On Your Own

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Could a Side Gig Work for You?

Side projects can be a viable way to create extra cash flow. 

The past year we have seen good employment numbers and consistent job growth. As you know, low unemployment means fewer people having a hard time finding good jobs. When jobs are easier to come by, but good employees become more scarce, naturally two things happen.

First, usually there is increased competition to keep those good employees once they're hired, and second, employers are having to increase pay and benefits to land the good hires over other competitive offers. Although this is typically what happens during times like these of low unemployment, wage growth as of late has been slower than expected. That's not to say it won't come, it's just taking a little longer to show itself this time.

This is actually very similar to how long the economic recovery has taken since the recession. And, one thing I see all the time among our clients is that, although they're making considerable payments on their student loans and typically have solid jobs, the principal isn't budging simply because income is limited and not necessarily increasing.

As a result, with more and more student loan debt (or other types of debt) and slower wage growth, a number of people have started side gigs as ways to earn extra income. Sometimes they actually help pay the bills, and other times they basically allow someone to do something fun because their regular income just makes ends meet. The point is that they are doing something extra to make it feel like life isn't so strapped.

A side hustle doesn't mean you have to wait tables at night and sit at an office job during the day. We see a number of people finding creative ways to make extra cash, without working themselves to the bone. So it poses the next questions, "What should you do?"

First, think about what you are good at. If you have an engineering degree, chances are you might be pretty good at calculus and could tutor high school students once or twice a week. If you are good at playing the piano or guitar, you might be able teach music lessons to a select few people.

Second, think about what you enjoy. Are there things you like to do that maybe most people don't enjoy? Do you like woodworking? Not many people make things anymore. If you can find something you like to do that you're also skilled at, you might actually find yourself in a position to create considerable extra income. One of my good friends always enjoyed videography growing up and became good at it over the years. Now, he and his wife are able to travel and enjoy their careers as filmographers because of the extra income they've built up from their hobby.

Believe it or not, many small businesses get started as side projects that became something bigger. If you have a unique skill, or you have an idea for how to offer something in a way that's better or different than anyone else's, who knows where it might take you? Don't become a door-to-door salesman, but get creative, and it could be one of the better decisions you make in life.

I feel compelled to add that whatever side project or income earner you choose should not affect your day job. Don't make your side project unintentionally become your only project before it's ready for prime time. But, by putting in a little extra work on something you enjoy, you can put yourself in a position to get those loans paid off faster, save for a vacation, or any other dream you can dream.

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