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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

7 Underrated Reasons to Pick Up a Side Gig (That Have Nothing to Do With Money)

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Years ago, I worked Sunday brunch at a busy Manhattan restaurant. I left the shift approximately $250 richer, feeling beat, but in a good, hard-earned way. The next morning, my alarm would go off, and I’d rise and prepare for the first of five days in the office. My second job allowed me to travel a reasonable amount, sock some money away in an IRA, and enjoy frequent alcohol-fueled dinners with my friends at upscale spots.

I never saw the extra work as being anything more than economically logical. But, as such, I knew it wasn’t something I could carry on forever. Instead of having a two-day weekend, I technically only had one, and that was a path likely to lead to burnout. When I switched companies, I was able to make up for the weekend cash with a salary bump that coincided with a higher title and far greater job responsibilities. Working brunch no longer made sense for me.

My limited experience with a part-time job meant I had no comprehension of the possibilities and opportunities an extra job could provide in addition to cash. In fact, when I started speaking to my Muse co-workers, I thought I’d hear stories that were similar to mine. I’d come across bartenders, babysitters, and dog-walkers—people who liked their day job but couldn’t exactly afford the lifestyle they wanted based on that work alone. How wrong I was. The side gig, it turns out, is often about way more than the Benjamins. And considering I know how hard my colleagues work at their day job, I developed a newfound respect for all those people who understand and embrace the power of this extra position.

Ahead, seven reasons it doesn’t always come down to a paycheck:

1. It Inspires and Helps Others

Surprisingly often, money’s a minimal factor—if it factors in at all. Fatima Farmer, a community care manager, has a blog and YouTube channel. Both platforms started out featuring hair and make-up tutorials (based on her background), but as her audience grew, Farmer started producing inspirational content. For her, it’s a hobby that’s turned into her passion. Since she’s super fulfilled at her 9-to-5, she’s not doing the side work as a means to an end; rather, she keeps up with it because it’s “that thing that makes me happy because I know I’m helping other people.”

Likewise, Jena Viviano, an account executive, also has a side gig that’s way more about helping people than it is about padding her salary. In her spare time, she works as a Muse career coach. The extra money is nice, but, she says, “The reason I do it is because I’ve been able to help a lot of people and that’s really fun for me—to see people find jobs and companies they are really passionate about.”

So, if you’re looking for an activity that makes you feel good, you might not have to look too far outside what you already care about.

2. It Scratches an Itch

Elliott Bell, Director of Brand Strategy, is a culinary school grad who explains that his education combined with a knack for teaching makes moonlighting as a cooking teacher a no-brainer. While he can make decent money giving instructions on knife skills or how to make the perfect roast chicken, he says he doesn’t rely on it for that—“It's more just to do something I love.”

Bell calls it low-effort since at most, he only teaches once a month, citing lack of time as a reason. There are no set hours, and if he’s having a super busy time, you know, directing brand strategy, he can turn potential clients down or arrange lessons when things aren’t so hectic.

It’s kind of the perfect extracurricular activity as it scratches that itch (a love of cooking) and offers information on what is a decidedly desirable skill (learning to cook). Think of how you could put your out-of-office skills and know-how to work on the side.

3. It Can Function as Overtime (With the Right Mindset)

I knew I’d find a babysitter in the bunch! Danielle DiFlorio, Onboarding Specialist, watches kids approximately one to two times per month. While the extra money was kind of essential to DiFlorio, having started the gig shortly after taking a pay cut, there’s more to recommend it than just a sweet hourly rate: “I find it easy to manage because the kids are usually asleep, so I can just get paid to catch up on work while I'm there.” She says it’s like making overtime, but the icing on the cupcake is that the hours have her making money instead of of spending it out with her friends.

Side gigs like these are pretty great, and if your inbox looks anything like mine, you can understand the value of getting paid to sit with your computer in front of a TV. If you can’t stand the thought of babies (even sleeping ones), you can look for housesitting and pet sitting jobs, too. All of the above would give you the chance to catch up on busy work so that you can focus on what really matters during the workday.

4. It Flexes Familiar Muscles

Allie Hunt, Social Media Manager, has a side gig that feels like an easy transition from her day job as it involves tweeting and Instagramming. After launching a company for up-and-coming musicians, Hunt’s partner started talking to her about offering social media services for bands looking to build their brand. Since the entrepreneur admittedly does not know social media well, he turned to his girlfriend for assistance. Hunt says that not only does she appreciate supporting her boyfriend’s growing business (for now, she’s doing it for love and not a paycheck), but she digs it because music is one of her passions. Plus, since the work involved isn’t so far left-field of what her day job involves, switching gears is relatively painless.

Onboarding Coordinator Sara Beamish has to switch more gears for her freelance work designing medical brochures. Beamish, who learned about graphic design in college, says she really enjoys the side projects that come to her on an as-need basis. She’s not turning down the extra money, but it’s definitely not her sole motivator. Rather, she likes keeping her skills fresh should she ever need them.

This means that your chosen project doesn’t have to be totally different from your daily work, but rather it can be closely related to your day job, or it can even call upon a skill set learned earlier in life.

5. It Forces You to Improve Your Time Management Skills

Rich Moy, who holds a full-time marketing position as a writer, also contributes as a writer for The Daily Muse. While he loves his day job, he values the opportunity to be able to tap into a more creative side of himself. This feel-good factor was enough to make him flex his time-management skills too, making his side gig even more beneficial.

If you’re starting to wonder how people find extra hours to manage a second job, you’re onto something. It is time-consuming, and it does require you to be smarter about your scheduling. Work that feels purposeful as opposed to tedious is a pretty important piece of the puzzle, too.

Since Moy’s day job keeps him busy and leaves him exhausted at the end of the day, he uses the weekends to focus on his other assignments, drafting first drafts on Saturday mornings and then reviewing them on Sunday nights before submitting them. While he admits that “A lot of people think I work too much,” he makes sure to balance the side gig work with free time on the weekend, and he doesn’t foresee himself giving up the additional role anytime soon.

If you’re looking for help managing your time more efficiently, taking on an extra gig that you truly love might just be the motivation you need to rethink your current schedule.

6. It Has the Potential to Lead to a Career Change

The reason for side gigging can be strategic, as is the case with Abby Wolfe, who, by day, works in healthcare and by nights and weekends is a part-time intern at The Muse. This experience is giving her an inside peek at a previously foreign industry. Writing and editing are long-term career goals, and when Wolfe realized this, she says she came to terms with the fact that a career change often means you’ll have to start from scratch, which is fine, she promises because “it gives you the opportunity to really learn the ins and outs and not be thrown into something you don't understand at all.”

While it’s certainly challenging, Wolfe’s going about her career transition with just the right amount of smarts and ambition. There are, after all, few fields you can transition into without a basic foundation or set of skills. So, if you’re thinking of making a move, you’d do well to seek a part-time flexible internship opportunity.

7. It Provides Challenging Stimulation

I can’t really keep track of how many projects Lily Herman, a soon-to-be-college grad, has, but I know one thing: This is someone who’s never experienced ennui. On top of being a full-time student, Herman runs a successful website that boasts it’s the largest student-run college access organization in the world.

In addition, she interns 10 to 20 hours a week for The Muse and she oversees all editorial and social media operations for another site. Oh, and Herman is a freelance writer as well as a consultant. She explains it like this: “I really love all the side hustles I'm involved in! My parents joke that I'm passionate about being passionate, and I love the feeling of getting really committed to a project or initiative and seeing it go big.” As someone “who loves doing all the things,” Lily is in it, in part, for the endless stimulation and challenge.

Natalie Gavilanes, who splits her working hours between being a part-time video editor and an events audio/visual technician at The Muse and another company, can relate. Three days a week she’s in one place doing any number of things, and two to three other days, she’s navigating another role. When asked how she manages it all and if she ever feels burnt out from the fast-paced lifestyle, Gavilanes talks about her future and the way she’s setting herself up for good things to come. Moving from one thing to another keeps her excited and in the game (not to mention quite marketable).

The cool thing about picking up a job that’s on a totally different end of the spectrum as your full-time position: If it is unrelated or only tangentially related, it may motivate you on days when exhaustion threatens or when you can’t imagine doing any more work. For many, if not all, of the people featured here, it almost doesn’t feel like work, and that’s really the goal of any job, if you ask me. And, if you want to turn your side gig into your one and only job, well, that’s certainly a possibility down the road as well.

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