If you’re seeking guidance on how you can successfully make an extra income on the side, Kimberly Palmer, senior editor at US News & World Report, has penned a new book titled The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life (AMACOM; $17.27). This book serves as a guide to 9-to-fivers who are looking for instructions on how to start a career on the side.
Black Enterprise asked Palmer to shed light on how to become what she calls a “side-gigger.”
BLACK ENTERPRISE: What prompted you to write this book?
KIMBERLY PALMER: It was when I had my daughter, which was four years ago. I really felt like I needed to be financially secure. I never felt the same sense of urgency to devise a backup plan if I lost my job. In journalism, losing your job seems like it could happen at any time. When I became a mom I really felt like I needed to have some type of backup plan. So that’s when I launched my side business, which is my Etsy shop of money planners. As I started making sales, I discovered this whole world of creative entrepreneurship. And I came into contact with people like me who launched their business on the side. And that gave me the idea for a book. I realized that having a side job was really becoming a big trend, because like me, other people wanted to have some sense of financial security outside of their full-time job.
BE: How can someone start a side business?
PALMER: The most important thing is to make sure you pick the right kind of business for you. That depends on your own interests and skills. One of the most common ways is to leverage what you do in your full-time job, but you’ve got to be careful you’re not doing anything that would be perceived as a conflict by your employer. One of the people I profiled in my book made sandwiches in a deli full time. He decided to launch a custom cake business. So he started baking cakes during the evenings and weekends. That supplemented his income. His employer didn’t see that as a conflict because it was a different business even though it was related. He was able to take advantage of the contacts he already had.
If you have a unique skill, take advantage of that. The point is to pick something that you are skilled in and that you enjoy doing, and thinking of ways you can use those skills to earn money.
After you get started, but before you launch, I really recommend you test the market because you can learn a lot from getting customer feedback and tweaking things after you have your first idea. Get customer feedback and see where the demand is before you fully launch. The next step is to market your product and make connections. I didn’t make any sales until I started to do that.
BE: What if your side business is a flop?
PALMER: We all fail at some point, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that your whole idea is a failure. Every single person that I interviewed had a period of failure, but they just pressed forward. They made slight adjustments to what they were offering, but they didn’t throw in the towel altogether.
BE: What advice do you have for those who want to start a side business but they’re short on time?
PALMER: You have to invest your time, money, and energy, or it’s not going to go anywhere. It’s going to mean working during the evenings and weekends. The trick is to just find slivers of time. I try to grab little pockets of time, so during my lunch break I might send out emails or on the weekends when my kids are taking a nap, I will go and look at what my competitors are doing.
A side gig is a great way to establish solid financial footing when it comes to this crazy economy where almost anyone could lose their job unexpectedly. So I think it’s the best way to make sure you always have an income stream.