How to Use a Side Hustle to Advance Your Career
Have you ever considered the idea that your side hustle could help your career move forward? Here's how.
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When you’re looking for a way to increase your income, starting a side hustle can be a great and practical option. If you’re focused on your career, you may have always viewed side hustles as a distraction and a waste of time. However, there are a few specific ways that you can use a side hustle to advance your career, making them very much worth the time and effort.
There are a lot of different reasons that people choose to pursue a side hustle, including things like:
- Extra income to save or pay down debt
- Necessary income to cover gaps in the budget
- Add diversity in your work
- Lead to a full-time income (hopefully)
In order to have true success with your side hustle, it’s important to know your own reasons for doing it.
That may sound obvious, but it’s critical because your purpose should impact everything from the side hustle that you choose to the way you build it into your schedule.
If you’re hoping that you’ll be able to turn your side hustle into a full-time income, there are a few different ways that it could happen.
First, you could use the side hustle to transition to a completely different line of work. Maybe you don’t enjoy your current job or you’re simply looking for a change. Side hustles are very popular with people who would like to pursue self-employment because you can get started part-time without the need to quit your current job and take a big risk.
The second option is to use the side hustle to boost your current career. By using a side hustle to make yourself more valuable, you may be able to get a promotion from your current employer or land a higher-paying job somewhere else.
On the subject of using a side hustle to boost your career, the first option of making a complete career change often gets the most attention, but being proactive to make yourself more valuable can also be a great way to boost your career. We’ll look at both options and the steps you can take if you want to implement this in your own life.
How Can a Side Hustle Improve Your Career?
At the start, it’s important to understand the specific ways that a side hustle is capable of advancing your career. These are the things that you may want to strive for with your own side hustle.
Improve Your Skills (or Build New Skills)
New skills or improvement of your existing skills will make you more valuable to employers and will also give you a better chance of succeeding in self-employment.
Of course, there are lots of ways to improve your skills and a side hustle is just one of the options. But the great thing about using a side hustle to improve your skills is the fact that you have full control over the exact skills that you want to build and the side hustle that you choose, rather than waiting for an employer to give you an opportunity for training and development.
Gain Valuable Experience
Another way to make yourself more valuable is through experience. You can have all the skills that you want, but experience helps you to learn and to prove your capabilities.
You can identify the specific experiences that would help you in the career path of your choice, and select a side hustle that makes it possible for you to gain that experience.
Grow Your Network
In many cases, who you know is more important than what you know. If your goal is to boost your existing career, expanding your network can directly lead to new job opportunities. And if you’re looking for a complete change in your career, networking helps to open up doors as well.
Some side hustles (like blogging, podcasting, freelancing, speaking, and starting a YouTube channel) allow you to benefit from increased exposure and make it possible for you to establish some name recognition. That exposure and name recognition can be very valuable to you, as well as to companies that might be interested in hiring you.
Separate Yourself from Other Candidates
If your goal is to advance your current career, you’ll be facing competition for any job opportunities that interest you. When employers are considering multiple candidates, sometimes it comes down to an extra detail that separates one candidate from others. Your experience through a side hustle could be that extra factor that makes you more valuable or more qualified for the job.
Using a Side Hustle to Pursue a New Career
If you’re looking for a complete career change, a side hustle could be just the right opportunity.
Back in 2007, I was working as an auditor in the finance industry and was unsatisfied with my career. I started a web design blog on the side and, in 2008, I was able to leave my job and pursue self-employment full-time. Since then, I’ve been self-employed with a career that is actually enjoyable and rewarding.
So, you want to side hustle your way to your dream career
If this resonates with you, you may be wondering where to even start. This is exactly what keeps many people in their safe but unsatisfying 9-5 jobs. In reality, side hustles are anything but passive, but there are simple things you can do to get started. Here are some specific steps that you can follow:
Step 1: Decide What You Want to Do
Life-changing things don’t happen without purpose. If you want a change, the first step is to decide what you’d like to be doing instead. Think about your hobbies and interests and see if there is a way to incorporate that into a career. Also think about the seemingly little or specific things you do love most about your job. Would you be happier filling your time with those exclusively (while also enjoying freedom and flexibility over working for yourself)?
Step 2: Choose a Side Hustle That Has Clear Potential to Supplement YourIncome Needs
Although there are countless ways to make money outside of a job, not all of them will give you the potential to earn a full-time income. If your goal is to replace your existing career, be sure that you’re pursuing something that actually gives you the potential to do that.
Most service-related side hustles (including freelancing or consulting) are capable of turning into a full-time income. Other popular options involve starting online businesses.
Step 3: Set Your Schedule
One of the biggest challenges of side hustling is simply managing your schedule. You probably have a full-time job already, and of course there are other things going on in your life like time with family and friends.
If you want to have success with a side hustle, you’ll need to set aside enough time to work on it. Treat it like a part-time job with scheduled working hours. Don’t plan to work on it whenever it happens to be convenient or else you won’t find enough time. Create a schedule that works for you and blocks off specific time for your side hustle.
While the details can vary, most side hustles need about 10 hours per week (or more, if possible) in order to get serious results.
BONUS: Leverage tenure for more time:
Have you been with your current employer for a long time? Consider taking advantage of your next performance review or check in with your boss and, instead of asking for more money or vacation time, ask to work an adjusted schedule so you can pursue your passions or side hustle. Some professionals have asked to work four-ten-hour-days a week, others have asked to cut to 32 hour weeks. Just be sure you are in a position to be negotiating this kind of perk.
Step 4: Grow Slowly
Growing a side hustle to a full-time income will require some time and patience. Don’t get frustrated if things aren’t growing as quickly as you’d like. Take a look at the big picture and you’ll probably see that your side hustle is growing nicely, even if that progress feels slow at times.
Step 5: Leave Your Job Once it is Safe
In an ideal situation, you’ll be able to stay in your current job until you know that you’re able to replace your income with your side hustle. Especially if your current job offers flexibility. You may not get to the point that your side hustle income actually exceeds what you’re making in your full-time job. It’s hard to make that much with just part-time hours. But you may get to the point that you know if you were able to dedicate full-time hours to the side hustle, you’d get to the income that you need to cover your living costs.
Using a Side Hustle to Boost Your Current Career
If your goal is to use a side hustle to advance your existing career rather than making a complete transition, you should take a different approach.
In this case, the amount of money that you’re making right now with your side hustle is not your biggest concern. Instead, the goal is to use the side hustle to put yourself in a position to increase your income in the future through a higher-paying job. Your side hustle could bring in very little income and still be a huge success if it helps you to land that job that you want.
Step 1: Identify the Job or Role That You Want
The first step is to know what type of job you want. It could be a specific position for your current employer or it could be a general role or type of job that could arise from another employer.
Step 2: Identify Skills or Experience That Would Improve Your Qualifications for the Job
Once you know what job you’d like to have, it’s time to see what skills or experience would help you to become a better candidate for that job. If there’s a specific job that you’re after, read the job description and find the gaps between your own skills/experience and the listed qualifications of the job.
If you’re after a general position and would be open to working for other employers, do some research online to find job listings for the type of job that you’d like. Read the job descriptions to get an idea for the typical requirements.
Step 3: Find a Side Hustle That Helps You to Improve in These Areas
Next, you need to find a side hustle that will help you to improve in those specific areas that will qualify you for your ideal job. For example, if you need better experience with Quickbooks in order to qualify for the job that you’d like, you could work as a freelance bookkeeper to improve in that area.
One thing to keep in mind here is that you don’t want to choose a side hustle that presents a conflict of interest or directly competes with your employer, as that may do more harm than good.
Step 4: Focus on Achieving Something Measurable
While you want to be gaining valuable experience and developing your skills, you’ll also want to think about how you will be able to demonstrate or prove your capabilities. Usually, this is done by accomplishing something measurable.
For example, if you’re looking to get more experience for a position related to social media, you might have success by showing that you grew your own Instagram profile to 25,000 followers.
Step 5: Add it to Your Resume
When the time comes that you’ve gained valuable experience and you have some tangible, measurable results from your work, you can add your side hustle to your resume. Be sure to include the details of the work you did and the specifics of what you were able to accomplish.
You should also update your LinkedIn profile to include this information since many companies and recruiters use LinkedIn.
Step 6: Start Your Job Search
Now it’s time to start looking for a job. If you have your eye on a particular position at your current employer, you might need to have some patience for an opportunity to open up. However, that doesn’t mean that you should do nothing if there is no current opening. Be proactive and talk to a supervisor and/or HR rep about your interest in the role and what you’ve been doing to prepare yourself for it.
If you’re not set with staying at your current place of employment, start searching online to see what openings you can find. You can also network with others in the industry and connect with people that might be in a position to hire you. You never know when opportunities can arise and being well-connected can lead to unexpected things.
Although side hustles are often associated with odd jobs that bring in some extra money, there are plenty of opportunities to use a side hustle to advance your career. The key is to know what you want and follow the specific steps that will lead you there. The side hustle may be a key factor that gets you to where you ultimately want to be.