As we welcome the new year, I am evaluating how to balance my pursuit of different income streams. I’ve read a lot of finance blogs over the past few years and have witnessed the rise of the infamous term “side hustle.” I love the idea of generating extra income and starting side businesses, but it still seems a little odd to me when I read middle-aged moms and dads discussing their side hustles. Am I the only one?
My struggle with side hustles
Do you remember when you were growing up and one or both of your parents started using phrases like “my bad,” “the bomb,” “oh snap,” or [insert other 90’s slang here]? Do you remember how it just made you feel weird inside? The word “hustle,” when used in a certain context, can produce the same type of awkward feeling. It’s kind of like guys wearing skinny jeans-some can pull it off, but most can’t.
I admit that my feelings may be the unique result of my sheltered exposure to other contexts of the word. Growing up, I only ever heard the word “hustle” when my parents wanted me to do something faster, whether it be cleaning my room or playing soccer. Using it in this context relates to the first definition in the list below, which has a neutral connotation.
What does it really mean to hustle?
I took all of the verb definitions for “hustle” straight from dictionary.com and categorized each as having either a neutral or a negative connotation, highlighting any negatively correlated words.
Hustle: verb. hustled, hustling.
- to proceed or work rapidly or energetically: Neutral
- to push or force one’s way; jostle or shove: Negative
- to be aggressive, especially in business or other financial dealings: Borderline neutral
- Slang. to earn one’s living by illicit or unethical means: Negative
- Slang. (of a prostitute) to solicit clients: Negative
- to convey or cause to move, especially to leave, roughly or hurriedly: Negative
- to pressure or coerce (a person) to buy or do something: Negative
- to urge, prod, or speed up: Neutral
- to obtain by aggressive or illicit means: Negative
- to beg; solicit: Negative
- to sell in or work (an area), especially by high-pressure tactics: Negative
- to sell aggressively: Borderline neutral
Of 12 definitions, I count 8 with negative connotations and 4 with neutral connotations (2 of which I was generous with). I prefer “assertive” over “aggressive,” but I think you can make an argument either way.
Maybe that’s why it feels weird to me when I hear people use “hustle” in the context of making extra money. In my mind, it has a generally negative connotation, and its usage can only be pulled off by people whose brand it fits with.
Take J. Money at Budgets are Sexy, for instance. The dude has a Mohawk. It just fits. If you google “side hustle,” you’ll see that Budgets are Sexy holds the highest ranked result. You can see that the term started trending on google not too long after J. started his site in 2008. For him, it makes sense. For others it might, but I’m not so sure.
Side Hustle trend
Side hustle alternatives
Maybe I’m not alone, and you’ve never felt quite comfortable with the term “side hustle” either. Maybe the very reason you haven’t yet started pursuing additional income opportunities is because you are silently protesting the “side hustle” movement. The solution? Don’t start a side hustle! This year, challenge yourself and set yourself apart from the crowd. Consider the below alternatives to the so-called “side hustle.”
- Lateral Pursuits
- Irons in the fire
- Subsidiary Specialties
- Lesser Livelihoods
- Sideward Bustles
- or the timeless classic: Side Business
My 2015 Side Hustles
There, I said it. Maybe I just have to get used to it.
My full-time day job will probably account for at least 85% of my 2015 income. Here’s how I plan to get the other 15%.
1. Part-time CPA job – I still do some financial statement audit & review work for a pre-MBA employer. It usually keeps me busy during the first few months of the year. I’m guessing it will account for 4-5% of my income.
2. My tax & financial planning business – This is an experiment. I’ve done taxes and financial planning in the past, but not as an owner. I hope to pick up enough clients this year to see how I like it and to generate 2-3% of my total income.
3. Barebudgetguy.com – I have enjoyed my blogging experience so far and will continue to look for ways I can earn money directly or indirectly from this site. I plan to earn about 2% of my monthly income from these opportunities. I’ve already been approached by a credit union whose marketing people liked what they saw on barebudgetguy.com. I’m going to write a monthly column for their newsletter. I’m not actively seeking freelance writing engagements, but I’m going to try it out to see how I like it.
4. Amanda’s violin studio – There is a fixed limit on how many students Amanda can take given that she is homeschooling our oldest two while tending to our 3 year old. She might take 2-3 more students, and her income will account for 6-7% our total.
5. Violin teaching website – Amanda is so passionate and overflowing with teaching ideas that I finally convinced her to take her business online. This is an area I’m excited about. This year I don’t anticipate it accounting for more than 1% of our income, but you never know.
What kind of side business could you start this year?
Step 1: Make a list of all of the things you enjoy or are passionate about. Here are a few items from my own personal list, which I continually update.
List 1: The Passion/Skillset List
- Finance & accounting
- Piano & music
Step 2: Brainstorm combinations of items from the first list that might have a market. Again, here are a few of mine.
List 2: The Combination List
- Spanish Blog
- Hispanic market financial consulting
- Virtual CPA
- Piano/violin duo (with the wife)
- International pizza franchise
Update the lists every time you have a new idea. It doesn’t have to be long or super creative in the beginning. Just start with what you got. I guarantee there are at least two things you enjoy or are good at that you could combine for a profit.
Don’t just sit there. Hustle up!
What about you? This is what I want to know:
- How are you creating new income streams this year?
- Do you call them side hustles? If so, does it make you feel funny?