All this protesting from Occupy Wall Street puts me in mind of the 1960s. You know, the Age of Aquarius and all that. This time, though, it's not a celestial shift but an economic one, that's going to bring about a radical change.
A sputtering job market and the availability of mobile technology and inexpensive marketing via social media are swirling together into a perfect storm of opportunity for workers in all trades. For anyone who's been itching to set out on their own and create a business , this is a great time to take advantage of this alignment of the entrepreneurial planets.
In this new economic age, being an entrepreneur doesn't have to mean running a full-fledged corporation or even having employees . In the "freelance economy," as it's been called, working for yourself can simply mean doing what you're good at and getting paid directly by your customers rather than working for a company that takes a cut.
In recent months I've met many new entrepreneurs, who, with nothing more than a laptop and smartphone have managed to build businesses that can support them and, at the same time, give them a greater chance to achieve that all too elusive state of work-life balance .
One such new entrepreneur, finding herself without a job, decided to put a sign on her lawn advertising her services as a "private gardener." Within a week she had more customers than she could handle. Armed with little more than a trowel and a pair of gardening gloves, she tapped into a market opportunity few others have. She weeds the flower beds of busy folks who don’t have time to do it themselves. At $20 an hour, with no overhead, she's doing all right for herself.
I've met others, too, who have decided to forgo the traditional "career" and, instead, work for themselves. Tutors who use the public library to give $40 an hour private tutoring sessions, a fluent Spanish speaker who is charging $40 an hour to doctor's offices to make phone calls to Spanish-speaking patients, freelance writers who work for all manner of customers who need writing work done.
I've met virtual assistants, who do freelance "office work" from home, pet sitters, musicians who give private lessons, handymen and landscapers. The guy who fixes my washing machine needs little more than a pickup truck and an answering machine. There's really no end to the work you can do for yourself. And there's little reason to do it for someone else when you can be your own boss and control your schedule and your income.
What about health insurance , you ask? Yes, health insurance is a nice perk of working for a larger company. But, the fact is, you can buy an individual health insurance policy for $600 to $800 a month. While it's not cheap, if you work it into your business plan from the beginning, you may still be able to swing it. If you're currently working at a full-time job, you should consider taking advantage of the company's COBRA offering, which will give you many months to get your business on its feet before you need to start buying your own health insurance. You may also be able to get a discount on health insurance by joining an industry or freelance trade organization.
I'm not suggesting that the road to working for yourself will be easy. You'll surely work long hours and lose a lot of sleep along the way. But, if you've ever had the urge to leave the 9 to 5 world behind, the time has never been better. So, as they said in the '60s: Let your freelance flag fly. Or something like that.
Jeanette Mulvey is the managing editor of BusinessNewsDaily. She has written about small business for more than 20 years and formerly owned her own e-commerce business. Her column, Mind Your Business, appears on Mondays only on BusinessNewsDaily. You can follow her on Twitter at @jeanettebnd or contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.