You may be employed at the moment – in fact you may even be well-employed. But look at many others around you and what do you see? With millions unemployed, millions more under-employed, and hundreds of thousands of jobs being outsourced to lower wage countries, what does the future of employment hold? Is it possible that the sun is setting on the traditional one man-one job model of employment and income?
Before dismissing the possibility, consider that only 40 years ago tens of millions of workers were employed in largely high paying, mostly unionized factory jobs. Just over 100 years ago the majority of Americans were employed in agriculture. Where are all of those jobs now? And if one man-one job is going the way of the factory job, what are our options?
Developing multiple income streams may become a necessary reaction to an environment where the unemployed often return to the work force in lower paying jobs.
In Survival+, Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation, Charles Hugh Smith introduces the concept of hybrid work:
“…one finger in the wage economy, one in growing food, another in creative pursuits, another in trading childcare for eldercare, another in hedging/investing to preserve purchasing power, another in helping to develop locally owned distributed energy as either a technical innovator, an investor or provider of labor/supervision and yet another in local schooling.”
While I’m not going to follow this definition to the letter, I am going to use it as model in developing a practical outline on how each of us can broaden our income bases and provide ourselves with a measure of employment and income security that the traditional one man/one job model is increasingly failing to provide.
Start a side business – now!
Multiple income streams are at the heart of hybrid work. Anyone can and probably should have some sort of business, at least as a sideline. At the core of self-employment is learning to trade with others, a basic skill we need to get reacquainted with.
First don’t quit your day job. Second, think about what you actually like to do, what you truly feel passionate about. You work at your day job to pay the bills, now do something you feel good about. Passion will drive you to keep at it when failure seems inevitable. A lack of passion will doom it to failure.
This is what I’ve done with my freelance blog writing business. I love to write, and I have lots of opinions and I’ve turned the combination into a primary income source. Look for something similar and know that it’s doable.
Get started now, and don’t worry about making money – it’s typical that new ventures don’t make money for months, a year or longer. But that’s why you keep your day job. Play at it for a while and learn the ropes.
Even if your day job looks safe, you want to start the venture as soon as possible so the business will be rolling at a future date when your job situation may look less certain, or when you just might feel like pitching the job to become a full time entrepreneur.
Develop a web presence
The internet offers an inexpensive way to market products and services, but equally important, it opens up virtually the entire world as a potential market. Operating without it is the equivalent of looking for a job without a drivers license – there are only so many jobs on the bus route.
Set up a simple website or weblog for any purpose or topic you choose. Then get on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In or as many social media as you can. Take on one at a time and just start chatting and asking questions. Even if you don’t need it now, you want to have a web presence established for the day when you do. Develop your contact base now, even if you have nothing to sell. When you do have something, you’ll already have a market in place.
If you’re self-employed, look for part-time, seasonal and contract work
If you already have a profitable business you’re ahead of the curve. But you’re also not immune to the cycles of perpetual change that technology and globalization are imposing economy wide. Also, many businesses are seasonal, having busy peak seasons followed by frightening lulls. Part-time, seasonal and contract work may be a way to even out the income flow and, just as important, broaden revenue sources.
Optimally the wage arrangement should be in a business unrelated to yours, so that if your industry tanks you’ll have a cash flow and a “next career” to go to.
I was on the front lines for the mortgage meltdown, and when the industry started going down there were few opportunities to remain in the business, and the lines to get them were extremely long. Some pre-positioning would have made the descent easier.
Join and participate in networks
This is how you keep you’re ear to the ground. Join network groups related not only to your business, but also to any business you think you might be interested in. It’s an opportunity to find out what’s going on “out there” in the real world that’s happening behind the often oversimplified version the media reports.
Broaden your contacts, find people who are doing what you’re doing (or want to do) and “swap recipes”. It’s amazing what information can be gathered from casual contacts.
Seek soft barter arrangements
Let’s say you can do web design and you have an acquaintance who fixes cars—can you find a way to swap services? Inventory your skills and think about what people in your orbit can do; are there any barter opportunities?
Develop a “hands-on skill”
People who can produce or fix things often have the greatest job security. Ours is a world of machines, and all of them break or need service sooner or later. Being one of the people who can keep them going is a solid start to a side business.
You don’t need to be a jack-of-all-trades – a single skill can open up barter arrangements or a second income opportunity. A guy in my neighborhood started fixing things for neighbors; in a short while he was doing it for money. After he lost his IT job, he went full time as a handyman, and has been at it for several years.
Actively search for new opportunities
While others are lamenting the bad economy, see the world as a cornucopia of fresh ideas and opportunities and be prepared to move on short notice. The world economy is moving very fast – as one income opportunity fades, be ready to replace it with a new one.
Live beneath your means – always
Many opportunities are available to those who travel light in life, unburdened by outsized mortgages, late model cars and other trappings of the high cost lifestyle so many aspire to. Instead, seek enjoyment in freedom, simplicity, people and meaningful work.
Save and invest intelligently
A healthy bank balance means more opportunities and better sleep. We all need more of both. If you have two or more income sources, you may be able to allocate one specifically for savings. Savings can even out an erratic income stream and free you up to take chances that debt surfs can only dream of.
Be conservative in your investing – two stock market crashes in the last 14 years should cure us of the desire to put 80-100% of our money into risk investments. Take your chances in the business world, not with money you’ve already earned and may need to pay bills with one day.
It may not be possible to take on all of these activities simultaneously, but they can be integrated over time. Pick one to implement immediately, then add one every few months as your circumstances warrant. There is no goal line here – forward motion is the key.
How do you see the economy playing out over the next few years? Do you think the end of one man-one job is a possibility? What are you doing to stay afloat and find new opportunities?