3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a “Side Hustle”

In the last few years, it seems like everyone I know is embarking on the journey of growing a “side hustle”, i.e. a part-time gig to make extra money and find satisfaction outside of the typical forty-hour work week.  From beach body coaches to online tutors, LuLaRoe stylists, photographers, event-planners and more, everyone I know is giving the side hustle a try.

My first experience with a side hustle began about five years ago. In addition to my job teaching high school full-time, I began a career as a real estate agent, after my mother, an agent herself, suggested I give it a try.  So, I took the classes, got my license, and began selling real estate in my spare time.  My first year I lost money, but by year two, I was turning a profit as an agent working basically part-time.  By the third and fourth years, I was making enough money to supplement my income so that I could take extended leaves of work for maternity leave two years in a row.

My experience selling real estate was my first real venture into the business of a “side hustle” and through it, I learned several valuable lessons that I would encourage anyone thinking about taking this path to consider:

Question #1 – Do you know what you want out of it?

Before you begin, it is essential that you become crystal clear about what you want to get out of your side hustle.  The two most common reasons I hear from women are “money” and “career satisfaction.”  For me, when I started selling real estate, I wanted to make more money, but I was also looking to fill a void that teaching left for me professionally. I wanted a career that was completely different than what I was doing full-time, to act as an entrepreneur and take the risk of building a business on my own.  In that way, real estate helped me enjoy my full-time job more, because it was everything that teaching wasn’t.

You may be looking to use your talents for something different and unique. You may feel a need to be more creative or entrepreneurial.  You may have always had a dream that you never chose to pursue and maybe you want to dip your feet in before diving in full-time.  Or you might just want to make a few more hundred dollars a month for you and your family.  Regardless of your “why,” getting clear about what you want will help you decide what side hustle is right for you.

Question#2 – Have you done your homework? 

Having watched my mother in the industry for many years, I knew a lot about real estate going in – or at least I thought I did.  I reasoned that I could work summers and make a substantial income without a huge time commitment and that the work would be flexible and easy.  Once I started, however, I learned quickly that real estate is a difficult business, just like any other.  And in western PA, where the average sale price of a home is under $200K, you have to sell a lot of houses to make a solid living.  That means working nights, weekends, and not just summers, but the rest of the year as well.  Successful agents work more than forty hours a week, with most of their effort going into cultivating new relationships.  Negotiating and writing contracts is the easy part – real estate is all about sales. As a teacher, this was not my sweet spot.  It took me a year to get my first sale, and it was a girlfriend from work who took a chance marketing her home with me.

My point here is this – I didn’t know any of this going in and only bought into the idea that I could make thousands of dollars relatively easily.  Many side hustles – particularly those in multi-level marketing businesses– sound like “get rich quick schemes.”  My experience has been that nothing is too good to be true.  You must be willing to put in the time and do what the experts tell you to do in order to get the results.

Before you begin, you should research the average monetary commitment and how much most people in this industry are making.  Read all the feedback – not just the good, but the bad and ugly as well.  Get a full picture.  If you aren’t comfortable with a commission-based side hustle, there are plenty of other opportunities to work part time, such as the kind of contract-based work available on sites like Upwork or Fiverr where you can bid on freelance projects, or online tutoring opportunities on sites like Varsitytutors.com.  But make sure to do your research on these sites as well.

Question #3 – Are you letting fear stop you? (Feel the fear and go for it anyway!) 

I can’t tell you how many friends have said to me over the years, “I’ve always wanted to sell real estate.”  But the number of them who have actually taken the leap are minimal.  It takes courage to step outside of your comfort zone.  Often, we are too afraid of change, so we use our circumstances as an excuse for not taking action – “maybe next year, maybe when I pay off some debt…”  I would never suggest you jump in to something without thinking it through and doing your homework (see lessons 1 and 2!) and if real concerns keep you from moving forward on an endeavor, that’s fine.  But if the voice inside of you is pushing you to take on a new challenge, listen to it!  Acknowledge that any change is scary, and then don’t let that fear make your decision for you.  

I love the concept of a side hustle and what it can do for women looking to find more satisfaction, make more money, or begin exploring a major career change.  But it can be a fleeting, exhausting and un-lucrative endeavor if you don’t get clear on what you want or do your homework first.  Once you do, don’t sell yourself short.  Give in to the urge to do something else, get outside your comfort zone, and see what opportunities it brings!

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