Opinion: Working a second job or thinking about it? Consider this investment instead.

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A few key considerations as you evaluate which ‘hustle’ is right for you.

In the world of financial literacy, a few items and actions have emerged as meme-level villains: daily Starbucks coffee, eating avocado toast, renting an apartment instead of buying a home.

Gurus demonize these behaviors while wagging their fingers and criticizing personal decision-making. Yet while there is more than enough emphasis placed on scrimping and saving, we rarely talk enough about the other half of the equation: maximizing your take-home income.

My mentor once told me, “You can only save as much as you earn, but you can always earn more money.” Some may see getting a second job as their only option, but more and more people read this quote and immediately think of two words: “side hustle.”

The idea of pursuing your passion is something that older generations didn’t necessarily focus on when choosing a career path. Many chose jobs that paid the bills while allowing for some fun outside of work. But a side hustle has become more conventional in recent years — not least due to the rise of social media making it easier for our casual gigs to become full-blown money-making entrepreneurial endeavors.

Whether you are saving for a short-term goal like a wedding or a down payment, or you’re looking for longer-term supplementary income, side hustles can be a valuable path to extra cash. But take it from someone who has navigated the transition from passion project to side hustle to full-time career, there are a few key considerations as you evaluate which “hustle” is right for you.

When I think about a side hustle, I think about something that makes you money relatively quickly. This is different from a passion project, a hobby that acts as a mental recess and sparks your creativity: painting; reading, needlepoint, or even playing video games. The moment you introduce money into a hobby, the stakes change. There are paying customers on the other side, creating deadlines and the need for new ideas, products and services. You can’t just take a break for a month if you owe someone a good or a service.

So while it may still look like the fun activity you once loved, responsibility and obligation can change that. Acknowledging that you don’t have to monetize every passion is step one in ensuring that your side hustle doesn’t burn you out. Some things are sacred and should be kept that way.

Your side hustle needs to fit into your life.

The next consideration may seem obvious, but is essential: your side hustle needs to fit into your life. Whatever you choose, it must be complementary to the life you are already living. While it will cause some short term discomfort (this is work, after all), you shouldn’t take on too much stress or rearrange your entire life to make it happen. I like to tell people to look at their full-time job and evaluate what skills they aren’t utilizing. Maybe you’re a data analyst and you want to be more creative, or maybe you’re on your feet all day and you don’t mind sitting at a desk at night. Let that guide you.

Don’t go into debt for your side hustle.

As you narrow your search, consider the costs associated with your side hustle. First of all, it should have a low startup cost. The hope of course is that you love your side hustle and it sticks, but if not, we don’t want you in a worse financial position than when you started. Don’t go into debt for your side hustle (we’re looking at you, MLMs). 

Beyond startup costs you’ll want to consider your business expenses, your time, and your energy. Just as corporations have margins, so does your side hustle, and the higher the margin, the better. Think you’re too old to babysit? Perhaps you’ll reconsider when you realize that babysitting doesn’t require anything but your time and minimal transport costs — nearly a 100% profit margin. On the other hand, something like an Etsy shop is going to require raw materials and web hosting and shipping and handling. Those “hidden expenses” could add up and leave you wondering if your side hustle is even worth it. 

The best investment anyone can make.

Lastly, it’s important to make the distinction between a side hustle and a second job, because the use of both terms has become more all encompassing over time. People often clock in for two or more shifts a day to make ends meet. That is a second job: the hours are less flexible and you’ve signed a piece of paper saying “Yes, I work here and I’ll show up on time.” A second job can strain your first job, as you’ll need to juggle both schedules.

Conversely, side hustles take more time to nurture, and aren’t as consistent in what they pay, especially not at the start. But they typically provide more freedom since you set your work hours. 


Portfolio

Ultimately, whatever path you choose to create supplemental income is your choice. If your side hustle becomes lucrative, be sure to reflect on your intentions, goals, and what success looks like to you. When I began to post content across social media and consistently make money from it, I made a concerted effort to test out my newfound side hustle for 15 months before diving in full time. I needed to be sure I liked what I was doing and that it could sustain me year after year.

After juggling a full-time job and my content creation for 15 months, I still liked it enough to keep going, so I finally chose to go all-in. Ultimately, the decision to commit full-time was no different from any commitment. After a long trial period, I thought through the pros and cons and I bet on myself — the best investment anyone can make. 

Vivian Tu is the author of RICH AF: The Winning Money Mindset That Will Change Your Life (Portfolio, 2023). Tu, a former Wall Street trader, is founder and CEO of the financial equity platform Your Rich BFF. She also helms the podcast, “Networth and Chill.” 

More: Looking for a remote job? Your chances of finding one are dropping, Indeed says

Also read: Remote work offers less scope for advancement but also less stress, survey finds



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