The side-hustle way of life has become increasingly common in America as more and more folks look for creative ways to make ends meet. Many of us Millennials who came of age in a world where working for one company until you retired with a pension is no longer an option.
Distinct from a part-time job, a side-hustle is often gig-based (think delivering meals with Uber Eats) or freelance work. It’s the kind of work that you can squeeze into the nooks and crannies of your life while holding down a full-time job.
Squarespace teamed up with Dolly Parton for the song “5 to 9” in their big Super Bowl ad over the weekend. Regardless of what you think of the song itself, it’s a testament to how mainstream side-hustle culture has become.
But should you start a side-hustle of your own?
Pros and Cons of Working 5-9
Clearly, the biggest reason to pick up a side-hustle is to make extra money. Whether you need supplemental income to pay the bills, save up to follow your dreams, or simply want to quickly finance a big purchase, these gigs offer you the chance to earn extra cash on the side.
A big con? You have to handle your own taxes, and they can get complicated. Many folks who pick up extra work on the side find that, once they’ve paid for taxes and other expenses related to the side-hustle, the money that’s left over wasn’t worth it.
Another pro, however, is the chance to pursue a different type of work that you find interesting or gain experience in a new field. If you’re stuck at a desk all day, then delivering groceries or walking dogs as a side-hustle could be an opportunity to get some exercise.
One more con, though: side-hustles take a lot of time and energy. If you’re already working a full-time job, you may find yourself sacrificing sleep, meals, and time with family to keep hustling. That kind of schedule is not sustainable long-term, and the fact that some people need to work 60 or 80 hours a week to afford life’s basics is a systemic problem.
Types of Side-Hustles
It’s worthwhile to separate side-hustles into a couple of different categories so that you can decide what makes the most sense for you to pursue.
The first type is what I like to call the subsidized hobby. If you like to knit, for example, selling your own patterns or teaching classes could be a way to make that hobby pay for itself. I have a friend who loved to shop for vintage jewelry and learned a lot about it as she grew her collection. Eventually, she opened an Etsy shop so that she could keep buying–and afford to hold onto her favorite pieces.
We’re all familiar with the gig economy, a patchwork of jobs and tasks that take the place of traditional employment. Gigs are often not as financially rewarding as people hope, especially if you’re hustling on behalf of a corporation.
However, you also have the flexibility to work as much or as little as you want, or to decide to drop one type of gig to pursue something else. Delivery driving boomed during 2020 and shows no sign of stopping; however, the majority of those gigs require that you use your own vehicle and the base pay rate means that you rely on tips.
Freelancing is similar to gig work in some ways, but it usually focuses on just one type of skilled work. For example, someone with graphic design skills can hang their shingle out and take on commissions from individual clients or companies.
With freelancing, there are often more opportunities to build a long-term relationship with a client. Plus you get to be your own boss! If you have a skill that people will pay for, then freelancing might be a great way to grow an additional stream of income.
Finally, there’s the allure of being an entrepreneur. Many folks who start their own businesses on the side dream of one day turning them into a full-time job. There’s no limit to the type or scope of business you could start–as long as you have an idea for something people would pay for.
It’s a good idea to start small and keep costs down as you get started. There are tons of resources online for doing just that. A personal favorite is The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau.