Is the side-hustle for you?

We spoke to real side-hustlers to find out if juggling a job and a passion project is worth it.

‘Side hustle’ is a term that started circulating fairly recently. But what it describes  – a secondary source of income – is already common practice among millennials. Not to be confused with a part-time job, a side hustle is not only for extra cash but also usually tied to entrepreneurial ambitions. Many ‘side-hustlers’ are unsatisfied employees seeking a challenge outside their job or in a separate field of interest.

But in a world where burnout syndrome is a big enough concern it’s worth asking, how much is too much work? To understand whether all that hustle is worth the hassle, we spoke to two full-time employees who devote much of their free time to side projects. They told us about their motivations, their struggles, and their rewards — here’s what we learned.

Alena lives in Prague and juggles full-time employment as an account executive at an advertising agency with two side-gigs. “The first one is foreign language tutoring [and] the second one is the online promotion of an arts project in my hometown.” She explains how even though she charges for language tutoring occasionally, the extra cash is only a partial motivator.

She claims all her drive comes from an intrinsic desire to improve her practical language skills. “It is like going to the gym as yourself versus as a personal fitness trainer,” she compares. “While the former only works out, the latter also gets to exercise and makes some money along the way.”

Meanwhile, her second side project doing online marketing for an arts project is completely unpaid. “I also put my own money behind the online advertising campaigns,” she adds. From Alena’s perspective, spending her own earnings is not a drawback but an opportunity for professional development. “It is a great way to learn online marketing hands-on and try out new ideas and tools.”

It has been four years since Alena began splitting her time between her job, tutoring, and the arts marketing project, and she has no regrets. The only struggle, she admits, is that time management can be an issue. “With only 24 hours in a day and two hands, you cannot have everything,” she says.

Leon is the project lead at an EduTech startup in London. Every week, he spends 50 to 55 hours per week at his job, plus an additional 4 to 5 hours working with a friend to build a platform that would make it easier for people to participate in impromptu volunteering activities.

In Leon’s case, time management is not only a personal problem but a logistical one. “He works at night and on weekends,” he says of his business partner, “and I work normal office hours.” Since his side-hustle is a collaborative project, the fact he and his business partner share different work conditions makes scheduling a common time all the more complicated.

On the other hand, he sees it a good lesson for finding time to balance work and life, as the project gives them a reason to see hang out in spite of their busy work lives. “I really think this whole thing just started with us finding time to hang out and catch up,” says Leon. “This kind of is a good excuse.”

“I think it’s hard to find the motivation after a long working day, to do something else,” Leon admits. “But I think it helps that it’s a passion project [rather] than just making money.” He compares it to his past experiences working side-jobs purely for income, saying the two are vastly different. “I’ve had bar jobs next to my actual job,” he recalls. “I would go there to make some extra cash, be there for a couple of hours and then, you know, be happy that I have the extra cash. But this is basically whenever you can, whenever you feel like it, just because you want to do it, and it’s fun. And that’s it.”

Just as in Alena’s case, it would seem that side hustles are mostly worth it when there is more in it for you than just money. Where there is an internal drive to learn a new skill, develop existing proficiencies or spend time doing something you simply enjoy, there will be a lower chance of burnout. It’s not about working every waking hour, but rather about pursuing those satisfactions which are not available to you in your day job.

 

Meanwhile, it also allows you to exercise skills that you don’t use at work, or to use the skills you use for a living on the pursuit of another ambition. Leon notes, for instance, how the skills gained in his full-time job will overlap into his nonprofit venture. “If we get to the stage where we actually set up a platform, then that would involve a lot of experience from my actual job.”

But ultimately: “The most rewarding thing is to do something that is completely my own. At the same time, just to do something for other people — it’s very cliché but, it makes you feel really good.”
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Author:  Salwa Benaissa

My name is Salwa and I’m a copywriter and communication strategist. I have Moroccan roots, an American accent and a British sense of humour. I moved to Prague from London in 2015 and have been based here ever since. I work mainly in advertising and content marketing while freelancing as a journalist. My passions include acting, surrealist literature and complaining that the coffee I’m drinking is not strong enough.  

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