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Is my new side hustle worth it?
I’ve been researching side hustles for months and months, waiting to take action as soon as the right one came along. Well after all this time, I’ve finally got one! But is it a good one? I’m not quite sure…
Why do I want a side hustle?
The first 3-6 months of my mini-retirement are centred around travelling. I’m already two months in, and have thoroughly enjoyed eating my way around different countries in Asia, catching up with friends and relatives along the way.
While travel is truly incredible, it’s not enough. I want to use this time away from the 9-5 grind to learn, experiment, and grow. This means stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things. There’s plenty of downtime while travelling – traipsing around temples in the blinding hot sun all day is exhausting and stops being fun unless you pace yourself. I could use this downtime to watch mindless TV – which would have been my default a few years ago – or I could use it to further my skills.
I wrote in a recent post that I want to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. While freelance copywriting is not the same as experimenting with entrepreneurial ventures, it does give me a taste of what it’s like working for myself.
The low down of my new hustle
So here are the details of this new hustle: I have signed up to be a freelance copywriter. I signed a contract with an individual who sends me writing jobs on an ad-hoc basis.
The pay? £10 for each 500-word article I deliver (feel free to wince right about now…!)
I’ll start with the bad, because it’s obvious that the pay is terrible. 500 words is roughly the length of an A4 sheet of paper. It doesn’t seem very much when you’re just doing stream of consciousness journaling, or blogging your thoughts and experiences as I’m doing here.
When you’re writing for a client, 500 carefully thought out words is difficult – especially if you have to write in a certain tone of voice, and need to do some prior research.
I realise it takes me forever to write. Time just slips away while I’m crafting sentences. Even writing these casual 1,000-word blog articles takes me about 3-hours all in all.
This is what the hustle looks like
To give you an example of how this hustle fits into my life right now, and how long it takes me, let me tell you about last week:
We were in Yogyakarta in Indonesia for the whole week, which meant I could set aside time for some copywriting. I wrote to my contact on Monday morning to tell her I was free to do some work that week. She got back to me on Wednesday night to say two articles had come up, and could I write them by Friday 4pm London time. I quickly responded yes and started writing first thing Thursday morning. I was determined to get both done in about 3 hours, so that I could spend the rest of the day doing something else.
Did I succeed? No.
I managed to do all the research, and write a halfway decent first article, and fairly terrible draft of the second. I closed my laptop after 3 hours knowing that I’d have to come back to the job the next day. So first thing Friday morning I spent another two hours writing and polishing my articles before I felt happy with them. I emailed them after a final, quick proofread, hoping I’d nailed the tone required in the client brief.
At 7:30pm, after a very nice, relaxed dinner, I checked my emails, and see a request for edits. I hadn’t fully met the brief!!! More research was required, so I frantically spent another two hours pulling it all together and sending it off. Not a very relaxed Friday evening after all.
In total, I spent about 7 hours writing 1,000 words, for a total pay of £20. That’s an hourly rate of £2.85. And in all honesty, I probably spent more than 7 hours on the job, by mulling over different words and phrases in my head while I was away from my laptop.
You are probably wondering why the hell I would continue with this hustle if I have to work so hard for little pay. Well, for several reasons.
I took this job with my eyes open. The friend who put me in touch with the contact told me she had stopped writing for them because the pay just wasn’t worth their time. And I knew it would take me much more than an hour to write 500 words, so I never expected to get minimum wage.
I’ve also previously questioned whether these types of online jobs offer exploitation, or opportunity. This side hustle is a bit of both, but I’m focusing on the opportunity element.
You see, at the beginning of the year, I listed a couple of skills I wanted to get better at. This included copy-writing, and graphic design. To improve my copy-writing skills, I could take a couple of online courses, or read a book or two. I also started this blog, forcing myself to write something on a weekly basis. But nothing beats having to write an article with a very specific brief, and on deadline. It forces me out of my comfort zone – to push myself and deliver content that will actually be used by an end-client.
With this (perhaps overly-optimistic) line of thinking, I’m actually being paid £2.85 an hour to learn something I wanted to do anyway.
Another good thing about the gig is that the individual who sends me the article briefs is working with me to develop my writing style. She gives me suggestions, and shows me her edits so I know where I can make improvements. She doesn’t just dismiss my work when it’s insufficient, or edit it without sending feedback. And she sends me work on topics I’m interested in, like travel and sustainability.
Lastly, the work is there if and when I want it. I don’t have to pitch for the work myself. I just tell my contact when I have free time, and she will let me know when something comes up. It means that I can fit the work around my own schedule, and don’t feel pressured that I have to write a certain number of articles a week.
I’ve got enough money set aside to fund my mini-retirement, so I’m not pursuing this side hustle for the money. If someone were doing this to pay the bills, I would advise them to get a better paid writing gig, or a supermarket job if they needed funds urgently.
I’m doing this for the experience, and skills development opportunity. I get a taste of freelancing and see whether freelance copywriting is a route I might go down if I really don’t want to go back to a 9-5 job.
But pursuing this side hustle also has an opportunity cost: by spending 7 hours last week on this gig, I didn’t spend 7 hours on more entrepreneurial pursuits I had planned. It is the latter where I really want to focus my time and effort, but I think for now, I can do both.
So I’ve decided to continue to write an article here and there until I decide I’m not learning anymore, or when the opportunity cost becomes too high.
Do you think I’m right here? Should I ditch the side hustle, or continue? Please leave your sage advice below in the comments!