How Not to Run a Side Hustle - a Mind Tools Blog on lessons to learn
Side Hustle: How Not to Run One - a Mind Tools blog

How Not to Run a Side Hustle

August 31, 2022

© GettyImages/Alvarez

It was around 3 a.m., as I was hunched over my dining table making 100 sugar flowers, that I realized my side hustle sounded a lot cooler than it really was. If you could even call it one by that point.

As I stood there, I couldn’t help but envy those people who used their annual leave to rush off on vacation or spend time with their friends. Instead, here I was rolling out sugar paste in the small hours of my day off, as my hands cramped painfully in protest.

But I only had myself to blame. No one forced me to make wedding cakes in my free time. I already had a full-time job, so why on earth did I think this was a good idea?

The Rise of the Side Hustle

I developed a passion for baking when I was 19. And when a certain U.K. TV show on the subject rejected me one too many times, I decided I’d try to make some money out of it instead. Butter, sugar and eggs may not sound expensive but, believe me, the costs stack up quickly.

Flash forward seven years and I’m now among the approximately 40 percent of Gen Zs and Millennials opting for a side hustle to make ends meet. What started out as a fun hobby has now become a necessary financial boost, particularly as the global cost-of-living crisis deepens.

Working more than one job is nothing new but as the internet and gig economy took the world by storm in the 2000s, the side hustle followed close behind. Now, “hustling” your way to a liveable wage is not only admirable but, frankly, normal.

What Makes a Good Side Hustle?

A side hustle “is a means of making money alongside one’s main form of employment or income.” But for many, side hustles are passion projects. Perhaps it utilizes a skill that otherwise goes unused, or maybe it’s a business idea that will hopefully turn into a full-time venture one day.

Ridesharing, courier services, and pet sitting were once the hallmark side hustles. But now the internet is overflowing with ideas on how to make extra cash, with many claiming to earn you up to $1,000 a month. Some popular suggestions include:

  • Selling artwork and handmade goods through online shops like Etsy.
  • Podcasting and blogging.
  • Streaming.
  • Coding.
  • Social media influencing.
  • Proofreading and copywriting.
  • Online tutoring.
  • App testing.
  • Data Analysis.

And lo and behold…

  • Baking.

The key to a worthwhile side hustle is to find something that you’re good at, that you enjoy, and that’s going to make you money – without affecting your “proper job.” But as I’ve learned the hard way, that’s much easier said than done.

Lessons in Hustling

Side hustles have a lot of benefits. Done well, they can not only make you more money but they can also provide you with valuable experience, teach you new skills, and enrich your career.

But handled poorly, they can drain your energy, damage your reputation, and ruin a passion that you once loved. Here are four lessons I’ve learned while running a side hustle:

1: Clear Boundaries Matter

It may seem like a good idea to squeeze in your side hustle between meetings or during your lunch break. But this can lead you down a slippery slope.

Soon, neither your day job nor your side hustle are receiving your full attention – and your performance in both will suffer. Not to mention that your free time can quickly become a distant memory.

Create a set of rules and stick to them. For example, schedule specific times to work on your side hustle, or use different devices to keep your jobs separate. And make sure to set aside downtime to give yourself a break.

2: Don’t Take on Too Much

I love a project. But I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew; a bad habit that’s led to many frantic late nights scrambling to deliver on my overly ambitious plans.

Be realistic about how much time and energy you can put into your side hustle. And take on only as much work as your schedule allows, to avoid stress and burnout.

3: Honesty Is Best

Don’t try to hide your side hustle from your employer. It’s important to keep your lines of work separate but keeping it a secret is a recipe for disaster, and could damage your professional reputation if you’re found out.

Be honest with your boss, reassure them that your side hustle will not disrupt your performance at work, and demonstrate how you intend to keep that promise. Who knows, they might not even be aware of your hidden talents, and may be willing to support you!

4: Not Everything Has to Be Monetized

I’ve always had a lot of hobbies. And in a world that likes to plant price tags on everything, I’ve often felt the pressure to turn every recreational activity into a money-making scheme.

But not only will this leave a trail of failed business ideas in your wake, it can also cause the love you once had for your hobbies to turn sour. Instead, allow yourself to spend time on your interests purely for the enjoyment of them.

Do you have a side hustle? What lessons have you learned along the way? Share your tips and ideas in the Comments section, below.

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