American workers have always had some kind of side hustle.
Looking at data from JPMorgan on the gig economy (think Uber, Lyft and TaskRabbit), a big takeaway is how gig work is essentially the same as old-fashioned moonlighting or side hustle — a way to supplement income.
I have long advocated for people to think about creating a side hustle. The people I know that have a small entrepreneurial side gig — musician, DJ, theater — are doing something they enjoy that also brings in some money and can be a financial safety net in case you lose your job.
There's another reason for embracing part-time entrepreneurship for many people: Smoothing the path of re-entry into the workforce after caregiving.
The U.S. provides little support for family caregivers. Many employees, especially women, find it necessary to quit their jobs to take care of a newborn, get a teenager through a tough time or to help out aging parents. Until U.S. society is willing to back some form of a universal caregiving system, families and employees are largely on their own.
Caregivers often find steep barriers to getting back into the workforce. Taking time off to care for a newborn or an elder shouldn't weigh against job applicants, but there's little doubt that it does.
This is where activating Plan D — named after producer Lauren Dee at Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media — can pay off. When she took time off from work to take care of her young children, she formed her own business, a limited liability company (LLC). It's easy to set one up with the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State.
Dee's business was mostly freelance project work. She controlled how many jobs she took on. However infrequent, the assignments kept her in touch with people she had worked with in the past and allowed her to build new contacts. She kept up with her skills and made some money.
Setting up a formal business while caregiving can smooth the return to full-time work. No future employer knows whether you worked at your business a couple of hours every few months or weeks. Yet when hiring managers wonder about your résumé recently, the answer is fill-in-the-blank caregiving and running my own business.
Entrepreneurship also makes it easier to get some recent recommendations on your work.
This is only one option, of course. But if caregiving lies in your future it's a path well worth considering.
Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor, "Marketplace," commentator, Minnesota Public Radio.