In case you did not know, some scholars, economists, and historians believe we are currently in the midst of a new Gilded Age. There are several lines of evidence to support these claims:
- The top 10% richest Americans hold half of all the income in the United States. Germany, Britain, and France are not much better. The same thing happened at the turn-of-the-twentieth century.
- Rapid technological change is shifting labor and social relationships. As a result, jobs are created for those with the proper skills and connections; whereas, those without skills are left behind. Poverty has overtaken large areas of the country.
- Even the wealthiest are aware of this wealth concentration and understand it isn’t necessarily a good thing. Nevertheless, they blame the lower 90% for their lack of ability to create wealth rather than recognizing the fact that the fruits of our labor are siphoned off by the rich faster than they can be grown into wealth.
- With new wealth and manufacturing, a large number of people have access to luxuries on never-before heard of levels. New, niche products are constantly produced and obtaining these items becomes part of your social identity. One example is the explosion of mircobrewing and microdistilleries across the country. Another is the fact that the all-you-can-eat buffet at The Bellagio in Las Vegas is more opulent than the biggest feast that most ancient kings ever enjoyed. Middle and upper class Americans are enjoying a Belle Époque unlike anything in history.
The first Gilded Age (1870s—1900) was a time of rapid change and it wasn’t all good. The United States became a mechanized, urban place. Manufactured goods were widely available due to mechanization and massive assembly lines. Urban elites benefitted greatly. Upward mobility was possible because society rewarded those that created and patented new consumer items or were able to leverage massive manufacturing to their advantage.
However, not everybody benefitted from the booming economy in the Western World. Women were largely shut out of economic gains as society sought to keep them as housewives or working in low-paying service jobs. Institutional racism also prevented minorities—African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans and others—from making real economic gains. Poor whites also missed out. Many lost their farms, stores, and livelihoods. They were forced to travel the country looking for work as laborers in factories and on large corporate farms. (“Grapes of Wrath” or Woody Guthrie songs anyone?)
If you’ve got time, check out this short documentary on the first Gilded Age and you’ll probably be shocked at the parallels:
Basically, American society reorganized itself during the Gilded Age but this reorganization was painful and sparked decades of protests and blowback that echoed throughout society. I am among those that believe we are living through a similar period right now.
How to survive in the Gilded Age, Part Deux
In the face of widespread change, we are all feeling displaced and uncomfortable. Uncertainty has always been real but, since World War II, we have been lulled into a false sense of security. A number of myths cultivated over the last five decades are being smashed before our eyes:
- For over 50 years now, society (including our parents, advisers, and friends) has told us all we need to get an education in order to survive. A college degree has been lauded as the ticket to a Middle Class lifestyle. This is no longer necessarily true.
- Many of us were told we should get a job with a good, stable corporation or government agency because the benefits, particularly the pension, would be a just reward for our years of dedicated service. This isn’t true anymore either.
- If you’re a Gen-Xer like me, you probably heard shucking away coin in a retirement investment account like a 401k or Roth IRA was a better deal than a pension. Over the long haul, there’s no better investment than Wall Street because “the house always wins,” right? We were also instructed to buy a house, pretty much any house in a “good” neighborhood, because real estate is also a secure investment. Right? Well, remember 2008? That myth has pretty much been debunked.
- Worst of all, our planet is suffering from all that industrialization and consumerism. More people, more machines, more pollution. Less natural resources, fewer open spaces, many endangered species. We are living through global warming, sea level rise, and mass extinction.
From where I sit in 2017, we are all traveling uncharted waters. What has worked for the last 50 years doesn’t work anymore. No job is stable. No retirement account is going to cover the explosive hospital bills we can expect in 2070. There’s no guarantee your house will be an “investment.” Just like in the first Gilded Age, we can’t rely on what helped our grandparents and great grandparents make due. We have to forge a new way.
Fortunately, I see nothing but promise for all Americans living today. All the rules have changed, which means there are no rules. Or, rather, the only rules that apply are the age-old social rules that have guided our evolution for over 250,000 years: Do what’s right for your family, community, and the land and you are more likely to survive. Also, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You must diversify in everything you do.
Remember what you are
This isn’t the first time Homo sapiens has been in dire straits. Scientists know of at least three separate times when hominin, including our species, nearly went extinct:
- The ancestor to our species was down to a few thousand individuals at one point approximately 1.2 million years ago. Physical anthropologists have discovered a bottleneck in our DNA at this time, suggesting we all came from one small population.
- We were brought low once again about 195,000 to 125,000 years ago. Some paleoanthropologists believe we were down to a few hundred individuals.
- The Toba Supervolcano Explosion nearly ended sapiens again about 70,000 years ago. The Earth’s temperature dropped. It is believed only a few starving bands of humans were able to survive the thousand-year volcanic winter that came with that disaster.
- Our current climatic situation might be the most costly yet. Paleoanthropologists and archaeologists are not sure how many hominin were alive during those previous near-extinctions but it most definitely wasn’t the 7 billion individuals roaming the Earth today. It will mean BILLIONS have died if we’re reduced to a few thousand mating pairs again.
Humans aren’t invincible but we are very, very adaptable. We’ve nearly gone extinct at least three times. We archaeologists are very familiar with our ability to survive adverse conditions. Our ancient ancestors were omnivores. They believed in many gods and had a wide range of family formations. Our societies allowed us to survive in every type of terrain on the planet. Ancient societies were flexible, resilient, and local. We did what was best for our communities because that was the only way we could survive. We have thousands of years of experience taking care of “The Commons” (i.e. the biosphere we all need to survive).
Best of all, life on Planet Earth is also resilient. It is totally possible that we could make conditions conducive for our species once again without a multi-billion-person die off. It’s also likely that the Earth will come back if most of us die, but I’d like to remain positive and not imagine a world that looks like the first five minutes of Terminator II.
What it takes for human beings to survive has not changed. Despite the new economic and vocational landscape, doing what’s right for your kith and kin still matters. Today, that means friendraising your way into the Plenitude economy.
The idea of creating a more inclusive, cooperative, verdant world is not new. All major religious patriarchs preached this thousands of years ago. Tribal and traditional beliefs all have some aspect of the Plenitude Economy. Today, now more than ever, we have the interconnectivity, knowledge, and ability for everyone in the Western World—if not the entire world—to make a suitable living based on collaboration, cooperation, and sharing. The Internet and entrepreneurs are what makes this possible.
Side-Hustlin’: It’s good for you
If you’ve tuned in to the Plenitude Economy, you probably understand the goal is to manage the time you spend working, consuming, and using in order to maximize free time. This allows you to live the life you have always wanted to live because you are free to pursue your interests at your own leisure. Wouldn’t that be something? Do what you’ve always wanted. Plenitude also means you collaborate with others and contribute to your community. These are important to note because this is what makes a life of leisure fulfilling; however, it is unlikely you will achieve this freedom while working for somebody else.
We all need money to survive. Even those who have totally tuned out and checked out of wage labor need some sort of income to keep their lives afloat. For most of us, the money we need to survive comes from some sort of job. If you’re reading this blog, you probably do cultural resource management for a living or would like to do CRM. That’s great. You’ve figured out what you want to do for a living.
The only problem is CRM is not a stable field. The market ebbs and flows like the tide. Ask anyone in the industry how many times they’ve had to file for unemployment and you will have a pretty good understanding of how long they’ve been an archaeologist. Cultural resource management archaeology is a difficult field in which to forge a living. It is only for those for whom doing archaeology is a dream job.
If you do cultural resource management archaeology, you need a side hustle (i.e. another job, hobby, occupation, and/or activity that generates income). A side hustle is not your main job. It may not be what you studied in college. Hopefully, it will be something you enjoy doing.
All CRMers need some sort of a side hustle because our industry is so precarious. We need something to fill our savings account for times when our company goes out of business. We need a source of income that puts decent money in an IRA that we can use when we retire. If you’re doing a job you hate, you probably need a side hustle that makes you feel fulfilled with your life and takes your mind off of the bullsh*t you have to do at your main hustle. It is unlikely you will ever earn enough money working for somebody else that all of your financial needs will be met into retirement. A main hustle with one or more side hustles, in conjunction with a frugal lifestyle, is your best chance of providing enough money for you to live well into old age.
What side hustle should you choose?
Since I have no idea what your skills, knowledge, attributes, hobbies or interests are, I’m not going to try and tell you what you should do for a side hustle. I do know one thing: Whatever you choose as a side hustle, it’d better involve the internet.
Why? Because the internet is the one force that binds us all together. You can reach more people, find more clients, and connect with more collaborators on the internet than you’d ever be able to do in real life. If done right, a side hustle that uses the internet can bring in residual income that continually flows into your bank account even while you’re asleep. Plus, a good side hustle can be increased or decreased depending upon how busy your life is.
Okay. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, what are you supposed to do? That’s a tough question. CRMers have a lot of skills they can sell to earn some money on the side. What you do is really up to you, but I will give you some suggestions:
Get a second job: This is the most obvious choice. You could spend some of your free time working for somebody else. Doing stuff like making handicrafts, landscaping, babysitting/eldersitting, being a handy(wo)man, starting a food cart or something like that is the kind of on-demand hustle you can do when you’re not doing archaeology. Driving for Uber or Lyft is getting übercompetitive. You need to have a newish car and it will be phased out when self-driving cars come online. Definitely not something for the long term but it’s an option now.
Getting a second job is a good way to bring in some dough, but it requires you to sacrifice time and is still based on labor. Nevertheless, start here if you can’t figure out what else to do.
Selling physical goods: There are tons of ways you can make money finding cheap stuff and selling it to other people. You don’t have to be Sanford and Sons, either. You could scan yard sales, second-hand stores, and craigslist for deals and sell the stuff on eBay, craigslist, or to pawn shops.
Drop shipping (i.e. buying stuff directly from vendors and selling it online) is another great side hustle. The best thing about starting a drop shipping site is you just have to “set it and forget it.” Amazon is a major employer for drop shippers and selling on this website gives you global reach. Best of all, you don’t’ even have to store the stuff at your house because orders made through your website go straight to the manufacturer who ships the stuff directly to the customer.
Selling physical items requires you to know your merchandise, be able to see deals, and willingness to get things to customers quickly. You still have to do customer service and requires some labor, but it’s still a functional way to generate side income.
Make websites/apps: This one requires you to be willing to learn because most CRMers do not have the skills to make an application or website. It’s not hard (trust me, I’ve built at least six WordPress websites), but you will have to learn new skills. Fortunately, there are thousands of hours of YouTube videos and lots of chat lines you can turn to for help. You do not need to learn coding but you will need to learn how a website works if you want to make one that lasts.
I don’t know much about making apps but I have seen several built by archaeologists that serve our needs pretty well. I’m sure this skill could be sold to other companies/businesses that need specific applications built.
This hustle is completely digital, which means it has serious residual income potential and can be done anywhere you can bring a laptop.
Freelancing: This requires you to have some sort of skill companies would pay you for. Do you know how to write? Graphic design? GIS mapping? Internet marketing? Photography? Public speaking? Are you good at organizing things or managing projects? Can you guide people on an entertaining tour of your city? People and companies will pay you to do all of those things.
Freelancing is probably one of the quickest ways you can move from a minimum wage side hustle to one that could actually replace your job one day. It is not residual income because you still have to work at it, but, as a side hustle, this would be work on your own time.
Consulting: CRMers work as consultants for their main hustle, so it might be difficult to see yourself starting a side hustle in your current industry. However, almost every CRM company was started by a CRMer that thought they could do better. Why not you?
Starting your own CRM consulting business is hardly a side hustle. It’s more like two full-time jobs done in the same day. I recommend you start some other kind of consulting gig that isn’t directly related to CRM archaeology. Grantwriting, proposal writing, editorial services, and publishing are all things most CRMers that have been in this field for a decade or so could definitely help other companies with.
The thing about becoming a consultant is you need to have experience already. Certifications, degrees, and other honorifics might also be necessary. This may not be the kind of thing a newbie could do, but it is an option for those of us that have been doing this for a while.
(NOTE: Make sure you are not breaking any non-compete agreements with your main hustle. I’d hate you to get fired for helping a non-profit write a proposal because you signed an agreement with your current employer that says you won’t do that kind of thing.)
Making stuff to sell on the internet: This is the one I’ve chosen. I get paid a little bit by writing ebooks, teaching online courses, and doing webinars. The pay is not enough to make me leave my main hustle of doing archaeology, but it is more than enough to justify the time I spend doing these things. You do not have to write about archaeology or historic preservation like I do. There are a nearly inexhaustible supply of product ideas and all you need is a laptop to make a product, which is what makes this side hustle niche so alluring.
With so many whack, pathetic, worthless “products” being sold on the internet these days, making eProducts can be a dicey endeavor. There are also a lot of elements that goes into making things to sell online, but this is the side hustle with the best chance of return on investment (ROI) and highest potential to generate residual income.
Best of all, there is no limit to what can be made and sold online. New needs are created every day. Somebody has to fulfill those needs. Are you ready?
Those are just some of the ideas I know other CRMers are already doing to make money on the side. I know:
- A field tech that partially paid for his wedding buying things from thrift stores in rich neighborhoods and selling them on eBay.
- A few CRMers that started a second job pet sitting whenever they’re not in the field.
- An archaeology student that makes non-archaeology related Android apps.
- A guy who used to make maps for a CRM company and turned his freelance GIS side hustle into a full time job.
- An archaeologist that is also an anti-racism consultant.
- And, a CRMer that has three titles in the top 700 archaeology books on Amazon.
If these folks can start a side hustle, what’s keeping you from doing it?
Where to get started?
Getting started is the first obstacle to getting a side hustle off the ground. It takes effort. Starting a second job exposes yourself to judgment from friends, family, and co-workers. Also, there is a wealth of information out there and not all of it is good. What worked for one person is not always what will work for you.
Finally, starting a side hustle is only part of a much larger personal finance puzzle that you will have to right-size for your own self. Earning more income isn’t going to help much if you always spend what you make. It isn’t going to help society much if you are only thinking of yourself. Your side hustle needs to help solve the problems of others. In a best case scenario, it would also make the world a better place.
I have put together a short bibliography of references that have guided me on my way towards a side hustle. I hope they help you as well. You can down load this as a PDF below:
This bibliography was created because I was tired of hearing cultural resource management archaeologist complain about how horrible the industry is, how they couldn’t find stable employment that could provide health insurance, and how it’s a bad idea to do cultural resource management. In the 21st century, it’s highly unlikely that any traditional, 9-5 job is going to cover your financial bases. It is unlikely your 401k or other retirement investments are going to last longer than you live. It is unlikely the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security will be around when you turn 80-years-old. It is unlikely you will work for a company that offers a pension. Most importantly, even if those things exist, it is unlikely they will provide enough funds to support the kind of life you would like to live.
Solution: You’re going to have to make more money than your CRM job will provide. You will have to live below your means. And, you will have to discover ways to create residual income long after your last shovel probe has been dug. You need to learn the Art of the Side Hustle.
Below are several references you can use to start your own side hustle. I don’t care what it is, but you need to start TODAY.
I’d be more than willing to help you out. Write a comment below or send me an email.
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