The pandemic has, over the past year, left many people with more time and less cash. Whether walking dogs, turning professional skills into a freelance gig, checking off someone’s shopping list, or any of dozens of other options, folks have taken advantage of technology to get the bills paid.
While some adopt side hustles to pay off debt, others hope that their side gig will turn into their main hustle. If you have a valuable skill, tools that could be useful to someone else (hint: rent ‘em out to your neighbors), or--in some cases--just some extra time, you have the makings of a moonlighter.
Feeling entrepreneurial yet? Great! Before you get rolling, let’s chat about the myths and realities of earning cash on the side.
What a Side Hustle Can Do For You
Showcase your talents
We see you, you beautiful, complex human being. Even if you love your day job (lucky you!), we know there’s more to you than that. What do you do just for fun? What skills, experience, or creative talents do you have that you could turn into a side gig--or even a new career? If you’ve ever wanted to do either, there’s no time like the present to start (even if you have to start small).
Make that paper
Your talents and “stuff” may be worth more than you think. Are you pretty great at photography, cutting in paint (you unicorn, you), or landscaping? Are you exceptional at creating order out of chaos? Do all your friends come to you for help planning events? These are marketable skills that people will pay for! Whether your idea for a side job is pretty mainstream or out of the box, there are plenty of success stories to inspire you.
Launch a new career
Not all side work leads to trading in your day job, but if you’ve imagined doing something different with your life, you aren’t alone--and the right side gig can be a great way to get there. No matter how small you start, with a lot of research, careful planning, and disciplined execution, you may just find yourself living the dream -- whatever that means to you!
Add variety to your days
At the very least, regardless of how “successful” you are with your side hustle, having one can provide much-needed variety to how you spend your time. Choosing a side hustle that’s different from what you do day-to-day gives you the opportunity to stretch your brain in different ways, maintaining mental elasticity and flexibility.
Whatever your goal for a side hustle, there are a few things to keep in mind before you dive in.
Everyone starts somewhere
Spend much time on social media and you’re likely to get caught up in comparisons, but repeat after us: highlight reels. Unless you’re independently wealthy and have unlimited time, this thing is not going to be Instaperfect from the start.
That’s ok! Be sure your plan is a good one (read up/ask those who have been there for pointers), create good habits that support your overall goals, and plug away. Be patient and celebrate the small wins.
Side hustles are not quick-fixes for debt
A lot of side gigs take some financial investment on your part. Whether you sew eco-conscious dresses, do home improvement work, or drive for Uber, you’ll have to put some money into it, and small investments can add up. (For independent contractors, self-employment taxes alone can take an unexpected bite.)
Be sure your goals match your circumstances. If you’re up to your Aunt Fanny in debt, choose a side enterprise that doesn’t require a big investment (whatever “big” means for you) -- even if it “promises” a big return. (In fact, please run away from that shiz.) Instead, go low-key with a venture that will net a small amount of cash flow with little investment. If you’re smart about it, there will be time and money to scale up later.
You don’t get something for nothing
Anything worth doing is worth trading some free time and latte money for. (Think you don’t have time? Check this out.) The reality is taking up a side hustle of any kind can seem a lot more fun in principle than in practice. Figure in the time it will take to actually do the work, but don’t forget the time to prepare for the work (sourcing supplies, marketing, etc.).
Passing on some of the little things you’re used to having may feel like a sacrifice, but if you reframe it to by reflecting on your commitment to yourself and your future, dropping a few bucks into your side gig jar instead of a barista’s hand may feel better than you’d expect!
Honey badger is right
Well, not about gunning for a lion, but about some things. We aren’t sure why honey badgers didn’t get the memo on nature’s laws of efficiency, but the rest of us are wired to take the path of least resistance.
Whatever your side biz, you’re bound to come to a point when it feels like a lot more trouble than it’s worth. Know from the beginning that you won’t always feel like staying at it and decide -- at the starting line -- you’ll stick to your work habits and goals anyway.
Final Tips for Success
Get knowledge. Find out what it takes to be successful in business and, specifically, in whatever venture you’re planning to undertake. Ask people who are in the know. Take an online course. Listen to audiobooks. Check Reddit. Read or listen to successful startup stories, especially those about people doing what you want to do and/or started where you are.
Know thyself. Gone are the days of a catch-all definition of success. Not everyone is in search of wealth and a fleet of luxury SUVs. If you’re just starting to think about launching a business on the side, no matter how small or ambitious, know what short- and long-term success looks like to you (and why) and work toward that.
Mind your resources. You don’t have to be completely out of debt to start a side hustle, but if you’re already struggling financially, going into more debt so that you can (hopefully) get out of debt is a very bad idea. If your dream is bigger than your bank account, set goals accordingly and do whatever you can with what you have. As your circumstances evolve, your goals can, too.
Set realistic expectations. Overnight sensations are usually anything but.
Schedule time wisely. Time to do everything on your agenda won’t magically appear. Consider where you can find time to devote to that side hustle and then show up. Bad mood, lost sleep, boredom, hangover, and all, just like you do for your day job.
Make your money work for you. As tempting as it might be to spend the money you earn, if you want this baby to grow, you have to feed it. If the whole point of earning extra cash is to put it toward monthly debt, do that. If you’re just trying to pay the bills, do that. If you’re hoping to turn a side hustle into a full-time job, invest money earned back into that venture. Keeping that income separate isn’t just a good idea; it may make the difference between success and implosion down the road.
Keep an eye on your habits. We all hear a lot about focusing on those big goals, but without productive daily habits, goals are just ideas. Sure, you can stick a photo of some tropical vacation spot to your computer monitor to keep you motivated, but it’s the habits you develop in your everyday life that will determine your success.
If your immediate goal is to make a little extra cash every month and you have some tools collecting dust in your garage, here’s a great place to start: download the Sparetoolz app and generate extra income by renting your tools out to your neighbors. It’s a low-stress side hustle that connects you with your community!