By January 24, 2013 Read More →

Working from home inspiration – Barbara Winter

Working from home tips from thought leaders

Work from Home Wisdom - working from home inspiration - Barbara WinterToday I’m starting a new occasional series in which I’ll be talking to well-known people in the fields of home business and self-employment. I’ll ask about their own experiences and the tips they have learned for working from home and running your own business.

I’m delighted to begin the series with Barbara Winter, the popular American writer and workshop leader, on how she managed to find her own way to setting up a home business when her children were small.

Hi Barbara, when did you start working from home and why?
After I graduated from college, I went through three “good jobs” (an oxymoron) in rapid succession. For several years, I feared I was doomed to having a really boring, predictable life. 

Happily I discovered the world of personal growth and development and the more books I read and seminars I attended, the more I realized that I wanted to create my own working life. I was pretty fuzzy about what that meant.

I started an idea journal that began with the question, “What do you love to do?” My answer was (and still is), “I love to teach, travel, and read books.” That list didn’t seem like a promising start to a successful business, but gradually I saw that I could create a business that paid me to do all those things and began making plans.

On the day in 1974 that my daughter headed off to kindergarten, I set up a card table in our family room and launched my first little business. I created my own seminars and began publishing a newsletter. I was off and running.

Although I had no experience marketing my own seminars or publishing a newsletter, from the very beginning I found it all quite exhilarating. 

Did you have any role models or did you make it up as you went along?
When I was in the contemplative stage, I sought out books on starting a business, but I didn’t find them very helpful since they assumed that anyone so inclined wanted to build a conventional business. Did I really want a building with my name in six-foot high gold letters? I cringed at the thought of employees, pension plans, and 40-hour weeks.

I still have no idea how I had the courage to create a one-person operation working from home, but I’ve never wavered in my desire to stay small. 

So, yes, I did make it up as I went along. That’s not to say I never made any mistakes or  that all of my plans were wildly successful, but that wasn’t much of a concern because self-employment has always been interesting. I never was so engaged when working for someone else.

What has changed since those days, both in the outside world and in yourself?
Well, I believe that self-employment is the ultimate personal growth seminar. I’ve changed in many ways, most notably, I think, in the self-confidence department. When we’re truly joyful in the working part of our life, it can also spill over to the non-working parts. I also connected with my neglected creative spirit.

Most obviously, the tools we now take for granted  simply didn’t exist. It was years before I even uncovered any books about being a freelancer. 

This year is the twentieth anniversary of the publication of my book Making a Living Without a Job. Nowhere in that first edition do we find the word Internet, Skype, social media — things we rely on today in so many ways. While twenty years isn’t very long in the scheme of things, it continues to astonish me that so much change has taken place in a mere two decades.

What is your philosophy about working and earning a living?
I always knew work was important, but I received very poor advice about how to uncover my own right livelihood. Some of that is the fallout from the Industrial Revolution which was hungry for assembly-line workers. Then there are still folks dispensing advice that may have been suited to earlier times, but is quite out of place in the brave new twenty-first century.

But I also think it’s a somewhat mysterious process that we need to uncover for ourselves and until we’ve experimented and followed our hunches, evaluated what was satisfying and what wasn’t, it’s difficult to pour hearts into work. 

When my granddaughter was born eight years ago, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the sense that my new mission in life was to protect her dreams. I think all of us who have followed our own dreams feel an obligation to help others do the same.

Is there anything people should be aware of before setting out on the path of self-employment?

One of my favorite bits of advice came from an entrepreneur who said, “The hardest part is getting started so get that out of the way as fast as you can.”

I think people also are unaware of how crucial it is to begin connecting with others who are joyfully jobless. Kindred spirits are an enormous gift.

What are your favourite parts of being self-employed?
Besides having the best boss I’ve ever had? Hands down, my favorite parts are the constant creative activity that makes up my days and the fascinating people I meet because of the work that I do. I also love it that I sometimes need a passport to do my work.

Enjoyed this? Read Barbara’s article 8 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started a Business.

Barbara J. Winter is a California-based self-employment advocate. She is the author of Making a Living Without a Job and Seminar in a Sentence. She also publishes Winning Ways, the longest-running self-employment newsletter now in its twenty-sixth year. She is spending 2013 traveling around the US and Canada conducting Joyfully Jobless Weekends to help others build a better business.

6 Comments on "Working from home inspiration – Barbara Winter"

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  1. What a great interview. Thank you Barbara and Judy. I do agree with you: ‘self-employment is the ultimate personal growth seminar’ – so true. Working for yourself does make you face your demons and do things you never dreamed of!

    • Judy says:

      Last year a client said to me,’Let’s face it, self-employment is just another name for self development!’ and it’s so true!
      Never a dull moment facing those demons, Leda!

  2. Great article, thank you both. Yes, there are difficult times but it’s so good being in control, in good times and bad. You’ve just got to get on with it.

    In addition, I love the variety not just of my work but mix that with, marketing, administration, planning, decision making, meeting new people. I wouldn’t work for anyone else now.

    • Judy says:

      Whenever I’ve worked for anyone else (and like Barbara I was lucky and had so-called ‘good’ jobs, which allowed a lot of freedom and initiative), I always ended up feeling it was just a pointless exercise of filling in forms and ticking boxes.
      No matter how good your boss, they are never going to be able to provide the kind of development opportunities you can give yourself – because only you know what really needs to be developed!

  3. Enjoyed this post – and I’m looking forward to the next part in this series, Judy. I second the comment that “self-employment is the ultimate personal growth seminar” is so true – I’ve learned things about myself that I’d have learned no other way. Thanks Judy and Barbara for this great interview: Barbara is truly an inspiration to us all!