Do side hustles work for people?

By Malavika Varadan

Published: Thu 4 Mar 2021, 5:23 PM

Statistics tell us that 64 per cent of millennials in the workplace either currently have a side hustle or have had one in the past. I constantly meet people who have a side hustle. Investment bankers who teach dance or music, junior level executives who freelance as graphic designers or photographers, or marketing and sales guys who DJ on the side. My sister works for a tech-giant and is a professor on the weekends.

As a millennial myself, I think side hustles are necessary and a great way to earn a little extra money, monetise a passion or even have an alternate source of income, should your “main hustle” not need you any more. In 2019, I decided to buy over a company — a performing arts studio — and ran it as a side hustle for a year before I chose to make it my main focus. In retrospect, it was one of the wisest decisions I ever made. To be able to build something slowly on the side while having the assured income and stability of a main job allows you to take some pressure off the business and have a little more confidence when you finally jump ships.

If I ever work for another company again, it would be imperative that they allow employees to pursue non-competing passions, because why not? How do you get to tell me what I can and cannot do outside my working hours? Especially when ‘working hours’ is now a fluid concept.

In the summer of 2020, when the world was in a lockdown and nearly half of this city saw either pay cuts or job losses, many of us turned to our passion as a potential new source of income. A woman I know started a small baking business, another began designing jewellery. Video editing, voiceovers, modelling — these were the ways in which rent cheques were being paid. As we find our way back to ‘normalcy’, we find it hard to think of a life without a side gig. When the next crisis comes knocking, we want to feel better prepared, with a raft ready to float when the ship doesn’t need you on board any more.

I asked those on my Instagram feed this week whether the contracts they signed at their companies allowed them to pursue jobs on the side that allowed them to make an extra buck. Almost all of them said that they did not. In fact, some were even fired for working on a part-time project on the side. As a small business owner myself, I see why this could mean a conflict of interest. But, if the job is not competing with what the business offers, and as long as the work of the employee is still getting done, what is the harm? If as a business, you are asking employees to take a pay cut, should they not be allowed to bridge that income gap with another talent they may have?

I would go so far as to say that you would want a compulsive side hustler on your team — someone who is driven, who likes to stay challenged and brings to the table insights from another industry outside of yours.

The challenge for most leaders, I think, is our mindset — what does it mean to have someone work for the company? Does paying out a monthly salary or offering a company visa or employee benefits mean that you own their time? And the hardest question of them all — do you trust your team enough to not swindle you if you contractually allow them to find work outside of work?

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