Do You Need a Second Job?

According to one author, more Americans should be doubling up in today’s economy.

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If you think you're going to hang onto your current job until retirement, you're dreaming, says career coach Ford R. Myers. "I have clients who say, 'I'm waiting to go back to the way things were.' But those days are over. There's no going back to the way things were," Myers says. That's why he urges his clients to build multiple streams of income for themselves instead of relying on the traditional job market.

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Myers joins a growing chorus of career experts and authors who argue that success depends on being more independent and building income streams outside of 9-to-5 jobs. Daniel Pink, author of 2001's Free Agent Nation, was among the first to note the trend toward independence, and to embrace it as a healthy choice for workers. Other authors, including Michael Ellsberg and Chris Guillebeau, similarly encourage their readers to pursue the freelance and contract economy as a way of life.

"People are questioning the idea of job security more than ever before," says Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Non-Conformity. As a result, they're thinking more creatively about how to earn money. He encourages people to explore low-cost ways of earning multiple streams of income, by selling products online or starting a coaching business, for example.

Myers, author of Get the Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring, insists that there are plenty of opportunities if people look outside the traditional workforce. "There are a limited number of job openings, but an unlimited supply of opportunities. People have to stop being passive and wait for someone to offer them a job. They have to be proactive," he says.

Here are six recommendations from Myers on how to do that:

Stop counting on your full-time job. "There's no such thing as a job. There are only temporary assignments," says Myers. That means full-time employees and job hunters alike should take responsibility for building their own sources of income instead of relying on companies. Embracing that mindset is the first step toward building multiple income streams, says Myers.

Look for multiple income streams, not multiple jobs. Some 6.9 million Americans, or 4.8 percent of the U.S. workforce, hold multiple jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But Myers says focusing on "jobs" instead of "income streams" is the wrong approach. "It might be a business, part-time contract work, or something else with lots of flexibility," he says. In other words, generating multiple streams of income need not mean finishing up a 9-to-5 job, then running over to a second job delivering pizzas at night. "I'm talking about something with more flexibility," he says.

Focus on ideas that are unique to you. Myers' coaching clients do everything from administrative work to house cleaning to construction on the side. The way to find the best secondary stream of income for you is to ask yourself what you enjoy doing. "If you love sewing, start getting customers for alterations. If you love using your hands, do construction or handyman work. If you're good with accounting, you could do tax returns," he says.

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Be patient while building those secondary sources of income. Myers has built several income streams himself, including career coaching, career-related products, public speaking, and a licensing program. "It took a lot of time and planning," he says. One mistake he sees people make is rushing to quit their job to pursue a "big idea" for a business, instead of continuing to focus on their primary source of income, if they are fortunate enough to have one.

Take advantage of Uncle Sam's perks. An accountant can help navigate the details, but many people who run side businesses are eligible to deduct certain expenses and investments in their business, which can reduce their tax bill.

Leverage multiple income streams to create more control. "If you lose your job, that's bad, but what if you could say, 'I'll survive, because I have this whole other income stream and I can just focus on that for awhile.' That's the goal—to give people a sense of security and control, instead of feeling like they are at the whims of the corporation or boss," says Myers. He adds, "It's a commitment to yourself and your family, so you're never caught flat-footed."