How to Make your Side Hustle Work for You

Side Hustle (sīd·həsəl) Noun. A sideline that brings in cash; something other than your main job. (Source: UrbanDictionary.com)
We’ve all seen the data signaling an economic bounce-back in the years following the Great Recession. Indeed, while the national unemployment rate surged to ten percent in the wake of the crisis, it has since fallen to 5.5%. Yet, as the nature of work changes, today’s millennials find themselves taking second—even third jobs, just to make ends meet. These extra jobs are known as side hustles.

Whether it involves walking dogs, driving Uber cars, attending focus groups, or hosting trivia night at the local pub, extracurricular gigs pad primary income, while letting people experience other disciplines—without sacrificing the security of their main jobs.

Micah McKinley in his work out Studio

Micah McKinley has always had an affinity for electronics. He also enjoys interacting with people. So it was only natural for him to marry these two interests by working in high-end retail gadget shops–first at The Sharper Image, at an Apple Store, which became his employer for nearly five years. But something was missing. McKinley wanted more, and serendipity intervened.

“While working for Apple, I met a few customers who were personal trainers. Since I’ve always been athletic, I was inspired to dabble in training myself, and I fell in love with it,” recalls McKinley, who first got his feet wet by training some fellow Apple employees—guerilla style in Silver Lake Park in Los Angeles. As he grew more confident and assertive, strangers began approaching McKinley, who soon grew his roster to 30 clients. By then, he was earning enough income to leave his retail job behind and focus solely on fitness, which has become his true passion. He has since opened up a small street-level facility on Silver Lake Boulevard, called Phys. Ed. Studio.

Store front of Micah McKinley’s physical education studioWhen Keshvar Alikhani, content editor at pop-culture website Ranker.com, was looking to supplement her income, she found two side hustles—one as a freelancer for a digital advertising firm; the other as a punch-up writer for Endurance International Group (EIG), a web-hosting service and app that helps small businesses ramp up their social media outreach.

As a punch-up writer, Alikhani’s job is to infuse the company’s web content with topical jokes and witty commentary. She explains: “The website posts articles like, ‘How to use Facebook to Market my Business, with Just Three Employees’, and it’s my job to take the submissions written by these really smart freelancers and add jokes. I turn these articles into snackable bites by filling them with personality and making them sound more relevant to my generation – the millennials.”

For Alikhani, landing this gig was an accidental by-product of the grammatically correct, yet funny tone of her everyday emails. An amused friend of hers introduced her to the founder of EIG, and the job was hers.

But it doesn’t pay her enough to warrant abandoning her day job just yet.

“It’s been great to further develop my portfolio of work. I truly enjoy writing and editing and the opportunities my other jobs have afforded me,” says Alikhani. “But if any one of them offered me a great salary to do just that one job, I’d quit the other two, without hesitation.”

Whether you’re working full-time and looking to transition into a more fulfilling career or in need of a little extra cash, taking on a side hustle can pave the way towards greater freedom.