The nature of work is changing. With stagnating wages and soaring living costs, a rising number of people are increasingly finding that clocking off at 5pm just doesn’t cut it. Instead, about a third of Americans are now taking on extra work on top of their primary job. The rise of the so-called side-hustle has been endemic, and comes with a host of complex issues, including a tempestuous work-life balance and potential dangers to health. But it can also have a host of benefits.
My own side-hustle journey began almost by accident when I submitted a story to a magazine on the off-chance that they might consider publishing it. Although I was struggling to get by on a low salary I wasn’t looking for a second job, I just loved writing and wanted to get my words out into the world.
Over a year later, I’ve written for publications that I’ve always loved, and my writing now accounts for around a third of my income. Although hurrying home from a full day at the office to get back to pitching ideas and polishing up drafts can be exhausting, it is also deeply rewarding. And what’s more, I’ve gained a host of skills that I could never have learned in my full-time job. If you’re considering taking on a side-hustle you might be surprised by these unexpected perks:
You Learn New Skills
Perhaps one of the key advantages of taking on a side-hustle comes in the form of the skills that you can learn. For me, negotiating, writing engagingly, and forming new relationships were always an aspect of my full-time job, but I never really had to push myself to excel in these areas until I was out on my own and trying to convince people to publish me. I also gained feedback on my writing from incredibly talented editors, giving me an opportunity to look critically at my own work and improve.
Regardless of what your side-hustle is, you are likely to find yourself picking up new skills that can be applied to your day job. Whether you’re picking up shifts in the service sector (people skills), setting up a shop on Etsy (marketing and creating quality products), or gigging on your local live music scene (determination and maybe even public speaking), you should think about how any new experience that you are gaining is transferrable and applicable to your current career. Once honed, don’t be afraid to speak up at work and put yourself forward for opportunities that can utilize your unique skill set.
You Become a Better Advocate For Yourself
In many cases, side-hustles take the form of freelance work, since this often fits more easily around the demands of a 9-5. Finding work as a freelancer can be tricky, and an important part of your side-hustle may be advocating for yourself to make sure that your work is valued and paid properly.
Once you have honed the skills of self-advocacy, these can be similarly applied to your day job. If you feel that you deserve a raise, you will have the experience of selling yourself and explaining why your work is worthy. If you feel overloaded, you may have gotten used to negotiating deadlines or turning down work that you’re not able to take on in a reasoned manner. Many don’t realize that a similar approach can be applied in a traditional working environment and that you still have a right to ask for what you deserve and push back when required.
Your Confidence Grows
Most of my career has been spent at one organization with a fairly traditional and hierarchical structure. This meant that before I started side-hustling, I didn’t have much confidence in my own abilities and ideas, and wouldn’t have felt that I would be taken seriously had I made suggestions or spoken out.
Whether your side-hustle is (like mine) completely autonomous, or if you take on a side-hustle working for someone else, there is plenty of scope to feel more self-assured. For me, seeing that my work was valuable and worth commissioning was a massive confidence boost. For you, it could be simply having the opportunity to try new things outside of your run-of-the-mill work and get feedback and approval from individuals outside of those that you normally interact with.
You Learn To Value Your Time
Once you begin to monetize your time more efficiently, its value becomes very apparent. If staying late at work means that you won’t be able to finish up that freelance project, then you might be tempted to be particularly productive and get out of the door at 5 on the dot.
Boundaries are also incredibly important in any career, and if your boss has unrealistic expectations of the hours that you should be working or the amount of work that you can achieve in any set period, then having a side-hustle might motivate you to push back. Understanding what your time is worth means knowing when is appropriate to politely explain that something is out of your remit, or would be better achieved with a more realistic deadline or within reasonable working hours.
You Avoid Burnout
Burnout is an occupational hazard of the modern age, with up to 67 percent of employees reportedly having experienced this type of work-related stress at some stage. Burnout is characterized by feelings of exhaustion, disillusionment, and decreased productivity, and often stems from not having enough authority in the workplace, the difficulties of balancing work and personal life, and being given few opportunities for decision making.
Although it’s worth noting that side-hustling can understandably exacerbate some of the causes of burnout, it may also be a cure. If you are feeling frustrated by your day job and are seeking a creative outlet or an opportunity to have more authority, then going it alone might be a chance to take back control.
Having a side-hustle where I am in control of my work and see direct pay-offs — both financial and in terms of my achievements — makes me feel more positive about my career. I also find myself more engaged when in the office and more relaxed when it comes to some of the common frustrations that come with working in a large organization.
You Build Connections
Whether your side-hustle is related to your current industry or not, you are likely to form useful connections. This could be coming across an event organizer who would be perfect for your next company bash or building a relationship with a client who might well be a stepping stone to your next job. You should focus on utilizing new contacts and thinking creatively about how you can maximize the potential of your new working relationships.
You Appreciate Aspects of Your Full-Time Job You Took For Granted
Don’t get me wrong, I love my side-hustle. But I want to be incredibly transparent when I say that it is gruelingly hard work and has numerous downsides. Finding work can be a struggle and pay is unpredictable. It’s hard not to take knockbacks and rejections personally when I’m pouring my heart out on paper on a regular basis. And having an off-day, a holiday, or being ill directly correlates with my earning potential. When my bank account is running low, I am eternally grateful for the regularity of my monthly paycheck, and the fact that I have sick-pay and a pension I can count on.
You might try side-hustling and love it. Or you might decide that it is not for you. Either way, working unpredictable or long hours in an unconventional setting will make you realize that some parts of your day job are worth sticking around for.