If you Google “side hustles” right now, you’ll be inundated with ideas, lists, books and other tidbits that are supposed to help you side-hustle your way to millionaire status. But save yourself the time — as a true gig-economy millennial, I’ve read, tried and burnt myself out on all of the “helpful” side-hustling suggestions.
Trust me. I know. There was a time in my life when I was working as an extra on TV shows, doing paid surveys, driving across town to serve cupcakes in department stores (don’t ask), while also being on call for any catering job that would hire me. Don’t get me wrong, side hustles can be one of the best ways to generate extra income to pay down debt, save, or to simply have disposable income. However, if you’re like me, your perfectionist, “I-can-do-it-all” attitude could have you spiraling into side-hustle hell. Here are some of the most important things I learned along the way while juggling jobs — and cupcakes.
My journey into side-gigging started when I was in between more stable “career” jobs. But even once I found my way into more stable work, I had trouble letting go of the side-gigs, even though they quickly became more of a hassle than anything else.
“Side gigs are most helpful when used intentionally,” says Adam Hardy, a gig-economy specialist at The Penny Hoarder. “You can set a financial goal to pay down a certain amount of debt by delivering food on the weekends, or you can use a freelance website to get some hands-on experience in a new career field. There are a lot of ways that side gigs can help you meet a goal, but that doesn’t really happen by accident.”
My Big Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to let go of a smaller source of income when you gain access to a larger source of income. When you do this, you’ll have more energy for your better-paying job, and you’re being more intentional with how you spend your time, which is always a good thing.
Keep the ‘Side’ in ‘Side-Hustle’
We’ve all been between jobs and needed quick cash to make ends meet. However, you should think of a long-term side-hustle as a way to supplement your main income. Ideally you won’t be cobbling together several side-gigs to create your core income.
“The minute your side hustle money starts covering your basic living expenses is the minute you should be looking for a way out,” Hardy says. “Side-gig income usually isn’t reliable. So if you get hurt or sick or your car breaks down, that means you probably won’t be able to afford that month’s bills. And that situation can easily spiral out of control.”
My Big Takeaway: For me, spiraling out of control was when I was spending more on gas money to get to my side-gigs than I was making from these jobs—not to mention how battling LA traffic was negatively affecting my mental health.
Look Into The Cost-Benefit Ratio of Each Side Gig
Do you enjoy your side-hustle? Is it advancing you toward a bigger career goal? How is it affecting your mental health? Is balancing your side-hustle and full-time job taking up all of your time and negatively impacting your relationships?
Dr. Kathleen Hall, founder and C.E.O. of The Mindful Living Network and The Stress Institute suggests considering the cost-benefit ratio for your side-hustles. (Basically, a cost-benefit analysis is a very big and in-depth pros and cons list.) “You put the costs [or cons] and the benefits [or pros] down, and look at it like you would your bank account, with credits and debits. For the “benefit” section, ask yourself what that job is doing to help you and your career. Is it helping you with networking? Even if you don’t like it that much, is it connecting you to a bigger source?”
With the “cost” section, take a look at any negatives that might be involved. Perhaps you have a long commute, rude co-workers, a low paycheck, or you’re coming home exhausted every night. Then take a step back and think about each item on your list.
My Big Takeaway: When I was pursuing career goals in the entertainment industry, I found that working as a television extra was a good learning experience even though the hours were grueling and the money wasn’t particularly great. Some of these jobs led to me meeting people that set me up for bigger jobs. So my low-paying side-gig paid off, even if it wasn’t immediately. This taught me to continuously revisit the “why” of all my additional jobs, and keep the ones that align with my long-term goals.
Practice Self Care
If you’re like me and 37% of all Americans, you’ve already got a side hustle. That extra money is awesome, but what’s even more awesome is practicing self-care while running back and forth from your gig to your steady job. With so many balls to juggle, it’s easy to get burned out and overwhelmed.
Whether it’s going outside for a bit, spending time with loved ones, exercising, or even just watching something funny on YouTube, make sure you prioritize your mental and physical health while paving your way through your various hustles.
My Big Takeaway: The most important way you can be kind to yourself is to be honest as to how many hours you can really work. Understand what you need to get out of each side gig, and know when it’s time to let go.
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