For the last few months I have embarked on pursuing a number of “side hustles” to gain more financial freedom and broaden my resume and skill set. Now, whilst I thoroughly enjoy my side hustles and see the value they can bring into my life (financial and otherwise) I do take issue with the phrase side hustle. In this post I will explain my reasoning and suggest an alternative.
The main reason I personally dislike the phrase side hustle is I believe it puts you in the wrong mindset. A side hustle is seen as something you do… well on the side… My issue is that I am currently prioritising my side hustles over my work in an attempt to make them my main source of income. So to put them on the “side” feels like I am reducing them to a “fun thing I do on the weekend or when I have time” rather than a serious business that could become a serious form of income. As a result I am less motivated and disciplined to work on them as “it’s not a real business, just a side hustle”.
Following on, the phrase side hustle or gig can be seen as a “on the down low” way to make money, where proper bookkeeping and accounting is not necessary. In an attempt to learn more about the industries I intend to play in, I have been spending a lot of time watching YouTube videos from self-proclaimed “experts” in the field. The thing that strikes fear into my heart is just how clavier they are about cash flow, book keeping, legal requirements, and taxes. They don’t pay attention to cash flow and then panic because their credit card debts are exorbitant, or they don’t pay attention to copywrite law and then get sued for $100 000. I think that the phrase “side hustle” plays into this attitude because it is simply a fun project they do on the side, not a real business, and thus real business practices aren’t required (hint: they are).
In a similar vein to proper bookkeeping is proper business knowledge and expertise. If a side hustle isn’t a business then you don’t need to approach it with a business mindset such as a business model or market analysis. For example, I have been struggling with one side hustle and almost abandoned it because it felt like I was throwing ideas against a wall to see what would stick, and in the process losing money. I didn’t see how I could get from A to B and then B to C. I didn’t see how much money I could potentially make and what my biggest hurdles are. The reason – I didn’t have a business model. And the reason I didn’t have a business model is because I didn’t see this project as a business, I saw it as a side hustle. Now, I have worked on businesses before and know how to build and construct a business model and segment the market. If I had started a “start up” I would have jumped on these business tools from day one, but because I am running a “side hustle” I didn’t see the need. In fact a lot of people who tout their success of their side hustle will make a point of saying that they don’t have a business degree or business knowledge but still achieved X, Y, and Z. That may be true, and you certainty don’t need an MBA to be successful, but I think that writing off business practices is a mistake. Evergreen business books exist for a reason, because they work. Ignoring their advice because it is a side hustle is a mistake and will do more damage than good.
So, moving forward I am going to try and strike the word side hustle from my vocabulary. I don’t have side hustles or side projects, I have a business. I do not pursue copywriting as a side hustle, I have a copywriting business. The language change from side hustle to business is small but I think it is necessary because it changes my identity and makes me more comfortable and confident when I wear the business hat.