Starting Your Own Business

Are you a business owner, independent consultant, freelancer or trainer? Even if you are not and you are thinking about it, you need to attend the "Starting Your Own Business" virtual conference sponsored by Intercom magazine and the STC Department of Education.  Learn how to get started, what not to do, financing, contracting and much more that will help you succeed.

Tuesday, April 16

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, I Can Write About Anything.

As employers and managers have to do more with less money and fewer people, the opportunities are ripe for technical communicators who yearn to escape the corporate environment and launch their own businesses, while the challenging economy and corporate cutbacks mean that more tech writers and editors want or need to strike out on their own. Doing so is not easy, though. Both new and seasoned freelancers and solopreneurs face challenges. In this session, long-time, successful freelance writer/editor Ruth E. Thaler-Carter shares what it takes to start out and succeed as a solopreneur—important personality traits, business basics, being a generalist vs. specialist, finding and keeping clients, services to offer, setting fees, getting paid, coping with isolation, tools and technology, the value of networking, ways to find clients and projects, resources to help you manage your freelance life more effectively, and more.

Effective Job Search Techniques
Ed Marshall, Marshall Documentation Consulting.

Consider some of the more popular and helpful professional/social networking websites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, etc. See examples of how being listed on these can improve your network for job leads/sources of information—not just of jobs, but of technologies. What do you look for when considering adding your profile to a site? Find out how to determine if the site is legitimate or is merely "trolling" for names for their own profit.

Strategy First: Launching Successful Technical Communication Projects
Monique Semp, Write Quick, Inc.

You've decided to take the plunge and begin your new career as an independent consultant, but now what? You need a place to work! This session covers important topics such as location, computer hardware and software, furnishings (both immediate necessities and business/tax planning for future purchases), ergonomics, IT concerns (outlets, networks, backup methods, etc.), and building your reference library (both online and old-fashioned print books). You'll receive checklists and references to help you create an office that you'll not only want to spend time in, but that fosters productive (and lucrative) work.

Listening to Your Inner Scream: Do You Want to Start a Business?
Brian Still, PhD, Grinbath and Texas Tech University.

What are the questions you need to ask yourself if you decide you want to start a business? Do you understand what you're making or selling, and do you understand who you want to sell it to . . . markets, consumers, etc.? Come listen to the presenter's story of the trip from academic research to selling what he invented.

Wednesday, April 17

Doing Business Internationally
Leah Guren, CowTC.

The realities of the modern virtual office mean that you have potential clients all over the world, especially as a consultant, trainer, or freelance writer/editor. But doing business with clients outside your own country has potential pitfalls, specifically in communication, logistics, and finances. Learn about these problems and how to avoid them!

Could You, Should You, Go Independent?
Bette Frick, The Text Doctor, LLC.

Wouldn't it be nice if there were a test that you could take that would identify whether you are suited to start an independent business and succeed? There likely isn't such a test available, and especially not one you can trust. Succeeding as an independent requires many intricate, interactive personality traits—and only you can determine if you have those traits and if you really want to succeed as an independent. Attendees will complete the questionnaire "Is the Independent Life for You?" to investigate.

My Life as a Trainer
Alan Houser, Group Wellesley, Inc.

Do you enjoy working with people as much as you enjoy working with technology? Is your personality part motivational speaker, part drill-sergeant? Do you enjoy supporting and nurturing others? If so, technical training can be a lively part of your business. Learn how to get started in technical training, how to keep business coming in, and how to adapt to changes in technology and today's business climate.

Marketing Yourself and Your Business
Rich Maggiani, Solari Communication

To get work, you must market yourself and your business. But how do you market, what do you market, and to whom do you market to get the kind of work, clients, and income you want? Learn some fundamental techniques and strategies for defining yourself and your services (including your value proposition), identifying your ideal clients and finding contacts, and marketing to them—all of which can lead to higher fees and more satisfying work.

Thursday, April 18

How to Start a Business
Sherry Michaels, Michaels & Associates Docntrain, Ltd.

Why are you leaving the corporate world? Are you ready to truly be an expert in your field? Do you have a lot to offer, something for which people are willing to pay the going rate? A thorough self-examination at this point is important. Owning your own business is a bit like parenting. Starting off on your own can produce some terribly painful times of isolation, rejection, uncertainty, and discomfort in general. If you experience one of those times when starting out, cheer up! Those times pass, return, and pass again. It is imperative to determine whether you really want to go through an emotional professional roller coaster.

Dealing with Contracts, Clients, and Subcontractors
Marilyn Woelk, Wingz Creative & Technical Group.

Starting your own business involves learning about how to subcontract for the resources you will need and how to contract with clients for the services you will perform. So what should go in your contract as an employer? Who develops the contract you will sign with the client (you, them, or both of you)? What if you don't agree at contract signing? You can negotiate the terms of the contract, but what if you or they fail to perform certain provisions of the contract after it has been signed?

This session will help you learn about developing and negotiating the terms of a contract, including identifying the project scope and parameters, personnel, timeline, exclusions and disclaimers, contingencies, and terms. Marilyn will provide practical advice on contracts from her experience contracting with Fortune 100 companies.

Fear as Fuel
Ann Grove, Logical Writing Solutions, Inc.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world." As a consultant facing the need to win new business, fear is a top cause of under-earning, particularly for introverts. Even extroverts can find themselves frozen with fear. You will learn about using your fears to set priorities, choosing the fears that drive you, increasing your fear tolerance, and replacing fear with fun.

Closing Remarks and Summary