Do The Hustle: Getting Work On The Side When You Need It Most
In the new Oscar-buzzing movie, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, Melissa McCarthy plays the late real-life author Lee Israel who turned to fabricating and forging historic author letters to make a living and pay the rent when her book deals dried up.
She pulled it off for years, selling some of her faux work for hundreds, even thousands each. Until she was caught and prosecuted.
Yes, desperate crimes call for desperate measures. Not suggesting you commit a criminal act to pay for groceries, but millions of women are turning to creative ways to fit together an income, whether it is because you lost a job or contract or have a large, unexpected bill to pay.
“More than 31 percent of job seekers report having a second source of income outside their regular 9-5 jobs. Fifty-nine percent say they have a side gig because they need the extra income. This is especially true of younger workers (68 percent under 40 years old vs. 49 percent older than 40), and employees with children (63 percent with children vs. 55 percent with no children). Twenty-two percent say they take on a side hustle to pursue a passion project,” writes Lisa Rabasca Roepe in Forbes.
Working on the side is the new norm. “According to another study from Bankrate.com, of more than 1,000 working adults, 37 percent of respondents work a side gig, the average of which pays $686 a month — that’s more than $8,200 in extra income per year,” according to TheBottomLine.com.
“For those who work their side hustles at least once a month, that monthly average jumps to $836. Among the entire pool of respondents who work a side hustle, nearly half — 49 percent — earn $200 a month or less. The next-largest group is the 17 percent who earn $201 to $500 a month. Another nine percent earn $501 to $1,000, and 15 percent earn more than $1,000 a month,” The BottomLione.com reports.
The not great news is the gig economy shows a gender gap in pay.
“A study released by economists from Stanford University and the University of Chicago found a 7 percent hourly earnings gap. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a studywhich found that women make less than men in both temporary and independent contractor positions. A study that looked at the profiles of men and women on Upwork and Fiverr also found that men charged (and therefore made) more than women for similar work,” according to Mondaq.
Whether you are jumping into the gig economy to piece together a full income, trying to support yourself during an unemployment phase or a downturn in your income, or pursuing a passion idea for a startup, here are some strategies for creating a successful hustle.
Go after a professional gig you can put on your resume. A new report from Jobvite’s 2018 Job Seeker Nation Study shows “more than half of younger employees take on a side gig—it also reveals that men are more likely than women to take on a professional side hustle. Women are more likely to walk dogs, babysit or open an Etsy shop to earn extra money,” writes Roepe in Forbes. The study shows women are less likely than men to find a freelance professional job such as writing, coding or consulting. There’s no judgment in doing what you have to do, but try to find something that aligns with your professional skills and that can advance you with networking, contacts and experience.
Don’t quit your day job unless the income is matched. Otegha Uwagba, founder of Women Who, “an organization that connects and supports women in the creative industries,” tells the BBC, “If you already have a job, it’s risky to quit in order to concentrate 100% on your side earner. And don’t spend hours at work fiddling away at your personal project. It’s one of the first things Uwagba tells people trying to balance their side projects: don’t jeopardize your main job and your main source of income.” She adds, “Just try and get up early beforehand and fit in a few hours before work. That’s what I did when I was trying to get Women Who off the ground. And it’s so much more productive doing an hour or two before work and then having your evenings free than trying to come home from work and do a few extra hours.”
Charge enough for your time and expertise. Do research to see what the going rate in your area is for the side jobs you can do. Do not get undercut. Because many people do side hustles, but not many people earn enough on the side hustles. “According to Finder.com, the average American with a side gig (a reported 69.8 million people) makes $3,075 per year. Millennials make slightly more, $3,677. That might not seem like a ton of money at a glance, but a few thousand dollars can put a big dent in student loans, credit card debt, or savings goals,” according to Refinery 29.
Maximize your contacts and connections in your side hustle. If you are looking for more clients and other ways to expand your income, or to switch careers to the one of this new side hustle, never turn down an opportunity to say what your goal is and ask for referrals. According to Bustle, Beth Kobliner, author of the New York Times bestsellers Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties and Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You’re Not), “And there are perks of a second gig besides the paycheck. The biggest plus is the networking opportunities in fields other than your current day job. For instance, being a staff writer at a food magazine is tough to near-impossible, but contributing a couple blog posts to a cooking site you love is attainable (though the pay may not be much) — and can open doors in the biz. Exploring passions is another benefit of a side job, like fulfilling a love of photography by shooting kids’ parties on weekends. Who knows? A part-time or freelance gig could produce not just some extra cash, but a whole new chapter in your life.”
Don’t exhaust yourself so nothing goes well. Taking on an added hustle, or compiling a collection of hustles to add up to one decent salary will not work if you overdo it all the time. It’s not healthy to work 70 hours a week every week. Make sure you are realistic about family and life obligations and schedule time for yourself. The last thing you need is burnout so even the side hustles evaporate.
The good news is you don’t have to be like Lee Israel and do something illegal to fill in your career gaps. Extra-curricular earnings can become your full time job.
“A side job can let you pursue a private dream, take a mental breather, build up a war chest, get used to juggling priorities, learn skills that actually help you in your primary job, or take risks that aren’t possible in your full-time job. And if the side hustle starts pulling to the center, you might realize that Plan B was Plan A all along,” writes Elissa Sangster in Forbes.
She adds, “I know so many women who started businesses on the side—often because they discovered a missed market opportunity after starting a family. I believe that in the right context and with the right idea, anyone can be a successful entrepreneur—experimenting with your ideas while staying gainfully employed not only hedges the risk, but gives you the time to get it right.”
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldonwww.micheleweldon.com