The “Alt-Job” economy

Many of us work in corporate settings as managers, developers, doctors etc. That is the backbone of our job economy. I have spent most of my life in corporations and consulting with corporate clients.

So I was staggered to learn more in the research for my book on automation and jobs, Silicon Collar about what I call the “Alt-job” economy that has blossomed in the last couple of decades

  • Look around and you see franchises of every stripe — Ace Hardware, Dunkin Donuts, Amex cruise planners — literally hundreds of franchises. We have come a long way since Ray Kroc built the McDonald’s empire starting in the 1950s with his phrase, “In business for yourself, but not by yourself.”
  • Stop by a local Whole Foods and flip through an issue of Natural Awakenings, a publication which carries ads from practitioners in the growing “alternative healthcare” market. This includes acupuncturists, yoga instructors and herbalists among others. The publication claims nearly four million readers in 90 markets in North America. This represents an entire services sector that did not exist a couple of decades ago.
  • Stop at ethnic grocery/restaurants — selling Latino, Asian, and other ethnic stuff. Look at signs in the store and you will see travel agents who specialize in travel to those parts of the world, others who arrange for cross-border funds transfer, gifts and other commerce.
  • Talk to small businesses which use Amazon Fulfillment. As much as 90% of certain product categories such as patio furniture sold on Amazon come from third parties
  • Developers writing apps for iOS and Android stores, authors who write for the Kindle Publishing platform, musicians on iTunes and many more platforms
  • People selling products from home on eBay or artisanal stuff on Etsy
  • Contractors listing services on Angie’s List or Thumbtack for residential work. Companies like Avetta certify contractors for complex, industrial settings.
  • People driving few hours a day on Uber then doing a few hours of courier delivery sourced from Amazon Flex

I am just scratching the surface — by my estimate there are at least 30+ million part and full time jobs in this new economy

Before you scoff and say it’s not a great living let me share some anecdotes from my network. A former ERP exec runs our local UPS store franchise, a former bank manager runs a franchised Kona Ice truck, a former systems integrator runs 2 restaurants and a gourmet grocery store, our pool service is run by a couple, both college graduates.

So before you feel sorry for them, consider this — they might just feel sorry for us. Best I can tell, none of them would go back to a corporate job or relish working at a desk again.