People typically start a side hustle with one of two goals in mind: to make extra money and/or to gain more experience in a field.
Both of these are great reasons to take on a side hustle, but there is one more that people don’t often talk about: taking on a side hustle to support a dream job.
Let’s face it: Dream jobs are not always the best-paying jobs, especially in the creative world. Sometimes it takes a long time to even get your dream job — and you have bills to pay in the meantime. A side hustle is a great way to fund your dream job goals, whether that means supporting yourself while you pursue an artistic career or putting food on the table while you work your way up the corporate ladder.
Follow these tips to leverage a side hustle to support your dream job:
1. Save as Much Money as Possible
As mentioned above, the No. 1 reason people start a side hustle is to make more money, and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem arises when people make more money only to spend more money.
This is fine if your side hustle only exists to bring in extra cash, but when your side hustle is a means to support your dream job, you need to remember what’s important: saving money to make your dreams come true.
Fortunately, the best way to save more money is to make more money. Use that extra money from your side hustle to create a nest egg for yourself. Once you have enough money saved up, invest it in yourself. Use the cash you earned to fund something that will help you get closer to your dream job. For example, if you really want to become a painter, utilize your side hustle to put food on the table, a roof over your head, and paint supplies in your workspace. Investing in yourself can provide a higher ROI than any stock ever could.
When you are tempted to spend money frivolously, remind yourself of your long-term goals. A lot of young entrepreneurs get caught up in the lifestyle of successful businessmen without the actual success part. They think spending money frivolously will impress people or help them connect with successful people. Smart people can spot this playacting from a mile away.
Be humble and live within your means. This is much more impressive than racking up credit card debt.
2. Prioritize Your Time
Working toward your dream job while working a side hustle sucks up a lot of hours in a day. Add in time to spend with your family and friends and the whole thing can seem downright impossible.
Do not let this stop you from achieving your dreams. Audit your schedule and figure out how much time you need to accomplish your goals. Be careful not to get caught up in pointless meetings or unproductive “networking” events. Say no to activities, events, or time-wasters that don’t help you reach your goals.
In addition, be sure to allocate cooldown periods dedicated to doing absolutely nothing. Taking regularly time off will improve your mental fortitude, reduce stress, and possibly unlock new ideas.
3. Establish Boundaries
Going full throttle from the time you get up to the time you go to bed is not sustainable. If you go too hard in the beginning, you will burn out well before you reach the finish line.
It is important to set boundaries and limit the number of hours you spend on your side hustle. That way, you will remember to make time for what’s really important: your dream job.
Remind yourself why you are side-hustling and what you hope to accomplish. If you need a breather, that is okay. Step away and focus on something else for a bit.
Likewise, establish boundaries with family and friends. Sometimes this means cutting out certain friends completely. This can be really hard, but it may be necessary if your friends are not helping you reach your goals.
4. Pick a Side Hustle that Teaches You New Skills
One of the best reasons to take on a side hustle is to learn new skills. If there is a skill you are lacking that you will need for your dream job, use your side hustle as a learning opportunity.
One particular skill will help you shine anywhere: networking. It’s essential for almost every entrepreneur. If you hope to capture your dream job, you had better start networking right away.
The best way to practice networking is to talk to as many people as possible, including strangers. You’ll need to push yourself outside of your comfort zone to really master networking.
Driving for a ridesharing service is a great side hustle for polishing your networking skills. As a driver, you will interact with countless passengers. Some of them will want to talk, some of them won’t. When someone does want to talk, use that as an opportunity to work on your active listening skills. Who knows — you might have someone who can make your dreams come true in the back seat of your car.
Another example of a side-hustle that can teach you valuable skills is running a drop-shipping website. In order to be successful at drop shipping, you will need to learn marketing, web development, copywriting, and a slew of other important skills.
5. Use Your Side Hustle as a Networking Opportunity
As mentioned above, side hustles are great ways to meet new people who may be able to help you with your dream job. The people you meet as clients, customers, and suppliers during your side hustle may be the key to getting your foot in the door with a dream company or industry.
For example, as an Uber or Lyft driver, you can talk to dozens of people every day. Practice making good conversation. Listen to your passengers’ stories, ask open-ended questions, and learn to pick up on verbal queues. When you meet someone who might be a good connection, casually hand them a business card. Don’t be pushy.
If rideshare driving is not for you, there are networking opportunities with basically any side hustle. Examples include being a babysitter, dog walker, or web developer. All of these occupations will likely connect you with successful people who could be valuable members of your network.
6. Practice Your Leadership Skills
Even if your dream job does not involve management, leadership skills like charisma and high emotional intelligence are some of the most important qualities a person can have. People with these qualities are the people you want to talk to, follow on social media, and buy things from.
Becoming a leader in your industry is a viable way to get your dream job. Leadership is about confidence, and you can build your confidence by getting out of your comfort zone. Side hustles are great ways to push your own boundaries and build your confidence.
7. Fill Resume Gaps
When you are applying for a position, hiring managers are going to ask about any gaps in your employment history. To avoid being judged for employment lapses and possibly being denied your dream job, fill that resume gap with a side hustle.
Not sure if your side hustle is relevant to the position you are applying for? It probably is. Running a small side hustle involves skills that are transferable to almost any career. Highlight your side hustle experience on your resume. Discuss how the skills you learned translate to your dream job.
In summary, I want to stress that a side hustle doesn’t have to be some sort passion project. It is perfectly acceptable to take on a side hustle just to make money, especially if that extra money will be invested in yourself.
Sometimes your dream job simply doesn’t make enough money to be sustainable on its own. Taking on a lucrative side hustle can help you supplement your income until the day your dream job becomes profitable enough to leave your side hustle behind entirely.
Brett Helling is the head of Ridester.