How to Maintain the Perfect Side Hustle

These days, you might feel like you’re hustling a lot. Most millennials feel the same. In fact, a Gallup poll reports seven in 10 millennials experience burnout from work these days. The struggle to keep up, maintain your spot or simply keep your head above water is most certainly real, but sometimes taking a long break isn’t an option. Money might not make your world go around, but it sure can help.

The good news is, there’s a way to find financial peace without overextension and burnout: a side hustle. These miniature modes of income (to complement your main source of income) are commonplace now. More than 44 million Americans have a side hustle, according to CNN Money, and half of all millennials report working to earn extra cash outside of their main gigs. Millennials are look- ing for supplementary income at twice the rate of baby boomers.

If you’re feeling your waistline stretching against your financial belt, maybe a side hustle is the answer to find- ing some wiggle room. According to research by GoDaddy, the average side gig nets about $250 per month, and BankRate says millennials can make an average of $580— nice! But is that extra juice worth the extra squeeze? It could be, but only if you take the right approach. Here’s your new financial workout plan. Hope you’re cool with adding some reps.

MOTIVATE YOUR HUSTLE

The first step toward making a change is to be honest with yourself and see if you need to make a change in the first place. Of course, it can be simple to evaluate financial need—just take a look at your budget (You have one of those, right?) and where you might be overspending or coming up short—but there are other things to consider when contemplating supplementary income. Namely, it’s important to determine if your primary source of income does something for you beyond the money. If it doesn’t—if it’s just a means to an end—a side hustle might be a strong creative outlet in addition to a financial safety valve.

“A side hustle gives you financial freedom, but more than that, it gives you a creative release,” says author and speaker Jon Acuff. “When I wrote technical copy for a job, it would have been insane for me to demand that job serve as my entire creative outlet. Recognizing that, I started free- lancing.”

Most workers feel burned out when they don’t have autonomy within their jobs. Gallup reports that when workers have freedom in the tasks they do, can perform those tasks and determine how much time they can spend on those tasks, they are 43 percent less likely to experience burnout. In simpler terms: If you’re doing things on your terms, you’re not going to tire of it as fast as you might over mandated tasks in a regular job. A side hustle could give you some satisfaction you’re missing.

Amelia Hobbins, 31, picked up a second job serving tables when she was 25. Her family had accrued $10,000 in credit card debt. Earning supplementary income had obvious financial benefits, but Hobbins, a business development specialist with Thrivent Financial, gleaned additional perks from the situation.

“I loved being on my feet and developing relationships with my customers,” she says. “At first I was embarrassed I was working a second job, but as the extra money decreased our debt, I felt proud. I was taking control of my life. We were finally making progress, and I knew I had made the right choice.”

MAKE YOUR GAME PLAN

Hobbins’ experience also reflects a major advantage of side hustles identified by numerous experts: the barrier of entry to find supplementary income is low. You can tap into a known resource like Uber or Etsy, pick up a job you used to have (Hobbins was a waitress in college) or you can initiate your own venture, like a monetizable baking blog or a niche delivery service. The digital age means platforms for supplementary income are quite literally infinite, but even if you don’t want to start from scratch, that enormous marketplace probably has an effort you care about already.

When you find something you want to do, just jump in, Acuff says. If you wait until you’re ready, you’re going to be waiting for a long time.

“You’ll never know for sure when you can manage a side hustle,” he says. “It’s kind of like asking, ‘When do you know you’re ready to be a parent?’ You never know perfectly. You just try and adjust along the way.”

That’s not to say you shouldn’t do any research beforehand, however. Hobbins recommends analyzing the difference between reliable income and variable income, a steady paycheck versus something commission-based like direct sales. It’s the difference between Michael Scott’s telemarketing job and Jan Levinson-Gould’s “Serenity By Jan.”

If you do want to take the startup route, do the math. Overestimate the costs and anticipate that it will take some time for you to make back the startup costs and begin turning a profit. If your financial need is more urgent and you can’t afford to wait on a hustle that needs time to take off, something more consistent might be the way to go.

To brainstorm your supplementary gig, start with what you know you’ll enjoy doing. It can be as simple as listing the brands you love most or the hobbies that occupy most of your time, then using search engines and other free online tools
to find ways to monetize that interest. A business-oriented podcast like “How I Built This” or “Side Hustle School” can be inspiring. Pray about it too. And when it comes to your ultimate decision, Acuff has one rule: “Find something you love doing so much that you’d do it for free. Then, get so good at it that people pay you.”

PUT THE HUSTLE IN HUSTLE

It takes persistence and patience to handle yourself in the gig economy. If you’re working through an app like Wag! (dog walking) or Amazon Flex (package delivery), the work can find itself to an extent, but if you’re pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and starting your own pet grooming service or fashion consultancy, crafting your side hustle into some- thing reliable and consistent takes a commitment to quality and a commitment to the long haul.

Acuff’s best tip for setting yourself apart: Be a decent human being. Jesus’ golden rule of treating people how you want to be treated always applies. “Customer service isn’t sexy or shiny, but it matters,” he says. “The way you treat people will get you far more clients and customers than how good you are at something like social media.”

Personal attention has to come with a call to action, Hobbins adds. That’s how you galvanize interest into actual investment. Start with the people easiest to sell to in your life—your friends and family members—before stretching your network.

Hobbins says early promotions like limit- ed-time offers, special discounts and bonus offers create urgency.

“Always give the potential customer a specific next step to take action on,” Hobbins says. “It could be as simple as, ‘Check me out on Instagram,’ or ‘I’m running a promotion next week. Would you like me to email you with more information?’ Whenever you are talking to someone or posting about your business, have that call to action.”

That makes communication, in both manner and method, super important in the early going. You need to be quick to respond to people while maintaining a high level of personality and dedication. That’s how awareness for your effort leads to loyalty. With both, you’ll have something steady, fulfilling and supportive.

DON’T HUSTLE TOO HARD

So you’re primed to start burning the candle at another end, awesome. You have something you’re passionate about, that won’t feel like work all the time, and some- thing that can be reliably maintained as a source of in- come. Go for it! But also, proceed with caution.

Remember that you’re essentially adding a second job to your schedule. Your reaction to that might be to find balance, but really, your goal is to find discipline.

“Balance is a myth, so that can’t be the goal,” says Acuff. “The big thing is to make sure you don’t steal time from your full-time job. Work hard at your job, work hard at your side hustle.”

Acuff says time tracking is a healthy way to manage your commitments, and that goes for things outside of work, too. Track and schedule family time and church time just as you would time for your side hustle or time in the office. If you don’t plan it, the maintenance of your side hustle could encroach on your traditional nonwork hours.

Finally—this is intuitive, but not always executed—make an explicit goal for the extra cash you’re bringing in. As Hob- bins puts it: “Earning more doesn’t mean spending more!”

She was able to leverage her side hustle to pay off some major debt and carve out a financially healthy path forward for her family. You can do the same.

More than anything, understand that a side hustle is going to come down to a little bit more hard work, even more than you’re already grinding out on your day job. But if you’re intentional with your goals, dedicated with your research and honest about what efforts are going to be profitable and fulfilling for you, the side gig is a legitimate enrichment factor. There’s never been a better time to be a hustler.