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Issue #2 • February 2017

Starting With A Side Hustle Is The Best Way To Build A Business You Love

Build Your Audience

Can you really have it all?

Is it possible to do what you love while providing for your family? Can you steadily grow into the career of your dreams without compromising your standard of living?

Most people think you have to quit your full-time job to make that happen. The road most traveled is one of hardship, sacrifice, and surrendering to an unknown future. It’s leaving the security of a consistent paycheck to free up your time and energy for a fledgling business. It’s feeling stuck in a job that won’t cater to your growing interests. It’s burning out on the creative endeavors you once couldn’t wait to sit down to.

But that doesn’t have to be the case. People like Dave Stuart, a high school teacher who moonlights as a writer and speaker, have mastered a way to follow their dreams by hanging on to their day jobs while creating the space to build a business they love on the side.

“I don't really think of myself as an entrepreneur today. I think of myself as a writer. I guess maybe I do I think of myself as an entrepreneur. I just think of myself as a teacher who gets this awesome opportunity to also be a writer and a speaker and all the while live a pretty normal life. That's really how I think about myself.”

People like Dave know that you don’t have to burn all of your bridges, put your family at risk, and bet it all on a business idea. In fact, build a side gig might be the best way to have it all as an entrepreneur.

It’s all in the side gig.

It’s not always possible nor is it necessarily a good idea to drop one thing and move on to the next. When you have more than one interest or you’re constantly trying to broaden your horizons, you still need a safety net. Keeping your day job and adding a side gig is a way to finance your pursuits and your life while still running after those big dreams that have been circling your brain.

In Dave’s case, he spends his days teaching history and English to high school students. But when he's not teaching his students or spending time with his family, Dave is working on his side gig– helping other teachers reach their full potential.

There's a lot of people out there trying to equip teachers. There's not enough giving robust, rigorous encouragement. Like, “Here's why you should keep doing what you're doing. Here's why this is actually a really great job. Here's why this is a job where we can experience autonomy, and mastery, and purpose despite whatever policy measures are currently, you know, beating down on us.” That, I think, is really my spot.

Through speaking engagements, his blog, and online courses, Dave is able to teach and encourage other teachers in the skills they need to help their students flourish and find success in their studies. The best part? Dave’s side gig has grown to the point that it produces two times as much income for his family as his teaching job.

Dave is just one example of the many entrepreneurs who choose to take an alternative path to growing their income and creating a better life. In the process he’s been able to raise his family’s standard of living while keeping a job that he loves as a teacher and turning his passion for the teaching profession into a profitable business on the side.

Have you thought about starting a side gig?

There are many reasons to build your own business on top of keeping your full-time job. Whether you’re building your skillset, adding new revenue streams to your income, networking, inspiring others, or just getting your passion projects out in the public, your side gig is the way to have the best of both worlds.

Job stability is not what it used to be.

Remember those days of yore when a person stayed in the same career for 30 to 40 years? No? Me neither. But apparently that’s how it used to be.

You’d graduated from college, land a job, work your way up the company ladder and eventually retire from the corner office after a lifetime of singularly dedicated work. That dedicated loyalty to your company was equally matched by your company’s loyalty to you.

But that reality is no more. Layoffs happen nearly every day somewhere across the economy and new college grads will have at least 10 job changes over the course of their long careers.

I think you’d be hard pressed to find many people with life-long job stability these days. The economy is constantly changing, technology is driving us toward more and more automation, and our personal preference of what makes a “good” job is nothing like what it was 50 years ago.

And when you find yourself on the wrong side of those changes and shifts, a side gig gives you something to fall back on. Here’s Dave again on being motivated to start his business as a side gig and how he hoped that would change his family’s financial security:

“Before the business started I'd been teaching for five years. We had been through some pretty tight financial times not very long prior. When we moved to Michigan, I was a long-term substitute. So, making like $75 a day. We were on some government assistance. It was incredibly tight. Tighter than it had ever been for Crystal and I.

And that was only a year and a half or so before I started the business. About the time I started the business I was earning a salary. I was a full-time teacher, but every penny was incredibly important to keep track of. We were very thankful that there hadn't been any emergencies because there was no emergency fund. So part of the motivation to start the business was to try to create something different in terms of just provision for my family.”

Having that extra income from your side hustle can provide you with the safety net you need when hard times hit. Instead of rushing into a new job that might decrease your quality of life just for a paycheck, you can have a little breathing room to find your next full-time job that is the right fit for you.

Side gigs have the potential to lead to a career change.

A side gig can be a stepping stone for a career change in many ways. Not only can you make connections and network with potential new clients and partners, a side gig also presents the opportunity to learn and improve on skills you need to advance your career.

There aren’t many careers out there that require zero experience. Any interviewer you meet will ask you what qualifying skills you have for the job. If you’re wanting to move into a new career, you need to be building those necessary skills to get that job today.

If you don’t have the opportunity to grow in those skills at your current job, you can find a side gig that caters to what you’re wanting to learn. Seeking a part-time, flexible job is the best way to get an inside look at the new career you’re interested in. You can find out if you really want to continue spending your free time developing those skills or you might even learn that you’re actually looking for something different.

And if you’re looking to be your own boss, starting small with a side gig is the perfect way to prep yourself for success. You can learn all the big lessons of running a business while you still have that safety net of your salaried job. It’s that sense of security and “can’t lose” attitude that gives many entrepreneurs the courage and perseverance to make it over the hump to a great side income that can cover their entire monthly budget at home.

Whether you’re looking to up your skills to advance your full-time job or to transition into running your own company, the skills you develop in your side gig will be both a great learning experience and beneficial for your future.

That means no more getting passed over for the promotion or waiting for opportunities to fall into your lap. A side gig puts you in the driver’s seat to take the initiative and get the training and experience you need to grow in your career.

Do what you love as your side gig.

Does your day job leave you unfulfilled? Or maybe it’s not completely unfulfilling, but you know there’s still something missing because you’re not working on projects that really matter to you. But you’re also worried that if you make what you love your full-time job, you’ll stop loving it as much as you do now.

There’s a creative itch that needs to be scratched, but what’s a blogger to do?

Having a side gig is the way to have the best of both worlds.

While you’re earning your living at your day job, you can still live out whatever your real passion is on the side. No need to compromise your earning ability, quality of life, or love of the hustle.

And when you have the freedom to decide whether or not to keep your hustle on the side, you can take a step back and make thoughtful decisions about your future. Your decisions don’t have to come from insufficiency and necessity anymore. You can really find out what you want for your life.

I can't really conceive of life that comes from not being in this classroom every day and having the mundane. That one kid stopping by at the same time every day saying the same thing. The funny jokes that the kids say and the not funny jokes that kids say. The camaraderie of being amongst teachers and doing the less glamorous parts of the job. All of those are really a big part of me. And if I would have to leave the classroom, I think, no matter how much money I could make, I would just be poor. I would be much poorer.

For Dave, teaching actually breathes life and meaning into his side gig as a writer and speaker. At the same time, his writing and speaking make him a better teacher because there’s not so much pressure on his family. It’s a beautiful marriage between the mundane day-to-day of being part of the education system and the thrill of being on stage teaching what he knows. There really couldn’t be one without the other for Dave.

That’s the value of a side gig. It can give you everything your day job doesn’t while your day job gives you everything you might risk if you simply mailed it in to go full-time on a business idea.

Are you ready to start your side gig?

There's a certain beauty in starting small with a side gig. There's less risk, still the potential for big rewards, and you have the ability to adapt as your goals and circumstances change. You can validate (or invalidate) your ideas, build a client roster, hone your skills, or save up so you can eventually quit your day job if that’s what you want.

As long as a side gig enables you to chase your dreams and find a fulfilling lifestyle, you can’t go wrong.

Have you thought about starting a side gig or do you already have one running? Let’s talk about it in the comments. I’d love to hear what you have going on or how we can help you get your business up and running.

Dani Stewart

As a daughter of an entrepreneur, the wife of an entrepreneur, and an entrepreneur herself, Dani has lived and learned all sides of creating and growing businesses. She is excited to bring all that life experience as well as a decade of crafting content to the ConvertKit community. She is a part-time baker, dinner-party planner, and lover of good bourbon living the simple life in Nashville with her husband, Sean.

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  • Dani, these are encouraging and practical points for having a side gig, nicely illustrated with Dave’s example.

    Working full-time makes it challenging to carve out hours for a side gig, so I propose another option: request a four-day workweek at your “anchor job.” Or if you’re a knowledge worker, get approval to telecommute your current job from home two days a week.

    That’s how I was able to build my side gig, WorkOptions.com, (starting online in 1997!) — which ironically equips professionals to get approval of a flexible work arrangement — and was finally able to quit my part-time professional anchor job in 2005.

    • Dani Stewart (ConvertKit)

      @PatKatepoo:disqus that would be a great option. I hope that kind of flexible work environment becomes more of the norm soon!

  • Mike McRitchie

    I love the security, routine, pay and career growth that my day job provides. And I also love the variety, chance to contribute to bettering people’s lives, and the unpredictable paydays that my blogging (www.mikemcritchie.com), resume writing and job coaching side hustle gives me. They both help me refresh, recharge, learn and grow.

    I’ve chatted with others about their side hustles too. An Uber driver who uses it for social and fun and side money to offset an office based day job. Or the repo guy who used that to pay his way through college. Or an up and comer trying to make ends meet by bartending at night.

    They all found ways to add extra cash and an exciting element to their lives that just doesn’t typically come through the primary job. But the day job is something that many find just as necessary while they sort out and pursue their side hustle passions.

    It is a very cool world we now live in where self actualization is truly possible.

    • Dani Stewart (ConvertKit)

      Agreed, @mike_mcritchie:disqus. It’s amazing that we can piece together our lives to create the future we want. It’s so freeing and empowering.

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