Unexpected Opportunities

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Photo by Joanne Will

I recently read that the pandemic-driven recession was quite different from others of recent times, and that one of the more notable results was that a record number of businesses had been started. In another article, I learned that a record number of telecommuting employees were quitting, rather than go back to the daily commute and office or factory life. I read in yet another article that many businesses were having difficulty finding, much less hiring, employees. Businesses that typically pay poorly were having a particularly difficult time with hiring, but even businesses that paid well but required folks to be on-site were having trouble. This all seems counterintuitive to me at first glance. Aren’t we supposed to be grateful for any scrap of a job as we come out of a recession? Did staying home help some folks launch new enterprises that enabled them to save sufficient funds to have the choice?

While I have no real statistics to back up my thoughts, I wonder if the pandemic lockdown infused the so-called gig economy sufficiently that many folks took their paying side hustles and launched businesses, or folks with skills and ideas launched side hustles that provided needed goods and services. I spoke with a few people about this, and the feeling I got was that working from home so increased labor efficiency that many people had time to either grow their side gig or launch one. A few folks I know in the editorial world found jobs in the burgeoning freelance realm, while avid gardeners launched vegetable and flower businesses. When I probed these former “mainstream” workforce folks, they said that they’d have to think long and hard about reconnecting with the workplace in the same way as it was pre-pandemic. I noticed a generally optimistic outlook that gave folks enough confidence in the labor market that they would quit their existing job and find another, or simply dive into their side hustle and grow it.

Wow, am I optimistic! I never expected that a global pandemic might encourage people to become more financially self-reliant. One person I spoke with told me that his farm was now competing with his “real job” in both income and satisfaction. He wasn’t willing to quit his day job, because he felt that diversification in income streams was now key to his financial comfort. Rather, this person was looking into other lifestyle-compatible side hustles he could develop, such as welding, tractor and implement repair, and the like. As the old saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Those words are even more apropos as people explore new options while entering the post-recession world.

Over the decades, my family has thrived in part thanks to side hustles as varied as alfalfa sprouting and knife-making to soap-making and bread-baking. I know many of you have taken on side hustles at various times, some of which you’ve developed into successful businesses. I’d love to hear your stories, and I know they’ll inspire generations of our community members to take the plunge into financial self-reliance. If you’re willing to share, send me an email at HWill@MotherEarthNews.com.

See you in October,

Hank