When Is a Side Hustle Not Worth It?

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Despite the obvious appeal of side hustles — more money! — they’re not for everyone. If your side hustle makes you stress out, neglect relationships, or miss opportunities at your day job, then consider it a bad idea. Side hustles are only beneficial when they help you accomplish goals without sacrificing what matters most.

Side hustles are often promoted as a simple way to generate extra cash or fulfill your passions. However, the often-ignored price tag is physical and mental strain. Not to mention the time requirement and potential financial commitment necessary to get a gig going.

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What Is a Side Hustle?

A side hustle refers to a second job or source of income that people pursue outside their primary employment. The purpose may be to earn extra money, pursue a pet project, or develop skills in a different area.

A side hustle can take various forms, from freelance work or consulting to selling handmade crafts or driving for a rideshare service. Renting out property and offering tutoring services also qualify. The point is leveraging your time and skills to pad your budget or explore a wider field than your day job allows.

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Pros and Cons of a Side Hustle

Browse the pros and cons below, and make a mental note of how many of each apply to your situation. If one side of the scales is considerably heavier, your decision may be obvious.

Pros of a Side Hustle

Here’s a breakdown of the benefits of a side hustle:

  • Develop Your Career: Side hustles can provide a valuable opportunity to develop skills, gain experience, and broaden your professional horizons. By taking on projects or roles outside your main job, you may acquire new competencies to help advance your career or get a promotion. Additionally, side hustles can demonstrate initiative, entrepreneurial spirit, and versatility to potential employers, enhancing your marketability and opening up new opportunities.
  • Switch Up the Norm: A side hustle allows you to break away from the routine of your primary job. This variety can be refreshing and stimulating, helping to prevent boredom and burnout. Whether you’re pursuing a different passion, exploring a new industry, or experimenting with creative projects, having a side hustle can inject excitement and fulfillment into your life outside work.
  • Build Your Network: Side hustles often involve interacting with different people and communities, which can expand your professional network. Whether you’re collaborating with clients, partners, or fellow freelancers, each connection presents an opportunity to exchange ideas, learn from others, and potentially uncover new career prospects. Building a diverse network through your side hustle can provide valuable support, mentorship, and referrals in your professional journey.
  • Channel Creativity: Side hustles offer a platform for expressing your creativity, passions, and interests outside your primary job. Whether it’s writing, photography, crafting, or any other form of expression, a side hustle can bring more meaning and fulfillment than your 9-to-5. This outlet can serve as a source of inspiration, relaxation, and personal growth, enriching your life beyond the confines of your main occupation.
  • Increase Income: One of the most practical benefits of a side hustle is the extra money. Whether saving for a major purchase, paying off debt, or simply seeking financial security, the income from your side hustle can provide greater financial flexibility and stability. Likewise, having multiple streams of income can be a buffer against economic uncertainty and provide a safety net in case of job loss or another hardship.

Cons of a Side Hustle

On the other hand, these are the potential drawbacks of a side hustle:

  • Less Time to Relax: Side hustles require time and effort, eroding your leisure time. Working 60+ hour weeks can lead to fatigue and even burnout. When juggling your day job, side hustle, and personal commitments causes you to lose sleep, your quality of life can become unsustainably low.
  • Distraction from Work: A side hustle can encroach on your attention and focus during work hours. Constantly thinking about your other gig, responding to email, or taking calls while at your main job can detract from your performance. If colleagues or supervisors perceive your divided attention, this can also strain your professional relationships and undermine your credibility.
  • Managing the Stress of Two Jobs: Managing the demands of a side hustle on top of your primary job and personal responsibilities can significantly increase stress. Deadlines, client expectations, financial pressures, and the need to constantly switch between different roles and tasks can elevate anxiety. Chronic stress associated with balancing multiple commitments can affect your mental and physical health over time.
  • Sustainable Prices Can Be Elusive: Setting prices or negotiating rates for your side hustle services can be challenging, especially if you’re just getting started or dealing with imposter syndrome. Striking the right balance between competitiveness and fair compensation can be tricky, and you may encounter situations where clients or customers undervalue your work. Plus, breaking into a competitive market may require setting prices so low that you work at a loss for the first few months or even years. As a result, your side hustle may ding your budget instead of adding to it.

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When Does a Side Hustle Make Sense?

Several ingredients are key for a side hustle to make sense for your situation. First, it’s essential to have a clearly defined reason for pursuing a side hustle. For example, you may want to generate income, follow a creative impulse, or pave a path to a new career. This clarity of purpose will guide your efforts and motivate you throughout your side hustle journey.

Second thorough research is crucial to understanding the market, demand, competition, and potential challenges associated with your chosen side hustle. This is significant even if you don’t have financial aspirations for your other gig.

For example, if you’re interested in fitness, is your specific angle better suited for a blog or a YouTube channel? Will you create a social media presence to drive more traffic? What kind of value are you delivering to your audience?

In a different vein, if you want to become a rideshare driver, which company offers the best pay? Do you have a presentable vehicle that you’re willing to put miles on? Answering these kinds of questions will help you make informed decisions and set realistic expectations. Not doing your homework will likely bring a lack of results, monetary loss, and frustration.

Next, understand the time commitment your side hustle will require. For instance, a few hours of woodworking on the weekend is less demanding than taking a constant flow of orders on Etsy. If your schedule is already full to the brim from your primary job, family responsibilities, and personal pursuits, incorporating a side hustle can do more harm than good. Even if you work a side gig with your significant other, it’s not the same as spending quality time together.

Finally, your side hustle should fit into the larger picture of your goals and values. For instance, you might start a side hustle in order to build a $5,000 emergency fund. Or you could take a software engineering course in the evenings that will help you eventually switch careers. In any case, your side hustle should have specific benefits and point toward a defined objective. Otherwise, you’ll burn time without accomplishing much.

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The Opportunity Cost of a Side Hustle

The “opportunity cost” of a side hustle depends upon the resources you invest. When you dedicate yourself to anything, you lose opportunities to engage in leisure activities, spend time with family and friends, and take vacations. In essence, the opportunity cost of a side hustle equals the value you place on other aspects of life that matter most.

Also ask yourself what is the financial cost of your side hustle? You might have to invest money to purchase materials or pay for marketing. You might also give up overtime at your primary job. That’s cash that could go into savings, investments, or paying off debt.

Likewise, your time could be going into skill development for your day job, leading to promotions or raises. Plus, your employer might sponsor specific types of professional development, resulting in free training that moves your career forward and increases your salary.

Ultimately, the opportunity cost of a side hustle varies depending on individual circumstances, goals, and priorities. It’s essential to carefully consider these factors and assess how the benefits of the side hustle compare to the time and money.

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Examples of Side Hustles

While there are unusual ways to make money, side hustles are typically more accessible. Here are some side hustles that match with a range of backgrounds and skill sets:

  • Freelancing: Offer services such as writing, graphic design, programming, bookkeeping, and more. You’ll take projects on a contract basis with multiple clients.

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Dog Walking

Providing exercise and companionship for dogs by taking them on walks on a regular or as-needed basis.

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Blogging

Creating and maintaining a consistent feed of valuable written content on a topic you love or have expertise in. Find out how much it costs to start and run a blog.

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Non-Medical Senior Care

Assisting elderly individuals with daily tasks (shopping, bathing, housework, etc.) and providing companionship to support their wellbeing.

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Babysitting

The tried-and-true income-generator for teenagers and adults alike. You’ll care for children in the evenings and on weekends when parents are busy or need a break.

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Personal Assistant

Providing administrative support and assistance to individuals or businesses. You’ll manage schedules, run errands, and handle correspondence. You can also be a virtual assistant and provide numerous essential services (bookkeeping, arranging travel, etc.), therefore creating a side hustle from home.

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Handyman

Offering services to repair, maintain, and improve residences. You can specialize in one or more areas: plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, or general home tasks.

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Crafting

Creating handmade goods and artwork, such as jewelry, clothing, and home décor, to sell online or at craft fairs.

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Cooking/Baking

Crafting you can eat! Get to work in the kitchen to make treats, desserts, or meal kits for sale.

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Private Tutor

Providing personalized academic instruction to students in a particular subject or skill, often on a one-on-one basis.

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Self-Publishing

Writing and publishing books or other written works independently, without the involvement of traditional publishing companies. Self-publishing is inexpensive because your work will be accessible as an ebook.

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Teaching Online Courses

Creating and delivering educational courses or tutorials on a specific topic via online platforms is another side hustle from home.

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Product Tester

Testing and reviewing products or services for companies or brands, often providing feedback and insights based on personal experience.

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E-Commerce

Selling products or services online through a website or online marketplace, which may involve sourcing or creating products, managing inventory, and handling customer inquiries and orders.

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When Is a Side Hustle Not Worth It?

A side hustle may not be worthwhile because of the toll on your physical, mental, and financial wellbeing. Here are more specific ways that a side hustle can negatively impact your life:

  • Burnout: Working an 8-hour job and dedicating 2 to 4 additional hours per day to your side hustle leaves little room for anything else. The demands of a side hustle can result in excessive stress, fatigue, and burnout.
  • Missed Career Advancements: Devoting significant time and energy to a side hustle may detract from opportunities for advancement in your primary job. They can also keep you from visualizing a sustaining career. So if you’re in a job you don’t like, a side hustle can act as a bandage instead of a cure. It’s advisable to focus on switching vocations instead of supplementing your income through another unsatisfying side job.
  • Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits: A demanding side hustle may lead to poor eating choices due to lack of time for meal prep, insufficient exercise, and disrupted sleep. Over time, these habits damage physical health and overall quality of life.
  • Strained Relationships: Spending excessive time on a side hustle can strain relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners. Missing significant events or quality time with loved ones due to work commitments can lead to feelings of resentment and isolation.
  • Financial Costs: Some side hustles require upfront investments of time and money, for purchasing inventory or equipment, marketing expenses, or training courses. If the return on investment does not justify these costs, the side hustle may not be financially sustainable in the long run.
  • Not-So-Passive Income: Many side hustles require active participation and ongoing effort to generate income, which can limit scalability and long-term earning potential. Without the ability to create passive income streams, you’ll constantly trade time for money without achieving financial freedom.
  • Neglecting Personal Growth: A side hustle that consumes all available time and energy may leave little room for hobbies or other interests. Over time, this can lead to stagnation and dissatisfaction with your lifestyle.

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Side Hustle Tips

A side hustle can quickly get out of hand or detract from your life if you’re not careful. Here’s how to create a practical side hustle that serves your needs:

  • Start Small: When beginning a side hustle, starting with manageable tasks or projects that don’t require a significant investment of time or resources is wise. Starting small allows you to test the waters, gain experience, and assess the viability of your chosen side hustle without taking on too much risk. As you gain confidence and experience, you can gradually expand and scale your side hustle over time.
  • Play to Your Strengths: Identify your special skills, interests, and areas of expertise, and leverage them in your side hustle. By focusing on activities that align with your strengths, you’re more likely to enjoy the work, excel at it, and differentiate yourself from competitors. This approach also allows you to maximize your earning potential by offering high-value services or products that cater to a specific niche or market. Remember, this doesn’t mean you must stick to your current skill set. Your interests and abilities can also lead you to pick up new skills.
  • Maintain Your Performance at Work: Balancing a side hustle with a full-time job means prioritizing high performance and professionalism in your primary job while pursuing your side hustle. To that end, it’s recommended to set boundaries for the time you dedicate to your side hustle and to manage your schedule efficiently. By maintaining your performance at work, you can preserve your job security and opportunities for advancement.
  • Aim at a Goal Instead of a Job: Instead of treating your side hustle as just another job, set out to achieve specific goals or milestones that align with your long-term aspirations. Whether your goal is to generate additional income, pursue a passion project, or transition to full-time entrepreneurship, having a clear vision and purpose for your side hustle will keep you motivated and focused on what truly matters to you. By focusing on goals rather than simply exchanging time for money, you can create a more fulfilling and meaningful side hustle.

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The Takeaway

Side hustles can be a bad idea when they damage your quality of life. While picking up a side gig can create more income, this result must be weighed against other priorities, including advancement in your day job, time dedicated to relationships, and alternatives that slowly but surely create passive income.

Asking yourself whether a side hustle is a good move might not be the most relevant question. Instead, you can ask yourself if a second job makes sense after developing a clear vision of the future.

This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org

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