A side gig's high value

Posted: February 05, 2014

DO YOU FEAR losing your job?

If so, you are like a lot of people these days - and you'll be interested in The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life, by Kimberly Palmer (AMACOM, $21.95). It is the Color of Money Book Club selection for February.

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 surefire 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.

Unemployment is still too high, but millions of people have been able to build a good life just working for others, and many will continue to be able 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 some of the following 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."

*  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:

*  What fields are growing?

*  What problems can I solve?

*  Can I realistically get paid to do what I like?

Using her own path to entrepreneurship and that of others, Palmer walks you through the various business issues you'll need to know, including figuring out what side 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 work sheets to help you get started.

Not sure where to start? She's got an appendix with the top 50 side gigs. She describes the jobs that are 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 voice-overs and a graphic designer who is a classical singer. What a lovely way to expose these entrepreneurs to more business.

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