The Art of the Side Hustle
One minute I’m speaking to a women’s group about my new novel when suddenly I digress about my side business as a furniture restorer, my day job as a professional organizer, and before I know it, I mention my love for Bruce Springsteen.
As my workshop ends, all hands go up at once. One woman wants to know the best way to remove stain from an antique wooden door; another woman wants to know how many times I have seen Bruce Springsteen; and finally someone asks me specifically about a portion of my book which is all about how Italian Americans make Sunday gravy. Before I can figure out how any of these questions relate to my new novel, I realize that I have a long line of people waiting to purchase my book.
Among the readers is an energetic and stylish woman named Betty Galvan. “It was great listening to you. I am a Swirler, too,” she says with a wink. My look of puzzlement begs a definition. She tells me that a Swirler is someone who incorporates all of the best parts of themselves into one uber-career or uber-brand, a term coined by public relations superstar Melissa Cassera. Galvan began her swirly career in teaching with a side job at a beauty salon, which led to a successful blog and job in digital marketing. Today she has combined all of those passions into career advice helping other Swirlers navigate business success in the digital marketing world.
The term swirling might be new, but the concept of creating more income is not. People have been moonlighting, taking side jobs and even investing in real estate to create more revenue streams for generations. Up until this point, I mistakenly labeled my career habits as a bored, “Jacklyn of all, mistress of nothing” type. But new times call for a new definition so I went to Cassera, who literally wrote the book on Swirling. The Swirl Effect explains the importance of combining your passions with business success. “When you are doing an activity that’s one of your passions, you feel like the absolute best version of yourself,” she says. “Once I figured that out, it transformed my business, I quadrupled my revenue, building a business that brings in multiple six figures every single year.”
According to 24/7 Wall Street, millennials make up 28 percent of the estimated 44 million side-hustling Americans.
I have an epiphany after talking with her, as I am sure most people do. I realize that I had been swirling my entire life: I moonlighted on my publishing career with professional organizing and began writing my novel while refinishing furniture. Like Galvan, I have always had a side job, or in today’s parlance, a side hustle. Hustle is a term I became familiar with while listening to Ann Shoket present her book The Big Life, which devotes significant space to the importance of the side hustle, an opportunity to learn something new on your own time. Shoket’s book is directed toward the millennial, which is no surprise, since she spent the first part of her career influencing opinion as the editor in chief at Seventeen magazine.
According to 24/7 Wall Street, millennials make up 28 percent of the estimated 44 million side-hustling Americans. Sixty percent of the traffic on the popular SideHustleNation.com is 18 to 34, though Nick Loper, the founder, sees this trend as strong among millennials more out of necessity than passion. “We’ve seen the cost of housing, education, and healthcare skyrocket over the past 30 years while wages have been flat.” Loper cites the popularity of his site as a societal trend that is growing among the millennials and beyond. He attributes this increase to a “proactive drive to take over our financial lives.”
Loper took back his financial life in 2013, when he took his original side hustle, a comparison-shopping site for footwear into a full-time business. He realized his passion was talking about business and marketing. He created his site as a resource for people to take control over their own financial well-being through entrepreneurship. “And that’s really what the hustle is about: being proactive about the one thing you can control, your own effort,” he says.
The idea of the side hustle can be comforting for someone who has a business idea and is reluctant to quit their day jobs, but an intimidating and often unrealistic proposition for most. Chris Guillebeau founded SideHustleSchool.com to help people create an all-new source of income without quitting their day job. “This is critical, because these days everyone is being told that they should become an entrepreneur, but not everyone wants to do that. Everyone, however, wants more money and more options,” he says
“I’m focused on helping people create assets for themselves, not just more work, or a part-time job.”
Guillebaeu’s site relies heavily on storytelling focused on how people came up with their ideas, mistakes and money they have made. He differentiates the side hustle from the gig-based economy, which implies contract work with short-term engagements. “I’m focused on helping people create assets for themselves, not just more work, or a part-time job. I’m interested in stories of people who wake up in the morning, check their phone and see that they’ve made $200 while they were sleeping.”
Loper recommends starting small with a The Side Hustle Snowball, in which you itemize out your monthly expenses and then try to erase those with income streams outside of your day job. “It’s intimidating to try and replace your day job salary right out of the gate,” he says. A recent article on Guillebeau’s site lists 99 side hustle business ideas you can start today. And for those of you still trying to decide which handy term defines you, in the words of Melissa Cassera, Swirl on!