Starting Your Side Hustle I: Why

Is work strictly an 8-to-5 (OK, 7 to 7) thing for you? Do you think of yourself as a "company man" or woman, or at least faithful to the one job you have right now?


If so, there are many commendable points to that position - but you may be increasingly out of step with today's career and economic realities. Whether its called a part-time job, a freelance gig, or a small business, having a "side hustle" of some sort is helping many pursue their passions, bring in needed income, and spread their career risk across several different situations.


Although statistics on the number of Americans with side hustles are incomplete, a 2006 General Accounting Office report estimated that as many as 42 million people have contingency employment arrangements or are self-employed, working multiple gigs for multiple clients. Repeated corporate downsizings and economic downturns over the past 20 years have taught many that the 20th century corporate promise of unending employment for unending loyalty is no longer valid in many places.


The ultimate flex-time

Bryce Christiansen, the marketing coordinator for the Balanced WorkLife Company (and an ASU alum!), writes in an article promoting side hustling that college is a great place to learn the value of flexible income-producing arrangements.


College was a great atmosphere for learning how to side hustle. Every semester was a mystery as to what my schedule would look like, so finding a flexible job was CRUCIAL. One semester I might have classes in the morning M/W/F then the next semester I was spread all over T/Th. 


So instead of trying to find a new job every semester that fit my schedule best, I looked for several side hustle jobs. And I found this kind of work in spades.  I worked in promotion for Dell, Microsoft, and Livescribe.  I played with the survey sites.  I freelanced articles for EHow. I did consulting, training, and even demoed a machine that made “ice cream” from bananas.


Christiansen notes that the ad-hoc nature of some side jobs is perfect for changing needs. For example, if you need extra income to pay off a car repair, working a series of freelance gigs or temporary jobs might be preferable (both for you and the potential employer) to you taking a part-time job and quitting once you've gathered enough savings to fix your clunker.


You can do anything ... well, almost anything

Another advantage to taking the side hustle route is that you can explore business ideas or try on a profession part time and gain valuable experience, too. 


Brett McKay, the co-founder of the Art of Manliness blog, provides 37 side hustle ideas for his readers in a recent post. Here are a few of the more interesting/unusual/outlandish ones:

  • Soap maker
  • Professional letter writer
  • Maker of hand-crafted beef jerky (yes, really)
  • Holiday lights installer
  • Dial-a-Santa
  • Knife/blade sharpener
  • Dog poop picker-upper (again, yes, really)

Along with the colorful positions, there are the old stalwarts of graphic design, editing, proofreading and handyman. As Brett says in the post, "a lot of men never get started with their side hustle because they think their idea has to be unique and ground-breaking. It doesn’t. You just need a customer who’s willing and able to pay for your services and a strong work ethic to make your business a success."


Other blogs with great side hustle profiles include Budgets Are Sexy, which provides interviews with a running coach, an Air Force reservist, and a mobile food truck helper; and Escape From Cubicle Nation, whose founder, Pam Slim, interviewed a 3-D modeling artist, an owner of a martial arts school, and a social media strategist as part of her "Side Hustle and Flow" series.


In the next posts in this series, I'll review a book that is aimed at helping side hustlers get their dream projects off the ground, then I will provide some helpful ASU resources for would be side jobbers!


~Liz Massey, Managing Editor, ASU Alumni Association