Starting a side hustle? Here are 4 rules to follow

One of the most common questions I hear in the #DebtFreeCommunity is, “Who has a side hustle and where can I get one?” I always try to answer these questions because side hustles are so important to paying down debt or boosting income.

A side hustle is any work you do outside your regular, 9-to-5 job. Some popular side hustles include bartending, selling crafts on Etsy, driving for Uber or Lyft, freelance writing or design work, babysitting and petsitting.

A side hustle can be anything, really, as long as it’s something you enjoy and can make some money from. I wholeheartedly believe you need to enjoy your side hustle because it’s where you’ll be spending your free time instead of with family and friends. So if you’re miserable, you’re not going to be motivated to keep it up for very long.

lyft driver photo
Getty Images | Mike Coppola

Think you’re ready to get your first side hustle? Here’s what you need to know.

1. Discipline Is Everything

This is especially true if your side hustle involves freelance work. It’s tempting to work on your side hustle during your full-time job, but this is a huge no-no. Should your employer find out you’re using company time and resources (like a computer) to work on other projects, you risk being fired. Designate time in the morning or evening for freelance work. Who knows, maybe you’re a morning person and didn’t even realize it!

Additionally, it’s important to be disciplined with tracking expenses and profits from your side hustle. If you do any work from home, you’re eligible to write off some household expenses, such as phone, internet and even rent, from your taxes. You’ll also need to keep track of your profits for tax purposes. I use a program called Wave to track profits, expenses and receipts. I like it because it comes with an invoice feature that is super handy.

taxes photo
Getty Images | Joe Raedle

2. Get The Family On Board

If you’re serious about picking up a side hustle for significant income, you need to set expectations with your spouse, partner, family and friends that your free time is going to be more limited. Discuss what this will look like on a day-to-day basis. How will responsibilities change? What can your family expect from you on days you’re working on your side hustle? How will your schedule change?

It’s helpful to explain why you want to pick up extra work and how it will benefit your family in the long run. Having your family’s full support is crucial to being successful in your side hustle. You won’t be able to focus on making extra money if you feel guilty for not spending that time with your loved ones.

3. Ease Into It

Don’t pick up a full-time restaurant job on top of your regular full-time job right off the bat. Start with one side-hustle job and slowly build it up until you find a rhythm that works for you and your family. For writers, that means knowing how many stories you can accommodate based on the deadline schedule. For those selling items online, this means setting expectations with buyers on turnaround time. For those in restaurants, bars and stores, this means being firm with your manager about what days and times you can and cannot work.

bartender photo
Getty Images | Spencer Platt

4. Know Yourself

To find a side hustle, first you need to figure out what you’re good at or interested in learning. If you’ve never been a bartender and you’re interested in expanding your drink repertoire, apply for a bartending job! Be honest with the hiring manager about your lack of experience, but emphasize that you are eager to learn. My background is in journalism, so writing is a natural fit for my side hustles, but here are a few other jobs I’ve done over the years:

  • Babysitting and nannying
  • Petsitting and housesitting
  • Cleaning schools and movie theaters
  • Helping people pack for moves
  • Pulling weeds
  • Farmsitting
  • Selling anything and everything through Facebook garage sales, thredUP, LetGo, eBay, Craigslist, etc.
  • Writing product descriptions
  • Research

Jobs like bartending, waiting tables, writing, editing, design and other creative jobs can be found through typical job listings. I love to use Nextdoor for jobs like petsitting and yard work. You can either create a post listing what you offer or simply scroll through the posts until you find something that applies to you. Craigslist is also a great place to find work, but just be cautious as with all unconventional jobs.

Cheers to you and your increased income!