Is A Side Hustle Worth It? These Are The Pros & Cons Of Having A Passion Project
Side hustle: a term your nan isn't likely to be familiar with, but one that is increasingly used among younger generations. It means having a secondary source of income, whether that's walking dogs at the weekends or starting an app alongside your full-time job. But is a side hustle really worth it or could all that time and effort take a toll on your finances and mental health? I spoke to several side hustlers to find out the truth.
Research conducted by Henley Business School in May 2018 found that a quarter of UK workers have a side hustle. It's extremely popular among people aged 25-34 and there's been a recent boom in the number of women taking on two or more roles. (62 percent of side hustling women have started in the past two years versus 48 percent of men.)
Successful side hustlers are earning a decent amount of money, with those surveyed saying they get around 20 percent of their income through their secondary job. However, there is a downside. Almost half of side hustlers said they regularly work 40 hours a week. A quarter work over 50 hours every week.
If your side hustle is your true calling in life, those long hours may be nothing more than a slight hiccup in your bid to make a difference. But if you're just looking for some extra cash, you may have some questions about what it's like to partake in the side hustle life. I know I do. As a freelance writer, I already juggle various roles but also been longing to get involved in the animal rehoming sector for some time.
Whatever you're dreaming of doing, here's some advice from the people who have successfully balanced their careers and passions.
Pro: A Side Hustle Can Actually Benefit Your Day Job
"Side hustles may be seen by employers as 'one foot out the door', but there is a great opportunity for the side hustle to reinvigorate and bring fresh perspective to the day job," says Annie Auerbach, co-founder of cultural insight agency, Starling, and author of the upcoming FLEX: The Modern Woman's Handbook. Gareth Bull, director of Bulldog Digital Media, agrees, adding that his online-based side hustles allow him to "test strategies on personal projects before using them for clients."
Kim Palmer believes her side hustle allowed her to become more focused at work. While working as a strategy director for a digital agency, she started a women's wellness app called Clementine in 2017. "I had another reason (not just the kids) to want to leave the office so I became more productive at work," she says. "My career [has] developed more since having a side gig. I bring way more skills into the workplace and for the clients that we work with."
Con: The Lack Of Self-Care
All that time spent working on your side hustle alone can leave you feeling isolated and potentially overwhelmed, adds Auerbach. Not switching off can be a problem for her along with Mireille Cassandra Harper.
She has a few roles. Her day job is as an editorial assistant at a book publisher. Her other titles involve being a freelance writer, marketer, and co-founder of a creative collective, Cassandra x Camille, she set up with her sister. "When I go on holiday, my laptop is always by my side," she tells me. "For me, Christmas was spent half eating and having fun and half glued to my phone and laptop."
Mentioning that she can often work from 7 a.m. until midnight and sometimes struggles to fit family and friends in, Harper states that it's important to "pace yourself, listen to your body, and tell yourself 'no' when it gets too much."
Pro: You Have The Ability To Make A Real Difference
So your day job is a little tiresome and you don't feel like you're contributing much to the wider world. The beauty of a good side hustle is that you have the power to help others in any way that you want. As Palmer says, "I feel like my life has a bigger purpose and meaning now."
It's a sentiment echoed by a couple of other people I spoke to. Marni Xuto works in "a very demanding job" in the public sector but doubles up as the founder of Thai Food Made Easy and a volunteer language teacher. Her secondary jobs have allowed her to collaborate with other business owners and plan to donate profits to worthwhile causes like a local hospital. Having a side hustle isn't just about "money or fulfillment," she says, "but the opportunity to make a difference to others too."
Harper adds that she "wanted to work with organisations which were driving a lot of social change and helping people. My clients are centred towards bettering the lives of women, people of colour, and people from the black community, and I think it's great that I can use my skills and expertise to do something ethical and important."
Con: It's Hard To Work Out What You're Worth
If you're starting a business kind of side hustle, you're going to have to find clients all by yourself. And you're going to have to tell those clients how much you want to be paid. Selling yourself short is a common side hustler ailment, but try to figure out what you're worth before you agree to a fee.
Harper opens up about the reality of this, plus how difficult it can be to actually get paid: "Prior to my first commission, I did four years of unpaid work. I'm still owed a commission from April 2018 too. When you're employed, it's easy to complain to HR but when it's just you, you have to protect yourself or you can easily be taken advantage of."
Luckily, there are plenty of private Facebook groups full of people side hustling their way to success. Ask people for advice on how much to charge and what to do if someone refuses to pay you. Remember that you definitely won't be the only one to have come across a particular problem.
Pro: You Can Earn A Decent Bit Of Money
In theory, working more means earning more money. "My sector is fun and dynamic but the pay isn't huge, compared to those who work in finance and law," says Harper. "With steady clients and commissions, I can earn up to £1,000 extra a month which goes a long ways towards saving and enjoying life."
Of course, not every side hustle has to transform into a fully-fledged business. Some secondary jobs are purely ways of making money. (Just don't forget that any extra income over £1,000 a year must be declared to HMRC, writes tax barrister Patrick Cannon.)
Kathy Kristof, editor of SideHusl (a website that has researched and rated over 250 side hustle job sites), says that the "vast majority [of these jobs] provide ample opportunity to make good money. 80 percent of the opportunities on our site pay U.S. minimum wage of $15 per hour (approximately £11.65) or more. Many pay considerably more."
She notes that specialised skills such as web designing and accounting tend to pay the same as an employee in that sector would earn. But things like gardening and online English tutoring can also pay well.
Con: Not Everything Is Worth Your While
Unfortunately, there are several ways of earning extra money that you should be wary of. Firstly, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is and you're better off looking elsewhere.
Secondly, Kristof believes the following types of side hustle "are not worth your time: most of the survey sites, a bunch of writing content mills that pay a penny or two a word, and several of the delivery sites that only promise that you'll get a tip."
Work out how much time you're going to put into something and what you'll get out of it and go from there.
Every single person that I spoke to didn't appear to regret taking on a side hustle, leading me to conclude that having two or more jobs may well become the norm. After all, it's something that literally anyone can try out. Just make sure you're looking after yourself while you're doing it.