There are lots of reasons to take on a side gig, not all of them financial. If you’ve been looking for side gig ideas or dabbling with side hustles, a question I encourage you to ask yourself: Is this side gig bringing in enough money to be worth the effort? Perhaps you’re looking to gain experience in a new career field or you love the type of work but couldn’t do it full time (pet sitting comes to mind, one of my former side gigs). Finding a way to bring in some extra cash with your free time definitely makes sense, especially when it helps with things like paying off that lingering credit card balance or allows you to take a vacation you couldn’t otherwise afford. But taking on a side gig doesn’t always make sense.
My side gig of teaching group fitness was less about the money and more about guaranteeing I got a good workout at least once a week (although I never complained about getting paid to work out!) But there may come a time when a side hustle is no longer serving you, or you realize that you may actually be losing value. This is what led me to retire from teaching fitness after 12 years so I could pursue other fitness activities (and sleep in).
If you’re thinking of a side gig, how do you decide if it’s actually worth it? There are a few things to consider.
If you weren’t working your side gig, what would you be doing otherwise?
I’ve met many interesting people riding around in ride-share cars over the years, most of them just trying to pick up a few extra bucks in their spare time. I often wonder if they’ve thought about the total trade-off they’re making considering the time they spend logged in but not driving anyone, the price of gas, the wear and tear on their vehicles, etc.
One way to figure out if a side gig like Uber or Lyft is worth it is to consider what you would be doing with that time otherwise. If you’d be parked on the couch binge-watching old episodes of Friends or flipping through social media, then it’s probably a worthy trade of your time. But if you’d be doing homework, engaging in restorative downtime that may enhance your performance at your “real job” or something else that could potentially earn you more money down the road, then maybe it’s not worth it.
Is this side gig serving you?
Teaching fitness definitely passed the first test — I’d either be sleeping or paying to work out elsewhere if I wasn’t teaching — but I found myself wondering if it was worth it in other ways. Besides actually teaching the class, I also had to spend time learning each class, which added up to a couple more hours each week. And after more than 12 years doing it, I was bored and didn’t feel like it was making much of a difference to my fitness. But the kicker was that two of my classes were at 6 a.m., which meant that two nights a week I had to be in bed by 9:30 if I wanted to get a full night’s rest.
Since I now work from home as a money coach, I no longer have to get up at the crack of dawn in order to squeeze in a workout. I knew I was done the night the Cubs won the World Series and I couldn’t fully enjoy the celebration because it was already two hours past my bedtime. Teaching daybreak classes was no longer serving me and the lifestyle I currently live, so I gave up my early mornings and have never looked back.
How much is your time worth?
There’s actually a way to quantify the worth of your side gig as well. Oftentimes we just think of the total dollars we earn, when we should be thinking about the true hourly wage, including all the costs involved in the job as well as the time spent indirectly related to earning that money. In the book Your Money or Your Life, the author describes it as what you’re trading your life energy for so that you can quantify purchases in terms of how many total hours of your life you’re trading for that thing.
Here’s my calculation for teaching at the gym, where my $42 hourly wage turned out to be less than $9 per hour once I was down to just one class per week.
Hours spent learning the routine
Travel to and from the gym to teach
Actual teaching time
Total hours per week for 1 class:
Wage for 1 class
Free gym membership per week
Quarterly license fee
Parking fee for 1.5 hours
Net earnings per week:
TRUE HOURLY WAGE
What’s the impact of your side gig?
Ask yourself if your side gig is truly something that is making a positive impact on your life. You may find that it is, that it’s the thing that gets you through long workdays. If that’s the case, it’s worth it. On the other hand, if you find that it’s adding stress to your life or you’re finding yourself saying no to things you want to do because of your side gig, it’s worth examining whether that stress and sacrifice is worth the extra cash. Want help optimizing your money so you don’t have to take on a side gig in the first place? That’s something I help my 1:1 coaching clients with! I offer one-off sessions, coach packages, and even a subscription-style service that comes with a monthly coaching call + email support! Click here to learn more.