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The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life [Hardcover]

Kimberly Palmer
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews


"This breezy, advice-packed book is a valueable road map for those who are looking to do their own thing on the side." --ForeWord Review

Book Description

The biggest trend in business is the microbusiness! Handcrafted jewelry, artisanal eats, life coaching, app development, you name it—entrepreneurial side ventures are everywhere. Weary of pink-slip anxiety and the endless money squeeze, millions of people are taking the leap. They’re adding to their incomes and creating safety nets in case the ax falls at work. In the process, they’re unlocking their creativity and finding a sense of fulfillment they never dreamed possible.

Financial columnist Kimberly Palmer illuminates the everyday faces behind this growing movement, starting with her own journey. Recognizing that journalism offers little job security these days—and with a baby to provide for—she decided to develop a series of financial planners. This supplemental business was soon providing a reliable income stream.

The Economy of You recounts story after story of people who—like Kimberly—are liberating themselves from financial strain. A deli employee who makes custom cakes at night. An instrument repairman who sells voice-overs on his website. A videographer who started a profitable publishing house on the side. Interwoven in the profiles are concrete guidelines for readers looking to launch rewarding businesses of their own, including:

• Tips for figuring out the ideal side gig

• Ideas for keeping start up costs low

• Advice on juggling a fledgling enterprise and a full-time job

• Strategies for finding your “tribe” and building a social network

• Branding and marketing basics that bring results

• When and what to offer for free

• And much more

Companies guarantee nothing but today’s wages. It’s up to YOU to build stability by becoming a money-making engine. It’s empowering, gratifying, and easy to do with The Economy of You.

From the Inside Flap

Weary of pink-slip anxiety and the never-ending money squeeze? Join the millions who are starting side-gig businesses, and taking back their financial futures!

Do-it-yourselfers and solopreneurs are everywhere, launching eBay stores, artisanal eats, e-books, life coaching services, apps, tutoring businesses—you name it—on top of their regular jobs. They’re adding to their incomes, building safety nets, learning new skills, and finding a sense of fulfillment they never dreamed possible.

One study found that more than a third of under-40 respondents had started supplemental businesses. And the trend extends further, as Baby Boomers eyeing retirement are turning to sideline endeavors to sustain their lifestyles.

Get in on the action with The Economy of You, a groundbreaking book that both documents the exploding side-gig phenomenon and supplies how-to information for creating a lucrative venture of your own, including:

• Tips for figuring out the ideal side-gig

• Ideas for keeping start-up costs low

• Advice on juggling a fledgling enterprise and a full-time job

• Strategies for finding your “tribe” and

building a social network

• Branding and marketing basics that bring results

• When and what to offer for free

• And much more

The Economy of You recounts story after story of people who are liberating themselves from financial strain. A deli employee who makes custom cakes at night. An instrument repairman who sells voice-overs on his website. A videographer who started a profitable publishing house on the side. Even the author’s own entrepreneurial journey, triggered by the job anxieties of a turbulent profession and income demands of a new baby. Her self-created series of financial planners, along with extra freelance work, supplied the additional revenue stream she needed.

Your current job may be comfortable, but there’s no guarantee it will grow sufficiently to cover rising expenses—or even last beyond the next paycheck. It’s up to YOU to build stability by tapping into your inner entrepreneur and becoming a money-making engine. It’s empowering, gratifying, and surprisingly easy to do with The Economy of You.

Kimberly Palmer is senior money editor and Alpha Consumer blogger at US News & World Report. She is the author of Generation Earn: The Young Professional’s Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back, as well as a series of financial guides, Palmer’s Planners, sold through her Etsy shop. Kimberly has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CNBC, CNN, and local television and radio shows across the country to talk about smart money decisions. She lives with her husband and two children in the Washington, D.C., area.

Connect with Kimberly Palmer at:

twitter: @alphaconsumer



From the Back Cover

The Economy of You will awaken the inner entrepreneur inside of you and inspire you to achieve your dreams. Kimberly Palmer gives you all the resources, examples, and ideas you need to take control of your life.”

Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0 and Promote Yourself

“By now it should be very clear that nobody’s coming to rescue you—nobody’s handing out jobs or guaranteed paychecks. It’s up to you to secure your financial future. Kimberly Palmer did it for herself, and she shows you exactly how to do it, too.”

Tory Johnson, Good Morning America contributor and chief executive of Spark & Hustle

“If you’ve ever wondered if you could create the business of your dreams in the little free time you have—while also giving your bank account a boost—this book is for you. You will find inspiration, as well as practical tips from Kimberly Palmer’s experience and reporting.”

Jennifer Lee, author of The Right-Brain Business Plan

“Whether you are looking to get ahead, give back, or get your creative project off the ground, Kimberly Palmer takes you by the hand and shows you the way. The Economy of You is a survival guide for the gig economy.”

Marci Alboher, author of One Person/Multiple Careers and The Encore Career Handbook

“In the midst of job insecurity and a demand for more fulfilling work, Kimberly Palmer’s latest book, The Economy of You, comes as a handy guide to empower enlightened professionals. You’ll find useful tips on how to begin your business, as well as interesting success stories.”

Matt Barrie, chief executive of

About the Author

KIMBERLY PALMER is senior editor and personal finance columnist for U.S. News & World Report. She writes the popular Alpha Consumer blog and is the author of a series of financial guides, Palmer’s Planners, sold through her Etsy shop.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


Give Me a Reason

When I first met Chris Furin, he was behind the counter of his dad's deli in Washington, D.C.'s, Georgetown neighborhood, asking me what I wanted for lunch. He had been working there for twenty-seven years, often seven days a week, and regular customers were used to seeing his friendly smile.

Chris, who at forty-one looks like a more muscular version of actor Chris Klein, wasn't just taking salad and sandwich orders. He was also slowly building a business of his own. As television shows like Cake Boss and Cupcake Wars took off, customers started calling and asking for personalized concoctions of their own. "Somebody wanted a cake in the shape of the United States. 'It's a pain in the butt,' our chef said, and he'd just say no. I'd say, 'Wait a minute. Our economy is headed down. How can I say no?' So I would say yes. I got the chef to bake the sheet cake and then I would stay late and shape it at night, and charge more money for it," says Chris. "I can make sandwiches for three hours and make $100 or a cake in forty-five minutes and make $300," he says.

He liked his new side-gig. "In the restaurant, I was waiting on people and taking orders, and there wasn't so much baking or dec-orating. I'm a creative person; I enjoy doing that." And he's good at it. "I felt like I had some talent. I can draw," says Chris.

As property taxes and food prices rose and his dad struggled to keep the deli afloat, Chris knew he needed to prepare for the day when it would close. "Things were going down; bills were piling up. I went into emergency mode. I started wondering, 'How am I going to survive if I lose my job?'" That's when he got serious about building what he would call Cakes by Chris Furin.

Over the course of two years, Chris perfected his craft in the deli's kitchen after it closed for the day, creating cakes in the shape of Darth Vader, Dr. Seuss, the White House, and a Mercedes Benz. "I wanted to take it up a notch, and I wanted to take my price point up a notch," he says. Thanks to the deli's proximity to the Four Seasons and other high-end hotels in Georgetown, he made cakes for big-name clients, including Joan Rivers and Whoopi Goldberg. He also reached out to managers of local restaurants and hotels, who could make lucrative referrals when clients needed big orders for events, including weddings.

As the deli's closing looked increasingly likely, Chris hired a freelance web designer to set up his website, and his wife, Dawn, who works in marketing, helped make the site easy to find through web searches. He created a limited liability company through, ordered brochures and other marketing materials through, and applied for a local catering license. With Dawn's help, he was also able to capitalize on some of the local press coverage the deli got as it shut down, with some sources, including The Washington Post, announcing his new custom cake business. He made sure the deli's now-defunct website pointed customers directly to his own.

On July 31, 2011, when the deli officially shut its doors for good, Chris felt "scared, sad, and happy." He was ready to leave a situation where he had started to feel trapped, but he wasn't sure if he'd be able to replace his income with his cake business. When he said goodbye to the other employees that day, he left with a database of a couple hundred customers, a few leftover mixers and shelves, and the urgent desire to make his own company a success.

When we spoke about his business by phone shortly after the deli closed, Chris invited me to see him at work as he prepared an order out of the kitchen of his home in Rockville, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. His two small, white poodles greeted me at the door, and Chris welcomed me upstairs to his kitchen, where he and Manuel, a former deli employee who now works for Chris a few hours a week, were cleaning up after a morning of baking. "Doing it from home saves five to ten thousand dollars a month in rent," says Chris, whose fingers were stained with red icing. "Plus," he jokes, "my kitchen is a hundred times cleaner than that restaurant ever was." His standard-sized oven isn't large enough for big sheet cakes, so he bakes them in pieces and then glues them together with icing. Huge Tupperware containers of cake mix, flour, and sugar line the floor, and the sun streaming through the orange curtains on the windows highlights smudges left from earlier efforts on the black granite countertops.

Order forms for the week's cakes are lined up on a bulletin board, along with a photo of Joan Rivers showing off her orange and brown Hermés bag-shaped cake and a photo of a pink and white ballerina cake with a billowing dress made out of icing. "A customer wanted a cake for her daughter's birthday, so I Googled and found this princess cake," he says.

That princess cake sits in the basement garage that he converted into an extension of his kitchen. A brown-haired Barbie wrapped in Saran wrap stuck out of the rolled fondant pink and white dress; the four-year-old recipient will get to keep the doll when she's done eating the cake. Also in the fridge: a four-tiered white wedding cake, a red cake featuring the logo of a local company, stacks of Philadelphia cream cheese for icing--and Heineken, for when Chris's day is over. Silver sheet trays from the deli, packets of nuts and sprinkles, and cake boxes are stacked around the room, which also houses Chris's weights and motorcycle, as well as his biggest start-up expense, a $2,500 industrial-size refrigerator.

The dining room next to the kitchen serves as his office, where his laptop, a file full of invoices, and brochures with the Cakes by Chris Furin logo monopolize the table. (His wife Dawn is fine with the fact that his business has taken over their home, Chris says, because she wants him to succeed, too. He also tidies up at the end of every day before she gets home from the office.) He's sold about $1,800 worth of cakes this week, out of which he'll pay between 10 and 15 percent in costs. Sales go up and down; last week he made a record $3,600, and sometimes he doesn't earn half that. It doesn't quite replace his old income from the deli, but it's enough to sustain the business as he works on growing it and picking up more customers. "I would like to make $100,000 this year. We'll see," he says. He plans to expand from there. Possibilities include launching a mail-order cookie business, ramping up his referrals for bigger orders, and creating even higher-end cakes.

His business not only saved him from financial catastrophe, but it also gave him freedom. No longer tethered to the hours of the deli, he's in control of his schedule now. "I can take on business if I want it, but if I want to take a day off to ride my motorcycle, I can do that, too," he says.

"No matter what you do, you always need to have a backup plan," says Chris, an avid reader of business books. He asks me what my own backup plan is, and seems glad when I tell him about my freelance work. "As a country, we're not making anything. We just consume. We all need to pick up responsibility and do more," he says. On this Friday afternoon, he loads a cake into his truck and gets ready to do just that.


When I asked other side-hustlers why they got up at 5 a.m. to work on their blog before their office job started, or why they sacrificed so much of their personal lives in pursuit of their idea, they almost always had a specific story to tell. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Americans who hold more than one job are motivated by the desire to earn more money and meet expenses or pay off debt, as well as the sheer enjoyment of their second job. But that only gives a glimpse of the story. The people I interviewed often pointed to big life changes, such as becoming a parent, or vulnerable moments, such as losing--or fearing losing--their main source of income, as the reason they first pursued their side-gig.

For Joe Cain, a retired New York Police Department captain now living in suburban New York, it was parenthood. He started, a website where retired cops and firefighters advertise their services for everything from legal expertise to handyman work, after noticing that many of his fellow officers supplemented their income with side-jobs. He also knew that some people, including other cops, would prefer to do business with badge-carrying officers. As Joe puts it, "Cops only trust other cops."

His website, which he's been running since 2000, now features posts from thousands of people all across the country. "Cops and firefighters have always had side-gigs," Joe explains, largely because the jobs come with relatively modest salaries and their skills are easily transferable to work in security or contracting. The older generation of policemen, he says, have...

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