Young Professionals Need a Side Hustle

If you're anything like me, you've scrimped, trimmed the fat, and gone without to boost your savings rate. You've made outstanding progress in the name of achieving the coveted frugal lifestyle, and yet, you still don't feel like you're reaching your financial goals.

Whether your plans include paying off debt, saving for retirement, or eventually reaching financial freedom, there's a limit to how inexpensively you can survive before you begin approaching Extreme Cheapskate territory.

Even if you've cut back on the expenses that you can control, you're likely still seeing increases in health insurance premiums, transportation, or housing. Additionally, young professionals are experiencing abysmal wage growth.

According to a recent Atlantic article, the average wage growth for 25 to 35 year old workers has fallen in nearly every major industry since 2007.

Despite my pessimistic portrait of our collective financial health (or lack thereof), I don't believe that our circumstances are dire. In fact, our generation has access to an important resource that may not be available to older age groups – energy.

Enter: the side hustle.

At the borderline geriatric age of 30, I'll openly admit that my energy level is not quite as robust as it was in my early twenties. This has led to many recent lifestyle changes, including a career transition.

While a career requiring large amounts of travel may no longer be in the cards, I'm certainly willing to work more than forty hours per week. In fact, taking advantage of my energy now may pay off big time in the future.

My sister is a fantastic side hustler. In addition to holding down a full-time publicist gig, she regularly earns extra money in her neighborhood by working as a dancehall DJ. She's also rented out her house on Airbnb and sold her delicious vegan cupcakes. She's recently considered charging for her tarot card readings and eventually plans to teach Ashtanga yoga.

I'm continually amazed by the ways in which creative people are able to earn extra dough. While there are countless opportunities to generate additional income, I've carefully considered what my ideal side hustle entails:

Location Independent

My ideal side hustle is location independent. Why? If I'm spending forty hours a week at an office (plus commute time), I want the ability to work from home. I don't want to waste precious time sitting in traffic or searching for parking.

I enjoy having easy access to my drip coffee machine, the pot of soup I lovingly concocted, or being within an arm's reach of my favorite feline. Bonus: the ability to work in my pajamas.


For people with limited day job flexibility, a side hustle would have to comfortably exist outside of the weekday hours of 9-5 PM. In a perfect world, the job would allow for a small buffer after a day job on week nights and could avoid the prime social time of weekend evenings. The ability to make last minute scheduling changes would be an invaluable perk.

High Hourly Wage

Time outside of a 40 hour work week is a value and finite commodity. A week consists of 168 hours. If 43 hours (including commute time) are consumed by a day job, 56 hours are allocated for sleep, and 8 hours are blocked off for fitness, you're left with 61 usable hours. How much are these hours worth to you? For me, an hourly rate below a certain threshold simply isn't worth my time.

Additional Perks

Are you lucky enough to land a side hustle the offers additional perks? This could come in the form of free stuff, networking opportunities, a creative outlet, or helping your community. All of these have a value and should be considered as part of your overall compensation.

Readers: Do you have a side hustle? What's your ideal way to earn extra money?

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Discussions — 18 Responses

  • Catherine December 9, 2014 on 6:33 am

    Honestly the thought of not having a side income freaks me out. It gives me security knowing if the shit his the fan I could hustle and make money in an ER situation (aside from ER fund). Not only that it allows me to diversify my skills which can only contribute to more opportunities in my future.

  • Kirsten December 9, 2014 on 7:05 am

    I am freelancing and working on a few other income generating ideas. One thing I’d add to your excellent reasons for a side hustle is career advancement.

    Not everyone cares about that, but if you can build your resume with your side hustle (demonstrating sales, social media prowess, marketing, etc), you might find that you can increase your salary, too!

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach December 9, 2014 on 9:21 am

    I think it’s a good idea for everyone to have side hustles too. You never know when they may come in handy…but you make a good point of making sure they are worth your time and energy. I have many side hustles including my blog, coaching beach volleyball, helping a couple friends out with their businesses, selling stuff, and occasionally cleaning my friend’s apartment (although I need to raise my rates there). 🙂 His place is gross!

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor December 9, 2014 on 11:07 am

    Given the ‘career job’ has long expired (a good thing, in my opinion), I agree–we all should have side hustles. I think a world in which we’re all mini-entrepreneurs and dependent on ourselves–not a fickle corporation or economy–to assure the sort of future we want is a good world! 🙂

  • Even Steven December 9, 2014 on 1:41 pm

    I think it’s so important to earn money for yourself early on. Give your entrepreneurial spirit a chance, whether it’s being a referee for a sports contest, coaching camps during the summer, selling an invention you made, motivational speaking, or private instruction(all things a coach could do). This opens up the door to meet so many people and get better at your craft, earning extra money is nice to.

  • Income Surfer December 9, 2014 on 4:44 pm

    Well said Kate. Prior to our Little Man, I had a great deal of time ….and as a result I had two side hustles. One was freelance writing, the other was in real estate development. I have far less time now, as you can imagine…..but I still make a few bucks per month. It’s definitely worth the effort

  • Kassandra December 9, 2014 on 5:49 pm

    I have side hustled since my early twenties, way before this trend became popular. I currently earn a secondary income as a freelance writer and I am thinking of resuming my music activities. That alone generates a nice chunk of change.

  • Melissa @ Sunburnt Saver December 9, 2014 on 6:45 pm

    I love your ideal side hustle list! I would add to the flexibility of time thing: the ability to work when you’re most awake/alive. For example, I’m super productive from 7-12 p.m., then slightly less productive from 1-3 p.m. (and all other hours are no-gos too). My ideal side hustle would have those hours, but I’d work every day of the week, so I think it would balance out!

  • Erin @ Journey to Saving December 9, 2014 on 7:12 pm

    I agree with your thoughts on this! Having that extra income and another work outlet is really beneficial, both for your wallet and your career. Learning extra skills never hurts. Your sister is definitely getting her hustle on! I’d love to be a DJ at some point.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty December 10, 2014 on 7:05 am

    I had a side hustle, but now it is my full-time job. I would definitely take on another side hustle if I had the time!

  • Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income December 10, 2014 on 10:55 am

    The ability to think outside of the box instead of just doing one thing is extremely important. You want to bring in as much as you can without wasting your time on small projects that make little money. I’ve made nearly $1000 a year just selling things online. It’s very little in the long-term but it’s a healthy habit to always look for opportunities to make and save money.

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde December 10, 2014 on 11:53 am

    I totally agree with this Kate! I advise my clients to do this all the time and one actually got a part time job with Target this winter to save for a trip she wanted to take. She said she was exhausted from working 7 days a week; however, she now has a fully paid for trip thanks to the side hustle. My favorite is freelance writing. I don’t always have the time do to extra writing, but it’s nice when I do because I can do it from anywhere.

  • Leslie December 10, 2014 on 10:01 pm

    I like your list of criteria for what makes a good side hustle. I would add just one more: something that is recession-proof. Your sister sounds like a great hustler, but all of the gigs she is working are things that her customers are likely to choose to do without when the next downturn comes along.

  • B December 11, 2014 on 12:49 am

    I try to think that side hustles are necessary part of life, even sleep and rest are part of our recharging activities. Networking and enjoying bits of personal life and family time are definitely an important criteria beyond working for every single hours to gain that extra money we wish for.

  • Sam @ December 11, 2014 on 7:25 pm

    Side incomes have definitely come in handy during the tough times. Appreciate the message and energy to focus on such areas of life! The problem I generally see is that people max out at some point. Eventually, there’s just not enough time to engage in side projects; especially, because some of them don’t pay off, or require a lot of time and energy to start them.

  • Andy@artofbeingcheap December 11, 2014 on 9:34 pm

    My side hustle is my website, but I make well below minimum wage at it. It’s worth it for me though because I enjoy it and I hope it grows into something big over time.

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