Why do people pursue a side hustle?

Say hello to an era of ordering up a side of hustle with our day job. Or, my aptly, our side hustle has become our day job. We?re not only seeking additional forms of income because our livelihood depends on it, but we also crave the freedom, flexibility, and fulfillment that comes from pursuing projects outside of our 9 to 5. Work that gives our life texture, purpose, and meaning.

In fact, 27% of people who pursue side projects are more passionate about their hustle than their careers.

While making extra money is important ? especially in an economically precarious time where you feel forever fucked ? money isn?t always the main driver. While 62% of side hustlers use their cash to pay their bills, 41% want to pursue passions that fuel them.

And, interestingly enough, people in the UK who make less money (<15,000) are 4x more likely to identify passion as a reason than high-earners (>55,000) ? perhaps to escape the life of low-pay, stressful work.

Our desire to pursue side projects is only growing ? 39% of Americans predict pursuing multiple income streams will become the norm.

Key Side Hustle Stats

  • 28% of Americans are actively pursuing side hustles; 63% have had at least one in their career.
  • People who work 12+ extra hours a week earn $1,122+/month.
  • 43% of households earning $80K+/year have a side gig compared to 37% of households with incomes <$30K. People who earn less work more for less income.
  • Freelancers are preparing for their future: 55% of U.S. freelancers re-skilled or up-leveled their skills within the past six months. They relied on apps & online and peer education as sources.

Top 5 Side Hustles

Right now, we?re all taking stock of our talents to find ways to transform them into cash to pay our bills and make ends meet. According to a study out of the UK, the top five side hustles include:

  1. Buying & Selling Online: From Etsy and eBay to their own online shops, makers are earning big with their hustles.
  2. Beauty, Health & Wellness: Hairdressers, stylists, personal trainers, nutritionists, meditation teachers.
  3. Creative (Art, Music, Writing, Entertainment): Artists and musicians to writers, DJs, comedians, and party planners, and entertainers.
  4. Business & Professional: Covers a wide range of highly-skilled professional industries from writing, programming, and design, to consulting, legal, financial, and coaching services.
  5. Bloggers & Vloggers: Although side hustles have been around forever (and are getting a branding face-lift, broadcasting online hasn?t been). People (notably marketing, educational, and government sector professionals are more likely to try blogging & vlogging as a means to score extra cash).

How to Launch Your Hustle

1. Take stock of your situation & start from a place of curiosity.

Don?t build from a place of chaos, create from calm. Set aside a day where you ask yourself tough questions about your finances. Review how much money is coming in, how much you have in the bank, and how much is going out every month (you?d be surprised how many automatic and subscription payments leave your bank, Venmo, and PayPal accounts without your noticing).

This isn?t an austerity argument, so breathe it out ? this is about understanding how much money you need to pay your bills with a cushion for extras.

Take careful stock of where you are now because your side project can fill the gaps. Now that you have a sense of what you need in terms of income, assess the work you?ve been doing, and find ways to either carve out income streams (my tutorials on building multiple income streams are EPIC) from aspects of your day-to-day or freelance work or start considering what talents you feel comfortable monetizing. Evaluate:

  • What would you be doing if you had more time? What are the ideas that you?re eager to launch, but haven?t because of the daily grind? Make your ?want-to-do? list and then break it down further. In an ideal world, define the steps, regardless of how small, that can get you to that dream state.
  • What are the tools and resources needed to make each step a reality? Evaluate if there are miniature versions of the big dream that you can achieve now and scale later when you have time and resources.

Pursue something that excites you. Think back to your childhood and how you played and made a mess with abandon. You created and built things for the joy of it, and also because you were driven by a primal need to ask questions and make sense of this strange world in which you live.

What have you always been curious about and wanted to pursue further? If you have competency in an area, you can still make money while you?re exploring and building your skills.

For example, say you work in PR, but you?re an incredible home cook who specializes in vegan recipes. There?s nothing that gives you greater pleasure in making food and sharing it with the people you love. Maybe a Food Network show is a major leap, but you can start small by creating a series of free online video tutorials. Perhaps this turns into a paid online course where you create videos, podcasts, recipes, how-tos, and information that will help home cooks create shopping lists, research ingredients, and make meals at home.

Or, maybe you can start making cash right away by hitting up your network (friends, family, colleagues) and offer to teach hour-long cooking classes on Zoom or Crowdcast for $30/person.

2. Start small

I?ve built a career on side hustles. I escaped investment banking by launching my own online designer resale shop in 1999. My early side hustles were inspired by my friend Jeff?s book, 52 Projects. Sometimes we get subsumed by the notion of BIG when we need to start small.

Silicon Valley investor Paul Graham famously said, ?Don?t build things that scale.? I like the idea of starting with something we can bury ourselves in. Something that can?t yet be automated or turned into a process. The beginnings are always about exploration, depth, inefficiency, getting lost ? allow that to happen because that?s where you find the greater truth and love in what you?re pursuing.

It?s easy to get overwhelmed by big ideas. Who has the time, money, or resources to make bold moves and big plans when you have vendor negotiations and taxing employees to handle? Here?s the thing ? small steps lead to big actions. No one starts from a place of boiling an ocean; they start from adding water to a saucepan and turning on the gas.

Explore your creative and practical self through small, fun assignments or hobbies ? whether it?s baking a batch of cookies with new ingredients, flavors, or techniques, or learning how to write a simple software program.

Don?t ignore the beginnings, the failures, and the missteps ? because they?re transformative and will be the thing that yanks you out of the day-to-day. Get lost in your side project, because that?s where you?ll find what you?ll pursue next in your business.

3. Take classes or cross-mentor while you?re hustling to get even better at what you do

I love that we live in a time when online education is accessible to most. From taking free or affordable online courses at accredited institutions to finding courses online, you can make even more money from your side hustle when you learn more about your craft. Check out online courses on Google (free), Udemy, Lynda, Harvard & MIT (free), Hubspot (free), or google your specialty for online courses on the cheap. This list of free classes is also pretty incredible. So is this list.

I?m also a fan of cross-mentorship and apprenticeship. I shifted my career seven years ago by spending a year with peer apprenticing on brand building projects while she helped me with digital strategy and customer profiling. Do you have peers or people in your network, friends in private Facebook, or Slack channels, where you can trade/barter skills? Not only will this give you real-life education, but also real-life experience.

4. Take the time

People always say they?re ?so busy,? but they sure have time to binge six hours of fill in this Netflix show. Schedule time for your side project. Block off time on your calendar and treat it like any other appointment. Making time for your passion project will energize you when you have to return to the daily grind.

5. Use your customers for critical feedback

Listen to your customers, because they are the ultimate focus group. You can road-test new ideas in your newsletters, social media, and in-store, and receive immediate feedback before you go full-scale. Customer feedback is invaluable, because it gives you a clear sense of market demand (i.e., is this something they want and are willing to pay for?) and price elasticity (i.e., how much can you charge for your new product or service?), and can shift your side project from a hobby to a potentially profitable extension of your existing business.

For example, if you?re a graphic designer and want to incorporate digital strategy or social media content into your offering, launch your expanded services with your existing clients at a discounted rate, in exchange for their feedback and testimonials. Independent of analyzing the market and your customers? desire for your side project, you?ll also learn if you?re good enough to pursue it.

6. Launch the right way

Even if you?re not making cash money millions at the start, think about ways in which you can create structure and organization for your income streams. From managing accounting to dealing with LLC or S-Corp paperwork and insurance (so you can protect yourself if you?re sued), check out my detailed start-up plan.

How to Launch Your Freelance Business Now

Consider this your all-in-one start-up plan.


7. Work your network

I?m a shy introvert. The idea of networking gives me palpitations. I used to go to networking events and just stand in a corner ? the only thing that was getting worked was my cheese plate. But don?t worry: You can introduce your gig to your network and expanded it without being smarmy about it.

a. Join private online and social media groups related to what you?re pursuing: Connect online with people who run in similar circles or people who are stark-raving fans of the product or service you offer. Vivian Kaye of Kinky Curly Yaki was working side gigs when she discovered a gap in the market for kinky hair extensions. She joined Facebook groups and connected with African American women about their hair.

She delivered value and her infectious high energy. People don?t want to be sold to. They don?t want you spamming their feed with your links without doing the work of cultivating relationships. Enter these communities, immerse yourself in the conversation. Contribute. Serve before you sell because it?ll make selling easier.

b. Work your contacts: Have socially-distant walk & coffee with your peers. Schedule Zoom dates to talk shop or buddy up with a peer for ongoing mutual support as accountability partners.

Tell them about what you?re doing Ask your friends for specific introductions to people in their network, but don?t be vague. Don?t just say, ?Can you hook me up with someone in your network?? Rather, say, ?Do you know someone in nonprofits who works in social media marketing? I?d love to hook up with them for [X reason]. Could you make an intro??

READ: Never ask for or make blind introductions. Always ask each party if they want to be connected. It?s good professional etiquette and it ensures both parties are interested and not put in an awkward or compromising position.

c. Connect with past employers/former clients: You?re probably thinking, Oh, if they need work they?ll just know to contact me. Please stop. People don?t have elephantine memories and they?re not psychic. They can only see a few feet in front of them, so you have to be in front of them.

Reconnect with old clients or past employers if it makes sense for your new venture (i.e., you?re offering an extension of what you already offer) and ask if they need help with something. Assess their business, sites, emails, and social channels and suggest ways you can help take their business to the next level. It shows you did some legwork and you have specific ideas on how to make their business better.

The culture of work is experiencing a seismic shift where 20?30% of all working people in the U.S. and the EU are engaged in independent work ? whether they be self-employed, zero contract, freelancers, platform workers, Etsy & eBay sellers, or sharing economy workers. 10?15% rely on this work for their primary source of income.

This is not only the future of work but the future of life. Multiple income streams ? whether they be from a soul-sucking day job, delivering gigs, and side hustles ? is not one way of work, it?s the only way.


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