This Week In Business

Making Money On The Side: Body Shop At Home Consultant

My friend Jessica wanted to host a make-up party but was worried her apartment was too small to have ten women over. My old house was like this and before I even thought about it, I said, “Well, you can have it at my house!” (Technically Sean’s house that I live in but still kind of mine, right?)

I knew it was going to be a Body Shop party. You may have never been to this specific party but no doubt you’ve been going to parties like this for years. You show up and the consultant gives you a presentation about cooking gadgets, Tupperware, bedroom toys, jewelry, etc. and you all sort of chat and out of either guilt or being actually impressed with the product, you purchase.

As the party host, you get gifts on a sliding scale based on how much everyone buys. (I think Jessica got around $60 of stuff for hosting the party and us spending around $400 total; as the “cohost”, I got to just arrange the living room and not feel guilty about buying a small amount.)

The consultant makes the initial investment of $150 for the selling kit then books parties. She makes a commission off the products she sells and since every party is an attempt to book more parties, she gets to line up more jobs. She also makes money by having other consultants work under her and getting some of their commission in exchange for training and helping them book gigs. I think she mentioned while she was unpacking making around $100-$200 on a typical night. Not bad.

I had a good time and having ten women in my house I didn’t know, I was in my element. It inserted some novelty into my otherwise boring Wednesday night and I was taught (once and for all) how to do a smokey eye.

These “parties” kind of work like a pyramid scheme: the whole goal of always booking two to three more parties from the initial party. If you are outgoing and like the products, however, I can see being a consultant as an excellent way to make some money on the side. Courtney (our consultant) is mom to three kids and is a part time art teacher at a K-8 school. She does this to make a little extra money and since she schedules her own parties, she can still be on her family’s schedule.

My tips are if you are going to a party like this, either buy something you actually need or buy a gift with someone specific in mind. Otherwise, you can easily overspend. (See friends encouraging you to buy things from the last post.) But again think of this as a form of entertainment something like a lunch with friends at a cafe or a movie and spend accordingly. This is entertainment, after all, but do it the Breaking Even way by having fun with friends without breaking the bank.

Job Resources From The Web

You know how sometimes, your horoscope seems to eerily correspond to what's going on in your life? A similar thing happened to me but instead of communing with Miss Cleo, the magic was with my RSS reader.

While I was going through this job contemplation process these last two weeks, it seemed articles about finding jobs popped up in my RSS reader almost daily. Also, during this time I had friends and family sending things my way to help. I like to consider myself a compiler of useful content so here are some of the more useful links that have come my way.

There are some neat online training videos at to help make yourself just a little more marketable. There are courses of substantial length about most things tech, from custom CSS to databases (of which I know anything about—I just tried to pick things that sounded smart). By length, I mean hours of video on a particular topic. (Ten hours of custom CSS? Now that's what I call a fun weekend!) You have to pay to use but at $25 a month, it's a little more hands-on then you and the instruction manual but a lot less expensive then a college course on the subject. As things are moving more and more online, more IT knowledge couldn't hurt anyone, though I may be a little biased. (via my friend Mike)

The 30 Best Websites for Job Hunters turned out to be a list of the most popular job boards online, as voted on by their users. If you are posting on job boards, this may help to try one you haven't tried yet or maybe don't even know about. (from CNN Money) Full disclosure: I have never gotten a job off a job board so I'm more skeptical about this method of finding employment.

A very recently launched website combines the function of a job board with the ease of social networking and an eHarmony-esque matching service. (An added surprise: if you have a LinkedIn profile, it'll transfer all your profile information into its system for you.) After creating a "profile", the site will match you with jobs that are a good fit. Check out this link if you are interesting in learning more about the site (via Xconomy).

Then, of course, right around the the day of my informational interview, Get Rich Slowly sung the praises of informational interviews as a tool towards job search success. The only reason I got the interviews at all is that I met someone from at an alumni networking event. He was kind enough to ask for my resume and forward it to some key individuals on my behalf. To summarize, informational interviews do work as a low-pressure way to meet with the kind of companies you want to work for.

Happy hunting!

Getting Up In My Business

SMBIZ4ME Governor's Regional Business Conference Was Interesting, Worth A Day Off

I took the day off work Wednesday to attend the SMBIZ4ME Conference for a few reasons: 1) It was only a half hour's drive away. 2) I heard it was going to be good from a few people. and 3) It only cost $25 and one day off to attend. As someone who has already heavily invested in my brain but knows little about business, I figured the price and the opportunity to network with people in the area would be invaluable. It was.

Smbiz4me The vendors set up over breakfast and gave me something to do when I first walked in and was getting my bearings. (I can be social; I just sometimes need to ease into it). I made a few good connections with some Maine publications that were at least theoretically interested in my writing as well as met the guy behind Mainecreates is a social networking site for Mainers involved in the creative economy. (I got on the site to set up a profile when I got home but I see I will be charged for it after a year, which I'm not really down with. But it is a good idea so I set up my own account there.)

In my first seminar, I met Melanie Brooks, who just got hired at It's a division of MaineToday (another newspaper) but it's focused on business content. She's a blogger, I'm a blogger. She suggested I crosspost on their site. So I'm trying that out to see if that'll be a good use of energy. (Really I want to end up as one of their featured bloggers, I'm competitive like that.) Melanie was fun, energetic, and into blogging; she seems like the kind of person I'd hang out with if I lived closer to Portland, though though the blogosphere can at least be a virtual friend.

All this happened in the first two hours. Did I mention there was all the free coffee I could drink and croissants I could eat? (Out of restraint, I had one croissant, ladies and gentlemen, with an apple chaser).

Meeting a lot of people who are all either thinking about or running their own businesses and having to give my "elevator speech" about my blogging consulting/web content creation business allowed me to not only realize that I actually did have a good, original idea but that I do really believe that I can do it.

As with any event of this nature, there is some golf clapping, boring speech listening, corporate sponsors to thank profusely, and a couple snotty people but that was all minor. (One PR woman in my last seminar seemed ridiculously jealous of me and conducted herself in such a way that I wondered, is she actually a PR person?)

Overall though, I met some wonderful people and got some great ideas. I left feeling energized, even though being nice and civil to people you barely know all day can be fairly exhausting.

Have you had a rockin' professional development day recently?

Headed Back To College…

Use Those Networking Opportunities At Your College

batesWhen I went to college, I just concentrated on getting through the semester. I fell asleep while studying my chemistry book (talk about sleep lines!) and took what I thought were challenging and interesting classes. I worked as a lifeguard in my hometown in the summers to make book and fun money for the year. I had a couple small campus jobs to supplement the “fun money”. My parents paid for my college and told me my job was to study and get the best grades possible. So I did. I thought I was pretty motivated at that point in my life, until yesterday.

I sat in a room yesterday with fifty to sixty students who gave up one day of their weekend to network with alumni. They had taken summer internships relative to what they wanted to do. They took notes, nodded at what you were saying seeming genuinely interested. They asked thoughtful questions. They knew going in that they might not get job offers; they just wanted to meet us. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have been in that room. But I was there yesterday.

BATEScene was set up by Bate’s Office of Career Services. I got invited because I have a creative career, both in my “day job” and with this blog. I was part of small group discussions but at the beginning when everyone was listening, we had to give our names, our job titles/companies, and one piece of advice we would give people about to graduate. The good news is I had a two and a half hour drive to think about this.

My friend Michaela always tells me she admires how I always “put myself out there” and I thought about that a lot yesterday. I didn’t realize that other people didn’t do that. I looked back on how I got a newspaper job, how I met a long term boyfriend online, how I got someone to publish my first article. No matter how awful the date was or who told me it was too hard to get published, I kept going. When it got to be my turn to speak, I knew what to say.

I encouraged them to internalize what they wanted and tell everyone they knew. I want people to visit this blog for example. It’s in my email signature. I published the address to it in my company newsletter. I tell people upon meeting them about it. “Coca Cola didn’t become a household name but sending a couple emails then hanging out in its dorm room. Coca Cola told you that it was Coca Cola over and over again until you believed it.” I thought this may have been too corny but a few people chuckled. I guess I am a little corny. But persistance pays off.

On the personal finance front, questions of money came up indirectly. In a small group discussion, I encouraged students to start a savings account beginning with their first job. (They were very concerned with liking their first job and how long they should stay at it.) I told them that they should save even $20, whatever they could afford, and have it automatically taken out. I told them that if they ever felt like they wanted to leave their job (or even were faced with a financially difficult situation) that having that cushion would make them feel so much better. “Plus I mean $20. That’s lunch. You’ll just buy something stupid with it and be happy for five minutes.” I kick myself for not starting saving at my last job, which was higher paying than my current one. But what can you do except tell people open to hearing it who are about to enter the same part of their lives.

I not only met some great students but also other people in related fields. I networked, I ate in the new dining hall, I saw my friend Sarah (who got me involved in this). If your college does any networking event like this, whether you are a student or an alum, it’s very worthwhile to go. Networking may get you your next job, allow for a travel opportunity, or even get one more person to read your blog. You may also just get to meet interesting people and have a free lunch. You may even be able to help someone out.

My college’s networking event was well worth the five hours of driving. And how many things can you say that about?

Free Business Workshop Series

I don’t have a self improvement category on this blog because I think (or at least hope!) the vien of self improvement runs throughout. I think if you are reading this, you either appreciate my quest towards self improvement or you constantly work towards self improvement yourself.

My friend Jessica told me about a series of seminars being given at our local community college called The Basics Of Starting A Business. This morning is the last morning but the three week course has forced me to learn more about the business behind writing.

Now I may have three bachelors degrees but I have never taken a business course. (Though, don’t get me wrong, a geology major and being able to speak French together have been pretty fun at parties, and have collectively gotten me where I am.)  I have not been implicated in my family’s hardware business. In short, no knowledge and not much experience in business.

I have, however, always enjoyed jobs where I could set my own goals and schedule. In those environments, I have worked hard and really thrived. Also I’ve always wanted to write and be paid for it. Launching a part-time freelance business seems like a logical thing for me to be doing. I figured a free seminar may help keep me on track and working towards really doing this.

The class is being given by Women, Work, and Community, though even if this organization isn’t in your area, you should try local community colleges and business women’s organizations for possible resources like this. The series of three seminars and three hours at a time and have forced me to do things like finally buy a shorter domain name (Read more about the changeover to Breaking Even, Inc. here.) and figure out how much I should charge people for my work (if you’re a freelance writer, here’s a good collection of links I happened upon about how much to charge).

Essentially, the course is forcing me to write a business plan. It is also forcing me to meet other people in the area starting their own businesses that I would have not otherwise met. I know I could go online and find a web page on it but having to have homework done is making me finally put things on paper.

I hope you take advantage of free education opportunities where you live. (Not that I’m biased or anything but a good place to start is your local paper’s community calendar.) Many free cultural and learning opportunities probably exist that you never even knew about. Keep learning always; your mind (and perhaps eventually your wallet) will thank you.

Ode To A Company: Threadless T-shirts

I do love a cool graphic t-shirt on the weekend. During the weekdays, I dress nice for work and lead an otherwise dull adult life. But when I pull on a cool t-shirt on Saturday morning, it makes me feel young and hip in a way I can’t describe. Needless to say, I don’t want a t-shirt identical to what everyone else has, nor did I want to pony up over $25 for a "Mary Is My Homegirl" t-shirt. What is a fashion-forward rural girl to do?

Threadless Enter Threadless. T-shirts are designed by people who know what they are doing and readers vote on what t-shirts get printed. Did I mention that they cost $15? Designs are periodically retired but brought back if enough people vote for them so they are always changing. You can submit a photo of you wearing a Threadless shirt for possible publication on the site so if you choose, you can be fashionable and semi-famous.

As a fashion staple, graphic tees are pretty versatile. You can layer them under a suit jacket at work for Casual Friday (that’s as casual as I’d get at work) or wear them on the weekends to your favorite bar and seem fun but not too dressed-up. I mean, haven’t us ladies done the whole camisole, jeans and heels going out outfit to death already?