The Economy of You – How to Make Money in Your Spare Time

January 16, 2014

If you’ve been wanting to start earning extra money with some of your unique skills then Kimberly Palmer’s new book “The Economy of You” is a good read.  One of the things I like about Kim’s work is that she didn’t write it as an observer, she actually went through the process of starting her own side gig and she shares her personal experiences.

I talked to Kim last week after going through “The Economy of You” and asked her a few questions about her business, Palmer’s Planners, and her book.

1) When I asked Kim why she hadn’t started Palmer’s Planners sooner, she had an interesting two-part answer.  

The first part of the answer was that she had never thought of herself as an entrepreneur.  She had always thought of herself as a journalist.  She had interviewed lots of entrepreneurs and written about business and finance but always from the perspective of someone reporting on the topic, never with a mindset of someone who was creating a business.  However, one day she was in the process of doing research on Etsy for an article when the idea for her business came to her.

So why had she started thinking entrepreneurially?

One of the common traits listed in “The Economy of You” for people that have successful side gigs is that they’re often motivated by some major life event – such as adding/losing a family member or a loss of a job.  In Kim’s case, becoming a mother and buying a home brought new responsibility that set her mind searching for ways in addition to journalism to bring in money to help support her family.

2) As a follow up to the first question I asked about how others could find their own side-gig ideas.

You may want to create a side income or a business but you don’t know exactly what to offer or what you can provide and you’re out there looking for ideas.  I asked Kim for some suggestions for people who might want to create a small business or do freelancing or a side gig but they’re not sure what to do.

One of her tips was to go out and search around sites like Elance, oDesk, or Fiverr and look at the wide variety of things that people are doing and the services they’re offering.  There’s also a great appendix at the end of her book that lists out the top 50 side gigs for web-savvy professionals.  As the section describes it, the jobs tend to have low barriers to entry and high potential for pay.

3) The next question I asked Kim was how she dealt with setbacks?

Another common trait of successful solopreneurs listed in the book is that of resiliency in the face of setbacks.  One of Kim’s setbacks was the lack of sales when she first launched her planners.

The way that Kim pushed mentally through those disappointments was by taking things one day at a time. When she came home at the end of the day she forgot about what went on and any setbacks or failures.  She shut off her phone and spent time with her family.  That mental break gave her time to reset and start the next day fresh without getting down or discouraged.

Something else that came up as part of our conversation was that between her first book (Generation Earn) and this latest book she invested significant time in another book proposal that wasn’t picked up by a publisher. Although it was discouraging Kim saw it as a setback and not a “failure”.  The content and ideas in her proposal went on to be a big part of her first money planner in her new business that continues to sell today. (I didn’t ask Kim this but my guess is she probably makes more off the sale of each planner than she would have made off the sale of each book had a publisher picked it up).

4) How does Kim manage her time between her job, family, and her business?

For Kim family is her number one priority. The way that she’s found success juggling everything and keeping those priorities straight is by having a routine and being pretty strict about sticking to it. There’s time built in every week for work, family, and Palmer’s Planners.

That being said, one of things that she likes about the concept of having a side gig is that it can fit into her life schedule – she can adjust her hours up or down based on everything else that’s going on in life.

5) Looking back, what would Kim do differently when getting started in her side-gig?

Her biggest mistake was spending too much money on startup costs.  She spent money printing a batch of planners before she knew whether anyone would buy them. The bad news is she still has many of those original planners sitting unsold in a box. The good news is that sales of the digital version of the planners are going great!

This is a useful lesson for anyone thinking about starting their own business. Avoid spending a lot of money upfront based on assumptions.  Try and get actual customer feedback before you go and spend a lot of money right away.

If you want to read more about Kim’s lessons learned, examples from other entrepreneurs, and ways you can develop your own side income I recommend checking out “The Economy of You”.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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