My 'Slasher' Life: One Person, Many Jobs
It's not a horror movie reference. These days, "slasher" describes someone who is self-employed and may do two, three or even more different things to pay the bills, by choice or necessity.
Marci Alboher, vice president of the Civic Ventures boomer think tank, helped popularize the term in her 2007 book, One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success, to describe people who hold one job/another job/another job.
The ranks of people of all ages, including those over 40, who wear many hats swells during rough times, according to Alboher. "It's a practical way to weather the storm of career uncertainty," she says. "Who wouldn't want a backup career or plan B to fall back on? And if you've planned your slashes wisely and actually enjoy the multiple things you do, all the better."
SecondAct asked people who've adopted the "slasher" life to talk about what they do, how they got started and what they've learned about juggling multiple gigs. Here are their stories:
1. Dan Nainan, 50, a comedian/actor/voiceover artist/computer expert who divides his time between New York and Beverly Hills
How I got started: I was a senior engineer with Intel Corp. My job was to travel with Intel Chairman Andy Grove, doing technical demonstrations on stage at events. I was incredibly nervous about speaking. I took a comedy class to get over the fear, and the comedy kind of took off. To supplement my income, I do computer consulting. Comedy is a fantastic entree to working in computers, because onstage I announce that I do computer work and I get a tremendous amount of business that way since I'm sometimes in front of thousands of people.
My typical day: I have days on the road and days at home. On a travel day, I take the subway to JFK, relax in first-class on the way to my destination, pick up the rental car, check into the hotel, get in a workout, meal and nap, then do the show. After the show, I sell CDs and DVDs, sign autographs, take pictures and network. Off the road, I do email, contract negotiations, flight arrangements and marketing. In New York I work with computer clients, either by phone or remotely via my computer, and I also visit clients if necessary.
Best part: I have performed at the Democratic National Convention, a TED conference, three presidential inaugural events, for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and similar luminaries. I recently performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. I appeared in an Apple commercial last year. My life is like George Clooney's in Up in the Air -- without the sex.
2. Sheila Lowe, 61, a forensic handwriting examiner/author in Ventura, Ca.
How I got started: In 1989 I got fired from my job as assistant administrator in a chain of hair transplantation clinics when my boss and I disagreed about ethics. The next day my car died. I was in some substantial debt and the single parent of three young teenagers. It seemed the perfect time to start a business (LOL). For the first year, I worked for temp agencies, and then my work became self-supporting. I published my first book in 1999, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Handwriting Analysis, and the next year, Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous. I'd always wanted to write a mystery, and in 2004, a small publisher published Poison Pen. It got a starred review in Publisher's Weekly, which brought it to the attention of a major publishing house, which bought the first four books in the series. The main character is a forensic handwriting expert. Go figure.
My typical day: I devote the first couple of hours to email. After that, it depends on what comes across my desk: Handwriting examination cases come first because deadlines are shorter. Once I complete urgent tasks, I usually write. I'm halfway through revising my new book. Occasionally I travel for a deposition or court appearance, and I travel to promote my books. When that happens, nothing much else gets done.
Best part: Being my own boss, setting my own schedule, working from home.
Biggest challenge: Knowing when money is going to come in. The current economy has been extremely difficult.
Best tip: Make sure you schedule activities so you can meet deadlines without too much stress. "Too much" is a personal thing. Some people thrive on stress; others wilt under it.
3. Christopher Randolph, 40, bar trivia program host/online bookseller in Philadelphia
How I got started: In both cases it was necessity, tiding me over after being laid off from traditional desk jobs. I started selling books online at the suggestion of friends who made a living selling music online. I was skeptical it could be a money-maker on a small scale, and it isn't; I had to work my way to a larger inventory. When I had regular employment I played pub quizzes once a week. Our local bar fired their quiz host and asked if I'd like to do it. That was another weekly cash payment that gave me a tiny bit more breathing room. I used a bit of that money to start a website to promote my quizzes and marketed my services to other bars and for parties. I do two to four quizzes a week, which aside from showing up and running them is only a little more work than doing one a week.
My typical day: On weekdays, the first thing I do is fill book orders that came in overnight. At least once a week I update my quiz blog with upcoming subjects and other news. I write 60 to 120 quiz questions a week, usually in the afternoons. A few times a week I host trivia programs in bars, which run a few hours. On weekends I scout for new books to [add to my] my online inventory.
Best part: Regular, if not entirely predictable, income. This is not a lifestyle choice but rather a necessity. It'd be far better to have a regular job with a decent salary and benefits.
Biggest challenge: The work doesn't end if you don't set boundaries. I've had to learn to allow myself to not work on one project or the other to have some recreational time.
Best tip: If you can get or have a decent full-time job with benefits, stick with that, no matter how dreadful. No one in an industrialized society should have to do two jobs to survive. If you're pushed into "slashing," I would suggest having a third gig lined up; you don't know what disaster might befall one of the others.
4. Amy Butcher, 54, massage therapist/graphic artist/business consultant/erotic educator/writer in San Francisco
How I got started: This has been my work life more often than not because I have a variety of talents and never wanted to settle for one. I pursue some work that is seasonal or variable and use others that pay the bills more reliably, and because doing one thing 40 hours a week just feels dull.
My typical day: No typical day -- isn't that the point? Over the last few days, I put in final edits for a murder mystery that will be published in December, designed the cover of the same publication, gave a massage, collaborated on a design for a national T-shirt contest, sent out a monthly newsletter to massage clients and corresponded with facilitators and potential attendees for an upcoming Body Electric workshop.
Best part: Constant variety and vigor. When I feel my interest flagging on one project, I can switch to something completely different. I can sit in isolation, in my head, doing writing and then get up and meet a client for a massage and be in my body instead.
Biggest challenge: Getting used to the fluctuations in cash flow. When I started, the absence of a regular paycheck was unsettling. It took several years before I learned to trust that money would come or know when to hustle to make more.
Best tip: Claim it. We all know the days of a lifetime career with a single company are over. Well, maybe the days of having just one job are over, too. Don't let anyone shame you into thinking you do this because you can't get a real job. Instead, know that you have the courage and the range of talents to have a vibrant and creative life. It'll keep you young even if it doesn't always make you rich.
5. Justin Nepola, 41, title company attorney/beauty school owner in Pembroke Pines, Fla.
How I got started: When the real estate market started to slow, I began to explore other options. I always loved schools and creative people, so beauty school was a natural fit. I own the school with my wife. When we incorporated, I wisely gave her the president title and I became vice president. As the old saying goes, "Happy wife, happy life."
My typical day: Wake up, take the kids to school, work for a title company as an attorney all day, go to the beauty school and do a little of everything; at night: help daughters with homework, eat dinner, go to bed. Start all over again.
Best part: Getting to wear two different hats, in the suit-and-tie corporate lawyer world and the crazy hair and freedom of the beauty industry.
Biggest challenge: Balance. Not being too wild in the corporate world or being too stiff in the beauty world.
Best tip: Embrace the dichotomy. Do two things completely different and enjoy the best of both worlds.
6. Louise Hodges, 50, natural pest control manufacturer/landscape designer in Beaufort, S.C.
How I got started: I owned a landscape design and construction company for more than 20 years in Charlotte, N.C. We moved to Beaufort to landscape the second-home market right as the economy crashed. Second-home owners were not spending a dime unless something was absolutely necessary, so I needed income. This is a very buggy area and after some research, I found pest control options were insanely toxic and there were few options. So Greenbug [pest products] was born. I sell Greenbug products via the internet and to retail vendors, pest control companies and hotels, day-care centers, nursing homes and other businesses.
My typical day: I work 75 percent for Greenbug and 25 percent on landscape design. Greenbug requires sales calls, fulfillment, marketing, etc., and landscape design requires site visits, drafting time and meeting clients.
Best part: Life is never dull. I cannot get bored as I am able to balance the excitement of a new business with the serenity of landscape design.
Biggest challenge: I get excited about what I work on and remain focused too long. I have to set time limits or else I find it hard to tear away from what I am working on.
Best tip: Make sure you enjoy all your roles. If you choose to divide yourself into multiple areas, they must give energy back instead of draining it away.
This is the first part of an occasional series on entrepreneurial "slashers" who juggle multiple jobs to create careers.
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