Because I talk about side hustles so much, it always catches me off guard when someone asks me, “What is a side hustle?” I talk so much about how to make extra money with side hustles and give lists of ideas, but I’m not usually defining the term.
Being asked what a side hustle is reminds me why they are so freaking awesome.
I’ll get to a more thorough definition, but spoiler alert: a side hustle isn’t just a part-time job.
If you’ve ever asked what is a side hustle, today I’m going to define the term, explain what makes for a good one, cover side hustle best practices, and more.
What does a side hustle mean?
One way to define “side hustle” is to say that it’s work you do outside of your full-time job to provide supplemental income. But I know what you’re thinking… that sounds like a part-time job and you said a side hustle isn’t one!
Let’s take a closer look. The “side” part is easy. This is work you do outside of normal business hours. If you work a traditional 9-5, then you side hustle in the morning, weekends, or evenings. For stay-at-home parents, your normal hours are always, so it’s finding time when you can. The point is that side hustles don’t often have set hours.
I would say part-time jobs have set schedules and hours, but a side hustle, especially a good one, will let you set your own hours.
Now the “hustle” part. I know it sounds shady to some people, but hustle doesn’t mean back-alley deals or scams here. Hustle means determination.
Think about the fact that many side hustles let you pick your schedule. When you’re exhausted after a long day at work or you’ve just put your kids to bed and are ready to finally chill on the sofa, the choice to keep working can be really tough. But, that’s what it takes to pay off debt, save for early retirement, etc.
If a coach has ever shouted at you “Get out there and hustle!” we’re talking about the same energy.
So what is a side hustle? This is going to sound super cheesy… sorry in advance… but I think it’s more of a mindset. It is work you do on the side of your normal job, but you need drive and motivation to make it happen.
For more, read 7 Reasons Why You Absolutely Need a Side Hustle
What a side hustle isn’t
A side hustle isn’t a magic pill that can alleviate all of your financial issues. You can make all of the money in the world and still be bad at managing it – falling for lifestyle inflation, living beyond your means, etc. Those are issues that need to be addressed separately.
A side hustle also isn’t a get-rich-quick solution. Building wealth takes time and discipline.
The majority of the people I’ve talked to who’ve done amazing things with their side hustles, like completely destroying their debt or retiring early, are also creating a budget and reducing some of their expenses.
If someone tells you they can show you how to make money fast and that you’ll make a ton of it, it’s a scam. Don’t fall for that crap.
What is a good side hustle?
There are scams out there, and there are also less than stellar side hustles. Like, taking online surveys is a side hustle, but your average earnings are only $1-$2/hour and you can’t do much to increase that pay.
Not all side hustles are created equal. There are things like taking online surveys and multi-level marketing companies… I highly advise against these because 99% of people lose money with an MLM… and then there are good side hustles.
A good side hustle needs to be:
- It easily fits around your normal job or other obligations. You can pick the number of hours you work and when you work them.
- Pays well for the work done. It might take a time investment when you’re starting, but a good side hustle will pay well for the effort and energy it takes to work it.
- This is being able to grow your side hustle – earning more, expanding your business, etc.
If a side hustle doesn’t meet all of those standards, then it’s not a bad one. It just means there are better options out there if you’re interested.
But even really good side hustles can have drawbacks. Take blogging. There are bloggers earning $100,000+/month, but they didn’t earn a dime the first few months they were working. When they did start making money, it was a laughable amount.
My story is just like that. It took me a few months after starting this site to earn $3 from display ads. Then, I immediately quit my teaching job to blog full-time… yes, you read that correctly, but don’t do what I did. I had to find another good side hustle, running Facebook ads, to supplement my income while I grew my blog.
Good side hustles are the ones that can eventually replace your full-time income. That means you can leave a job you don’t love or have that much more extra income to put towards your financial goals.
There are different side hustles for different goals
Not everyone is looking to retire early or leave their day job, some people want to make fast cash or increase their cash flow. Here are three common financial goals and the side hustles that fit.
Make quick money
You don’t have time to start a blog or learn a new skill – you need cash ASAP. If you want to learn how to make extra money fast, here are a few ideas:
- Sell your stuff. There are tons of apps to sell things online.
- Do one-off jobs. Check out the gigs section on Craigslist, do tasks on TaskRabbit, mow loans, shovel snow, etc.
- Flip furniture. You take old, worn-out furniture, make it look boujee, then sell it for profit. Read more at How to Make a Full-Time Income Flipping Furniture.
Increase your income
Here I’m talking about increasing your monthly cash flow. This is extra cash to pay off debt, save for emergencies or a vacation, etc.
- Use cashback sites and apps. With apps like Ibotta or Rakuten, formerly Ebates, you shop online like you normally would and earn money for doing so.
- Rent out your space. You can list a room or your entire house on Airbnb.
- Work as a freelancer. If you have a skill to leverage (writing, editing, graphic design, web development, etc.), you can freelance in your spare time.
- Rideshare driving. Driving for Uber or Lyft is a popular side hustle for its flexibility and quick start-up time.
- Teaching English online. Want to know how to make extra money online? VIPKid is a great option that pays $14-$22/hour, and you set your own hours.
- Become a digital marketer. Earn $1,000-$2,000 extra per month running Facebook ads for small businesses.
For more ideas, read 21 Best 2020 Side Hustle Ideas That Are Actually Worth Your Time
Any of the options above work here too, but the side hustle ideas I’m about to tell you about are the ones that can turn into passive income. That means you can increase your income now, and keep it going once you retire.
- Start a blog. You need to learn how to start a blog and how to monetize it before you can build a passive income stream.
- Write an ebook. Kindle Direct Publishing makes it easy to self-publish online, and you can make money for months or years down the line.
- Create and sell an online course. Platforms like Udemy and Teachable are what many online course creators use. Creating and profiting from a course takes expert knowledge and time investment.
- Invest in real estate. Rental property can increase your monthly cash flow, and it might also turn into a sizeable chunk of cash if you sell later on.
To learn more about how to make extra money with real estate, read Real Estate Investing for Beginners: Quick Start Guide
Side hustle best practices
If you searched “what is a side hustle” it’s probably because you’re thinking about starting one. To help you get a legitimate start to your new side gig, here are a few best practices to keep things running smoothly.
Pay your taxes
This 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 at 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 looking into.
Be realistic with yourself
The downside of being able to set your own hours is that it’s really freaking hard to turn off. I still struggle with this because I love what I do and I see the benefit of working even more – my 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
Final word on what is a side hustle
Starting my side hustle was hands down one of the best things I’ve ever done… definitely after marrying my beautiful wife, obviously. I started my blog before I even knew what a side hustle was.
We were living with my in-laws at the time, and I would stay up late at night researching things like display ads and affiliate marketing. I had no clue what I was doing, but I knew I wanted more than what my job was offering.
That motivation is what sustained me while I spent my first few months making $0. That’s where the hustle really kicks in.
It took a while to get here, but now I can’t imagine my life without my side hustle.
I hear stories like mine, but I also hear from lots of people who started a side hustle to make ends meet.
These are people who were living paycheck to paycheck with a mountain of debt, and now they’re able to make more than the minimum payments and have a small emergency fund. They can sleep a little easier each night, and that alone is what makes a side hustle a good thing.