Side hustles are all the rage these days. Seems like everyone has one or wants you to start one. After all, you can make thousands in your first month. Right? Maybe not, but while it seems too good to be true there are a lot of good things about side hustles. So that you are prepared to start side hustling, here is the truth about side hustles you should know before starting one.
What Is A Side Hustle
A side hustle is a business that you start outside of your main method of employment. It is not a part-time or temporary job. It is a secondary source of income that can supplement or enhance your main income.
To further clarify, it is not being an Uber driver, selling Pampered Chef or delivering pizzas. There is nothing wrong with any of those, as you can make good money with them, but those are part of another company’s product that you are selling and/or delivering.
Quite simply, it is something that you create.
If you are trying to get ahead it doesn’t matter to me whether you get a second job or start a side hustle. I am just trying to establish a clear distinction between the two as that will factor into this list of things you should know about side hustles before starting one.
The Truth About Side Hustles You Should Know Before Starting One
I have become more and more of a believer in side hustles since starting multiple hustles. In our first 8 months we made over $1,800 profit from our side hustles. They were almost accidental, but I am so glad that we have them now. Our 9th month has us at $700 profit, so you can see how things are starting to take off.
Over these first 9 months I have learned a lot and I want to share it with you. So often we see stories of wild success with a side hustle that supposedly only requires a few hours of work each week. It seems too good to be true, and while it might be, success is possible. It just may not be as advertised. Let’s take a deeper look at the realities of side hustling.
1. Side Hustles Are A Grind
As we discussed earlier, side hustles are something that you create, and they are in addition to your main hustle (day job). After working for 40 hours a week plus commute, you will now begin your side hustle.
Therefore, it is all on you and it is a grind.
All the success stories you see out there involved lots and lots of hard work and determination to get to that level of success. You might find that it is a ton of work just to get to the tiniest bit of success. This deters most people.
It is so easy to want to give up when you don’t see that success in the beginning. You must keep pushing and pushing to seemingly make any progress.
It is a grind because you are providing a service to someone. There is value in providing that service. If it was easy, your service wouldn’t be needed. As a result, once you get going there will be a reward for that hard work. You just need to push through the tough part to get to the good part.
2. It Takes A While To Make Good Money (Or Even Some)
A big reason why side hustles are a grind is that it takes a while for that profit to start rolling in. If someone says you can make $500 this month with your side hustle, ask the following 2 questions.
- Is their side hustle legal?
- How long ago should I have started this hustle to make $500 this month.
My first month of selling digital downloads on Etsy I made $12.50 gross. My sixth month brought in $520. Honestly, that is probably more on the aggressive side too, particularly when I started selling items for $2. In general, 66% of my profits have come in months 5 and 6.
Depending on your side hustle it could be a year or 2 before you see any success. Do you have the drive and motivation to keep going? Or will you decide it isn’t worth it?
A much more humble example by me is this blog. While I never set out to monetize it right away, after 18 months I finally made $7. That $7 felt darn good. The reality of it is that I have spent much more money to keep the blog going than I have made operating it.
There is a latent factor to all of this in that it just takes time.
Etsy is a great marketplace to sell your items. If you are interested starting a shop there use this guide to help you start.
Your main job is what brings the money in. There might be some small profits in the beginning, but you must grind to get to the bigger profits down the road. The good thing, hopefully, is that you don’t need immediate profits to get by.
It is worth the grind to get to those larger profits. The alternative is to sit on your couch and watch TV. You may not be grinding, but there is no hope for big profits down the road in that case. Just more of the same.
3. There Is No Timeline For Success You Can Count On
Just like the profits can vary, seeing results will vary too. Your friend might find success in month 4. You might find success doing the same thing in month 18.
The stories of success you read on the internet are stories for a reason. They are either exceptional or tragic. Stories of ‘average’ don’t generate clicks. As a result, it might not be as obvious to know that others are struggling too or that you are right on track.
We are all different people with different skills. The result is that it isn’t easy to replicate success of others, especially, when it is by definition, not your main focus.
While waiting for success you are laying the foundation for your side hustle. It can benefit you in the long run to have delayed success. If you don’t quit, you will put yourself in a position for success down the road.
4. Side Hustles Are Not Passive
Passive income might be a bigger buzzword than side hustle.
By definition, passive income is income earned from an investment or business that you are not actively involved in daily.
With everything we have talked about so far, side hustles are not passive.
They can be passive though over time which is why they are so tantalizing. It really depends on what service you are offering and if you have to be the one that physically provides it.
To get to the point of them being passive, if even possible, takes a ton of work.
There is potential for a passive income down the road but it just takes patience. If that is something that you desire, then factor that in as you choose a side hustle or develop it.
5. You Probably Won’t Get Paid Right Away
One of the great things about most day jobs is that you get paid every 2 weeks. Sure, there are variations to that, but with a side hustle, the income can be sporadic.
When you bill for a service there most likely will be a delay to when it actually gets deposited in your bank account.
Etsy will pay out once a week if you so choose. Even then, if I sell something today, it might be 7 days before I get the funds.
There is a lag time to be aware of. That is a big reason why you should be skeptical when someone says you can make money fast. Even if you did make the money promised quick, is it really going to be in your pocket anytime soon?
Plan for the delay of when you will get paid. It doesn’t mean you can’t make good money, it just means it will take time before it is fully yours.
6. You Still Have To Focus On Your Day Job
I guess this goes without saying, but you still need to focus on your main hustle. Whether you love or hate your day job, you need that income to get by.
You might think it is OK to stay up later to develop the side hustle, and while you can do that occasionally, you do have to put yourself in a position to succeed at your main job.
You must be more structured with your time or give up entertainment and relaxation activities to be able to focus on both your main job and the side hustle.
That day job can take a lot of energy out of you and make you wish you could just focus on your side pursuits, but it probably provides you insurance and a retirement plan. Don’t forget all the benefits your day job provides.
Even if you hate it, use that motivation to push harder on the side hustle while finding something positive in it.
7. Not Everyone Will Be Supportive
In the beginning of a lot of successful companies I am sure those CEOs were told they were crazy. Even if you aren’t building the next Amazon or Netflix and are simply walking dogs, you still might get told you are wasting your time.
Or, maybe when you share with someone that you made $7, it just doesn’t seem as exciting to them as it does you. The difference is that you see the potential, while they see the reality.
We need to grind through the current reality to make the potential your future reality.
They might have some points that could help you, so don’t always shut them out, but it is usually best to move on and keep hustling.
The first thing to realize is that it is your time and not theirs. Also, people might be jealous of what you are building and unfortunately, it is a natural reaction to tear you down rather than support you.
There are lots of places to find support if you are needing encouragement. Seek those out rather than give in to the naysayers that want to see you fail.
8. You Need To Know When To Cut Your Loses
As much as I am encouraging you to push through and grind, you need to know when to cut your loses.
It doesn’t mean you need to quit. That is not what I am talking about. It just means that you might need to shift or pivot your focus or even ‘start over’.
The beauty of a side hustle is that you can tinker on the side and try different things to find what works. The failures can provide you lots of knowledge for going forward.
Just because one side hustle doesn’t work for you it does not mean that all side hustles won’t work for you. Developing your side hustle is a journey and that means there will be failures along the way.
Despite those failures, it is a worthwhile journey.
9. You Need Some Luck
For any amount of success to occur you need some luck to take place. This doesn’t mean it is out of your hands though, in fact it is very much in your hands. To further explain, here is a great definition of luck as I am using it.
Luck is the matter of preparation meeting opportunity. – Roman philosopher Seneca
So, if you think about it, you can’t just be lucky, you must put in the work before the opportunity comes.
You aren’t lucky because someone randomly stumbled across your product/service and helped you take it to the next level. You put in a ton of work to be able to capitalize on that opportunity.
With that said, a boost of ‘luck’ will take you a long way. The question is if you were prepared for the long-term success that luck can bring.
If someone won the lottery, which is about as lucky as you get, they still had to earn money and then buy a ticket with it.
If you think I am saying buy a lottery ticket, then you are mistaken. Prepare first, and then you can take advantage of that next ‘lucky’ moment that can change your life. Don’t buy a lottery ticket!
10. You Can Have Multiple Side Hustles
You don’t need to nail your first side hustle. Your first side hustle doesn’t have to be your last.
It is very common for people to have multiple side hustles. As you gain experience in one area you find new interests or avenues that you didn’t see before.
You learn more about yourself and your skills and you can put those to better use potentially in other hustles.
Naturally, some side hustles are better for beginners, so it is easy to start there to get your feet wet. At a certain point though, you will be ready to branch out and try something new.
There is no rule saying you are stuck with what you are doing today. You can reinvent yourself or simply take steps towards new hustles at any time.
11. It Doesn’t Have To Be Forever
As much as I think it is good to always have a side hustle, depending on your reasons for starting one, you don’t have to do this forever.
Maybe you are trying to pay off debt and want extra money or are saving for a vacation. There are plenty of reasons why once you hit your goal you call it a day.
The good news is that even if you do stop, you have this experience that you can draw on forever.
Or, maybe you can modify your business to not be as involved (passive income) or possibly even sell it.
The point is that while it is a grind, that does not mean that it will always be like that. You can move on once it has reached its shelf life and that is perfectly fine.
Side hustles are personal to you, so you can make decisions based on what you want and not someone else.
12. You Can Start Today
Despite what people might tell you, you can start building a side hustle today. There is no need to wait.
You don’t need a course or to wait for the right idea to start a side hustle.
We fill our lives with excuses for why we can’t do something. How often do you hear a CEO that built their company from the ground up say they learned along the way or maybe wouldn’t have started if they knew what they were getting into.
As I already said, you can do multiple hustles, so your first one, can just be something simple that you know you can do right now. Maybe you can freelance with some skills from work or you can tap into that one random skill that is fun to you, but seemingly useless.
There is no need to wait to start developing something. Just start and use that initial knowledge to inform where you are going.
13. You Can Start With Zero Money
One excuse that gets said a lot is “I don’t have any money to start my business.” Honestly, if you are paying off debt, you don’t want to borrow money to start a side hustle. Even if you have some, you need to know that your hustle will be something you will stick with if you are going to invest money in it.
The good news is that you don’t need to make that investment at all.
If you are a newbie it really makes sense to bootstrap it by starting an initial hustle just to raise some money. This can include selling items from around you house. Technically, a garage sale (or selling them on eBay) is not a side hustle, but it shows that you can find value in your current environment to generate some income.
Or, if it is some type of consulting you can just start doing that.
Lastly, if you must purchase items for your side hustle (food ingredients or fabric), then agree to have the buyer pay for materials up front. That way you cover those costs and then they pay you the rest when you deliver the full product. Now you must deliver, but you get the point.
There are many ways to avoid taking on debt to start a side hustle. You will be better off thinking out of the box to generate that money if you even need it.
Most of the time, it is just time that you invest, either way, don’t let the idea of money be a barrier for following your dreams.
14. It Will Improve Your Life
If you noticed, the list started out with more of the negative items, but there are more positive aspects to side hustles than negative if you ask me. Let’s start looking at the positives.
I am so much happier today with the mild success that we have had than I was before we started these hustles.
That money that we have earned isn’t life changing yet, but I am convinced that the steps we take today will change our lives down the road. I know this because I have seen it firsthand in others.
We must put the time in, but I know it will have a positive impact.
The benefits of a side hustle go far beyond the financial gain. You gain skills, confidence and experience you wouldn’t have otherwise.
It could also take you down some other path that leads to greater fulfillment or impact your life forever. You’ll never know though if you don’t try.
15. You Are In Charge
Since the side hustle is something you create, it is your gig. You are the big cheese.
Since you call the shots, you learn how to manage your time and resources and you experience the repercussions of those decisions. Don’t underestimate what you can learn from that.
It also means that it is your time and maybe money that you are investing.
Best of all though, you get the profit!
You reap the rewards for your hard work. Instead of your boss at your main job calling the shots. You call the shots and 100% of the profit.
16. It Is Worth It
At the end of the day, you will probably get frustrated or question why you are doing this. Despite all the negatives though there are so many positives.
This is all about you developing something that is yours. Kill it at your main job, but there is a satisfaction in building something by yourself.
Was it worth it for me to work 18 months on this blog to make $7?
Yes, to be honest. I wouldn’t have started my Etsy shop and others if it wasn’t for the blog.
I know that I will make more money eventually on the blog and more importantly, I have the opportunity to change lives by developing Debt Free Happens.
You have the opportunity to change both your life and other’s lives for the better.
It is worth the grind and failures that might come your way. You will be stronger and more capable and at the very least, you didn’t let a lame excuse get in the way of trying to better your life.
A great guide for starting your side hustle is the book Side Hustle: From Idea To Income In 27 Days by Chris Guillebeau. Check it out!
Mrs. Picky Pincher
Omg so much yes about side hustles not being passive. I hate when people claim you can make “easy money” with a hustle. It’s not easily earned money whatsoever; it’s the result of a lot of hard work. But you know what? My side hustle helped us slam an extra $2,200 on our student loans last month, so if you really dedicate yourself to it (sometimes to a detriment, to be honest), it can help your finances.
Yeah, it is only easy long after you put the work in. I know it generates clicks byt saying it is easy but it just isn’t. I still say do it, but just know it isn’t so easy. That is awesome you were able to put so much towards debt this month! Congrats!
Craig | Life in 12 Keys
Wow. This really hit home for me. I just started my side hustle (blog etc) a month ago and am already feeling all of this but I am enjoying the process. Too many so-called hustlers out there candy-coat their successes. I love the honesty here. Great read, Thank you!
Yeah, it is probably something you appreciate more after starting a side hustle, particularly blogging. It is a long road ahead, but it is fun to look back and see what you have learned and accomplished. Good luck! I’ll be following along.
So many great words of wisdom here! I especially like the points about knowing when to pivot (or abandon) the side hustle and the point of it doesn’t have to be forever. I think people can become handcuffed when they start a side hustle thinking that it has to succeed or else. Or else, what? Try a new one! Instead, I fear too many give up trying before they finally find the one that could have worked. Awesome advice.
Thanks! As you know, side hustles are not an all or nothing venture, and they are not all the same. The trick is to find what works for you, not someone ese, but you. Most likely, it won’t be your first side hustle that fully clicks, but you will learn something that will help you with your next one. They are so rewarding that we don’t want people moving on and giving up too soon.
This was delightfully comprehensive. If you can just burn this into my brain, I’d appreciate it.
It’s difficult to come to grips with the fact that the process is the reward. You know…”it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” I think you described this part nicely.
Thanks! I have sense been coming up with more ideas too that I might add in. These include you will make mistakes, you won’t know everything when you start and there will be boring parts of your side hustle. Even having written it, it can be tough to deal with these things while side hustling so I feel you on that. Appreciate the comment!