Back to list

How You Can Tell If A Side Hustle Is For You

By Last update March 26, 2024
A blue collar man considering different side hustles

If you’re thinking about boosting your income with a side hustle you’re not alone. Many people turn to side gigs to pay off debt, save, or invest. But not all side hustles are created equal.

Many can be more trouble than they’re worth. Let’s break down how to decide if a side hustle is right for you, in a way that’s easy to understand and straight to the point.

If you’re in a position where you don’t have a lot of options due to criminal history or other issues then focus on #3 first. It’s the most important thing to consider when you just need to make some money and are willing to do anything.

These are the key things you need to think about before jumping into a new side hustle

1. How Much Do You Have?

First up, let’s talk time. Side hustles happen outside your main job, so you need to see how much free time you’ve got. Can you fit this gig into your life without overdoing it?

If a side hustle takes up all your free time but doesn’t pay well, it’s probably not worth it. Remember, some gigs, like starting a business, might take time to pay off but could give you more free time later on.

You need to be constantly thinking about how much your time is worth and how much your side hustle is paying you for it.

2. What Are You Good At?

Everyone’s good at something. Maybe you’re a wizard at organizing, or you know all there is to know about fantasy sports. Use your skills to find a side hustle that suits you.

If you’re struggling and not enjoying the work, it won’t last. For example, if you like driving and chatting, driving for Uber could be perfect. But if you’re not into socializing, maybe delivery gigs like Uber Eats or DoorDash are better.

The goal is to find something that you’re good at and enjoy. This isn’t always possible but these are the types of gigs that can grow into a full-time job or even your own company.

Incredible things happen when you can combine skills with passion.

3. Is It Worth Your Time?

Let’s talk cash. This is #3 on the list but is probably the most important. Not all side hustles pay well. It’s important to pick one that makes sense for your wallet.

For instance, you might not make much from online surveys, but driving for Uber could bring in a decent amount each month. Think about how much you could earn for the time you put in. If the numbers add up, it might be a good fit.

It always comes down to how much you are making per hour when you consider all of the tasks you need to complete, paid or not, for the side hustle. That includes everything from preparation, driving to and from the job, and anything else that is necessary outside of your paid time.

A surprising amount of side hustles just don’t make sense when you factor in all the time and expenses that go along with it.

4. What Do You Need to Start?

Some side hustles need an upfront investment. If you’re thinking about photography, you’ll need a good camera. But other gigs, like delivery jobs, just need a set of wheels. Consider the startup costs and if you’re willing to spend before you earn.

How much money you have to shell out at the beginning also has a very large impact on how much you are actually making. If you have to put up $1,000 to start a gig you need to subtract that from your earnings to see how much you’re really making.

For example, if you’re driving for Uber and already have a car you still need to deduct gas and extra maintenance expenses. Another huge expense most people overlook is just general wear and tear from putting mileage on your car.

If you have a car valued at $25,000 that is expected to last 140,000 miles every mile you drive costs around $0.18 due to the reduction of the value of the car. If you’re driving 200 miles in a night that’s another $36 in expenses to account for.

All of these expenses can add up quickly so make sure you’re accounting for everything.

5. Do You Actually Like It?

Finally, make sure you like what you’re doing. If you dread your side hustle, it’s not going to stick. Find something that feels more like fun than work. This way, you’ll be more likely to keep at it and see the financial benefits.

Going to a job you don’t like every day is hard enough. If you add having a side hustle to that which you dread the odds that you will be able to do a good job for any period of time is really low.

Sometimes you just won’t know if you’ll like it till you try it. In that case, it’s always a good idea to talk to several other people who are doing the same thing if you can. They’ll give you a much better idea of if you will be able to handle it.

Adam Sanders has worked as a reentry advisor, program leader, and teacher at San Quentin State prison in San Quentin California for several years. He co-founded San Quentin's financial literacy program and is passionate about helping former offenders successfully re-enter society and find personal and financial success. Adam also has nearly a decade of experience working in Marketing and Finance for large software companies and an MBA from Northwestern University.