I didn’t mean to start a side hustle. It just kind of happened. I started writing for fun and then I blinked and seven years later, here I am. And while I accidentally found myself side-hustling, I’m relieved to know I’m in good company. 50% of Americans have a side hustle! 1 in 2 people are working their 9 to 5 jobs, and then as soon as they clock out, they’re focusing on their 5 to 9 side hustles. From creating online courses to walking dogs to freelancing to becoming a content creator, the type of side hustles available now seems limitless. While side hustles are a way to supplement an existing income, their genesis differs from one person to another. Some people start a side hustle to increase their income and their lifestyle, while others utilize side hustles as a creative way to build new skills and boost their resume.
No matter the reason you want to start a side hustle, there are a lot of things to consider before taking the plunge. What seems like a good, easy idea can lead to working an 80-hour a week side hustle, leaving you tired, stressed, and overwhelmed. And while many people hear all the buzz and find themselves wondering how to have a side hustle, it might be more important to focus on why not to have a side hustle. If you’re wondering what those reasons are, here are six.
Don’t Start a Side Hustle If…
1. You Value Your Down Time
If you’re the kind of person whose downtime is filled with non-negotiables like practicing self-care, nurturing relationships, or focusing on self-improvement, side hustles may not be for you. While side hustles sound fun and flashy, they take up a lot of your hard-earned downtime. You may start a side hustle with the intention of saving extra money and creating a lifestyle of freedom, but what you might end up with is a rich bank account and a time bankrupt life. If a lack of time for the activities you love stresses you out, you might want to pause your plans to start a side hustle.
But if you’re willing to negotiate on a few of the items in your life that you used to see as non-negotiable, it could be time to take the leap. If you think you’re ready, here’s an activity you can do to test the waters. For one week, track your time, including your downtime. This will help you take stock of how much free time you actually have during the week and where you’re willing to change how you spend your time. Once you have a clear understanding of how much available time you’re willing to devote to a side hustle, it’ll be easier for you to get started.
2. Your Current Role Is Your Priority
Side hustles require a lot of effort to get off the ground and maintain. Now think about adding that workload onto the current responsibilities of your full-time role. Does that feel like too much to manage? If so, now might not be the time to start your side hustle. If your current role is your focus because you’re trying to grow in your career or land a promotion, that is absolutely where you should dedicate your attention. Yes, many people call it a rat race, which sounds negative and unappealing, but aiming to build a career you love in a field you’re passionate about is something to be proud of.
Side hustles often get glamorized on social media and can instill a sense of FOMO. But they are of no value to you if they become a distraction from work. Getting a side hustle off the ground takes time, and it takes even longer if you want to turn a sustainable profit. So, it’s OK if you realize the modern-day American dream looks different to you. Everyone’s journey looks different, and there is no “right” career path. If a side hustle isn’t a part of yours right now, or ever, feel confident knowing you’ve built a career that works for you.
If you ever find yourself curious to dabble in the entrepreneurial space, know that going from a 9-to-5 a serial entrepreneur doesn’t happen overnight, which means you need a job to sustain you along the way. If you’re confident you can effectively balance your current role with your desire to start a side hustle, go ahead and get started. But know that it’s a balancing act, and if push comes to shove, the activity that actually pays your rent may take precedence.
3. It’s Misaligned With Your Goals
People aren’t always looking to get into the side hustle game because of money. Sometimes it’s for something money can’t buy: skills and experience. Learning new skills and gaining hands-on experience is an invaluable way to grow or pivot your career. I could write a book filled with true stories that illustrate this. Why? Because it’s exactly what I did.
When my five-year plan after college began to crumble, I needed to figure out what was next. To do that, I started writing to process my career journey. I loved it so much that I decided I wanted to make writing a part of my full-time gig. But hiring an accounting major for a writing or communications role can be a hard sell. And so, I started freelance writing to gain transferable skills to land a new job. I was ready and willing to do whatever it took to prove I was worth hiring. It took a lot of unpaid gigs, early mornings, late nights, and missed plans. In hindsight, it was absolutely worth it. But it’s not for the faint of heart.
If your current personal or professional goal is to pivot careers or add valuable skills to your resume and a side hustle can support your goals, take every opportunity to get started. But if creating a side hustle feels misaligned with what you’re striving for, it’s OK for those plans to take a backseat so you can focus on achieving the goals at the top of your list.
4. You’re Looking for Immediate Passive Income
Side hustles are a great way to earn income, sometimes even passively. But it’s unrealistic to expect a cash flow from products and enjoy the passivepreneur lifestyle from day one. It takes upfront work to get to a place where you can set it and forget it to earn an automatic income. And while it sounds like rainbows and butterflies, there isn’t a magic button you can press to get you there. It often takes a solid business plan, substantial investment, grit, and determination. If you’re not in a place in your life where you are willing to put in the work and sacrifice some of your time, money, and comfort now to earn a passive income later, then I’d reconsider your side hustle plans.
5. You’re Risk Adverse
Risks can be scary, and rightfully so. They challenge us and put us in uncomfortable situations without guaranteeing success. Taking a risk can often feel like a big leap of faith, and that’s exactly what starting a side hustle feels like. A risk-averse person may prefer never to start something if there’s no promise it’ll work out. But without risks, there are no rewards.
Risk-averse people may also seek comfort in job security. Job security is a wonderful thing, but it’s also a promise that a side hustle can’t keep. Starting a side hustle while you have a full-time job can help mitigate some of the risks that come with something new. If your idea fails (which it’s a totally normal thing that can happen and doesn’t mean you’re a failure), you have the cushion of a job to support you. Only you can determine your comfort level when launching a side hustle. But if you’re waiting for the right or safe time, know it may never come.
6. You’re Not Comfortable Marketing Yourself
When you start a side hustle, you’re a one-woman company. You have to wear many hats because you are the sales team and the talent and the customer service agent and the social media team and the tech team—and literally everything else. You are the face of your side hustle and the sole person responsible for making it happen. If you’re thinking, “Game on, I love this type of work,” then you’re ready to dive into a side hustle. But if it’s cause for hesitation, then I’d reconsider.
Being forward facing and putting yourself out there can be incredibly uncomfortable for people, but it’s absolutely necessary when side hustling. Being uncomfortable isn’t a bad thing. Growth often comes from discomfort. But you have to be ready to take on the uncomfortable stuff and market yourself to make your side hustle successful. It’s up to you to decide if you’re ready for the challenge.