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Five Things You Need to Know Before Starting a Side Hustle

Sure, side hustles are one of the most powerful things you can do for your money, and there’s about a zillion different ways you can start one — but they’re not for everyone.

Before you dive head-first into a money-making side hustle, there are a few things you need to get clear on, like what kind of work you actually like to do, how much extra work you want to take on and whether your day job is OK with your side hustle in the first place.

Here are five key questions you need to ask yourself before starting a side hustle.

What do you like — and dislike — about work you’ve done before?

Everyone has parts of their job that they look forward to (even if it’s just grabbing coffee and chatting with your coworkers) and everyone has parts of their job that they dread as much as a trip to the dentist. Before you start to look at options to take on even more work, you need to figure out which ones are right for you.

For example, let’s say you’re an accountant. If reconciling accounts is your jam, you could probably look into doing similar work for small businesses and solopreneurs on the side. But if you absolutely hate putting together financial reports, make sure that’s not part of the services you offer, since you’ll end up having to do that work you hate on the weekends.

You can look beyond the specific tasks, too, and consider what makes you look forward to specific parts of your job. It could be as general as “I enjoy doing things where I can complete a task well and feel accomplished,” or “I enjoy work that’s really collaborative, where I get to work with other people.”

Make sure to pick a side hustle that’s heavy on the things you already like about your work and not composed of mostly stuff you hate. Seems obvious, but when someone offers you a new gig doing that thing you hate, the clarity you have about what you like to do will be priceless in terms of turning that project down (gracefully, of course).

What’s your baseline hourly rate?

Your side hustle is, first and foremost, a money-making venture if you’re doing it right. So before you dive in, think through how much you want to make per hour, and set up a “minimum wage” for your side hustle hours.

Aim high when you’re doing this, too. Even more than your set work hours at your day job, the opportunity cost of doing an extra hour of side hustle work is pretty high. That’s a weekend hour you’re not spending binging on 13 Reasons Why, or hanging out with friends, or just getting groceries so you don’t starve all week.

Consider how much you’d be willing to trade that hour for in monetary terms. Yes, you might need to work up to your ideal hourly rate, but knowing what it is will help you turn down work that’s way below the rate for which you’re looking.

How many hours do you want to work?

If you’re already committed to 40 (or 50, or even 60) hours when it comes to your main hustle, aka your day job, you’ll need to be really intentional about how much time you want to commit to a side hustle.

If things go well and your hustle takes off, all of a sudden, you might be facing more work than you intended. Before you get to that point, set some work hours for yourself by taking an honest look at your week.

If you can commit to four hours a day on both weekend days, and one hour a night on weeknights, that gives you 13 hours total to work on your hustle every week. When you’re looking at your projects and your workload, make sure to stay close to that number, or you’ll be on the fast track to Burnout City.

Is there any conflict-of-interest with your day job?

Side hustles can be a great extra stream of income, but unless you’re doing something that really takes off, or commands a really high hourly rate, they’re just that: An extra stream of income.

Before you dive in head first, make sure you’ve scoped out whether or not there would be a conflict-of-interest with your day job. For example, if you work for a non-profit during the day, would they want you to avoid freelance projects with other non-profits?

When in doubt, you can always ask your boss or the HR department. Larger employers might have policies in place, and generally, they’ll appreciate that you asked before making any moves. Getting clarity on what they expect from you when it comes to side hustles can help keep your main stream of income — your salary — intact as you pursue your hustle part-time on nights and weekends.

What are the startup costs, and how much are you willing to spend?

The last thing you need to consider is how much it will cost you to get going with your side hustle — and how much you’re willing to spend.

Depending on what you need to really make a go of starting your side hustle, you could be looking at anything from “totally free” to “spending hundreds or thousands of dollars out-of-pocket.” Do some research on how much it has cost other people to start similar side hustles, and take into account your personal situation.

Once you have a rough estimate of how much it’ll cost, ask yourself if you’re willing to spend that much right now – and make sure you’re able to spend that much, too. If not, set yourself a goal of saving the money, and plan to kick off your side hustle when you have the funds, or start something smaller in the meantime.

If you’ve worked through all of these questions, and you think it’s high time you started a side hustle of your very own, you’re more than prepared. Get out there and start hustling already!

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Header image: Adobe Stock

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