Should you have a side hustle?

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So you have got your day job but you are recognising that this is not forever, and you would like to do something that you can enjoy, that is going to earn a bit of income, and that maybe something that will help you to create your future. This is “a side hustle”. Something that you are doing outside of working hours that has got the potential to give you new interest, new income and, perhaps, has the potential to give you a new workstyle.

Can you work a side hustle?

If you are thinking about this, one of the first things that you need to do is to look at your employment contract because the culture of slavery that so many employers impose might mean that you are not allowed to do anything that can earn you income outside of your core contract. They have persuaded you to sign a contract which says they own all your income generation capability.  If you find that that is the case, you may need to think about whether that is still the right employer for you.

What happens to Intellectual Property?

The second thing you need to look at is what happens to any intellectual property that you might develop whilst you are an employee of that company.  Intellectual Property is very far reaching, it’s not just patents, it could be copyright that you develop. If you write some software that is copyrightable then your company / employer could say that that belongs to them. Or even if you write articles in a magazine and retain the copyright then by default that article could belong to them, you may not even be able to give it away to the magazine if the publisher says that they will own the copyright.  Maybe you are working as a Finance Director in a business and you write a book about trainspotting, then the strict terms of your contract could say that the copyright of that book belongs to your employer and you are not even allowed to give it to a publisher.

So, there may well be constraints. Often, a sensible employer, if you go to them will be prepared to vary a contract by negotiation around a particular case. So if you are an accountant and you are writing a book on trainspotting, they may be very relaxed about you doing that. They may be much stricter about you developing a piece of software which allows you to do year end reconciliations ten times faster, and then market that.

Are you competing?

The third thing is consider if you doing anything that could be seen by your employer as competition?  Again, if you are looking to provide other services to clients, or you are relying on contacts and relationships that you already have through that employer to build up some other kind of business you may have all sorts of constraints in your employment contract that you need to look at very carefully.   Let’s just say for the sake of argument that you are working as a marketing director and you decide you want to launch some dance classes because you are passionate about dance and you choose to use the company database to contact people that you already have a relationship with as a marketing director and draw them into your dance classes, then there may be things that restrict you including GDPR.

Who owns your time?

Let’s assume that you have dealt with all those issues and you are now going to spend some time on your side hustle there is one other restriction that you may need to take into account.  Many employment contracts state what your normal working hours are but state that you will work additional hours as the job may require from time to time.  They may also have asked you to sign to say that you will be exempt from the Working Hours Directive that limits the amount of hours that you can work.  So, they own all of your time in principle.  If you do start this side hustle and the employer demands more of your time, they may well be within their rights to get you to give up all of your free time to work for them.

The trade-offs

So, having dealt with all those barriers, what are the trade offs of the side hustle?

Well I think you need to ask yourself some important questions: “Am I really going to enjoy this? Is it going to enliven me as a person?  Am I able to find something inside me that I can nurture through doing this?”.  Fitting one more thing into your life can often be very hard and you need to be strongly motivated and find immediate personal reward.

So be passionate about what you want to go for.  I suggest that you recognise that this is a great opportunity to experiment, at relatively low risk.  Don’t be afraid to try things out. Do rely on early success to build momentum. Use this as the playground for doing things that you cannot do in your day job.  Be prepared to invest time and money into this, but most of all see how this can enable you to build different relationships and different interests that are going to enliven you.  See the income as a bonus.

It may start to get a life of its own – fantastic!  It may be that you get to the place where you really believe that you can go and give up your day job and do the side hustle full-time, but don’t assume that this is your destination. Start with the assumption that this is going to bring you more life, more joy, enrich your creativity and, ultimately, enable you to become more of who you were created to be.

Enjoy your side hustle

So ‘yes’, if your employer contract enables you to do this then I would strongly recommend you do something as a side hustle. After all, it can start just a hobby with benefits.   If your employer  contract does not allow you to do this, I would ask yourself some really serious questions about whether you want to continue to work for an organisation that believes they own you to such an extent that you can’t do something in your free time.

Ultimately, continue to see how a side hustle could help you to plan your second half career.


Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.