What is a Side Hustle? And Why Millions Have One

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What is a side hustle?

A side hustle is simply anything you do to earn money outside of a traditional job.

Side Hustle vs. Part Time Job

Wait, isn’t that the same as just taking on a part-time job nights and weekends? I think there’s a subtle difference.

In generations past, a side hustle might have been known as “moonlighting,” but there’s also a more entrepreneurial connotation than merely taking on a second job.

To me, a side hustle has more optimistic and empowering feel to it.

There’s an upside potential or creative energy that perhaps your day job or second part-time job doesn’t offer.

By starting small—in your spare time—and low risk, you can build a meaningful business and an additional income stream.

Millions of peopleeven celebrities — are doing just that, and you can do.

For me, it was a path to quitting my corporate job and ultimately achieving financial independence.

Side Hustle vs. Hobby

What makes a side hustle different from a hobby?

While both hobbies and side hustles can be done in your free time for personal enjoyment, the key difference is that most hobbies cost money, instead of making you money.

If your side hustle doesn’t have an income stream associated with it–or you can’t see how you’ll build one–it’s a hobby and not a business.

Origins of the “Side Hustle”

According to Grammarist, the term side hustle was first used way back in 1950!

The phrase gained popularity and during and after The Great Recession.

Here’s what the Google Trends chart for “side hustle” looks like over the last 15 years:

google trends side hustle

I’d like to think I played some small role in popularizing the term (and practice) over the last few years, but that’s probably giving myself too much credit.

Related: Recession-Proof Businesses

Negative Connotations

One thing that’s interesting is that the phrase has different connotations to different people:

  • One positive — “He’s not the biggest guy on the court but he sure shows a lot of hustle!
  • And one negative — “I got hustled by that used car salesman!”

In the context of a side hustle though, it’s almost universally positive. The type of hustle I’m talking about is:

  • Getting more done with less
  • For the love of the game


  • Ripping people off
  • Easy money
  • Mind-numbing work

For me, my use of the word hustle comes from an old baseball coach of mine. He said, “You’re going to have bad days in the field. You’re going to have bad days at the plate. But hustle never slumps.”

Hustle never slumps. It’s your own effort, the one thing you can always control.

Though there are philosophers who lament the need for people to have a side hustle. They romanticize the days of job security and having a stable 30-year career with one company.

This view ignores the tremendous entrepreneurial energy side hustlers are exploring and bringing into the world. To be able to cut your own paycheck is empowering–and I believe it’s a crucial life skill.

The Side Hustle Attitude

The first step to building a successful side hustle is to get the mindset right. Without the optimistic, can-do, make-something-happen attitude, it’s really difficult to find the positive energy required to build the business.

If you’re the down-on-your-luck, woe-is-me victim of life, I’ll be 100% honest: this whole side hustle thing probably isn’t going to work out for you.

It starts with attitude.

The good news is attitude is free, and it’s equal-opportunity; everyone has access to the side hustle mindset.

Whether you think you can, or think you can’t… you’re right.
–Henry Ford

Side Hustle Startup Costs

A side hustle should be a low-risk project, meaning it shouldn’t take a lot of start-up capital. Like Chris Guillebeau discusses in The $100 Startup, there are a ton of rewarding lifestyle businesses that got off the ground without breaking the bank.

I started my original side hustle with just $5–because that’s what it cost to open a Google AdWords account at the time. (Now it’s free!)

Over the years, almost all of my projects have been started for less than $500, including this website.

How Much Time Does a Side Hustle Take?

Instead of investing a lot of money, the largest side hustle investment is typically the hustler’s time.

Side hustles are part-time endeavors people use to build new skill-sets, supplement their income, or just to experiment with some new business idea.

Initially, a side hustle should take up no more than 20 hours a week of your time. Of course if the business really takes off you’re welcome to adjust the hours accordingly, but for starters it’s important to keep the time investment to a minimum.

The idea is to take some knowledge or skill you have and leverage it into a small but viable business.

If it feels like work, don’t do it. Side hustles should be fun!

(The last thing you need is a second job you hate!)

And no matter how busy you are, I’m sure you could scrape up an extra hour or two a day if you really had to.

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have 24 hour days.” –Zig Ziglar

Side Hustle Benefits

Extra Income

Side hustles are NOT get-rich-quick schemes, but can be quite lucrative.

Imagine if you could bring in an extra $500 or $1000 a month in your spare time, doing something you love.

That would be awesome right?

That’s what this site is all about.

It won’t happen overnight, so align your expectations accordingly, but it is absolutely feasible to be earning a significant side income after a few months or a year.

Regular people make it happen all the time, and so can you.

Challenging, Rewarding Work

Besides the extra income potential that gets everyone excited initially, having a side hustle can be rewarding in other ways as well.

For instance, it can give you a chance to pursue professional goals outside of work, challenge yourself in a new arena, and flex your entrepreneurial muscles (maybe for the first time!).

Filling your days with meaningful work is a path to happiness.

If your day job doesn’t get you excited anymore (or it never did), a side hustle is the perfect outlet to explore and experiment with something that will.

Is a Side Hustle Worth It?

To make a side hustle work, it takes real work. That’s why it’s called a hustle–it’s not for lazy people!

(Although if you set it up right, an initial time investment can pay off for months or years down the road without much ongoing work.)

But if you’re not ready to put in the hours at the beginning, or if you’re happy with your job, or if you make enough money already, a side hustle probably isn’t for you.

And that’s totally fine.

The best side hustlers have a hunger for something more, and use their hustles as a means to get there.

Next Steps

Are you ready to hustle?

Here are a few things you can do.

  1. Get an Idea – Here’s a big list of side hustle business ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
  2. Subscribe to The Side Hustle Show podcast – My guests and I share actionable and inspiring part-time business tips every week.
  3. Learn the “Big 3” side hustle business models – My book is free on Kindle and breaks down the most popular business models and how to get started with each.


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Nick Loper

About the Author

Nick Loper is a side hustle expert who loves helping people earn more money and start businesses they care about. He hosts the award-winning Side Hustle Show, where he's interviewed over 500 successful entrepreneurs, and is the bestselling author of Buy Buttons, The Side Hustle, and $1,000 100 Ways.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Forbes, TIME, Newsweek, Business Insider, MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Bankrate, Hubspot, Ahrefs, Shopify, Investopedia, VICE, Vox, Mashable, ChooseFI, Bigger Pockets, The Penny Hoarder, GoBankingRates, and more.

2 thoughts on “What is a Side Hustle? And Why Millions Have One”

  1. Would like to start a live str video show which can also be repackaged as a podcast. Suggestions? Starting steps?


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