Article by Barbara Reinhold
Fewer than 55 percent of all employees actually work full-time for one employer, says British economist Charles Handy, and yet we continue to think of work as one thing you do all the time on one company's payroll. Too few of us with skills and information others need are thinking of the logical alternative to corporate life: Taking what you know out into the marketplace for sale to individuals or organizations that need it.
Research shows over and over again that feeling in control of your own work life is the thing you need most to stay happy, fulfilled and healthy. Selling what you know to people who need that knowledge might just be the way for you to feel in charge of your own career.
But What Do I Have to Sell?
Everything you know, of course. Did you forget that this is an information economy? The Directory of Consultants used to be one medium-sized book. Now it's three volumes, and it's filled with people whose functions have been outsourced by their former employers. It also shows that millions of people with a special skill or expertise got tired of having to show up at the same time every day and have someone else benefit from their labors.
Here are some of the products that my clients and colleagues who wanted to leave the 9-to-5 mill have decided to sell in the past year or so in order to achieve their dreams:
The ability to clean up messes: Helping scattered people organize their working and living spaces. Check out the National Association of Professional Organizers.
Being a good speaker and teacher: Helping people with a fear of public speaking prepare for presentations and speeches.
Knowing good counselors and health specialists: Becoming a "professional resources" broker to help match people to the specialists they need.
Health education: Teaching smoking cessation to individuals and groups.
Public relations: Creating connections and visibility for artists, professional people and small businesses with budgets too small to afford an experienced in-house person.
Bargain hunting: Helping busy clients locate and purchase products and services they need as a personal locator.
Editing and writing skills: Preparing papers, editing articles and book chapters, creating brochures and marketing documents for small businesses and professionals. Also writing resumes and cover letters.
Web design skills: Helping small start-ups and professionals build their visibility.
Computer expertise: Offering customized, at-home instruction to technophobes (usually people over the age of 35) desperate to learn enough about computers to change careers or keep the jobs they have.
Cleaning: Providing upscale, "customized" services for homes and offices.
Event planning: Creating special events and theme parties for businesses of all sizes, professional organizations and busy people who have no time to entertain but need to do so periodically.
Teaching skills: Instructing people in organizations who need training in everything from software skills and professional writing to how to get along with people different from themselves.
So Who's Buying and Where Do You Find Them?
The customers for these services range from megacorporations to busy individuals.
Going out on your own can be pretty terrifying when you're used to the security and stability of corporate life. But if you have the stomach for a little uncertainty and still harbor traces of your adolescent pioneering spirit, the people who need your services are out there, just waiting for you to advertise. What's more, if you're 45 or older, doing your own thing is about the only way to ensure that you'll be able to keep on doing what you want to do for as long as you want to do it.