Getting into Self-Employment Benefit (SEB) program: Q & A

Tom:: Hi.

Is this the program you were talking about?

Tania: Looks like it

Tom:: Who is it for?

Tania: For people who are currently on EI or were eligible for EI within the last 3 years (5 years if you were eligible for maternal or parental benefits) and want to start their own business. They also need to have a viable business idea.

You don’t get SEB automatically, unlike EI. You have to apply for it first, and then undergo an admission process with presenting and defending your business idea. The entire process may take about 6 to 8 weeks. (You don’t have to wait until your EI runs out to apply for SEB.)

Tom:: Have you applied yourself, or do you know anyone that has?

Read the rest of this entry »

Loved that article

So Let’s translate “why don’t you do some work” into what it really is: “How come your job lets you fly all over the place, and have meetings in really cool places, and why can’t mine? Your job certainly doesn’t seem like work, why does mine?”

My answer to them? Because you don’t want it badly enough. If you really did, you’d have it. You’d take the risk, and play the game. (In actuality, that’s all it ever is – one giant game.) Face it – Having a job where you’re not the boss is, well, safe. You might hate it, you might think you can do it better, and you might want to firebomb your cubicle, but in the end, it’s safe. Your direct deposit comes in every other Friday, and you know it’ll be there. Going out on your own isn’t that simple. You’d worry every single day that this is the day you’re going to screw it all up, and lose it all. And when you woke up at 4:30am the next morning, (not because you can’t sleep, but because 4:30am to 5:30am is the only time you can work out without having to carry your phone with you) you’d smile that you kept it going another day, and actually look forward to working. You’ll wake up smiling, no matter how early it is. So you’d be scared on a regular basis. The paycheck wouldn’t be guaranteed, but the excitement damn well would be.

I connected to Ernie Zelinski on LinkedIn

Yesterday I connected to Ernie Zelinski on LinkedIn! Ernie Zelinski is a Canadian writer who mostly writes about how great it is to be self-employed. I have translated his book, Real success without a real job, into Russian (Russian edition, Успех без офисного рабства). He sings praises (overdoing it a little, that was my first impression) to being self-employed. While working on the translation, I was sceptical at first about the whole point because at the time I was an employee of a certain three-letter-acronym-named global corporation and thought my position to be very stable, safe and much better than precarious situation of self-employment. However, I was fired after 1 year (that’s a separate story, I told it at FAILcamp Toronto and may sometime repeat it here) and recalled Ernie’s praises to self-employment. I thought, screw it, I’m fed up with software development altogether. By that time I had several books in my translation already published (Ernie’s was my 4th, if I am not much mistaken; I have 6 now and 3 more in the works). 2 days later I responded to an ad at and started freelance translation of user documentation of the abovementioned corporation-who-must-not-be-named into Russian. About a year later I entered Canadian government’s SEB program for small business development. Everything was so ridiculously easy that I am still amazed. The only catch is, I am not very good at managing my time, so my routine work (mostly translating software manuals and writing SR&ED claims) tends to crawl all over the day, and I am somewhat behind schedule with my literary translations (currently, Iris Murdoch‘s “Philosopher’s Pupil”). But I hope I’ll learn to manage my time better in the future (kaizen!)

P.S. I definitely owe Ernie a lunch in a restaurant of his choice. I’ll never ever have to sit in a cubicle for the rest of my life!

My 10-minute presentation

I have to create a 10-minute presentation for the SEB class, the last one; we have no classes after that and will work on our business plans from home. I copypasted my so called clarity of offering from one of the assignments and then I got stuck (what they call a writer’s block). Then I got the brilliant idea of writing here. I have to say something about myself in the blog anyway, so why don’t I talk a little about who I am and what I do, killing two birds with one stone.

My name is Tania Samsonova. I provide information services: business and technical writing (documentation, user manuals, web-site content, SR&ED claims), translation (Russian to English and English to Russian), localization and interpreting. My motto is: “We will get your message across”.

Who are my clients? All of you are my clients because I can help each of you. Each of you has a message, each of you has something to communicate to your clients. Read the rest of this entry »

SEB program

I guess it is time for me to start blogging more or less regularly. (I am a technical writer, among other things, and a technical writer without a blog is like the proverbial cobbler going barefooted.) I made a pact with myself to blog for at least 15 minutes a day and I’ll try to make it at least not boring.

SEB program

I started attending SEB program recently. SEB stands for Self-Employment Benefits. In case you don’t know, it is a program conducted by Canadian government to help people start their own business. During the first month of the program we attend classes where they teach us about business-related stuff, and the coaches help us to develop a business plan. For the second month, there is no classes and we go on developing the business plan. Then the business plans are submitted to the MTCU Canada. After that, till the end of the year, a business coach is assigned to you, and you also have to submit reports about the time you spent and the money you earned. All this time the government pays you an allowance so you can concentrate on developing your business without having to take a survival job. However, for me this money is nice but not as important as the business classes. First, you get to know things about business that you would not be able to figure out on your own. Second, you get a lot of possibilities for networking. And for someone with a job like mine, when you work from home, you greet every opportunity to see some live faces, as opposed to these on facebook.

Cold calling

I made my first cold call today! Well, it was not exactly cold, I’d rather say lukewarm. There are business cards on display in the SEB office, of the people who went through the program before and now have their own businesses functioning. I took one of the cards and called its owner to ask if he would like to make a SR&ED claim (I had to explain to him what SR&ED is; it is another Canadian government program for refunding companies a part of their expenditures on research and development, and one of the things I do is writing SR&ED claims). We agreed that I’ll send him an e-mail. (I am much more comfortable with e-mails than with talking on the phone.) Hopefully he’ll get interested. It is important to me because it is a part of what I do from now on – talking to people, promoting my services. I DO have something to offer people – a service, something of value. I feel really liberated now… maybe it’s like in these Japanese programs for managerial training where they make you hop on one leg and sing in front of people in the subway or something. Way to go, me! I’ll try to make a completely cold call some time, but before that I plan to call other business owners whose cards are on display in the SEB office. They are not eligible for SR&ED but I may be of some use to them as a translator.

Unexpected joys

I am lucky: people are good to me and willing to help. I had to do a marketing survey as a part of the SEB program. I sent out a message to my contacts in asking to help me by filling the survey. The message looked awful, mechanical and faceless, because this feature of LinkedIn does not even allow to insert the addressee’s name into the letter, but I see no other way I could send a message to 200 people at once. (Note to self: create a contact database with mail generation to do these things more intelligently in the future.) Many of my contacts are people with whom we worked together 4 or 5 years ago, and I thought they would not even remember me. But I got about 50 replies! It is unbelievable. I almost wanted to cry. I am not alone because there will always be people around me willing to help. (Note to self: you should help other people more often, too. Yes, you are an intravert but this is no excuse.)

LATER UPDATE: ONTARIO SELF-EMPLOYMENT BENEFITS PROGRAM HAS BEEN SUSPENDED. BUT THERE IS A NEW PROGRAM. the name of the program is SED but, as far as I can see, it is very much like the late SEB program: