Nobody loves their job all of the time. Even those most passionate about their work have days when they’re just not feeling it. 

But what if that experience is the norm rather than the exception? What if every day feels like the same tired repetition of the day before? Or perhaps you are working yourself to the bone, but you no longer know why. Whatever first drew you to your job – money, status, meaning – is no longer satisfying you. Your motivation is down, your energy is low, your performance has stagnated.

According to a recent international surveyof more than 1000 companies, one-quarter of employees leave work feeling drained or very drained every day. A third of employees don’t believe their company’s core values align with their own values. And 60% believe their work is taking a toll on their personal life.

When persistent, these conditions inevitably lead to a nagging discontent, or worse. Perhaps you know this feeling. Maybe you are experiencing it now. It is usually in this state that individuals seekprofessional support through a career coach, but if this is not a viable option for you right now, what are some alternatives?

The most obvious but also most dramatic move is to look for a new job, or even a new career entirely. With its promise of novelty and a new environment, this could be precisely the change that you need. But what if you don’t feel ready to take this leap? What if you actually have quite a good thing going in your current position, you just feel uninspired? What if your financial situation precludes you from taking a new place somewhere else?

Perhaps it is time to consider a side hustle. This is widely thought of as ‘something millennials do’, but I’ve never been a fan of generational typing. Anyone can benefit from a side hustle and the many advantages it offers. But such a commitment also comes with often-unseen risks.

What is a side hustle?

If you’ve ever had a passion project, you will know that it can be a deeply fulfilling practice. It is that labour of love in your spare time that you do for the pure enjoyment and gratification it affords. It’s that novel you’ve always wanted to write, the greenhouse you’re building at the weekends, the scale model of the Titanic that you have been piecing together every evening for the last two years. Passion projects are done from the heart; they are not usually for financial gain.

Working a second or third job, however, is done purely for monetary gain. It is to make extra cash on the side so that you can pay your bills or save for a bigger goal. The work itself is almost irrelevant – if you enjoy it that’s wonderful, but that’s not the aim of the exercise.

A side hustle sits somewhere between these pursuits. It has the financial objective of making extra money, but with the heart of a passion project. The work you do in a side hustle is not random, it brings you satisfaction, either through the work itself or the new skills it teaches you.

Research by Henley Business Schoolreveals that 1 in 4 Brits is running at least one business project alongside their fulltime job, contributing £72 billion to the UK economy.More than 44 million Americans have a side hustle.

If you feel stifled and bored in your day job, a side hustle may be all you need to reinvigorate your interest in work. But it won’t be without sacrifice.

Benefits of the side hustle

  1. Be your own master
    In a side hustle, you get to experience the joy of being your own boss, while your day job affords you protection from the stress of unpredictable income. This liberation from needing approval or permission before making a decision might be exactly what you are missing in your fulltime work.
  2. Build your brain
    A side project has all sorts of benefits for your mental health and brain chemistry. Being happy in your work activates feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins – these might be in low supply in your day job. Side hustles usually ask you to learn new skills or develop existing ones, giving you a powerful sense of growth and accomplishment. Lessons learned here may also improve your employability elsewhere, opening up new opportunities that reveal the world to be a more rewarding place than it appeared before.
  3. Feel more fulfilled
    ‘Do what you love; love what you do’ is not just a popular t-shirt slogan. Committing time to work that feeds you, not only pays you, is one of the real secrets to happiness. If that work can’t be found in your fulltime job, a side hustle gives you that opportunity. Such projects also invite you to meet new and different people, try on different perspectives, even go to new places. These all contribute to a more fulfilling sense of a life more lived.

Risks of the side hustle

  1. Be your own slave
    Without vigilance, a side hustle can turn into a second job. It can rob your fulltime work of your energy and resources, potentially leading to the loss of the security that allows you to have a side project in the first place. Though all new projects eventually lose some of their original lustre, when your business on the side keeps you awake at night you know you’ve possibly crossed the line. The intention may be for your side hustle to replace your current job eventually, but when it loses its joy, you need to reassess why you are doing it.
  2. Burn out your brain
    Burnout is a significant risk for those working a side project in their spare time. Apart from the obvious possibility of stretching yourself beyond your available time and energy, there are also less direct consequences. Withdrawing from relationships and social interaction leaves one feeling isolated – a classic cause and symptom of burnout. Performing poorly in your original work because your side hustle has left you tired and stressed causes a decline in self-esteem and confidence. 
  3. Feel less fulfilled
    Like all new projects, a side hustle has a honeymoon phase in which you feel excited and invigorated and filled with anticipation. The work is fun, and you are enthusiastic. As the project matures you begin to face the inevitable challenges that come with growth – things don’t work out as you planned, you need to learn skills (like accounting) that you might not want to learn, you begin facing conflicts with people in your life. Slowly the shine starts to fade, and you need to decide whether you genuinely want to pursue the project. This is the crucible of business ownership. Giving up and trying something new may be the smart thing to do, but it may also leave you feeling like a failure. Pushing through may bring further success and opportunity, but it may also promise burnout. Staying true to your original purpose is critical, and your motives need to be continuously reexamined, otherwise, your side hustle will become just another thing that demands too much of you.

Photo by Lost Co on Unsplash