Side Hustles: The New Way Americans are Pursuing Their Passions

Side Hustles: The New Way Americans are Pursuing Their Passions

By Sara Bristoll |
Nov, 22 2019

For decades, the American Dream meant owning a home, working a good job for the same company until retirement, and raising a family. Over the past two decades, this American dream has morphed. Millennials, about to be the largest generation in the workforce, are joining forces with many Gen X-er’s to drive change in the workplace. They want a different environment, one that gives them the control over when, where and how they work - and they’re not afraid to diversify their income stream with outside jobs.

This mentality has given way to a new type of entrepreneurship: the side hustle.

What exactly is a side hustle?

It’s much more than having a second job. A side hustle is a gig that allows you to pursue your passion or gain additional experience without the many major risks of entrepreneurship. With a side hustle, the entrepreneur sees the stable income and benefits packages from a full-time job while using their non-working hours to write, code, or sell their baked goods, blankets and handcrafted furniture. It’s the reason sites like Etsy and Shopify are increasingly popular.

"It's not all avocado toast and mimosa brunches for side-hustlers."

Why do people work a side hustle?

When you ask most people what they want from a work environment, you see responses like flexible schedules, more work from home days, and autonomy to do their work. All this boils down to wanting to be in control of their lives so that their work life and home life can meld together more seamlessly. 

Side hustles give people that control by allowing them to fulfill additional needs they may have, including: 

  1. Additional Income
  2. Professional Experience
  3. Pursuing Passions

Recent studies show that nearly two-fifths of Americans with a side hustle use it to supplement their income. But it’s not all avocado toast and mimosa brunches or scuba diving in the Caribbean for these multi-job holders. One-third of them are using their second gig to pay off their student loan debt. The average $380 payment is hindering many college graduates’ ability to afford to buy a home or save for retirement.

Additionally, many use contract positions to freshen up their skills, build additional experience they may not have access to in their primary role, and build their networks. While your employer is your most important client, you may find yourself stuck in a rut doing the same work for the same client every day. By working with additional clients outside the office, you can be presented with new challenges that force you to think outside the box. This could ultimately bring you to look at your 9 to 5 job in a new light and bring new solutions to the table for your employer. 

“[My side hustle provides] different opportunities or project work I might not be exposed to at my full-time job. [In addition to] opportunities to meet new people and form professional relationships,” explains Peter Schultheiss, an After5.io client and collaborator.

Lastly, there are risks associated with becoming an entrepreneur and pursuing your passions. With entrepreneurship, income isn’t guaranteed, benefits are expensive, and you’re having to hunt down your own clients. Working your business idea on the side until you have solid footing offsets these risks of starting your own business. It allows you to pursue that passion. In fact, more than 1 in 4 multi-job holders report they’re more passionate about their side jobs than their primary source of work. We’re testing the waters one toe at a time until we feel confident enough to swim in the deep end.

What are the challenges of working a part-time gig?

Working two jobs is not always a stroll in the park. There are only so many hours in each day. You have to pick your priorities and may have some initial backlash at your primary job. 

In many executive and human resource circles, there’s a preconceived notion employees working secondary jobs are going to have less energy to devote to their primary role. Almost every contract and employee handbook I’ve signed had a clause stating all employees had to have side-work approved by their manager. What researchers have found, however, is quite the opposite.

“In general, it appears dual jobholders are able to perform as adequately as single job holding counterparts,” states Brian Webster, a university management professor

So what we’ve come to find out is although many dual jobholders are more passionate about their side work, they’re just as productive at their day jobs as their colleagues. They’re not ready to rock the boat at work because they’re not ready to shed the stability regular paychecks can provide. 

While battling these stereotypes, side hustlers are also battling the most finite of resources: time. Working a side hustle means prioritizing time spent at work over time spent hanging with friends and family, or time spent sleeping. Multi-job holders get less sleep than their counterparts and work an average of eight hours more each week

“I have to consistently be mindful of how I spend my free time, understanding I made the choice to invest in an additional source of income,” explains Paul Giberson, another After5.io contractor.

While you can always make more money, multi-job holders understand all-too-well that they can’t create more time in each day, and make the time they do have to work on their projects count. 

How do you find the balance with multiple jobs?

Having a side hustle along with your full-time gig is like spearheading several projects at work at the same time. Each project requires your time and focus to be successful, but every time you sit down to work you have to decide: what is the most important project for me to work on at this moment?

Recently, I saw (and shared on After5.io's LinkedIn Page) an article that talks about becoming more productive simply by using a calendar. The author began by scheduling out every minute of her day - so she was confronted with a choice of what to bump every time she wanted to add a project or procrastinate. It put things in perspective and allowed her to focus on what was going to be the most impactful work for her at that time and into the next week. 

Giberson shares, “For me, I find it helpful to set aside a certain time of day to focus on each aspect; full-time 8 am to 5 pm, side hustle 9 pm on, and weekends.”

By setting your schedule you're setting up expectations for yourself on when you should be working. Then, when you’re confronted with the choice of whether to binge on the latest season of Stranger Things or not, you have a visual representation of what projects you’ll need to rearrange to find the time to watch. 

In addition to setting expectations for yourself, and finding the time in your day to work your side hustle, setting expectations for your clients is key to keeping them happy and the work rolling in. If you’ve been working a side hustle a while, you know how much work you can reasonably complete each day/week without putting too much stress on yourself. If you’re just getting started, take into account how much work you can complete for your traditional job and how long it takes you to complete projects during working hours. Those figures can be used to estimate how much extra work you can take on each week. Then be sure to communicate deadlines with your clients. The more you communicate with them, the better. 

“I know this will sound cliche but it is balance and communication. We often put so much pressure on ourselves to deliver everything right away. If you try and do that you will burn out on both jobs. I’ve learned that saying it’ll take me 24-48 hours or I’ll have it done next week is ok, as long as you clearly communicate your goals,” explains Eric Myers, who works a side hustle with After5.io. 

One of my favorite business quotes is: “It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver than over-promise and under-deliver.” Clients would much rather have you providing something ahead of your target date than promising them something you can’t quite complete. 

Side hustles are on the rise. They’re allowing workers to explore new fields, bring in more money, and expand their network - all on their own terms. If you’re looking to start a side hustle, make sure you take into account how much your time is worth (and compare to what you can reasonably expect to make from clients), learn to overcommunicate with clients, and set expectations to keep yourself from burning both ends of the midnight oil.  


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