30 April 2010

Newsletters and other goals

I sent out a newsletter today. It feels great to have concrete goals for my business and to see them accomplished. Not only did I get the newsletter sent out, but I also put new content on the web including updates to the X-12 "Getting Started" papers.

I'm trying some new software to help me keep track of client projects. I'm putting my projects on the list, too, so that even when I am very busy working on projects for clients, I'm still working on my own projects, too --- projects like updates on papers on TRAMO/SEATS, the web courses, and the third quarter newsletter coming out in July.

21 April 2010

More research

I just finished reading a book about brands and intellectual property. I'm not sure I learned much, but it was good to review the material. Much easier to read than the books on tax laws.

I also finished researching textbooks to use for teaching AP Calculus BC and how to rent a bassoon (not every music store rents bassoons, and even oboes are hard to find, I have learned).

My mom was here for a couple of days, and she'll be back on Sunday for the big choir festival I'm singing in. I'm also having to rearrange my office a bit for some installation of extra phone lines next week.

In the middle of this, there is work to do for clients, and papers to write, and web pages to update, and audio files to record. Not to mention meals to cook and dishes to wash.

Sometimes I'm amazed at how crazy one person's life can be.

In order to try to hang on to a thread of sanity, I'm taking a break from my business books. I'm going to finish Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin that I borrowed from my mom. Hopefully in time to return it to her on Sunday. I'm really enjoying the book. The story is amazing, though sometimes the writer gets so dramatic about the situations that I have to remind myself that it's based on Greg's true story. I started it a while ago and got distracted by life. But now I have a goal, so now is the time to finish the book.

After that, I'm going to read The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L. Friedman. It's an economics book, I suppose, but it's a little less intense than books about laws for small businesses.

This is interesting. Well, interesting to me . . .
Amazon classified The World Is Flat as Politics, but I've read enough of it to believe that it's more about the economics of globalization than about the politics of it. I enjoyed the few pages I've read, and I don't always like "political" books, so maybe I see the economic side of it because that's what I understand. To me, Three Cups of Tea is more of a political book, though it reads like an adventure story, since Mortenson is building schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But Amazon has it classified as Women and Business? It's a story about a man who builds schools for girls, and some of the girls go on to be very successful, but that is a very odd category for this book. Who decides on the categories? The publisher or Amazon? Hmmmmmm.

Well, it's time to get some reading done.


09 April 2010

Book report: Working For Yourself

After doing some research on small businesses, I decided that I needed a book specifically on the legal aspects of consulting, including the issue of sole-proprietorship versus incorporating. I ordered Working for Yourself: Law & Taxes for Independent Contractors, Freelancers & Consultants (7th edition, 2008) by attorney Stephen Fishman. The book is not as boring as the title would imply, though it's not the kind of book that is easy to just sit down and read. The chapters are ordered quite logically, but it's also easy to skip chapters that don't apply to your situation or to only read the chapters related to the information you need right now.

I appreciate the fact that this book is for consultants and others in the service sector, not for retailers or manufacturers. He starts with the very basics, so if there is a chapter that I already knew something about, like copyrights and intellectual property, then the early material in the chapter was just a review for me. However, even in the chapter on copyrights, I still learned something. Therefore, in the chapters about tax laws for small businesses (something I knew almost nothing about), everything I read was something new to me.

Mr. Fishman also gives very practical advice. For example, he gives several tips on how to find the right financial adviser for your small business. For some, this may seem simple, but for me, this was extremely welcome advice. I think that one reason I've been putting off talking to a financial adviser is that I didn't know where to start or exactly what I needed. Now I know.

I like this book, and I think it's going to be a good reference in the next few years. Though I don't have any hard evidence yet, I think this book will save me hundreds of dollars in legal fees and accountant fees (now that I know what I'm looking for and asking for, their billable hours will be fewer) and probably thousands of dollars in taxes over the years.

Book report (Updated): Million Dollar Consulting (Third edition, 2003)

Update, 10 April 2010: I wrote a review of this book on 9 April 2010. I retract my original review. I felt like I had given the book a fairly good review. I mentioned several times that Alan Weiss's book gives new consultants lots of encouragement. I now feel not quite so encouraged.

The author of this book left a comment on this blog (I left the full comment there, so you can see it if you wish), saying, in part:
Maybe if you followed my advice, which is free on my blog and elsewhere, you wouldn't have to resort to $4 used books. And you could have taken the time at least to visit my site, which puts most others to shame.

To that piece of advice I ask, "How can I know if I'm following Alan Weiss's advice without the book?" I'm supposed to Google Alan Weiss? I'd never heard of him before. Or Google the phrase "Million Dollar Consultant"? It's not something that pops into my head as something to Google.

I did visit the site mentioned in the 2003 edition of the book, and it isn't the same as the picture in the book. The new version is much too busy for my taste, but that's OK. Not all of us have the same style when it comes to web design.

I guess some of us don't have the same taste when it comes to consulting either, for that matter.

Again, as a disclaimer, I did read the third edition (2003) which I bought at a used bookstore for $4. There is a new edition, and I haven't read it. Would I shell out the money to buy the latest edition new from my favorite bookstore? Not after reading Alan's comment. Maybe I don't understand how to run a consulting business (which is why I'm buying books), but maybe, too, Alan's books are not as encouraging as I had originally thought.

Growing up

I talked with a colleague today who said she still didn't know what she wanted to be when she grew up. I laughed because I sympathized with her dilemma.

As long as I can remember, Daddy had told me I should be a statistician, that I was good at it, and I believed him without reservations when I was young. However, there were times in grad school and early in my career when I had my doubts.

During the summers of 1985 and 1986, I played the piano in the lobby of Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. It was the best summer job in the world. The work hardly seemed like work, the pay and tips were great, I met lots of fun people, and there was always so much to do and so many places to go. My second year there, my brother worked there, too, and we had a great time on some amazing backbacking trips. I also dated a cowboy that summer, and through him, I met some bar and ski resort owners, several of whom offered me jobs for the ski season or for the summer.

When things would get tough in my life, I would dream about being back out in Wyoming or Idaho, married to Greg and playing the piano for a living. It seemed ideal, perfect. Of course, it's simple to think it's perfect when it's just a dream. Real life has a way of making things less than perfect.

I still love playing the piano and singing, but I'm so happy working on seasonal adjustment projects for clients. There is nowhere else I'd like to be and nothing else I'd like to be doing. It doesn't mean that I won't go back to school someday, or that I won't start piano lessons again, but even if that happens, I don't want to give up my work on time series.

So today, talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up, I realized that I'm finally there. I do want to be a statistician, with no reservations.

Being grown up feels pretty good after all.