There’s a good chance you know someone with a side hustle — in fact, 1-in-3 Americans now have a side hustle! And there’s a good reason for that: side hustles offer you a flexible way to make more money.
We are big believers in the power of a side hustle, but you still might be confused on what a side hustle even means. That’s why we’ve put together this side hustle breakdown to clarify what a side hustle is, examples, best practices, and benefits of starting a side hustle.
Definition of a side hustle
A side hustle is work you do outside of your full-time or primary job. It can be any kind of employment — online work, in-person, freelance work, etc. And people typically start side hustles to supplement their income and make extra money.
Dictionary.com defines side hustle as, “A job or occupation that brings in extra money beyond one’s regular job and main source of income.”
Whenever someone says they have a side hustle, the most common question they're asked is, “Isn’t a side hustle just a part-time job?” Side hustles aren’t exactly part-time jobs — it’s much more than that.
The point of a side hustle is to give you a flexible and faster way to reach your financial goals.
Think about every part-time job you’ve ever had. You might be able to tell your employer that you’re not available on the weekends, for example, but ultimately they decide when you work. Can’t work the hours your part-time job has you scheduled? There’s a chance you’ll lose your job if you can’t make those hours work.
On the other hand, side hustles give you flexibility and control over your schedule and empower you to make extra money in your spare time.
How do side hustles work?
Side hustles are work you do outside of your day job. If you work a traditional 9-5, then you side hustle in the morning, weekends, or evenings. For stay-at-home parents, you're always working, so it’s finding time when you can.
The inherent flexibility of side hustles means you can start and build them on your own schedule, and the best side hustles are ones that could potentially turn into your full-time job.
The flexible nature of side hustles means you can:
- Test an idea for an online business
- Explore making money with your passions
- Grow your side hustle business before
And you can do those things before you ever quit your day job, if that’s your ultimate goal.
For example, you can start a freelance graphic design side hustle and work from home outside of your 9-5, and then once you’ve built your client base and income, you can transition to full-time employment as a freelancer. You’re not leaving a well-paying job with benefits until you’ve created a thriving and financially stable side hustle.
Side hustle examples
There are dozens of different side hustles, but here are some of the most popular side hustles right now:
- Delivering take out for DoorDash
- Grocery shopping for Instacart
- Taking online surveys
- Freelance writing
- Freelancing as a virtual assistant
- Flipping things for sale
- Teaching an online course
- Running Facebook ads for local businesses
- Dog walking and pet care
- Running an Etsy shop
- Selling things online
- Investing in real estate
All of those ideas are ones you can start and work on the side of your day job, and you can dedicate as much or as little time as you want.
Understanding different types of side hustles
Most side hustles fall into one of the following three categories:
1. Freelancing: This is when you monetize existing skills (or learn new ones) to provide services for a variety of clients. Freelancers set their own rates and scale as their client base and skillset grows.
2. Gig work: The abundance of side hustle apps — think food delivery apps like DoorDash or Instacart — has led to significant growth in the area of gig work. Most gigs have predetermined pay or rates, and they’re less scalable.
3. Entrepreneurship: Here’s where you’re starting and running a business, and online businesses are ideal for side hustles because it provides even more flexibility. You are in control of every aspect of your business, from what services or products you’re selling, creating those offerings, marketing, automations, hiring, and more. This is an incredibly scalable option.
Are side hustles worth it?
Considering that only 19% of U.S. workers are happy with their pay, side hustles can be very worth it. A side hustle can close that income gap and help you pay off debt, finally save for retirement, go on a vacation, and more.
To give you an idea of how worth it side hustles are, here are some motivational stories:
- With $100K In The Bank, Here’s What This 25-Year-Old is Doing Next
- High School Band Director Quits Job to Create $1 Million Business in 4 Years
- This 28-Year-Old Earns Over $100,000 a Month Blogging and Traveling Full-Time
Those are huge side hustle success stories, but the worth of a side hustle can be as simple as having an extra $500/month in your pocket. Just imagine the possibilities with that much!
Benefits of side hustles
If you’ve read anything in this article, then you have a solid idea of what the benefits of side hustles are, but let’s go through them all in detail:
Side hustles increase your income
This is the main reason so many people start a side hustle. If you’re not making enough money to support yourself and achieve your financial goals, then a side hustle can help you close that gap. There are even opportunities to make $1,000+ a month — and these are the easy ones!
Opportunity to pursue your passions
What do you love to do? Is it travel, knitting, cooking, antique furniture, etc.? With a side hustle, you can monetize your passions. Think of the potential:
- Start a cooking blog
- Buying, refinishing, and reselling antique furniture
- Creating an online yarn store
One more time for those in the back — side hustles aren’t the same as a part or full-time job. You typically don’t have set working hours, so you can work whenever you have the time. Now, a freelancer might have a client that requires a specific turnaround time or wants you available during certain hours, but for the most part, you are in control of when you work.
The best side hustles are scalable
Okay, this benefit is really cool. Side hustles can start small and grow. Take blogging for example — you aren’t making very much money in the beginning, but as you continue to work at it (on your own schedule, mind you!) your business continues to expand, and so does your income. Or freelancing — what starts off as just you can grow into a multi-million dollar agency.
You can leverage existing skills
Many side hustles have such low start-up costs because you’re leveraging existing skills (think graphic design or web development). However, with the wide availability of affordable online courses, you can also learn and monetize a new skill with a small investment.
Being reliant on a sole source of income is a dangerous way to live. Losing your job or taking a pay cut can devastate your finances, and that’s why side hustles are so powerful. Not only are you making money, you’re protecting your future. This is where passive side hustles can really benefit you too, because you’re not trading time for work.
Best practices for side hustles
Once you’ve started your side hustle, here are a few best practices to keep things running smoothly.
Pay your taxes
Side hustle money is real money, so you need to pay taxes on it. That includes keeping track of your income, paying quarterly taxes if applicable, tracking deductions to lower your tax bills, and more. You can learn all about it at How to Handle Taxes for Your Side Hustle.
Make sure there aren’t any conflicts of interest with your other job
To keep yourself out of trouble with your day job, read through company guidelines to see if there are any potential conflicts of interest with your side hustle, like a non-compete clause. You can also set up a meeting with HR to learn more, but don’t feel like you need to disclose too much about your side hustle.
This won’t apply to all side hustles, but if your side hustle is at all related to your day job, it’s worth researching.
Be realistic with yourself
The downside of setting your hours is that it’s really freaking hard to turn off. Many people struggle with this because you love what you do and see the benefit of working even more — your income goes up. But, turning off and taking a break will keep you from burning out.
Don’t feel like you have to side hustle an extra 40+ hours per week. Sure, it might speed up your progress towards meeting your financial goals. But at what cost?
Setting “business hours” for yourself can be a big help, and so is scheduling time off. It’s okay to take a night off or two. Ease into it, set limits, and take care of yourself
What is a side hustle? The final word
Side hustles are flexible ways to make money on the side of your full-time job. Starting one can help you pay off debt, stop living paycheck-to-paycheck, save more for retirement, set money aside for emergencies, plan for your next vacation, and more.
Learning how to make more money gives you options, and there are so many great side hustle options out there.
Think about how much time you have to commit, how much money you want to make, and what skills you already have. From there, check out our definitive list of Best Side Hustles to find the right one for you.
Driving for DoorDash, starting a blog, and freelance proofreading are all considered side hustles because they offer flexible schedules and the ability to increase your income.
Side hustles like consulting, freelancing, and blogging all have the highest side hustle earning potential.
There’s not a set amount that a side hustle should pay, rather pay should allow you to reach your financial goals and be worth your time.