Palmer, senior money editor and consumer blogger at U.S. News & World Report, argues that in a world of zero job security, you need to create a stream of income in addition to your regular 9-to-5 job.
“Relying solely on a single employer is a sure-fire way to end up struggling, as so many Americans do,” Palmer writes.
Palmer is pretty pessimistic about the American job market.
“Those of us lucky enough to hold on to our jobs face pay cuts, benefit reductions and longer hours, along with the unsettling feeling that those jobs could disappear at any moment.” And she adds, “We can’t pretend that our employers have our best interests in mind or even that they will continue being our employers for much longer.”
This should strike fear in anyone’s heart, especially as we continue to see reports about how long it takes for many people to find work after they’ve lost a job. Palmer cites a Gallup survey that found that many workers worry about being laid off or fear a reduction in benefits. But as my niece, who is a therapist in New York, likes to remind me, “Feelings aren’t facts.”
Unemployment is still too high, but millions of people have built a good life just working for others, and many will continue to do so. Yet Palmer has a point. You can help control your financial fate by creating income that is independent of your day job. There are so many side-gig options, especially with the Internet and social media.
“Not everyone wants to be self-employed, and voluntarily leaving a job in today’s economy can sound as crazy as burning provisions in a famine,” she said.
This is a how-to book with a lot of useful takeaways. Palmer says the most successful side businesses have these characteristics:
● Low start-up costs. “As side-giggers showed me over and over again, there’s no need to spend big before you start earning.”
● Fits well with your full-time work and doesn’t pose a conflict, “which usually means they can be done on your own schedule,” she writes.
● Takes advantage of your skill set.
● The hustle is fun. It can’t be just about the money.
Don’t underestimate this last point. How many side businesses have you failed at because you didn’t really like the job? Do you really want to stuff envelopes or take online surveys?
Palmer says to ask yourself these questions:
● Which fields are growing?
● Which problems can I solve?
● Can I realistically get paid to do what I like?
So can you create “hybrid income” for yourself? To help you see the possibility, Palmer introduces you to hustling entrepreneurs who are cake bakers, home organizers and video editors. She talks about her own entrepreneurial venture that she operates on an e-commerce Web site.
Palmer walks you through various business issues, such as figuring out what business to create, finding a place to sell your goods or services, branding, marketing and making the time to do it all. You’ll find exercises and worksheets.
Not sure where to start? She’s got an appendix with the top 50 side gigs. She describes the jobs best suited for certain individuals and lists the resources needed to get started.
I also love that she lists the entrepreneurs mentioned in the book and their side businesses and how you can reach them. Among the side-giggers is a social-media manager who has a career blog, an instrument repairer who does voiceovers and a graphic designer who is a classical singer. What a lovely way to expose these entrepreneurs to more business.
One thing that drove Palmer to write the book is that many people she talked to said their side business helped them have peace of mind. Having the extra money and knowing you can make a way for yourself should you lose your main job “can feel a little more stable even in an economy that isn’t.”
I’ll be hosting a live online discussion about “The Economy of You” at noon Eastern on Feb. 27 at washingtonpost.com/discussions. Palmer will join me. Every month, I randomly select a few readers to receive copies of the featured book donated by the publisher. To enter, e-mail email@example.com with your name and address.
Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more, go to postbusiness.com.