A "side hustle" is a money-making pursuit you do outside of your regular career. It can be anything from wedding photography, to flipping items on Craigslist, to becoming a marriage celebrant, or running an Etsy shop.
Aside from the extra cash, a side hustle can have a number of psychological benefits. However there are also some psychological cons. Let's take a look at both sides.
If you're thinking about starting your own side hustle, or you already have one, reflecting on these issues should help you maximize the benefits and minimize any personal costs your side hustle may be creating.
Upsides of Having a Side Hustle
1. Your side hustle can give you a competitive advantage in your career.
It's good to think a little bit differently from the herd, and a side hustle can help you achieve that.
When you're devoted to a single career trajectory, you'll often end up with a similar skillset and thinking style as all the other people who share the same training and job responsibilities as you.
A side hustle will challenge you to learn new skills. You'll be exposed to different types of knowledge and ways of thinking. This can help you become unique in your main career since you'll bring those new skills and perspectives to your core work role.
If something isn't going well at your day job but your side hustle is bustling along, it can be easier to cope with your work-related frustrations, disappointments and setbacks.
3. "A change is as good as a vacation"
The beauty of a side hustle is that it often allows you to use a different part of your brain than your regular job. This can feel very relaxing, even if the work itself is quite intense. For example, my main career is emotion focused, whereas my side hustle is heavily math and technology focused.
4. Your side hustle can provide opportunities to hang out with cool people.
Particular careers often attract the same kinds of people. Your side hustle is likely to involve you with a community of people who are attracted to your side hustle (e.g., If you run an Etsy shop, you might find yourself connecting and networking with other people who run Etsy shops). You'll get exposed to different personalities and ways of thinking compared to the people you work with.
5. If you're a workaholic, a side hustle can help give you more balance.
If you find it hard to break away from working, or you ruminate or worry about your work, a side hustle can allow you to still feel productive but take a break from your regular job.
*There are some caveats to this point, which we'll discuss later.
6. A side hustle can help you see yourself as creative and good at problem solving.
It's easy to be defined by your career, whether by other people or in terms of how you see yourself. A side hustle often involves lots of creativity, new learning, and diverse types of problem solving. By undertaking a side hustle, these transferable skills can become a bigger part of your core identity.
Downsides of Having a Side Hustle
Now that we've covered the benefits, let's look at the potential downsides, so you can think about how to minimize them.
1. You can easily end up having no actual down time.
Since side hustles are typically both fun and lucrative, it can be tempting to spend any time you're not at your job engaged in your side hustle. You can easily end up having no actual down time. Hobbies or past times that don't also earn income can seem unproductive compared to your side hustle.
If your spouse/partner isn't involved in your side hustle, you can end up neglecting your relationship because the activities your partner wants to do don't seem productive when you could be spending time on your side hustle.
2. When your side hustle is new and exciting, you can end up neglecting your regular work.
If you're in a highly paid regular career then it sometimes doesn't make sense to devote time to a side hustle that isn't as lucrative as your main gig. If you're primarily motivated by a financial goal (such as early retirement) then you may logically be better off focusing on your job.
3. A side hustle can add more stress and complexity to life.
Let's say your partner comes home from their 9-6, and is done with their work day. However, you come home and have emails, shipping, and other bits and pieces related to your side hustle to deal with. Responsibilities like taxes and insurance also become more complicated.
Adding this extra stress and complexity to your life can have personal costs and create relationship tension.
4. Successful side hustles can start to feel more like your job.
After awhile your side hustle can feel less like fun and more like work. This is especially the case for hobbies that have turned into side hustles, or where a side hustle is very successful and grows quickly. Something that is a fun hobby can become much less enjoyable when you're doing it as a business, particularly if you come to rely on that extra income.
If you're contemplating a side hustle, consider how you can maximize the benefits and minimize the costs mentioned in this article. If you already have a side hustle, assess how well you currently do this, and tweak as needed!
Approached thoughtfully, a side hustle can be very psychologically rewarding, as well as financially rewarding. If you're looking for ideas for a side hustle, author Chris Guillebeau has an excellent list here.
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