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The art of the side hustle

At a glance

  • Side hustles or part-time work can let you earn extra money, develop skills and create a pathway to a career transition.
  • Some side hustle ideas include freelance work, e-commerce sales like Etsy, social media content, and gig-economy jobs, like ride-sharing and delivery service.
  • When starting a side hustle, it’s important to prioritize it outside of your day job’s hours and be transparent with your employer about your work.
  • Get more career insights from UOPX! Sign up for our weekly newsletter Career With Confidence™ on LinkedIn.

Side hustles on the rise

In the past decade, the side hustle has emerged as a dominant trend in career conversations. And no wonder! It can be a convenient and personally gratifying way for professionals to earn additional income, whether for discretionary purposes or to make ends meet in what Bankrate calls an “inflationary environment.”

From freelance work to passion projects, figuring out how to monetize your talent and expertise opens opportunities to earn extra moneyexpand your network and possibly even transition your career.

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What is a side hustle (and why might you want one)?

A side hustle can be described as a second job or source of income that individuals engage in outside of their primary employment. Typically, it’s something that individuals do alongside their regular job (but outside of regular full-time working hours) to earn extra money or pursue a passion or interest.

That translates to a great deal of flexibility that may be missing from your day job. You might work a corporate 9-to-5, for example, but offer professional photography services on weekends. Side hustle ideas, in other words, can be as expressive as you are, from freelance writing and consulting to teaching, coaching and being a virtual assistant.

Not everyone wants to or can take on a second job, of course. There are some interesting demographic statistics out there too. For example, according to survey results compiled by Side Hustle Nation, the U.S. outpaces both the U.K. and Canada when it comes to holding down a second gig. And while every generation in the U.S. appears to embrace entrepreneurialism, only the younger generations report having a side hustle in Canada and the U.K.

So, what’s the appeal? Earning extra money, for starters. Side hustles can help you work toward your financial goals, whether that’s purchasing a home, paying down debt, increasing your discretionary income or even funding another side business or future primary business.

I personally consider myself a king of the side hustle. During the day, I work full time as vice president of program management for a Department of Defense company. In my spare time, I run a knowledge-commerce (k-commerce) business that offers career coaching, tutoring, and digital and print content. I also teach part time as a college professor and as a college workforce project content developer, roles that are not necessarily typical but that align with my education and experience. In this way, I’ve made side hustling work for me and my interests.

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The rise of the portfolio career

In addition to earning a second or supplementary income, you might consider a second gig for the following reasons:  

You have a passion project

If you have a particular passion, hobby or skill set, such as painting, fitness, writing, math or marketing, starting a side hustle related to that passion can let you make money while doing something you love.

You want to develop new skills

A side hustle allows you to develop new skills. This can result not only in new skills for a secondary career but also improved skills for your current occupation.

You’re exploring a career transition

Instead of giving your corporate job two weeks’ notice before you commit to becoming a traveling musician, you can use a side hustle as a way to explore the viability of a career transition.

For example, you can:

  • Explore your interests: A side hustle allows you to test the waters of a new industry or field to determine if it aligns with your short- and long-term career goals.
  • Test the viability of a career transition: Use your side hustle as an opportunity to test your business idea and your viability as an entrepreneur. If you want to run your own business one day, your side hustle can allow you to assess the market demand, perfect and refine your product or service offering, and validate your business plan and concept.
  • Expand your network: It’s easier to connect with different agencies, professionals and future customers if you are working, even part time, in an industry outside your 9-to-5. This affords you insight to the pros and cons of an industry you may not know as well; plus, you have a better chance of spotting opportunities for a future career transition.  
  • Validate your core competencies: Developing a track record of accomplishments, achievements and satisfied customers provides evidence that you are competent in your (new) chosen field.
  • Establish financial stability: Side hustles provide additional income you can use to pay for living expenses in an inflationary climate or while changing careers, or to fund a new business through its ramp-up stages.

How to choose a side hustle

There are many side hustle ideas, but how do you choose the right one that’s fun or lucrative, or both? When considering a side gig or career transition, you should start by evaluating your skills, interests and resources. This isn’t so different from choosing a career, but side gigs often offer more flexibility. Where you might settle on a career based on the salary you’ll earn and growth opportunities, for instance, a side hustle can let you take a chance on your interests and talent.

Here are a few side hustle ideas you might consider:

Freelancing

Providing your skills and expertise on a contract basis offers both flexibility and the chance to expand your skills and portfolio. Consider opportunities like web development, content development, graphic design, virtual assistant, copywriter, social media account management, marketing management, language translation, coaching or consulting.

K-commerce

K-commerce requires little to no overhead. Once your knowledge product is complete, you simply place it online for sale. The trick behind a successful K-commerce business, however, is figuring out what knowledge you have that puts you two or three steps ahead of your dream client base. Ideally, your knowledge or expertise should help them solve a problem or create an opportunity for themselves.

With the right product in place, you can effectively market to your target group.

E-commerce

If your talent is more product-based than knowledge-based, you could start an e-commerce business that sells products on platforms like eBay, Etsy and Amazon. This business model can include anything from reselling items you access through a wholesaler to creating new products yourself.

Teaching and tutoring

With the proper educational credentials, you might be able to work as an adjunct instructor at the college or university level (I’m an online professor for St. Petersburg College, for example) or as a private tutor in anything from math to Microsoft products.

Gig-economy work

The gig economy is full of diverse options. You could work for companies like Lyft, Uber or Fiverr to provide ride-sharing service, delivery service, household cleaning or creative work like web design services.  

Online content creation

You could write an e-book or start a YouTube channel, podcast or blog where you share your knowledge, offer informed opinions or provide entertainment. You could become a social media influencer if you have enough of a message, niche or following. If being an influencer is not your preference, you could also explore managing social media for a small business. 

If you are successful, you can grow and monetize your media by earning advertising, sponsorships and merchandise sales.

How to balance a side hustle with your day job

Balancing your side hustle with your day job requires effective time management and prioritization. It’s important to define clear goals (along with articulated steps on how to achieve them) regarding what you want to accomplish with your side hustle.

It’s also important to make sure you have the time to dedicate to an extra project. Sometimes, if you have small children or you’re still completing your education, there’s less time to dedicate to launching a side business.

If you do decide to pursue a side hustle, the fact is you have to work it on off hours. That means before your workday starts or after it ends and on weekends. If you work your side hustle while on the company clock, you’re moonlighting, and that generally isn’t tolerated.

I recommend delegating and prioritizing as many side hustle tasks as possible to create efficiencies. If outsourcing side hustle activities is cost effective and available to you, it can be an excellent way to avoid burnout and ensure you are making the best use of your time. It can also free up precious hours for your commitments outside of work, like family time.

When I decided to create digital courses for my online k-commerce business, I hired a digital-course creation studio to handle the production end of things. This saved me time on production setup, content review and strategy on how to launch my course. I also hired a marketing company to build out my marketing profiles.

I also recommend communicating your side hustle with your employer to ensure it doesn’t conflict or compete with your day job’s commitments and organizational policies. I did this myself when I started career coaching. Since career coaching was unrelated to my corporate career, it was approved. This level of transparency provides you peace of mind that you won’t get in trouble (or fired) later, and it builds trust with your employer.

Career resources at University of Phoenix

As you explore opportunities in your career or side gig, UOPX is here to help. Discover the following resources!

  • Free career resourcesBrowse a range of downloadable guides and templates to help you optimize your LinkedIn® profile, get ready for a job interview and write a resumé and cover letter.
  • Career With Confidence™ newsletterGet career insights every week via UOPX’s LinkedIn newsletter.
  • Career Services for Life: Available exclusively to UOPX students and graduates, this offering comprises complimentary career coaching, including guidance on how to build a personal brand and write a resumé.
Photo of blog author Dr. Patrick Horton smiling.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Patrick C. Horton, MBA, DM/IST, is the vice president of program management for Tampa Microwave, a college professor and a veteran U.S. Army sergeant. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, Master of Business Administration and Doctor of Management with a specialization in Information Systems at University of Phoenix. He launched his business, Professional Career Transformations, in 2021 as a way to guide and encourage others to identify and pursue their career goals. He is a former member of Vistage Executive Coaching Group and a recipient of the Purple Heart in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and he lives in sunny Florida. Learn more about Dr. Horton and his commitment to helping others achieve their highest level of success by visiting his website and be sure to watch this video on career diversification on his YouTube channel.

 

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