Everyone has hobbies or interests they engage with outside of work. It’s commonly understood that we are more than our jobs. So why is it so uncomfortable to talk about them at work if those hobbies or interests earn a side income?
I’m a happily employed person who also freelances on the side. I help companies with branding, developing their tone of voice, and then executing it. I do web copy, ad copy, email copy, packaging copy, investor pitch decks, scripts, speeches – basically anything with words. Not to break the fourth wall, but I am freelancing right now by writing this blog post. Hi! I’m Lori, nice to meet you.
Sometimes my freelance work will come up at my “real job” in passing and people will get noticeably edgy. There are awkward silences. Questions come over Zoom in near a whisper. There is no professional way to say this – people get really freaking weird.
I’m open about my side hustle at work. I don’t talk about it often, but it’s definitely not a secret. I’m lucky in that my manager freelanced for many years, so she gets the benefits of a side hustle. I’m also very intentional about the work I take on. I’d never do work for anyone who could remotely be perceived as a competitor. I do all my freelance work outside of work hours and never take on so much that I get burnt out. If I ever felt like my side hustle is impeding my productivity in my day job, I’d scale back immediately. But that hasn’t happened yet. In fact, I believe freelancing actually boosts my productivity inside and outside of my full time role.
“The more you have to do, the more you will have done.” Honestly, I don’t know if that is a real saying or if I made it up but it perfectly describes my relationship with freelancing. When I have more work on my plate, I’m a lot more thoughtful about how I organize my time, how I prioritize my to do lists and how I enable myself to stay focused. I just work better under pressure. But not only that, the quality of work is better too.
I firmly believe that keeping a side hustle humming makes me an asset to my full time employer. I’m more productive, my output is better and I am an all around better full time employee because of my side hustle.
Here are a few reasons why.
1. It keeps me sharp
As a freelance writer, I’m doing a large breadth of work and getting feedback from all kinds of people with various expertise. Writing is a craft that gets better with practice. Freelancing means I’m getting extra reps in while working with coaches helping me hone specific skills.
It also means I have access to dozens of brand guidelines from a wide spectrum of companies. My side hustle is basically one big recon mission for my employer.
"Writing is a craft that gets better with practice. Freelancing means I’m getting extra reps in while working with coaches helping me hone specific skills."
While I don’t share these documents with anyone, it is inevitable they’d influence how I approach my full time work as a Copy Director. I’m able to stay abreast of the trends in branding and the way companies approach communicating with their audiences. I’ve done work for companies across industries, of different sizes and geographical locations. All of this means that I’m expanding my knowledge of how businesses work and write. I’m learning best practice from a variety of thought leaders and I use that knowledge in my day to day full time work. I’m basically getting paid to upskill.
2. It keeps my work interesting
It’s natural to think the grass is always greener somewhere else. Doing freelance work, I know that it's not. Or maybe the grass is greener, but there are a whole lot of mosquitoes over there. This metaphor has gotten out of hand. The point is, I love my clients, but the work that’s most comfortable for me is at my full time job.
"My side hustle keeps my day job work fresh and reminds me what I appreciate about my full time role."
Similarly, writing in the same tone of voice can feel monotonous after a while. Using my side hustle to write in different voices helps me hone in on exactly what makes my day job special. It also sparks new ideas of how I can make the brand come to life. Creatively, I’m more present at work when I’ve had a moment to use a different part of my brain with freelance clients.
My side hustle keeps my day job work fresh and reminds me what I appreciate about my full time role. I’ve been with my employer for a long time and sometimes I get a little itchy. My side hustle is the perfect scratch.
3. It offers stability
Similarly to scratching an itch, my side hustle just makes me happier. And happy people do better work. Seriously, freelancing makes me feel like I have more control of my life. If something comes up where I need money quickly, I know there are avenues available for me to earn extra income. I don’t want asking for a raise to be the only avenue to boost my earnings. By granting increased agency over my finances, freelancing puts a lot less pressure on me (and my employer).
Also, I’m just highly neurotic by nature and am always operating under the assumption that my job could be taken away from me at any moment. Anyone affected by the great layoffs of 2020-2023 knows what I’m talking about. Having a side hustle that brings in an extra $3,000 or so a month feels like a bit of insurance, which makes me less anxious and just more pleasant to work with.
So to all of the managers out there…
Assuming appropriate boundaries are in place, there’s nothing shady about side hustles. So both managers and employees should combat the stigma that’s overshadowed it for far too long.
My freelance gigs have positively impacted my mental health, my bank account, and my performance at work. And there’s probably a wealth of knowledge in it for you too! Ask your team members about their side hustle and you’d learn a lot about what the world sees as their expertise, what they’re passionate about working on, or what skills they can bring back to your team.
"My freelance gigs have positively impacted my mental health, my bank account, and my performance at work."
If there is one thing I would leave you with, it’s this: side hustles do not take away from your employee’s dedication. Rather, they add to their value at no cost to you. Wow, talk about a great deal for everyone.