The phrase “side hustle” has gained popularity over the years. What started as a term referring to making a little extra money outside of a day job has turned into a way of life for many.
According to a 2017 study from Bankrate.com, more than 44 million Americans have a side hustle, which can range from working on freelance projects after hours to driving for ride-sharing companies on the weekends. Of the 86 percent of side hustlers who earn extra money from a side job every month, 36 percent make more than $500, the study found. Making ends meet was the main motivation for the majority of side hustlers and may be one of the key reasons you need a side hustle, too.
However, side jobs aren’t just for covering expenses. There are several reasons why you should start a side hustle, even if you can live comfortably off of your primary income.
Here are four things to consider as you evaluate your primary job and the prospect of side hustling:
1. Having multiple sources of income is empowering
Nick Loper, creator of the Side Hustle Nation podcast, spends his time interviewing people who earn money outside of their day jobs. His aim, in part, is to show his 60,000-plus followers that there are many ways to make time for a side hustle and numerous reasons why you should start a side hustle.
“Of course, making extra money never goes out of style, and that’s probably what draws most people to create a side hustle,” Loper says. “Other benefits might include learning or practicing new skills, exploring a passion of yours or just empowering yourself to find you have economic value outside of your day job or paycheck.”
When asked about some of the successes his podcast guests have experienced, Loper named several: A man who went from earning $30,000 annually working for a newspaper to $30,000 in a day as a freelance photographer, a man who started a multimillion-dollar company selling used textbooks and a woman who earns up to $5,000 a month teaching people how to bake bread.
Loper believes so many people are starting to focus on increasing their earning potential outside of their primary jobs because multiple sources of income can allow you to be more self-reliant. This may be a reason you need a side hustle.
2. You can use the extra money to pay off debt
Paying off debt is, for many people, among the top reasons you need a side hustle. If you’re paying off debt and don’t feel like you’re making any headway, you may benefit from the extra money you can make with a side hustle.
That’s what Gerald Zingraf decided to do when he was looking at $85,000 worth of student loans. Zingraf, 29, is a product manager for a technology company based in Arlington, Virginia. Although he had always made good money, it wasn’t enough to pay down his debt, cover his living expenses and reach his goal of becoming financially independent by 35. He ran the numbers and they didn’t lie—he needed to make more money.
“I was going to be paying student loans for a long time unless I could supplement my income somehow,” he says.
So between 2015 and 2017, he started not just one, but three companies on the side of his day job. His companies include two e-commerce sites—one that sells healthy office supplies such as standing desks and another that sells baby products. His third company is a subscription box service that provides the “ingredients” (not always food, by the way) for creative date nights for couples. Thanks to these companies, Zingraf was able to pay off his student loans in three years.
Assessing your debt and your financial plan to pay it off could become a reason you need a side hustle.
“It doesn’t take a lot of time to build a side gig. It’s like getting in shape. You don’t go to the gym for eight hours a day a couple of times and expect to see results. Instead, you commit 30 minutes a day, five days a week, for a few months.”
3. You can use the extra money to build wealth
If you’re not working to pay off debt, then you may want to find ways to make time for a side hustle simply so you can build wealth faster.
Whether it’s boosting your savings for emergencies or maxing out investment accounts, making extra money can help you reach those financial goals much quicker than if you rely only on your primary career.
This is exactly what Zingraf does with his side companies. What began as a way to make extra money to pay off debt has turned into a vehicle for him to reach financial independence in his 30s, where he’ll have enough income to pay his living expenses for the rest of his life without having to work full time. Zingraf is on track to reach his goal of financial independence in six years by the age 35.
4. It could turn into a job you love (if that’s what you want)
If you’re looking for reasons you need a side hustle, the internet is full of stories of individuals who started a business on the side because they were passionate about something and then it turned into their full-time job. If making money doing something you love isn’t one of the best reasons why you should start a side hustle, what is?
Chenell Tull, founder of Hustle to Startup, did just that after working for AAA’s e-business department for seven years as a Google Ads and SEO specialist. She had helped her stepfather with his online presence for a marketing company he’d started and shared the experience with her networking group. This helped her secure another client, and soon she was working with three or four clients on the side of her day job.
“I decided I loved this so much that I wanted to leave my day job,” Tull says. “I worked to save up eight months of expenses, which took about one-and-a-half-years.” In June of 2017, Tull quit her job to focus on her business full time.
Loper also turned multiple side hustles into his full-time career. To make extra money, he started his first side hustle in 2006—a comparison shopping site for footwear. He went full time with that project in 2008. In 2013, Loper started the Side Hustle Nation podcast, which became his main focus one year later, and by 2017, he said he was earning $15,000 a month.
Does your side gig have to turn into your full-time job? Definitely not. Many, like Zingraf, choose to keep their day jobs and continue building businesses on the side. The route you decide to take depends on your goals and interests.
Making the time to side hustle
Determining why you should start a side hustle is one thing. Finding the time to actually work on your side hustle is another thing entirely.
Thinking about your side hustle inspiration is a good place to start. Are you looking for more financial security? Trying to pay off debt? Build wealth? Once you have the answer, it becomes easier to work on your side gig in your free time. Tull, who believes if you value your side gig it will be easier to find ways to make time for a side hustle, used early morning, nights, weekends and even her commute to work.
If you’re looking for ways to make time for a side hustle, you may actually find that you have more free time than you think. Zingraf suggests that you audit yourself by spending a week recording what you do in 15-minute chunks.
“I bet that there will be at least 20 hours wasted on fruitless tasks like Netflix, Facebook and games on your phone,” he says. Even if you have excellent time management skills, you may still uncover free time you didn’t know you had and ways to make time for a side hustle.
More than 44 million Americans have a side hustle.
Zingraf also shares a little-known secret to successful side hustling. “It doesn’t take a lot of time to build a side gig,” he says. “It’s like getting in shape. You don’t go to the gym for eight hours a day a couple of times and expect to see results. Instead, you commit 30 minutes a day, five days a week, for a few months.”
This accumulation of small wins over a period of time, not a massive time dump, is essential, he says. That’s why he suggests side hustlers commit to working one hour a day, five days a week, for the next three months.
“Find one thing to go all out on during that time,” Zingraf says, “and don’t get distracted by other shiny objects.”