San Diego, CA

San Diego Is Leading the Way With New Home Businesses After COVID-19

Toby Hazlewood

California residents who are seizing the opportunities to evolve and to earn

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

It’s almost exactly a year ago that the first COVID-lockdowns began. Sure, there’ve been occasional reprieves since, when controls were relaxed and freedoms granted (and abused) — but it’s basically been a year of this stuff.

In the early days of lockdown social media was heavy with posts that sternly warned us against wasting our time. If we came out of this without six-pack abs, a book, a second (or third) language or a burgeoning new business then we’d have nobody to blame but ourselves.

Posts like this one:

Source: Twitter

Some might have found the sentiments shared by such influencers and wannabes helpful. The Oxford Student Magazine was less impressed, labelling it toxic productivity.

As time passed the mood thankfully mellowed a little.

Newspapers offered reassurances that actually, it was better to go easy on ourselves; that we shouldn’t feel pressured to make the best of things; that it was okay to just go with the flow and get through it.

The New York Times weighed in telling us to ‘Stop Trying to Be Productive’. The Guardian pointed out that it was okay “not to spend every second focused on gig-work or personal improvement”.

All the time in the world

Maybe with hindsight it was a little hopeful that we'd all leap into action, create new businesses and seize the opportunity to create extra income. But maybe the idea of taking indefinite time out to go easy on ourselves wasn't the best idea either?

Part of what drove us was a desire to grow and to create (and hopefully make a little money in the process). It also came from an ever-impending fear of unemployment — the threat that like so many millions of others, our jobs, our employers or even our entire industries might become defunct.

As we emerge from the tunnel, vaccinated and blinking into the blinding light of new normal it’s interesting to see how much the world has changed. It’s clear that some have just about coped with lockdown while others have absolutely thrived.

We each did what we had to do, and to have kept alive and maintained our mental and physical health is good enough. But it’s also inspiring (to me at least) to note just how much some people have achieved.

Comparison is only helpful when it’s with our former-selves of course, but it’s still interesting to look around a bit, right? Kind of like going for a walk at dusk, and hoping the neighbours are sat inside with their lights on and the curtains open so you can spy on them, unnoticed.

A surge in new businesses

The extra time has come at great cost for some — they’ve lost their jobs or been put on long-term furlough schemes with reduced income. Many others around the world weren’t so lucky and have simply lost their jobs or relied on charity, bailouts and stimulus checks.

With extra time on their hands and the freedom to choose how they use it, many have focussed on how to support themselves and their families either by finding new work or additional work to supplement their incomes.

And recent research has shown that many have seized the opportunity to join the gig-economy or to incorporate their own home-based businesses.

The US Census bureau reports that around 4.4 million new businesses have been incorporated since March 2020. While economists typically expect an increase in self-employment during deep recessions. The extent of this trend since COVID-19 is way beyond what might have been expected.

A recent article in the Financial Times describes a number of such home-businesses incorporated in the San Diego area during lockdown. They exemplify the variety of business ventures that we now know can thrive during such restrictions.

Vegan cookie bakers, online therapy, counseling and coaching services, candle makers and other artisanal creators are amongst those that entrepreneurs have started up and used to earn good money.

Online retail is still the most popular option as always. Those who are making and selling, or buying and selling products without a physical storefront are the most common ventures in pandemic. Almost double the number of new online retailers have been incorporated in the last 12-months compared to 2019.

What’s doubly-heartening about such successes is that today’s one-person-businesses are the employers of the future.

Photo by Russ Ward on Unsplash

More joining the gig economy

Those who haven’t lost their jobs are still getting time back in their days compared to their pre-Covid lives. The average commute in the US (by car) was 27 minutes according to an article from CNBC, but that average isn’t representative for many around the world. In New York for example, the average drive to work takes 35 minutes while commuting by public mass-transit takes 53 minutes.

Whatever your commute was like, the time saved from that and from getting ready for work, rushing to get the kids to school and so-on is all time that many have won back in their lives — even if they have to log on for work from home (something that many enjoy - myself included).

The hours saved each week can be useful to slot in work on side-projects before and after working hours. Many have made such choices and taken the opportunity to market their services to those who are willing to pay for them alongside or instead of their day-job.

Some have been forced to seek extra income from the gig-economy simply to make financial ends meet of course. Whatever the driver, statistics suggest that in the US participation in the industry increased by 33% in 2020.

Income from such work is less-reliable than a steady pay-check and benefits for many can be non-existent. Interestingly though, have highlighted that 60% of freelancers (once established) report earning more than they did for the same work when they were employees. Many of those with a skill or a trade that can be delivered remotely or with limited contact have demonstrated that these can be monetised whatever the circumstances.

Typically we think of copywriters, web-developers, coders, book-keepers and other such professions that can be delivered remotely. But opportunities have shown to exist for photographers, artists, couriers, therapists, coaches and those with hands-on skills too.

Janitorial and home-repair workers have done particularly well in many areas of the world under lockdown. So too have those with a skill to share online, whether playing musical instruments or teaching languages either live or by recording simple online training courses.

We’ve survived through a time when many may have been how much they are able to spend within the gig-economy; it seems feasible that demand for gig-workers’ services could increase when we get back to normal and as people feel more inclined to spend money.

Final thought

There’s no one right way of doing everything - while some have likely flourished and thrived under lockdown, seizing the chance to make money from new businesses, others have struggled.

Some of us got through lockdown by the skin of our teeth, fortunate that we and our loved ones survived unscathed. Others weren’t so lucky and sadly lost those who were close to them.

The example of San Diego residents in setting up new businesses that are run in new, innovative ways to serve customers after the pandemic demonstrates a pattern that's likely occurring across much of the USA.

Now that the world is tentatively edging back to our new-normal life, the opportunity is still there if you are looking at ways to grow as a human and to grow your wealth too. It’s a new, brighter future that we’re hopefully facing into. Now seems as good a time as any to start making the best of things.

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