Side Hustles & Earning More

Is Your Side Hustle Holding You Back Financially?

Is your side hustle holding you back?

A short and sweet post today about something that I’ve been thinking about recently. Is your side hustle holding you back financially?

I had visions of grandeur when I started my first blog in late 2015. At the time I’d been bitten hard by the early retirement bug and I wanted a way to share what I’d discovered. But these days I’m wondering if I’m not biting the hand that feeds me?  I can’t help but wonder whether or not I’d be better off financially had I not stared this blog in the first place.

Is Your Side Hustle Holding You Back?

I spend around 20 hours per week on this site, give or take a few hours.  That includes time spent writing new posts, editing old ones, reading and choosing blog posts to feature, responding to email, looking for images, improving SEO, testing new layouts, engaging on Twitter, and about about a dozen other tasks.  Rather than sitting down and working on this site for a dedicated amount of time each day, I pop in and out all day, every day, as time permits.

Sometimes I work early in the morning, sometimes late at night.  I’ve been known to work while I’m riding the bus to work. I wrote this sentence that your reading right now during my lunch break on a Friday afternoon.

I do what I can, when I can and I’m not complaining – I don’t like rigid schedules so the fluidity that blogging as a side hustle offers suits me just fine.

In It For The Money

Making a bit of money was one of my reasons for blogging for starting my very first blog.  Camp FIRE Finance made a few hundred buck for me during its first year, but I sunk five times that amount into the blog.

In the long run I’m certain that I can make my money back, but in the back of my mind I’ve got this nagging thought that I can’t seem to get rid of, and that’s this:

how much better off would I be (financially speaking) if I’d spent my extra time focused on my full time job instead of my “side hustle?

Biting The Hand That Feeds You?

If I were spending an extra 20 hours per week at my full time job, and if I’d been spending that amount of time on my job over these past few years, I can almost guarantee you that I’d have received a promotion at work along with a nice bump in salary that would make the money I’m making from this blog look like a rounding error.

  • Was it a mistake to start this blog?
  • Do I quit while I’m ahead (i.e. still employed) and rededicate myself to my full time job?
  • Should I keep on grinding away on this site knowing that slow and steady progress is happening?
  • Do I double down and spend even more time on this site to accelerate this progress I’m seeing?

I have no good reason to dislike my job, but sometimes I despise it.  It stems from my ‘don’t tell me what to do’ attitude, but I resent that I’m still so dependent upon that paycheck and that my time isn’t my own.

That feeling of resentment towards my full time job is one reason that keeps me grinding away as I navigate the layers of financial independence.  Also, the feeling I get when someone comments on one of my posts, or shares my site on Facebook or Twitter is something that I just don’t get from my 9 to 5.

Why I’m Sticking With It

It’s kind of ridiculous I know, but the sincere interaction I get makes me feel really good.  It’s addicting.  I crave it and that’s another thing that keeps me going, even though I’m pretty sure that I could reach financial freedom much sooner if I just focused on my full time job instead.

Another reason that I’m not ready to throw in the towel is that I really (really) want to turn this site into something that is useful for you (the reader) and also generates a few bucks for me.   It’s not a greed factor (it kind of is a greed factor) it’s a safety net factor.   I’m trying to generate multiple income streams and I know that this blog has potential to become just that.

Landing on hard times hurts like hell if you don’t have a safety net.  – me

Spending more time on my full time job will eventually lead to a significant pay raise. A pay raise would lead to me reaching financial freedom sooner, but would also put all my eggs in one basket. Should I ever lose my job, I’d have nothing else.  Maybe having a big, fat emergency fund would ease my pain? But emergency money disappears very quickly when you’re not replacing what you spend.

From a financial standpoint would you be better off ditching the side hustle and focusing on your full time job? Is your side hustle costing you money?

Chime In!
Do you think your side hustle is hurting your full time job?  Would you be better off financially if you spent more time on your full time job?

Ty Roberts headshotTy Roberts is the founder of Camp FIRE Finance, and a husband and father of four living in the Seattle area. He’s a fan of the 4% rule, 80s movies and music, dad jokes and cast iron cooking.


By Ty Roberts

Ty Roberts is the founder of Camp FIRE Finance, and a husband and father of four living in the Seattle area. He's a fan of the 4% rule, 80s movies and music, dad jokes and cast iron cooking.

30 replies on “Is Your Side Hustle Holding You Back Financially?”

i guess it depends on what your primary job is – at your typical 9-5 gig, extra work doesn’t necessarily equal extra $. If your work is commission-based or if you are angling for a promotion, then I can see how concentrating on your full time job would pay off.

In my line of work, there are those of us who dedicate all of our work time (and a lot of our off time) to the job. Then there are others who just coast through their shift hoping they never have to lift a finger. We both get paid the same, regardless of our effort. Of course, only some of us end up on the promotion list!

I subscribe to the idea of diversified income streams. The folks that use overtime as their side gig have all their eggs in one basket, like you said. If they were to lose their job, their primary income stream and extra income are gone in one fell swoop.

I’m like you in that I dedicate my work time to work and unfortunately, extra time doesn’t equal extra money for me either. But extra time spent on the job would ultimately allow me to become better at my job, would allow me to get more work done, would get me noticed more by management, and would eventually lead to a promotion and salary bump. Would that be a better use of my time? Maybe, but as of today I guess I’m not willing to go there.

You ask a valid question Ty, but one you can likely answer for yourself.

Try working out what you time is worth per hour… add up your before tax total earned (i.e. not passive) income. That should include wages + bonus + tips + blog income + any other income you actually have to turn up to earn.

Next divide that by the total number of working hours you actually worked last year. Be honest here, time on the job + time outside of work spent preparing/thinking about work + time blogging + time spent earning other income.

Divide your income figure by your working hours figure.

If an hour spent working isn’t earning you at least that amount then from a financial perspective you aren’t using that hour effectively. Work smarter, not harder. Those folks who evangelise endlessly hustling are either idiots or trying to sell you something!

Financial Independence is about earning the ability to choose how you spend your time without needing to worry about things like this hourly rate calculation.

However that can be a long journey, and you need to enjoy yourself along the way.

So my suggestion is have a think about what it is you enjoy from blogging, then ask yourself whether you really need to be putting in 20 hours a week to achieve that enjoyment.

You are already spread pretty thin, full time job + father of 4 kids + husband + whatever. That 20 hours must be taking time away from a lot of other things. Ultimately it is your prioritisation decision, particularly if blogging isn’t likely to make a material difference to you financially.

Do what makes you, and your family, happy.

Time is definitely scarce @Slow Dad:disqus – your parting advice is what drive me today. Thankfully I don’t need this site to generate any money, but I’d love for it to do so anyway. Based on my real hourly wages alone I should have shut this thing down long ago, but like I said – I’m also looking for a few things other than money. The moment this blog feels like a drag then I’m outta here.

This sounds like the daily internal battle that goes on inside my own brain. I am constantly struggling with the reasons I’m doing what I’m doing with my blog. My reasons are your reasons. I truly enjoy the community and creating useful and entertaining posts for my readers.

But, financially speaking, I’m not so sure focusing on my W-2 job, wouldn’t be more beneficial. Only time will tell!

I need to rethink my reasons why. If I’m in it mostly for money then I’ll need to set some milestones to measure my progress and define what success looks like. If I’m in it for other reasons then I need to keep them front and center and not worry about the ROI I’m getting on the blog

I agree. I’ve decided I’m going to treat my blog as a business for this entire year. After that, ill determine its fate – based on my progress. 🙂

If I wasn’t almost done with my job, I think I would have had to really weigh my time spent blogging. I wouldn’t make more money at my full-time job if I worked harder, but I’m sure I could find side hustles that pay a lot more than my blog will ever pay. Put 20 hours/week into almost any side hustle (even at $10/hour) – that’s $800/month. BUT – blogging can bring other important things to your life as you mentioned. And I think some of the relationships you build may result in opportunities for other financial gains. It’s a tough question for sure!

I’m with you, Ty. I think the thing to focus on in how much real, personal satisfaction you get from your blog. It’s yours. You created it. You’ve built a new network. In time, $ will follow (or not). In the meantime, savor the true satisfaction you get from realizing this is something YOU built. It’s not always about the money. Fulfillment is an admirable goal, and there are few things more fulfilling than seeing your “baby” grow into a child. Nurture it. Enjoy it. Life is short.

Not gonna lie – I’d love to make money here, but it’s the personal satisfaction I’m getting that keeps me engaged. I get a kick out of our Twitter conversations. I’ve enjoyed meeting some bloggers and readers people face to face. I thoroughly enjoyed FinCon – those are the reasons I’m still here.

Hey Ty! I ask myself some of the same questions, off and on. For me, I always come back to loving the creative process. Even if my audience isn’t huge, I’ve created a small space on the web, where I have control over the look and feel of it, and the content that is created and displayed…the only limitation is myself, and I continue to learn, grow, and stretch past my own boundaries. I’ve enjoyed watching GRQ grow, and am a big fan!

Good question. You’ve got a really love blogging to continue blogging because the money is definitely a little in the beginning.

But it’s like that in every side also. You start small and build your way up. I didn’t want to work 20 more hours at work. There was just no more upside for me.

So you’ve got to make your own calculation on what the upside is for you at work.

Blogging may never pay off financially for me…directly. Not much income, no direct side hustle. But I find the rewards (accountability, community, direction, using the research) are well worth the time.

I also have the time and the financial flexibility not to try to maximize my monetary return on everything I do. My side hustle is a luxury, really, and not everyone has the flexibility to treat their hustle decisions as such. Where you sit, though, determines where you stand. In a different place in life, I’d need to be spending a lot more time on work than my little blog allows.

The intrinsic benefits weigh heavily in my calculations here. Really, that’s the only thing keeping me going. Should the “warm and fuzzies” go away before the money starts rolling in … that’d be the end of me. If the money rolls in and THEN the warm and fuzzies go away … not sure what I’d do?

I hear ya. For me I don’t look at my blog as a side hustle. For me it’s a hobby. If something becomes un-fun, I will stop. But it does take lot of time and I know I “cut my weekend short” because I have blog things I want to do. I tried monetizing and that meant spending some money on a va, but it wasn’t really paying off for me. I do think somewhere in there you have to find the balance. For me that means really only posting once per week. Otherwise I will have no free time.

You’re probably onto something here. I’m maintaining a posting schedule that FULL TIME bloggers keep ( 3 x per week). I should probably look at cutting that back to 2 x per week as means of recapturing some of my time.

The only reason I’m still blogging is because of the engagement with amazing people like you, Ty. Add in the possibility that I might touch some lives or help someone in some way and, right now, that’s enough reason for me to stick around. I could be working instead of blogging and it’s something I think about at least weekly. The satisfaction and fulfillment I get from blogging wins out every time – my intuition tells me I have to stick around to see where this path leads. Great post!

Thanks @amandacentsiblyrich:disqus! One thing I didn’t cover in this post is how it’s had a positive financial impact on one very important life: mine! Spending so much time reading, talking, and writing about personal finance has really helped me get laser focused on my own personal money goals – if nothing else, this blog has been successful just because of that.

I am not salaried and I am not eligible for OT so I literally couldn’t put in extra hours at my work. Which is one benefit of my job, even if I am not super fulfilled by it.

If you spend an extra 20 hours a week on your job, you might get ahead. Or you might burn out quickly because the only thing driving you to spend that extra time is money. Whereas working on your blog has other benefits besides (one day) making money-it is a creative outlet, you’re helping people, you are part of a community. Non-monetary benefits might not get you to FI faster, but it will keep the quality of you life good/great-and what’s the point of FI if you’re too stressed/unhealthy/tense to enjoy it.

Because I’m salaried, any “extra hours” I put in at work technically LOWER my hourly rate, so I have to think long term and understand that I’m setting myself up for future success through promotions, bonuses, salary bumps, etc. etc.

You should keep at it, but give yourself a deadline. If the blog doesn’t improve greatly by year 3, then maybe it’s time to cut back. I think it took me about 2.5 years before I started making reasonable income. Just think of it as a learning experience. You can always try something else.
I suspect if you put 20 more hours into your full time work, you’ll despise it even more. Good luck!

I’m halfway to the 3 year mark and it has definitely been a learning experience thus far! And I think your right re: despising my job even more if I were to work even more … this site is almost like a therapeutic outlet for me on that front. Thanks @retirebyforty:disqus

Remember the PIEs? They stepped back from their blog because it was taking time away from their kids.

You ask an important question here, and make a solid point. If you and I were to dedicate this time and effort to our jobs we would likely see great financial benefit even though we are not hourly workers. I’ve thought about this myself.

The way I’ve settled the issue for myself is: yes, I could give more to my day job and make more money. I could, but I suspect that I would then become an unpleasant, cranky individual to live with. Taking away the blog and replacing it with work-work would be taking away my creative outlet. I wrote a while ago about my ‘happiness portfolio’. Remove blogging from the picture and my portfolio becomes unbalanced – I will not have enough diversification and that would be risky.

Love the approach Felicity! One thing I’m trying to be mindful of is that I don’t do anything to jeopardize my full time job. Based on the time I currently spend on my site, I’m not positive that’s happening. I need to strongly consider taking a page from your book and pull back on the time I spend here.

You’re making me blush – thanks, Amy!

And you get the distinction of being the very first to comment on this blog using the WordPress plugin (I was using Disqus). Glad to see that it works! 🙂 Thanks for chiming in!

I think depends greatly on what your goals are. You could just as easily look at your blog as an investment, like a small business, that takes time to cultivate but has the potential to provide more income in the future than you may otherwise be able to earn.

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