Oct 152008

After a month of elation having secured, I thought, two great clients, they each dumped me within two days of each other.

Is “dumped” the right word? Am I not being somewhat judgmental? Hard on myself? Harsh even? Well, that’s what it felt like.

In fact it felt more viscerally percussive — a kick in the gut — than losing my job which I rather expected. I had seen myself as acquiring these two clients relatively easily and that they were the foundation of a business I was going to grow. Now I feel shaken instead.

They each had reasons which were rational and not pointed at me or my product. In one instance the client decided the organization needed an agency with contacts in Sacramento. In the other the organization’s members were feeling the pinch of the economic downturn.

However in each case there had been miscommunications and unfulfilled expectations on both sides. So I can’t help feel these factors underpinned their decisions.

I was reeling for several days. One day I ran into my neighbor who has her own boutique PR business for a niche industry. When I told her I had lost two clients she said, “Yes, just like me. I’m applying for a temp job.”

There was no self-pity there. She’d been through this before.

It’s been my philosophy in these months since I was decommissioned by the Oakland Tribune that companies are letting go of their PR staffs and their PR agencies. They are probably taking on more contract workers. So how do I find them? That’s what I have to find out.

Oct 082008

I held my first Writing My Life class at the Meals on Wheels Dorrwin Jones Senior Center Tuesday October 7. I was extremely satisfied with the way it turned out. I thought maybe three or four people would show but in fact there were seven of us: Grace, Marie, Alice, Robert, Shirley, Cristal and even Mr.Yan came for a few minutes.

They all had distinct reasons for coming. I asked everybody to go around the room and explain why they were there. Grace said that her sister had started her own autobiography five years ago and Grace still had not seen the results. “So I just want to see how this is done,” she said with a certain amount of belligerence.

Marie from Indonesia speaks Mandarin. She said she wants to improve her English.

Alice is deeply motivated. Her niece has been after her for some time to tell the family story.

Robert gave a rambling explanation about being a short story writer which I could not make heads or tails of.

“So do you see your life as a short story,” I asked him.

“No, but there are lots of stories in it,” he explained.

Shirley could not give a reason at first and feigned indifference.

Cristal said she thought her great-grandchildren might find her life story “amusing”.

What little I know about these people already made these explanations intriguing . Alice and Cristal for instance suffered during World War II in their respective countries of Japan and Germany and I’m sure they will have stories to tell that are more than just “amusing”.

I asked the class to take 15 minutes to write about the circumstances of their births and what their parents told them of this event. I was fascinated to see Grace and Shirley began in the most ungenerous fashion. Shirley refused to take a notebook that had been provided for her. She just made some notes in the margins of the piece of paper with the day’s lesson plan on it.

Grace chose a tiny notepad and scribbled a couple of sentences. But after 20 or 25 minutes both of them had exceeded the space they had to write in.

Cristal who sees poorly wrote with a heavy marker pen in large letters. Marie with language difficulties labored over four sentences. She needed some help spelling the word married. Meanwhile, Robert who had earlier told us he was a psychotherapist needed some spelling help as well, the words cistern and growl.

I will be interested to see who shows up in two weeks at our next meeting. When everybody disbursed, Robert said he found it “very encouraging”. It was an odd comment but it pleased me.. Alice thanked me profusely: “I’ve been wanting to do this for ages and you came along just in time,” she said.

Oct 022008

I went to my tax preparer to get advice on how to start my own business.  She said I have to register with www.sfgov.com for $25 fee; and if I don’t the dead spirits of Sodom and Gomorrah will rain biblical indignities on my head.

I should also get a separate checkbook for business expenses. In the box where I put my business receipts I should establish a separate folder for assets — like the new filing system I bought — and one for entertainment.

I was truly peeved to learn that my entertainment expenses — taking sources and prospects out to lunch– garners only a 50% tax deduction.  But this is my main MO, government! Cheez.

Oct 022008

On September 24I had an interview with Gary Goodson of the Jewish Vocational Services, a nonprofit that offers career counseling. When I originally made the appointment the few weeks ago I hadn’t yet decided what direction to go in, whether to pursue a job or go freelance. But by the time I met Gary, I had felt drawn to working for myself.

I told him, “I really had not decided to be self-employed.  I just felt myself drawn this way.”

Gary said I should respect that instinct.  However he added the JVS rarely counseled people who had decided to engage in self-employment.

But he did give me some good advice, to wit, to check out the Small Business Administration, Business Network International and the small-business forum of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. It is one week later and I have not done any of those.

He recommended highly a book by C J Hayden called “Get Clients Now”. He said it set out an easy to follow plan for marketing.  He also told me to subscribe to the San Francisco Business Times. Since I am going to have to cancel my subscription to The Economist because it’s just too dear for me right now so maybe this is a wash.

Anyway, he approved of my MO of calling on sources for informational interviews. He called my Rolodex of sources “a goldmine”. I thought he might like to have it himself.

Leaving his office, I went Stacy’s bookstore and bought the Hayden book, checked out the SBA to get a schedule of their meetings and dropped in to say hello to my cousin Stanley at his office.  All of these addresses were in the same four-block area. Being unemployed has some perks at times.