A couple of years ago, a regional work shortage pulled the rug out from under my hours at my day job. Luckily, I wasn’t a one-trick pony. I had this hobby called blogging that had turned into a side hustle in freelance writing and editing.
That hustle turned into my full-time job when that unexpected shortage happened. I was glad because, as many of us preach, it’s always good to have a plan B.
A lot of online entrepreneurs’ stories are similar. I use the word entrepreneur but really mean to include those who are self-employed (like me) or work remotely thanks the to the internet. We either lost our jobs or started making enough money online that there was no need to continue with old employers.
But do we have a plan B now? I’d argue that many of us do not. This was our plan B, and we’re proud of that. But not too many of us have an exit strategy should the floor fall out from our online journeys.
Net Neutrality and Online Entrepreneurship
Regardless of your politics, the placement of known advocates of the dismantlement of net neutrality into positions of power should be a huge wake up call. We’re in a time of massive transition in this country, and we don’t really know how things are going to turn out.
If net neutrality is dismantled, internet users will essentially have to pay for data like we do on our cell phones. Switching over to “WiFi” won’t save us anymore.
How sure are you that users will dedicate their precious data to browsing your site? Especially if you haven’t paid a premium to have your site load quickly with any given internet service provider?
How sure are you that your clients aren’t in the same boat?
How sure are you that you’ll be able to afford the data you need in order to complete your job–and still make a profit?
Another thing that could happen without net neutrality is that certain sites, likely those of larger corporations who have deeper pockets, will be able to pay service providers so that their sites don’t count towards a user’s monthly data allotment. AT&T already does this with their cell data.
I’m willing to bet there would be mega financial institutions willing to pay for their personal finance content to be sponsored. It would mean I’d have a much harder time attracting visitors to Femme Frugality, even though I’m proud of my content and think it adds a different value than that of those who are in the market solely to profit off of consumers.
Then there’s the manipulation of search engine results by different providers, and the not unrelated fact that net neutrality combats racism, classism and oppression of voices that would otherwise remain unheard.
You might feel confident in your business model–maybe even confident enough that the loss of net neutrality doesn’t concern you.
But at the end of the day, are you willing to risk it? Are you willing to put all of your eggs in one basket labelled “online income”?
Analog Side Hustles
I’ve decided that 2017 will be the year that I pursue analog side hustles. I’ll be kickin’ it like it’s 1993–no internet allowed. Not for marketing. Not for production. Maybe to look up the occasional phone number and to do research while I still have access to a free web.
Some ideas I’ve come up with:
- Art. Because it’s important in a time like this. And it’s marketable at the local level.
- Writing children’s books. Because the husband and I have some pretty splashy ideas and my kids love the feel of paper between their fingers.
- Maintaining ties at my old day job. I loved my old day job. It doesn’t pay as much as this does, but I still maintain it as a side hustle. I’d open up my availability should the internet become more closed off.
- Print copywriting. If the overhead for online content becomes too high, I could always look at marketing my skills in print at the local level. I’m thinking for small businesses in particular, but I could look at print magazines, as well.
- Opening a music studio. Between the husband and I, we could teach all kinds of music instruction.
Hopefully none of this comes to pass. Hopefully I’m wrong and paranoid and our judicial system will keep the other branches of our government in check.
But there is a chance that I’m not. Just like I didn’t anticipate the work shortage a few years ago, there’s no crystal ball that tells us the internet will look the same in the next year, four years or eight years.
I think it’s important that we practice what we preach, and don’t become one-dimensional simply because we’ve found a way to make a living online. We made it work with our initial Plan B’s, but it’s time to draft some new ones.