuser isn’t the cost or if it’s markedly increased my productivity, it’s the fact that I took the time and effort to get it. I made my work space a priority.

And I’m really just getting started. A she-shed is calling my name. (If you’re not sure what one is, search Pintrest.) What better way to give your work the space it deserves than a building dedicated solely to it.

I hope I’ve inspired you to take your work and your work spaces more seriously. If you get some ideas from this post I’d love to hear from you. Comment below and let me know how you make your work and your work space reflect their value. When you value your work, others will too.

How Do You Know When You’ve Won?

Favorite book title, ever: “She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana” by Haven Kimmel. I fell in love with it because it celebrates, in a huge way, what might look like a simple, everyday act. And it reminds me that we, not society, get to decide when we’ve had a big win (and then celebrate, of course).

It’s been on my mind lately for two reasons. One is Vivienne, the main character in the series I’m working on. In the story she flies to the top of the private jet industry (punny, I know). But in creating the story I had to think about where the top would be for this character and how will the audience and the character know when she has reached the pinnacle. Does she have to own her own company to be at the top? What if she owned the smallest company in her industry? Would she still be “at the top”? Society seems to have some definite ideas about success until you try to define them. If she did become CEO but only lasted a year would she still be a success?

I don’t want to give the plot away, but I will say that writing this series has caused me to take a long, hard look at goals and success. Part of her definition of success will be based on where she began. In Vivienne’s case, in book one she is a secretary with a high-school diploma. She comes from a blue-collar area where a good, solid job in a large company is seen as a fantastic goal. These facts will not only shape her goals but how she feels when much bigger opportunities come her way. In the end, her start in life will also cause her to question whether she really has won the grand prize of life when she is livin’ large.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about my own goals and accomplishments. As the CEO (and lone employee) of Karen Gordon, Author, I like to set time aside a few times a year to look at my goals and what I’ve accomplished. In a recent post, Gretchen Rubin noted that September is the new January, in other words, this is a great time for setting goals. I agree. When my kids go back to school I start a new season and I’ve been floundering lately, in need of a little structure and direction. I decided to use Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map book as my guide. If you don’t know her work, Danielle LaPorte is a savvy businesswoman who’s style vacillates from spiritual guru to potty-mouth BFF. I love her.

Most people would have very clear-cut ideas about what success would/should look like for an author–sell a certain (large) number of books, make the NY Times or USA Today best seller list, have a movie made from your book. And my first instinct is to automatically put any or all of these down as my goals. But are they my goals? Each would require that I focus my energy in a different direction, they aren’t the package deal that most people think they are. And I’m not sure any of them would really make me happy, make me feel like I’ve won the self-publishing game.

Through The Desire Map book I’ve been determining and focusing in on goals that will not only make me happy when I accomplish them, but that I enjoy the process of reaching them. Personal goals, things that might not look like crossing the finish line to others, but will make me immensely happy. As I noted in my post about working from home it pushes you to set goals so you can have structure to your days and so you will know when it’s time to celebrate your accomplishment, which on some days might be nothing more than getting up off the couch.

Do you work from home and set your own goals? How do you know where to set the bar or mark the finish line? Do you have a favorite book on the topic you can recommend? Comment below and let me know.

3 Things You May Have Not Considered About Working From Home

My favorite futurist, Faith Popcorn, predicts that most workers in the future will have multiple income streams. They may contract with one or more companies as well as have one or more home-based businesses. This system not only protects people from losing it all if they lose a job, it also allows you to pursue several areas that interest you as opposed to choosing only one. In this scenario almost everyone will be involved in some form of a home-based business. To many this sounds like a fantastic set-up but as a current home-based entrepreneur I predict that this scenario will be rosier for some than others.

For the past sixteen years I have been working from home in some capacity. My latest gigs are teaching work from homeonline classes for the past eight years and now self publishing too and I admit that most days I love working from home. However, I know others who have moved their offices home then changed their minds once the reality set in. Setting up a desk in a corner of the dining room or the extra bedroom is only the first step to making it work.

I always like to get the negative out of the way first so let me start with–isolation. This is the big one that is often under estimated and can be so bad that people choose to go back to drive-time traffic and cubicles. It’s extremely easy to become a home-based hermit. It starts with not changing out of your PJ’s, all day. Which leads to not going to the gym or out to meet someone for lunch because, why change for one hour? Weeks can go by with the only human contact you have being the FedEx driver and your immediate family–if you let it happen. This is why so many flock to coffee shops and other places with relative quiet, tables and free wifi. While this helps a little, it doesn’t solve the problem of actually needing to interact with others who understand your business. It is crucial that you make plans to get dressed and leave the house to meet with people with whom you can share ideas and frustrations (introverts especially take note of this one).

Time flexibility can be both a blessing and a curse. On days that I need to be there for my kids it’s a fantastic bonus but on days when I’m having trouble getting organized and focused it’s definitely not. An office provides structure: a start time, lunch break, meetings, etc. Some home jobs have a built in structure, but many can be worked on anytime of the day (or night). To make this aspect work for you, you need to let go of classic ideas about work versus home time. Figuring out your personal best schedule is key. Are you the most focused early in the morning? Are there jobs that are route and dull and can be done while on a speaker phone? Is there a class you want to take that is offered during the day? (that will be a great reason to change out of your PJ’s?) Personally, I never go shopping on the weekends unless I absolutely have to. Costco on a Tuesday morning is a breeze compared to Saturday afternoon. It isn’t efficient to focus on work during the day and family or personal tasks on nights and weekends.

Time flexibility also allows you to create your own schedule; deciding exactly what you want to accomplish, when and how–your goals are now your own too. This freedom sounds great and can be once you do a little soul searching. You might have specific goals set by your company, but even then you now get to (have to) incorporate those in with your other non-work goals in a new way. Unplanned time will disappear into the same place half your socks go¬† and it’s easy to lose balance. If you are running your own business it’s tempting to keep working and not stop for things like food, water, friends. Setting my own goals has been the most challenging part of working from home. They change as I change and my family and business change. Without a boss to establish them for me and with more time (no commute, shorter lunches, etc.) than most, figuring out exactly what I need or want to be doing and when has been an ongoing challenge. The key to success is setting time aside to establish goals, make action plans and also note your accomplishments. If you don’t, no one else will do it for you.

If Faith Popcorn is right (and she often is) working from home is in your future. Maybe you are part of the growing number who are already there, living the dream of owning their time, but working with the challenges too.

I’d love to hear from other home entrepreneurs. What surprised you most about working from home? How do you make it work for you? Comment and share below.

Work From Home Wardrobe – Fall 2015

It’s true, when you work from home you can spend all day in your PJ’s. (Trust me, I have.) But eventually you’re gonna need to leave the house and it’s nice to put on something besides yoga pants and an over-sized tee shirt (standard writer’s uniform).

Since I don’t work in an office it’s hard to justify spending much on clothes but I like to get a few new pieces each season. I’m rushing fall, I know. It’s still closer to 100 than 50 degrees here in Memphis but the new season of Project Runway and back to school have fall clothes on my brain. I perused my go-to fashion sites (see list below) and a few stores and came up with the following list of key fall pieces.

  1. Utility Jacket. utility jacket collageMy niece wore one on her two-week trip to Europe. It was a great choice because it went with almost all her casual clothes, had a ton of pockets and was roomy enough to layer another jacket or sweater underneath on cold days. I have one that I picked up a few years ago at Target that I love to wear with jean or dress it up more with black pants and animal prints.

 

 

click image to see more on my Pintrest fall fashion page
click image to see more on my Pintrest fall fashion page

2. Leather leggings. I would be more accurate to say Pleather leggings (no way I’m springing for the real thing). They look a lot like black skinny jeans but with a little more edge. Bonus: they are super comfy for travel. Most of the mall stores will have them for around $15-20 a pair. A small investment to look a little more cosmo or dangerous.

 

click image to see more accessories on my Pintrest page
click image to see more accessories on my Pintrest page

3. Gold Jewelry. It’s easy to stack necklaces, rings and bracelets in simple geometric shapes and not have them look overwhelming. Charming Charlies has an entire wall of short, medium and long necklaces for you to mix and create your own look.

 

 

 

There’s a few other trends I’ve got my eye on like fringe. It would be easy to add a fringy skirt or sweater to pieces I already have for the holidays. Chunky heeled shoes are growing on me too. I’ve already pinned a few pair of leather ones to my Pintrest accessory page (click here to see.)

What trends are you adding for fall? Which ones are you avoiding? Comment below and link to your latest pins or favorite sites. If you’re not sure yet, here’s a list of links to a few of my favorite fashion bloggers. Click on each name to visit the site.

Wendy’s Lookbook

Penny Chic

The Budget Fashionista