Friday, October 9, 2009

I've been a bad girl...


When I started this blog, it was with the intention of chronicling the story of my reboot. The good and the not so good. The productive days and the, well, not so productive days.

Since my last entry, I've been spinning my wheels again, bollixed up in detail (like the proper spelling of "bollixed")... feeling stalled and unhappy. This wasn't helped much by an acquaintance who has taken it upon herself to prod me and constantly remind me that too much time has already gone by and that I don't want it to be December with no concrete progress (or money) made. In her eyes I've taken too much time making lists and not enough time actually DOING what I want my business to be about. I know she's right, and she's got my best interest at heart, but all that did was make me nervous. The big question: what's the deadline date for assessing my progress and deciding that I need to start looking for a desk job?

The fact that there's no money coming in the door doesn't help my mindset much, either. Don't get me wrong: I have a decent nest egg set aside, so there's no chance I'll be foreclosed on and hitting up the food bank any time soon. But I'm already finding myself tempted to put one less slice of turkey on the sandwich so I can stretch the package a little further. (And how proud am I to have pilfered all of that hotel soap and shampoo when I had the chance?)

And speaking of money, as I've been researching costs for this little tour company venture I'm envisioning, I realized that renting a van to get folks from place to place was likely to eat up quite a bit of my profit, or make the tour too expensive for the value provided.

In the midst of all of this, I went to a seminar at NYU last Friday; it was all about starting a business whilst making the transition from salaried to self-employed. Not surprisingly, the lecturer was a life coach who also used the session to promote her new book and prospect for new clients. That said, she did offer some useful nuggets for staying positive, as well as some resources to check out. She observed that things WILL go wrong, despite one's best intentions, and it's not a reflection of your worth. And for someone like me who tends to question her own rationality, it was really helpful to hear that many other, apparently normal people in the group had concerns about staying motivated, feeling isolated and all of those soul crushing barriers to success and happiness. One less thing to knock myself on.

I wasn't shy during the session -- after all, I wanted to get my money's worth (seminar was free, but I had paid train fare) -- and I also wanted to use it as an opportunity to make connections with people, however brief. At the end of the seminar, a woman sitting nearby asked me about my business concept. Turns out she was a travel agent in a previous life but turned to real estate when the internet pretty much ruined travel agencies. We ended up chatting for about 20 minutes as we walked to Herald Square from 42nd. She really liked my concept, and when I expressed my doubts about pricing, she observed that many small group tours, done well, can price out at $200 a pop. Bespoke tours can go even higher.

Thinking of my Hawaii trips, I know she's right on the money, too. I think the least I've paid for an excursion is $80, and that was a simple hike with a little organic pineapple and bottled water. Throw in a long-eared mule and bag lunch, or dinner and a 4-wheel-drive trek, and you're talking $150 or more. At that rate, touring just one guest covers van rental for the weekend. Granted, there aren't any sea cliffs or erupting volcanoes within driving distance here, but, as one of the other seminar attendees noted, many visitors would be willing to pay someone for a guided hike to an interesting place.

Getting that affirmation was really helpful, as was the chat in and of itself. Honestly, though, it's kind of scary to think that someone would pay me that much to show them around. I can't claim any credentialed expertise. Like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, my PhD in thinkology (or in this case, New Jerseyology) comes from life experience rather than book larnin'. Then again, there are people who've made money on tours of Sopranos shooting locations around North Jersey. With a well-crafted bio, I could market myself as a Jersey maven.

The whole pricing thing kind of reminds me of when I got a shopkeeper in Asbury Park to display some of my photography on consignment. My biggest out-of-pocket cost was the frames; I'd made the prints on my home printer. And being that I'm not a professional photographer, I didn't really even consider the value of my talent. When I quoted a price based on my costs plus 10 percent, the shopkeeper was aghast and suggested a much higher price, then adding 30 percent for her consignment fee. Well, okay, who am I to argue that?

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