5 Questions to Help You Identify the Right Side Hustle
We’re now in the so-called “gig economy,” where many people juggle multiple income streams. Side hustles—everything from teaching hip-hop dance on the weekends to selling leg warmers for chairs on Etsy—abound. While it’s difficult to quantify the exact number of contingent workers, it’s estimated that millions of Americans participate in the gig economy. These gigs not only bring in extra cash to help pay off debt or save for the future, but can also help you achieve your long-term career goals.
Rachel Kim, career strategist and coach at SoFi, says that in addition to helping you financially, side gigs can also give you the chance to “test drive other things you might be interested in.” Maybe you’ve always wanted to be a photographer, a writer, or a vintage clothing reseller, but you took a desk job instead. Pursuing an interest as a weekend business could help you decide if you want to shift careers or become an entrepreneur, without leaving your job before you’re ready.
Skills you learn through a side hustle can also make you more valuable to your employer. David Carlson, founder of the blog Young Adult Money and author of “Hustle Away Debt: Eliminate Your Debt by Making More Money,” explains. “I have done some freelance spreadsheet work for small business owners, and it was a great feeling to make some extra money while also improving skills I use at my 9-5 [job],” he says. “Another benefit is the people you meet through your side hustles. You never know who you will meet or what opportunities will come up.”
From creating a pet portraiture business to hiring yourself out as a marketing consultant, there are unlimited options for potential side hustles. Many side gigs require only minimal startup costs, too.
Before taking on a new side hustle, think carefully to ensure that you’re picking a gig that aligns with those needs. Consider the following:
1. What’s motivating you? The need for quick cash to pay off debt, build a business, or boost skills are just a few of the reasons people choose to side hustle. “If you need extra money ASAP, you will have to pursue something that provides income quickly,” Carlson says. For instance, you might be able to find a weekend gig tutoring or you could sell your unused electronics for quick cash. Things like starting a blog or a party-planning business are two examples of what Carlson calls “long-tail” side hustles. It may take longer to get paid, but you’ll have the satisfaction of working for yourself, as well as the potential for more lucrative work down the line.
2. Does your day job impose any restrictions? Some employment contracts restrict workers from moonlighting or taking a part-time job—especially if it’s in the employer’s industry. For instance, if you work at an accounting firm, you might not be allowed to prepare tax returns for outside clients, since that could be seen as competition to your employer. If you’re restricted from working on the side or if your primary motivation iscareer development, Kim suggests offering to take on additional projects at your day job. You may not earn extra money, but the projects could pay off in higher earnings later as you become more marketable. Plus, it could help you find your passion at work.
3. How much time can you devote to a side hustle? Some side gigs require a huge time investment each week, while others are more manageable. You likely already have a demanding day job, so choose carefully and pace yourself. “Your time is limited, your energy is limited, and you don’t want to burn out,” Kim says. Estimate how much time you have after your commute, work and any family obligations, and then choose a side hustle that fits your timetable. Also remember that some hustles–for instance, teaching Pilates or taking on personal training clients—may require certifications before you can start earning. Consider whether you have the time and money to invest in these certifications before you get too deep into the process.
4. Do you prefer scheduled or non-scheduled work? “Non-scheduled side hustles are great because they can be done whenever you have the time and energy to do them: before work, during a lunch break, or late at night,” Carlson says. “Music production, transcribing, and flipping [reselling for profit] items on eBay, uBid, or Bonanza are examples of non-scheduled work.” While these gigs still involve delivery deadlines, you can set your own hours to meet them. On the other hand, scheduled work, such as a weekly tutoring or yoga teaching gig [provided you have the credentials to teach yoga] is great for people who prefer structure and a predictable paycheck. Carlson knew a blogger who was a programmer by day and had a completely unrelated side hustle delivering food at night. “It was something totally different than his day job, and he liked the fact that he had scheduled shifts,” he says.
5. Do you desire location-independent work? Location-independent work, such as writing, coding, or photo editing, can be done anywhere, which many side hustlers like. But because these gigs are so popular, you may find more opportunities in location-dependent work, such as personal training, teaching music lessons or helping students prepare for the GMAT. “There is a lot of demand for work where people need to be physically present,” Carlson says.
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With so many side hustle opportunities, the options can be overwhelming. These considerations will help you narrow your choices down to one that fits your passion and your financial needs.
Your turn! Tell us what side hustles you’ve undertaken and how they’ve helped you reach your personal and professional goals.