Mon | Oct 3, 2022

Yaneek Page | Achieving the self-employed ‘soft life’

Published:Sunday | July 3, 2022 | 12:10 AM

Q UESTION: Your recent article about the single mother with six children who owned a cookshop that not making any money was very triggering for me. It reminded me of what life was growing up with my mother who was also a single parent and...

Q UESTION: Your recent article about the single mother with six children who owned a cookshop that not making any money was very triggering for me. It reminded me of what life was growing up with my mother who was also a single parent and businesswoman. It was tough because she worked long hours and was almost always angry, stressed out and broke. I ended up with the responsibility of caring for my younger siblings while she struggled to make ends meet.

That is not the life I want for myself. I would like to be self-employed, but not an entrepreneur and I want the freedom and income to be able to travel. I don’t want the headache, responsibility and inconsistent, unsure money that come with being a business owner. My dream is a ‘soft-life’, but I don’t know what road to take to give me that. What do you feel about this ambition – or some would say lack of ambition (lol) – and can you suggest ways I could achieve this?

– A Reader

BUSINESSWISE: I appreciate that you raised this important issue of the physical, mental and financial demands of entrepreneurship, and implications for quality of life, including, as you put it, the elusiveness of a soft life. The difficult challenges that often accompany entrepreneurship, for single parents especially, are sometimes poorly understood and ventilated in the usual discourse on starting a business. For my part, I have highlighted these issues several times in this column and would urge you to read my previous articles on the topic, particularly one entitled ‘Two Transformative Tips for Entrepreneurs’, which delved into depression and anxiety, and how mental health interventions transformed one entrepreneur’s failing business.

In terms of how I feel about your decision to pursue a soft life, I wholeheartedly believe that success is not the same for everyone and that we all have the privilege to decide for ourselves what success will be. Therefore, anyone who chooses not to become a prisoner to the traditional definitions of success, is, in my view, truly free. There are also some development specialists who are suggesting that a softer, ‘limitarian lifestyle’ is better for humanity, our planet and every other living thing in on Earth.

Now, let’s talk about the types of legitimate activities you could engage in that might allow you a soft-life, at this time. For my readers who might not be aware, the term ‘soft-life’ is now commonly used by younger people to denote the opposite of the hard life of the past. Fast growing in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic, some urban dictionaries describe soft-life as one that is free from hard work, stress, sacrifice and unpleasantries. It is less about chasing wealth and more about intentionally focusing on one’s health and well-being, and prioritising self-care as paramount.

The most likely options for self-employed soft-life would be engagement in one of the following areas: user testing, such as video games; pet care; landscape designer; personal trainer; professional cleaner; website tester; tour guide; copywriter; reviewer; survey responder; freelancer, such as a blogger; aesthetician; and secret shopper.

Having reviewed several publications on work life balance, managing stress, and prioritising wellness, these lines of business are listed among the easiest to do and least stressful to execute. Several popular job sites, such as Glassdoor and Monster, have also ranked these as moderately paying independent opportunities that are enjoyable, pleasant, low-impact, safe and generally stress-free.

There are many other options you may explore and there will likely be several newer careers in the future that will facilitate the soft-life you desire. My suggestion is to do extensive research, and also set a Google alert for terms, such as soft-life and ‘easiest jobs’, so that you can keep up to date on new information related to your interests.

Perhaps the most exciting information I can share is that many of the prospects shared require little to no experience and training, and where such credentials are needed they might be easily and inexpensively acquired. It would also be helpful to invest time and energy in carefully creating your personal brand, online, in person and on paper, in order to give yourself a competitive advantage in areas that will become even more competitive as many others follow their hearts in search of a softer life.

Finally, it is important to note that whether you choose a hard life or easy one, it won’t absolve you of inescapable obligations. Self-employed people own the responsibility to manage personal finances, pension, statutory and tax obligations and health-care needs that come with being an adult citizen.

I would strongly recommend that you work closely with a personal financial adviser so that your enjoyment of the soft-life in your youthful and productive years will not propel you into a hard life later because you don’t have the resources to care for yourself throughout the cycles of life. Good luck and one love!

- Yaneek Page is the programme lead for Market Entry USA, a certified trainer in entrepreneurship, and creator and executive producer of ‘The Innovators and ‘Let’s Make Peace’ TV series.