A Secondary Income for Many
By Joel Barret
When I met my husband David, he was, and still is, happily employed by the Social Security Administration. He loves his job and has now been with the agency for over a decade. But when he handed me his business card on a cool day in February 11 years ago, the card told me he was a Latin dance instructor. I was instantly smitten. I still have the business card tucked away in a safe spot for sentimental purposes.
On our first date I learned that while Latin dance was David’s passion and joy, it was also a secondary income, or a “side hustle” as he calls it. Over the years I have often heard him tell our young adult children, “You should always have a side hustle. Something to supplement or to fall back on in challenging times.”
David loves Latin dance. He dances not for money but for the love of the dance, however, having the ability to teach a lesson here and there has been a welcome stream of income during lean times or a way to finance a special project or pad the savings account. He has also choreographed shows, taught Spanish and been an adjunct professor.
The side hustle is a dance that more and more Americans are participating in every year. Forbes Magazine reported in late 2016 that 29 percent of American workers have second jobs. More than one-third of millennials have one or more side jobs.
At the monthly business-to-business networking meetings of the Mid-America Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce it is extremely common to find members who wear several employment hats. I am often handed two different business cards from the same person.
Will Brown, a MAGLCC board member and master designer at Hallmark found that many of the same design principles he uses at Hallmarkcrossed over into another interest of his: interior design. What started as a hobby and personal passion evolved into Will Brown Interiors.
“It’s an avenue to express my creativity, and it offers me the opportunity to own the creative vision from beginning to end,” Will said.
For the last decade Will has seen his side business grow and evolve simply through word of mouth.
“I’ve never formally advertised. Projects just came along and as I worked on them, I discovered I enjoyed it,” he said. After ten years, Will recently put up his website willbrowninteriors.com.
For 30 years, Stephanie S. Smith has designed logos, promotional products and marketing materials through her graphic design business S&CO Design. In 2008, she had a brainstorm for a T-shirt with the words “Be Who You Are.” She launched the shirts at Kansas City Pride and they were an instant hit. Since then she has traveled to at least 14 states to sell her line at Pride events in many cities including San Diego, Detroit and Atlanta.
“ ‘Be Who You Are’ resonates not only with the LGBTQ community but beyond. It is a universal message. Everyone struggles with the concept of being yourself a little bit, especially during the teen years,” Stephanie explains.
The message is a positive one that has been well received by not only the LGBTQ community, but the straight community as well. She has had teachers buy posters for their classroom, and psychologists buy shirts for their clients. Her product line has expanded from one simple T-shirt design to multiple variations on the theme that appears on an array of items from hats to posters.
Jacory Deon is also a self-employed graphic designer. When he’s not behind the computer, he’s in theGYMkc whipping a class of sweaty bodies into shape to the thudding beats of high energy Zumba music.
“I started out as a participant. I liked it enough that I thought I could do it well. I got certified and went through the process of making it happen,” Jacory said.
Jacory teaches several very popular Zumba classes each week. It is not just the extra income that keeps him motivated. “It’s a way for me to connect with people. It’s a way for me to not be sitting in front of a computer. It’s a way for me to tap into a part of me that is this lively, funny, sexy performer,” he said.
I asked these three what advice they have for someone considering cultivating a side hustle. Before you run out and take the next part-time job that comes your way, you may want to consider these four pieces of advice:
Do Something You Enjoy
“Don’t do something that’s going to be a burden to you just to make extra money. Otherwise it’s going to be a drain on you and it’s not going to be worth it,” Jacory cautioned.
He has found value in Zumba because it is an extreme contrast from his day job. “It’s good to have something different that you can do. It helps keep yourself balanced,” he said.
Each of those I interviewed find joy and fulfillment in their side hustle. Stephanie enjoys the opportunity to meet her customers in person.
“I get feedback right away. There’s a real reward as a designer when you have people who love what you’re producing,” she said.
Will enjoys the challenge of a new project.
“Part of what fuels me or feeds me is creating something that hasn’t been done before. Learning something new to me,” he said.
He uses his own home as a sort of laboratory for trying out new ideas for future clients. He looks for something new, different or challenging with each new project.
“I enjoy working with clients and seeing their visions come to life. I get a lot of joy out of that,” Will said.
Don’t Underestimate the Commitment
A side hustle is a job and like any job, it requires a time commitment and hard work. Will Brown fit his interior design business into after-hours and weekends. He is up front with his clients about the limited amount of time that he will be able to focus on their particular project.
Stephanie spends many weekends and summer months traveling to events across the nation to sell her line. Some events are far more successful than others.
Jacory teaches Zumba four evenings a week. That is no small commitment both in time and energy.
“I have to be ON. I’m setting the tone for the class,” Jacory said. “If I’m having a low energy day or feeling down, that can’t stand in the way. I show up, do the best I can, with all the energy and enthusiasm I can, even though some days I don’t feel it.”
Do Your Homework
“I’ve been in the design business for 30 years, yet there were still some surprises that came with being in a product-based business as opposed to a service-based business,” Stephanie said.
Stephanie realizes now that she did not do enough homework before launching her business.
“Therefore it’s been learning, adapting, tweaking along the way,” she said. Stephanie recommends finding someone doing something similar and learning from them. “I’ve run into something that I had no concept of.”
“Just take it one step at a time and try not to be overwhelmed,” Will encourages. “Dabble in something you are interested in for a bit to see if you really like it before you jump in.”
The Mid-America Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce is an outstanding local resource. Visit its website MAGLCC.org for information about resources, workshops and networking opportunities.
“Keep your priorities in balance,” Will cautions. “Don’t take on too much at one time. Don’t take on projects that are too big.”
He encourages others to look at their side hustle as a way to begin developing skills and visibility so that if something were to happen to your career or you decide to make your side hustle your main gig, then you already have a foundation laid. “Always be thinking about what the next phase of life might be,” Will said.
Jacory reduced his Zumba commitment from five days to four days per week. “It takes a toll on my body,” he said.
Jacory works out at the gym for himself in addition to his classes. Fitness is a priority in his life, but five days of Zumba instruction was too much.
Each person I interviewed for this article are passionate and excited about their side hustle. The common thread is that they are reaping the monetary rewards of doing something they love. Will Brown Interiors allows Will to travel to places he finds inspirational. “Those places fuel my creativity which goes back into my day job,” he explained.
Jacory stays fit and active, and inspires others to do the same.
Stephanie engages with her customers all across the map.
Looking for your own side hustle? Look no further then your own passions and skills. Turn what you love into a stream of income.
In other words “Be Who You Are!” Someone is ready to pay you for that!