Kimberly Palmer is the author of the new book The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life. She is the senior money editor and Alpha Consumer blogger at U.S. News & World Report, and she also has written the book Generation Earn: The Young Professional's Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back. She lives in the Washington, D.C., area.
Q: You write, “We all need more than one source of income today. Relying solely on a single employer is a sure-fire way to end up struggling, as so many Americans do.” How did you come to that conclusion, and what percentage of Americans has more than one source of income?
A: The simple fact that no one can guarantee their current job -- we're all vulnerable to lay-offs -- means that we all need more than one source of income. Otherwise, we, and by default, our families, are simply too vulnerable. I couldn't live with that kind of vulnerability, which is why I decided I had to launch a side business. I quickly learned that many other people feel the same way.
As for numbers, the best ones I could find come from the Young Entrepreneur Council, which found that one in three 20-somethings have launched side-businesses. When it comes to older Americans, MetLife has found that 12 percent of baby boomers earn extra money on the side. So this is a trend that cuts across all ages and stages.
Q: How do you balance your own job, family, and side business?
A: I prioritize my family, of course, and then I focus on my job during the day and I fit my side-business into the extra snippets of time I can find in the evenings and weekends.
Most importantly, I chose a side business -- selling digital money planners on Etsy -- that works with my life. While I have to invest a lot of time on the front-end, designing the planners and marketing them, I can then just let the shop run itself. Each time someone makes a purchase, they automatically get access to the PDF - I don't have to do anything else. So in that way, my business really fits into my life.
Q: What surprised you the most in the course of researching your book?
A: How incredibly satisfying it can be to launch a side business. I started out focused on the financial security aspect -- launching a side business to generate more money.
But what I found for myself and the 100 people I interviewed is that the money often takes a back seat to the new and powerful identity that comes from going into business for yourself. To create something that others buy and find useful is so empowering. You know you are helping others, even if it's in a small way.
Q: Do you expect the number of people with side businesses to rise in coming years?
A: Absolutely. I think this is one of the biggest trends of our time in terms of the workplace. And workplaces are adapting, too, to allow and even encourage their employees' side businesses, because it often benefits them, too.
That's because people are picking up new skills on their own time and then applying them to their day jobs, too. They're also happier employees because they're more fulfilled and more financially secure.
Q: Are you working on another book?
A: Not quite yet -- I've been focusing on growing my Etsy shop, which is so much fun.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: If you have an idea for a side business, consider getting started now! There are such powerful and easy to use e-commerce platforms out there now, from Etsy to Fiverr to Elance, that make it so easy to get started.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb