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The new secret to financial security

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Why everyone needs a side job in this economy

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How many jobs do you need if you want to get ahead?

More than one, says journalist Kim Palmer, author of The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life. But here’s the good news: “Side-gigging,” as Palmer calls it, isn’t just a second or third job to pull down a few extra bucks. It’s a strategy for adding an entrepreneurial enterprise to your career portfolio and enhancing prosperity. 

“It’s the only way to give yourself financial security,” Palmer tells me in the video above. “If you’re depending on a single paycheck, you’re leaving yourself very vulnerable."

Most workers today realize they can’t rely on one company or even one industry the way people did 30 or 40 years ago. Businesses change quickly and show less loyalty to employees than they used to. Workers must learn to adapt to changing conditions and constantly develop new skills. Above all, it pays to be entrepreneurial, since just about anybody could end up on their own, forced to survive as a consultant, temporary hire or sole proprietor.

A lot of people end up being “reluctant entrepreneurs” who start a business only after being laid off. In The Economy of You, Palmer argues that everybody should develop a side gig of some kind, even if you seem safely employed in a good full-time job. One way to do it is turning a hobby, such as jewelry-making or yoga, into a business. Another way is finding something you’re good at in your day job—accounting, writing, social media, cooking or event planning—and doing it during your spare time to pad your income. New online tools make this easier than ever, including websites such as Fiverr, Freelancer.com and Etsy.

Lots of people have ideas for a business, of course. The trick is getting it started--and then sticking with it. The first scarce resource is time, which is why Palmer says you need to get used to the idea of spending evenings, weekends, and even your lunch hour building your side business.

“Whatever little slivers of time you can find during your week, you should be working on your side gig,” Palmer says.

Raising the money needed for a business is another hurdle, but Palmer points out that side-gigging doesn’t usually require venture-capital funding or extensive borrowing, as long as you’re smart about managing your money and you take advantage of free or low-cost resources. Tips for keeping startup costs low: finding collaborators online, paying off debt before launching a side gig, and trading skills with other entrepreneurs instead of paying for services.

A lot of side gigs come and go, but some become successful enough to displace that full-time job they were meant to augment. In her book, Palmer profiles Chris Furin, who ran a deli in Washington, D.C. while baking custom cakes on the side. As the recession hit in 2008, the deli’s future started to look shaky. So Furin began building up his cake business—launching a website, for instance, and developing a stable of high-end, repeat clients. When the deli closed in 2011, Furin became a full-time cake baker, working out of his home.

Side gigs yield benefits even when they don’t fully succeed. Some side-giggers learn new skills that help with their day job. Others enjoy the satisfaction that comes with trying something you’ve always wanted to do, even if you don’t end up being CEO of your own business.

In The Economy of You, Palmer lists 50 recommended side gigs, along with dozens of pragmatic tips for starting one. Of course, you could always spend that time watching TV or playing video games instead. Your job will probably still be there tomorrow.

Rick Newman’s latest book is Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback To Success . Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.

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