What's your side hustle?

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My friend’s teenage daughter informed her the other day that she was enrolling in a nail technician class at high school.

The friend, who has been prepping her daughter for a good college education since she was a toddler, was less than thrilled.

“Why are you taking a beauty school class instead of an advanced placement academic class? Wouldn’t that be better for college?”

“MOM,” she said in an exasperated tone that only teenagers do perfectly, “Doing nails is my side hustle to help pay for college.  I can do it anytime, in the dorms, and there is a ready market if I need some extra cash.”

My friend went from worry to admiration for the enterprising spirit of her daughter.

We all need a side hustle.

If you are still working in a corporate job, a side hustle is a great way to test and try new business ideas. It can also be part of your backup plan in case you lose your job.  Examples of side hustles I have seen from corporate employee clients and friends over the years:

  • Web design
  • Home organizing
  • Writing and editing
  • Coaching
  • Computer maintenance
  • Massage
  • Tax preparation
  • Personal training
  • Yoga
  • Consulting
  • Catering
  • Photography

A good side hustle will have the following characteristics:

  • You like it
  • You are good at it
  • You are very clear who your market is (for example, if you are good with computers, you could offer your services to other homeowners in your neighborhood on your community bulletin board or in a newsletter)
  • You can generate a decent amount of quick cash in a short period of time
  • It does not require an extensive website or ongoing brand-building efforts like a more substantial small business. But more substantial businesses can and do emerge from side hustles.
  • It will not get you thrown in jail (dealing crack, while profitable and possible from your home, is not recommended)

The side hustle does not only apply to corporate employees, it can also be a great backup for small business owners affected by shifting markets or slow sales.

So what’s yours?

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80 Responses to “What's your side hustle?”

  1. […] and you need to be ready – at any time – to make a move into something new.  Having a side hustle, a Plan B, a backup plan – all very important under the new rules of […]

  2. H says:

    This “side hustle” sounds great. I just have one general question: how do you deal with the (mostly mental) exhaustion that comes from the’ cubicle nation’ we live in all day long? Right now, I am dealing with that while I plan my escape. It’s awful. I’d really like to take a vacation to sort things out, get rested, and get organized, but I can’t afford the time off.

  3. […] looking out for the next assignment, the next gig, the next thing.  My pal Pam Slim recommends having a “side hustle” – that thing you have going on the side, that – if push comes to shove – you […]

  4. […] I recently read the post “What’s Your Side Hustle?” by Pam Slim, which speaks to this same concept.  While she categorizes a side hustle as an […]

  5. […] no fad diets, no marathon workout sessions. I still have to go to work. I still have to run my side hustle, keep on my other goals, do the hundreds of mundane things I do every day and every week while […]

  6. […] end of your degree program, the first thing a prospective employer will want to know is what your side hustle was during college. And if you don’t have a side hustle now, it’ll just look like […]

  7. Tammy says:

    Such a motivating story; this to me is the new fairytale. I love this idea of ‘trying out’ little business ideas. Nothing big, no pressure, just something you’re doing on the side. More than that, I love this girl’s attitude. Between the super-successful 22 year old Shama and this young entrepreneur, there’s been quite a ‘youth’ angle to your blog this month, and doesn’t it just give you hope in the midst of all this ‘crisis’?! I mean, I’m not old, I’m only just thirty-one and this is totally the sort of thing I was doing at her age, I just love the fact that it’s now so much the norm to be an enterprising teenager that parents get an exasperated ‘duh’ look when they assume they’re being frivolous by signing up for a nail-technician course!

    Your friends daughter may be doing nails as a side through college, or she may discover that she can grow it into a business that pays her better then being a brain surgeon and part-time astronaut (or whatever she’s studying to be); either way she sounds like she’ll be charging through life creating her own opportunities and directing, producing and starring in her own destiny.

  8. […] be overwhelmed. I can completely understand the feeling, especially if you’re working on your side hustle while still […]

  9. […] What’s your side hustle ? […]

  10. […] Slim over at Escape From Cubicle Nation has the answer. My friend’s teenage daughter informed her the other day that she was enrolling in […]

  11. […] Slim over at Escape From Cubicle Nation has the answer. My friend’s teenage daughter informed her the other day that she was enrolling in […]

  12. Karen Graves says:

    Thanks for this post! I totally subscribe to the side hustle concept. I refer to my side hustle as my “gig”. I have two that have floated me as I revamp my business I currently have two: “Cash for Gold” house parties and freelance sales training and professional development. Those “gigs” keep me going because they are fun, allow other people to have fun, and continue to stretch and build my platform skills.

  13. […] managing an artist because you’re passionate about their work. Maybe managing artists is the side hustle that lets you have fun. Or maybe you’re like other new artist managers, spreading yourself […]

  14. Live Richly says:

    I wrote about going pro with your side hustle and 4 other reasons unemployment can be a good thing at http://liverichly.com/?p=213

  15. Busey says:

    Side hustle is such a good way to put it. Great site. Totally love it… Also bought your book. It’s excellent as well. Here is my side hustle currently…. http://www.bumpedthetrinket.com

  16. I laughed out loud at your one sentence critique of dealing as a side hustle.

    My side hustle has always been writing. Whether blogging or copywriting, it’s always kept me focussed, motivated and in beer tokens!

  17. Karley says:

    My profitable blog is my side hustle: http://chicandgreendaily.com.

    I can so relate to this story. When I was in college studying political science, I started selling Mary Kay out of my dorm. So many of the girls bought makeup with their work study $, so it paid for my clothes, movies, and eating out. Much to my parent’s dismay, the side hustle became such a big love (cosmetics and skin care) that I followed that path rather than heading to law school or into teaching.

  18. Courtney says:

    My side hustle is Party Designing and Entertaining Inspiration. Recently got Matt Cheuvront to help me optimize my site, and I’m really loving having a creative outlet alongside the 8 to 5 job.

  19. Kimmoy says:

    Smart girl indeed and yes I agree, today’s American dream means having more than one income stream. I tried to make teaching Caribbean Dance a side hustle, but I couldn’t take the check (isn’t that weird?) So now, I’m working on moving The Curvy Coach from a side hustle to a full time hustle 😉 You already knew that though…great post as usual

  20. Richard says:

    My side hustle from the corporate world was woodworking, now it’s my main gig 🙂 I left the corporate world 3 weeks ago and I’m now looking for another side hustle.

    I don’t think it matters if you’re a cube worker or entrepreneur, we all need multiple ways to generate cash.

  21. Great post, great concept.

    For years, I clawed my way to being an ECD for an agency. I got there, but then suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. Now, four years after my accident, full-time work is still not something I can do, so more than ever, I need a side hustle! My plan: write songs. I can do it from the comfort of my couch, and it balances well with freelance ad writing, which I do for some very understanding people, but as of yet, songwriting still doesn’t bring home the bacon. I’m not giving up, though! And I think Side Hustle might be a good title for my second album.


    • Leo says:

      Hi Jeff. I’m also writing songs! However, I’m concentrating on performing on local venues as a side hustle (I sing and play the guitar). It is very difficult to generate income just by writing songs, but performing them live has worked great for me in the past. I think you’re on the right track, your site looks great and your blog is updated and has character. Keep up the good work!

  22. Irishfan says:

    Great article on the ‘side hustle’ for a corporate employee like myself. Since the average workweek is still at one of its lowest points in years and employment opportunities are a lagging indicator of the recovery, these points provide good insight into the process.

    I have one as a tax preparation business and thinking about starting another one this summer.

    One thing I would caution for the corporate employee, is that many companies have policies where you have to report ‘moonlighting’ activities such as this. It is gray area as one defines ‘privacy’ versus ’employment contract’. In my company, a Big 4 accounting firm, they have explicitly stated employees should seek approval for things such as this. Many companies do not want the attention from an employee that could potentially end up in the media.

  23. Glenn says:

    Side hustle! I love it! Everyone needs one or two…even a side hustle to a side hustle for that matter. Every person who has their own business needs a side hustle to pick up the slack during slow time because there is going to be a time, especially starting out when you haven’t made the progress you thought you should make and you are thinking about giving up…the side hustle can keep your dream alive and make up that shortfall from your business venture. Great term!

  24. Deb Brown says:

    Wow – smart kid! I also like Erik’s comment – he laid out some great points. My side hustle is getting paid for referring people to Melaleuca. My main hustle is working with small businesses to establish social media plans. My hours are whacked – it really varies from day to day depending on the clients.

    I needed to have an extra source of income (and frankly, who doesn’t?) and going to work for someone else was not going to cut it. I’ve been a Melaleuca customer since 2004 and know the products are great. I don’t have to sell products – I just introduce people to the company and get paid commissions. I get paid for my hustle – and I love that!

    Link? yup – http://www.debrareneebrown.com But don’t go there if you are not interested.

    Once again – love the post!

  25. […] do do the Side Hustle: Make sure there is water in the pool before you […]

  26. Jay Baer says:

    I live this post. Such good advice (as usual).

    True story: My side hustle in college was making fake IDs. Posterboard, Polaroid, Laminate, Iron – the whole bit.

    It went well, too, until one day I heard a doorman say at a Tucson bar, “There sure are a lot of kids from Idaho at this school.”

    Maybe a follow-up post on “knowing when your side hustle threatens your main gig”?

  27. fas says:

    My side hustle is writing books. Pam, whats urs?

  28. Dara Bell says:

    Funny joke about the crack, got me thinking about all the side hustles I can come up with, or have in my side hustle stash.

    Dara Bell

  29. Will says:

    Excellent piece of insight Pam. I now have a word to describe the development of my website and hope to spread the concept to others I know by leading by example.

    P.S. your book is fantastic!

  30. The thing is when do you decide to leave your cubicle for the side hustle that you love?

    • Irishfan says:

      That is the question of the day. Still trying to figure that one out but I have figured out there is no perfect time.

  31. Dorothy says:

    My side hustle is weight training, my passion for 23 years. I eat, sleep, dream new ways to make it more awesome than it already is. My goal is to see the doctor only for physicals and that’s what I want for everyone!

  32. Pam – Great thought process here. This is actually why I started my own business. I found that my passion was running my own thing. And honestly, if it turns into something that can become my full-time, then I’ll move in that direction. But at this time, I enjoy the security of my full-time gig but I love my “side hustle” even more. Make decent money with 2 hours a week of work is a ton of fun. 🙂

  33. I found this post very thought provoking.

    I am a DBA by day, and an aspiring blogpreneur at night. Right now, I guess I would have to say my blog is my side hustle. But I am looking at taking that hustle and transforming it in to my main gig. What I had not considered was how keep my current day job around as a side hustle in the future, to help tide me through when/if times get tough. Your post has gotten my weals spinning.

  34. Erik Boles says:


    This such good advice, but I think there are some significant components that need to be mentioned to those entertaining this. These are especially important the older you get and the more you have going on in your life (kids!).

    There are three predominant thoughts on making a side gig a full time gig.

    1. I work 50 hours a week, and for a side gig to be successful, it would take an additional 40 hours per week AT LEAST! — This is simply not true. depending on what you are trying to do, and what the competitive landscape looks like, you may have to work harder than others, but it is variable. which leads me to #2:

    2. It’s 2010, and the internet, I should be able to build something in an hour that makes me money. — Also not true, in the world of transparency and genuine interaction, sweat equity is king. Don’t be surprised if you side gig isn’t generating a second incoming in 15 days. Follow other metrics for success short term: am I getting talked about in blogs, tweets and other places? Is my traffic going up?

    3. I have to “work my face off” for years to get a second gig going, and I am not willing to do that! — Also not true. While you absolutely need to prioritize and schedule your time, you don’t have to abandon the rest of the world. You need to determine what matters, in order: family, kids, friends, etc. Make a commitment to yourself that you are going to stick to a schedule, and include the important people around you in your plans. For example: say your day job consumes you from 7:30-5:30. I would:

    1. Commit to taking a one hour lunch each day to just go clear your head, you will need it with the additional workload after hours.
    2. Spend 5:30-8:30 with the family and kids, tuck the kids in and kiss the S/O goodnight.
    3. “Work your face off” from 8:30ish until 11, 12, 1…whatever you can sustain long term.
    4. Commit that part of the weekend is just for the kids, or friends if you are single, something 100% not work related. No iphone, no blackberry, just relax.
    5. Commit that one night a week, or every other week, is date night. Again, no iphone, don’t even bring it, and if you have to (babysitter connect) put it in your pocket, prove to that other person that they are primary to you.

    These simple breaks will keep you going long term, will put the people important to you in your camp, give you some rest to clear your head and will give you an opportunity to bounce your work off of friends and family, they may point out things you didn’t see.

    Establish benchmarks, where do you plan to be in 3, 6 and 12 months, if you are not there, consider your next move.

    it isn’t easy, but it is quite possible, and I admire every single person that does it.



  35. diane says:

    Mine is dog training. I’ve worked in agency for many years, and started a dog training business last year. Then was recently laid off (via loss of large client), so now trying to see if my side hustle can become primary hustle. Or do I need a side hustle to my side hustle! But it’s amazing when your work doesn’t feel like work!

  36. My side hustle when starting my businesses and paying for college was always tending bar 🙂 Good piece

  37. Barbara Saunders says:

    When I was a personal trainer, I had the opportunity to meet some cool people with very interesting side hustles. I met an animal rights lawyer whose professional work was often unpaid and who made her living teaching aerobics courses. I was surprised and delighted to meet a couple of people who made money at day jobs like “Screen Actors Guild-member actor” (in SF, where there are a lot of films) and “nightclub musician” to support what seemed like less glamorous career goals like, “I really want to pass my civil service exam”!

    As for me, I recently had my CV/resume/summary/marketing piece reworked by a professional. She validated how difficult it has been to write these documents myself. I’m a side hustle master – resulting in a lot of long relationships with organizations wherein I’ve been a consultant, a volunteer, a board member, and a staff member to the same organizations or, within the context of “a job” done weirdly varied stuff like “taught ergonomics seminars to technology professionals” and also “provided business analysis to Fortune 500 companies.”

    It’s obvious my true calling has some elements of broker-connector. I have yet to figure out how to monetize that!

  38. Srinivas Rao says:

    Hey Pam,

    IT’s funny because I even wrote a post at under30CEO called why your day job is no longer enough. I’m huge proponent of everything you are advocating here. AS somebody who graduated from an MBA 8 months ago and finally found a job in January, I was forced into a side hustle. But that side hustle (my blog) has really paid off and now actually pays my rent. Thanks to freelance blog design work and social media consulting for local businesses I”m in a better place than I’ve been my whole life. I think that if you have any skill it can be turned into a fairly lucrative side hustle.

  39. Excellent post. Now I need to figure out a side hustle. Ditch digging? Lawn mowing? Dish washing?

  40. As an aside, you “never sell no crack where you rest at” in the immortal words of the late Biggie Smalls. Haters will presumably “send shells where your vest at.”

    Carry on.

  41. Nell says:

    I am a firm believer that everyone does need a side hustle. I don’t have one specifically, but when I need some quick cash I look to flip items I find in discount stores or on sale racks, on ebay or craigslist, geared toward a pretty specific group of people. I have worked out relationships with some sellers to act as a middleman so as to avoid many of the fees and hassle. This has worked out for me a few times and with little financial risk because I always make sure everything can be returned. Not very lucrative, but fun, and sometimes effective.

  42. Janet says:

    Love this! My side hustle was resume writing when I needed money to finish my Ph.D., and it evolved into a full-time career coaching business that I ran for 10 years. I didn’t plan it that way but it worked out well. My next side hustle will be writing about people’s lives as that is my favorite thing to do.

  43. I love the phrase “side hustle”!!!

    A good friend and I started an online sex toy company that caters to women over 35. We both have day “jobs” as self employed entrepreneurs and needed to make extra money to help put our kids through college. Our new business venture is proving to be really quite lucrative and we are expanding the business to create intimacy kits for hotels and travelers.

  44. Wayne Bisset says:

    Writing and photography.

  45. Carol Roth says:

    Hi Pam:
    This is a great article. A side hustle is a perfect way to test the entrepreneurial waters (or even satisty your entrepreneurial cravings) without having to take all of the risk. As long as you are clear with your customers so there are no misunderstandings, the side hustle has a lot of benefits.

    Two notes I would make about the side hustle (or as I sometimes call a “jobbie” a hobby disguised as a job or a business):
    – Set a budget: I have seen a lot of jobbyists spend way too much money on inventory, supplies etc. up front- way more than they can ever recoup
    -Don’t do this if you have a bona fide business you are trying to grow; businesses require focus, so hustle to test, make extra cash or fulfill a passion, but don’t compete with your business!

    Carol Roth

  46. Patrenia says:

    Your friends daughter is a very smart girl and I know her Mom is VERY proud of her. If only I had that mindset at that age. Anyways, the first I heard of this concept was after I was already done with college AND had two small children. It’s taken me some time, but I am now working on that side hustle which will hopefully become my full time career. But wait, that means I’ll need to find another side hustle? 🙂

  47. Perri Collins says:

    You are absolutely right! I love my “side hustle” as a graphic designer & web designer. And you tell your friend’s teenager daughter that she is brilliant. I love seeing young people with such ambition!