4 Reasons to Share Your Ideas

We are living in an age where the power of crowds is accomplishing big things. Writers, who used to guard their ideas now hone their thinking through blogs, build and audience, and then publish their books for a group of expectant readers. Every day experts spend their free time contributing to Wikipedia. And lately I’ve noticed a lot of folks encouraging would-be entrepreneurs to share their ideas.

Of course, there are times to be guarded. If you’ve got a concept or invention which might be patentable, then the only person you probably want to talk to is a lawyer. There are also times you want to be first to market a product or service (you don’t see Coke running to Pepsi about its latest product before it hits the shelves). But in many situations, sharing ideas with people you trust and respect is a good idea and here’s why: {Read the rest at Yahoo!}

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When a work fix-up works

I just finished a marathon week answering questions about small business with Kevin Salwen over at the Yahoo! Small Business Center.

We got a slew of interesting questions ranging from how to use social networking to grow a small business, to how to prevent people from stealing your idea, and how a small business can become more socially responsible. You can read all the questions and answers here, under the “See Expert Answers,” tab.

I always enjoy answering reader questions, but this time I also got a cool work experience out of the deal. Though I’d been aware of Salwen from his days at the Wall Street Journal, I’d only met him briefly before Yahoo! asked us to work together on this project.

If that match hadn’t gone so smoothly this week would have been a disaster.  Instead it was one of the smoothest collaborations I’ve ever had. {Read the rest at Yahoo!}

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The new flexible workforce

When I was researching my book a few years ago, I was looking for employers who were taking advantage of people’s desires to build significant careers while working a flexible schedule. I highlighted companies like Axiom, a new kind of law firm that caters to lawyers who don’t want traditional full-time hours (e.g. working parents, artists, or those starting businesses on the side).  Axiom pitches itself to clients as an economical alternative to big law firms since it can avoid the high overhead associated with overstaffed firms. Another firm, Virtual Law Partners,
has been getting some buzz lately with a similar approach.

Now scores of companies are thinking flexible and virtual, in all kinds of fields — from virtual assistants (check out Delegate Solutions), to corporate executives (see EPOCH). The troubled economy has been a boon to businesses like these, which can offer part-time employment to displaced workers and deliver lower cost services to clients. {Read the rest at Yahoo!}

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Tired of working alone? Try coworking

I’ve worked on my own for nearly ten years. But thanks to a band of fellow free agents, freelancers and entrepreneurs, I’ve often worked alongside other solo workers. I like the company. And I like having someone to bounce ideas around with.  For ages, I worked this way without having a name for it. Then the phrase coworking sprung up to define a movement in which people who choose to share a workspace, usually with a common sensibility and set of values.

Coworking has many flavors. There are free public spaces and fee-based communities, and often they are organized around a common mission like environmental consciousness or supporting women entrepreneurs. There are also ad hoc arrangements (Friend #1 via text: Wanna co-work today? Friend #2: your place or mine?).  And who says you have to be working to coworking? Looking for a job with others around you could be a good way to keep motivation up and ensure that you’ll have structure and camaraderie in your life.

As someone who has enjoyed the benefits of working on my own, with others, here’s my take on things to ponder if you want a successful coworking situation: {Read the rest at Yahoo!}

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Will you work when you’re eighty?

I spend every Sunday visiting my 94-year old grandmother. She is unusually healthy and independent for her age. But what strikes me most about her is that she is lacking in purpose. Little things take on big importance because not very much happens from day to day. And she is always looking back at the period in her life when she felt useful and productive. When she could do things and go places. This experience, coupled with the fact that I really enjoy my work, makes me think I will likely work until I can no longer work.

The interesting thing is that my grandmother doesn’t even understand what I do — a common issue for people who age and lose connection to the workforce. In fact, we had a running debate on whether “blog” was a real word since it wasn’t in her dictionary. Finally, she saw a reference on CNN to Larry King’s blog and then an article in her Readers Digest about blogs, and she conceded that I was not making up this work I claimed to do. Since my grandmother has never been on the Internet, I can understand why blogs don’t seem real. And thought it’s easy for me to say I’ll commit to staying current on the ways people work, I do wonder how hard that will be once yet to be envisioned tools are created by those generations younger than I. {Read the rest at Yahoo!}

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Do you have a small-business question?

Wondering whether your idea for a pet rental business would be viable? Whether you should go back for an MBA? How best to structure a loan from a family member to your business? Or anything else having to do with running a small business now?

My colleague, Kevin Salwen, is answering questions about small business as part of a contest being sponsored by Yahoo! Answers and Bank of America.

{Read the rest at Yahoo!}

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The Best Side Businesses

Earlier this week I wrote about how to find the perfect part-time work to fit your life and I recommended considering something entrepreneurial rather than a job since it would provide more flexibility.  And as if the blogosphere were listening, soon after that, I discovered this excellent post, 50 Side Businesses You Can Start on Your Own, by Trent Lamm, the author of 365 Ways to Live on the Cheap, which sounds like a good title for these times. (Actually, Lifehacker discovered it first.)

Clearly, Trent is a man who likes lists. {Read the rest at Yahoo!}

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Bartering. . . Clearly It’s a Trend

Ever since my post a couple of months ago about bartering with my yoga instructor, I’ve been running into lots of people — both in the physical world and the virtual one — who’ve told me about their own experiences in the cashless economy. And just as I was getting ready to write a follow-up post about this, the New York Times published two articles about bartering in the past few days.  Clearly, bartering is on everyone’s minds.

When it comes to independent workers and service providers, bartering is useful not just as a way to stay afloat in tough times, but also as a way to cultivate clients and customers.

A friend who is an acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner says she built her entire practice on bartering — with her hair stylist, her dog walker, a massage therapist, and others.  (On this point, I have to agree with Alina Tugend, the writer of one of those NYT articles, who observed that massage therapists are the most sought after barterers.) Now that my friend is established, she is more careful about whom she barters with since she has had a few too many cases of losing interest in the services of a barter partner.  But in a word-of-mouth business, she says the bartering was the best way to build a loyal following.
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Thoughts on Slashing, From Aristotle

There is nothing new about having multiple vocations. Ben Franklin – entrepreneur, author, publisher, inventor, politician, civic activist, founder of a university (mine!) – was the consummate slash, as was Leonardo da Vinci.

Thanks to an email from Tristan Hummel, whom I interviewed for a recent NYT article on artist/entrepreneurs, I now know that Aristotle was an advocate of the slash life as well. And now I give you Aristotle:
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Transforming Art Into a More Lucrative Career Choice

Aiming to end the notion that “starving” and “artist” are necessarily linked, some artists have begun to figure out ways to make art and money at the same time.

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