Extra cash or career advancement: How to make side hustles work for you

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The side-hustle economy is seeing tremendous growth in India as young minds strive to gain expertise beyond the traditional office framework, diversify their portfolio and find ways to generate multiple sources of income.

There is no doubt that a well-planned side hustle can serve various purposes irrespective of whether you want to work somewhere full time, start a business or stick to part-time jobs. However, individuals eyeing side jobs have to first understand the opportunities and challenges and be aware of the strategies to navigate through them.

Side hustle: The meaning
Sekhar Garisa, CEO of foundit (formerly Monster APAC & ME), defines side hustle as any supplementary income-generating activity pursued by individuals who already have full-time employment in professional, office-based or managerial roles. This is pursued outside regular working hours and is driven by personal interests or entrepreneurial ambitions. A side gig can encompass a wide range of activities such as freelance gigs, consulting or other services, he explains.

Siva Prasad Nanduri, CEO of Diensten Tech Limited, says apart from being an income-generating activity, side gigs can be a passion project, a creative outlet or a simple exploration of different interests. Depending on an individual’s goals, it can be a long-term endeavour or a stepping stone towards a career change or entrepreneurial venture, he adds.

Common misconceptions around side hustles
Garisa says many people believe that side hustles are quick fixes for financial problems or do not require much effort. However, the truth is that these endeavours demand significant time, effort and dedication. This is because an individual has to focus on these beyond their normal working hours, which means more time and effort is required. In addition, it’s important to note that side jobs don’t guarantee quick success or monetary benefits. They are not free from risks either. Moreover, he says that like any business, building a sustainable income through side hustle takes time and patience, and there is a high possibility of failure as well. The notion that they are merely temporary or short-term endeavours, the belief that they are meant for only extra income, and the assumption that they are limited to specific industries or fields are the false impressions associated with side hustles, says Nanduri.

Where side hustle can be beneficial for career growth

Offering clarity on industries where pursuing a side hustle can be a highly advantageous career move, Garisa says sectors like technology, marketing, creative arts, and consulting often see individuals leveraging side jobs to gain additional experience, build networks and explore new opportunities.

Pursuing a side hustle can be beneficial in industries and professions involving entrepreneurial mindsets, creative problem-solving or the need for specialised expertise. Nanduri gives the example of startup environments where agility and the ability to provide high-end or quick solutions are valued.

How to identify a side hustle that aligns with one’s goals and passion

Both experts say it is important for individuals to pick a side hustle that not only generates a proper income but also supports their career goals.

To begin with, they advise shortlisting activities that bring genuine fulfilment, complement or expand your existing knowledge and experience, and allow you to develop new competencies to broaden your professional horizons. Next, research industries, markets and trends to identify opportunities where one’s skills and interests intersect. This can help discover suitable hustle options. The experts recommend seeking feedback from mentors, networking within relevant communities, and experimenting with different projects to gain insights into what resonates the most with an individual’s needs and wants.

Keep in mind that an ideal hustle not only generates income but also promotes personal as well as professional development, they reiterate.

Challenges to managing side hustles with the primary job
Embracing the side-hustle mindset comes with a set of challenges that an individual must be aware of before taking additional responsibilities with their primary job.

According to the experts, a widely experienced challenge is managing the responsibilities of the primary job and the side hustle. This can often lead to burnouts. Working the two jobs is not only physically exhausting but also mentally draining to a great extent. So it is of utmost importance to balance your activities in a way that the side hustle doesn’t interfere with the primary job’s obligations.

They say the focus should be on establishing clear boundaries between work and personal time to maximise productivity. Efficient time management techniques are the key here. Also continuously assess the feasibility of balancing both commitments to avoid any goof-ups, say the experts.

To enhance efficiency and stay motivated, experts advise utilising productivity tools, scheduling apps and automation software to streamline processes. Building a support network of mentors, peers and fellow entrepreneurs to seek advice and share experiences is just as crucial.

Moreover, it’s necessary to stay updated about industry trends, acquire new skills and alter strategies based on feedback to grow and taste success in both the roles simultaneously, add the experts.

Instances of individuals who pursued side hustles and saw growth
Garisa says he knows a person called Sara who, a software engineer by profession, followed her passion for writing and started a blog where she shared her insights on technology trends and coding tutorials. Gradually, the blog gained traction among the developer community and allowed her to monetise it through advertising, sponsored content and affiliate marketing. As her audience grew, Sara was approached by tech companies to write guest posts and contribute to industry publications. Eventually, she was able to transition to a career as a full-time tech writer and content creator, he adds.

Swiggy, a food delivery platform, has many such inspiring stories of side hustlers and their passions, says a spokesperson of the food aggregator. “With over 3.5 lakh delivery partners, Swiggy has one of the most active fleets in the country. Our platform’s flexibility allows many of our partners to pursue their passions and careers while engaging with Swiggy. Among our delivery partners, we have students funding their education, those juggling full-time jobs, individuals balancing part-time jobs, entrepreneurs supplementing their income, and aspiring talents honing their skills as singers, actors, dancers, or fitness trainers,” adds the spokesperson.

One thing is absolutely clear — when planned and managed accurately, a side hustle can be more than a way to make a few extra bucks; it can slowly transition into a full-time rewarding career path.

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