As the economy begins the long process of rebuilding, a significant number of workers are striking out on their own—some unwillingly, following a layoff; some seeing an opportunity to walk away from the nine-to-five grind. PW spoke with editors about a new batch of books aimed at entrepreneurs, second-shifters, small business dreamers, and all those looking to ditch the W2 for an LLC.
“We’ve had this unthinkable shock to the economy and the job market, and people are feeling the loss of control,” says Talia Krohn, executive editor at Currency. She acquired LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale (Sept.), an extension of the podcast of the same name and written with its executive producers, June Cohen and Deron Triff. The book profiles successful entrepreneurs and offers lessons organized around 10 key principles, including “do things that don’t scale” and “learn to unlearn.” “Entrepreneurship offers control over your career, and how you grow the business,” Krohn notes. “People don’t want to have to worry about being laid off because of someone else’s decisions.”
Melinda Emerson recognized this more than a decade ago, in 2010’s Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. She updated the book in 2015, and in September, Adams Media is releasing its latest iteration, revised for the Covid era. Eileen Mullan, acquisitions editor at Adams Media, says the update focuses on social media marketing and online sales, in response to the drop-off in foot traffic that bricks-and-mortar shops experienced during lockdown. Post-pandemic, she adds, readers will need new ideas to keep their businesses going. “Crises spur innovation—it becomes clear what the market needs,” Mullan says. “It’s a great time to figure out how your product can address that.”
Role models abound: for the October McGraw Hill Education release Your Small Business Boom, Steven D. Strauss, who writes a column on small business for USA Today, interviewed several entrepreneurs and solopreneurs about their strategies for growth, especially in a time of crisis. “Post-pandemic, people are thinking, what’s my next big step, my next big idea? What do I need to know to start a business?” says Amy Li, associate editor, McGraw Hill Business.
Once the reality of being one’s own boss sets in—to wit, that it often means being someone else’s boss as well—it’s time to make the transition from employee to employer. “Startup founders are entrepreneurs, not managers,” says Kathe Sweeney, executive editor of U.S. programs at Kogan Page. ”They need to grow the skills to manage their business, and learn how to manage themselves and their teams.”
Sweeney acquired From Start-Up to Grown-Up (Oct.) by startup coach Alisa Cohn, who, Sweeney says, “is writing for a serious founder who maybe got their first round of funding, looked around, and recognized: wow, this is going to be harder than I thought it was going to be. Being an entrepreneur is a lonely job. You had the vision, you brought in friends to help you, but there’s so much pressure. It’s the challenge of being on top of the company.”
For all the difficulties in pivoting to running one’s own company, the field is wide open, Sweeney says, and the future of independent work, judging by her submissions pile, is in tech. “Tech startups and technology products are where the money is going, for the development of AI and applications,” she explains. “With every new technology, more people who don’t want to work for a big firm flock to the startups or begin to think of themselves as entrepreneurs. They want to pursue their big idea and figure out their own life plan.”
Do the (side) hustle
Entrepreneurial readers who don’t want to leave the security of full-time work can dip a toe in after their primary workday ends. One husband-and-wife duo, Carrie Bohlig and Craig Clickner, have built several of their own businesses, including consulting and coaching firms. In So You Want to Start a Side Hustle, a June release from McGraw Hill Education, “they offer advice on finding your who—who your audience is, and who to surround yourself with, ” says Cheryl Segura, senior editor at McGraw Hill Professional. The book’s potential readership is larger than it might seem, she explains, and includes “people who want to have a side hustle while they’re working, for example, and people who want to retire sooner than they’d thought and need to put some extra money away while they’re working.”
The traditional stereotype of the entrepreneur—Harvard dorm room, hoodie, trust fund—is due for a makeover, and Sonya Barlow has a vision for what that “after” photo might look like. In 2018, Barlow, who was born in Pakistan and lives in the U.K., founded the LMF (Like-Minded Females) network, which aims to get women the right opportunities, networks, and mentors.
Barlow calls herself the “brown girl of entrepreneurship,” says Kogan Page commissioning editor Geraldine Collard, who acquired Barlow’s Unprepared to Entrepreneur (Nov.). In the book, “she looks at the myths that put people off going out on their own—that they need a lot of capital, or angel investors, or to look like Richard Branson,” Collard adds, speaking to a young readership who may be graduating into (yet another) moment of crisis, and who may think they don’t have a shot if they don’t have a formal business plan or major infusion of cash.
When offices reopen, they’re unlikely to look the same, editors note; many companies are planning flexible schedules, globally distributed teams, and remote work as the new normal. The business world has changed, leaving room for small businesses to spring up. For everyone without a job to go back to—or who no longer finds the idea of working for The Man quite as palatable, knowing how quickly it can all crumble—these new titles offer hand-holding, cheerleading, and been-there advice.
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