Five o'clock used to mean happy hour, soccer practice, or a few hours in front of the tube. But for an increasing number of professionals, powering down the computer at the office now means powering up the laptop at home.
With new technologies that make it cheaper to start your own business and a widespread need to earn additional income during the recession, more professionals are taking on paying projects in addition to their day jobs. Whether you're selling a service or promoting a product or driving traffic to a website, juggling a business on the side is the new nine-to-five.
"There is this brand new phenomenon," says Paul Kedrosky, a senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on entrepreneurship. "People [are] being entrepreneurs almost in their spare time, which you could never do before, at least never do in a way that was profitable."
The nation's business-creation rate hit a 15-year peak in 2009-2010, the Kauffman Foundation recently reported. But Kedrosky says that increase is made up mostly of "jobless entrepreneurs," or those who launched companies because they faced unemployment during the recession. He categorizes the side-gig entrepreneur differently, calling it a "fractional entrepreneurship" model.
"These are often people who are highly successful in their own right, with normal jobs who, on the side, are entrepreneurs," says Kedrosky, who's working on a report on the topic. Fractional entrepreneurship took off around 2007, he says, partly because of the birth of online services like Etsy.com, which make it easy for small businesses to set up shop online. These entrepreneurs are a bright spot in a struggling economy, but "U.S. economic data is woeful at capturing [their success]," he says. "We capture people losing jobs in an orthodox way, but we don't capture them gaining jobs in an unorthodox way."
Jenny Blake, a 27-year-old who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, calls her unorthodox income stream her "side hustle." By day, she's a career development coach at Google. On evenings and weekends, she works to promote her blog and new book, Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want. Although she enjoys both jobs, she admits it's not easy to juggle them both. "[Having a side hustle] is not for the faint at heart," she says. "It's a lot of work and it does take sacrifice."
One reason part-time entrepreneurs are often overlooked is because they continue working day jobs, deviating from the Silicon Valley stereotype of entrepreneurs who quit their jobs and build startups in a garage. In many cases, it makes sense to keep that nine-to-five commitment and the steady paycheck that comes along with it, particularly if you have a family to support.
"I would be less apt to make that move to working only for myself than someone who is single and young," says Douglas Lee Miller, 37, a new media manager for DePaul University who's also growing a business as a social media speaker and educator. He and his wife have two young children. "Because I have a family, I have to be very concerned about things like healthcare."
Are you thinking of launching your own side hustle? Or maybe you already have one—and are feeling the pinch of competing to-do lists. In either case, here are a few tips for making it work:
Set aside blocks of time to work on the project. Many entrepreneurs say the key to juggling successfully is assigning certain slots of your day or week to the side project—and not letting those hours overlap with your day job or personal time. "As soon as you allow [your pet project] to creep from one part of the calendar to another, most people who do this sort of thing find it takes over their lives," Kedrosky says. "You have to be disciplined."
Use scheduling tools to master time management. Being organized is essential to balancing the day job with a side gig, says Miller, the social media specialist. He launched his business in mid-2010, when an increasing number of people began turning to him for advice and guidance. "Saying you do social media is like mentioning you're a podiatrist at a senior center," he jokes. Yet once he landed paying clients, the Chicagoan realized he needed a new way to keep track of his schedule—to "beef up my calendaring," he says. He turned to Tungle.me, a Web-based calendar that syncs Outlook, Google Calendar, and several other scheduling tools.