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.