Since I started this blog back in December 2018, my intention has been to provide the best tips and insights out there on saving money, developing future sources of passive income and growing current income. While the blog’s focus has expanded into the territory of our mindsets, these three financial pillars remain front and centre of Hustle Escape.
As I’ve thought more about how to grow my current income to support my own journey, I’ve encountered endless ideas. Delivery driving, virtual teaching, blogging, vlogging, gardening, buying and selling on eBay, mystery shopping, ebooks, dog walking, cleaning, focus groups, babysitting.
You name it, it’s out there. The internet has gone crazy for side hustles. And I’ve researched, contemplated and done many of the suggestions out there.
But despite my desire to grow my income rapidly, something hasn’t sat right with me.
The opportunity cost of side hustles
My side hustles weren’t working for two reasons. First, I was losing valuable personal time to do other things I enjoyed. And second, they just weren’t paying enough to justify the time investment.
Of course, I’m not opposed to the idea of putting in an extra shift to top up income, but this becomes a problem when we’re overdoing it. I’ve talked before about the dangers of financial freedom journeys becoming all absorbing. So for me at least, throwing more hours at the problem is not a sustainable solution to an income shortfall.
A regular side hustle might top up earnings modestly, but if it’s exhausting and personally depriving, it won’t have legs. And nor is it what a journey to financial freedom should be about. The solution to getting out of a main job we don’t enjoy earlier isn’t adding another job we don’t enjoy.
Then there’s the financial consideration. If the extra hours for the side hustle pay well, perhaps some short-term exhaustion could be justified. But the extra hours I was putting in simply weren’t producing that worthwhile return. In truth, what was landing in my bank account was a very modest earnings top-up in return for that exhaustion.
The risks here are the opportunity costs. While pursuing an effort-intensive second income source, we risk taking our eye off the ball on our main career. And this route will typically offer much bigger potential income gains than most of the side hustles championed on the internet.
And there’s a personal opportunity cost too. What else could you be enjoying with that time lost? And what could you be building for the long term with that time you’re committing?
‘Easy wins’ and passions that pay
But the idea of additional income sources is clearly enticing. Who doesn’t like the idea of an income which makes them more financially comfortable month by month? After all, this is a fundamental prerequisite for financial freedom.
The real questions, though, are where might side hustles really deliver long-run income potential? And how can we ensure our personal efforts will be sustainable in these side hustles?
The answer to these questions of sustainability is simple. If a side hustle involves a big effort and time commitment on top of a challenging full-time job, you need to be passionate about it to make it work in the long run.
For me, that passion is writing. I don’t currently make a cent doing it, and I will never compromise the quality of this blog by filling it with affiliate link after affiliate link. But I’m cognizant that there are opportunities to make money in the future if it grows significantly, or if I decide to branch out into other paid writing options.
While I’m getting paid in creative fulfilment for writing, I make real money by renting rooms. This leverages an existing asset and while I put up with the occasional inconvenience of sharing my home with lodgers, it requires minimal additional time commitment and brings in a healthy side income.
The point here is that for my short-term income boost, I’ve focused on easy money. I’ve taken away the risk of burnout by compromising on a small home comfort. In the meantime, I treat this blog as a creative outlet and a longer-term option for income if it grows enough.
You don’t need a side hustle
Too much is made of needing a side hustle. The truth, of course, is that you don’t need an effort-intensive side hustle to become financially free, but you do need to get smart with your money management.
Through mindful spending and smart investing, we can stretch our money further and begin to safeguard our financial futures. We can become dependent only on ourselves. And alongside a focus on increasing take-home pay from a main job, financial freedom can quickly become a less distant proposition.
Loading up our hours with different jobs (or side hustles) may get more short-term money in the bank, but we’re unlikely to see sustainable gains in income over the long run. Far more important is that we ratchet up our current income-to-time ratio.
That means focusing on improving our return on time invested. Focusing, in other words, on making the most of life in the long run.