The ‘side hustle’ has become quite a buzzword in the last few years. According the Dictionary.com it can be defined as: “a means of making money alongside your main form of employment or income.”
It’s often promoted as ‘THE way’ to quit your 9-5 and step away from the corporate world. There is a lot on Instagram that can even make it look glamorous. There are SO MANY online courses all about developing your side hustle. You almost feel left out if you don’t have a side hustle!
In my opinion, a side hustle has the intention behind it to be profitable and grow into something that could become your main income source. A hobby could mean making and selling something, but without any intention to grow it beyond that or to replace your ‘day job’.
You can thank us millennials (yes I’m an old Millennial!) for the popularization of the side hustle. It’s a natural by-product of the 2000s, when plummeting job rates, a rising cost of living, and changing technology created the perfect environment for new business ideas.
My experience of the working world since I graduated in 2005 has been mixed. I thought I ‘should’ find a solid career path with a reliable and predictable path of progression. Yet I found it impossible to stay in one job for more than 18 months (check my LinkedIn profile!)
There was a lack of real opportunity, of self-development and mentoring in the roles I was finding at Marketing Agencies in London. I had to create these for myself by moving fairly regularly. My managers were not inspiring and a common expression around the office was ‘JFDI’ (just f**king do it). I was surrounded by people who lived for the weekend. It wasn’t without it’s fun moments, but it certainly didn’t fulfil my need to make a positive impact with the work I was doing. This was on one of the visits I made to the office in San Francisco:
I think this constant change in job roles, adapting as the ‘new starter’ and eventually migrating into fully-fledged freelancer in 2011, then remote worker in 2015 and then business owner in 2018 was a natural evolution for someone who never quite fitted into the old corporate structures. The gig economy was also growing, and the variation and freedom appealed to me. I remember being really scared going freelance in 2011 – what if no one hired me? What about my London house share rent? Yet I knew I couldn’t take another day working in a system that really didn’t work for me.
I was able to secure fairly consistent freelance work whereby I would work on short-term projects for agencies and then finish and find another role. After a few years of doing this and a 2-year stint in Australia, I found myself working remotely after taking on a short-term contract for Skype and ending up working on a project with a team based in the West Coast US. This was the start for me of learning how to structure my own time, of arranging the working week in a way that worked for me. Especially important after becoming a mum as well- I was able to return to work and gradually increase my hours again.
I started a co-working business in September 2018. Whilst I loved the flexibility of my remote working role, it got really lonely. I balanced running this business and working flexible hours- it wasn’t really a day job since I did evening calls to sync up with my US colleagues. Ultimately I started my original side hustle as a way to bring more meaning to my working life. Whilst my ‘main’ job was great in many ways, I didn’t feel I could truly make an impact because it was always following someone else’s directions which I often disagreed with.
Running a side hustle is not an easy route to take. Balancing a business with a day job and a young family was really hard going. The to-do list was never done. BUT I learnt SO much about running a business, making it profitable, and what I did and didn’t enjoy. It was a huge learning curve and I was lucky to have my regular income as a buffer. However, I do wonder if it stopped me from growing the business to what I truly wanted it to be because I was always doing it in a rush in my ‘spare’ time.
In September 2019, my 4.5-year contract with Skype / Microsoft came to a sudden end. It was the chance I really knew I had been waiting for to make my side hustle my focus. I attended Tony Robbins Business Mastery in January 2020 and created a brilliant business plan.
Since the pandemic hit I had to close down the co-working business, but I learnt so much along the way that I bring into my current business- I think the adaptability from the constant change I’d already had in my career to date really helped. The official Limited Company business name is still ‘Free Range Work Co’ which stands for the freedom to work when and where suits you. Which I still very much stand with!
In summary I’d say starting a side hustle whilst you have a ‘main job’ is a good move because it allows you to try things and experiment without a huge risk. However, I can also see the case for throwing yourself all in as I did in late 2019 as I’d say things have really accelerated since I was able to really focus on growth in the business rather than just about keeping my head above water when I was spinning both. I was lucky enough to have the support of my husband – his salary just about covers the essentials. There has been a financial sacrifice, but I’m more than confident in the long term, it will be a massive financial and lifestyle gain.
What do you think about having a side hustle? Tell me in the comments!