If you only have one job, are you even really working?
I loathe papers and presentations that begin, “Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines [insert] as …” But since I’ve started down that path, I may as well finish: “… work performed for income supplementary to one’s primary job.” There it is: I now officially think less of myself, but at least we begin with the same understanding of “side hustle.”
Once upon a time I used to think of a side hustle as a trendy way of saying, “I have a second job.” A side hustle is more than just a second job; it’s often a hobby, passion, or personal interest that someone has chosen to (try to) monetize—and why not? In today’s economy, if someone wants to pay me for pictures of my pinky toe, I’m going to go find the best darned nail polish the dollar store has to offer!
It costs a lot of money to run a business with employees. In fact, according to GGFL, a tax planning and accounting firm in Ottawa, it’s estimated that an employee who earns $1.00 needs to generate at least $3.15 in revenue for the employer to earn $1.00.
For the math fans in the crowd, that’s an additional $1.15 of overhead costs, 40 to 60 percent of which goes to other non-wage employee-related costs (such as payroll taxes, paid leaves, training costs, and health taxes).
From a worker standpoint, the cost of living (including my groceries) has never been higher, peaking at a year-over-year 8.1 percent increase in the cost of essential goods and services in June 2022 (when it already wasn’t cheap).
Their popularity comes as no surprise: “gig economy” employment relationships are based on contract work where one is not an employee, but rather an independent contractor (and therefore exempt from the expenditures listed above). Thusly, behold the meteoric rise of the side hustle.
Depending on whose survey you subscribe to, up to 50 percent of the working population (US and Canada) has a side hustle; they spend on average of 11 to 16 hours per week on the hustle; and the most common earnings for a side hustler is anywhere from $200 to $625 per month, although the range can be much wider.
These are pretty underwhelming numbers, if you consider it a straight, time-for-pay proposition, especially because the work is generally performed in the time they have off from their primary job.
If viewed through a “monetize my hobby” lens, there is research to illustrate positive mental health benefits. This would seem to corroborate the commonly held belief that if you “do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Of course, squeezing fresh juice can also come with a lot of pulp: burnout, less time doing the (other) things you love, and potential strain on family and friend relationships (due to time constraints) are all very real risks.
Studies show a pretty clear correlation between weekly hours of work and poor mental health, anxiety, and depression. We also know that mental health and physical health have an undeniable interconnectivity, so tread carefully, especially if you feel like you have to convince yourself that your side hustle is enjoyable.
Two other important questions to consider before jumping down the rabbit hole or when deciding whether or not you should continue on your side-hustling journey:
You will be searching for time to work on your hustle and, let’s be honest, being paid time and a half while you’re on the clock might be pretty appealing. A word of warning, though: your employer likely won’t take kindly to your side hustle becoming a company-funded venture. Tread carefully or it could quickly become your only hustle. You cannot create more time; you can only hope to borrow it—consider this before diving in.
During your downtime away from your “downtime,” consider doing something that will in no way present you the opportunity to make money. There are plenty of health benefits (mental and physical) to …
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