The Art of the Side Hustle
The AF-Capital Hub hosted an event entitled, “Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to the Side Hustle” with guests Stephen Kent, Ashley Keimach, and our very own blog editor Natalie Dowzicky. We asked Natalie to sit down and summarize the advice she gave during the virtual event. If an event like this interests you, become an AF member today!
What is your experience with side gigs?
I’m originally from Philadelphia (Fly Eagles Fly!), but I currently live in the greater Washington, DC area. About three years ago I moved here, and I got into side gigs almost immediately. I nannied for a few families and taught swim lessons until I got more of a professional footing. Now I write for a variety of outlets, edit the blog here at America’s Future, and copyedit for a manufacturing & logistics company. And I do all of that work outside of my full time job as the manager at the Cato Institute.
Why did you first get into side jobs?
This is probably no surprise to anyone, but DC is an expensive place to live. So when I first moved here when I was 21 years old, at least for a little while, I knew I would need to work multiple jobs. And being busy for me is essentially a constant state of being. After working full time for 2 or so months, I found that I had some extra time in the evenings to take on other money earning opportunities, so I started with babysitting and teaching swimming lessons. These may not seem entirely applicable to my professional goals, but you’d be surprised how many times these side jobs have come up in professional settings.
And honestly, once it was clear to me that I had enough time, without being overwhelmed, to strengthen skills I needed at work, I found Young Voices. And I wrote with Young Voices for almost 2 years. Now that was for free, but the experience I got out of it was truly monumental
What would you say is the most important quality or trait someone needs to maintain a side gig?
There are two big things; you have to be flexible and organized. Taking on a side gig does not mean you have to give up part of your social life, but if you aren’t organized and flexible to do work at strange hours, occasionally, you are going to end up missing things. Everyone has a different level of stress they can handle and it’s all about finding that happy medium for yourself.
My fellow panelists also suggested that you never do a side gig without knowing why you are doing it. It can be hard to motivate yourself when you aren’t sure why you are taking extra hours outside of work to complete something.
How has having a side hustle helped with your professional development? Are there skills you gained in your part time role that have helped you in your full time role or will help you in future endeavors?
Everything I have done outside of work has helped me professionally in one way or another. I knew I was good with children and had taught swim lessons for many years prior to being a young professional. Simply organizing my busy schedule required me to be very particular with my time management, a very sought after skill.
I didn’t really fully develop my writing skills until I was a contributor with Young Voices and now I write podcast summaries, questions, and the like in my full time role. Not to mention all the writing experience I got prior to joining the AF team part-time as an editor. I wouldn’t be able to edit had I never really developed my writing skills and technique.
I can not understate how much every employer loves to see what you do outside of work, even if it’s something that seems innocuous. I have had multiple interviews where one of my side gigs has come up and the interviewer has been intrigued by how I spend my time outside of regular work hours that doesn’t involve working out or watching Netflix.
Can you tell us about a time when juggling things became too much or overwhelming and what you did to reset or balance responsibilities?
I have always been busy. It’s like my state of nature. After being a collegiate swimmer with a full course load, it seemed natural for me to always bite off more than I can chew. And that has not occurred without challenges. There was a time when I felt pretty distant from my friends because I had taken on a ton of work. In order to reset, I had to start learning how to say no to people when I recognized my schedule was reaching that tipping point.
Learning to say no is a tough skill to learn, but it’s important with side gigs and other parts of your life too. You should prioritize your mental health and make time to unplug.
Can you tell us more about what you’ve learned as an editor? And, from seeing both sides of that role, what are some tips you have for people getting into paid writing gigs?
Be open to feedback. Every editor’s dream is a writer that both stands up for themselves and their work, but also is receptive to feedback. Editors do not know everything, so if you have an issue with the way your piece has been changed, speak your mind, but do it in a respectful and thoughtful way. It will go a long way with an editor who is talking to dozens of writers every day.
There are paid writing gigs out there. Sometimes they can be hard to find, but if you know your writing is good and gets good traction don’t be afraid to ask about getting paid for your work. Especially if you are writing regularly for one group. At America’s Future we pay our writers depending on how often they are committed to writing for us. I am more than happy to pay someone for their work, but that is not to say that there is no value in work that is done for free because there certainly is. Especially when you are young.
What is your most important advice for someone interested in starting a side gig?
I would start by reaching out to some of your professional contacts and ask about their experience in whatever field you would like to crack into. I also would start off by knowing what kind of time you have for a side gig. Realistically knowing what kind of commitment you can make is important before offering anyone your expertise.