Like other corporate women, you work a 9-to-5 job but want something more. Whether you have an undeclared passion, an interest that you’ve always wanted to get more involved in, or just need some extra cash, you should consider starting a side hustle to compliment your career.
It might seem like a lot of time spent working, but we spoke with Ryan Robinson, an entrepreneur and writer who teaches people how to create meaningful self-employed careers, to discover how a side hustle can actually benefit your career.
1. You can (safely) test out your business idea
You might have a killer idea for a new app and are considering sending in your two weeks’ notice at your current job in order to develop your product full-time.
But twenty-five percent of new businesses fail within the first year. You’re still paying off student loans, so why quit your job, stop earning income, and deplete your bank account when statistics say that your business has a greater chance of failure than success?
“For those who want to become entrepreneurs, starting with a side business gives you the opportunity to test your idea, build momentum, keep getting feedback on your concept, and work it into a profitable business model—all while keeping your day job (and source of reliable income),” Robinson says.
Robinson would know. His first product—the iStash—sold over 6,000 units in just under four months. A strong start, for sure, but he ended up $6,537 in debt. Even promising start-ups can end up costing you more than they may be worth.
You can and should pursue your passion project, but you shouldn’t completely write off the safety net that an earned income provides.
“While it’ll certainly take more time to get traction, starting as a side project gives you the lowest-risk opportunity to test the validity of your business idea, without getting into debt or blowing through all of your savings,” he says.
2. You can build relationships that could lead to new opportunities
Yes, we’re talking networking.
“If nothing else, having a side business that you’re actively getting feedback on will force you to regularly reach out and forge new relationships with others in your industry,” Robinson says. “What starts as a guest post, or one-off writing contract, could very easily lead to full-time employment offers. What’s even more important, is that you’ll be carrying all of your relationships with you into the future.”
When you’re stuck in an office all day, most of the people you see are your co-workers. When you have a side hustle, you’re constantly meeting new people. As you’ll discover, one contact will turn into two, two will turn into three—before you know it, you’ve formed a figurative Rolodex of contacts to take with you throughout your career.
Though the people you meet or the opportunities you pursue may not seem like a big deal at first, every small action will pay off in the long run.
“I started freelance writing and blogging on the side (including at Her Campus) which directly related to my job search,” says Kayla Lewkowicz, who currently works at a startup. “Employers were really impressed at my website, blog content, and clips and it made a huge difference getting my foot in the door! The biggest lesson I learned while side hustling is (since I’m still doing it) that a little goes a long way. The efforts I put into [it] were minor from a time perspective but major in payoff; a little writing and networking and editing each day.”
3. You can learn new skills
Your day job might be in human resources, but when you have a side hustle, you’ll be the CEO, marketing team, product and development department and sales crew, all in one.
“From learning how to be ruthless with your time and opportunity management since you have such a limited amount of free time to work on your side business, to picking up industry-specific skills like coding, writing, or graphic design, you’re constantly investing in yourself by having a side project,” Robinson says.
For example, designing your own website, even if you absolutely hating coding, will help you become a more skilled and well-rounded person.
“There’s no wrong move when you’re building your own skills and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone,” he says.
Alaina Leary is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts in Publishing/Writing at Emerson College, and started doing freelance work as an undergraduate student.
“I did a co-op as a junior in college with a marketing and communications agency and I fell in love with working there,” she says. “My supervisor hired me on a as a team member, which in this case, meant working freelance (mostly remote, with some in-office meetings) while I was still in school. I loved it. My supervisor gave me the opportunity to write press releases, blog posts, PowerPoint presentations, website content, and to design graphics and videos for her and her clients and get paid doing it.”
Since then, Alaina has continued her freelance writing gigs, even while holding down another full-time job. Though she admits that she “kind of fell into” her side hustle, Alaina credits her freelance work as not just providing an additional source of income but helping her build her resume for the gigs that she really wants.
“I still always recommend picking up a side hustle even if it is for the money or the resume line, especially if you’re in a competitive career or you’re looking to switch careers or gain more experience in an area you don’t have it,” she says. “A side hustle can be incredible for personal development. Maybe the first full-time job you landed out of college was as a waitress or a bartender and that’s not what you want to do forever—that’s okay! A side hustle designing graphics for a small company can get you valuable experience as a graphic designer, for example, if that’s your end goal. Let your side hustle become a source of professional development for your career and the extra time and effort will seem worthwhile.”
4. You can discover your purpose
“As an entrepreneur, when the journey gets difficult (and it definitely will), when you’re making painful sacrifices, the one thing you will always need to fall back upon is your ‘why’,” Robinson says.
Often, your side hustle can help you find your “why”—the thing that you’re passionate about and will sacrifice nearly everything for (including precious commodities like time, money, and sleep) in order to do it.
“Without having a greater purpose—something that’s more important than just your own personal wealth or reputation—you’re going to have a very difficult time sticking through the challenges,” he says.
We aren’t going to lie to you—keeping up with a side hustle is a lot of work. There will be long days and long nights, but the pay-off is worth it. Operating a side hustle can advance your current and even future career by helping you launch an idea to a business, meet valuable people in your industry, learn new skills, and become the person that you want to be.