Beware the Side Hustle

My grandfather had a saying, “If you chase too many rabbits at the same time you will end up with none.”

I’ve come to agree with him.

With rise of the hustle culture, a term which I am not a fan of and write about in my book, The Founders Manual, so too has risen the side hustle. People have actually gone to the extent of introducing themselves as “Joe the accountant, but my side hustle is…” This completely devalues whatever they are currently doing to increase the value of their side hustle. This is one of the many reasons I discourage people from getting caught up in and over valuing their side hustles. Side hustles become the interesting and enticing aspect of whatever their current gig is lacking, but that isn’t enough of a reason to have a side hustle because it distracts from something meaningful and purposeful.

Not only do side hustles devalue what you are currently doing to earn a living, and I get that some people are in positions they aspire to be out of, but they are often distractions from true, tangible personal and professional growth and accomplishment. Do some side hustles turn into awesome things? Absolutely. The side hustles that do materialize into something of consequence are often described as side hustles when, in fact, they are the thing someone spends the most time and energy working on. A side hustle that gets most of our time, energy, skill, care, and passion is, in reality, not a side hustle. 

My major concern with side hustles is that most of the time they are just a distraction for someone that has yet to come to terms with the root cause of needing the distraction. Most people will shift from one side hustle to another, to another, and to another, never focusing on any one of them in any meaningful way. Their side hustles give them solace that they are working on improving their situation, yet none of their side hustles are going to materialize into anything because they haven’t yet realized why they are doing them to begin with. And even if they work to truly figure out the why, they don’t dig in with any one side hustle enough to have it be worthwhile. More often than not, side hustles are a distraction to keep someone from dealing with the true causes of their discontent.

Many entrepreneurs start out as side hustlers until they are deep enough in to make it their priority. A few others, though, never evolve from being a perpetual side hustler to actually digging in and focusing on their hustle. If you are someone that finds themselves jumping from one side hustle to another, you are training yourself to be superficial around the opportunities inside of them. The world honors and rewards expertise, not superficiality. Also, jumping from side hustle to side hustle often leaves people even more frustrated than before they started. The void that is left after side hustle fever has worn off is even more painful than the void that was present prior to it.

Side hustles are often the result of someone wanting to have notoriety and financial success. They go through side hustles like they are lottery tickets, just waiting for one to hit. And when it doesn’t, they move on to another and the cycle continues. Unfortunately, side hustles distract us from being okay just being. We feel we must be popular, wealthy, et al., for all this to be worthwhile. Side hustles reinforce the fact that we must be working on something cool for us to be interesting and cool. I don’t think that has to be the case. Side hustles simply contributing to who we are is fine, but using it to fill a void and to make us something more is unhealthy.

Not to be a complete downer on side hustles, I acknowledge that they can be a valuable learning experience and compass helping to direct you toward what you should be focusing on. Side hustles that are used as learning experiences and experiments can be useful as long as they are viewed that way, but in my experience, most people jamming on a side hustle don’t see it this way. Most new products, services, and companies don’t work for too many reasons to write about in this post. Side hustles are no different. To increase the odds of something working, the best thing to do isn’t to try it, but to do it. Side hustles are trying. Digging in to understand a problem and providing a solution that solves it in a valuable way is doing.

If you are, or are about to be, a side hustler, think about why you are doing it and what your approach is to it. Are you doing it to fill a void, or because you are genuinely interested in gaining knowledge and expertise in an area? Do you have a realistic mindset around it, or are you fantasizing about what could be? Analyze this carefully, and beware the side hustle.

For more information, visit awh.net.

This mutli-part sponsored series is presented with paid support by AWH.

At AWH, we solve complex business problems by creating innovative and disruptive digital products. When you choose to work with AWH, you get more than just a product, you get a partnership. We work with you to create products that change businesses, communities, and lives. You get an elite team of digital product creators and data problem solvers, customized to fit your needs. We have experienced developers in virtually every field, so the sky is the limit. Ready to start a conversation?

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Ryan Frederick has had the privilege of being part of starting and growing several product companies and services firms. Ryan is a Principal at the product studio AWH. Ryan has authored two books. The first on increasing the odds of success in creating products, being a Founder, and starting companies called The Founder’s Manual: A Guidebook for Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur. The second, Sell Naked: And Other Advice for Growing and Managing Services Firms. Ryan speaks frequently about creating software products, growing services firms, and leadership.