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A Seismic Shift

There are currently three powerful converging forces producing a seismic shift in today’s job market. This article provides you with some suggestions on how to position yourself for long-term career growth and financial wellbeing.

The current conditions make this a critical time to start a home-based business that is compatible with social distancing. Contact us for personalized career and business support with any of the areas described below.

This isn’t a sales pitch for some pre-packaged ‘business opportunity.’ This article is intended to spark the process of organically creating some marketable services you can provide. Perhaps I can become your first customer!

1 – An Unpredictable Job Market

In recent years, the job market has changed considerably. Many businesses seek part-time workers and contract laborers so they can avoid providing benefits like healthcare. Or, they simply ‘rent’ employees from temp agencies. Having workers on-demand as needed is very efficient for businesses that have seasonal cycles or unpredictable production demands.

2- The Person as a Business

In addition to an unpredictable job market, the gig economy has given rise to many people pursuing a side hustle, home-based business, or building a cottage industry. There are more individuals now operating as independent businesses. They aren’t hiring anyone. You’re expected to become your own business.

In the past, an abundance of unemployed workers could expect to be absorbed into numerous businesses who would give them jobs and take care of them. Now workers are expected to take care of themselves by finding a niche or market where they can provide something of value.

NOTE: The term “side hustle” is an unfortunate choice of words since “hustle” can have a negative connotation, such as scamming people or an activity that isn’t legitimate. Instead, “side business” would be a preferred description.

3 – Working in a Post-COVID-19 World

As governments and businesses respond to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, many people are finding themselves suddenly unemployed. So, there is an immediate increase in the number of people seeking jobs. At the same time, many businesses have shut down until further notice. So there’s a massive decrease in the number of jobs available. This combination of increased unemployment and decreased jobs is estimated by some to result in an unemployment rate of 20%.

Perfect Storm

The above three conditions create a perfect storm for disrupting the careers and incomes of many people. While it’s difficult to predict, we must anticipate and plan for the possibility that the current circumstances become a long-term situation. We need to help as many people as possible to become engaged in productive social-distancing-compatible jobs that produce products and services of value. This helps individuals and strengthens our economy.

Pay it Forward

We need a jobs initiative that spreads faster than the COVID-19 coronavirus. So, to use an analogy from airline travel, it’s not enough to just put your own oxygen mask on. You must help those around you. Your business plan should include time, money, and energy budgeted to help others get started with their own home-based business – encouraging them to do the same. This needs to spread quickly to counteract the impact of COVID-19 and avert an economic collapse. The “Pay it Forward” principle is the best way to get this accomplished.

A New Mindset

“Rather than seeking a company that will hire you and take care of your financial needs, you need to discover (or create) a service market or product that’s in high demand.”

It’s helpful to embrace a new employment mindset. The old approach (for some) is to find a business that will pay them to sit in a cubicle 40 hours a week, spending time on Facebook, visiting at the water cooler, or eating treats at office parties. There are many people looking for a sugar daddy/mama employer where they show up at work and engage in minimally productive activities with low economic value while collecting a check – doing the bare minimum to avoid getting fired while letting others do the heavy lifting. For anyone who has worked in a large company, business, or institution, this scenario probably sounds quite familiar. Think of the movie Office Space. While that kind of approach may produce a paycheck, it doesn’t help your career growth or personal growth. Over time, it makes you less and less skilled, and less valuable in the job market.

So, the new mindset is to build your own diverse collection of valuable skills and experiences. Making you individually valuable to many people and businesses.


When investing, perhaps the most common rule is to diversify. The same rule applies to our careers. Think of the farmer with multiple crops, or the entrepreneur with multiple streams of income. When you’re an individual, serving multiple people and small businesses, this diversification makes your income more predictable and less impacted by changes.

If your only source of income is a snow plowing business, and we have a winter without snow, you’ll be hit hard financially. If you have multiple flexible sources of income, then you’ll be less impacted by the weather or changes in consumer demands.

COVID-19 Compatible Businesses

There are numerous valuable services that you can learn to provide from home. Here are a few:

  • Artist. The job of a graphic designer (described below) can have overlap with the work of a visual artist. The artist is usually focused on a specific work. A graphic designer may be required to create brand identity and continuity across an entire website and advertising or marketing campaign. An artist might create a visual that can be used as the featured image for a post.
  • Content Creator. Website owners need people to write articles and do research. The work involves doing some research on a certain subject and writing something similar to a short high school writing assignment. The effort put into creating a quality document is a value to those who read it. It saves people time if you’ve done the research for them.
  • Consultant. The term “consultant” can refer to many different areas of support. In general, any accumulated experience and skill you have can be used to guide others who are willing to pay you for that support.
  • Cook. Many people cook for the joy of it, but for those who are too busy to enjoy cooking, and need food prepared for the week, or need food delivered to others as a gift or to support friends and family members, hiring someone to do the cooking can be a great benefit.
  • Editor. Website owners need people to review their content for typos or omissions. Good editors look for ways to improve existing content through corrections and additions. Quality visuals, charts or photos, can help convey a message.
  • Erranders. The COVID-19 social distancing restrictions have rendered many people home-bound, and the elderly or those at risk are in greater need of having people run errands for them. This is different than simply delivering a take-out meal. There may be several errands and tasks throughout the day.
  • Gardener. People who are gardening enthusiasts typically wouldn’t consider hiring someone to do their gardening for them. That would be like hiring someone to go play golf for you. However, there are some situations where having help with gardening can be useful. Such as with those who have larger gardens, or those needing specialty help with arranging a garden, or people who will be away on vacation and need their garden tended.
  • Graphic Designer. You may not think of yourself as a professional graphic designer, but surprisingly there are many people with exceptional abilities with drawing, designing, painting, sketching, etc. – either using traditional art supplies or computer design software.
  • Home Services. There are some home services that are social-distancing-compatible such as delivery services, errand running, painting, remodeling, cleaning, or other activities that you can do without close interactions. If getting or spreading a viral infection is a concern, wearing gloves and a mask can help, as well as cleaning thoroughly before/after a job.
  • Landscaping. If it’s in your area of interest, providing lawn care or landscaping can be a great way to get outside and stay active. This is an ideal business to have as a part-time source of income. Having a small customer base helps one avoid being overwhelmed.
  • Musician. We all enjoy supporting our favorite live musicians, so why not pay for online concerts. In addition to music for enjoyment, those who can compose music using Garageband on an iPhone or iPad can create soundtracks to be used in video production.
  • Photographer. In a social-distancing world, there won’t be photography work of large weddings or other highly attended events. However, there is still a need for photographs of architecture, real estate, nature, and artistic photos to be used as website content.
  • Researcher. The Content Creator job (described above) can involve research, but usually a content creator will use the research to produce a finished, polished writing on a subject. However, a researcher would typically just focus on the basic research and provide raw results, perhaps in the form of an email, with the intended reader being the person who requested the work. The content creator will develop an article intended for a broader audience.
  • Shopper. Some people are busy working at home, or tending to family needs, so they don’t have time to do their own shopping. Others may be at risk of being exposed to COVID-19 or other illnesses. Regardless of the reason, having someone to go shopping is a great help. This can be combined with the work of a Researcher (described above) for those who need some help choosing what product to purchase.
  • Social Media Guru. Many companies hire people to manage their social media presence. This helps ensure consistent quality and quantity of social media content, as well as quick responses to questions and comments.
  • Tech Support. With a workforce of millions moving from offices to home-based operations, there’s a greater need for tech support. You’re not in an office environment with a local IT department. People can have their questions answered by phone, email, text messages, or video calls. Remote support is available as well using software that lets people help as if they are sitting at your computer or with your device.
  • Tutor. With so many students being “homeschooled” these days, there is a rise in demand for qualified tutors who can help with various school subjects.
  • User Interface Tester. Software and websites need testing and feedback to make them easier to use and navigate. This type of work requires attention to detail, and surprisingly, having little experience can be a benefit. Seeing something with fresh eyes helps with spotting problems that others might, from familiarity, just overlook.
  • Web Designer. Numerous businesses will be launched over the coming weeks, and there’s a need to help people develop a web presence for their business. Being a web designer involves helping people through the process of creating and maintaining a website.
  • Writer. The job of Content Creator (described above) is primarily focused on web-based content and usually articles that are limited in length. These can be articles offering commentary, insights, or product reviews. However, someone who is a writer might typically produce longer articles and utilize a different style of writing.

Many of the above services will grow your skillset, making you more effective and employable in the future. The above activities will grow our collective productivity and create economic value for everyone. They will also help build workforce readiness in our local communities. Intentionally missing from the above list are direct marketing ‘business opportunities’ because they tend to result in a net-loss for many people.

Getting Started in Five Easy Steps

Here are the five steps to get started.

  1. Web Skills. Regardless of what your business will be, you need to have a website. You’ll need web skills to build and maintain that site. A mentor can help you get started. If you need help with this, contact us. The mentor will help you create your website and can train you.
  2. Services. Choose one or more areas of interest from the list above, or something else entirely different. Consider choosing services for which you already have skills and experience, as well as services you’d like to learn for which a mentor can help you get started. If you need help with this, contact us.
  3. Promotion. Promote your business through social media and word-of-mouth advertising.
  4. Mentor. Once you’re operational, begin helping someone else start their business. Become a mentor and encourage them to help others in the same way you helped them.
  5. Invest. Put money back into growing your business, either by getting necessary tools and supplies, or paying for some additional training online with YouTube or websites like Udemy. Consider branching out and offering additional services.

Be Honest, Transparent, and Sincere

There’s a philosophy among some in business that you should “Fake it ‘Till You Make It.” This is intended to convey that those getting started in a business should speak confidently with self-assurance and present themselves as professional and successful. This is supposed to inspire potential customers to trust you. In some respects it can be a form of wishful thinking sort of like having a “dream board” where you define where you hope you will be in the future. In other words, create a vision of your future and walk into it.

That’s all good, but… The problem with the “Fake it ‘Till You Make It” doctrine is that people often will overstate their skills and success. In doing so, they risk making false claims. They may end up creating an expectation with a customer that isn’t met. The customer may feel that they’ve been deceived or mislead. It can ruin your reputation.

Another problem with the “Fake it ‘Till You Make It” approach is that it can sometimes lead to unnecessary purchases intended to impress others: an expensive watch, a costly luxury vehicle, designer clothing, and other material things. The person doing this may rationalize the behavior thinking: “I don’t have the money for these things, so I’ll need to take out a loan or put it on credit cards, but once I impress people, I’ll be able to make enough money to pay off the debt.” When that doesn’t work, they buy more things, hoping that perhaps a greater appearance of success is what they need. Like a casino gambler, they keep hoping eventually their ‘investment will pay off, and they go further into debt.

Also… We’ve all heard of individuals who create business names like “Global Success Team” when in reality there is no team and they are not global. Inflated business names are intended to imply stability and success, but when customers learn the truth, they feel mislead.

Be transparent. Be real. Be honest. Be sincere. Be confident with everything you can honestly offer and deliver on. Don’t overpromise. Under promise and over deliver. This is the key to success.

Collect Your Paycheck

One of the benefits of having your own business is that the income goes entirely to you. Instead of working for someone as an employee, and receiving a fraction of the revenue value you create, you get paid for the entire value of what you offer.

For example, if you work as a tech consultant in a major university, you might earn the equivalent of $25 per hour. If you work as a freelance tech consultant, you could earn $100 per hour.

Consider this: Best Buy charges $100 per hour for general in-home tech help, but the employee might only get $20 per hour or less. If you provide that support directly, you keep the $100. You don’t have managers, supervisors, accountants, clerks, HR staff, or a marketing department to pay. You simply pay your taxes and any operating expenses.

Reduce Your Taxes

A tax advisor can help you itemize your deductible business expenses. When you’re an employee working a typical job, many of the work-related time and cost is not tax-deductible. However, when you are a service provider, using many of your existing resources (phone, car, office supplies), those things become a business expense.

Start Today

We’re volunteering to help others get started providing a service that inspires them and challenges them to grow. Feel free to contact us for help. We’ll help as many people as we can. Thanks!

Greg Johnson is the Director of Resources for Life. Learn more about his work at AboutGregJohnson.com

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com

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