Between 2008 and 2009 the number of people working from home or in their spare time rose by 142 per cent. Gwen Howell is part of a growing trend of entrepreneurs dubbed 5-9ers, who start working on their own business when the day job ends at 5pm.
After a hard day in the office, there is nothing Gwen Howell likes more than to unwind at home ? with her 5-9 business, Pigs in Clover. For her, it?s a question of closing the door on the estate agency she has run since 1983, and slipping on her wellies to morph into a pig farmer.
It started when she and her husband moved to a property that had land, giving them space for a few pigs. "We clicked with them and it went from there," she smiles. In 2008, Howell set up Pigs in Clover and now, in addition to selling pork ? primarily online ? she even runs Pig Experience days.
Visitors can come and eat home-produced food and get mucky with the animals. "We?ve just been listed on Lastminute.com and Virgin Experience, so customers are coming from much farther afield, and buying food on the back of that," explains Howell.
New technology helps 5-9ers
For Howell, the appeal lies in doing something totally different. "By day I?m running my own business in a constrained environment. I have to deal with landlords and vendors, which can be quite demanding. I go home and deal with pigs, and I don?t have to answer to anybody," she laughs.
While a lot of people start down the 5-9 route through concern about being made redundant, there are just as many who do it as an outlet for their creativity, explains Emma Jones, author of Working 5-9. Of the 60 businesses profiled in her book, 73 per cent are doing something totally unrelated to their first job ? in effect, a form of escapism.
Use of the internet and social media (used by 100 per cent of those profiled in the book) means that businesses can effectively run 24 hours a day, making the 5-9 model suitable for all business types and sectors. However, Jones stresses that business services such as IT consultancy, web and graphic design, and consumer services ? particularly people making handmade goods ? are flourishing.
Getting the best of both worlds
The mere existence of 5-9 businesses provides many business-to-business firms with an opportunity to expand their customer base. All of these small entrepreneurs need business services of one kind or another, though they may require more of an ?out-of-hours? service than many other businesses. There may well be a lucrative market for suppliers who are prepared to adapt to this new trend.
Although she runs them separately, being the boss of two businesses means Howell can let them overlap to an extent. "Phoning suppliers, and any other office type things I can do during the day, works well for Pigs in Clover," she admits.
She can also use the estate agency?s marketing resources. "This puts us up a level from being a local pork producer. We connect with a lot more people than we would sticking up notices on local notice boards."
This is a luxury not available to the majority of 5-9ers. However, as Jones points out, there are other ways in which the day job and the business can feed off each other. "People running 5-9 businesses are picking up new skills like client care, time management and marketing that are benefiting them in their day job," Jones stresses.
But while this is benefiting the 5-9er, it causes headaches for their day-job employer. Having an employee working a second job invariably means that their focus is not on the job in hand which could result in problems at work ? from clockwatching to finding the right moment to hand in their notice.
A serial entrepreneur?
Howell doesn?t want to let one business take over the other, as she "would be bored doing the same thing all the time." To prove the point, she has in fact taken on a third business, Shrewsbury Mail Box. Her hope is that in a year?s time, the three businesses will be equally financially rewarding.
"That will be a good day, as I put in the same amount of time on each, so to receive the same award will be right," Howell adds. In the meantime, the pigs remain her first love. As she says: "Who wants to put ?estate agent? on their passport application? I?d much rather say I was a pig farmer."