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Issue #2 • February 2017

Creative Fulfillment: Why Millennials Hustle on the Side

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There's been a lot written about millennials and our attitude toward work. We seem to have a tendency to move jobs more often than the previous generations.

In fact, according to a recent millennial report by Deloitte, 66% of millennials expect to leave their job by 2020. But that's not because we're terrible at commitment or unfocused. I think it’s because we want our jobs to be more than just a steady paycheck. Peter Gasca said it well:

One myth that should be dispelled about millennials is that they hop from job to job, because they are aimless or disloyal. Indeed, they do change jobs more often than most, but in most cases, it is because they are impatient with systems that stifle their ability to innovate, be empowered and ultimately stay happy.

For me, my side projects are definitely more about happiness than they are about income.

A millennial’s career path

I started my first side hustle accidentally while studying design at university. I was desperate to be creating designs that were inspired by my favourite music, but as hard as I tried I just couldn't make that apply to the majority of my class projects. So I started my own project: designing lyric-inspired graphics.

By creating this side project I finally got to exercise that creativity I was so excited about. It also meant that I could focus on my university briefs better as I was no longer trying to turn them into something they weren't (much to my tutors' relief).

Those lyric graphics picked up some attention on Tumblr, and I ended up learning how to put my designs on t-shirts and selling them to followers from all over the word. My first side-hustle was born, and so was a desire to find creative fulfilment in everything I did.

Finding creative fulfillment with side gigs

These days I have multiple side projects that I work on alongside my full-time job. All of them were borne out of a desire to work on things that I wasn't doing as part of my daily work tasks. But rather than leaving my job to pursue these passions full time, I do them on the side. And I'm happy for them to stay that way.

Over the years as I tried out new projects I figured out that there's a few different things I need to be working on in order to feel creatively fulfilled:

  • First and foremost I'm a designer, so I need to be designing every day (and designing websites is my main passion).
  • I get the urge to make things by hand.
  • I need the personal connection that comes with teaching and sharing my knowledge.

If it were a Venn diagram, my sweet spot for happiness would be right in the middle where there's a good mix of all three pursuits. And when one is lacking, I feel restless and unfulfilled.

A good mix of all of those things is hard to find in a single traditional job. So rather than expecting my day job to meet all these creative fulfillment requirements, I have side projects!

Sometimes a side gig should stay a side gig.

I know I'd stop enjoying making products if my online store was my main source of income. There are a lot of logistics and admin issues that come along with that, so for me it's perfect to stay small as a side hustle.

Juggling side projects alongside a full-time job isn’t easy. But just like a work/life balance, a creative fulfillment balance is worth striving for. And side projects help me to achieve it.

By day, I'm the marketing designer here at ConvertKit. I get to design websites, face fun user experience challenges, and work as part of a team with a strong future vision. It's awesome.

Then on the side I have a YouTube channel and podcast where I teach and discuss design. This side gig gives me that personal connection with a lot of young designers just starting out on their careers. And to top it all off, my other main side project is a small online store where I sell t-shirts I've screen-printed by hand.

These side-ventures combined with my day job ensure I'm feeling fulfilled and happy with how I spend my time. I get to work with an awesome team, have the security of a stable income, and I can do what I’m best at all while still getting a taste for entrepreneurship and exploring other creative pursuits.

Basically these projects helps me feel happier at work. I see my full-time job as simply an element in my metaphorical creative fulfilment bucket. I get my fix of designing and problem solving, and I'm not feeling stifled or restless because my side projects are meeting my other creative needs.

In my generation, the definition of a “career” is changing. Rather than being about moving up the corporate ladder or working for the same company for 30 years, we see a successful career as doing meaningful and fulfilling work. We want to know that what we’re doing has an impact on the world around us. We want to know that we’re not just getting by as we make a living. We want work that makes us more thoughtful, more aware, better friends, better workers, and better human beings.

For me that meaningful work happens not only at my day job, but with my side projects too. Just because they're “on the side” doesn't mean they're less important. They're actually helping me forge my own career path and create a life I enjoy living.

Discovering what you need to work on to make your life complete.

I really want to encourage you to think about what fulfills you. What do you need to be working on to feel happy?

I’m sure you already have a good idea of what these things are. They're the ideas you can't stop thinking about. They're what you spend your time procrasti-working on when you should be doing something else. Or they might be the things you find yourself wishing were a part of your role at work. Rather than letting the thought of these other ideas distract you or be a distant dream, make them a part of your life.

You might be working as a teacher and dreaming of flexing your creative muscles through photography. Rather than leaving your job to pursue photography full time, give yourself a side project. It puts less pressure on you if you're not relying on it for your income, and adding a little bit of it to your week might just be enough to meet that need and feel fulfilled.

Are you looking for some work/fulfillment balance? Let’s talk about it in the comments. I’d love to hear about side gigs you’ve got going on or want to get started.

Charli Prangley

Charli is a designer from New Zealand currently living and loving life in London. She’s passionate about side projects and when she’s not designing at ConvertKit she's running an online store, and creating content for her design-centric YouTube channel and podcast with the aim of helping out young creatives.

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Download this issue of Tradecraft as a PDF to read and reference at your own pace.

  • Looking forward to more of your posts in the future Charli! A fan of your YouTube videos 🙂

    I’m always looking for more creative fulfillment in my life. I’ve realized a design job will never completely satisfy me no matter how much creative freedom, money, or flexibility in schedule it allows. So I pursue many of my own side projects and share all things photography on my own website.

    • Thanks Monica!

      Creative fulfillment can be a hard one to figure out, but it’s definitely something worth striving for. And realising what DOESN’T fulfill you is just as important as working out what does I think! Glad to hear you’re enjoying photography on the side 🙂

  • Willian Sobral

    I loved the article. It’s exactly how I feel and the reason why I have decided to move jobs in the past and now have my side hustle as well. Well done!

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