Having a side hustle is like having a girl on the side: it sounds more glamorous than it is. I currently have five sources of income (my main job, and side hustles: writing, website, real estate, and Craigslist arbitrage) which when combined are solidly in the six figure range1. I save 60% of that income annually. Sounds as good as a handy during the football game, right? Not really.
Side hustles are incredibly time consuming, like painting your house with a toothbrush time consuming. Everyone would like to make more money on the side through a side hustle, but not everyone has the stamina. Most people burn out in their side hustles faster than John Candy running a marathon. If you have kids, hobbies that don’t pay, or are addicted to porn be prepared to make some serious sacrifices at the altar of your side hustle. If you are still determined, then read on my soon to be sleep deprived friend.
Find the Discipline and Time
The first step towards establishing a side hustle is to find the discipline and time required to have one. We all have the same 24-hours in a day, so it isn’t a matter of creating time but rather finding it. If you don’t know 5am from a hole in the wall, get familiar. Here are a few solid strategies I have used to find the time to manage my multiple side hustles:
- Get up very early. I wake up nearly every day at 5am and begin working on side hustles as soon as the morning stinker-tinker time is over. Begin winding back your wakeup call by a half hour every week until you hit your personal limit. Hint: your personal limit is probably an hour earlier than you prefer.
- Write a schedule. I write out a schedule for every two weeks where I outline when I will work on what side hustle and specifically on what aspect of that side hustle. This is how I balance the various responsibilities of each side hustle. Life of course gets in the way, but I try to hold myself accountable at all times. I am my own employee with my side hustles; I can’t let that lazy S.O.B rip me off, right?
- Be honest with your stakeholders. You family and friends are your stake holders when it comes to the business of your life, and now that you aren’t going to have as much time to spend with them you need to inform them. Sure, they may like it less than handsy mall Santa but you need to be firm and upfront. In the end, your side hustles benefit them as well.
Get Creative… or Better Yet Don’t
You aren’t trying to change the world here. If you think having a side hustle involves inventing the next big thing then do yourself a favor and light all your money on fire now. Being creative is handy in side hustles only to the extent that it saves you time and money. For side hustles, consider “creative” as you would a pick up line: to be used sparingly. Research what works and is a fit for you, and make it your side hustle. Don’t step out of your area of expertise, don’t sign up for any courses, and don’t buy any books. If it isn’t fairly obvious to you from the get-go, find another side hustle. You’re trying to make some money, not go back to college.
Narrow down the Side Hustles
Now that you have a list as long as Tommy Lee’s inseam it is time to narrow it down. This will depend greatly on your individual situation. I have written out pros and cons before and found it helpful. Talk to your stakeholders. It helps to determine your own criteria for an appropriate side hustle. Do you want it to be something you enjoy, or something that makes a lot of money? Should it require an investment and if so how much is too much? How much time will it take? Answer these questions for each possible side-hustle and narrow it down to numero uno.
Pick one and Set a Time Limit, and don’t get Emotional
Don’t be like Tiger Woods and try to juggle five side dishes at once. Start with one at a time, build a system and then look for a second. So just pick one. Once you have your side hustle, establish a time limit that is just this side of too-long and commit to it. For example, my website has a little over one year to begin bringing in a minimum amount of money before I move on to another project. I am willing to commit lots of time and a certain amount of money to it, but if it doesn’t pan out after my time limit I have four to five other ideas I would like to begin work on. I will not be emotional about it, although I will obviously be disappointed. But I will pull the plug. You should do, should your side hustle not pan out after your time limit is up. There are a lot of ways to make money on the side out there—a lot of side hustles—you shouldn’t get caught up on just one.
After all, you won’t have to pay alimony if you just up and leave.
Author Bio: Mitchell is the hilarious owner of SnarkFinance.com. He brings a funny and truthful side to personal finance.
1My job alone is in the six figure range, and the side hustles are perhaps 40% of that.
Image courtesy of Mixunit