It's hard to believe that this time last year, 5-9ers didn?t officially exist. They were out there but no one had identified what is taking place in a staggering 20 million British homes every evening. Until Emma Jones, whose website Enterprise Nation (enterprisenation.com) is already a cult among small business owners, spotted the trend.
?It was in May last year that I was noticing all the people who were coming on site, holding down a day job but who had started a little business on the side,? she says.
?I came up with the idea of working 5-9 because so many of them were doing it in the evening and I started talking about it, eventually appearing on BBC Breakfast News.?
Emma was only on for 90 seconds. But, she says, the response was ?huge?.
?I got back to the laptop and it was amazing, people saying ?I?m a 5-9er and I thought I was the only person doing this?. It just opened the floodgates.?
Emma has just published a book on the phenomenon, presenting case studies and giving advice about how to join the one in five of us who have chosen to extend our earning power in this specific way.
But why are we doing this? What has precipitated this sea-change in our economic outlook? Is it the recession, the Internet, or is business simply the new rock and roll?
All of these things, and more, Emma says. ?The recession has definitely had an impact and with headlines glaring now, about how more people are going to lose their jobs and talk of cuts everywhere, from the BBC to the government, people are scared.?
She says there?s an element of people feeling that their own business will give them some control, something to fall back on and, she cheerfully points out: ?You can?t sack yourself.?
She believes the internet has also played a major part.
?It?s been a huge enabler from a number of perspectives, not the least of which is cost. Just think, if you wanted to start a business 15 years ago selling vintage clothes or cupcakes for instance, you?d have to open a shop. Now you don?t need to do that, you can open an online store. You don?t even have to create your own website because the sales platforms now emerging mean you can pay small amounts of money to upload your products, your services or your skills, and these websites attract an audience so you develop your business that way.?
And 5-9ers also benefit from earning money while they?re doing the day job as well as from all the social media such as Twitter Facebook and Linked-In which can help drive sales and publicity.?
The final reason for the popularity of the 5-9 is because of the outlet it gives people for utilising their creative talents.
?And that?s the rock and roll bit! Turning your passion into a way of making a living is pretty rock and roll because you are getting paid for what you love doing.?
Emma?s book contains 50 examples of real businesses which have all been started or are being run 5-9, from rare breed pig farming; ?The lady who did that got her pig to Britain?s Got Talent!? to an origami artist and a man who sells shoelaces through an eBay shop called Big Laces.
?The most niche ideas can earn you an income thanks to the internet,? she says.
Emma?s next goal is to get the government to accept that ?working 5-9 is the most sensible route into enterprise?.
She?d eventually like to see a ?business in a box? concept for enabling people to start up small enterprises.
?These businesspeople are vital ? a proportion of them will become the big, innovative companies of the future,? she insists.
?Even if they remain small they are enabling people to earn their own income, be self-reliant and have an outlet for their creativity.?
Working 5 to Nine by Emma Jones is published by Harriman House £12.99.