Recently, I spoke with Kimberly Palmer, senior money editor and Alpha Consumer blogger at U.S. News & World Report. Kimberly is also a successful “side-hustler,” building an Etsy shop of money planners to help create some financial freedom. She also is releasing a new book, entitled The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life (January 2014, AMACOM), which focuses on how to build a successful side-business to create financial security and personal satisfaction. We discussed her journey, the importance of having a “side-gig,” and how you can maintain a day job while pursuing your passion.
How would you define your personal brand?
I love helping people feel more empowered in their financial lives – that’s how I think of my personal brand. I’ve always loved talking with my friends and younger sisters about career decisions and money management, and now I get to do something similar in my day job (personal finance writing), side-gig (designing Etsy money planners), and now my new book! It all comes back to financial empowerment. I want people to feel good about their money – how they earn it and how they manage it.
How were you able to build a successful side business while not sacrificing your “day job?”
I squeeze my side-business (my Etsy shop) into slivers of time between other activities. I get a lot done during my kids’ nap time on the weekends, and I send Tweets or browse around Etsy and relevant blogs at night after I get them to bed and clean up. During the day if I’m out during lunch, then I can use my smartphone to update Etsy listings or even just day dream about new product ideas.
Most of the real work I do, on product creation, happens during larger chunks of time on the weekend – naptime is key. I have to admit though, now that I have two children, it’s a lot harder than with one. I plan to take more vacation days from my full-time when I really want to be productive.
What are the benefits to a side job other than extra income?
One of the most obvious benefits is the added financial security. What really drove me at first was the knowledge that I work in a field – as almost all of us do – where jobs can disappear overnight. There’s just no such thing as job security anymore, and that’s certainly the case in my field, journalism. The chance of my still holding my current job when I turn 65 is probably similar to the chance of me winning American Idol. So we all need a back-up plan, a way to earn money if our primary jobs suddenly disappear.
But an even greater benefit, and one I discovered after I launched my Etsy shop, is the deep sense of satisfaction that comes from running a business. You are creating things and people are buying them. That is an incredibly validating feeling. If I’m ever having a bad day, I just scroll down my Etsy feedback page and it’s a better boost than a three-shot latte. (Although those always help, too.)
How do you see the traditional career changing in the next few years?
Entrepreneurship will become increasingly important, even for those of us who hold so-called traditional jobs. Companies want to hire people with entrepreneurial skills – people who take initiative, think about the value they are building in the marketplace, and who have new ideas that they can pursue from start to finish. We will see people increasingly creating hybrid careers, where they pursue traditional jobs working inside companies and for other people while simultaneously building up their own ventures and side-businesses. They will seamlessly move between the two as their personal and working lives shift over time. It’s an exciting development and one that opens up a lot of creative possibilities.
What are a few key pieces of advice you would give to others who are looking to build a successful career?
First off, you have to think of yourself as a mini-empire even if you aren’t technically an entrepreneur yet. We’re all entrepreneurs, even if we don’t know it. That means defining and growing your value, thinking about how you can help people in a way that also provides a living for yourself, and literally building your own business, too, even if it’s small and on the side.
Second, you want to find people who are doing what you want to be doing, but who are a few steps ahead of you. You can stalk these people online, via social media and their blogs and newsletters. They will inspire you. When you notice yourself feeling envious, embrace that feeling, because it’s just showing you where you want to be – and you can get there.
Third, embrace failure. Every single side-hustler I interviewed in my book failed at some point. They eventually succeeded, because they kept going. As my dad always says, if you’re not failing, it just means you’re not trying hard enough. Developing some coping strategies during the down times to keep you going is essential. For me, it usually comes down to taking a mental break with my kids, who usually put things in perspective pretty quickly for me.
Thank you to Kimberly for taking the time to speak with me.