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.