The process of finding financial security has gone through some dramatic changes over the last few decades. As recently as the 1980’s, conventional wisdom suggested following a career path that went something like this: Go to school. Get a good job. Work for one company for 20 years or more. Collect a pension. Retire in relative comfort.
If that approach sounds like completely foreign to you, you’re not alone. On his personal finance blog, 20SomethingFinance, G.E. Miller observed, “Most twenty-somethings have never and (unfortunately) probably will never sniff the sweet security provided by a pension plan.” So, if there almost no hope of finding financial stability by following same path as previous generations, how can set yourself up for success? Two words: Side. Hustle.
What Does “Side Hustle” Really Mean?
With more and more people realizing that working a single job leaves them living paycheck to paycheck, side hustles are experiencing a considerable spike in popularity. Since we’ve already used the phrase twice in this article, you may be wondering exactly what constitutes a side hustle. Is it a second job? An online business? In his new book(conveniently titled Side Hustle), Chris Guillebeau provides some much needed clarity. “A side hustle is not a part-time job. A side hustle is not the gig economy. It is an asset that works for you.” This definition reveals an crucial distinction between trading hours for dollars and building something that pays dividends for years to come.
Side Job vs. Side Hustle
Thanks to a surging economy and advances in technology, finding a side job is easier than ever. From Uber and Etsy to barista gigs and seasonal retail work, potential work opportunities are plentiful. But if Guillebeau is right, the additional income you can earn from these jobs might not give you the long-term security you want. So, are they even worth pursuing? Do they offer any asset-building benefits? Absolutely. You just have to adjust your motivation for doing the work.
Rather than focusing on the job itself or the hourly wage it provides, South Carolina-based entrepreneur Jeremiah Dew recommends looking a little deeper. “Find an endeavor that makes you become a better person—something that requires you to build a skill set that will help you in future ventures as well.” Drive for Uber so you can learn to interact with people from all walks of life. Sell crafts on Etsy in order to get better at e-commerce and digital marketing. Become an Airbnb host to upgrade your customer service skills. You get the point.
Success Requires a Different Perspective
When you’re trying to earn additional income, it can be tempting to jump at the first opportunity that offers real money. And while a traditional side job isn’t necessarily a bad thing, be careful not to confuse it with a legitimate side hustle. You may be able to earn extra money, but if your income is still tied to your ability to show up and perform a specific set of tasks, you’re not developing an asset. However, if you utilize those opportunities to gain experience and lessons that transcend a specific job or industry, you may be on your way to developing a successful, sustainable side hustle.
You Won’t Win Alone
Now, before you rush out and start a supplemental career, it’s important to remember the value of a good mentor. As the old saying goes, “A smart person learns from his mistakes. A wise person learns from the mistakes of others.” If you’re going to be wise about building your business, it pays to develop a relationship with someone who has experience running a business of their own, someone who made mistakes you can learn from. Whether you find them yourself or ask for suggestions from people you trust, the impact of a business mentor can be priceless.
From a financial standpoint, business ownership requires money management skills you won’t learn as an employee. Fortunately, your local credit union is an outstanding resource where you can find the knowledge, expertise, and programs to help you navigate the often-confusing early stages of your side hustle. By relying on their services and recommendations, you’ll be able to sidestep potential pitfalls and put yourself in a position to succeed.
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