When Your Dream is Your Side Hustle - Managing Full Time Working and Full Time Dreaming
I knew I had to write this blog the more thought I gave it. I knew I had to write it the more coworkers I chatted with - I knew I had to write it after speaking with my mentors and colleagues and other photographers that have continually inspired me. But mostly, I knew I had to write it because I know I'm not the only one out there pursuing what they love 'on the side.'
But when you hear the term 'side-hustle', what comes to mind first? Dog walking, babysitting, food delivery, photography? Dress making, calligraphy, videography, florals, writing, painting - so often our side hustles are the things we truly love, and yet they're the things we have to 'make time for' in our lives - they tend to come second because they tend not to bring in the same financial success as a typical full time job. Sometimes, those are just facts you can't deny, especially when your small business is still budding. Nonetheless, I think American culture has gotten all kinds of mixed up in the ways of the side hustle.
On one hand, we have more people than ever with multiple jobs, coming home just like I do from a 8+ hour shift just to sit down and grind out some more hard work. On the other hand, this idea is can be deeply unhealthy, and yet - we seem to be completely obsessed with it. Monetize the things you love! Work two jobs, three jobs, four jobs! Sometimes that's what you have to do to get the bills paid, and that's part of a much bigger problem then I could possibly begin to evaluate today. One job should be enough, but in this day and age, especially for my generation, it's just not going to cut it.
Maybe I've gone off track - what about people like me who genuinely love both their jobs, but are working hard to grow one as a self-owned, full time business? What's this inbetween stage like - how do I navigate? I've been thinking a lot about this idea lately - the twists and turns of working 9am-5pm at one job, and then 6pm to 2am to come home and work on your budding business. I thought I could tackle this concept FAQ style for anyone out there with an idea or a passion that they're looking to build, on top of their normal job or lifestyle. This one's for the dreamers, the hustlers, the pursuers - everyone who dares to think they have the capability to do more than what they're already doing.
HOW DO I EVEN START?
A complicated question deserves a simple answer - you just start. Now, this sounds easy depending on what 'starting' means to you. Do you mean how do you make a website, or how do you get a gig, or book a client? Or do you mean - sit your ass down at the kitchen table and make a list of ideas, goals, visions, and thoughts? Identify what you're specifically trying to accomplish - are you a great tailor looking to make some money designing custom clothes? Or do you love to paint portraits and know you could make some money on personalized gifts? Do you like making ornaments during the holiday season - do you love writing songs, designing graphics, taking photos, pottery? You start with a specific goal in mind - identify what it is you have to do to begin. Maybe it IS creating a website, or booking that first gig, getting your first client... but it might also just mean sitting down with yourself and creating a clear vision for the future.
HOW DO I MAKE MONEY OFF OF THIS?
This question can be the reason why some people throw in the towel early. Sometimes, you have to get creative if you're looking to monetize something unique. Do some research - don't buy into the comparison game, but check out what other dreamers and creatives are up to in your region. Don't be afraid of a little Google searching around! Maybe you just need to see some other people doing what you want to do to prove it can be done. Think you can't make money off of homemade quilts, custom candles, bookmarks, picture frames, or hair ribbons? Think you can't sell embroidered hats, a book of poetry, pressed flowers, or recycled Monster cans? Think again. And if you can't find anyone else doing what you want to do? All the more reason to give it your all.
WHY IS MY SCHEDULE SUCH A NIGHTMARE?
Ah, yes. A nightmare of a schedule - the crux of truly every working adult in the universe. But add another job on top of the mess, especially a budding business, and you're bound to hit some roadblocks. Here's my advice - obvious as it may be! - buy a damn calendar. And USE it. Know when you have meetings, appointments, or gigs. Know your due dates - know your clients due dates. Don't let business befall you. The last thing you want is to get overwhelmed - because when you're overwhelmed, you start to dread all the things you're really meant to be loving about your business. This is supposed to be exhilarating! It won't always feel like that unfortunately - it takes a good deal of romanticizing to ensure a 24/7 quota of idealism about your business (and trust me, I'm still working on that too). But if your schedule is a nightmare, sit down and prepare your days, weeks, and months in advance. If you're playing the long game for your business, you need to act like it.
DO I HAVE TO WORK ALONE?
Short answer? Of course not. Long answer? Um.... of course you don't have to work alone, silly-billy! A lot of side-hustles seem to look like solitary endeavors, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with doing your own thing, by yourself, alone. Buuuut there's also nothing wrong with inviting in fellow passionate people with similar interests, friends and family that want to support you, or those who are also looking to make money on the side and pursue business! Sometimes when I'm feeling stuck, I go to other people in my life for a new vantage point. This is a great way to get outside opinions when you hit a roadblock. If you're brand new to the side hustle scene as well, maybe going in with a friend who is also a passionate dreamer might be the perfect solution to your growing anxiety. Two friends who thrift and resell clothes together, who design custom gift boxes, who creates pamphlets for small businesses, custom dog collars, beginner sewing kits, a custom game - I can keep going with the ideas, but you get the point by now. There's nothing wrong with going alone, and there's nothing long with going in with a friend!
HOW DO I FIND BALANCE?
Everyone who works and lives struggles with work/life balance. This is completely understandable - but throw a side hustle or a second job in the mix, and you're really going to be treading water! Here's the big problem with the side hustle layout - it requires you to come home from work, and do more work. It requires you to say no to going out, so you can do more work. It asks you to get off the couch and WORK. This can lead to some pretty disastrous consequences, and yet at the same time be painfully necessary. Test things out for a few weeks - don't push your limits, but examine your boundaries. Are you a social butterfly - do you need time out with friends or family to fill up on energy? Or do you need down time playing your favorite video game to unwind? You must strike a balance and make time for these. In terms of (full time) work/(side hustle) work balance, be willing to be fluid. It's time to make friends with odd hours or unique schedules in order to get the job done.
HOW DO I AVOID BURNING OUT?
So you've been examining your boundaries, right? But it seems like maybe you've gone too far, and you've pushed your limits, and you're burning out. This is truly the last thing you want to happen. I have been there before - it can be devastating, inconvenient, and it can be life-altering depending on how bad it hits you. My greatest advice would be this - as soon as you sense it coming, stop what you're doing, and reshape your schedule or model. If I'm starting to sense that I'm getting overwhelmed - maybe I'm starting to dread appointments or sigh at new gigs, I'm not enthusiastic at work or my shifts are draining the life out of me - I know it's time to reshape or reevaluate. Maybe I need to shake up my schedule, and swap and change a few days out. Maybe I need to work less! Yes! You CAN work less! Sometimes you need to - it's okay! That doesn't mean you're not working hard - you always deserve rest, no matter how much work you put in. This is the time for self care, withholding the usual guilt. If you sense it, stop, reevaluate, and change your plans.
So that's my wisdom - and I can't promise it's fullproof, or that I claim to know everything and anything. I'm only 19 (for a few more days) and I love that I still have SO much more to learn in this life. But I've been working on this business since I was a junior in high school - I know a thing or two about balancing unique schedules, multiple jobs and commitments. I hope something in this blog was reassuring or invigorating for someone out there - I hope someone who's been dreaming might take the first step, or someone who's afraid of burning out might take a step back to care for themselves. Wishing you all the best during these crazy times, and thank you for taking the time to read my rambling thoughts!