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A beginner’s guide to the ‘why’s and ‘how’s of side hustles

Tamanna Mishra
28th Aug 2017
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I don’t know about you but in my view, work culture seems to have taken a 360- degree turn since the time I got into the workforce in 2007. For years before that, I saw people stay in the same job for years. They often left their comfort zones and hometowns to immigrate to new cities and countries in search of that one perfect opportunity —in which they then stayed all the way till retirement.

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

In recent years though, the scene has changed. Many people have taken to returning home in search of that elusive perfect opportunity, courtesy of an economy that is still taking shape. People are making career and job switches without as much deliberation as before. They are taking to gig culture, independent work, and most of all, startups, like never before. As far as work is concerned, I notice a lot more openness to calculated risks and a lot less judgment than we were used to even years after our markets opened up.

Thanks to the flexibility that this openness presents, side hustles are all the rage now. The dictionary meaning of the word is “work performed for income supplementary to one’s primary job.” While additional income is a good reason, side hustles also work as an experiment of sorts before one takes the plunge of leaving a full-time career behind. According to entrepreneurs Meagan Francis and Dave Krock’s LifeWork podcast, the reason side hustles work is that “When you try to enter a new business venture and you're sweaty about it—'I gotta make this work! I gotta make this work!'—there's something lost there. Something is going to be lost in the customer experience. You're going to rush things that can't be rushed. Something is going to fall through the cracks. When you take the pressure off because it's not your main thing and you don't have to make a living from it and it doesn't have to be profitable, then it does allow a lot more room to experiment and do it right.”

Before taking the plunge into starting farms and tech startups or launching a career in writing after years of corporate slavery, everyone now has the opportunity to test the waters because it is now acceptable and I, for one, couldn’t be more grateful.

But like all things in life and work, there is a right way to get into the side hustle too.

Find a mentor

As with all things new, good advice goes a long way as far as side hustles are concerned. Find someone who has aced it. If you don’t know anyone, Twitter is where you need to look. Several of India’s side hustlers and independent workforce, including me, take to Twitter to share opinions, experiences, and the pros and cons of this path. Initiate a conversation, catch up for coffee, and listen to real stories and lessons as you carve your own path.

Contribute where your strengths lie

There are enough “writers” and “authors” out there who can’t string sentences together, startup ideas that don’t deserve funding or even time, and consultants who don’t amount to much. Don’t be another one of them—it rarely lasts. Figure out what you are good at—art, comedy, food, coding, photography, or anything else—and sharpen your skills before you take the plunge. As a freelancer as well as a potential startup founder, reputation matters. Don’t get a bad one even before your idea takes off.

Be selective

Don’t get started until you perfect your idea. If you are looking to freelance on the side, take up assignments that are worth your time and skills. There is enough bad work that goes around, and I have had some really interesting briefs —from rewriting and copyscaping blog posts to clients who want 15 articles per day every week. They are not looking for quality and often, client experiences in these assignments are painful, to say the least. Don’t say yes to everything that comes your way. Instead, choose wisely.

Work on your time-management skills

With full-time employment, traffic woes, family commitments, social life, and a side hustle to boot, you wouldn’t want to reach a point where you no longer have the bandwidth to make use of the additional income you earn. Limit your assignments to a volume that makes sense and draw boundaries as far as work and life are concerned.

Know why you are doing it

According to Damon Brown, entrepreneur and author of The Bite-Sized Entrepreneur, “Get your why. What's the point of doing this? If you're doing something on the side in addition to your main business, then you can expect to sacrifice some free time and energy. Your motivation could be extra money, an outlet for your passion, or just a high-level hobby—but you absolutely need to know it. It's important to know why you are doing it because, if that reward goes away, you'll understand that it is time to stop. For instance, if you have a side hustle for money and it doesn't make a profit in six months, then you know you have to consider pulling the plug.”

Ever since I got on the side hustle and independent work bandwagon, I have been recommending it to everyone. If nothing else, it is a very interesting way to follow a hobby or keep the brains from rotting away at the repetitive work of our full-time careers.

For more inspiration to get on the side hustle and independent work bandwagon, read on:

  1. The most profitable jobs to do on the side
  2. Kick-starting a successful freelance career: a step-by-step guide
  3. Millennials abandoning 9–5 jobs for freelancing, the latest career opportunity on the block
  4. Freelancing and collaboration is the future of work: Collaborizm founder
  5. 8 apps to manage your side business 
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