Welcome to the side hustle

I suspect I don’t look like the ‘usual’ person who opts for flexible working. I’m not a mother, other than to my two adorable little cats of course. I don’t have any caring responsibilities, other than to myself. I’m now a Director so I’m in a senior role at work but still ‘climbing the ladder’, and I’m also not formally studying.

But over the past few months, two things have changed that led me to ask for flexible working as part of taking a new role. The first is that my emerging sense that the traditional model of work just isn’t working – which I have blogged about a bit before – has really taken hold. I don’t love a 9 to 5. I’m not a morning person and I operate poorly on short sleep, which really struck home when I read Matthew Walker’s brilliant book ‘Why We Sleep’ (see ‘In defence of night owls’). I also like some more flexibility in my routine, be it to do a yoga class at 8am, to attend an interesting day-time event or simply to complete the never ending cycle of chores that come with having a home.

The second is the realisation that my day-job isn’t my only passion and it doesn’t provide me with my full purpose in the way it did in my twenties, when I was quite frankly a complete workaholic and also completely fulfilled – for the me at that age – by my full time job. It doesn’t necessarily mean I enjoy my work any less, but I do want time to explore other interests. I attended an incredible women in leadership summit recently called Reach, founded by Sky Sports presenter Sarah Stirk, and quite a few of the eighty-odd women who attended had a side-hustle. They loved their careers but they had other things too. I was inspired.

So, other interests. I am increasingly fascinated by the world of digital healthcare, and recently decided I wanted to start volunteering at a hospital to get some hands on experience and give back. There’s also an exciting new project that has come my way – which I will keep quiet about while its being formed but watch this space…. Plus I want to give my writing some more consistent dedicated time. So all in all quite a few things I want to try on the side and see which ones stick.

I have been trying to write whilst working full-time but its not really been working for me when I’m confined to evenings and weekends (see earlier point about not being a morning person; no pre-work writing for me). So I realised if I wanted to try side-hustling properly I needed to try a different kind of sacrifice and make the time. Hence the four day week.

Henley Business School recently published an interesting white paper looking at side-hustles. It found a staggering one in four adults are engaged in side-hustling, and its not just about the money – though that is working for some, generating incoming worth £72 billion for the UK, about 3.6% of UK GDP. Their report also said:

73% of people who start a side hustle do so to follow a passion or explore a new challenge, but there are financial benefits too, with side businesses contributing 20% to side hustlers’ income.

Despite a quarter of these side hustlers working a 50-hour week – almost 13 hours more than the average UK worker – they report feeling happier and more content in their main role and as many as 69% said side hustles make life feel more interesting.

It’s the health and well-being benefits that do it for me. At the moment I have no real aspirations of making additional income or even any real attachment to what the outcomes will be; I try to be a believer in putting in the work but letting go of the results as they are beyond my control. But I do want to feel creative and fulfilled.

The minute I mentioned my new routine to a co-worker she recommended Emma Gannon’s The Multi-Hyphen Method which I devoured between Sunday and Wednesday evening. Its a great read and one I highly recommend to anyone who is feeling like they need a bit more than their working life provides (there’s a great Sunday Times Magazine piece by Gannon if you fancy a little try before you buy. I’ll confess I was expecting something a bit more focused on specific side-hustles like the intricacies of setting up a blog and how to monetise it, but I was very pleasantly surprised that its actually an easy, interesting, well researched and very human read of the changing world of work and moving to a different way of working – portfolio careers updated for different generations, massively enabled by tech. Gannon touches on everything from confidence to finances and I was particularly struck by her section on redefining what you personally mean by success, as opposed to simply assuming the things we are told mean success, like money and status (though of course, these can be your measures of success). When it comes to success there’s no one size fits all.

Oh and if I needed anymore encouragement about this move I just stumbled across this Stylist article on the (positive) unexpected psychological impact of a three-day weekend. Whilst my day off is deliberately mid-week so it isn’t a consecutive three-day weekend, I’m hoping I’ll still get the same result:

A clearer mind and a happier outlook.

Who couldn’t benefit from that?

N.B. Two very practical things I learnt on my first day off. One, the urge to check work emails is real. I am very good now at leaving my phone downstairs to charge overnight and not jumping straight onto it first thing, but checking my work emails before I get to work is part of my daily routine. I managed to catch myself just before I had got in, having done it on complete auto-pilot. Thankfully my Office 365 App keeps them all contained but its a good reminder why a lot of my friends swear by two phones to separate work and personal life.

The second was the need for a side-hustle calendar. I use my work calendar for everything but, as per point one, I didn’t want to go into my digital work space on my day off. I thought my memory would be reliable enough but turns out its not, perfectly demonstrated when I arrived one hour late for a train, having convinced myself I was departing at 10.46am rather than 9.46am… Whoops. Good life hack from a colleague-stroke-friend; he too relies on his work calendar to organise his life, but for personal events invites his own Gmail account so it appears in there too.

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