Is the Side Hustle Dying?
I am the queen of a side hustle. For years my career description has read: publisher, author, freelance journalist, public speaker, and blogger. But is the side hustle dying? Or am I just reclaiming my time for relaxation rather than productivity?
I recently attended the Bookseller’s Marketing and Publicity Conference 2022, an annual publishers’ conference. A few comments regarding side hustles caught my attention during the event. A discussion on ambition and time management flagged that side hustles aren’t benefiting anyone anymore, at least that was the opinion of the panelists. They openly discussed that side hustles dying, or that they think they should.
As someone who has had many side hustles and who often spends her weekends writing blog posts and/or novels, I am still very much a side hustler. But even I admit to no longer having the drive I did in 2018 to hustle all the time.
2018 was a hustle highlight in my career.
In 2018, I was a zero-waste activist, writing articles about social media, mental health, and my zero-waste lifestyle for various magazines and newspapers. At the same time, I was working full-time as a Campaigns Officer, and I writing my blog.
I was also experimenting with a podcast, writing novels and searching for an agent, and even doing paid-for talks on social media and side hustles.
I was doing everything I could to expand my CV and look impressive to my peers within the publishing industry and beyond.
Like many young people who entered the industry, I felt I had to join the workforce already knowing everything. The competition in the publishing industry is so fierce. To do this day, an entry-level editorial assistant job will get over 100 applicants, and you need to stand out. The best way to do this, at least I thought so, was to have experience. And if you can’t get internships or work placements then a side hustle is the next best thing.
I’m grateful for my side hustles, and always will be, for getting me my first two jobs in publishing. I was entirely self-taught in marketing for many years of my career, and this education came via my side hustles in blogging, social media, and public speaking. Maybe I could have, or should have, let go of my side hustles once I was secure in my field of publishing, but that wasn’t what happened.
Since the pandemic, I’ve lost all of the drive I had when it came to having a side hustle. And I’m not mad about it.
Sometimes I miss the highs that having so many hustles brought. Getting published and being able to share the article online, having people pay to attend a talk of mine, and even improving my DA score on my blog. All of it brought a major high, on top of my flourishing full-time career.
People think I gave up my social life for my side hustles, but really I didn’t. I was dating a lot more in 2018 than I am now – I gave up dating in 2021… maybe I’ll return to it one day, but now, nope! And I was still regularly socialising, jetting off to New York City on a solo trip, and more. I was building a brand and developing a name for myself within the industry.
2020 was going to be my year!
I started off 2020 with the announcement that I had finally secured an agent, and then I won the London Book Fair Trailblazer award. Also, I started a new job in 2019 and was also earning steady money through a fairly secure freelance journalism hustle.
But in March 2020, I moved back in with my parents – having just moved into a new flat in London – and the world was on pause.
I was never furloughed during the pandemic and had to focus on adjusting to the new work situation, and as such, I stopped most of my side hustles. In particular, I made the decision to stop pitching articles to magazines and newspapers during the lockdown as there were freelance journalists entirely dependent on their freelance work and I was not one of them.
I carried on blogging and I wrote two novels in 2020, one of which was as a result of a book deal, and I started a series of publishing webinars called #MarketYourMarketing. So 2020 still wasn’t a bad year for my hustle, although I think of my writing career as a career, not so much as a side hustle, even though I’m not a full-time writer. Each to their own.
In 2021, life took another u-turn.
My family and I dealt with disaster after disaster for the first six months of 2021 and it wasn’t possible to focus on anything but my family during this time. I had hoped to return to journalism and to other side hustles, be it another podcast or writing some non-fiction, but 2021 was not my year.
My novel was published in June 2021, and for a time things were okay. I carried on my #MarketYourMarketing series, but I was still lacking some get-up-and-go to work on anything else. To be honest, by September I wanted to focus on myself for a bit because I had bottled up a lot of stress for the first six months of the year and it all came spilling out in the latter half of 2021.
At my lowest point, I tried to quit my job, which my then-bosses talked me out of thankfully! I disconnected myself from a lot of friends and did not attempt to socialize in the least, even though we were returning to the office. Needless to say, all of my side hustle drive was gone by December 2021.
But was it just my side hustle dying, or are all side hustles dying?
I entered 2022 reading a lot of literature on how productivity, and the need to ‘be busy’, was the ultimate evil. There was the beginning of the mass resignation across all industries. Although I would say publishing has been hit very hard by this! And burnout was particularly rife within the workforce.
Thankfully, the beginning of 2022 brought about a refresh and a bit more drive in me.
I started writing a new novel and finished editing the other novel I wrote in 2020. I even – much to my agent’s horror – looked into writing some non-fiction for a time. But she rightfully suggested that wasn’t where my focus should lie right now. And she also reminded me I didn’t have to do or try everything at once.
I did quit my job in March, as ultimately after three years it was time to move on. I moved to a new role in June 2022 – more to follow on this another day! And friends and family noted that I had started to revert to my happier, healthier self from April onwards.
Things still haven’t been easy this year. I lost my Grandma in June, my Grandad has also been unwell. And COVID finally got me a few weeks ago which was not fun.
My focus, once more, lies with my family and settling in at my new job. The side hustle culture I thrived off in 2018 has very much left the proverbial building, so to say.
As much as I sometimes get the urge to hustle, mostly these days I want to live a bit more.
I’ve been scheduling a lot more social activities in 2022. I mean, beyond the norm of a drink or a night out here or there during 2022. I went to Bridgerton Secret Cinema, and Disneyland Paris, I’m looking to book a spa weekend away for myself in Autumn and to travel a bit more in 2023. I’m also trying to turn down fewer invitations and be more present. In July alone, I’ve got a wedding, I’m attending YALC, getting a facial, going to a drag brunch… I’m living my best, hustle-free life.
A weekend to myself in my flat is lovely and great for recharging my batteries. But after two years of life on pause/being a downright disaster at points, I just want to get out a bit more. And hustling dawn till dusk doesn’t hold the same appeal as it did when I was 23 years old.
So is the side hustle dying?
Maybe it’s because, as I said before, I’m secure in my job as a Head of Fiction Marketing. I no longer feel I need to impress people with my overly busy schedule. Or maybe it’s because productivity no longer holds the same value as it did pre-pandemic. I’m no longer driven to work my arse off to prove something to some non-existent someone anymore.
One day I might return to hustle here or there. After all, I like a challenge and sometimes my challenges can easily revert to a money-making hustle. And we can’t discount the rising cost of living. I imagine more and more people will search for easy side hustles to make quick cash. At the end of the day, you’ve got to do what’s right for you.
So, I put the question to the readers. Is the side hustle dying? Or has it already died its over-productive death? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.