What you do after hours can become what you do during normal work hours.
Without a side hustle, my life would be ruined.
A side hustle gave me many unexpected benefits. But the phrase side hustle scares some people, and upsets others. Labels can be toxic. You don’t need to Tim-Ferriss-it or get all self help-y to unlock the brilliance of a side hustle. A side hustle isn’t a badge of honor. Nope.
What is a side hustle really?
“Side” means it’s not your primary form of work. You don’t spend more than 50% of your time doing it. “Hustle” means you work hard at it. This does not mean overwork at it, and it’s not a word to sound cool.
What is missed is, a side hustle is a seed you plant. It’s not what a side hustle starts out as. It’s what a side hustle becomes that unlocks several layers of your undiscovered potential.
The Slow Transformation into a Meaningful Life
A side hustle is really an experiment.
When I started playing around as a wannabe DJ, I didn’t think it could become a career. When I started working in a bank and writing about finance, I didn’t think people would pay me money to do this.
When I started writing online 7+ years ago, I didn’t think anybody would subscribe to my work and read every article. When I launched an online course, got two students, failed, and refunded the money, I didn’t think it would lead to several more attempts and me quitting my job to write and run an academy full-time.
What if I’d simply dismissed the idea of a side hustle to please the cool kids, and kiss the feet of the critics who are too afraid to live their dream? Well, I’d be stuck in a call center hoping for a lucky break, and probably be miserable, and further into a fistfight with mental illness.
Forget haters that get caught up in labels to get a few likes. You can’t let a critic or a label stop you in life.
Now that my side hustle has become my main hustle, it’s led to a more meaningful life. I get off on the feedback subscribers give me about ideas I have shared that led them down an unusual path. Seeing a student get a best seller on Amazon this week due to a silly little three-part mini course my friend and I put together is a huge highlight. What if he becomes the next Malcolm Gladwell? Pretty cool, huh? All from leaning into a side hustle.
When you finally get to do work that genuinely helps people — as opposed to a lot of the 9-5 work that bleeds humans dry for revenue — your entire perspective changes. And that’s worth side hustling for.
A Side Hustle Is Self-Expression
Many of us don’t express ourselves out of fear. We hide behind a mask, deathly afraid somebody discovers who we are or what darkness we’ve endured. A side hustle is best associated with the creator economy.
A side hustle is built on a pillar of content. That content lets you tell your story. That content lets you share lessons and explain why you do what you do. You get to select the style of content. You can even pick the logo or choose the font to write content in. Expressing yourself without a boss looking over your shoulder is a freeing experience.
The freedom leads to free-flowing thoughts you didn’t know you could have. You start joining the dots between events in your life and random ideas you’ve been generating since a young age.
Suddenly, as the dots join, your life starts to make sense. This is the power of self-expression, that is muzzled by corporate giants so they don’t risk their lifeless reputation that inspires nobody.
A Side Hustle Is Committing to Experimentation
Most jobs discourage experimentation. You do as your told. You keep doing the thing that has been bringing the revenue in previously and is thought to continue to bring in the revenue, giving in to the stupid religion of KPIs.
A side hustle is different. It’s okay if something goes wrong. In fact, failures lead to even better experiments. You can do no wrong. The side hustle isn’t paying your utility bills or finding your rent. Yay.
I’m with writer James Altucher on this one: we need to experiment more in life. We need to dare to stuff around and see what art we can create. That’s where side hustles come in. Make good side hustle art. Surprise yourself.
A Side Hustle Is Diversifying Risk
One source of income is incredibly risky. What if a health crisis sends the world into lockdown? What if a recession strikes and your boss has to decide between firing you and losing their own job? What if you have to take a new job that pays less or has a toxic work culture?
A side hustle can quietly build other sources of income. You won’t know until you start. But eventually, some beautiful stranger on the internet is going to say “can you help me with that?”
All you have to say is “sure, I charge $20 for that.” Bam. Now your side hustle has become a tiny business that makes a few dollars — and you didn’t need to become a superhero entrepreneur or get good at sales.
Some call this passive income, but that label gives a lot of people nightmares. Instead, think of it like this: your job is your one and only customer. A side hustle is adding a second customer. Mind blown? That’s how dumb labels are. Labels limit our potential.
A Side Hustle Is Working After Hours
Yep, that’s the bad news if you’re like me and love to binge-watch tv between 5 pm and 10 pm.
It doesn’t mean work-so-hard-until-you-burnout. It simply means you choose to be more disciplined and work on a side project. It means splitting your leisure time up between chewing the fat and goofing off, and sitting down to work on a side hustle.
What you do after hours can become what you do during normal work hours. That’s an idea worth exploring.
A Side Hustle Gives Us Hope
This point hurts like hell.
Pay rises are rare. Inflation in many countries is going through the roof. If you simply stick to one source of income and one job, you’re going backwards financially. This means giving up more of your time, to work your face off at a job you may not necessarily love, and spending more time away from family.
A side hustle is a way to fight the headwinds of the hard-to-see financial crisis we’ve been living in since the 2008 recession.
Bottom line: prices of stuff you need aren’t going down, and your wage is probably not going up. So, a side hustle is potential upside during this moment in human history when you need it most.
A Side Hustle Is Backing Ourselves
How often do we believe in our own ideas? Not enough.
Fear creeps in and tells us what we’re doing is stupid. A side hustle fights fear. A side hustle is a quiet belief in ourselves. And if we fail, because it’s a side hustle, the consequences are zero. A side hustle builds up evidence over time that fuels your optimism rather than fear.
The evidence says “but if I made $1000 last month doing this” or “got ten new subscribers last month” maybe there’s more to this. There is. You have so much untapped potential.
People always tell you what you can’t do, never what you can do. A side hustle tells you what you can do.
A Side Hustle Is a Way to Take Work-Rage and Make It Useful
A job can be infuriating.
There can be so many drongos in a meeting, all with huge egos, that nobody can be heard. The drongos keep talking so the business problem never gets solved. It’s the definition of corporate insanity and it can make you go bonkers.
I found my side hustles of writing and teaching helped me channel that work-rage into something useful. Rage is useful energy when it’s transformed into creativity rather than used to fight “the system.”
To side hustle is better than meditation. It takes your mind off meaningless work crap and allows you to answer the question, “how can I help people?”
Here’s the hilarious part: you probably already have a side hustle. Even the side hustle critics paint, exercise, walk, write, or own a website.
A side hustle isn’t taboo. A side hustle is where you experiment and see if you can create enough value to slowly over time pivot your work hours into a more meaningful trajectory in life. The effort is worth it.
For when you side hustle your way to building a tiny empire, it becomes apparent you were already doing it, but you didn’t believe it held the answers to the work life you’d been looking for. Now you do. That’s why we definitely need a side hustle.
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