Getting a side hustle
19 Apr 2023

Getting a side hustle

6 October 2021 is a day John still remembers.

It was the day he left his full-time job. He recounted,

“After 2 years, the contract ended, and I left. Without any other job lined up. At that time, that seemed really scary. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I feared having to eat grass!”

But he continued with his side-hustle. This side-hustle started during his time at university and carried forward into his time at a full-time job.

His side-hustle became his saviour. And surprise, surprise, it eventually became his full-time job.

Take a guess on what it is.

aNah, it’s not something quite as sassy as crypto-traders swimming in money. It’s writing.

“But, how do you even survive as a writer?” After all, there’s a joke about starving artists who end up having to eat the paper they write on to fill themselves.

Maybe that sounds like you today.

According to PwC’s survey of 52,000 people, 1 in 5 are planning to quit in 2022. You’re planning to quit. But you’re not too sure if your side-hustle can even sustain you.

Or you might want to start a side-hustle.

This article is for you.

Start when you’re studying

The best bank in the world, may well be the Bank of Mum and Dad. Interest-free loans, with love sprinkled in, means that studying is often the best time to explore potential side-hustles.

For Nicholas, a full-time fitness trainer today, he used his time in university to build up his expertise in training others. He initially started training others for free, and then gradually increased his prices after getting more experience.

Start when you’re studying

Today, he earns a monthly 5-figure income from what he started in university.

If you’re interested in a hobby, learn as much as you can in it. Understand how you can be in a position to share your expertise.

That’s how Nicholas started. After powerlifting for 7 years, he decided to spend money on a physical trainer certification course so that he could train others.

John began his humble journey too, in university. His first ever paid article was a miserly $38 for 1,000-words. But after 4 years of consistent writing, standards improved to a point where others were willing to pay more.

Here are 4 side hustle options you can consider:

  1. Tuition
  2. Teaching fitness classes like yoga, spin, etc.
  3. Writing
  4. Design like drawing

Start small, somewhere, with something you already know.

Maybe you don’t need that matcha latte

If you’re afraid that you can’t support your needs on a side-hustle, track what your basic needs are.

When you track, you may realise that all you need now is $1,000 a month. That relieves the pressure on you, as it stops you from comparing to the previously drawn salary of $3,700 you thought you needed to earn.

Maybe you don’t need that matcha latte

What’s more interesting is that what you buy, may not even be what you are like. According to research done at Cambridge University, which studied the spending habits of 625 customers, and mapped them according to the Big Five personality traits, “spending buys happiness when spending fits our personality”.

As one of the researchers Joe Gladstone shared, “spending can increase our happiness when it is spent on goods and services that fit our personalities and so meet our psychological needs.”

Cambridge University
Source: Cambridge University,

For example, if you were extraverted, spending on entertainment or travel might make you happier, compared to buying stationery.

The key is to know what you enjoy and spend on things that maximise your joy.

Want what you have

But what’s helpful is to also want what you have. This concept, from entrepreneur Shane Melaugh, helps.

Forget the gratitude journal. Here’s something else to try. For an entire week, eat nothing but beans with rice. When you get off that ‘diet’, you realise that however bad things become on your side-hustle, it will just be that. Beans with rice.

You can live with that.

But you also begin to enjoy the small pleasures that you add back. A 50 cents 3-in-1 Milo packet on a rainy Sunday night. A comforting $2.80 “caifan” (economical meal of rice with simple dishes) after a tiring day. A walk in the park, for free.

Want what you have

The smallest pleasures in life, are sometimes, the best.

Much of our consumption today is based on the idea that we need something else to be happier.

If we begin enjoying what we already have, you may realise that your consumption habits come down, and consequently, your earnings do not need to be as high.

Ask for money

You’re not begging.

You’re adding value.

As Alan Stevens, who coaches professional speakers on how to build a sustainable speaking business once said,

“If you don’t value yourself, no one else will.”

This concept is important. Many side-hustlers find the ask for money one of the hardest, because we often think that we’re being “mercenary” by monetising our passion.

Ask for money

Passion doesn’t pay the bills. Nor does it feed your family. It will keep you eating beans on toast, though, if you’re not willing to get people to pay for the great work you’re doing.

Here are 4 pro-tips to making a sustainable side-hustle.

  1. Build from someone else’s base

Guo Tong sings and performs in her free time. On weekends, you might also find her busking around the island.

The music industry is one of the hardest industries to break into. You would imagine that you need to release some records before you get to perform.

Not so, for Guo Tong. Latching onto her music teacher’s school, her music teacher found gigs they could perform at.

Many side-hustlers first find a home in fitness studios, or schools, which have an existing client base. After building trust with the people there, and demonstrating their skills, these business owners may start handing off some clients to them.

  1. Rejections mean referrals

This question helped John double his revenue within 3 months.

“Do you know anyone else who might be interested?”

Finding new leads is very difficult when you’re independent. But when you ask your existing clients if they can refer you to others, you leverage the networks of others to grow your own revenue.

  1. Have a long-term plan

To avoid fizzling out after a few weeks of starting your side hustle, have a strategy to find clients and build your income over time.

Have a long-term plan

If your side business does become your full-time income, be mindful of planning for your long-term financial wellness by topping up your Central Provident Fund accounts to build a nest egg. Another tip is to set aside emergency cash for the rainy day and have adequate insurance.

  1. Side-hustling, is a hustle

If you think working your side-hustle means ‘finding your passion’, and ‘never needing to work another day in your life’, that bubble needs bursting.

It looks more like this.

  • Typing boring word documents to propose why a client should buy your service
  • Doing up Excel sheets to invoice someone (because you can’t afford to pay $33 for monthly accounting software like Xero)
  • Going down website rabbit holes to find email addresses, and filling up contact information forms
  • Sitting in nooks and crannies of different places, because you can’t afford an office and praying that security doesn’t chase you away
  • Being (unfortunately!) a debt-collector, chasing clients for payments

It is a hustle.

Why do it?

With life uncertainties such as a potential recession on the horizon and job security at stake, having a side hustle is one way to prepare for the worst-case scenario. For those who can continue to hold on to their 9-to-5 jobs, side hustles help build a financial cushion and boost resiliency.

Side-hustling, is a hustle

For some, working on your side hustle allows you to follow your passion and take on projects that align with your interests and expertise.

Maybe it’s also this. John still remembers the first time he got paid for an article. He still keeps a picture of that cheque on his wall. He shared, “It is significant because it shows, that somewhere, somehow, I earned this independently, on account of my own reputation and credibility. If I lose my job one day, I could still survive on my craft and take care of myself……..Knowing that, brings enormous comfort.”