On the Clock

Is a Side Hustle for You?

It can bring in extra income, but also be a time suck.

4 min read

Jessica Williams knew she needed a change. It had been a long time since she felt satisfied with her job as a network manager. So, on a whim, she launched a blog in her spare time that provided technology advice for women entrepreneurs.

It wasn’t an overnight sensation, but it provided an outlet for her passion for technology and female empowerment. “It has evolved as I evolved,” Williams said of Techbizgurl.com, her blog. “Now it’s focused on others who want to start a side hustle and don’t know how to start.”

"The average side gig brings in $686 a month."

Williams is among nearly four in 10 Americans who have a side job of some kind, according to Bankrate, whether it’s launching a meal service or driving for Uber. For most individuals, the side hustle isn’t about changing their lifestyle, but about adding some extra income to their bottom line. The average side gig brings in $686 extra a month. But for others, it has become an outlet for something they’re missing in their day-to-day grind—and a chance to dip their toes into entrepreneurism and see if the side hustle can become a sustainable full-time position.

When a side hustle works.

Launching a side hustle isn’t for everyone and takes far more time and effort than most people expect in the beginning. That’s why it’s important to first understand why you want to do something on the side. Is it for extra money? To pursue a hobby? Are you bored? Your answers can help dictate what type of hustle is best for you.

If you’re in it for some extra dough, side-hustle veterans say the gig doesn’t matter as much as the money. Some suggest starting with signing up for Uber or Lyft, which may make the most sense. It’s low-risk and usually low-investment, and you can dictate the times you participate.

If, instead, you want to transition yourself into an entrepreneur, a side hustle can serve as a great way to launch a business while you still earn a paycheck. “The majority of us don’t have the luxury of being able to quit our day jobs to pursue starting a business idea without having to worry about how we’re going to meet our financial obligations,” writes entrepreneur and side-hustle veteran Ryan Robinson.

If you’re looking for more of a passion play, your side hustle needs to have purpose—which, in turn, can often make you realize how unhappy you may be in your day job. “If you’re doing something you’re passionate about, you might start feeling resentment for the day job,” says Williams. “Don’t think of your day job as the enemy.” 

Through her work on Techbizgurl, Williams began growing her connections. Four years after launching, with the help of her newfound contacts, she discovered a new career path: running a program geared toward women entrepreneurs at a Chicago tech incubator. 

When to bypass a side biz.

The No. 1 reason to avoid a side hustle, career pros say, is if you don’t have the hours to manage it or the desire to learn something new. If you only see the gig as an extra to-do, and not as an opportunity to grow, the side hustle will become a drag and a source of frustration for you. Remember, a side hustle is on top of the 40 hours you’re probably spending on your day job. 

“Many people do not start side hustles because they simply are not motivated enough to sacrifice their free time,” notes David Carlson, author of Hustle Away Debt: Eliminate Your Debt by Making More Money. “The idea of extra income is a nice one, but it’s just that—an idea.” 

Indeed, it’s important to realize sacrifices will be made. You might miss out on happy hours with friends or time spent with family. If that’s not something you want to commit to, then you should avoid the extra headache. 

Keep in mind that side hustles, like primary jobs, go through ebbs and flows. If you begin a side gig, and then have the opportunity to transition to a new role, you’re going to need to double down on your new job to learn the ropes, leaving little time for the side hustle. That doesn’t mean it won’t ever fit into your life again. It just may take some time to work its way back onto your priority list.

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