A Side Gig Is No Longer a Luxury but a Necessity

Tim Denning

Staying ahead of rising prices, money created out of thin air, and a shift in work trends is tough. Here are some solutions.

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I got laughed at when announcing my side gig to my work colleagues.

“What are you going to write that’s so interesting, huh? You’re a nobody. You don’t know anything I can’t google. Why don’t you spend the extra time trying to further your career and become a manager.”

I went home that night incredibly emotional. I expected them to cheer me on. Instead, they mocked me and called me names. Through some kind of higher power, I ended up ignoring their advice. I worked on my side gig and didn’t tell anybody again for a long time. I wanted to see what was possible without familiar people tearing down the little bit of self-worth I had after years of mental illness stabbing my heart, and ripping my emotions apart.

Now, more than ever, you need a side gig.

This isn’t another one of those “American is burning, save yourself” articles written with a clickbait headline, designed to scare the pants off you so the writer can collect their clickbait, doomsdayer paycheck earned from exploiting your attention, and solving zero problems for humans in the process. Nope, these writers will eventually be punished for what they’ve allowed their out of control pessimism to do to society. That’s when we will forgive them and move on.

Writer Barry Davret said “A side gig is no longer a luxury but a necessity.” His thought struck a chord with me.

A global health crisis has slapped every economy around the world in the face. Businesses have constantly been started up, locked down, and booted up again like a 1990s desktop computer desperate for a memory upgrade.

The way we work has changed too. Traditional jobs working in cinemas and retail shops are transitioning into jobs centered around online retailers such as Amazon, and cinema replacements like Netflix.

Trillions of dollars have been created out of thin air as a form of hidden tax to pay for the health crisis. Inflation is still reported to be at 2.6% according to the U.S. Federal Reserve. Yet, if you go to buy lumber, homes, or stocks you see record increases in prices.

Where I live in Australia, even on a modest income, it’s near-impossible to afford property. The government is predicting a 30% increase in house prices. The story is similar for the U.S.

All of these economic and financial factors point to one thing: if you want to keep up financially then you’re going to need a side gig. Otherwise, tax, consumer inflation, asset inflation, rising home prices, and stagnant wage growth are going to see you fall further and further behind.

Then all it takes is another shock to the economic system before you get “the email.” The email reads: “Come to room 115a after your next meeting.” In that meeting you get told you’re being let go. Despite your years of service to the company, times are tough so they’re laying you off. It’s not you, it’s them.

When times get tough no company is going to take care of you ahead of taking care of themselves. A side gig is foam pit you can fall into if another black swan event comes (and it will) to change your life.

A Side Gig = Risk Mitigation

Betting all you’ve got on one thing is risky. This is basic investment advice we’ve all heard. You wouldn’t take every dollar you’ve earned and put it into Dogecoin — unless you were best friends with Elon Musk who can predict the future by using his Twitter following to pump and dump the price.

No. You’re smarter than that. Yet when it comes to work, many of us (including me) bet on a company logo.

One income source is a risky bet.
Two income sources is slight diversification.
Three income sources is improved diversification.

When people hear about multiple income sources they freak out. The assumption is the amount of money needs to be huge. It doesn’t. The point of multiple income sources is when an emergency strikes, you already have a path towards making money. All you need to do is ramp up that income source.

For example, I'm looking to quit my main 9-5 job. I sell an eBook. It does okay. It makes $20 here and there. It’s not going to buy me a house or anything. But if I had to, I now know how to make money from eBooks. So, I could use my free time to write a second and third eBook and repeat the process. The system exists. All that is needed is an investment of time.

Another income source gives you a system you can double down on with more time if you have to. This is the point — not the amount of money.

A Side Gig = A Second Future Customer

A regular job is your first customer. You get one deposit into your bank account. A side gig may start out with zero customers. I wrote online for a friend’s blog for free as a side gig. He paid me zero for years.

Writing as a side gig enabled me to understand how I can help people. Once you know how you can help people, you can start to look for your first future customer. You only need one. One customer tells you that you might be onto something. Ten customers tells you the path you’ve found isn’t a fluke.

50 tiny customers = a side gig that can pay you for the rest of your life.

You don’t need a lot of customers. You need a way to help a tiny amount of people who are willing to pay you something. Creating content around your side gig is the best way to find customers. Content is a magnet for people who believe and are interested in what you believe. When people say to me, “I can’t find clients,” I say “create content so you can figure out who they are.”

Customers don’t look like customers though.

Customers are people who leave comments on your content, send you random emails, and ask you to be on their podcast. This is why if you can’t see beyond the veil when you talk to a stranger, you’ll miss all the customers. A customer starts out as an “interested human,” not a physical mass of blood and guts with a dollar sign on their forehead.

Find interesting people through content. Start conversations. Don’t be a jerk.

A Side Gig = Testing Your Curiosity

It’s easy to overthink a side gig. The point is to follow your curiosity. See where it leads you. Sometimes my curiosity leads me to Afghanistan and back in search of a story. Sometimes my curiosity leads me to a woman, who I meet for a date, and ends up turning me into an honest man through marriage.

My curiosity right now is leading me to a mini-retirement. I crave hours of reading books, walking in parks with puppy dogs, and binge-listening to Tim Ferriss’s podcast.

I am curious what life is like without office politics, caused by hierarchical humans, who treat business as a game of thrones, to get money they don’t need, to buy stuff to impress people they don’t care about, that robs them of their precious time they could use to be around their family.

Most of all, I seek to see what it’s like not to have my energy depleted by revenue-focused humans who have accidentally fallen into the trap of believing business profits are the meaning of life.

Profits, money, and revenue are not the meaning of life.
Following your curiosity is the meaning of life.

Curiosity helps you find your version of happiness.

A Side Gig = Backing Yourself

This is the hardest reason of all to get a side gig. Let me make a confession. I haven’t turned my side gig into a full-time gig after seven years because I’m afraid. The data says I should have done it. Random strangers believe I can do it. My close friends believe I can do it. My family believes I can do it.

My future wife believes I can do it. Yet, I self-sabotage. I make up stories in my head about why I can’t do it. I even label myself as ungrateful for daring to quit my job during a pandemic, that pays well, and allows me to work four days instead of five without a crazy schedule.

My side gig has helped me a lot. My side gig keeps telling me to back myself and stop doubting my tiny dreams. Without a side gig, I don’t think I would have ever believed in myself again. That’s the brutal truth.

The same applies to you. Getting a side gig tells you that you can be successful at something else outside of your work experience, education, or your parent’s selfish wants for your life.

A side gig is betting on yourself. A side gig tells you, “I can use my existing skills to find a few customers who will pay me for them, rather than assume I have to settle for one safe customer who will innocently take advantage of that position for profit.”

Gaining multiple customers is a marketing problem at its core. Creating content fixes the marketing problem so you can find your few customers and have the evidence to back yourself.

How to Maximize Your Side Gig

Now I have shown you why you need a side gig, it’s time to understand how to maximize your side gig:

  • Make your side gig a habit. Work on it for the same duration every day.
  • See humans before they become customers.
  • Invest at least 20% of the side gig money you make in assets, so you don’t have to work your face off for the rest of your life and trade time for money.
  • Educate yourself along the way. After seven years, I still read books about writing and take online courses. You don’t know everything. The best side gig is the one you master through prioritizing learning (Learning reminds you that you know hardly anything. Learning equals humility.)
  • Wear your side gig loud and proud. When people tear you down on social media for being an “influencer” or “entrepreneur” or “fake teacher” or “wannabe Youtuber,” just take their label and throw it in the bin along with their jealously. It’s okay to have a side gig. The world has already given you permission to do and be whoever you want. You don’t need a pessimist to rob you of life so they can feel better about themselves.

The world of work is changing. The way you earn money in the future will change with Web 3.0. The time is now to back yourself and start a side gig quietly after hours. It’ll subtly change your life. Trust me.

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Aussie Blogger with 100M+ views — Writer for CNBC & Business Insider. Inspiring the world through Personal Development and Entrepreneurship www.timdenning.com

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