About the past year, I can only say it’s been a lot. The first six months after having decided to move, we spent most of our free time thinking about what we might want to do for a living. Through dialog and asking each other hard questions, the initial conclusion was that we wanted to work on-line from home. Which makes us mobile and not only affords us the time to figure out where we might want to settle down, but opens the door for travel and blogging.
Before we bought any reference books about starting an on-line business and work mobility, we discussed our vision for how to make it happen. We examined ourselves: our characters, our skills, and how well we worked together. It became clear that if we poured our mutual skill sets, strengths, and weaknesses into each other, we could fuel our ideas and form an on-line company.
At first I went old school and bought a set of giant sticky notes along with some books written by Wireless Generation pioneers who in the last few years have brazenly paved the way for people like us. Soon the walls were filled with the fruit of our brainstorming and we realized quickly just how many creative ideas had been percolating in each of us.
The necessity and potential for our income to be a puzzle with each piece generating some earnings also became clear. We needed a business plan, even though we felt confident our start-up cost would not be so large that it required a loan. The books showed us that we were on the right track.
Around 5 or 6 months into our decision to move, we were ready to get to work. The giant post-it collection expanded as wall space diminished. I contacted the Georgia Small Business Center for a sample business plan and built it as a template into a software called Scrivener.
Scrivener is a brilliant tool, available for Windows PC and MAC! I’ve been using it for over a year to help organize ideas and research for stories, and to write. The software amazes me the way Excel does. It does everything I ever wished a word processing tool would do. There’s a learning curve, but the tutorial is a great guide.
A few features: it has fiction, non-fiction, script writing, and other templates, complete with individual explanations for how they work. Individual projects are set up as ‘binders’ with sections, which keeps things organized. Each writing document can be viewed as a written page, a collection of index cards on a cork board, or as a synopsis that can also be a timeline. There’s a research section where media can be added. New templates can be retained for future projects. Tagged scenes allow for handy searches within a project. But best of all is the compile feature, going from chapters and scenes to manuscript with a click of the mouse. Manuscripts are uploaded to KDP for easy self-publishing, including images!
It’s only $40 for a license; less with a student or educator ID. For people with lower income, Literature & Latte helps with a discount. This is very much a sign of a company that is a brick in the foundation of the Maker Culture.
As our business plan took form, the gigantic post-it notes were scribbled with to-do lists and filled two walls. I must admit it was nice to be able to see project ideas laid out; the supplies and tools we needed, from hardware to software to training and everything in between; and what needed to be done for the move itself.
By New Year’s Eve, I was through with sticky notes. To save time, I grabbed a few of my books about organizing an on-line business to see which tools were being used by people much further ahead than we are. For example: to keep her life and that of her on-line workforce organized, Natalie Sisson, the self-proclaimed Chief Adventurer of Suitcase Entrepreneur, uses a cloud-based project management tool that I took it for a test drive.
Which is how Asana entered our life. Since it’s a free tool for up to 15 users, I asked my husband and a couple more people to join, and we love it unanimously! There’s a bit of learning involved, but again, all very well designed and explained in an engaging User Guide. I entered each project, building task lists from our lists. I tend to be productive and am a list maker anyway but by using Asana, it feels like someone is snipping at my heels to keep up with deadlines and things that need to be done.
It also keeps us linked. Doing the work we love, we’ll need to remember to unplug. As work -and life partners, there’s a danger of being so involved that you forget to check in with each other. Asana sends email reminders to give updates to teammates. It allows everyone to know where things stand and where it may be beneficial to a project to help out. Using this tool means that when we unplug, we are immediately able to focus on each other.
For blogging, I tried Tumblr first. While it was user friendly, it didn’t seem like it would do all we’d need a blog to do. I’m no web person, I’m just learning, but general consensus is that WordPress is the way to go and I tried numerous free templates but ended up buying Theme X. It’s user friendly, well designed, and has some useful add-ons that are free. It takes some time to learn but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the creative process. The work is very enjoyable!
For a while it felt like we were chasing our tail, but since around the start of the year we’re beginning to see results. Our business is seeing a structure and content, and has a few windows to the outside world. Not that we’re ready to draw the curtains open, but we’ll get there, and despite the uncertainty of the move, we feel our ideas are firmly in reign.
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