I considered writing this as a “how to” article. Then I realized it is a genuine question I have for myself.
I was looking forward to a summer of writing during our son’s naps (both for myself and for other publications). Then, on the last day of school, I learned I have to do substantial online training for work throughout the summer. At my own pace - which means during my son’s naps.
I understand the importance of this training to help me become a better online teacher for whatever next year may hold (probably the world shutting down again when COVID-19 comes back strong), but my disappointment still looms.
(I will be paid for the training - but that’s not the point. I want time for diverse passions.)
Side Hustle Love
For me, side hustles have always been more than a chance to make extra money. I choose them to align with my intrinsic goals and interests.
Giving Up Vs. Scaling Back
When we had our first child, I gave myself permission to step back from guitar lessons after being a guitar teacher on the side for 10 years. I loved giving guitar lessons for numerous reasons - one being they were a chance for me to become a better guitar player myself.
I still look at the decision to quit as a realistic and beneficial choice, but my guitar skills have definitely declined.
As a swap, I’ve replaced that time with something more flexible - freelance writing here and there. And becoming a better writer in any form impacts my songwriting skills.
My past experience of literally giving up a side hustle I enjoyed makes me realize I don’t want to do that this time.
So do I scale back? Or is there a third option? Is it time to focus?
Time to Focus
When we add a second child to our busy family equation, I know I’m going to have to become more focused than I am now in order to maintain any separate activities apart from my career and motherhood.
A third party has always been in the room - side hustle ideas.
Losing myself wouldn’t be that bad - it would still be a great life. But something loud inside is speaking up. I plan to follow it.
That’s pretty much the only way I know how to live. I know ideas haunt you and hunt you down when you don’t listen to them (usually popping out the side of your head as some mental problem). So here’s what I plan to do while preparing for maternity leave - a combination of taking it easy while employing long-term vision.
(Anyone who has ever been around a young baby knows making a plan is kind of a joke. But here’s a random business brainstorm to fall back on because life is about to get hard!)
1. Include Others
I’ve always enjoyed interviewing others and learning from them. Only recently has it occurred to me how fun it would be to thrive in an online space so it meant more when I shined a light on respectable people doing respectable work.
I’ve modified the “Creativity at Work” series and merged it with the “First Creative Dollar Interviews” in an attempt to simplify and organize this blog.
I know I’m interested in how people today and in the past managed pulling off their first paid projects. I’m guessing other people are interested as well?
Also, if I want to keep up a weekly schedule with the blog, anyone willing to contribute or tell their story keeps the blog moving along nicely. On other weeks, I will research an artist or thinker from the past.
2. Write Faster/Cut More
Several aspects of the writing process come naturally to me at this point. Cutting is not one of them. If I think about the “work smarter, not harder” ethos, I realize I make things harder than they need to be by making them longer than they need to be. Simplicity is in style.
I also need to turn off the “edit button” until towards the end of a project instead of incessantly revising in the middle.
3. Use What Already Exists
I’ve never been someone to market my projects effectively. That being said, I have a lot of projects from the past that could probably use the light of day.
Since creating new projects is “deep work” my brain may not have any capacity for, I can do “surface level” work such as promoting things from the past.
For example, I probably won’t be getting any new photos done or songs recorded soon. But on that note, I have a large back catalog. I want to feature some songs on Instagram, effectively weave songs into the blog more - things like that.
4. Apply For Grants
This is an area I’ve never explored before. However, I know the history songs are educational and the First Creative Dollar series fits nicely with it.
I’ve self-funded all of my past projects. I’ve never crowdfunded, used Patreon, Kickstarter, etc. If I don’t have the confidence to invest in the new music, I know I would develop such confidence in a second if I secured a grant.
5. Put All Money Back into the Biz
On a similar note as above, I don’t look at any sales or gig money as “mine” to spend . Anything I make off the blog (or from freelance writing) belongs to the future.
(How do I make money off this blog? Well, I've sold a few books and CDs.)
But Savvy History is its own entity deserving a $10,000 facelift. Whether through grants, self-funding, or my other side-hustles, it will be supported separately while my job will support me.
6. Intentional Living Spaces
This involves simple tactics such as keeping a guitar upstairs and downstairs in order to pick it up when my children are playing civilly on the floor. This will help me make sure I maintain callouses.
Also, I read two books at once (one upstairs and one downstairs) so I can always be putting more into my brain during brief downtimes. Same goes with notebooks. I don’t like to open the computer or get my phone out around kids, but writing a quick note here and there is effective.
7. Show Everyday Life
I follow some really amazing history accounts filled with awesome facts, random quirky info, inspiring quotes, and carefully organized historical photos. Such organization is respectable and takes a lot more time than showing my own life and my own writing process.
While I want to take a lesson from intellectual giants such as Maria Popova and eventually leave my small moments out of this, I know for now I am reaching for what is quick and easy - pics of books I’m reading, pics of frugal activities such as remodeling, old band photos, creative parenting moments, and me standing spaced out in the yard. Not ideal - but at least I know where I want to go.
8. Keep Track of My Experiments Better
From the onset, I did this blog anonymously in order to experiment freely. For example, I thought my knowledge about systemizing from my master’s would play a larger part in the blog, but that has actually fallen to the wayside.
I’m currently paying mild attention to what people respond to, but I could look at my blog stats and Instagram likes to mine more about what works and what doesn’t. While that sounds slightly contrived, I enjoy everything I’m doing, so why not bring people more of what they need/want? More First Creative Dollar, more bibliotherapy, and more history.
In other words, if I start as a sandwich shop but everyone likes my soup - I should probably pay attention to that when I consider future advertising, menus, etc..
9. Distractions Vs. Opportunities
While I want to keep an open mind about different pursuits, I’ve heard you shouldn’t keep your mind too open or it will be filled with junk. For example, my husband and I have been tempted recently by rental properties. It’s in our ten year plan to get one. Also, construction and remodeling is Adam’s side gig. He is good at it.
That being said, remodeling and house flipping/renting is a large distraction from what I need to do in order to get back on the music wagon. We are both on the same page about needing to look away when our brain goes there in order to give me some time to indulge my creativity. (REAL TIME MOMENT: Another house just came up as I’m writing this and we’re talking about it - ha).
10. Aware of Scale Vs. One Timers
While I like freelancing, it’s hard not to notice it’s a swap for time. It doesn’t build anything sustainable or scalable. It builds a portfolio and helps you become a better writer, but once the transaction is done, it’s done.
On the other hand, when I invest in my own writing, music, potential products, and overall vision (all while having a stable career I enjoy), I may be working hard for nothing at first, but it builds towards something that hopefully isn’t a treadmill.
Well, that was a quick write! Hope you find some of these insights beneficial for your busy existence.
Like this post? Check out Part 2 where I narrow in on ten more important things to keep in mind if you find yourself in a chaotic season of life with side gigs on your mind.