Sunday, October 9, 2011

I Just Got Back from Bottomfeeding, and Boy Are My Fins Tired!

It makes me nuts when news outlets dutifully report that "...the recession officially ended two years ago." To this day I still don't know the real criteria for what makes a recession and what doesn't--but I know that down here among the real people, things have been about the same for going on four years. I think I speak for many when I say, "Er, what recovery?"

Which brings me to the book I'm writing, along with my friend and former New York Times colleague Tom Mashberg. The working title is something like "Bottomfeed or Die: How to Make a Living in Today's Patchwork Economy." (Tom wanted to put in something about "The Living Dead Economy" to capitalize on the zombie craze, but my feeling is, these hard times are going to last way beyond the zombie trend. Say, is this rotting flesh fresh?)

Tom and I are the first to acknowledge we are among the lucky ones. We haven't lost our homes (yet), we have been able to adapt and find new income streams and cut out everything that's not essential. But there are days that the flogging and slogging for new ways to pinch pennies can be exhausting, am I right?

We are living proof that if you pull together enough small bits, you can just about make ends meet. We will discuss how to:

Get, and keep, some kind of full-time or part-time job, even if the industry you have worked in for 20 years is breaking up into compost right in front of your eyes;

How to start a freelance income stream, regardless of what type of work you do;

How to navigate through the new world of "contract" employment, getting the absolute best deal and most stability possible in an era of temporary-employment insanity;

How to find and get individual health insurance without breaking the bank, until you land a gig that gives you the great benefits you deserve;
How to gain "passive income" from the assets you do have -- like renting your spare room(s) out through Airbnb (which I do) or renting your car out directly to a customer whenever you're not using it (Jane Hodges just wrote a great piece on the latter phenomenon for The Wall Street Journal);

How to sell the junk (and even good stuff) you no longer need for the highest amount -- on eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, through auctions and more;

How to find reseller bonanzas -- if you troll the right neighborhoods at the end and beginnings of the month, you are likely to find great furniture with a "FREE" sign left at the curb because it didn't fit in the new place. I drive around and pick up great things like antique bureaus, newly reupholstered chairs and more, and then SELL them on Craigslist. In March of this year, I made $355 on a single street-corner find (which is why I am keeping the Volvo wagon forever--how else am I going to pick up the little gold mines I happen upon?);

How to barter your services and skills for someone else's -- I write or edit someone's web copy, for example, in exchange for his building my website, or for catsitting services, or a favor to be cashed in later.

I'm the first to say I hope that the economy will turn around for good, and that smart, experienced, hard-working people of all ages will get full-time jobs, with benefits, and semi-secure futures. But while things are in tumult (and while there's very little incentive for corporate America to return to those golden stable-employment days), those who are scrappy will get the best scraps!

And Tom and I, and Bottomfeed or Die, are here to help! Send your questions, and meanwhile we will be creating a new Bottomfeed or Die blog while we are writing the book. Trust us, we are all in this soup pot together, and there are new, creative, and even fun ways to keep the income coming.