Hustle culture is ingrained in us these days. It’s not all about millennials and Gen Alpha, either. Even older adults are feeling the pinch of today’s expensive society and are eager to make extra cash. While I would never dissuade you from pursuing a side hustle if you truly want to, you have to be prepared for the realities of it both good and bad. What are some things you need to know before you try a side hustle?
Here are some things I wish I knew before starting a side hustle:
- The hours are long and unforgiving
- Burnout is very real
- You must have a goal to maintain focus
- You have to make sacrifices
- You’ve got to have passion
In today’s post, I want to talk about the mistakes I made when I started my side hustle gig and how I overcame them to find active and passive income streams that aren’t so damaging to my mental and physical health. If you’re starting a side hustle, this article is for you!
5 Things No One Tells You About Starting a Side Hustle
The Hours Are Long and Unforgiving
A side hustle isn’t like a nine-to-five job. Whether you’re carting people around via Lyft or selling goods on Etsy, there is no real set structure to what you do.
This can cause you to put in way more hours than you should because hey, more work equals more money.
And maybe the extra hours wouldn’t be so bad if this was your only gig, but it’s not. You probably have a full-time job, and then you have to juggle at least one side hustle, maybe two.
If you have a part-time job, then that leaves you with time for more side hustles, so maybe you have three or four gigs on the side.
While most people are thinking about going to the gym or relaxing at home once they clock out of work, you’re getting ready to start your second job.
On Friday nights, when everyone breathes a sigh of relief because the week is finally, thankfully over, you’re not thinking about ordering a pizza and sitting on the couch with the latest Netflix movie. You’re out hustling.
The weekends are a prime time for you to work because these are the only two days in which your full-time or part-time job doesn’t get in the way.
It’s a truly brutal schedule.
You may think you’re in control because you’re the one who’s choosing which side hustles you work and when, but really, you’re motivated by the almighty dollar (which, at the end of the day, aren’t we all?).
Burnout Is Very Real
What happens when you put in 14-hour or even 16-hour days five or seven days a week for months on end?
You make a lot of money, sure, but you also burn out.
In today’s hustle culture, some people equate burnout with laziness, but it’s a very real phenomenon.
Burnout can leave you chronically exhausted, stressed, and unwilling or unable to do your job.
According to a 2004 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC entitled Overtime and Extended Work Shifts: Recent Findings on Illnesses, Injuries, and Health Behaviors, overtime is summarily bad for your health.
The CDC reviewed 22 studies on the topic. In 16 of those 22 studies, the CDC reports that “overtime was associated with poorer perceived general health, increased injury rates, more illnesses, or increased mortality.”
Now, 2004 was long before the rise of hustle culture, but overtime at a full-time job has been a long-standing issue. Burnout is burnout whether it’s a side gig or your main gig, so the effects will be the same.
As a side hustler though, you have the unique issue that burnout in your side job will absolutely bleed over to your full-time or part-time job.
The reprimanding you get from your boss could turn into a pink slip if you just can’t work efficiently anymore or you have to miss too many days because you’re sick and/or exhausted.
You can combat burnout, but it will involve scaling back on your side hustle and prioritizing getting some sleep for a while.
You Must Have a Goal to Stay Focused
What are you working for?
It’s not enough to say you want more money. Everyone wants more money.
Will “more money” motivate you to get out of bed at 4 in the morning so you can get a leg up on the orders you need to ship out or the freelance work you need to do?
Will “more money” keep you out past midnight doing your side gig when it’s a Tuesday?
No, it won’t.
What will you use that money for? Maybe you’re trying to finally pay off your credit card debt or student loan debt.
Perhaps you’ve always wanted to take your kids to Disneyworld, but resort prices are only getting higher as the years go by.
You may want to add more money to your savings account or save up enough cash to buy something for the house like a new fridge or dishwasher.
You need to keep these goals front and center in your mind as you work, or you’ll find yourself losing the motivation to keep it up.
You Will Have to Make Sacrifices
Here’s one of the more heartbreaking parts of hustle culture, and it’s not something you’ll hear a lot of side hustlers talk about because they don’t want to bring up the negative aspects. But I’m going to tell it to you straight.
Sacrifices are going to become a regular part of your life.
Since you can’t sacrifice your professional life in the form of your full-time or part-time job, that means all the sacrifices will affect your personal life.
You never used to miss Friday nights with the girls, but once you begin side hustling, you can’t skip a Friday if it’s a lucrative time to make money. You’ll see your friends once in a blue moon rather than weekly.
Those date nights that you and your honey used to look forward to will become a thing of the past as well.
When you sit down with the family for movie night, you’ll pass out on the couch and never see a movie through to the end.
Me-time is important, but you’re barely going to have any of that either.
You’ve Got to Have Passion for What You Do
I’ll talk more in the next section about the criteria for selecting your side hustle, but it can’t solely be how much money you can earn doing that gig.
If you’ve ever accepted a full-time job only for the money, you know what happens. After a while, the appeal of a big paycheck fades and you get bored and restless.
The same thing will happen with your side hustle. You might have thought starting an Etsy shop or teaching language was a great idea for your side gig, but they too lose their luster.
When you’re passionate about something, it makes it easier to commit to. You’ll be able to put a little more of yourself into the work you’re doing, which will make it worthwhile.
Of course, I should note that once your passion becomes a job, it’s easy for that passion to fade away. Thus, think carefully about whether you want to protect that passion or use it as a source of income.
My Top Tips for Mastering Hustle Culture as an Entrepreneur
As promised, I want to share some tips from personal experience about how to master side hustling. I won’t lie and say it’s easy, but it’s definitely worth it!
Treat Your Side Hustle as a Second Career
As I was talking about in the last section, you can’t let money be your guide when deciding what your side hustle is.
Instead, I would treat it like you’re back in your late high school days. Remember when you were dreaming about your career choices and the world was wide open and bursting with possibilities?
You managed to narrow down what you wanted to do with your life based on what you studied and your skills.
Now you’re even older and wiser, but the decision-making process doesn’t have to be all that different.
Think about what your main job requires you to do every day. Can those skills translate to a side gig?
If not, then think about your personal passions and hobbies. Surely, you can make a job out of them. I must reiterate my point from before though, that passions can burn out when you’re forced into doing them all the time. Don’t forget that!
Let Your Boss Know
This might sound outrageous, but bear with me.
Even if you can avoid the dreaded burnout, having a side hustle is going to change your working life in subtle ways.
When you have downtime at work, you might get busy calculating expenses or scheduling your side hustle work. You might take more initiative at work because you’ve gained confidence through your side gig.
It helps to clue your boss in on what’s going on. The way you broach the conversation though is extremely important.
Tell your boss that you’ve started a side business of your own. Be quick to explain that your side business experience can make you better at your current job. You also want to be clear to your boss that you have no plans to leave your current job for your side gig.
The only time you shouldn’t talk to your boss about your side hustle is if there’s a conflict of interest between your main gig and your side gig.
Determine How Much More Extra Money You Need and Then Work for Only That Amount
As a side hustler, it’s tempting to overwork, but then you burn out. Remember also that you have a full-time or part-time job, a house, a family, another possible side hustle or two, and other responsibilities.
You want to be there for more of the above, and you can be.
You have two ways to go about it. You can either schedule your side hustle hours and then only work those hours, or you can work until you hit a financial milestone.
For example, if you need $600 extra this month, then you work until you have the $600 and not again until next month.
Some gigs won’t allow you to stop working entirely for the rest of the month. In that case, then scale your hours back as much as you can. Take your extra earnings past $600 and put them towards next month’s amount.
Have an End Date in Mind
Will you work a side gig forever? Some people might because they genuinely like their side hustle.
Others are trying to reach a financial goal, then they don’t have to do a side hustle anymore.
Even if you’re nowhere near retirement age, you can retire from your side hustle once you hit that goal.
What I want you to do is sit down with a calculator. If you can make $600 consistently month after month from your side hustle, then how many months will it take for you to pay off your credit card debt or save for that Disneyworld trip?
Of course, unforeseen circumstances can always arise, but at least when you’re done crunching numbers, you’ll know roughly how long you’ll have to juggle a side gig.
Being able to see a light at the end of the tunnel makes it easier to get through those long stretches of work when all you want to do is sleep or sit on the couch.
There are many things I wish someone had told me before I started my side hustle. I don’t want you to be in that same position, so I’m sharing my pearls of wisdom. Do with them what you want, but keep in mind that no matter the side hustle, all have the same pitfalls.
I wouldn’t give up my side hustle days, but if I could do it differently, I would have. After reading this article, as you navigate full-time or part-time work with a side hustle, hopefully you can skip right to the step where you make a lot of money without the burnout!