You've probably heard that self-employment is the best path to financial freedom. I started out believing that too. That was how my father made enough money to move my mom, sister and me out of a Bronx tenement and into a middle-class neighborhood. In addition, I've seen that most employers pay employees as little as they can get away with; some even replacing workers with interns and volunteers so that they can avoid the minimum-wage law. But having been a self-employed career coach for a long time and having tried to help many clients become successfully self-employed, I've become less sanguine. Being self-employed is more difficult than many people imagine. It requires not only that you be good at what you do but that you be willing and able to market and sell.
Also, it helps to have the knack of acquiring things at very low cost, for example, convincing someone to let you share space for free. In addition, in a tiny business, there's no support structure: no IT department, no accounting dept. It's all on you, and if you hire people to do all that, it's difficult to net a decent income. That's especially so if you have to pay an individual not group rate for health insurance.
- Spacemaker: Clean out basements, garages, and attics and then install shelves and cabinets. Many people will pay serious money to convert a space from unusable to valuable.
- Run people's garage, yard, or estate sales for a percentage of the take.
- Tutor: Some make over $100 an hour, especially working with learning disabled or autism-spectrum students.
- Relationship ad coach: You help people create their dating website profile. That work is well-suited to counselor types who also could develop the ability to take photos that capture the person's essence.
- Fundraising auction planner: An auction can raise big bucks for a nonprofit but that's a complicated project, so nonprofits might gladly outsource it to you. Event-planner types could do well at it.
- Job agent: You help people land a job by making those initial inquiries that many job hunters hate. You're like the agents that represent performers and authors. Job requirement: You're good at cold-contacting.
- ·Class-project broker: Ask corporate and nonprofit managers if they have a project they'd like a classful of top MBA students to tackle. For example, if a company is planning to introduce a new product, each student in a marketing class could, instead of a term paper, develop a marketing plan for that product. To buy that much expertise would otherwise cost the company a fortune but you offer to have it done for, say, $10,000...all of which you get to keep. Then pitch instructors of a marketing course at prestigious universities: "Your students will get to do a project of real-world value and that they can put on their resume, unlike a term paper, which just goes into the ether." A cart at a busy bus or train station, at which you sell gifts such as scarves, ties, candy, flowers, or fancy soaps.
But what about high-tech businesses? Most people will more likely succeed in the businesses above. For example, countless people have tried to earn a living by creating an app. But for an app to sell, it must be and stay among the world's best because a Google search easily enables customers to find world-best apps, including those that may cost $0. In contrast, if you're, for example, selling flowers from a cart at a train station, they needn't be world-class. They just need to be good and the best at that station. And unlike with an app, you won't have to worry that a competitor at the station is selling flowers for $0.
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