Is a Second “Side Job” the Right Answer?


Is a Second “Side” Job the Right Answer?

If you’ve ever thought about earning more money, you might have turned immediately to the idea of taking on a second job. But as artists we know that a side job isn’t JUST about more cash in your pocket… It is important to seriously weigh the consequences on your craft and any other income streams you already have.

The Money Crunch

Everyone’s had a time in their life when there’s more month than paycheck. Maybe for you that’s right now. You see ads all over the place for “help wanted” or “make money online.” It seems simple: you’ll work a little harder. “Put your nose to the grindstone” as my mom says. But should you start searching?

The biggest problem with multiple side jobs is that they sap your number one commodity: energy. They also drain away your second biggest asset: time. You might meet your bills, but you also might lose your motivation to work toward your bigger dreams.

Before you take on an additional side job, ask yourself some questions:

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Taking on a 2nd Job

  • Can I get more money from my primary income source? Rather than working extra hours, is it time to ask your employer for an increase in salary? When Sheryl Sandberg wrote Lean In, many women suddenly realized they were seriously underpaid and went to their boss with a good argument for a raise.
  • Do you deserve to be earning more for the work you are doing, but your current employer isn’t willing to increase your salary? Seriously explore whether there are higher paying opportunities in the field. Studies have shown that people who take the traditional route (working their way up the “ladder” at their primary job) earn significantly less than people who use their experience to score bigger opportunities. You don’t have to jump ship until you’ve found a better position. But all too often, as artists, we’re willing to “take what we can get” when it comes to our sideline work. Don’t just assume there isn’t someone who will put a higher value on your skills, work ethic, etc.
  • Could you lower your expenses? Rather than spending time away from your craft, are there expenses you could cut that could make it easier to meet your bills without the second job? In a recent article, I made the case for cutting cable. Are there similar moves you could make to lower your monthly obligations?

Sometimes, though, there’s no way around it. You can’t make more money in your first job and you really can’t swap it for another employer. Your bills are tight and you’ve already cut to the bone. How do you sensibly take on a second job?

The worst thing to do is to grab the first side hustle you can find. That can be a dead end for your craft, while also crushing your work at your primary job. I was once very much the actor juggling so many side gigs that I had to really struggle to make them all work – let alone having ANY time left to really pursue my career.

These are some things to consider when looking for sideline employment:

  • Consider jobs that could help you grow as an artist. My friend Liza was able to score a job helping with designs at a flower shop. Because she’s an aspiring costume and set designer, this opportunity helped her focus on successful color combinations…and learn how to quickly identify what DIDN’T work. She wasn’t just getting paid, she was also gaining valuable work experience.
  • Think about your resume. Another friend, Laura, knew that working at the publicity firm wasn’t going to be a cakewalk, but she’d be around many people who worked with actors all day. Even though she was starting on the ground floor, she was able to see how people better managed their press to gain valuable exposure. She made a few extra dollars but better yet…she learned how to shorten her own path toward success.
  • Avoid money traps. Bill took on an opportunity selling insurance on the side. He soon realized that if he spent more time, he could make well into the six figures. Five years later, Bill was a full time insurance salesman instead of working to write Hollywood scripts. Sure, he had money, but it wasn’t in a field that inspired him.

Don’t be another person in the long line of people who thought, “Hey, I’ll just take on another job and that’ll solve my problems!” If you think about your problems hard enough, you can make a better decision about where your income comes from and which expenses you might cut. You can also possibly pick employment that expands your resume and helps you grow toward more experience in your craft.