It’s a mindset that I find psychologically empowering.I really do run the Kerry Inc. business today with many clients. But that concept worked for me, even when I worked in-house for one employer. I always freelanced for other publications and wrote books on the side.
It gave me a sense of security knowing that I was not entirely dependent on one source of income. And it was fun because I was writing about topics I wasn’t in my day job.
It also helped pay for my passion–my horse addiction.
So when the talented journalist, Kimberly Palmer, senior money editor for U.S. News & World Report, who also writes the Alpha Consumer blog, called to tell me her new book, The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life was ready to roll, I was delighted and eager to get my hands on a copy.
You will be, too. Palmer’s lastest book is a treasure trove of inspiring stories and resources that will empower you to take that next step to launching your dream business.
This week, to learn more about what she affectionately refers to as side-gigs, but may ultimately wind up being your part-time work in retirement, or even evolve into a completely new career path, a topic near and dear to my heart, I talked with Palmer.
Here are some of her tips to help you jumpstart your journey whether you are looking for a second verse, or just to boost your income stream. (Read the post on FORBES here.)
Kimberly Palmer, author of The Economy of You: Photo by Sujay Davé
KH: Why did you write The Economy of You?
I personally felt really stressed out financially during the height of the recession. Layoffs seemed to be happening all around me, and I felt like I needed a backup plan, or another stream of income, just in case my full-time job suddenly disappeared.
As soon as I launched my own side business of money planners on Etsy, I discovered a whole world of people doing the same thing. I knew it was a trend that I wanted to write about, to help other people launch their own successful side businesses.
KH: What are the primary motivating factors for starting a side-gig?
People’s initial motivation is often money – they want to save more, pay off debt or simply afford a better lifestyle for themselves and their families. But then, it often morphs into something deeper, as people realize that their side businesses allow for a creative expression and satisfaction that can be hard to find in their full-time jobs.
They are creating products or services that other people find useful, and that is an incredibly validating feeling. It usually comes back to helping other people or improving their lives in some way, even a small one.
KH: What are the 3 essential keys to success for side-giggers?
The first is being willing to experiment and try new things, which often means launching your side business even before you really feel ready. If you wait for everything to be perfect, you’ll never start. It’s relatively easy to start selling a new product or service online, so you can begin and then make adjustments as you get feedback from customers.
Second, you want to tap into your own niche of fellow entrepreneurs. For me, that was creative entrepreneurs who sell on Etsy. As soon as I identified the group of people online who were doing what I wanted to be doing, I studied their blogs, videos and anything else I could find, and I became friends with people in that community. That helped me grow my own business.
The third key is resilience. There are inevitable setbacks and failures when you build a new business, and you have to find a way to keep going despite that, and to make the necessary tweaks to succeed.
KH: What are the key characteristics that can help you get rolling?
Some of the most successful side-giggers I interviewed built businesses that cost very little to start, could be scaled up easily as they grew, fit well with their full-time jobs, took advantage of their own passions and creativity, and most importantly, were incredibly enjoyable. You have to love your side business because you’ll be working on it at night, on the weekends, and in almost every spare hour you can find.
KH: What’s the biggest stumbling block to starting a side gig?
The first setback. If your first product doesn’t sell, or a client fails to pay you, or you get a scathing review from a customer, it can be a big blow to your momentum. But the successful side-giggers are the ones who keep going despite any initial hiccups, sometimes changing their approach until they find the right one for them.
KH: How do you recommend that your readers keep their side businesses separate from their full-time job and not risk their employer’s ire?
While you always want to be careful not to short-charge your primary employer, what I found that is that increasingly, employers welcome and even encourage their employees’ side-gigs. That’s because they see their employees learning new skills, including valuable entrepreneurial, e-commerce, marketing and social media skills, on their own time, and then bringing those abilities back to their main employer.
Employers also recognize that some of their best employees want the flexibility to pursue side-gigs, and in order to retain them, they allow them that freedom, and in some cases even openly encourage it. Anything you can do to show your employer that your own side business helps, and doesn’t hurt, the company’s main interests will help you navigate this potentially tricky territory.
You also want to go out of your way to avoid any conflicts of interest and to follow your own company’s guidelines on outside activities; protecting your main job, and being loyal to your employer, is always priority number one.
KH: What are some of the top resources to market your goods and services?
Marketing can be one of the most challenging parts of building a side business. Luckily, an entire network of e-commerce sites exists to help you. The right one for you depends on your type of business, but some of the most popular ones include Etsy for handmade items, Fiverr for services or quirky jobs, Elance and Freelancer for professional services, and Craigslist for local offerings. These platforms offer you a built-in network of potential customers and clients.
KH: What are a few the most popular side gigs that have the potential to be true moneymakers today? What’s the craziest side-gig you came across in your reporting for this inspirational book?
The most popular ones with real earning potential relate to professional services. If you know how to design websites, conduct a marketing campaign or use web-friendly software, then you will probably have many clients lining up to pay you for those services.
Anyone with professional training and experience can leverage that into a successful side gig. The quirkiest ones include writing other people’s wedding speeches, cat coaching and impersonating the voices of various celebrities for people’s answering machines.
KH: What do you love most about your side gig?
I love the satisfaction that comes from creating something that other people find useful. There’s something incredibly validating about sharing something with the world that’s based on your own passions and interests and having people tell you that it helps them, even if it’s in a small way. While I started my side business because I wanted to earn more money, and that is a great benefit, the best part is feeling so creatively fulfilled.
Follow me on Twitter, @KerryHannon I’m the author of Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … And Pays the Bills (John Wiley & Sons), available at www.kerryhannon.com.