The new Post-COVID world is reshuffling many industries, and now more than ever, entrepreneurs and businesses must know how to differentiate themselves to create opportunities.

Although this pandemic has been global, we can look back to the U.S. Great Recession of 2008 to see how businesses and human nature reacted to unemployment, lost retirement funds and corporate reorganization. With the high number of people who faced unemployment or underemployment, many workers picked up temporary engagements wherever they could. These gigs had to be flexible. Some workers were able to hold down a full-time or part-time job but needed to shore up their income.  Others had to work a few gigs at once to make ends meet. Being able to choose their working hours was essential. Approximately 150 million workers in North America and Western Europe have said goodbye to organizational life and its confines to start work as independent contractors. Some of the growth attributed to the Gig Economy was from ride-hailing companies like Uber, Lyft and homestay lodging like Airbnb. The largest and fastest growing segments of the freelance economy were task-oriented service platforms, creative occupations, and knowledge-intensive industries.

Over a decade later we are seeing more gig workers than ever before. According to the CEO of Intuit, Brad Smith: “The gig economy in the U.S. is now estimated to be about 34% of the workforce and expected to be 43% by the year 2020.” That was the prediction in 2017, “B.C., Before COVID.” What do you think that percentage will be now?

Admittedly, there are many moving parts to this picture, but what is certain is that traditional businesses will continue to transfer risk to the individual wherever it can. Contract work will continue to grow as traditional jobs with benefits and salaries will wane.

Now more than ever, we need opportunities for new businesses and new entrepreneurs, opportunities that don’t require access to large amounts of money. The changes in the global economy could be well addressed by opening up common networks that encourage innovation and independence amongst workers. The fast-paced growth of task-oriented work suggests that soon we’ll see an economy that has rebuilt itself on hundreds of millions of small businesses rather than hundreds of millions of traditional 9-5 jobs.  

If you’re a woman with an entrepreneurial spirit or you feel called to create your own side-gig, here are some ideas to get you started.

4 Ways to jump-start your own business:

  1. Pivot. Use services to generate cash to fund your product-based business.

Starting a service-based business is easy. First, you provide the services and then you collect the funds. A product-based business often requires you to advance up-front funds to get it started. If you find yourself in this scenario, consider selling services to generate funds and build up your reserves to invest in your product-based business.

Here’s a great example: A client of mine wanted to launch their new holographic video conferencing technology but couldn’t raise the second round of funding to bring it to market. I advised them to market their technology knowledge and sell their consulting services to Chief Technology Officers of mid-sized companies. Within the year they opened a new division of business and through their client contacts, found the funding to launch their product.

  1. Sweat Equity. Make it happen by doing it yourself.

Nothing and no one can replace your desire and passion for “making it work.” You’re the one who has been given the vision and calling to create your business, and at some point, it is all up to you and your determination to find solutions to your challenges. When you push past your fears, the hard work pays off.

  1. Funding sources are everywhere. Be creative.

Traditional business philosophy dictates that you should stick with one thing and not deviate from it. But if you’re having trouble finding funds, it’s time to get creative.

At the onset of the COVID pandemic another client of mine, a recruiter, was needing to reinvent himself as companies had slowed or halted recruiting efforts. Using his recruiting talents, he shifted his focus to a new audience – job seekers looking for work. He created a coaching package for job seekers and used his corporate contacts to help with job placements. This got him into the back door of companies from a different angle.

Get a line of credit.  Consider traditional credit card companies or banks. Some banks or credit institutions offer credit designed to allow growth in the early stages of business. Be mindful not to get trapped in debt when you are trying to expand your business; keep your purchases to a minimum.

Use an Incubator. Colleges, universities, and the Small Business Administration are great sources when starting your business plans. Upon acceptance, these programs provide funding designed to assist a start-up company. Sometimes they may offer office space or shared administrative services. Most incubator programs are sponsored by local or regional economic development organizations.

Find an Accelerator. Similar to incubators, they are designed to provide funding. The difference is they expect a rapid return on their investment. If you are prepared to launch quickly, this may be a great option for you.

Crowdfund. Crowdfunding platforms are changing the landscape of investing. Whether you’re growing a tech business or designing clothes, Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms allow the general public to invest a small percentage of money in return for future ownership.

  1. Differentiate yourself.  

Whatever business or side-gig you have, you need to be different. Look at other businesses in your market or industry and figure out what is missing and become the solution that bridges the gap. Ask yourself, “What can I do or provide that is different from the competition?”

There is no easy shortcut to business profit. But if you believe in yourself and have the confidence to deliver a unique product or service that people want, you can boost your way to the top by pivoting, doing it yourself, getting creative and being unique.

Learn more about bringing your entrepreneurial vision to life as I host Her Own Business every 1st Tuesday at 6 pm CT. I look forward to seeing you there! Register here.

Jan Barlow

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