The Rise of the Modern Side Hustle
Hey friends, today I did a guest post on the perpetually-contentious topic of hustle culture, specifically side hustles, with my Colorado brother Olaf over at Mile High Finance Guy. Take a gander, and check out some of the other intriguing posts that have recently appeared there.
The rise of the modern side hustle
If you have ever read a FIRE blog or personal finance column, you have undoubtedly heard about "side hustles” as a way to earn extra cash. However, while side hustles have long existed, their recent glorification through the internet has made them “essential” to the detriment of our society.
You see, when I was in high school back in the good ol' days of the 2000s, my friends would work their evening job at the mall and then make bouquets for parties, wash cars, or mow lawns on the weekends. Heck, I even knew one girl who made up to $300 a day teaching dance!
However, during these last few years, there has been a hyped-up shift, an obsession one could say, that everyone NEEDS a side hustle. Otherwise, it’s the equivalent of flushing money down the drain.
If you open up YouTube or read/listen to mainstream bloggers or podcasters, you are likely already inundated by a plethora of content catered to side hustle culture. And, these creators won’t forget to drop their affiliate links, even if they are questionable.
Side hustles can be okay
Now, while there is no issue with having a side hustle, glamorizing these jobs to the nth degree is reckless at best.
Sometimes we have extra time on our hands and maybe want to save up for a vacation, so we pick up a side hustle like food delivery or dog walking. That's perfectly fine!
Heck, I even know people who drive for rideshare companies so that they can talk to people other than their families due to the mundaneness of working from home.
But, the issue I have lies in the deification of side hustles as of late.
"Nice to meet you. What's Your Side Hustle?"
Wouldn't you cringe if this was a conversation you were having at a party or networking event? As in, we define success by how little "free time" we have?
The positive news is that with so many sites/apps today like Rover, Uber, Doordash, Upwork, and Fiverr, finding a way to make extra income is easier than ever. You can find side hustles from home as well as side hustles online.
I've even seen some bloggers recommend taking online surveys for a whopping $2. Now THAT's going to change your life!
Some side hustles pay well, especially if they are a specialized niche or skill, like voiceovers, DJing, writing copy, or building websites. These can be well worth the time if you enjoy them and have specific goals on why you are doing them.
But it shouldn't just be for the almighty dollar that you have a side hustle. Instead, it should be for the opportunity to become debt-free, travel with friends, buy a home, or achieve financial independence.
What's wrong with bringing home more bacon?
Yes, I am a hypocrite. I have a problem with side hustles, yet I have more than one.
One is the name I write my blog under, the same name as my book Financial Fives (shameless plug, whatever it's worth it), and a zero-waste moving box rental company called California Box Rental.
However, I have a specific goal for these side hustles (saving up to buy my dream home), AND I genuinely enjoy them.
While I'm not making $10k or $100k a month like some YouTubers, it's enough to let me enjoy my life and add a little to the savings buckets.
Do I wish I didn't have to do these things? Absolutely! If I made 50 - 100% more with my salary, I would significantly scale back or end the side hustles. Why?
"Do you want to spend your life hustling?"
Hence, the question above brings us to the dish's meat, the pie filling, and the cake's frosting. (Speaking of which, I don't even like frosting, how are those Cupcake franchises still in business!? Anyways, I digress.)
The current pervasive nature of side hustles is to shame those without them. God forbid if you want to enjoy a Thursday evening yoga class or a Sunday hike with friends instead of delivering fries to entitled teenagers or stressing over how much SEO your site got this week.
10 -15 years ago, we were in a good place. Dare I say the Great Recession was good for us?
Although many financially suffered, back when smartphones, social media, and YouTube were in their infancy, it wasn't that common to have a side hustle if you already had a full-time job or business.
Stopping by a friend's house just because you had time, taking the evening to learn a new recipe, calling a friend to chat for a few hours, or watching a documentary while making dinner was commonplace. (Additionally, we didn't have the constant reminder on social media of how great our friends' lives were in real-time.)
Hey! I haven't seen you in a while. Want to come to an MLM party?
I get it. It's not just side hustles; it's smartphones and social media too.
You go out to a restaurant, brewery, or music show and see groups of friends or couples together, yet their faces remain buried in their screens. Maybe they're watching their friends' doing one of those live streams trying to promote their side hustles from home. Some relationship!
Scrolling through what other friends are doing rather than enjoying the present and how lucky they are to be together. Some of those may have side hustles online, yet in a place of socializing and kicking back, they can't stop checking email!
Let's take coffee shops, for example. When's the last time you were in one? Given how much online ordering, drive-through, and to-go has picked up in the previous several years, people don't linger to enjoy their coffee anymore. And, even if you sit in a coffee shop, people remain buried in their laptop (or smartphone) screens.
This isn't how it used to be, though.
Even if you didn't visit coffee shops 8-10 years ago, you'd see a difference if you watched movies from that time.
People are chatting while enjoying their coffee, reading a book, the paper, or just taking in the scene and people-watching. Now, if someone in their 30's does that, they are seen as a slacker or might feel pressure to be busy because everyone else is.
Ah, fine, I am burnt out. How about some binge-watching in PJs!
As I said, I'm guilty of having a few side hustles. However, I make it a point that they are not my priority when I am with others. I make time for FaceTime with friends, proactively reach out, and prioritize self-care.
My weekends are not for work unless it's urgent, like a rental customer needs something, then my mental health, physical health, and relationships are the priority.
More than that, though, we need to get back to just LIVING; being in the present, being mindful of our surroundings, being contributing members of society and to our communities, volunteering, etc.
Don't decline an invite to go on a bike ride with friends. Accept it, even if you could come up with some excuse to work on marketing, social media posts, or one more delivery.
Be the one to drop by friends home's, not expecting anything of it. Call people on the phone, and leave a friendly voicemail that you're just thinking of them. Write handwritten cards. Be responsive.
Think about all the happy moments in your life over the last 5-10 years. Are they filled with memories of dinner parties and adventures? Or of drooling over your 1099 income? I think you know where I'm going. And if you're not happy, what's the point of this thing called life?
Remember, there is only a finite amount of time for work and play, so which will you choose?