Generation Hustle: I Have a Degree and Career, Should I Still Have a Side Gig?
In today’s age, having a “side gig” is quite common. It’s so common, in fact, that some individuals have left their full-time jobs to pursue their side gig as a full-blown career or simplified their lives so their side hustles can meet a minimalized cost of living (can you say, “van life” anyone?). Side gigs have become so popular today that the industry has coined its phrase—“The Gig Economy.” As found by Investopedia, this term refers to “temporary, flexible jobs that are commonplace, where companies tend to hire independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees.”
For past generations, a side gig was typically something individuals did when they needed only a tiny portion of funds, whether discretionary or for general living expenses. However, today, it’s not surprising to see individuals—with a full-time career or balancing multiple jobs—having a side gig in this economic landscape. Why? For one, the cost of living is constantly becoming more expensive as inflation increases. Furthermore, a significant portion of the Millennial generation faces stagnant wages, student loan debts, and higher rent prices. The wealth gap is continuing to increase, even for individuals with higher education and advanced graduate degrees.
Simply put, living is expensive, and whether it’s out of added security or humbling necessity, the extra income is supplemental for many. That being said, individuals have to get creative with how they make and earn their money.
Whether you’re a career professional considering a side gig or someone looking to find a different type of work, throughout this feature, we’ll look at:
- The benefits of a side gig (career professionals included)
- Things to consider before starting
- Why remaining open to opportunity is always important
Why the Gig Economy is Booming
As mentioned above, whether it’s for necessity, fun, or anything in between, no one hates the idea of having extra money. Moreover, with the global pandemic shifting the economy and bringing new business ventures to light, adopting more recent technologies and ways of consumerism (for example, DoorDash has seen a significant rise in use) has spurred innovations and opportunities—specifically within the realms of the gig economy.
Benefits of Working in the Gig Economy
Part of the beauty of the gig economy is that it meets various needs for various individuals, creating an unparalleled opportunity traditional jobs and careers may not be able to offer. Let’s explore further.
Flexibility and Freedom
Typically what most commonly makes a side gig attractive is flexibility and freedom. Since most of these jobs are seen as “independent contracting,” it allows workers to choose when and where they want to work. This trait is highly appealing, especially for those who enjoy flexible working schedules or thrive in “spur of the moment” situations. It’s also great for individuals with other priorities, including families, various commitments, or a typical 9-5 career.
For Career Professionals: If you’re a professional with a full-time career, a side gig is great for when you want to work. Taking a gig gives you the power to choose your schedule, so you pick up extra work when it best suits you. Even better, when you don’t feel like doing it, you don’t have to! You have the freedom; the power is in your hands. And there’s nothing better than the feeling of being able to but not having to.
Earning Extra Income
A gig is how some individuals make a living. For others, however, a side hustle can be a way to increase one’s wealth and overall ability not only to get ahead but stay ahead. Inflation is rising, and this is especially true since the economic shock created from the COVID-19 pandemic. Suppose you asked a financial professional one way to stay ahead of inflation; one strategy they might recommend is passive investing—a long-term strategy where investors buy and hold a diversified mix of assets (stocks) to match, not beat, the market. This practice is something legendary investors like Warren Buffet have done and helps many individuals avoid inflation and secure long-term wealth.
For Career Professionals: If you’re someone who has a stable career with a set monthly paycheck, a side gig can act as a great buffer to pad your savings or investment portfolio. The great thing is it’s extra income that can be used for passive investing. Meaning, it’s money you can set aside that you don’t—or shouldn’t—need right away and can let sit and grow over time. Many financial experts say, “only invest what you’re willing to lose,” and while you don’t want to lose anything, it may hurt a little less if it’s side gig income instead of your primary source of income.
Paying Down Debts
Whether it be your student loans, a car, or anything else, having extra income to pay down debts is a significant advantage to side gigs, especially if you have a lot. Being able to chip away at debt further and quicker is a tremendous benefit of earning extra income––even if it’s only a little bit. It’s important to mention that it’s better to put that extra income towards debt versus spending it on things you don’t need. So be smart with your extra earrings and make it worth your while.
Much like in the restaurant industry, many gig economy workers earn and rely on tips, which can be pretty hefty. While this is not always the case, individuals are willing to tip highly for excellent service a lot of the time. So depending on the gig, you can undoubtedly earn higher wages through lucrative tips. Furthermore, much of the gig economy focuses its efforts on an “uncapped earning potential” model, meaning you can earn as much as you work. So if you’re someone who wants to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, you can do so; there isn’t anything stopping you. The great thing about this is that you don’t have to rely on someone else to make your schedule. It’s entirely up to you.
For Career Professionals: Even if your career pays more, earning tips at a secondary job is still beneficial. You can also focus more on making a higher wage and not prioritizing benefits, especially if you already receive them from your full-time employer.
As previously said, most gig economy jobs are seen as independent contracting––meaning you can write off certain expenses as part of your business. For example, do you drive around a lot as a grocery courier? If so, you probably can write off a big chunk of gas, mileage, insurance on your vehicle, and even more! However, to be safe, it’s recommended to consult with a tax professional to make sure you’re writing off the right things and avoid making understandable tax mistakes.
Learning New Skills
A report published by Bloomberg Businessweek in 2019 found that “Millennials Rely on Side Hustles to Climb the Corporate Ladder.” Why? Numerous reasons. However, some of the most prominent are that Millennials learn skills from their side gigs that can be directly applied to their corporate careers and vice versa. Who’s to say non-traditional skills can’t be used in a creative way to bring to light innovations in a corporate setting? Throughout history, it is evident that some of the best innovations came out of lateral thinking—finding creative ways to ultimately do something better that sets a precedent for the future of business.
For Career Professionals: Having a diverse set of skills is never a bad thing. For example, imperative soft skills like communication, creative thinking, punctuality, and high EQ (emotional intelligence) can be used interchangeably in your professional career and side gig. For some, a side gig may even help you perform better at your day job because you’re getting a balance of two different types of experiences.
Earning New Experiences
Sometimes in life, the best pairings happen when it’s least expected. For some, working a side gig can be a fantastic opportunity to meet new people and generate a new list of connections, potentially leading to a unique career opportunity. While this is wishful thinking, it does happen.
For Career Professionals: You never know what may happen. Perhaps you meet someone who works in an industry that highly interests you. If that’s the case, they could be a tremendous contact in your professional network, especially if they are happy with your side gig work.
If you’re interested in pursuing a side gig, it’s essential to make sure it’s something you enjoy. Why do it otherwise? There are plenty of hustles that can offer you the flexibility and earnings you desire while also allowing you to engage in something you enjoy.
Things to Consider Before Starting a Gig
Ok, so you’re sold on starting a gig; what’s next? To begin, develop a plan. It’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons of starting a gig before you start. Consider things like:
- How will this fit into my schedule?
- Will it overextend me?
- Is it worth the earnings?
- Will I have to spend more money than I earn?
- Do I have a specific goal in mind?
- Is this something I want to do?
- Is this going to detract from my career?
- How many hours am I willing to commit?
While there are many other questions you can ask, the main point to remember for a side gig—especially for career professionals—is that it’s only worth it to an extent. It doesn’t make logical sense to have a side gig if it’s going to take away from your main job, cause you to spend more money than you make, or push you past what you’re capable of doing. So, that being said, make sure you’re looking at it from all angles before you make a final decision.
Remaining Open to Opportunity
As said numerous times, being open to opportunities is how some of the best parts of life come to fruition. The same can be said for having a side gig—especially if you’re a career professional looking to expand your horizons. So, if you’re considering adding a new gig to your to-do’s––be open to all the possibilities that come with it, and you’ll realize that the “sky’s the limit.” It could be the best decision you’ve ever made.