The side hustle. Moonlighting. Freelancing. Whatever you call it, it means extra money...and extra work. It can be a great way to pad your bank account and build experience (or even your own business). But it’s not for the faint of heart…or the faint of organizational skills. Let’s look at what’s involved in developing and maintaining a side gig, and what you can do to make money on the side.
Traditionally, a side hustle (whatever you call it) has been a way to earn extra money on the side, in addition to your regular job. It’s different from regular freelancing or working from home for your main source of income. For example, teachers might work summer jobs, or wait tables on weekends for extra cash. Or even going back decades, for stay-at-home parents, companies like Avon and Tupperware helped homemakers become home entrepreneurs and savvy salespeople while bringing in extra money for the household.
These days, with so many options for extra income opened up by the internet (and I’m not talking about those scammy “I make $7500a week werking from home!!1!” ads online), just about anyone can find a way to make extra cash on the side—if they have the time, energy, and skills.
And I’m hoping I don’t need to say this, but just in case: a proper side hustle is always something legal, aboveboard, and non-sketchy. Basically, if you wouldn’t feel comfortable telling your mom about it, think twice. (Or at least be prepared to explain when your cousin’s roommate finds out about it and tells everyone.)
Is a Side Hustle Right for Me?
Maybe! Before you accept a new job, or go gung ho down your new side path, there are some key questions you need to ask yourself.
Am I prepared for double everything?
Think double the schedules, double the work hours (possibly), double the obligations.
What are you willing to sacrifice to make your side job work?
This could be social plans, family time, or sleep. It’s important to see realistically how this will cut into your existing routine.
What do I want to achieve here?
Is it just an extra paycheck? Or is it a tentative toe dipped into new career waters?
Should I Tell my Full-Time Employer?
Some companies have a specific policy requiring employees to disclose other employment. Others don’t—and if yours doesn’t, it’s entirely up to you. If you know there might be conflicts between Job A and Job B, it could be better to be up front with your boss. If you take this route, make sure he or she knows that your priority is Job A, and you’ll use vacation or personal time to address such conflicts. If you don’t see any conflicts coming up, you can keep it off the radar.
What Will I Need to Do to Keep My Life in Balance?
When you take on more work, some things are going to slip—it’s inevitable. Before you get started, be honest with yourself about what it will take to make sure that you’re not putting all of your time and energy into work while letting everything else slide. At some point, your long-suffering family or significant other will want to see your face, and takeout pizza for dinner gets tiresome. Set your non-work priorities, and make sure that you’ll have time to meet those obligations even with your increased workload.
Speaking of Avon, one of the early home entrepreneur companies can help you figure out if a side gig is right for you.
Another major factor in the decision is financial. Are there any startup or maintenance costs associated with your new side gig? If so, make sure to come up with a budget. According to Kimberly Palmer, author of The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life, you probably don’t need an ironclad business plan in the early stages—but if there are costs for materials, website building, etc., it’s important to be realistic about those.
If you have space in your life and a tentative plan for how you can rejigger your everyday life to make room, then it’s time to figure out what you want to do, and how to do it.
What Can I Do?
Side Hustle Nation is a guru in your journey to a second income. It’s also a good jumping-off point if you think you’ll want to make this your primary career at some point. But even if you don’t, there are resources to help you get started.
There’s a good chance you already have an idea of what you’d like to do. But if not, don’t worry—there’s an easy starting point! Start with your skills and interests.
- What are you passionate about doing, even if it’s not your main career path?
- What talents do you have that aren’t being utilized by your day job—or are underutilized?
MoneyPeach offers a pretty comprehensive list of options for side jobs, ranging from “I need cash fast” to “I want to build a new career.”
If you’re crafty or artsy…
- Consider selling your goods and designs, either through your own website or an established vendor like Etsy, Handmade at Amazon, eBay, or Zazzle.
If you’re a designer…
- Sites like 99Designs link up willing designers with potential clients.
If you’re internet-savvy…
- Blogging is a great way to start building a brand using your writing skills.
- Upwork connects freelance professionals with clients for jobs like web design, IT consulting, customer service, and digital photography.
If you’re a teacher or academically inclined…
- Tutoring, either online or in person, is a very flexible way to earn extra money and keep those brain cells in good working order.
- Online teaching is another flexible option, allowing you to teach classes around your schedule.
If you have elbow grease to burn…
- Odd job sites like Handy and TaskRabbit help customers find professional chore-doers willing to run errands and handle household tasks.
- Professional organizing is a highly in-demand service these days, so if your living space is ordered and feng shui’d to the limit, you could offer that skillset to others who need it.
If you’re a wordsmith…
- You can be a freelance writer or editor. Sites like Mediabistro and The Write Life are hubs for the literary lifestyle, whether it’s full time or part time.
If you’re an artist with butter or sugar…
- Baking or cooking can be the way to go. You can start small, usually out of your own home (though you should check local food handling regulations before you start selling those cupcakes). Plus, your friends and family will probably be very willing test subjects for new recipes.
Basically, you know yourself, your interests, and your capabilities better than anyone else.
How Do I Juggle My Jobs?
Once you’ve started down the path of setting up a side job (or business), the most important part will be making sure it doesn’t overtake your main job and life responsibilities.
Maximize your daily routine.
If getting up a half-hour or hour earlier than usual lets you get more done in the morning, do it. If setting boundaries and leaving work at the same time every day gives you more flexibility in the evening, do it. If bringing a bag lunch and turning a sad desk lunch into a productive desk lunch gets you out the door quicker at the end of the day, do it.
Identify your priorities.
Here’s where the side hustle may be less fun…when you have to start turning down social invitations and spur-of-the-moment plans because you need to put in your time. As you’re getting started with your new mini-career, make sure you know what’s high-priority, quality non-work time, and what can be skipped with minimal fuss or hurt feelings.
Make sure Job A gets the priority.
This is, after all, your bread and butter still. Your side job may someday turn into a full-time opportunity, but even in the honeymoon period of your new side deal where everything is fun and productive, make sure you’re not bailing on core work responsibilities to take on…other work responsibilities. If things start to slip too far at Job A, you may find yourself making a career out of Job B sooner than you thought (and not necessarily because you’re ready to make the leap yet).
The best thing about a side job is that if it doesn’t work out, you still have your main career. If life as a part-time artisanal goat cheese maker turns out to be too much trouble after a few months, you can let your business fade as a goat-scented lesson learned. Alternatively, if you do follow your interests and your skills and find yourself flourishing, you might just find that you’re creating a new professional world for yourself. A totally different career path could open up for you—or maybe this will just be an enjoyable, (hopefully) profitable entrepreneurial hobby for the long term. Whatever the case may be, go forth and entrepreneur, because you don’t know until you give it a shot.
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