One of the most thought-provoking book I read in recent years was called “The Economy Of You” authored by Kimberly Palmer, who was the senior Money editor at CNN. The key premise behind the book was centred around the need to have a side income (aka side hustle, side gig, moonlighting etc) in parallel with your main income, which for most people is employment-based. The book itself was more like a case study diary of the various avenues different people pursue to generate such side income ranging from artisan home bakery to web developers. Palmer herself produces craft life event planners and sells them on Ectsy and apparently generates a 6-figure revenue per year.
So what does this mean for you?
1. Traditional employment is no longer the “iron rice bowl” and you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket
Most of my parents’ careers were spent in China. They started working in the mid-70s at a time when Communism was in the name and form. They both worked for state-owned enterprises which guaranteed a decent salary and also provided medical care, housing and schooling for the family. The Chinese refers to such jobs as the “iron rice bowl”. Rice bowl symbolises livelihood and iron reflects its security (due to its rigid structure).
Most of the jobs in the West after WW2, especially in the big corporations were similar to these “iron rice bowls” where an employee would spend the majority of the career in a single company, rising through the corporate hierarchy and retire as an honourable company man. In return the company is expected to provide job security for him and his family as well as a generous pension package post retirement. This is why in countries like the U.K. most employees are still technically called a “permanent employee”, signifying the longevity of the role.
However starting in the mid-80s when the first mega merger and acquisition (M&A) wave commenced and then compounded by the Great Recession in the late 2000s, companies began to view employees as a much more expendable assets. Every corporate merger usually resulted in significant headcount reduction due to “synergy”. The human effect of post merger layoff has been extensively documented. I personally witnessed over 200 people losing their livelihood when one of my previous employers acquired another company, through no fault of their own
The traditional employment is no longer the “iron rice bowl” it used to be.
We are ultimately responsible for our own destiny which includes our financial security and only we can take steps to protect it from the next “synergy”.
Side hustles diversify your income risk and ensures that not all your eggs are in the same basket.
2. Side hustles increase your happiness
I have several side gigs which generates both active (money that I have to work to earn, e.g. consulting) and passive incomes (money that I don’t have to work to earn, e.g. dividends, rental). Even though they still occupy a small proportion of my monthly income (which is still mostly salary denominated), I derive a huge amount of satisfaction whenever they hit my bank account.
Most of us have been conditioned by our society to think and act like an employee, and consequently are caged in the confined space of the office cubicle, indoctrinated to the expectation of performing a set list of tasks in exchange for a fixed salary. Side hustles awaken the animalistic entrepreneurship spirit that is inherent to us, which unfortunately our culture has suppressed. Thus the process is winning a side gig project, delivering and enhancing value for my clients would create an enormous amount of personal satisfaction and increase your well-being.
Recently, I helped an American entrepreneur based in Thailand to create a financial plan for his startup business. Together we discovered the exact milestones he must accomplish in order to realise his ambitions. Armed with such clarity, I set him on a good path knowing full well that I had done a deed which added value to someone’s life and perhaps brought him a little closer to his dream. The feeling was fantastic.
3. It’s super easy, thus there’s no reason not to
Side husltes are so easy to start these days thanks to the internet. We live in an age where a company can be incorporated for £15, a website purchased, designed and published for under £50, a profile created for free, all of which completed before your morning tea break without even having to leave your bed. There are many useful platforms such as Upwork, which connects side gig freelancers with their potential clients as well as ensuring transactions occur in a fair and transparent manner. The variety of gigs on the market is only limited by your own imagination as I have found some extremely fascinating projects out there, ones whose content and reward could not have been matched in a 9-to-5 job. The barrier to entry has diminished so tremendously that the speed of your own action is the only limitation.
For the sake of your own financial security, for the longevity of your happiness and fulfilment, I call upon you, hustle away!