The term “side hustle” refers to “… any type of employment undertaken in addition to one’s full time job. A side hustle is generally freelance or piecework in nature, providing a supplemental income.” What the definition doesn’t tell you is how to find, create, and maintain a side hustle. This can be particularly advantageous for a full-time technology employee considering jumping into the Gig Economy as an IT contractor. The internet and social media has hundreds of suggestions about this type of transition, but here are some general ideas to consider:
Picking the focus of your side hustle:
When it comes to picking a side hustle, a lot of people instantly search or try ones that will earn them the most money off the bat. However, this may not be the smartest move, as our friends at buffer mention in their article. To sum up arguably one of their most important facts, a successful side hustle brings your creativity or passion to life. Picking a side hustle based on these two factors has dual benefits as it increases your productivity at work and allows the other half of your brain to work on a daily/consistent basis. If you’re unsure about what the most creative/passionate fit for your side hustle might be, do not be afraid to try several small projects (consistently) to test them out. When looking at becoming a full-time IT contractor the same theory applies, but the application differs a little bit. If there is one, or two, IT roles that you prefer doing above everything else, get the certifications to ensure that you can apply for as many positions as possible, and begin taking on small side hustles that allow you to gain experience in that particular role.
When picking the end goal of your side hustle it is important to remember that this is a 100% FLUID step. You could begin a side hustle and realize you want it to stay that way, or you could embark on this journey with the intent of turning it into a full-time occupation. Regardless of what you choose, you must start small. Pick one or two small contracts/projects that you can fit into your schedule easily and work your way up from there. As time goes on and you do more projects, you could very well feel that becoming a full-time IT contractor is what you want to do. If that is the case, start to slowly take on more projects with your side hustle, to create a stable income, and then bite the bullet and quit your 9-5 position; because sooner or later, you won’t be able to juggle both. There are hundreds of websites and articles that contradict each other on this point but remember, this side hustle is all about what YOU want to develop/encourage in your life.
Perhaps one of the most daunting facets of beginning a side hustle is re-organizing your life to accommodate all the new items on your to-do list. When you’re at this phase, there are several things you must remember to succeed: the first is that there will be days where your iron-clad schedule will have to bend to meet life’s demands (i.e. appointments, unscheduled work days/extra shifts, your side hustle may need more time one week, etc.); second, pick one or two times a week that are just for your side hustle…start with an hour or two, and then increase it when your schedule allows or when you have to; and third, remember that a side hustle, like anything else, is a commitment. Therefore, you may have to forego some things to make it happen (i.e. that extra show on Netflix, time in the gym, your longer lunch breaks, etc.). This ties nicely into the first point of picking something that you’re passionate about, or love doing. If your side hustle is pleasurable to you (i.e. not a daily grind), then spending these extra hours or foregoing that extra gym night will not be a big deal. Remember that as you slowly transition into becoming an IT contractor, the strain of maintaining your full-time position and your side projects, will wear off once you’re at the stage where you’re comfortable to become a full-time contractor.
When thinking and beginning to plan your side hustle, remember that this should begin by working ON THE SIDE meaning that it should not be done at your work. This is stressed for several reasons. The first is that you still have an employer who hired you to be present AT your work for a certain time period, certain days of the week, until a certain date. Essentially, remember that while your project is exciting, and may have deadlines, your regular job comes first. If you don’t put it first, it could come back to haunt you through potential law suits, non-compete clauses, or even tax problems. The second reason, as previously hinted, is money and hours. Double billing clients for the same time-period is never a smart option, and it can get confusing around tax season. So, to keep life simple, try to do one thing at a time, no matter how tight your deadlines become.
As you transition from a full-time employee to a full-time contractor, your priorities should reflect that. But it’s important to also be respectful and mindful of your boss/workplace. If you’ve gotten to a point in time where your side contracts are bringing in enough income; do not hesitate (or wait), to cut the cord with your permanent employer. If you overload your schedule with side contracts, they will notice eventually. In these instances, it is best to leave with as much grace, dignity, and goodwill as possible.
Money is often the main reason people get side hustles. That extra income can add up after a while, and if it’s put straight into savings it’s amazing how you’re suddenly able to make that payment, afford that down-payment, afford that trip, etc. BUT there are two hitches: the first is budgeting and setting goals to see how many projects you need to take on to meet that goal; the second is figuring out how much you’re going to charge for your time. Let’s face it, you WILL be giving up parts of your life for this – none of us can do it all. So how much is it worth it to you? There is no harm in making sure you’re getting paid what you’re worth (but remember to be reasonable – experience will dictate how much you are worth to many people’s eyes). Additionally, paying attention to how many hours you take to earn a certain amount becomes paramount for transitioning into a full-time contractor position. In order to break down your daily/hourly rate and know what type of projects you want/need to sustain the lifestyle you want, you’ll have to look over your past records and do some serious time/math crunching. It is more than possible, but your due diligence along the way will make that initial decision/breakdown easier to create.
All in all, turning a side hustle into a full-time career is a daunting task, but entirely doable if you’re up to the challenge. These five basic steps are the beginning of that journey but remember, transitioning from a side hustle to becoming a full-time contractor takes time, patience, and due-diligence. Neglecting it or your current 9-5 job is not the answer.