I’ve been hearing a lot about the “side hustle” lately.
It’s not an update of the 1970s “Hustle” disco dance. It’s a popular term for a part-time money-making activity undertaken by someone with a full-time job.
The side hustle can be all about earning extra money. Or it can be mostly about fun. But the extra cash generated by a side hustle certainly is a welcome supplement to any budget bucket.
You pour your paycheck in the top of your budget bucket. Each expense — rent, car, insurance, food, taxes, child care, utilities, etc. — is a hole in your bucket that lets money flow out.
It would be nice to have a little money left in the bucket at the end of each month, money you could set aside for a luxury — like maybe a retirement fund or a weekend trip to Muskegon. But the flow out of all those holes never stops. The bucket demands to fed.
If your bucket always seems to be empty, you either pour in more money or patch some holes by eliminating expenses. If you aren’t in the mood to seek a new full-time job with a bigger paycheck, you can start a side hustle.
The benefit of that route is more money. The downside is you spend more of your time working. So it makes sense to take up a side hustle that is both fun and lucrative.
The best side hustles involve something you love doing. The worst ones involve drudgery.
I embarked on a side hustle awhile back that has paid off, in a very small and amusing way. I like making photographs, so I looked for a painless (lazy) way to urge some money out of my attempts at visual craft. Several years ago, I posted a handful of my landscape photographs on two competing retail websites, CafePress and Zazzle, that allow customers to order various types of merchandise printed with submitted images. Then I waited.
Months passed and I nearly forgot about the effort. Then an email popped up that stated I had sold something.
I opened the message while daydreaming about all the riches I was soon to possess. It turned out someone had purchased a package of note cards adorned with an image I’d taken of the sun setting over Lake Michigan. My cut of the sale was a heartbreaking seven cents. Not exactly riches.
A month later, a message from the other website appeared. This time I was braced for disappointment, and that’s what I got. Someone had purchased a necktie printed with a photo I had taken in the Staples parking lot of a classic Austin Mini. My cut totaled $1.27.
I could see the trend. My side hustle was producing an average of about a nickel a month. Not nearly enough to retire on.
That was six years ago. Sales have continue to trickle in. Of the six images I posted on one website, only the sunset has sold. But I’ve netted a glowing 28 bucks total from that one image, mostly in note cards and greeting cards.
Of the 10 images I posted on the competing website, only that artless image of an old car has sold. I’ve so far received nothing from that image, because my career total hasn’t yet reached the $20 minimum required for the company to cut me a check. But somewhere in the world, three people are wearing neckties decorated with a repeating pattern of an Austin Mini sitting in a Traverse City parking lot.
As side hustles go, the endeavor has been a failure. That’s my fault, because I’ve never added more images to either sales site. To make this side hustle monetarily worthwhile, I would need to add fresh images constantly. But as amusement goes, the one-time effort has been a resounding success — because it’s pretty funny that I made a grand total of $28 in six years.
Side hustles require effort, just as day jobs do. I could pump up my side hustle income by uploading more and better images. Maybe someday I will.
Marketing a handful of photographs on websites that carry a total stock of millions of images isn’t a good bet. More dependable side hustles range from ride-share driving or food delivery to tutoring or dealing merchandise on eBay.
The extra money from a side hustle may not be the only benefit of spending some spare time working.
A recent research paper suggests that engaging in part-time entrepreneurship can boost the chances that employees bring innovative behavior to their full-time job.
David R. Marshall (University of Dayton), Walter D. Davis, Clay Dibrell, and Anthony P. Ammeter — both of University of Mississippi — combined information on entrepreneurial learning, knowledge and learning transfer, and employee innovation. They analyzed responses from 1,221 people employed at eight different locations in the U.S.
Their paper, “Learning off the Job: Examining Part-time Entrepreneurs as Innovative Employees,” was published in the Journal of Management.
“We actually do not even know if it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for employee job performance,” Marshall said in a release. “We simply wanted to highlight that entrepreneurship is a unique learning context and that people doing entrepreneurship in their spare time can develop some valuable skills that could be transferred to their wage-employment work as well.”
Employees can extract both money and amusement from a side hustle. Employers appear to gain, too — with workers who bring a more innovative attitude to their day job.