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.
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.
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.
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 linkedin.com 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: http://www.toronto.ca/socialservices/pdf/Self-Employment.pdf