The Argument Against a Side Hustle

Why You Should Never Start a Side Hustle
by Leila Hock
Photos Joe Kathrina | November 07, 2016
This article was written by Leila Hock, one of our mentors. Like what she has to say? You can book a one-on-one session with her to talk about your own career goals. 
Side hustles are all the rage. But should they be?
Hate your job? Develop your hobby into a side business and slowly build it while you work so you can eventually quit that job and live your dream! Need extra income and a safety net if things don’t work out? Your side hustle can save you when the going gets tough and keep you satisfied in the meantime.
Or so the arguments go.

I get the allure. I get the logic. If you hate your job, just find something that you love, experiment with it on the side, and eventually turn it into a living.

It’s such a nice thought. But I just don’t think it lives up to the hype.

A strategic plan is always better than an escape plan

One problem with a side hustle is that, more often than not, it’s an escape plan from something you hate—not an intentional choice to seek out something you love. One of my proudest feats in my transition from legal counsel to career coach is that I didn’t just up and leave the practice of law and run to anything that was better. I was very deliberate. I decided that I’d take all the time and energy I didn’t use in determining whether or not I wanted to be a lawyer and put it into deciding what I actually did want to be. As a result, I was unhappy at work for a bit longer than I would have liked, but I ended up with a career path that is fulfilling and perfectly suited to me for the long haul. Because who really enjoys changing jobs or careers all the time?

When you're running from something you hate, you typically can't get very far. I often analogize the job search to dating and the comparison holds water. We all have that friend (or maybe we are that friend) that leaves one partner, hating X about them and finds another partner that doesn’t have X, but has Y, which ends up being way worse. That’s what you get when you’re just running from something—a different problem. And without a long-term career strategy, that's often all you can get when you turn to your side hustle for an escape, rather than an ultimate career goal.

Turning your hobby into a job

A side hustle is often fun precisely because it is a side hustle. When I was a full-time lawyer, I also taught yoga. I thought I might do it full-time until I put thought into what I really wanted from a career, and ultimately realized that teaching yoga wouldn’t give it to me. That said, when I started my coaching business, I intended to teach more—that was one of the big incentives for me to run my own business. But what I found was that when I was doing work that I loved and had chosen very deliberately, teaching yoga didn’t sound as appealing as it had when it was an escape from practicing law. Had I just picked up my side hustle and left the law to teach yoga full-time, I imagine I’d feel quite disappointed and trapped.

Sometimes hobbies are fun because they are hobbies! Because they don’t require you to give them your all, all of the time. Because your livelihood isn’t riding on your success at this activity. Turning a hobby into a business can royally eff with your relationship with that hobby and you might find that you ruined a perfectly good pastime by trying to support your life with it.

A focused mind is a happy mind

Finally—and I think most importantly—having a side hustle doesn’t give your “full-time hustle” much of a chance. It turns out, according to a host of psychological studies out there, we’re happiest when we have a single, clear focus. Our minds crave order and goals and progression against those goals. If you haven’t given your chosen career a fighting chance, a side-hustle is just going to take away from any chance it has, creating confusion and misaligned goals for yourself.

So, how do you focus on your career when you’re not in love with what you do? You take back control. Reflect and consider how you got into your current career, what you envisioned your path would be, and what you really want your future in this career to look like. When you have that clear picture in your mind, create a strategic career plan to get there. Focusing on your plan will keep you happy and engaged in your work and, if you’re lucky, the idea of a side hustle might just end up being crowded out by your happy, focused, career-minded thoughts.
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