These days it seems like everyone has a side hustle. And these hustles, from monetizing hobbies to driving for a transportation service, are as creative and diverse as the people who run them. A part-time money-making effort can be a fun way to supplement the earnings of a day job.
But side hustles aren’t always easy; they require commitment, planning, time and (often) money. If you’re thinking about pursuing one, make sure you’re informed.
Are extra gigs the new normal?
Particularly for young professionals, the 40-hour work week in a single office seems less and less common these days as many people cobble together part-time gigs to make a living. And if you don’t have a side hustle yourself, you probably know someone who does.
Sometimes the side hustle is simply convenient—with widespread internet access, many jobs don’t require much more than a working laptop. And many factors, from cost of living to student loan debt, can make a side gig a financial necessity.
There’s also the increasingly popular allure of "passive income," or income from a product or investment that doesn’t require your regular involvement. Owning a rental property or renting out a space are common examples. Folks with a large following on a personal blog or website may also choose to monetize their site by running ads. Even passive income sources require ongoing maintenance, however, and anything you earn is taxable.
In short, you may feel pressured to take on a side job for a lot of reasons—these gigs are part of many people’s everyday lives, and they might seem simpler or more lucrative than they actually are.
The case for the side hustle
A side hustle can be a great way to pursue your passion and eventually build it into a career. In nonprofit and for-profit spaces alike, you may find yourself working a job that isn’t what you want to do forever. If you’re willing to put extra work into an activity you love—and you’re okay with not turning a profit right away—you may find the effort literally pays off down the line, letting you take your side hustle full time.
Even if you never quit your day job, a second gig can enhance your life beyond your bank account. You might meet other people with common interests and benefit from collaboration, and you get a little variety in your work week. Part-time work that gets you outdoors, like landscaping or dog walking, keeps you physically active if you spend all day in an office. Or if you’re in a busy direct service job, a low-key side hustle can be a relaxing break with a financial bonus.
Side hustles may also come with the flexibility of setting your own hours. If you need to scale back at any time, you can take a break without jeopardizing your main income source.
The case against it
Any new job brings added responsibility. Think of starting a side hustle like you’re starting a small business. You’ll have to keep financial records, plan for taxes, navigate any legal compliance issues, figure out what to charge, and invest in start-up costs.
Depending on the work you pursue, the start-up costs can be substantial—you may need to purchase plenty of supplies and equipment just to get off the ground. Once you’ve made the investment you need to build a steady clientele, which takes time. Long story short, it may take a year or longer to start profiting from your side gig.
And if you’re based in the U.S., your taxes will get a little more complicated. Once you earn over $600 a year from a single income source, this income becomes taxable and is reported to the IRS; since taxes aren’t withdrawn from self-employment earnings, you have to figure out how much you owe.
Additionally, when you turn a hobby into a money-making stream, your relationship to the activity will change. Remember that there’s a chance you could lose enthusiasm for something you once enjoyed if you feel obligated to keep making a profit.
What’s right for you?
Everyone’s situation is different, but here are some reasons to skip the side hustle:
- You’re enthusiastic about your day job and want to remain as invested as possible.
- After crunching the numbers you don’t anticipate making much money from turning a hobby into a side gig.
- You already feel busy and pressed for time.
Give a side hustle a try if:
- You’re prepared for any hidden costs that may arise.
- You genuinely enjoy the work you’d be doing (maybe enough to do it for free).
- You’ll still have time to cover self-care basics like staying rested and nurturing personal relationships.
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Amy Bergen is a writer based in Portland, Maine. She has experience in the social impact space in Baltimore, Maryland, the educational museum sphere in Columbus, Ohio, and the literary world of New York City.