I recently had a discussion with a girlfriend about choosing a side hustle. By side hustle, I mean a secondary source of income on top of a full-time job. Basically, she wanted a side hustle to make some extra cash, but was having a hard time narrowing down what exactly she wanted to do. Right out of college, I knew a handful of people who worked regular 9-5 (office) jobs, and then went to a part-time retail job afterwards to help pay the bills. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it at 23 (living in the San Francisco Bay Area is expensive AF), but thankfully I never had to. That said, I was living paycheck to paycheck for years, and it sucked.
Finally, at (almost) 30, I am much more financially stable. My career pays well, and I’m able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle while plunking away savings each month. Even though I don’t necessarily need extra income, I have three side hustles. On top of my career, I have two freelance clients and this blog. For my clients, I create marketing content for them (press releases, blogs, social media management, magazine articles, etc.). For my blog (well, you’re reading it) I write, coordinate with brands for sponsored content, style outfits, respond to emails, take a shit ton of photos, and curate my platforms. It’s a lot, but it’s manageable, and the extra income is nice for more frivolous purchases and/or spontaneous trips.
After the conversation with my friend, it got me thinking about why my gigs work well for me. Here’s what I came up with.
Pick something you’re passionate about. This is the most important factor when choosing a side hustle (in my opinion). Do it with passion, or not at all. Here’s why: if it feels more like a chore than hobby, it’s not sustainable for a long period of time and you’ll likely end up quitting. Choose a side hustle that excites you, and that you’d want to continue to do with or without the money. For me, this blog is a passion project that just happens to generate income. I’d still be doing it even if I had one follower and not a dollar to show for it all.
Make your own hours. If and when you pick up a side hustle, make sure you can decide your own hours. So, basically, don’t go apply at your local Taco Bell unless you’re prepared to sacrifice all of your nights and weekends. It’s a lot more feasible if you’re able to put in the work before or after business hours, at your own pace, and decide how much time you actually have to dedicate to said work. Whether you’re making jewelry and selling it on Etsy, or working as a public relations contractor, make sure the hours and workload mesh with your current bandwidth.
Charge more, for less. Assuming you’re an expert in the field you’re pursuing, set your own price. Do a quick Google search to figure out the going rate for whatever service or product you’re offering, and tack on a bit more. The standard rate for freelance social media work is about $45/hour, which is generally what I charge my freelance clients. However I charge much more for blog work because it’s my own personal brand. Whatever you decide to charge, just make sure it’s worth the time, energy, and resources that you’re putting into it. You should be profiting significantly from your side hustle, not drowning in work for a few extra bucks here and there.
Find your niche, and sell your skills. I think capitalizing on your strengths is key. For me, I like to think that I’m a decent writer, and 85% of my side hustles revolve around writing. It’s something I enjoy, and something I’m good at. You’re going to have to set yourself apart from everyone else who’s trying to make an extra dime, so find something that you’re really good at, and then sell yourself and your skills. Normally I’d say fake it until you make it, but not here. If you’re freelancing, or selling a product, you’re much more likely to retain long term clients (or customers) if you’re actually good at what you’re doing.
Don’t get burnt out. Something else to consider: the burn out. While paying that PG&E bill is important, your well-being is more important. You need to recognize what is feasible and realistic in terms of your schedule, and don’t spread yourself too thin. Time management will help, but don’t beat yourself up if you have to turn down a project or miss a deadline. Often times I’ll have to prioritize between finishing a blog post, or doing a workout or dinner with a friend, and the blog post always loses. Your health (mental and physical) should be your number one priority always, not that quick dollar.
Don’t be afraid to start. I’ll leave you with this: just freaking do it. You’ll never know if you don’t try, so give it a go. Whether it’s a blog, a small business, or working at a winery one Saturday each month– be brave enough to be bad at something new. It could pay off (literally).