In a nutshell, a side hustle is simply “a secondary job that brings in extra cash”. The benefits are obvious: it’s the extra cash and, by extension, the diversification of your income, as well as the potential to grow to replace your income entirely. More than ‘just’ a part-time job, though, a side hustle is about creating assets that create an opportunity to earn more passive income, rather than simply trading your time for money. Continuing in your corporate job while working on your business as a side hustle allows you to keep the security of a steady income while you build your business alongside your current work. You can validate your idea, find out if you really do enjoy working for yourself and start building a client base before you become 100% reliant on the new business as your main income stream. Tune into this week’s podcast episode as I discuss the pros and cons of starting a side hustle versus going ‘all in’ with your business.
*Resources mentioned during the episode*
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Starting a side hustle business
Okay. We have been talking about leaving your 9 to 5, setting up on your own, signs that it might be time to change career and specifically to work for yourself after many years, perhaps even decades of working as a full-time employee. Now, one of the questions is – I call it the ‘eternal question’ that so many people ask me, it comes up again and again – should I start and grow and build my business alongside my existing job, or should I quit my job and go all in? And of course, this is a really personal question, it depends on so many things. But I wanted to address some of the pros and cons, because I think this can be quite important for you. I don’t want us to waste time and energy on, should I do this? Should I do that? We just need to get on with it. There is no right answer as ever. So it’s a matter of your personal situation, the reasons why you want to build a business in the first place, your financials, of course, and how much time you have available, the type of business, et cetera, et cetera. So let’s not overcomplicate things, but let’s have a little bit of a look at the pros and cons of starting a business alongside your job or going all in.
And first of all, of course there is this very fashionable concept of having a side hustle. This is the idea of building a business alongside your job. And this is really important and exciting because it can be interesting for you. And it is interesting and powerful and amazing in many ways, even if you’re not sure if you want to start a business or if you don’t ever want to go all in with that business. So maybe you just want to have a fun side project, just curious about being an entrepreneur, you want to make it a little bit of extra money, whatever that reason is, you can actually then have that outlet, the creative outlet, perhaps the entrepreneurial outlet alongside your job.
So even if you have no concept, no plan at all, or desire to work for yourself full-time, it might still be something to consider in the short-term. So what are some of the advantages? Now, the first most obvious one, and I think one that is all the more poignant and important having experienced what we’ve experienced this year in terms of COVID and potential economic crisis recession, redundancy and so on, is that having a side hustle or having a business alongside our job, whatever that looks like, both the job and the side hustle itself, is an opportunity to create a second income stream. So it can give us some more financial security actually. It means we’re not wholly dependent on that employer.
And again, actually, even if we want to continue working full-time going forward or working in more of a traditional job, it can at least take the pressure off and feel, okay, we’re not beholden to this one company and employer, we have this other income stream. And that gives us a bit more flexibility should we want to change later on. I think it takes some of the pressure off. So as an additional income stream, that’s really appealing. However, again, it’s not just about the money. Of course, it never would be with me. So it’s not just about having the income stream, although that should be a pretty appealing goal and a benefit in itself. Again, even if you have no desire to make this into a full-time endeavour, you don’t need to make millions with it, et cetera, although perhaps that’s nice, there are a lot of benefits to designing and building your own business, pursuing your own project outside of your full-time job.
And one is that it gives you complete ownership and accountability. Which is scary, but it’s also very empowering. It’s confidence building. So many of us lack that autonomy, unfortunately. And autonomy, if you’ve read Dan Pink’s book, Drive, or if you’ve heard of this idea of autonomy being a really key driver of our job satisfaction motivation. So having that autonomy is something that we unfortunately sometimes lack in our jobs. Now, if we’re lucky, we’re in a senior position, we have a lot of scope. Certainly, in my final role in corporate, I had a really exciting digital marketing role. I had a slightly absent manager because she was busy working on other brands and so on, and digital that I was working on was a little bit alongside, I guess, the mainstream. And I was essentially an internal, eternal also perhaps, internal consultant working with a brand.
So I had a lot of autonomy over designing strategy, training, planning a week, living, working with an agency.
So I’d get insight into how they worked and so on, and that was really exciting. So maybe you’re lucky and have that autonomy. But if you don’t, having your own business is when you have full creative control, financial control, you can make all the decisions. Again, that can get a little bit overwhelming. Sometimes people want to lean on having a co-founder perhaps, they want to have someone to bounce ideas back and forth with. And of course, working in a group and a community, having people you can talk to, brainstorm with and so on can be really helpful. But again, that’s one of the benefits of having a business alongside your job. It’s just having one opportunity in your life where you have complete creative, financial decision making control and power over a particular area.
So that can be really exciting in terms of ownership and accountability. With that of course, comes a very steep learning curve. And I’m a massive fan of learning and lifelong personal development and growth and so on, and that can be really interesting. So whether it’s how to do CSS on my website, which I was doing at the beginning, HTML5, whatever, a bit of coding or learning how to manage your accounts. Maybe you’ve never had responsibility for a P&L, so doing the finances of your business, those hard skills can actually be very transferrable. Useful for your job in itself, and perhaps might open up opportunities to something else. So you’re adding hard skills to your CV. Also, of course, if you don’t, like I do, come from a marketing background, you’ll be learning perhaps how to put yourself out there, manage social media channels, maybe some sales techniques, and so on. Negotiation, all sorts of hard skills and also soft skills.
Again, you’re really building your business because you’re learning a lot of really new things that are going to add to your confidence, add to your CV, if that’s important to you, and certainly make things a whole lot more interesting for you as you’re on that learning curve.
We talked about the signs that it might be time to change your career. When you’re stagnating and in your comfort zone and not really learning anything new, that’s a really good opportunity to learn something new, get on a steep learning curve and start challenging yourself a little bit. Another one which is connected to that, I think, is having a new sense of purpose and energy. Ironically … and we’ll talk about this in a moment in terms of the disadvantages. Ironically, adding something to your plate. Although it might feel like you might be detracting even more from your energy and you’ll be even more exhausted, it can re-inject, re-ignite energy into your life.
Because suddenly you have this really exciting project, you have that sense of purpose, which will have positive repercussions, reverberations on your full-time job. So if it is something you’re open with your boss about, it could be interesting because I’m sure they’ll see positive. And if it’s a forward thinking more modern employer, certainly they’ll appreciate it when they see that you’re doing something, whether it’s taking the initiative. As long as there’s no conflict of interest, as long as you’re still delivering on your work, actually this can give you more energy, more purpose, more drive that will again have really positive implications or say, for your full-time job. More concretely, again, you’ll get new contacts and opportunities, whether you start a podcast and you start interviewing guests. I started a blog interview series where I spoke to people all around the world, who’d left their jobs and started a business.
So exciting to meet these people that I would never have met. Of course, I’m not really meeting most of them even pre-COVID, I’ve been doing virtual interviews. Such incredible conversations. You never know what opportunities will come from that. Having something a little bit outside of your main day job is going to open the doors for all sorts of conversations and connections and collaborations, that might not even and definitely wouldn’t have even been on your radar before. And then the final one again, perhaps a little bit ironically, is work-life balance. Now, work-life balance is a phrase that I often criticise a little bit, but I mean it in the sense of, if you only have that one job that takes … it’s all consuming, it takes all your effort, or by the way if you’re stagnating in that job too, if it’s a little bit dull and not really inspiring and so on, but if that’s all you have going in your life, then it’s very easy.
If we remember back to our early 20s, you’d stay in the office late to not make time for, I don’t know, dating or going to the gym in the evening, or whatever it might be. Whereas actually, if we have a reason to leave the office, if we have a project we’re really excited about working on, getting up early in the morning or doing it on lunch break or in the evening or whatever that might be, that can give us more of a balance. Again, it takes some of the pressure of not just the income, but also expecting our one day job to fulfil all these roles in our life. To make us feel fulfilled, financially rewarded, passionate, creative and all sorts. So if your main day job isn’t something that ticks all these boxes for you, this is really an opportunity to balance that with something else that might be, probably will be, more creative and a little bit different to what you’re doing in your day job.
Lots of advantages to having a side hustle. Again, whether you take it full-time or not. However, there are a couple of disadvantages, of course. And the main one is pretty obvious, which is that, hey, we don’t actually have that much time. We already have a lot on our plate. We have a full-time job, maybe you have children. Hopefully you’re not homeschooling anymore and so on, but maybe you have all sorts of other obligations. Whether it’s as a son or a daughter or as a partner or as a parent, as a whatever it might be, adding something else to your plate is already going to be quite tricky. So it might feel like, oh my goodness, how on earth, when I’m already close to burnout, can I add something onto my plate? That’s one little possible concern, of course. And the other is, not just that, hey, I don’t even have time to build the business, but the other is, how on earth will you ever be able to actually work with clients?
And this is in particular, if you’re working with corporate clients or clients who share your same office hours. If I’m working a Monday to Friday office job, and I want to deliver workshops and work one-to-one and have meetings with other corporate clients potentially, I can’t really do that, because they’re not free at the weekends or the mornings and evenings. I’ll need to take holiday, I’ll need to have a very understanding boss. That might not be compatible. There is of course, as ever, the sort of grey area of maybe you can go down to part-time in your so called full-time job and your day job, four days a week perhaps. I have a couple of clients now in my business accelerator who’ve been able to negotiate down to four days, they want to go down to three days. And that’s then of course a fantastic midway ground where you can really continue having the security of your income of the job, but also create more and more space to work on your business and to have the client work as well.
Those are some of the disadvantages around the side hustle. Going all in, again, pretty obvious in terms of the benefits, you can focus wholeheartedly. So if I quit my job, especially one that’s really leading me to burnout or I’m just not motivated at all, I just get to that point where I can’t continue anymore. If I go all in with my business, that means I can focus wholeheartedly on that. I have the full week to focus on my business. I can do any kind of client work I want. There are no conflicts of interest. I can communicate openly on LinkedIn and so on about my business. And there’ll be pressure, which is often much needed to make it work. So, hey, I’m committed now, I’ve quit my job, this is it, I’m going all in.
However, of course the disadvantage is that there might be too much pressure. So if you haven’t already first of all worked out exactly what you want to do and secondly, certainly validated that idea, done the market research, begun to develop some of your background stuff like a website and your understanding of who your client is and so on. If you haven’t validated your idea and you don’t have any kind of client pipeline, the pressure will be mounting very quickly to actually earn an income with that business. And that might become too much. Now, even if at the beginning we say, oh, that’s okay, I’ve got savings. Three months, six months, that’s fine.
You’ll find very quickly that the fear will creep back in when you don’t see any money hitting your account. And to be honest, just having days and days stretching out ahead of you without any kind of plan, any kind of structure to your day, which we’ve had all our lives, thanks to school, university and working in a full-time job and so on. Suddenly, days can pass and if you’re not clear on your priorities then it’s going to be really tricky to actually make anything happen. So the stress of financial obligations and just being self-disciplined and focused enough can be really tough if you do go all in.
Now, very nuanced discussion, and I’m afraid I’m not going to give you the answer if you should or shouldn’t quit your job. Again, it’s very personal. And you need to really think about your financial obligations. When I quit my job without a plan, I took that leap. Very strange decision for me, I’m in no way a risk-taker. However, the context that we have to understand is that I was single, I had quite a bit of savings, unintentionally almost, thanks to a good job, even though I was living in an inexpensive place at the time. But I didn’t have a house and a mortgage, children, dogs and cars, and any of those things. I lived in a pretty cheap flat in the ghetto in Geneva in Switzerland. And I was able to just kind of, no strings attached, take that leap. That might not be your case.
For me, I just got to that point where I thought, actually it’s now or never. In fact, I handed in my resignation while I was on sabbatical in South America, because I knew if I came back, I’d just settle back into my comfort zone and I wouldn’t be able to make that courageous decision.
I’d very quickly get back into that comfort zone. So again, you might reach a tipping point. And this happens to some of my clients that were, the pain of staying is greater than the fear of leaving. And if that’s the case, whether it’s burnout, whether it’s a toxic work environment, whether it’s just, you’ve just had enough, you can’t do it. It’s not just a, oh, I’m having a bad day. But this has been going on for weeks, months, years, there’s no solution, then to be honest, there is that tipping point. There’s the pivotal moment when you might go, hey, I just have to leave.
Again, just to put out a nuanced middle ground option. Again, I have a couple of clients who are looking for another job. So again, that would be a whole other episode in terms of the pros and cons of this. But in a nutshell, if you can find a role where you can first of all, quite easily apply to and get that job, which is not necessarily the case in particular environments and climates. But secondly, you can really work on something where you know you can do the work and/or it’s going to be a little bit more interesting within very limited hours, so ideally part-time perhaps, you know it’s not going to be all encompassing. Now, the danger of course, the disadvantages that if it’s a job that you get really excited about suddenly, that’s going to distract from your business that you want to be building. Or if it’s, again, any new job is going to take a lot of time to acclimatise to, you have to prove yourself.
You might again end up knowing who you are when you’re hardworking and committed. You might end up working long hours and so on. And again, that’s going to delay being able to work on your business. Now, we are in this for the long haul. So I think that’s okay if you’re at that point where you have to quit your job, you can’t possibly stay, but you’re not yet ready to just have no financial security or no income coming in at all. Then that could be a good transitional step to find a role that’s a little bit less lower pressure. It might not be as prestigious and so on, so you have to swallow your ego a little bit. But something that will take you in the right direction, give you a bit of mental, emotional space and energy to be able to then focus on your business. So that is definitely something to consider.
Most of all, be patient. And as I said, be in it for the long haul. So whether you need to take part-time work or do some kind of freelancing, contracting, something that’s going to tide you over until you get your real passion business up and running. Whether you need to stay in your full-time job and just accept that it’s going to take longer to actually get the business up and running. Whatever the case, know that you’re working on the long-term. It’s not a question of if? It’s a question of when and how this is going to work? So again, massively provocative question. I guess something that I can’t give you a definitive answer on, it’s very personal. But this eternal question of whether you stay in your job and build your side hustle, or if you quit to go all in.
And even if, by the way, you do start with that side hustle, there will of course come a point where if you do want to take your business seriously, if you do want to work with more clients and earn more money, you will have hit a ceiling and you will need to go all in, anyway. I’d love to hear from you as ever, if you have perhaps already done this. Maybe you’re building your side hustle, you’re reflecting on, hang on a second, at what point should I be leaving and going all in? Maybe you, like me, did go all in without a plan. You can get in touch with me as ever on a podcast at onestepoutside.com. The email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much for listening, and I’ll see you next week. Bye for now.
If you’re ready to start to reimagine what success could look like for you, here are some of the ways in which Anna can support you:
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