On many things, Artist Cafe Utica is firm. This is strictly a Christian, politically liberal, and pro-arts and artists website. It is written for and about Utica artists, and there is no goal of expanding the audience. That will never change. But every once in a while, there is a specific issue where the stance of the page may shift. This happened gradually over the past year and a half with the issue of direct selling, also known as network marketing or multilevel marketing.
Artist Cafe Utica began as an “anti-MLM with Avon as the one exception “site. The more I learned about the current culture and some practices of Avon, the more I came to believe that there were no exceptions in MLMs. The site grew into a strictly anti-MLM online space, and I considered myself a part of the anti-MLM community…..a tiny local niche part…but a part.
Over the past several weeks, anti-MLM education and activism has taken a hit, and a well-deserved one. The latest trend in anti-MLM videos and articles is “We attended a multilevel marketing party so you don’t have to.” In order to write or film their content, the anti-MLM activist either joins an online sales party for a multilevel marketing company, or obtains samples of the product and watches a filmed party or training session.
Some of these are useful for anti-MLM education, as the content creator points out the aggressive recruitment tactics, inflated income claims, and other features that are legitimate criticisms of most MLMs and many of their representatives. But a recent social media trend has taken a disturbing turn.
A few weeks ago, a new anti-MLM video was posted on YouTube. In this video, a well-known anti-MLM YouTuber participated in this social media challenge with her best friend by trying some of the MLM company’s products a fan had sent her while watching a filmed party. The vlogger and her friend appeared in the bottom corner of the screen while the party video played above them. The particular company they chose to highlight sells lounge wear, lingerie, and bath and fragrance products, along with more intimate, adults-only items in the back of their catalog. The details are left intentionally vague to keep this a “safe for work” article.
Rather than focusing on criticisms against multilevel marketing, the vlogger and her friend shrieked, giggled, and made cruel remarks about the MLM sales representative’s body and sexuality, engaging in behaviors such as putting the products on their hands, sniffing them, and shrieking in horror because they now smelled like the MLM representative’s body parts….including her “private parts.”
The YouTuber/vlogger’s comment section was full of fans cheering her and her friend on, and requesting more videos like this one.
It is true that the content creators have the legal right to produce the content, and the fans have a right to enjoy it and to support it. They are not inciting a riot or any other criminal activity, and therefore have the first amendment right to say whatever they want. But the first amendment protects you from persecution by the government for what you say. It doesn’t protect you from your actions having consequences you didn’t want, or from other people disagreeing with you or disliking you based on what you say. I’m not suggesting the content creators be arrested, fined, or denied government services for creating the content.
Artist Cafe Utica simply does not support or condone behavior like this. This is not activism. It is not education. It is bullying.
Was I wrong about MLMs? Did my support of the anti MLM community only serve to support internet bullies? Let’s look at each of my arguments against network marketing, and their rebuttals.
Network marketing, direct selling, or multilevel marketing is based on a flawed business model. It sets most people up to fail. The only way you can become a top earner is to recruit a team of people. Eventually, you are going to run out of people.
Honest network marketers openly admit that most people do not reach the top levels when signing up to sell for these companies. But everybody does not join to become a millionaire. People may join with the intent to use their sales and even team building, as a side hustle to make some extra cash. Or maybe they want to make enough money to build a small vacation fund, or ease the burden on the family finances by paying a single bill. McDonalds has run ads suggesting that their jobs are launching pads for amazing careers, and every job there certainly isn’t a guaranteed road to fortune. It is possible for someone to join a network marketing company, and still be levelheaded enough to tell the difference between corporate hype, claims from more naïve co-workers, and reality.
The products and services offered by these companies are of lower quality than those offered by retailers at the same price point.
The quality of many of the products offered by these companies is subjective. One person may swear by the store brand nutrition shakes they get from Walmart, while another will only drink what they buy from GNC, and yet another may honestly like something from an MLM. Some people insist makeup and other cosmetics from the Dollar Tree are as good or better than high end brands. While it is fair to criticize any company whose products have caused consumers harm, such as Monat’s series of lawsuits due to hair loss and scalp burns, there are certainly traditional retailers who have produced similarly harmful products. Claiming that an eighteen dollar lipstick from an MLM is only as good as a two or six dollar lipstick from a retailer is unfair, because it only means that I liked the one from the retailer better, not that it will perform better for anyone else.
In the time you put into working for an MLM, you could have worked a minimum wage job and earned more money.
Taken alone, this statement is true. Even if you spend only ten minutes each day checking your sales page, you spend so much time devoted to your MLM, you could have earned more money by working the same amount of hours at McDonald’s or Starbucks or the phone kiosk in the mall. But is this a fair comparison in terms of the work you have to do? You can check your direct sales page while sipping your coffee in the morning or popping into the break room for your ten minute break during a shift at your main job. To earn extra money with an additional minimum wage job, you will have to stand on your feet for hours at a time, cope with irate customers, and suffer all the other well-documented indignaties of most minimum wage work.
The friendships formed through these companies are false. Your friends you make in an MLM will vanish as soon as you stop devoting all your time and energy to the company. They’re only interested in you for the money they can make from your labor.
There is certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence for this. Stories abound of people who were drawn in with promises of sisterhoods and families, and behavior that could only be described as “love bombing,” only to be insulted, pushed aside, and abandoned when they questioned anything or decided the company wasn’t for them. But perhaps it is unfair to assume that absolutely everyone who joins a network marketing company behaves like this. Most of these stories are found on anti-MLM sites. People who navigate to these pages know they’re not going to be welcome if they have a pro-MLM or even neutral story. Only the stories of cruelty are going to get posted. This would only be a fair claim if the research were done on a site that invited stories of both harm and benefit brought by the MLM.
MLM representatives endanger people by presenting themselves as experts, when all they did was pay a fee and open up a box of paperwork and maybe some products from the company.
This is common, and it is dangerous. You are not an expert on fitness just because you signed up to sell workout programs with Beach Body. You’re not a nutritionist just because you signed up with Arbonne or Avon and they offer vitamins and shakes now, or a makeup artist because you sell Jafra or Mary Kay. Any MLM representative who does this should be avoided. But so should anyone else who takes an entry level job and tries to behave as though they’re an expert. Just because something is a common problem among a group of people, that does not mean everybody in that group exhibits the same behavior, or that the problem does not exist outside that group.
Some claims common to multilevel/network marketing are indeed false. You do not have your own business. You’re hiring yourself out to the company as an independent sales agent. The outlandish income promises help no one but the corporation. And the common tactic of behaving as though anyone who works a traditional job is foolish or lazy is unfair, no matter how much you love your network marketing work. But the anti-MLM community is flawed as well. Making fun of people who may have joined one of these companies for any number of reasons, painting everyone either as an easily led fool or a cunning and ruthless manipulator and user, is hardly fair. Given the sheer number of people who sign up for these things, it must go well for more than one per cent of people.
Which side are you on? Are MLMs cult-like, financially and emotionally destructive, and never a good idea to get involved with at all? Or are MLMs just ordinary companies with an open hiring policy, with your experiences dependent entirely upon which company you work for and who you get involved with? Or do you fall somewhere in the middle? Is it a good idea to support a friend who works for an MLM, but maybe not the best way to earn extra cash?
Tell us what you think on the Artist Cafe Utica facebook page at: www.facebook.com/ArtistCafeUtica
We have all heard the conventional wisdom when it comes to a career in the arts. Declare yourself an artist and identify yourself that way first. Make sure you have a second passion or strong side job to pay the bills. Don’t let rejections deter you from continuing in your art career. These all sound like the right thing to say, and they usually work out. Then there are those things “everyone” swears will hurt your career in the arts….but might actually help.
Getting random, non-arts related side jobs.
This is often advised against out of fear it will take time away from your art, but it can provide fuel for your projects.
Taking temporary jobs, getting side jobs on the side of your day job, and performing other money making tasks can generate ideas for your art work. You may decide to fictionalize a restaurant or store and use it as a setting in your next piece. Maybe that rude, frightening, or just plain odd customer will say something you can use for your next villain. You may overhear a conversation that sparks a new song, or see something you feel called to paint or draw.
You also get to keep the money from random jobs, so they provide some extra income as well. Having a little more money helps to reduce financial worries, and frees up even more energy for your creative work.
Getting a job that allows you to practice your art, but also provides a steady salary or wage.
People typically warn against this out of fear that your art work will be taken over by someone else. You’ll sell out. You’ll become a corporate drone. This could happen in some cases, but if you keep your focus on your overall goals as an artist, and make sure you’re doing something you believe in, it can enhance your art career.
My own career in the arts has three parts. I teach writing skills to adults online, write novels, and write and run Artist Cafe Utica, designed as both a resource/online space for other artists in Utica and a portfolio for me. The teaching job is what pays my basic expenses. I am on the faculty of a university and I earn a salary. Most of my teaching is done through creative writing. I wrote, and continue to revise and update, a short story about a character named “Ellie” and her classmates at a fictional university. When I first got the idea to try this, I hesitated. I was afraid I’d spend all my time on the Ellie story, and neglect the rest of my writing. I feared the students would find it ridiculous. As of the writing of this article, “Ellie” has provided plot ideas for two novels, and I’ve been nominated for a teaching award four times. A solid ninety percent of the compliments I receive from students are for Ellie, not for me….but…..that’s okay.
Having non-art interests and hobbies
If you’re an artist, much of your activity naturally centers around your art. This is true for anyone in any type of career.
It is also not uncommon for an artist’s hobbies and interests to be other forms of art. My second passion, along with creative writing, is music. My favorite hobby has always been singing. I also enjoy watching films, theater, and seeing and learning about paintings and sculptures.
Languages also fascinate me. While language is a building block of many forms of art, it is also a separate field. One can be an expert in linguistics, or speak multiple languages without being an artist.
Like taking on non-arts related side work, studying languages often generates ideas for my art work. It helps me understand the sounds and patterns of language better overall.
These three activities may have helped my arts career when I expected them to be detrimental, but there are a few other guidelines I no longer follow, because they resulted in a drain on time, energy, and money to devote to my art.
Taking any work that allows you to do anything even remotely related to your art.
Most of the time, I encourage everyone to take any opportunity they can to practice their art, but if the situation is unsafe, or if you are spending so much time and energy on one event or job that you’re neglecting other aspects of your career, there’s nothing wrong with turning something down or walking away from an opportunity.
Conventional wisdom dictates that a writer should take any writing job. If you’re really a poet, but someone wants you to write an email drip campaign for window cleaner, do it. Work as a reporter even though you have no interest in journalism and you’re a screeenwriter. Take that job writing ad copy, even though what you really want to do is write about rock bands for a magazine.
This remains solid advice if you are new to writing, but after earning a graduate degree in writing and working as a professional independent writer for more than a decade, I no longer accept any writing assignments that are not linked directly to the arts. It gives the wrong impression. Potential clients think I’m new to writing, or that I’m making a career change from the arts to their field.
Working only in a dedicated workspace
Those fortunate enough to have a studio, or an office in their home should absolutely take advantage of it. Setting aside a space as your workspace in a smaller home can be helpful too. Just don’t take it so far that you begin to think of that as the only place you can work.
“Set up an office, it will help you take yourself and your work seriously,” is great advice, but it is not completely necessary. As long as nothing in the environment distracts you continuously, you should be able to get work done in a variety of places.
Sometimes, a change of scene helps rather than hinders creativity. Getting out and working at your favorite coffeehouse, or working at a diner or in the library (once it is safe to do so again) can give you the jolt you need to come up with a new idea.
Working all hours
When we picture someone doing work they love, we think of them working around the clock, stopping only for things like meals, showers, and other obligations when they absolutely have to. We often think that a “true” artist wants to sing, write, dance, act, paint, or work on their act all the time, and feel guilty or neglectful when we get tired or temporarily bored with our work.
In reality, nobody is enthralled with their work every moment of every day. Everyone, artist or not, has tasks they don’t care for, or days when they just want to get done and go sprawl in front of a t.v. show marathon with a big helping of their favorite snack.
Rest is necessary. We all need that time to just relax, and we all need sleep.
Whether we realize it or not, independent artists are freelance workers. We offer our music, novels, arts articles, poems, paintings, or other works to people for a fee or a price. Some of us also teach on a freelance basis, giving lessons or tutorials out of our home. Many also operate side gigs on a freelance basis, such as tutoring in a non-arts subject, working as a driver for Uber, Lyft, or Instacart, or doing maintenance or cleaning independently. As people increasingly work from home, we may even find our salaried work feels like freelancing, as we are responsible for setting up work spaces and scheduling work tasks from our dens and kitchens.
As most of us continue to spend large chunks of time at home, we are often looking for projects to keep us occupied. Devoting some of that time and energy to organizing the work of your career or side gig will not only provide something productive to do now, it will make things run much smoother when everything does normalize again.
Write out a short but detailed business or career description and plan.
Many people balk at the idea of writing out a career or business plan for their art work. At first, I was one of them.The thought of doing this makes me feel like a fool. What business? It’s me.I’m an artist. I teach writing skills to adults. I write fiction. I can sing well enough to join in an open mic, but not well enough to get paid. I can write for and about artists and the arts. Go ahead and feel foolish. Writing about exactly what you’re about, what services you plan to offer, and why will help bring everything else into focus. Consider the following statements:
“I write modern, place based, realistic novels, and blog articles for and about Utica artists, in addition to teaching writing skills to adults online in a salaried position. I am available to write sponsored posts about your business or service, features about music or musicians for your magazine or newspaper, and press releases for your music or other art career. My hobbies are singing and languages.”
“I’m a writer who likes singing and languages and I’m looking for work. I used to be a reporter and feature writer for the newspaper. I have also worked in an office.”
Both of those are me, but the first one is clear about what type of work I’m able and available to do, and offers insight into my skill level. The second one focuses too much on past work I want to leave behind, and is vague about my skill level. “I like singing and languages” could mean I’ve been compared to Diana Krall and am fluent in five languages (I wish), or it could mean I’m that annoying person who belts out off key phrases from songs every time someone says a word that reminds me of one, and spends five hours in front of the tv watching foreign films every night. Mentioning that I used to be a reporter and have worked in an office would only be relevant if I were looking to do that type of work again.
Set up a dedicated online presence
Using Weebly to set up this webpage was easy. I never learned to code, and have no depth perception, meaning I can’t line things up on a screen. I can still used Weebly to run this page. Wordpress is another popular hosting site that most people find easy to use. Other options for an online home for your art practice and/or freelance business include bandcamp, Facebook, and Instagram.
At minimum, your online space should have a business or career description, clear photos, links, or descriptions of the items or services you offer, and a price list.
Here is Lou Santacroce’s bandcamp page: https://lousantacroce.bandcamp.com/releases
Looking at that page, we learn that he’s a Utica based singer-songwriter, arts writer, and novelist, and get a glimpse of the type of music he writes and performs. The prices are clear, and there are samples available. This is a strong online presence for a professional musician.
Gather all of the supplies you need to run your business.
Use free software to create a professional looking invoice. Even if you are in a situation where you speak or perform for cash, your client might want something for their records, or you might want to make one to keep track of what you’ve done. Order business cards. Vista Print, www.vistaprint.com offers professional cards for as low as fifteen dollars for a box of 500. Hit Dollar Tree to stock up on pens, notepads, and other basic office supplies you might need.
This step will vary depending on what you plan to do for work. Writing for and about artists in Utica takes my laptop, notepads, and pens and pencils. People whose second career is teaching children may want to look for work teaching English as a Second Language online for companies like VIPKid. These companies typically won’t work with you unless you have a mini virtual classroom set up in your home. You will need an entire corner you can devote to items such as maps, color charts, alphabet charts, and other traditional school room educational decor.
Publicize your business or career.
We all know about posting things on social media, but consider paper fliers (posted with respect for the owner of the place you post them and others who have fliers up of course) and buying advertising in the local news media. For print ads, visit https://www.uticaphoenix.net/contact-us/ and speak to someone about buying ad space in The Utica Phoenix. You might also want to purchase local radio advertising on Phoenix Radio, 95.5 The Heat. Listen in at www.955theheat.com then get in touch at https://www.955theheat.com/advertise-with-us.html to buy some advertising for your business.
This article is not sponsored. All endorsements and recommendations are my own.
We may most commonly associate bullying with children and teens, but it can happen at any age. If you are experiencing any of the following situations at your day job, during rehearsals or practices, or as you work for someone else in your side gig, you are experiencing workplace bullying.
Criticizing, yelling, scolding, or correcting to the point that your job is made more difficult.
The only people who don’t get criticized or corrected by their boss at some point are those in business for themselves, and even self-employed people and business owners have to listen to clients, customers, staff, and vendors if they want to stay around. Unless you’re wealthy enough that you can hire people whose jobs depend on never telling you “no,” work is not going to be an unending series of perfect days. That said, supervisors, coworkers, and clients should speak to you with respect as a fellow human being, and any correcting or criticism should leave you better at your job, not fearful, nervous, confused, embarrassed or demoralized about being there.
Mocking, teasing, or baiting to the point that your job is made more difficult.
Normal teasing and joking around, banter, even discussions of controversial issues can be part of the culture at some workplaces. It isn’t bullying if they give everyone a nickname based on their department, so they’ve started calling you “Kitchen Sue” or “Waiter John,” or if you came in wearing a jacket covered in Obama buttons on your first day, so they tease you in a friendly way about being the company’s only liberal. It is bullying if the nickname is intended to embarrass or belittle you, and makes it more difficult to concentrate on your work in the kitchen or interact with the customers on the floor, or if the teasing is done in a way that lets you know you’re not wanted or being held to a different set of standards than the others.
Deliberately sabotaging your work or professional reputation
The classic example of this is the co-worker who wants your job, and decides to get it by erasing data from your computer to make it seem like you did not do your work. Hollywood likes to portray workplace bullies as people who leave embarrassing or disgusting things in a co-worker’s locker or desk drawer, both to upset them and to force them to spend time cleaning the items out instead of doing their work. Hiding materials, files, contact information, or other necessary tools from you is also bullying behavior.
Nobody is obligated to tell others how wonderful you are if you are in fact awful to them or terrible at your job. But the coworker who makes unnecessary or unwarranted complaints about you to the supervisor or other coworkers is also guilty of workplace bullying. Creating an environment where you cannot work effectively, such as insisting you sit in a cramped, cold space or in the office nearest a major construction project, is also a form of sabotage.
Changing instructions or expectations, or creating confusion that makes the job more difficult.
Asking an employee or a consultant to adapt something to changing circumstances is not workplace bullying. If you’re working on a display of products that have been recalled, being asked to take it down is not unreasonable. If you’re creating a sales presentation, and the client has sent in more details of what they’re looking for from your company, of course you need to add them in. But you should go in to work every day knowing what is expected of you at your job. If this seems to change at random, with projects assigned to you, then re-assigned, then given back to you, the supervisor is more intent on creating chaos for you than getting the work done.
Treating you differently than other employees, consultants, or vendors are treated, in a way that makes working for them more difficult, or has a detrimental impact on your career or reputation.
Any business is going to treat their office manager or longtime receptionist differently than the person who fills the soda machine in the break room once a week. And you should not expect to be consulted on projects that are not yours, or are from departments you are not in. The behavior becomes bullying when you are treated differently than others in a similar position, and the treatment impacts your ability to do your job or pursue your career.
Being left out of the employee baseball team because you’re a consultant is not bullying. Being left out of a meeting where future projects are planned is bullying. You were not bullied if you had to stand there and watch everyone in sales receive a gift basket and you did not because you’re in customer service. You are being bullied if you had to sit there and watch another customer service employee receive excessive praise the minute before you were yelled at until you couldn’t concentrate enough to do your job.
Workplace bullying is not a bad job, just a difficult boss, or a stressful situation. It is a deliberate attempt by one person or group to control another through unfair manipulation of his or her work life. The goal of a bad boss may vary, from maintaining an image to a mistaken belief that they’re being tough or authoratative. The goal of a workplace bully is to tear down the target of the bullying behavior.
Side hustles, side gigs, or side jobs are usually independent businesses run outside of your normal field or fields. If you’re a musician, an accountant “by day,” and you also tutor college students who need help with their history courses online when you need some extra money, that tutoring is your side job or side hustle. If you’re a poet and a pastry chef, but you also enjoy learning languages and do some translating for extra money, your translation work is your side job.
But starting your own side business may not be practical for everyone. Sometimes, you need money faster than you could expect to earn it from your own side business. Artists may also find that running their career as a painter, musician, or writer takes up too much time and energy to allow you to run something else. If starting up an independent side gig won’t work for you, you may want to look for a temporary and/or low pressure job with a steady paycheck to bring in some extra income.
The most well-known of these types of jobs is temporary holiday help in customer service and retail. A restaurant might need extra delivery people if they’re anticipating a surge in takeout orders for Thanksgiving, or a store might need additional people to keep the place sanitized and make sure customers are wearing masks and leaving each other space to breathe while shopping for their gifts in person this year.
If you decide to take a temporary, or permanent but low pressure paycheck job as your side hustle, here are some things to keep in mind.
Never sign a w-4 without a job description.
The whole idea behind taking on a side job is to get something fast. You need money for something. This may make it tempting to just go along with a casual offer, especially when the work seems easy or short-term. When you receive such an offer, make sure you have a job description before you fill out and sign the employment form. It doesn’t matter how simple the job sounds. A job description protects you. Without a job description, the employer can make you do anything they want. You could show up thinking you’re there to clean the office once a week, and the employer could decide you’re their personal assistant, there to run all their errands on demand, 24/7.
Be honest about your availability.
Telling the employer or client the work is a side hustle is a bad idea, but don’t pretend you’re available for full-time work when you’re not. If you only have one day a week available between your day job, your music, and needing to be home with the kids while your spouse is at work, note the availability without going into detail on the application. Claiming to have open availability to get the job, then telling them you’re only available on Monday evenings after they’ve already rejected the other applicants and trained you isn’t good planning or a good strategy. It’s deceitful.
Don’t let the side hustle job take over your art practice…or your day job.
Some employers try to push employees to do more than what’s in their job description. If they’re asking you to perform a small extra task, this is not a big deal. If you’ve been hired to clean the office, and they ask you to empty a few extra wastebaskets or dust an extra office, that’s acceptable. But if they’re asking you to come in two extra days to answer their phones and do their filing, that’s over-stepping. Remind them politely the first few times, and if they keep pushing, it may be time to find a different side hustle.
Take the same amount of care with your work as you would if the job were part of your career.
Keeping the job in perspective does not mean slacking off on work quality. You want to avoid getting upset over things that happen there, not avoid doing the work you’re being paid to do. It might not personally matter to you if some filing gets done, or the line of customers got long today, but it matters to the people who have to work there all day every day, and it impacts those they serve. Get your work done, even if it is the least important work you do as far as you’re concerned.
Avoid getting caught up in drama at side hustle jobs.
Doing the work at your side job may be necessary, but never forget that it is a side hustle. You’re just there to make some extra money. You are not there to referree fights between the permanent or full-time staff, become someone’s unpaid and unwilling counselor, or take up a cause you don’t believe in. While there is nothing wrong with getting along with people or developing new interests through a side hustle, avoid allowing anything that happens there to stress you out or tire you out to the point that it takes energy away from your art work, or your permanent day job.
If you are temporary holiday help at a store, work your last day the same way you worked your first day. Make sure any uniforms, badges, and other items you need to return to the store are clean and ready for the next person who uses them. Clean out any shelves or lockers you used.
Take even more care when quitting a job that was not intended to be temporary. Give the business at least two weeks’ notice, and do your best work until you clock out for the last time.
Remember that taking non-temporary jobs as side hustles may impact your ability to get another one in the future.
My passions are music, creative writing, and adult education. I’m called to a three part career as a novelist, writer for local musicians and other artists, and writing teacher. And somebody who hires me to work their cash register or bus their tables won’t care about any of that for a minute. If they own or manage a store or restaurant full-time, their passion and calling is probably in business and/or hospitality. When I take a job with them and quit, all they see is somebody who caused a disruption in their work. That person is not going to have a favorable impression of me as a worker, and future “side job” employers are not going to be impressed.
Don’t list these jobs on your resume, and address them on applications as “various temporary jobs” rather than listing them all, unless you’re directly asked to list every job on the form or in the interview. There’s no way around the fact that taking non-temp jobs for short periods does not look good to potential employers.
All artists have our main art forms. This is where our passions most directly mesh with our skills.
Most artists also have our day jobs, which are our main sources of income. Some of us are blessed to have day jobs that are also part of our arts career, or to have a second calling outside the arts that we are equally passionate about. Others simply see their day job as the way they finance their art work.
Many of us have hobbies within the arts. These are the art forms we practice, but are not able to do on a professional level, for whatever reason. Maybe we do not have the skill level or talent to be professional. Perhaps we just don’t have the interest in that particular art form needed to reach that level. But we still enjoy them and can do them at least fairly well.
These are the types of work we know all about as working artists. But job boards, career groups, and other online places that address money or work seem to focus a lot on “side hustles” today. What exactly is a side hustle? And how can you find one that might work for you?
A side hustle is any work you do outside of your career, your day job, and your hobbies, with the lone goal of bringing in more money. But everything that might bring in money isn’t necessarily a good side hustle for everyone.
Side hustles should be at least somewhat enjoyable.
The work is not a side hustle if it offers you the opportunity to do something that is your passion and your life’s work. That’s another gig or project or job within your career. But a side hustle does not have to be completely out of your fields either. In fact, many side hustles branch off from something you already do, either professionally or as a hobby.
I write novels, write for and about Utica artists, and teach writing skills to adults as my art career. The teaching is also my main source of income, or day job. I sing as a hobby. If I were to offer writing that had nothing to do with the arts or local artists, tutoring in something besides writing, or virtual assistant services to musicians, those would be side hustles.
Other side hustles might fall completely out of your field, but still be something you enjoy working on. Some people find thrift store flipping to be a pleasant way to make some extra cash. Between projects or gigs, or for a break, they scour yard sales and thrift stores for items that need small repairs, cleaning, or other alterations to be restored to a nearly new condition, do the work, and then re-sell the items for a profit. Those who love working with the public might sign up to drive for a ride share or delivery service as a side hustle.
Work done as a side hustle is generally not steady or long-term.
Most people launch side hustles when they either need some fast cash, or just want some extra money. People who are looking for a way to pay their regular bills, or wanting to meet expenses and guarantee a steady flow of extra cash, are looking to increase their income from their career and/ or day job, not a side hustle. While some people have managed to prove that statement wrong, most side hustles are at least focused on short term or smaller gains in the beginning.
Even those who set up a permanent side hustle do so with the understanding that each project or job may not last long or bring in steady income. You might be a musician as your career, work in a garage as a mechanic as your day job, and decide to bring in some extra cash driving as a side hustle. You will probably work in the same garage for years. Your music will last as long as you play. You may drive and make deliveries to bring in extra money for years too, but chances are you’re going to need to do some of that driving for Uber, some for Door Dash, and some for GrubHub in order to make the work last.
Side hustles are not necessarily easy or free to start.
Just as with any other type of work, the money and/or effort you have to put into it is going to vary with the type of work you do. Starting your own business is going to require an investment of time and probably money, even if you only plan to work one day a week once things get going. Members of groups devoted to side hustles report that start-up cash is one of the main things holding them back from launching a side hustle.
Starting a side hustle that requires you to seek steady jobs or clients, such as waiting tables on the side, or offering your services as a tutor or personal assistant, are going to necessitate the same job application process or client aquisition process you would need to go through if this were to be part of your regular work. This can take time and effort to secure.
Multi-level marketing does not make a good side hustle.
Avoid anything described as multi-level marketing, relationship marketing, network marketing, or dual marketing. These are all different terms for the type of work you get when you sign up to sell Amway, Avon, Mary Kay, Tupperware, Primerica Insurance, Beach Body services, Arbonne, Farmasi, or Younique.
You will find representatives for each of these companies who will tell you their brand actually offers a wonderful side hustle. They will also tell you it’s the path to a whole new career if you tell them you’re leaving the arts, and the perfect day job to finance an arts career if you hate your current day job. If you tell them you just want to feel more attractive, their company will somehow hold the solution to that too, even if they do not sell cosmetics. None of this is true. Most people who sign up to sell for one of these companies will lose money, and the few who make money will find they work long and hard for very small amounts. The real money in an MLM is made from signing people up and manipulating them into making purchases to keep inventory and/or maintain their status as a representative. Even if you can talk yourself out of the fact that this is deceitful and disrespectful to other people, remember that only the top one per cent ever even manage to do this to the extent that they make a significant income.
It is important to be careful who you tell that the work is a “side hustle.”
You see the work as a side hustle. Everyone at your day job, your fans and/or clients, and all your friends and family members see the work as a side hustle. The person paying you or supervising you may or may not see it that way.
Avoid telling interviewers for jobs or potential clients for services that you have started a new “side hustle” or that you’re looking for a “side job.” Even if it’s obvious to them, or they already know you and are well aware that this work is going to done on the side of your day job and/or the work of your career, making sure they get that sends the message that you don’t take the work seriously. If I temporarily offer articles about romance scam prevention, cults, or any other issue I research to people who are not Utica artists as a side hustle, I need to send them the same pitch I would send a local artist. When I say “side hustle” I may only mean that I’m offering this service on a temporary basis. What the site owner might hear is, “It isn’t important to me to do a good job on your article. I’m not going to bother to research thoroughly or take the time to write a strong piece because this isn’t meant for Utica artists.”
Announcing that you are only looking for side work when applying for an entry level job in customer service is an almost guaranteed way to get your application and resume thrown out without a second glance. Giving the impression that you’re willing to practically live there seems to be the main requirement for the job.
Whether you take a job on a temporary basis, start a business, or complete a single money raising project, side hustles can do everything from bringing in a little spending money to financing your next project. If you’re honest about what you enjoy doing and how much you’re willing to invest in a side hustle, it may be the way to get that needed financial boost.
Many of us have lost day jobs, or at least seen a reduction in our steady income. For some, this is an opportunity to focus more on our art work and our side hustles. This can mean needing to attract new customers or clients. While the majority of people who express interest in your art or in your side hustle genuinely respect and want your product or service, a dishonest client can derail the best career plan. Watch out for these anytime you are offered a project from a new client.
The client is vague about the project.
If someone told you they had “a job” for you, and you needed to come in and fill out a W-4, you would not immediately agree to be their employee. You don’t go to restaurants and ask the waiters to bring you “some food.” Yet independent artists regularly find themselves in trouble because they agreed to work on a project without learning the details beforehand. Before you agree to anything, ask for the title of the project, the goals of the project, and what your daily, weekly, or monthly work might entail. An answer such as, “I own a beauty salon with four chairs, and I need a painting of a woman’s face with a fun hairstyle at each chair, plus a mural of beauty supplies around the back wall. I already have sketches prepared. You could set your own hours, but it should take a total of forty to fifty and I need to have this done in four weeks”is a solid answer. Those terms might be unreasonable or not, depending on the specifics, but you still have a clear place to start. “I need some pictures in my salon,” is vague and leaves you open to the client changing the details on a whim.”
Putting things in writing is resisted.
Anyone I write for already has an agreement in writing. It’s here on Artist Cafe Utica under Services for Artists. Anyone I write for on a freelance basis must read and agree to those terms. If, like me, you’re too shy to approach people with contracts and agreements, then make one for everyone, post it on your site, and stick to it. Anyone who tries to talk you out of setting the terms in writing should be avoided. And if they try to brush you off or act like those terms don’t apply to them, don’t accept the project.
The work has little to nothing to do with your skills or interests.
If you’re a sculptor who always wanted to branch out into painting, or a singer who has been meaning to go back into acting and someone is willing to give you a chance on their project or show, that is wonderful. If you’re a guitar player in a band, and have a second career as a dog sitter and groomer, and someone wants you to serve as a nanny to their five kids, that is probably not a good match for you. Someone who wants to hire you for something completely outside of your field wants to hire you for reasons that have nothing to do with your abilities and work related attitudes. It could be another one of the old “creeper who hires people he or she finds attractive in order to hit on them” tales, or the person could see you as somebody easy to bully or scam or get rid of on a whim without a fuss.
Your client is flaky or irresponsible.
Ghost writing a book on the history of the local music scene might be a great project for a musician or writer. It isn’t so great if the person you’re writing for hasn’t shown up the last three times you scheduled a meeting to go over the outline.
Whenever I am not sure if the situation seems legitimate or not,I like to use a “three strikes” rule. The first time you miss a meeting, forget my check, or leave me alone in your office when watching the office is not part of the job…it’s forgiven and forgotten. Emergencies come up. People have bad days. The second time, I am going to take note that this seems to be a habit with you. The third time, it starts looking like a pattern and it’s time to tell you that you need to find someone else.
The client has an odd history of not being able to keep people for the project.
Some projects are meant to be done by one person, and then someone else. If I have a building that needs painted, I could reasonably hire one person to paint trim for me one summer, then hire somebody else the next time I need a touch up. The business may also be a small operation that can only afford to hire college students for a few months at a time between semesters, or has a program designed to help people get on their feet then move on. But if the project is something that should be long term, and they’ve gone through four people in the last three years, ask yourself why nobody seems to work out here.
You are expected to beg for work.
I once received a freelance writing job offer that should have been one big red flag. The woman hired me based on a few comments I made on a Facebook group. She wouldn’t tell me exactly what I would be writing until I agreed to work for her. No agreements were put into writing. Sometimes, I was expected to log in to her web site, wait for her to post a project, then join the many other people currently on the list in going, “I’ll take it! I’ll take it!” until she finally gave me one. Occasionally, she would post a project for a specific person in front of the whole group. I quickly caught on that she was giving people projects she knew somebody else would want. Another writer kept getting the arts writing. I kept receiving assignments related to marketing and business, even though many others described themselves as business writers. I suppose it comes as no surprise that I had to threaten to report the place in order to get the $150 they owed me for the small amount of work I stuck around for.
While it is impossible to know how any project is going to turn out, keeping the telltale signs of a bad deal in mind can help you avoid losing money, time, and energy that could have been spent on more worthwhile projects.
Many of us are raised to believe work is not supposed to be enjoyable. You go to work because you need money, and that’s it. Any unpleasantness is just part of the job, and you have to put up with it.
We do have to find work, do our work, and pay our expenses, and it’s not always going to be fulfilling, interesting, or pleasant on any level. Sometimes you do just have to take a crappy job and keep that crappy job if you want to continue to play your music under functioning lights or take a hot shower before you settle down to paint or write your novel.
But there are instances where an unpleasant workplace crosses the line into bullying…..
The key difference between an unpleasant but normal work environment and workplace bullying is that in workplace bullying, certain people are targeted with behavior that seeks to harm them in some way.
The guy who never talks to anyone, and snaps at everyone who greets him is not a workplace bully. The one who takes over the break room and makes it miserable for select people he targets is a bully. A supervisor who goes around yelling all the time is certainly not a good boss, but unless people in the office are genuinely afraid, they’re just a bad boss, not a bully. The supervisor who yells at certain people, or whose behavior is so extreme it frightens people, has crossed the line.
Examples of workplace bullying behavior include verbal degradation and humiliation, exclusion from meetings or events that impact the target’s work or career, excessive monitoring and micromanaging, inequitable treatment, sabotaging another’s work, gossiping with the intent to ruin another professionally, invalid criticism or blaming, and deliberating creating confusion or difficulties completing work.
This sounds like an overly broad list that can include everything unpleasant a person can do, but again, there are distinctive features. The key is if the behavior causes the target extra difficulties in completing their work, and/or impacts their professional or personal reputation in a harmful way. If I’m excluded from the company picnic because my coworkers simply do not like me personally, and nothing that might impact my work ever goes on, that is certainly cold, but it is not bullying. However, if the company picnic is the place where new projects are discussed, and I don’t get the chance to present mine, that is bullying behavior.
Sometimes, seemingly “nice” behavior can be a feature of workplace bullying, if it is used to manipulate situations to harm others.
Constantly complimenting one employee or contractor or treating them well while belitting or embarrassing another is an example of workplace bullying. Workplace bullies may also foster competition that is out of line with the work environment.
Supervisors, managers, or owners are often the bullies, as they can use their power in the company to get away with it. But workplace bullies can be co-workers, contractors, or even those below you.
Anyone who engages in bullying behavior is a bully, regardless of their position in or relationship to the company. Lower level workplace bullies may be easier to fire, but some workplace bullies use other sources of power to get away with bullying. If a business really needs someone with teaching experience, and I’m the only person with teaching experience willing to work there, I have found a source of power. They know it would be difficult to replace me, so I can “get away” with things that might not otherwise be tolerated. Bullies often use this insight about their skills and their workplace to get away with bullying. If your supervisor is afraid of you, but they’re also afraid to fire you because they know they’re not likely to find someone else with your skills, you are a bully.
Every job you ever work is not going to be enjoyable. That is just a fact of life. But you should be able to do the work you were hired to do without someone else deliberately making it more difficult.
“If you follow this list of side hustle ideas, you will see your income grow.” Watch ten YouTube videos about making money, and read ten money making blogs, and you will hear it about twenty-five times.
This statement, or something similar, is typically followed by encouragement to sign up to drive for Uber or Lyft, deliver for GrubHub, DoorDash, or UberEats, or sign up on websites like Fiverr, Upwork, or Care dot com offering your services.
Each of these services can generate income, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Most of the claims made in these money making videos or articles are there more to make their own post more compelling than to paint an accurate picture of your potential earnings.
“You can start making money today” is like “You might find a hundred dollar bill blowing in the wind today.”
Theoretically, you could sign up and start making money on one of these sites today. But it is very unlikely to happen. These sites are not jobs. They are platforms you can use as an independent business person to market the product or service you offer. Someone still has come seeking the service you provide, and wind up connected to you via the app or web page. You could sign up to drive for Uber or Lyft and drive around for an entire week before anyone connects with you for a ride. Fiverr and Upwork accounts can sit inactive for months.
“My friend started working on <some app or website> and she made $700 a month” should not be taken to apply to anyone else.
There are going to be some people who make money with any money making venture. Perhaps that person is simply in the right place at the right time. Or maybe they have no other responsibilities, and could devote their entire day to the money making venture.
Someone with two kids in school, a full-time job, four pets, and an ailing relative they care for in the evenings is not going to be able to devote the same amount of time to delivering orders, giving rides, or pursuing clients for their graphic design or resume service on Fiverr as the person who has nobody to care for and parents or a spouse whose income covers their basic expenses. This is going to make a huge difference in the amount of money each could potentially make.
“This app or website allows you to make up to $18 or $36 per hour” leaves out the fact that you have to take your own taxes out of that income.
When you drive for Lyft or Uber, deliver for DoorDash, or write resumes or articles through Fiverr or Upwork, you do not work for the company. You are an independent contractor working through the company. The agreement is that they let you take up space on their site or app and use their technology and staff to run your business, and you pay them a large cut of what you make.
If I want to give people rides, I can sign up to drive through Uber and Lyft, or I can put a sign in my window that says “Rides: $15-$20 one way.” Going through Uber allows me to ensure that I get paid. It helps me find and connect with people looking for rides. And it provides me a safety feature by tracking everyone who gets in my car, tracking the car anytime a stranger is in it, and offering me an emergency button in case of danger. If I just put up the sign, there’s a chance nobody will happen by who needs a ride. I might also meet someone who is out to scam or hurt me, and have no way of protecting myself. In exchange for those services, Uber or Lyft gets a large percentage of that $15-$20 paid out for that ride, and gives me the rest.
Once I get the rest of that money, my pay, it’s money made as an independent driver. I still have to pay taxes on it. Anytime you see a “you can make” statement, deduct around 20% from it. That’s how much you will actually be able to pay yourself from your earnings.
“You can learn about investing and make passive income by letting your money work for you” is completely accurate. They’re just leaving out how much money you will need to invest, and the amount of time it will take to start earning significant amounts of money.
Investing is an excellent option. Learn all you can about investing. Invest as much money as you can. Just don’t expect to sign up for a microinvesting site with five or ten dollars, choose a stock package option, and wake up to enough money to pay the bills the next day. Take the time to learn about investing money, and develop a realistic plan.
Despite most of the advice on YouTube and blogs today, if you really need or want to make more money, you may need to go on an old-fashioned job hunt.
No, I’m not saying “Just go get a job.” Anyone who thinks you can just go out and get a job like you’re picking up some takeout is being as unrealistc as the people who think you can just sign up for Fiverr and wake up a millionaire next week.
There are ways you can invest time and effort in yourself now to buy that time and energy back later. You could work as many short-term and temporary jobs as you can find now, save the paychecks, and buy yourself some time to devote to your art later. Those who want to make a career change in their day job, but can’t afford to go to school might want to look for an entry level job in that new field. And of course, side jobs, day jobs and all that other work we do just to pay the bills can yield excellent material for our art.
YouTube videos and blogs teaching us how to make money without getting a job often contain a useful tip or two. They may even spark an idea that leads to your complete independence from paychecks. The process just isn’t as easy, painless, or guaranteed as most YouTube and blog “money gurus” claim.
Looking for work is a common task these days, as more and more of our day jobs disappear, or cut our schedules down. And the only way to look for work right now is to join job hunting boards and websites. These can yield genuine leads, but they are also full of scams and pitches for multi-level marketing companies, or MLMs. Most of these pitches come with the promise that you will get to “be in business for yourself” or “own your own independent business.” But while multilevel marketing does require you to file taxes as though you were an independent, or freelance, worker, signing up with an MLM is very different than working as an independent business owner, artist, or freelance worker in any field.
You control your own work hours in freelancing. Your life gets overtaken with MLM.
I can hear the chorus of “Ha!” as I write this. Yes, there are people who manage to just sell a few MLM items here and there and wind up with some free or very low cost makeup, candles, household goods, etc. And we have all heard of nightmare clients who do things like text you at one in the morning to ask you to add two sentences to that email drip campaign you handed in last week. The difference is you fully own your freelance business. You can tell that client to back off and contact you during business hours. You can also remind them of your “one revision” policy, unless they would like to purchase another email drip campaign. You don’t get to do that with your upline in MLM. They can call it “your own business” all they want. In reality, you work for them, and they set the rules on how you interact with those above you, those you sign up, and with customers.
Last year, I signed up to sell Avon. I only did it because I saw $29 worth of things I wanted, and another $18 worth of things I wanted to try in the sign up kit for only $30. I had nothing to lose at that point. Thanks to a few nice pity sales, I got to try a lot more products for free. It was a good thing I didn’t get too attached to anything, because earning money would have meant spending my entire days searching for people willing to buy Avon from me. Even in a company as old and established as Avon, there simply aren’t enough interested people in your social circles. You are not going to sell hundreds of dollars worth of product each selling period simply by making a few posts online. You need to devote days, or even weeks, to the business before you make any kind of money. In most cases, you would have averaged more per hour by getting a traditional part-time job.
You have the option to broaden or narrow the focus of your freelance business as you see fit. Life becomes focused on a single set of products or services in MLM.
Whether you start a freelance business or sign up for an MLM, things are going to change. You are going to be busier. You are going to be focused on whatever work you do. When you start your own freelance business, that is probably going to be your art, or a side field you…and others…are equally passionate about. In an MLM, your new focus is going to be on a bunch of products you need to sell. Many people become desperate to sell the products after investing so much money in them. The products are all they think about, and all they can talk about. Anyone who tries to gently point this out gets labeled with whatever snarky term the company uses to brush off their detractors, and ignored or avoided.
My passions are music, creative writing, and writing for and about artists. I am also passionate about helping people in all fields avoid and recover from scams and avoid and recover from involvement in new age practices. I do not mind spending my working hours focused on these things. Had I turned the corner from personal use representative to actual, selling Avon representative, my new focus in life would have been skincare, makeup, bath products, and the little other odds and ends Avon sells…and not the history of those products in general or the impac they had on our society...just the products themselves…and only the ones sold by Avon.
Freelancing allows you to set your own prices, inventory/services and practices. With MLM, you have a built in limit to what you can do how much you can make.
When you become an independent consultant/freelancer for your own business, the practices and prices are limited by the law and the market. You can charge $50.00 to write a resume or $150.00 to write a resume, depending on the market where you live. You can add letter writing, ghost writing, and news feature writing. You are free to advertise your resume writing service on Facebook, Twitter, or in big painted letters on the side of your house if you want to. MLM products can only be sold within the pricing set by the company. You can sell that $18.00 Tupperware container for a single dollar just to get rid of it or promote your new “business,” but you can’t introduce a new line of $5.00 containers and a new line of $25.00 containers to your Tupperware page if the company does not make that particular product. And they have strict rules about where and how you are allowed to advertise their…errr….we mean your…products.
The basic supplies for your field are all that’s needed to freelance. With MLM, you get stuck with a ton of unwanted products.
When you freelance, you need to invest in good quality items for your field. A makeup artist needs a good kit. A graphic designer needs art supplies. A writer needs a computer, notebooks, and pens. D.J.s/radio program hosts need music libraries and photographers need good cameras. Those are probably items you want anyway if you are truly passionate about your field.
You probably do not really want everything the MLM company offers, but you will wind up owning much of it.
Working for an MLM requires you to first purchase some type of kit. This kit typically contains a lot of paperwork, promotional materials for the company, and a sampling of the products the company offers. There is no option to have the cost reduced if you do not want something in the kit. Once you purchase the box of paperwork and goods from the company, you are classifed as a “representative” of that company. They may or may not require additional fees or purchases, but there is always pressure to purchase more. Many companies even cancel your account if you fail to purchase or sell enough of their products.
New businesses are exciting and interesting. Friends and family start avoiding you in MLM.
The biggest loss in MLM is often your friends and family. It is possible to get so caught up in a freelance business that you put a strain on your relationships, but for the most part, those closest to you will be happy to see you working so hard at something you love.
People start rushing the other way when they see you coming when you’re in MLM. They scroll past your social media posts. It just gets old. You used to talk about the topics that interest you, your pets, your partner, your job, your kids, your art. Now everything’s a sales pitch for products they had little to no interest in to begin with. Your “ new friends” are really just the people in the MLM company, and whether you want to face this or not, most if not all of those people only speak to you because getting you to sell more benefits them.