Meet Barbara Winter


Barbara J Winter is a pioneering self-employment advocate, writer and teacher who has spent the last twenty-five years pondering the question, “Why aren’t we all self-employed?” Helping others discover the Joyfully Jobless life is her favorite occupation. To readers of Read more

Benvenuto!


Buon viaggio….good journey. How nice to have you along. This blog has been a long time brewing. Hardly a day passes when I don’t come across a fascinating new business idea, inspiring story or useful resource and want to pass Read more

Lasting Connections

Barbara Get Connected 4 Comments

A couple of weeks ago, I got a message from Julie Hanson, a longtime Winning Ways subscriber, from Glasgow, Scotland, whom I first met when she attended a Making a Living Without a Job seminar there.

Julie said she was headed to Las Vegas and wondered if we might connect. A few days later, we located each other under the Chihuly ceiling at Bellagio.

A lively lunch followed and I learned that she’s one of the leading authorities on seasonal yoga, which I knew nothing about. She gave me a copy of her beautifully done, self-published book 5 Seasons.

She said coming to my seminar had first opened her mind to the possibility of creating products to go along with her yoga teaching. I loved hearing about the evolution of her business.

Then she whipped out her iPad and we discovered our mutual passion for Apple technology.  That reminded her of a delightful story about going to her local Apple store for her weekly one-on-one training session.

When the fellow who was working with her asked what she wanted to focus on in their session, she said she needed to design her book cover. “You’re kidding, aren’t you?” he asked. “Did they put you up to this?”

She assured him that she that the book cover  truly was her project of the week. He then told her that in his other life, he designs book covers for which he is paid large sums of money. She was the lucky recipient of his talent that day.

I loved that story and loved knowing that the Glasgow Apple store was as jolly as my local one on The Strip.

Then our talk turned to Julie’s visit. I gave her Las Vegas travel tips. When she mentioned she was going to go to Sedona later in the week, I gave her some more.

In many ways, it was an ordinary encounter with a kindred spirit. Even though they’re ordinary, those encounters never fail to make my heart sing.

Of course, I’m not alone in realizing how important connecting with creative, self-actualizing people is for anyone wanting to succeed in their own business.

Even though I don’t know them personally, I follow a number of joyfully jobless folks on Twitter who are good friends. They all run fairly young businesses and do quite different things, but are each other’s biggest fans.

If one of them is launching a new product or running a program, the others all Tweet about it to their own lists. They’re wildly supportive of one another and although they live in very different parts of the US and Canada, it’s obvious that these relationships matter.

They originally met at the massive SXSW conference in Austin, Texas and have continued to stay in touch and cheer each other on. There’s no doubt in my mind that their individual journeys—and thriving businesses—have benefited enormously from that shared experience.

Your business will benefit, too, from sharing time and space with others who are bringing their own ideas to life. That’s precisely the kind of opportunity we’re busily creating with the upcoming Joyfully Jobless Jamboree, also in Austin, TX, on October 15 & 16.

We’re going to make it easy for the folks who attend to get to know each other, to explore ways they can collaborate and leave with new connections that will be valuable alliances. Some of those will undoubtedly be lasting connections.

If you’re really quick, you could save $150 on the Jamboree registration. But that’s not the best reason to attend.

To paraphrase our friends in real estate, it’s connection, connection, connection.

Hooray! I’m Unemployable

Barbara Get Connected 8 Comments

While I’ve made no secret about the fact that I spent several years of my life as a genuine self-help junkie, I haven’t talked much about how that led me to quit working for others.

Even though I’m still not certain about all the rewards of that exploratory journey, the biggest gift was discovering things about myself that had been buried, hidden, or ignored. I began trusting my own instincts and came to realize I needed to act on those things I’d uncovered.

Most obvious of all was that I had no business having a job. Not only would I be cheating myself if I continued to be employed, I’d be cheating my employer since I couldn’t ever bring all of myself to the job.

Although my bosses were all happy with my work, they were also clueless about how much more I could have contributed.

At some point, I realized I could continue unhappily working at jobs that bored me or I could turn what might appear to be shortcomings into advantages.

Here are a few of the reasons I’m totally, completely, permanently unemployable.

There are many things I love to do—but almost nothing I want to do day in and day out. This was most apparent with teaching, a top love of my life. When I was expected to teach for seven hours a day, five days a week, nine months of the year, what I loved suddenly wasn’t so lovable anymore.

As a teenager, I’d changed my mind weekly about what I wanted my career to be. Of course, this drove my guidance counselors crazy. “Pick one and stick with it!” was the message.

That struck me as impossible, but I relented and gave it a try. It wasn’t until I began to think about self-employment that I realized I could create a business that incorporated multiple passions.

Commuting makes me crazy. Every job I had involved at least one hour a day of driving. I’ve never calculated how many hours of my life would have been spent that way had I held a job for forty years, but it never seemed a wise use of time to me.

Today, my idea of commuting involves airplanes, preferably with my passport tucked in my purse, headed to a new place I want to explore.

Financial goals mean nothing when someone else determines my income. As I began learning about goal-setting, financial goals were always discussed, but almost meaningless if I was trying to fit my goal into a salary slot.

As I became more entrepreneurial, my ideas about goal-setting changed also. Instead of trying to squeeze my goals into my budget, I discovered it was far more effective to set honest goals first and figure out ways to finance them second–not the other way around.

Crowds make me crazy. I don’t like shopping on Saturday, standing in long lines at the bank or movies. I do like traveling off-season and look for all the ways to avoid busy times when running errands.

It’s far less stressful and, I assume, that adds to my productivity.

Curiosity demands a change of scenery. In Making a Living Without a Job, I say, “I became an entrepreneur because I was curious about what I could become. It was a curiosity not shared by any employer I had.”

But my curiosity goes much farther than uncovering my own potential. I’m curious about the lives of other people, fascinated by the joyfully jobless, want to see places different from the one I call home. Mobility matters to the gypsy in me.

At the beginning of my entrepreneurial life, I had no idea that I had embarked on the best personal growth program ever invented.  The discoveries never end, however, if you’re doing it right.

So while all those things guarantee I’m never going to be named anyone’s Employee of the Month, they’re not the best reasons for remaining unemployable. My number one reason is a bit grander and voiced by writer Stephen M. Pollan.

“Create your own work path,” advises Pollan. ”Those with conventional career patterns age ten spiritual years for every five physical years they spend in the rat race. Those with a unique work path are constantly being reborn.”

Finding Right Livelihood in Surprising Places

Barbara Get Connected 2 Comments

Last week I began packing for my upcoming move. Since books are a huge part of my personal possessions, I decided to begin with a small bookcase.

I had almost finished when I noticed a copy of Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love tucked away in a corner. Since I’m attempting to be ruthless about weeding my collection, I almost put it in the discard pile, but then noticed I had flagged a couple of passages.

After I checked them out, I began browsing in the book, which I hadn’t looked at for several years, and pretty soon I was rereading several sections.

In her chapter on work she says, “Carl Jung advised people to look closely into whatever fairy tales or myths particularly attracted them as children.” She goes on to suggest that our favorite stories often held clues to our own right livelihood.

That got me thinking about stories from my own early days. One that immediately came to mind did not contain a princess or a dragon.

It was the story of The Little Red Hen. In case you’ve forgotten it, the story concerns a hen who finds some wheat and decides to plant it.

She asks the other animals for help, but they all turn her down. At every step of the way, she asks for help again, to no avail, until the she bakes the bread that comes from the wheat. Then everyone eagerly shows up.

As I thought about this simple little story, I realized that I know many little red hens. In fact, many of my friends are people who had an idea that got zero support from the folks around them.

Undeterred, they forged ahead, launched a business or a product or a creation. They did it because it was the right thing to do, not because it was wildly popular—at least not in the embryonic stage.

Just as I was mulling all that, a Facebook friend sent me a message about a children’s book she had just read called Inventor McGregor by Kathleen T. Pelley.  She thought I’d enjoy it as well.

I promptly tracked it down at my neighborhood library and was captivated. It’s a delightful tale of one outrageously creative fellow named Hector McGregor who  “lived in a higgledy-piggledy house with a cheery wife, five children and a hen called Hattie.”

He becomes a local hero because of his genius for inventing solutions to everyday problems. Then one day he gets a job offer and leaves his home for the prestige of working in a laboratory at the Royal Society of Inventors.

Guess what happens to his imagination.

Not only is Inventor McGregor one of the best books I’ve ever read on creativity, it’s a story that I hope becomes one that influences a generation of young readers to opt for the joyfully jobless life. I’m going to donate a copy to my grandchildren’s personal library right away.

Even if you don’t have a child to read it with, find a copy and treat yourself. After all, it would be a shame to miss a story that’s as wise as it is whimsical.

And if you have a favorite fairy tale or myth that’s influenced your life, tell us about it.

Building a Hothouse for Your Dreams

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Dreams are extremely fragile—especially in their early days. Dreams need to be nurtured and surrounded by support. Unfortunately, there aren’t many parenting manuals for dreambuilding.

Here are a handful of easy  ways to get your dreams off to a great start.

1. Passion must be present. While a dream may be born in passion, it’s up to you to keep it alive. If you’re half-hearted and lukewarm about them, your dreams will never come true.

One way to keep passion high is to spend a few minutes every day visualizing the successful completion of your dream. How does it look, smell, taste, sound, feel? Allow your vision to keep pulling you forward.

2.Take good care of the boss. It doesn’t matter how great a dream is if the dreamkeeper is too tired or uninspired to bring it to life.

Sometimes the easiest things to do are also the easiest to overlook—like drinking plenty of water and avoiding toxic people. Dreamkeepers have an obligation to create the healthiest and most balanced life possible.

3. Make your workspace a place that inspires you. Whether you work on a beach with your laptop or in an extra bedroom in your home, make it inspiring as well as efficient.

Burn incense, play classical music, have a tabletop fountain, and/or cover your walls with art or an inspiration board that pictures your dreams.

And if you’re sitting on a beach, pick one with a great view.

4. Take responsibility for staying inspired. There are three ways to run a business: Inspired, Uninspired or With Occasional Flashes of Inspiration. You can identify those things that inspire you and expose yourself to them frequently.

Whether it’s music or the words of a particular author or the company of another entrepreneur, know where your Inspiration Well is and go to the Well often.

5. Create your own Hall of Fame. Ask a successful actor or musician who inspired them and they’ll probably answer quickly. Ask a would-be entrepreneur the same question and you’re apt to be greeted by a shrug of  the shoulders.

If you’re going to succeed, you need to be inspired by real people. Read biographies or interviews of successful people and pay attention to the philosophies they share.

6. Be open to being inspired at all times. You never know where a great idea or solution to a problem will come from. Carry a notebook with you so you can jot down ideas as they occur.

If you spend a lot of time driving, you may want to carry a voice-activated recorder to capture your thoughts.

7. Notice what catches your attention, what makes you happy, what causes an emotional response. These are all clues. Don’t miss them.

For example, when you receive great—or horrible—customer service, think about what made the situation stand out and how you can adopt or avoid those things when you’re the one doing the delivering.

8. Collect entrepreneurial friends. There’s almost nothing more rewarding than spending time in the presence of kindred spirits who can add their own creative ideas and encouragement to what you’re doing.

Cultivating such friendships will be one of the best investments you can make.

9. Change the scenery. There’s nothing that dulls the creative spirit more quickly than daily routine. You can counteract the dulling effect of that by taking a field trip or creative excursion at least once a week.

Take your laptop to a coffee shop, visit a museum or walk in a Japanese garden. Challenge yourself to come up with new backdrops that feed your soul.

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Join us at the Joyfully Jobless Jamboree on October 15 & 16 in Austin TX and you’ll be able to gather all sorts of ideas, inspiration and information that you can take back to your Hothouse.

Register now and save $100…or $150 if you hurry.

Inspired By

Barbara Get Connected Join the Conversation!  

Last week, my six-year-old granddaughter Zoe came for five days. It was my great pleasure to take her to see Mystere, her first Cirque du Soleil show. For the next three days, the music from the show played whenever we were in the car and Zoe recalled (perfectly) what scene each song accompanied.

The rest of her visit was filled with lots of art projects. This is obviously a girl who gets up in the morning asking herself, “What can I make today?”

On Saturday morning she begged for a return visit to Michael’s for more supplies. I relented because I’m that kind of grandmother. She surprised me by selecting a white mask and a bag of feathers.

As soon as we got home Zoe sat down with my 20 Years Under the Sun book, a history of Cirque’s first two decades. After studying the pictures, she set up her studio on my dining room table and began painting and decorating the mask.

While she worked I was puttering in the kitchen so she gave me updates on her progress. She said, “I want this kind of like Cirque, but it’s going to have me in it too.”

“That’s called inspired by,” I said. “Your mask is inspired by Cirque du Soleil, but it’s not a copy.” I explained a little bit more about what “inspired by” means.

That got me thinking about all the times I’ve been “inspired by” myself. Paradoxically, part of the creative process comes from being an enthusiastic spectator.

And we needn’t limit our spectating only to activities or enterprises that are like our own.

I have no desire to create theatrical experiences, but Cirque du Soleil inspires me. I’m fascinated by their commitment to finding the perfect balance between business and creativity.

Entrepreneurs and other creative types are constantly seeking inspiration, of course. This causes them to pay attention and be on the alert at all times because experience has shown them that inspiration can arrive at any time.

After watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, my sister Margaret posted a photo of her latest creation with this explanation:This is what happens when I watch Marilyn Monroe get married in the movies: a little hat made of pleated satin with a voluptuous, hand-made chiffon rose and a wisp of tulle.”

That, of course, is the lovely thing about inspiration. It begets more inspiration.

But only if we’re paying attention. Or as Mary Pipher says, “Inspiration is very polite. She knocks softly and goes elsewhere if we don’t answer.”

The 90-Day Stretch

Barbara Get Connected 3 Comments

Yesterday I realized that we were entering the 90-Day Stretch leading up to the Joyfully Jobless Jamboree. Since the 90 day time frame is one of the best power tools I’ve discovered for creating focus and making regular new discoveries, I  know where my attention will be in the coming weeks.

If you want to accomplish more, make your business diverse and fascinating, and enrich your life enormously, I urge you to make 90-Day Projects a regular activity.

Imagine how rich your life could become if you took up the practice of finding new things to explore four times a year. In forty years’ time, that would add up to 160 new discoveries.

The simplicity of this plan is that you do each thing as fully as possible—one thing at a time. It’s a way to grow and stretch yourself by focusing on a single new activity.

Been wanting to try contra dancing? For three months, become the world’s most enthusiastic contra dancer. If at the end of 90 days, you’ve had your fill, move on to salsa. If you’re really hooked on contra dancing at the end of three months, find a way to work it into your life on a permanent basis.

* Begin with the end in mind. To get started, take a look at your lifetime goals list. (You don’t have a lifetime goals list? Make writing one your first 90–Day Project.) What item catches your fancy?

Pick one that suits you and give some thought to your intention in pursuing it. Do you want to enhance your creativity? Acquire a skill that will be useful in your business?

Meet some new and interesting people? Travel?

* Give it a theme. A friend who had been procrastinating about getting her writing career launched called her project Anne Learns How To Market Her Writing. This led her to read several books on the subject and take a couple of adult ed classes.

Before the 90 days were over, she’d sent out five query letters and gotten a writing assignment. Having a theme, kept her on track.

A theme helps add focus and raises awareness so you notice what supports that theme—and eliminate things that do not.

* Immerse, don’t dabble. While you’re in the midst of a project, be fully there. Immersion is popular with language schools and it works for other things, too. Make what Barbara Sher calls a “temporary permanent commitment.”

No, you don’t have to stick with this for the rest of your life, but be totally committed for all 90 days. There will be times when you’re bored or lose interest. That’s just part of the learning process. Keep at it anyway.

* Include the unpredictable. If you’ve always wanted to learn Swahili, do it. You don’t have to have a reason or application for using what you’ve acquired. Personal growth is the top priority here and learning for its own sake is commendable.

* Go for variety. For nine months of the year, Todd builds twig furniture in his home workshop. When summer rolls around, he hits the road, selling his wares at Arts and Crafts festivals around the country. It’s a huge contrast to the solitary time that makes up most of his year.

“Getting out and talking to people, explaining how I work and so forth can be exhilarating and exhausting. But it always fires me up for my creative time.”

At its best, the 90–Day Project generates synergy partly because it provides a contrast.

* Get involved in a parallel universe. Anyone who takes up a new learning activity quickly discovers that there’s a whole group of people already engaged in that pursuit. Part of the fun of being a neophyte is meeting more advanced aficionados.

This is also a great way to make progress on your goals. Want to lead a tour to the Mayan ruins someday? Create a 90–Day Project to research Mayan history.

Then create another to learn all about organizing and promoting a tour. Then create another to market your  Mayan Exploration.

Not only is this a logical way to move ahead, making smaller projects out of a bigger project can eliminate a great deal of anxiety and fear. After all, you are just researching, learning and experimenting.  There’s nothing too scary about that.

There are other bonuses to the 90–Day Project as well. You’ll become more disciplined, committed and, best of all, more interesting.  So go feed your Renaissance soul with a new adventure. Then in three months do it again.

Preparing to Win

Barbara Get Connected Join the Conversation!  

My grandchildren and their parents arrived yesterday afternoon so it’s a wonderfully chaotic time around World Headquarters. (Translation: no time to write a new post.)

So I’m rerunning a post from a few months ago that you may have missed…or are willing to revisit.

Author Robert G. Allen wrote, “The will to prepare to win is more important than the will to win. Preparing usually means doing those kinds of things that failures don’t like to do.

“ It means studying and learning. It means reading books, going to seminars. It means not being afraid to corner experts and ask foolish questions.”

As a person who has traveled across the country to attend a seminar and even further to conduct one, I can’t imagine why everyone hasn’t discovered the joy of participating in events that have the power to change our lives for the better.

Getting yourself to a seminar may, in fact, be more important than what happens in the seminar.

When you are willing to spend your time and money to expose yourself to new ideas, new techniques for doing things, and new people who can add their enthusiasm to your dreams, you’re also sending a strong message to your subconscious mind about your own worth.

Conversely, not investing this way also sends a strong message. As Sondra Ray says, “When you say, ‘I don’t have enough money to go to that self-improvement seminar or buy that book, it’s almost like saying, ‘I am not a good investment.’ The best way to make money is to invest in yourself.”

What would you like to be better at? Speaking German? Creative marketing? Managing your time? Boosting your emotional intelligence?

You can accelerate your progress at anything by putting yourself in a roomful of people who are on a similar quest.

Best of all, an investment in yourself is the one thing that no one can ever take from you. No matter what is happening in the economy or where interest rates are headed, the investment you make in your personal growth—and continue to make— never stops paying dividends.

“In times of change,” said Eric Hoffer, “learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

With all the resources—the books, the seminars, the insights of  others—available, it makes no sense to skip the critical preparation stage.

Because, in the the final analysis, winning isn’t about what you have or even what you do. Winning is about becoming the person you were meant to become no matter how long and difficult that journey may be.

Take advantage of every  resource you can find. You never know what might happen if you do.

You could be sitting in a roomful of strangers and suddenly meet yourself.

°°°°°°°°°°°°

If you only attend one more event this year, I urge you to make it the Joyfully Jobless Jamboree. Filled with ideas, inspiration and opportunities to connect with others who are building their own exciting enterprises, this is going to be two of the most memorable days we can deliver.

Visit the Jamboree website and see what’s coming on October 15 & 16 in Austin, TX and make plans to join us now.

Less Can Be More

Barbara Get Connected 4 Comments

When I started my first business, The Successful Woman, in 1974, I had never heard of a book with a similar title, The Total Woman. That changed quickly when Marabel Morgan’s book became a tremendous success.

In case you missed the commotion, The Total Woman sold more than ten million copies and was the best-selling nonfiction book of 1974. As the Wikipedia listing recounts, the book taught that, “A Total Woman caters to her man’s special quirks, whether it be in salads, sex or sports, and is perhaps best remembered for instructing wives to greet their husbands at the front door wearing sexy outfits, or draped in transparent saran wrap, with nothing (but herself) underneath.”

“It’s only when a woman surrenders her life to her husband, reveres and worships him and is willing to serve him, that she becomes really beautiful to him,” Morgan wrote.

Needless to say, that bore no resemblance to my plan to create personal growth seminars via The Successful Woman. Although fans of The Total Woman were not likely to be my customers, who was?

Obviously, men were not my target audience, but I knew that not every woman was either. What did my ideal customer look like?

At the beginning, I thought they would be those we often refer to as career women, but that began to change as I met the creative females who came to my seminars and subscribed to my newsletter.

After a couple of years, it became clear to me that I wanted to work with women who, like me, were starting their own businesses and weren’t necessarily interested in the conventional notion of what that meant.

At about the same time, the homebased business movement was quietly springing up all over the place. While not focused exclusively on this group, I felt a real connection with the things that were happening on the home business front and began looking for ways to let them know what I had to offer.

While experience and evolution often changes our definition of an ideal customer, it’s both wise and necessary to spend time figuring out who you want to serve.

One way of doing that is to identify what Mark J. Penn calls (in his book of the same name) Microtrends. Thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to track down these folks who may have specialized interests that are being overlooked by big companies.

In fact, you may be part of a micro trend yourself and are aware of what’s missing for them.

Here are a few of the small trends Penn identifies.

Working Retired

Sun-Haters

Pet Parents

Old New Dads

Young Knitters

Vegan Children

New Luddities

Social Geeks

Home-schooled

International Home Buyers

Can you see the dozens of possibilities in these growing groups—whether you know much about them or not? All these micro trends are ripe for products and services designed for small niche markets.

If you haven’t already done so (or you haven’t done so lately), spend time writing a profile of your ideal customer. What do they love? What problems do they share?

It makes it so much easier to get connected when you’ve figured that out. It’s also the shortest route to building your own natural monopoly.

As Seth Godin points out, “Many of us have realized that big doesn’t equal successful. Maybe you need to be a lot pickier about what you do and for whom you do it.”

Go for less. Get more.

Weekend Excursions

Barbara Get Connected 3 Comments

It’s been ages since I’ve done a roundup of articles and resources that have been gathering in my files. Obviously, it’s time for a Weekend Excursion so you can explore them on your own.

There’s no real rhyme or reason or theme to this list of treasures except that they all delighted me in different ways.

Green and Growing

If you’re a subscriber to Winning Ways newsletter, you will recall that I recently did an issue exploring what gardeners have to teach entrepreneurs. Last week, I learned about an extraordinary English gardening writer named Beveley Nichols who chronicled his evolution as an amateur gardener.

After reading his book Merry Hall, I wanted more and came across a collection of his wit and wisdom called Rhapsody in Green. When I read the following passage, I realized he could just as well have been advising someone growing a business:

Gradually my impatient desire for immediate results, which is the besetting sin of all beginners, died down. I began to take a joy in the work for its own sake. Until you actually own a garden, you cannot know this joy.

Before and After

The other day, I received an e-mail from Connie Hozvicka sharing her excitement about taking the big step. Connie is a dynamic artist and her blog at Dirty Footprints Studio is always a visual feast.

However, her post I Want You to Hear Me took my breath away. Go read it for yourself and you’ll see why.

Expose Yourself

It’s no secret that I’m a raving fan of Seth Godin who constantly astonishes me with his regular blog writings. This one, called Expose Yourself, illustrates the importance of choosing your influences carefully.

Follow Your Fascination

I’ve been working on the next issue of Winning Ways and am writing about collectors and collecting. Everyone I’ve known who is a serious collector has a story to tell about how their passion for collecting perfume bottles or old coins or Disney memorabilia began with a mild interest and grew stronger as they explored farther.

So that was on my mind when I came across this short piece called  Innovation Begins with Fascination. Don’t miss the exercise at the end.

Loving a Writer

Steven  Pressfield has this advice for spouses, partners, and other caring folks who may be perplexed by their writer/entrepreneur/musician lovers. If you are feeling misunderstood, you may want to print out Loving a Writer to share with your beloved.

Just in Case

I’ve been raving everywhere about Sandy Dempsey’s amusing video about her adventures with Flat Barbara. You may have been within earshot.

However, if by some fluke this has passed you by, pay a visit now and see how Flat Barbara is learning about the Joyfully Jobless life. (Scroll down to see the video.)

Getting Connected for Free

Barbara Get Connected 4 Comments

It was a big occasion when Zoe lost her first tooth, one worthy of a Skype call to Grandma Vegas. I oohed and aahed as she preened and smiled. It was far more memorable than if she’d simply sent a picture.

Keeping connected to faraway family members is only one of the ways I use Skype. Nearly every day is a little brighter thanks to that bit of technology.

Yesterday I needed a small change on my Web site, so I Skyped Lisa Tarrant, my Web Wizard, who lives in Massachusetts. In the past, I’d have told her what I wanted and then checked my site when the call was finished. With Skype, I could see the changes as she made them.

I tune into teleclasses, consult with clients, and have regular conference calls with Alice Barry and Sandy Dempsey to plan the Joyfully Jobless Jamboree from my desktop.

Last week, Alice and I were trying to solve a Jamboree problem via e-mail and not getting very far. Alice suggested a call, we talked face to face and had the solution in no time.

On Saturday, I began my morning with a long overdue chat with my friend Georgia who recently moved to Sweden. Seeing her sitting at her kitchen table at her new home made the conversation more special.

Have something new I want to show my sister Margaret in California? Show and Tell is just a Skype call away.

Then there was the recent evening that Sandy Dempsey sent me an e-mail with a link to a video she had just spent three hours creating about the adventures of Flat Barbara. I could see she was still online, so I promptly Skyped her to congratulate her on the project.

(If you’ve watched the video, you know that Flat Barbara enjoys Skype too.)

Although my sister Nancy, who lives in Rome, had urged me to use Skype for several years, I was not paying attention. I remained unmoved when Maureen Thomson reported that she’d used Skype to keep her business in Colorado running smoothly while she was enjoying a home exchange in Spain.

Without any investigation (a bad way to make decisions), I assumed it would be difficult or would involve buying equipment. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

What finally motivated me to check it out for myself was a Webinar that Oprah did with Eckhart Tolle. The two of them sat on a bare stage discussing ideas in his book  A New Earth while readers called in to ask questions or make comments via Skype.

There was a discussion group at a bookstore in Los Angeles, a woman from Connecticut, a couple from Amsterdam. It was obvious that the visual component added a dimension to the communication that isn’t present with voice-only.

I was sold. What I didn’t know, however, was that I was also about to save $500 a year since calls to other Skype users are free, no matter where they are in the world.

For the nominal fee of $29.50/year I added unlimited calling throughout the US and Canada to non-Skype users (i.e. landlines and cellphones). There was no longer any need for long distance service with my landline so I cancelled it.

Last year, Soul Acrobats founder Alvin Tam wrote about getting rid of his expensive voicemail—his costly cellphone—and replacing it with Skype. He discovered, as do many users, that not only was he saving money, he was motivated to call his family in Canada more frequently.

Yes, there are times when I hear a call come in and on my way to answer wonder if my hair is combed or if I’m properly dressed. Much of the time, however, calls are arranged in advance so I’m ready and waiting.

If you’ve been resisting using Skype for personal and business communication, I urge you to take a look. Not only is it a wonderful way to add a personal touch, if you’re planning to run a global World Headquarters, it is essential mobility support.

And if that’s not enough, let me remind you again—it’s free.