Flashback to a journalistic future

As I was throwing out some old magazines recently, I came across a few copies of Entrepreneur dating back to the early 1990s (yes, I’m a bit of a pack rat).

These were the days before the Web, when I was a part-timer at my former newspaper and was coming up with a Plan B alternative to full-time work. Until I made it to that salaried, benefitted place in the newsroom, I had been charting a course for work as a freelance writer and editor.

Among the possibilities were to write, edit and publish print newsletters. But it was too expensive for me to bootstrap on a solo basis, especially when I started adding up the costs of mailing. In another part-time job I took an organizational newsletter to the post office every month, and even the non-profit bulk rates were eye-popping.

Now that the Web has made it easy for anyone to self-publish with very little cost, that has enabled me to revisit a familiar career path. So when I saw these pieces recently on how the economy is prompting many laid-off, bought-out professionals to become “accidental” entrepreneurs, I experienced quite a powerful flashback:

“Now they have certain practical realities that are forcing them to consider new options, and entrepreneurship is one of the options they’re considering. And so, they may have never done this before and may not understand what it means to operate as a business right now.”

Building social networks is also far easier in the Web age, and I’m finding that entrepreneurial-oriented events — not just to network, but to learn and gain skills — are in such abundance it’s hard to choose which ones to attend. A former colleague who’s also striking out on his own goes to two or three events a week, and says he can’t get to all that he puts on his calendar.

While I’ve got a couple of serious money-making possibilities in the works, I’m finding that the scramble to lay the foundation for an entrepreneurial route is fraught with challenges that are much more complicated now than a decade or so ago. Occasionally I do wrestle with this question:

“You should try to be clear if you’re starting a business that that’s really what you want to do, as opposed to you’re only doing it because you can’t find work elsewhere.”

The work I’ve got in mind is precisely what I want to do. But the job situation is rotten and many of us in mid-career are competing with recent college graduates and young adults who earn far less money, have fewer health issues and are presumed to be better suited for Web work. For some, starting a business isn’t a luxury but the best chance to make a living.

Above all, the kinds of jobs media professionals have had won’t be coming back to the corporate realm. Even a strong economic recovery will not bring them back. People with savvy, skill and experience in their fields will be needed to create small businesses or solo enterprises. Why not us?

I wasn’t equipped to do this in my late 20s, when I faced grim job prospects. But having had to persevere in the past is something I’ve been drawing heavily on in recent months. I don’t think I’m an “accidental” entrepreneur but rather a latent one.

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