The Business of Creativity

Houchin Consulting PLLC

CO Biz Magazine Article

Posted on | February 2, 2009 | 1 Comment

Originally published online @ ColoradoBiz Magazine


Opportunity from crisis
Tough times may help you become your own boss
By Kevin E. Houchin

The U.S. Labor Department recently reported that our economy shed 2.6 million jobs in 2008 and that unemployment has spiked to 7.2 percent. These are yet more indicators of the financial and emotional challenges Americans face every day. It’s hard not to let yourself get depressed, even if you still have your job.

I’m one of those guys that believe things happen for a reason, even when those things are painful. I’ve faced my own financial challenges and learned a great deal from them, including that the only way to be really secure in your employment is to be working for yourself, following your true calling and making the contribution that you alone are uniquely qualified to make.

Losing a job is a very scary, intimidating, and depressing event. It’s happened to me, both through my own fault and through economic events beyond my control. It’s happened more than I care to think about.

After the natural funk that can follow failure, there are two things to do. First, get to work finding another job, and second, get to work finding a way to never need a job again. Both require persistent effort, but in my experience, one is work and the other is growth.

One thing that comes from the crisis of losing a job is the feeling that you never, ever want to be in that situation again. So, while our short-term needs to pay the bills and feed the kids require responsible adults to do whatever it takes to get by, the long-term goal of never letting this happen again requires us to spend some time figuring out how to become “gainfully unemployed.”

I’ve been gainfully unemployed, both by choice and by default, for about half of my professional life. It’s not always easy, but when I don’t have a boss, I don’t have to worry about being laid off when the economy turns sour.

When you’re self-employed, you have at least the illusion, and arguably the reality, of some control over your situation. You can always adjust your service or product mix, without needing to ask permission from the boss. You can go out personally and try to increase sales, without relying on the corporate sales team to make rain. You can cut back on expenses. You make the decisions. It doesn’t guarantee success, but it definitely lessens the likelihood finding yourself without income as the result of external circumstances.

So, if you’ve lost your job or are fearful your job may be cut, there’s no time to lose. Even though you’re working very hard to find another job (and in the current economy, you’re going to need to outwork all the other folks on that front), you may still have some time on your hands. Maybe you’re a single parent working two or more part-time jobs to make ends meet, and that time is harder to find, but it’s still critical to finding some control in your life in order to move out of the current situation. Here’s how you need to use that time. None of these tasks has to cost a lot of money, and each of them will help you to both land the next fulfilling job and position yourself to never need another job again.

Examine what you would really LOVE to do if you didn’t have to find another job.

Many of us end up at a job that has us waiting for the weekend to live. That’s sad. What do you do on the weekends? What do you do for hobbies? When your friends ask you to help them, what do they ask you to do? When you find yourself smiling, helping people, and losing all track of time, what are you doing? What do you enjoy learning about? What topics never bore you? If you’re working two or more jobs and never find time for any hobbies or other self-fulfillment, what do you fantasize about between jobs? How would you like to live your life?

Make a list of all those things and look for the overlap. That overlap will show you what you can become successful at naturally and what will make work fun. Imagine being paid well to do what you already do free, or even pay to do. Literally imagine it, visualize receiving checks for doing what you love.

Think about how you might be able to offer the product or service you love to provide to people in your community, or via the Internet.

Now get tactical. How can you charge for the service or product? What’s it worth? Who would buy it? How would you deliver it when asked? If you’re planning to sell a product, how much will it cost to produce? In tough times like these, it might make sense to really examine how you can offer a “service” rather than a product, because services tend to have lower start-up costs. You may need to buy some tools, but again, if you’ve done your homework, you probably already own all the tools you need because you’ve already been using them to help people free. If you’re pressed for time, try to free up a half-hour or so here and there to explore these ideas.

Start your own company on a shoestring.

As a lawyer, I help people set up new companies all the time, but there are really just a few steps and as long as you’re not entering into a partnership with someone other than your spouse, it’s easy.

Most single-owner companies can be very quickly established by filling out a simple form on your Secretary of State website for a nominal fee. When that’s done, you just pop online to and get an Employee Identification Number (EIN) for your company.

Think of what you’re doing as giving birth to a new tax-paying entity (the company) and that new baby business needs a social security number (the EIN). Take these documents to your bank and start a free business checking account. If your bank doesn’t offer a free account, go to a different bank. Heck, maybe you’ll get a new toaster. If you are going to sell a product, you’ll need a sales tax ID too. Check your state’s Department of Revenue website. Now you’re in business.

One thing to really spend some time on is the name of your business. You should choose a name for which the .com domain name is available, which is not an easy task. You need to come up with a name that is not likely to confuse consumers about the source of your goods and services.

Create a blog to start sharing your experience and expertise.

Now it’s time to market your product or service. Of course you don’t want to (or more likely can’t) spend a bunch of money on a big marketing campaign. So, start with just sharing what you know about what you’re doing

You can set up a free website using blog software at sites like You’ll be able to build a site offering your advice and sharing your expertise within minutes. If you have a few more resources (around a couple hundred bucks), you can easily register your own .com domain name and set up a WordPress-powered blog site all your own.

Give yourself the homework of sharing some of your knowledge and providing real value to your target customers. Write short “posts” on some little section of your knowledge or experience every other day, or whenever you have a morning or afternoon without job interviews.

Don’t forget to drive traffic to your website though online social networks like and Build an e-mail database of editors for the papers in your area and the specialty magazines in your niche market. Submit your essays and keep them posted about what you’re doing via your website.

You may find that you don’t need to pay for advertising at all. The secret to free promotion is to provide value. I spent literally tens of thousands of dollars on failed advertising campaigns, and have earned literally tens of thousands of dollars in free promotion by writing articles, showing up for speaking opportunities, and posting regular content to my blog sites. You can too. Free opportunities to share your story and promote your services abound, you just have to look for them and then show up.

Deliver your products or services to as many people as you can.

Finally, after you’ve built the foundation, you’re going to get opportunities to deliver what you’ve promised. Hopefully, you’ve promised to deliver something you’re great at and love doing, so every step of the customer relationship will be a joy.

Sales guru Zig Ziglar said, “You can get anything you want by helping other people get what they want.” I say “make a lot of people a little bit happier.”

That’s your new job: Helping other people get what they want and enjoying the process. Don’t forget to ask for testimonials and be sure to post those to your blog.  Most people overlook this step; you can tell people how great you are, but when others do it on your behalf, it adds an exponential amount of credibility.

My wish is that nobody would ever have to deal with the real challenges of unemployment again. The issues of paying the bills, health insurance coverage, and other challenges facing many folks in America are real and desperate. I don’t presume to have easy or quick answers, and I’m incredibly blessed to have found and developed my skills and talents to lead my gainfully unemployed life. One thing I do know is that if I can find a way, you can. It probably won’t be easy, but if you commit to a goal that feeds your passion, you can reach that goal.

I’ve read that the same character in the Chinese alphabet is used for both crisis and opportunity. Our goal in tough times is to find the opportunities that come with every challenge. If you take the time to create the vision of yourself never needing another job, and making some progress toward that vision every day, then you’ll feel some power flowing back into your life and start meeting each day in the spirit of reaching more of your potential than you ever would have reached in your current or previous job.

Kevin E. Houchin is an author and attorney in Fort Collins specializing in helping people reach their potential through creative business. He can be contacted through his website at

© 2008 Kevin E. Houchin, Esq


One Response to “CO Biz Magazine Article”

  1. Feedback on Opportunity from Crisis : The Business of Creativity
    February 8th, 2009 @ 5:01 pm

    […] Kevin, Read your Feb 2 blog post. Absolutely concur. I’ve been sharing with people that we are about to witness the largest […]

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