Slashers and Solopreneurs

I learned a new term of art in the latest special “Next Economy” supplement to The Atlantic magazine:  “slasher.”  While slasher makes me think of Freddie Krueger or Jack the Ripper, it’s also a new term being applied to solo entreprenurs whose career is “built on doing this/that/other things with the things separated by slashes.”  The article, “You, Inc.,” by Jonathan Rauch profiles a number of interesting slashers including a sex writer/ghost writer/career coach.   As readers of this blog know, the growth of the self-employed and 1099 workers is a major economic phenomenon, and slashers certainly are part of these trends.   According to Rauch, most of them appear to be women and tend to fall into two broad categories:  twentysomethings seeking to blaze their own trails and 30-40 years olds who go solo after losing a job or to pursue new passions.  Like the rest of the 1099 economy, they need help with health care and other benefits as well as connections to business opportunities, partners, and new learning experiences.

Meanwhile, an interesting new British study examines the connections between self-employment and entrepreneurship.  Because we have the data, researchers often use self-employment as a proxy for measuring a community’s entrepreneurial activity.  Yet, the connections between the two phenomemon are uncertain.  People often opt for self-employment when they lack other options, and may not ever turn the venture into a “real” business.  Or, it may be that self-employment is the primary starting point for successful entrepreneurial ventures.

The British researchers took a deeper look and assessed whether regions with high levels of self-employment also had high levels of new business starts and other forms of innovative activity.   The paper contains lots of interesting results, but the headline findings are fairly straightforward.  In urban areas, there is a strong correlation between high levels of self employment and high levels of innovative activity.  In rural regions, this connection does not exist.  The authors don’t dig deep in their conclusions, but their findings do suggest that, at a minimum, rural entrepreneurship strategies need to place greater emphasis on helping the self-employed turn their ventures into more substantial and successful businesses.

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