I Side Hustle, Therefore I Am

You know that feeling. It’s 2:00 AM. You should’ve been in bed three hours ago. You have to be up at 8:00. But just 20 minutes more and you can wrap up the page you’re working on, and it feels impossible to stop when you’re so close to being finished.

When 20 minutes turns into another hour, you might find yourself hitting the coffee extra hard the next morning. However, seeing your byline at the top of the page makes it all worth it.

If you are familiar with this situation, chances are you are a side hustler. Your side hustle/your passion might be writing. It might be painting. It might be graphic design or computer programming or a million others things, but if you find yourself awake in the middle of the night when your day job is only hours away, than you must have a good reason for doing it.

Everyday I’m Hustlin’

I live and breathe the side hustle life, but when someone I know asks why I do it, I find it difficult to come up with a definitive answer. Like millions of millennials, I graduated college with a liberal arts degree several years ago, into one of the worst job markets in American history.

Therefore, it would be easy to say I side hustle for the money, but if I needed money I would wait tables or at least become a dog walkersomething that would bring in cash quickly. Instead, I do freelance writing and editing work, and a large portion of the jobs I take are unpaid.

I could also say I do it solely for the creative outlet, and while that is part of my reason/motivation, I do have a day job that I find enjoyable and intellectually fulfilling. If I needed a low-key outlet for excess creative energy, it would be much easier to take up knitting or an adult coloring book. But I don’t do either of those things; instead, I willingly face harsh deadlines and countless more hours at my computer.

What is the Meaning of the Side Hustle Life?

My favorite answer, to what I have come to view as a very existential question, is that I side hustle for job security. It seems like a weird response considering my boss at my day job doesn’t even know how I spend my evenings, but I receive a certain amount of gratification from updating my resume with a new publication or editing crediteven if no one will see that resume update for a while.

…in a world where everyone has some kind of side hustle, it’s easy to feel out of the loop if you don’t.

I know many people who thought they had landed their dream jobs, only to quickly lose that work because of an unpredictable economy. I know I can’t depend on keeping the same job for five years, much less 50, like my parents and grandparents did. Keeping my resume sharp with skills for new employers is a must.

The millennial generation is often snubbed as the generation that was told we were all special snowflakes. We were all given trophies just for participating. We were told we could be anything and do anything. So now we are and we do. Yes, reality has set in after graduation. I know I need money to pay the bills, but I can still live out my dream of being a writer. Technically, all I have to do to be a writer is write.

Keeping Up Appearances

Like many of my peers I’m not willing to let go of my childhood dreams in the face of today’s job market and so I continue to pursue my passions even when the world has told me it’s not going to work out as planned. Part of me does this because I’m stubborn. Another part of me has a deep sense of masochism. Yet out of these negative traits grows something like ambition.

If money is out of reach, than Facebook likes and a byline will have to do.

I always try to give 100% to my day job, but waiting years for a promotion or a pay raise is just too long. I want to prove to myself and the world that I am continually improving and getting ahead. If money is out of reach, than Facebook likes and a byline will have to do.

You know what they say, if you can’t get rich, at least get famous. Between Youtube, Instagram, WordPress, and hundreds of other online platforms, it’s never been easier to express yourself in the virtual world. Even as an amateur you can gain followers who appreciate your craft.

At the same time, it’s never been harder to get noticed, as everyone and their brother is also expressing themselves via one (or several) of these outlets. In fact, in a world where everyone has some kind of side hustle, it’s easy to feel out of the loop if you don’t.

You Can Sleep When You’re Dead (Tired)

I can’t vouch for those outside of the arts, but as someone who graduated with an English degree, and who has many friends who did the same, I follow countless blogs and start-up literary magazines. I am constantly treated to Facebook posts and Twitter updates about new projects that others are working on. I love this. It’s inspiring and motivating, and I’d feel left out if I wasn’t also putting my work out there as well.

I may not have years of job experience, but employers will expect that I have a valid online presence and an up-to-date portfolio of work. My day job may provide some of that, but with more and more people using their “spare” time to cultivate additional skills and talents, it’s important that I do the same.

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with completing your 9-to-5 and then just hitting the gym or going home to watch TV, once you start side hustling, you might find the results addictive. You might find yourself pushing for just a few more clicks or just a few more views. Or, maybe you can actually get just a little bit of money (and some bragging rights) on your next project.

When Your Hustle is Your Identity

Being in your 20s can sometimes feel like one long existential crisis. One where your five year plan and your childhood dreams and your ability to pay the rent all become tied up into one big mess. Untangling that mess can sometimes lead to a gapping whole in your life. It’s ok to keep it all tied together anyway you can.

For me, side hustling is a way to keep my sanity. It’s a path to creative fulfillment, but it’s also fueled by my need to be validated as an artist. And that’s ok. Maybe one day my side projects will lead to something bigger, like a day job that makes me so excited to go to work every day that I never want to side hustle again.

However, even if I do land my dream job tomorrow and still have money to spare, I hope that I will always be reaching for something bigger and better. I do this for fun, but I also do it because it’s a way of life. I side hustle, therefore I am.

Rachel Ginder

Rachel is a bookaholic who dreams of reading for a living, but has recently and quite comfortably settled for working as an editorial assistant at an East Coast university press. She spends her free time writing book reviews and is on a constant quest to find the perfect setting for novel reading. Her current favorite is sitting on a bench at her local park, where she alternates between fantasizing she is either Anita from 101 Dalmatians or Rory from Gilmore Girls. When not pretending she’s a fictional character, she can occasionally be lured indoors with a large cup of chai tea or earl grey (she’s not picky).
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