The Labor Department’s latest employment report was grim: No jobs were added in August.
That’s the worst report since nearly a year ago. It means positions are scarce and competition is fierce (unless you have skills that are in high demand, like programming). For most job seekers, it is still difficult to get hired.
So what should you do if you’re on the job hunt?
Or you could try something different: making your own job.
When I tweeted about this option after the employment report was released, a follower wrote back and asked how, exactly, she was supposed to make her own job. So here’s a blueprint for bringing in income on your own terms, without waiting for a company to invite you on board.
Identify your skills
What are you good at? Writing? Organizing events? Rallying people? Social media? Web design?
Knowing your skills is crucial to figuring out how you’ll make money off them — and discovering who will pay for your services. Even companies that can’t afford to hire full-time employees still need to produce, which means they often contract with freelancers or consultants. Is there any reason that shouldn’t be you?
The Gig Economy, as The Atlantic calls it, is in full force; working independently is becoming oh-so-popular. The challenge is figureing out how to make this trend work for you.
Survey your experience
Do you have enough experience to sell those skills in a freelance capacity?
If you’ve been in the workforce for a few years, the answer is probably yes. If you’re right out of school, be creative about how to get the experience you need. Sometimes a full-time job is helpful for gaining that experience, but you can go about it in other ways, too.
How about finding an organization that needs someone with your skills, but can’t afford to pay for it — and offering to work for free? Or asking to shadow a friend of a friend (or, for GenY, even a friend of your parents) to learn how they make money the way they do? Or taking an online class that will both get the gears turning in your head and give you something to refer to when people ask how they can trust that you know your field?
Connect with people who do what you want to do
Observe how they work, and learn from them. Then reach out via social media to ask for their advice or guidance. This will help you build your network, and you might even land a mentor.
As Jonathan Fields writes in Career Renegade, “The more well-known a person is, the less time and energy they will likely have for you, even if you get their attention.” There’s no harm in shooting to connect with high-profile people, but don’t overlook the benefits of reaching out to someone who’s on their way up (just like you).
Cultivate your online presence
Part of the reason it’s feasible now to create your own job is because the Internet makes it possible for us to market ourselves cheaply and sell goods and services without having a brick-and-mortar stores. This opens a world of opportunities.
To take advantage of those opportunities, though, you need an online network, one that trusts you. If that network trusts you, they’ll both buy your services and refer you to other people who might want to work with you. Rather than using Facebook and Twitter for playtime, spend 20 minutes each day strategically growing your network. Before you know it, you’ll have a support system to help you through this next phase of your career.
Unlike a full-time job, working for yourself will not start at 40 hours a week. OK, maybe it will, but you won’t get paid for those 40 hours.
It will take months to build a reputation so people know you’re available for hire and more months to create a foundation of trust with your clients so they feel comfortable recommending you to others. But if you put the effort in and move forward little by little, over time you’ll replace that full-time income you wanted with your own business.
If you make money as a freelancer, what other tips would you add?