Making lemonade out of lemons: Turn unemployment into entrepreneurship

As a member of the Career Collective, a blogging community of resume writers and career coaches, this article is one of many in support of Quintessential Careers’ 2nd annual “Job Action Day”. I encourage you to follow our hash tag: #careercollective on Twitter and visit my colleagues’ responses posted at the end of this article.

Have you been struggling with unemployment for longer than you’d wish?  Are you starting to crave intellectual stimulation or a sense of completion? Is money starting to become tight?

I’ve written before about volunteering. Volunteering can be a great option for newly found free time, but without a paycheck, it’s not the perfect panacea. Several of my clients have taken the opportunity to pursue entrepreneurial interests during extended periods of unemployment. They’re not alone. The Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity reported an uptick in new business formation in 2008 over 2007, and the New York Times discussed the trend in this article.

Thought about it?  Debated ideas but then slept on it and reconsidered? Nervous to put yourself out there? I’ll share my three top reasons why I advise clients to move forward with their ideas.

  1. Show me the money – First and foremost, the financial considerations need to make sense. I’m in no way recommending you invest a sizeable amount of money into a franchise or take out a loan to purchase a preexisting business. But what does make sense is to turn your past skill set into a consulting opportunity or to start a business with low start-up costs. In today’s changed economy, periods of unemployment between salaried positions can unfortunately be longer than anyone would prefer. If you have a skill that can earn you money, why not take advantage of it? 
  2. Keep Sharp – By taking on consulting projects, speaking with customers, and staying abreast of your competitors’ products and services, you’re staying in tune with your industry. Running your business will inherently provide you with a way to stay in touch with your profession, will give you something to discuss during interviews, and will expand your network to include people who may lead you to new opportunities.  
  3. Looks Smart – A gap of a couple months is no longer the taboo it once was, but as that period in between positions grows longer, hiring managers start to question how you spent that time. By establishing a consulting business or your own start-up, you’re creating an instant stop-gap. You’re showing potential employers that you made lemonade out of lemons and took advantage of the time on your hands to keep busy, stay connected, and earn money. An added benefit is that your consulting experience may even introduce you to new situations, new technologies, or new processes.

To be fair, while there are many benefits of starting your own company or consultancy – flexibility and control topping most people’s lists, there are negatives to consider: long hours, inconsistent revenue stream, and a lack of insurance and retirement benefits. These are just more reasons why testing the entrepreneurial waters during a period of unemployment may make sense for you as a calculated risk. And since no one can predict the future, you may surprise yourself. If you give it roots, your late-night idea or far-off daydream may turn into a full-time way of making a living as you join the ranks of successful solopreneurs.

Looking for some ideas? 

  • Crafty? Talented? Paint, photograph, jewelry, woodwork, new idea for a child’s item, sell your wares on or through your own website
  • B2C consulting ideas: Coaching, ghostwriting, editing, personal shopping, event and party planning
  • B2B consulting options: Human resources, engineering, public relations, editing, virtual assistant, corporate gift baskets
  • Love to shop? Good at snagging deals? Buy things and resell items on for a profit
  • Good writer or do you enjoy voicing your opinion? Create a blog related to your industry.

Some online resources to get you started:

Career Collective Members’ Posts:

Meg Montford:  Job Action Day: Finding Your “MOJO” After Layoff

Debra Wheatman: Plan B from outer space; or what do you have in case your first plan doesn’t work out?

Heather Mundell: Green Jobs – What They Are and How to Find Them,

Erin Kennedy: Cutting Edge Job Search Blueprint

Grace Kutney: Securing Your Career While Navigating the Winds of Change

Hannah Morgan: Why Our Job Search Advice is the Same but Differen

Gayle Howard: The Enlightened Jobseeker

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter: You Can Thrive In, Not Just Survive, an Economic Slogging

Rosalind Joffe: Preparedness: It’s Not Just for Boyscouts

Rosa E. Vargas: Are You Evolving Into The In-Demand Professional of Tomorrow?

Dawn Bugni: Your network IS your net worth

Miriam Salpeter: Optimize your job hunt for today’s economy

GL Hoffman: The Life of An Entrepreneur: Is It for You?

Katharine Hansen: Job Action Day 09: His Resume Savvy Helped New Career Rise from Layoff Ashes

Martin Buckland: Job Search–The Key to Securing Your Future Career

Chandlee Bryan: Where the Green Jobs Are:

Heather R. Huhman, Take Action: 10 Steps for Landing an Entry-Level Job,

Barbara Safani: Where the Jobs Are 2009 and Beyond:

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