Self-Employment Ideas in the Time of COVID | #blackpeoplemeet


Source: Shimelle Laine, Flickr, CC 2.0

With 42 million Americans having lost their job because of the COVID pandemic, the competition for the small number of good job openings is fierce. So, many people are deciding to try their hand at self-employment.

The following self-employment ideas cost little to start and run, and so entail less risk of running out of money before you succeed. Also, these self-employment ideas are COVID-compatible, that is, they can be done remotely. Plus, many of these ideas serve people who who are and will be under COVID restrictions, which may tighten again if the predicted second wave occurs this fall.

Diversity consultant. The George Floyd killing may have escalated racial tensions to new heights. Some experts believe the aftermath will not die down. So workplaces, many which already have— voluntarily or to meet government mandates—conduct regular diversity/inclusion trainings, are likely to increase them, and other businesses will likely require them.  A self-employed, one-person consultancy is most likely to succeed if focusing on small businesses or non-profits. Probability of success may be enhanced further if you have expertise in a particular type of organization. For example, a psychologist might specialize in diversity/inclusion workshops in small employee-assistance companies. Of course, whatever your niche, in addition to knowledge of issues in diversity, you’ll need the temperament and facilitation skills to encourage honest yet respectful exchanges.

Recruiter of tracers.  Public health officials are advising politicians that contact tracing will help reduce COVID spread. By phone, tracers try to get people who tested positive to provide the names of all people they’ve been in contact with except, of course, the strangers they may have encountered on the street, in the supermarket, etc. It may be difficult to recruit the many thousands of tracers that are being hired—The pay is only $17 to $25 per hour, part-time, no benefits, and it’s a dead-end job. But if you have a recruiting background or otherwise believe you could recruit significant numbers of tracers, your services could well be in demand.

Home-schooling consultant. The COVID lockdown forced schools to try to educate online. It hasn’t been inordinately successful. The likelihood of a second COVID wave in the fall means that teachers and parents will have a second crack at online education. Could you be a helpful consultant to teachers or parents?

Home-office consultant. Even if COVID restrictions lessen, more people will work from home than previously. That’s because employers are seeing that workers can avoid the commute and perhaps ease child care needs while employers needn’t pay for so many square feet of corporate offices. But working at home requires the worker to set workday boundaries with family members, purchasing and setting up an ergonomically healthy desk and chair, perhaps setting up a wireless router, making the most of videoconferencing, etc. A consultant could help.

Coaching. Coaching can extend beyond the well-known career and life coaching, for example, to dating coaching or small-business advising. Also, creatives have long used coaches, but if the job market will continue to struggle, more people will have time for their creative pursuits: writers, artists, actors, and musicians.  They’ll hire people to coach them.

Health care advocate. The prediction that health care would be in short supply because of COVID has failed to materialize, but if there’s a resurgence in the fall, that shortage could occur. If so, patients, especially those newly diagnosed with a serious disease, could, more than ever, use a health care advocate to fight for needed care and for it to be reimbursed by corporate or government insurers. Nurses, lawyers, social workers, and other people with the ability to persistently persuade may find themselves in demand.

Garden consultant. Stay-home edicts have made locked-down people search for things to do, one of which is gardening. Some such people might welcome help in planning and installing a garden, fromplants, to raised beds, to irrigation.

Business liquidator. The shutdown is causing many businesses, disproportionately small restaurants and retailers, to go belly up. They may need people to help sell their inventory, equipment, and furniture.

Office-space to apartment converter. Companies are realizing that more workers can effectively work from home. So, they can cut their ffice space, perhaps abandoning their expensive, large, downtown offices for a smaller one located near where employees live. A consultant who can work with government on permitting, and hire and supervise the contractors could be in demand.

How to get customers

Start with your network. Until you’ve developed a reputation, your best chance of getting a client is a referral from someone you know. Don’t ask for the business—That imposes too much pressure. Just ask, “Might you know someone who could use (insert your service?) Also do that with satisfied customers.  

If you feel the need to advertise, target your niche. For example, if you want to be a dating coach, you might advertise on a dating site that caters to people you’d work particularly well with: perhaps if you’d work well with African-American clients, to attract Jewish ones.  

If you’re good at writing, craft an article that demonstrates your expertise and post it on sites and blogs likely to be read by your target market. If you’re a good public speaker, speak at events— virtual or live when permitted—that attract your type of customer.  For example, if you want to be a writing coach, give talks at writers’ clubs and groups.

The takeaway

 No matter the niche or marketing strategies, to succeed in self-employment, you must be more of a self-starter than a procrastinator, more of a DIY problem solver than a “call the expert” person, resilient rather than a wallower after the inevitable setbacks. But if you have those attributes, self-employment may indeed be a wise career choice, something you mightn’t even have considered if it weren’t for COVID.

I ad-lib on this topic on YouTube.

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