We Reject The Side Hustle

Photo: Abaca USA/BACKGRID

Read enough about career and money, and you’ll start to see a lot of the same pieces of advice repeated over and over again. Most are sensible and innocuous. Some are downright bad. 

What I’m most tired of hearing, though, are admonishments to “always have a side hustle”, or more plainly, to compulsively stack extra side work on top of the full-time work you already have. In honour of Rejection Week, I hereby reject the “side hustle” — or “second job”, once you strip the term of its post-recession rebranding.

For the first several years of my career, I regularly did work on the side from my full-time jobs, either to keep a steady stream of writing clips going while I did something else to pay the bills, or to pay the bills while I worked at full-time but poorly paid editorial gigs. I don’t regret it, per se — it got me where I needed to be financially, as well as in my career. Extra work was a necessary evil.

The problem was that long after I could afford not to, I kept myself on the hamster wheel of constantly freelancing, waking up early before a full work day, the better to rake in money that was helpful to have — and enabled me to more quickly build up some badly needed emergency savings — but that I easily could have gotten by without.

I told myself it wasn’t that much extra effort, that I simply had “good hustle”, and that I was smart to shore myself up with extra options in such an unstable profession and industry.

Maybe this was all true, but what was also true is that working outside of work quietly became a major drain on my energy levels, negatively impacting my mental, emotional, and even physical health. I also started spending money more stupidly (some might say compulsively) as a response to rising stress, which had the perverse effect of making me feel that I needed that extra cash flow even more.

Rather than acting as a financial security blanket, my outside income became a specter that I kept in my life mostly out of fear. When I finally bit the bullet and focused on having just one job at a time, unsurprisingly, all that extra stress and anxiety dissipated almost immediately. I slept more, I took fewer overpriced taxis, I was better at my actual day job.

As Nick has written before, turning a hobby you love into a money-making hustle can wind up ruining your relationship to the thing you once loved. Similarly, continuing your side hustle past the point of financial necessity can quickly become something closer to “psychological trap” than “savvy financial hack that’ll edge you towards early retirement.”

When you’re not on the clock, devote that time to exercise, sleep, see friends, work on a non-money-making side project—literally anything other than using your precious non-work hours for more work, just because some money blogger told you to.


Comments

    Totally agree with this. If you're working too hard to enjoy life, what's the point?

    Yes, money is a necessary thing but work smarter, not harder.

    As wages stagnate, and the money becomes ever more unbalanced in today's global economy, it's not surprising that people have started to buy into it and change "second job" (which used to mean you were doing it tough) into "side hustle", like that's actually a good thing.
    We could actually change things if we weren't all a collective pack of complete morons, but instead we decide and accept that this is the ways things are and nothing can be done about it.

      Main problem is our addiction to debt. When people have debt, they feel some sort of obligation to keep paying it off, and that ties them to a main source of income. Remove the debt, you remove the forced obligation to stick with the status quo.

      But thats far easier said than done. Not all debt is bad, and you always need a roof over your head, so you still need a way to either pay that debt, or make it irrelevant.

      FYI, I'm about to remove myself from that rat race, being gifted a redundancy that pays out all my debts and lets me access my Super early. Its pension will be plenty. So I do hear you about changing things, but it wouldn't be possible if I wasn't able to own my property, and hence all the benefits that entails. And most people aren't going to get that combination of luck and timing to be able to do what I am.

    I think the problem here is with the co-opting of the term "side hustle" into meaning "second job" (as you say).

    I work a full time job with an average of 10 hour days, but I spend at least three more hours a day on what I call my side-hustle. The difference is that this is a buisness I'm trying to build and launch with a view to turning it into my full time career in place of my current one, as opposed to supplementing it.

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