If starting a side-hustle is your New Year’s resolution then you’re far from alone — more than 44 million Americans currently make extra money in their spare time, and that number is only set to increase.
The reasons that millennials in particular are keen to cash in once they clock off from their day jobs are complex and numerous. For some this is a case of economic necessity, as increasingly stagnant wages and soaring house prices and living costs mean that young people in particular are unable to make ends meet through traditional means. For others, the side-hustle economy is a chance to follow a dream. As the world of digital work creates multitudes of business opportunities that are a mere click away, millions of young people are finding it possible to pursue a passion project outside of the daily grind.
My own side-hustle started a little over a year ago. Although I had worked hard for my job as an editor at a publishing house, I was finding it hard to make ends meet in a low-paying industry. I was feeling unfulfilled both personally and professionally and needed an outlet to gratify my creative side and attain the sense of achievement and progression that was lacking in my day job.
Having harbored dreams of being a writer since I could pick up a pencil, I often scribbled in my spare time, but it wasn’t until after I went through a break-up and poured my thoughts out into a draft article on dating with anxiety that I began to wonder if my words were worth publishing. I made it my New Year’s resolution to get just one article published by the start of 2019. A year down the line I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some fantastic publications, write about topics I’m genuinely passionate about, and make some money along the way — all while working my day job.
Whether you want to offer rides with Uber, start your own Etsy store, or sell artisan cupcakes to a local bakery, side-hustling can be a tough undertaking. Here are some tips to get you started:
Think Carefully About Your Reasons for Side-Hustling
Whether you’re writing the next Great American Novel or charging your friends a few dollars for a cut and blow-dry, side-hustling is hard work. It’s important to weigh up your reasons for taking on another job when considering how you would like to monetize your free time. If being cash-strapped is the main motivation, then could you instead consider a better paid full-time career option? And if you’re genuinely passionate about your side-hustle idea, would it be possible to cut down hours at your primary place of work to make it happen?
Working out what role your side-hustle will play in your long-term career plan is key. Is it simply a way of earning a little extra cash doing something you enjoy, an economic necessity you hope to give up once you’re more financially secure, or a dream that you would love to be able to pursue full-time once you get it off the ground? Having a clear idea of your reasons for taking on an additional role is crucial to figuring out how much time and energy you are prepared to invest.
Know That Finding Work Can Be Half the Battle
In my fantasy of what being a writer would entail, there were a lot more long dreamy walks for inspiration, hours spent hammering away at drafts of various masterpieces, and setting up my laptop in romantic destinations for a Sunday afternoon of typing up my thoughts — a café on a cobbled street in Paris, perhaps!
What no one could have quite prepared me for is how little of side-hustling involves actually doing the work you set out to do. Because most second jobs will, by necessity, take place outside of office hours, it is far more likely that hard-working hustlers will take on freelance work or be reliant on the gig economy (a new way of working characterized by short-term and often remote work contracts enabled by the flexibility of working digitally). This means that many side-hustlers need to consistently seek out new opportunities.
The monumental task of having to find your own work can feel testing and demoralizing. Expect rejections and countless hours plugged in without pay-off. There are days when unanswered pitches can make me grateful for the reassuring reliability that there’s paid work waiting for me at my office job desk in the morning — but when the offers of work do start to roll in it all feels worth it.
Expect a Slow Start and a Lot of Hard Work
If your suggested side-hustle does include freelancing or flexible work, then you should also expect it to be slow to get off the ground. Generating interest in your work and building a base of contacts or clients takes time, and the money might not start rolling in from the outset. After all, if it was easy then you’d probably be doing it full-time in the first place, right?
Be prepared to put the hours in without immediate pay-off, accept that you may initially need to be flexible with your prices or work with less well-known clients, and be open-minded when it comes to what work you are prepared take on.
Be Prepared to Make Sacrifices
It goes without saying that if you’re planning on investing extra hours in work, something else has got to give. Perhaps it’s mid-week drinks with your work colleagues, your daily gym session, or simply firing up Netflix whenever you have a free evening.
For me my social life has inevitably taken a hit. I once jammed my weekends with plans and trips to visit friends and family; now I’m conscience of the importance of leaving a portion of my time free to work, and limit myself to an absolute maximum of two social plans per week on a school night. Although I still love nothing more than a relaxed night in with a TV series or good book, I often find the guilt creeping in when I do settle down to catch up on Married at First Sight and end up plugging away at my latest project instead. Giving up things that are important to you can be trying, but if you are committed to making your side-hustle work, then the odd declined invite will seem minuscule compared to the accomplishment of seeing your work succeed.
But Also Set Boundaries
Although the benefits of side-hustling can be significant, there are also a number of downsides. Working over 39 hours per week has been linked to a number of mental and physical problems — from cardiovascular disorders to anxiety and depression — and the stress of operating a side-hustle alongside a demanding full-time job can be immense.
Making sacrifices may be key to operating a successful side-hustle, but you should set boundaries to avoid burning out. Interpersonal relationships, exercise, and down-time are important to our physical and mental well-being, so if you find that you are struggling to balance these aspects of your life with the demands of your second job, then stop and evaluate how you can better manage your time. Penciling in particular evenings that are always a work-free zone and ensuring that you always have a social event in the diary can help to keep a balance between your professional and personal life.
If I was unprepared for the amount of pitching I would be doing as a writer, I was even less prepared for the amount of paperwork. Working a side-hustle involves a mountain of admin that is likely done on your behalf in a traditional workplace. Doing accounts, invoices, and navigating the minefield of self-employment taxes are just some of the treats that may well lie ahead if you’re hoping to take on a side-hustle.
Although there is no way around the slew of extra work that side-hustling entails, it helps to be organized. Ensure that you save copies of all paperwork, research the subsidies and deductions you may be eligible for as a gig-economy worker, and prepare to take on your taxes well ahead of time. If your side-hustle is bringing in big business, it may help to set aside a specific day of the week for admin or to hire an accountant to help out every once in a while.
Have an Idea in Mind of If and When You Want to Quit
Once you’re cashing in on your side-hustle you may face a difficult decision: are you planning on turning it into a full-time venture and, if so, when should you take the leap?
For many a side-hustle is always just that — an extra job undertaken simply for fun or to earn a few extra cents. For others a side-hustle is a dream; an aspirational role that they would love to be able to dedicate themselves to full-time if they could be sure it would support them.
Choosing to switch careers can be a scary move. In fact it may never feel like the right time to quit a stable job to commit to a more risky venture. You should therefore have a clear plan from the outset for where you would like your side-hustle to take you. How much would you need to be making from your side-hustle to support yourself? Do you have a timeline for when you would like your side-hustle to have grown to a possible full-time option? Being clear and realistic about your financial needs will help to give you the push you may need to turn your side-hustle into your only hustle.