Written By Desirae Odjick.
Side hustles are all the rage right now. Everyone knows someone who runs an online store, freelances, or rents a room on AirBnB—this list could go on forever.
But one of the most important things to remember about your side hustle is that it’s on the side of something.
Usually, you’re taking it on in addition to your day job, which is what pays your bills and provides your main source of income. It’s actually a great way to try out a new business idea or pursue a passion project. You’ve got stable income, which is a huge perk when you’re launching something new.
Depending on your industry, side hustling might be heartily encouraged, or it might be one of those things people don’t really talk about (even though it’s definitely happening in every industry and company). Either way, it’s important to make sure that your side hustle doesn’t get in the way of your main hustle: your job.
Luckily, there are ways you can make sure that your side hustle and your day job can coexist peacefully. There are even ways they can be beneficial to each other—so much so that your side hustle might end up boosting your career!
Here are four things to keep in mind when you’re trying to navigate the world of side hustling without compromising your main gig.
Set clear boundaries
You know your job and your industry best, so what counts as “effective boundaries” for your work might not be the same as mine. Understanding what those boundaries are for your industry before you get serious with your side hustle is going to be key to keeping everyone happy.
Maybe it means seting clear expectations with your side hustle clients that you’re unavailable during “regular” work hours, or maybe it means you don’t mention your day job on your side hustle’s website. No matter what, make sure those boundaries are clear.
When in doubt, ask for advice from other people at your company who have side projects. They’ll be able to best help you navigate what works for your industry and your employer.
Keep your priorities clear
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a side hustle, especially as you’re just getting started. New projects are exciting, especially when you get to call all the shots!
However, one of the best ways you can keep your side hustle in perspective is to compare how much money you make in your full-time gig to your side hustle. It’s not all about the money, because there are a lot of benefits to side hustling that go beyond the cash you can earn, but it can be a helpful way to figure out if you’re putting the right amount of time into each.
And just remember, you’re still a human being who needs things like sleep and down time to be effective at both your day job and your side hustle, so plan accordingly.
Keep conflicts of interest to a minimum
One of the biggest benefits of a side hustle is it gives you the opportunity to do something completely different than what you do all day. In fact, that’s actually one of the best ways to make sure your hustle isn’t going to cause issues at work.
If you work in finance, and your side hustle is knitting hats, there’s likely no chance you’ll end up with a conflict of interest between your hustle and your job. However, if you’re freelancing in the exact same field as your day job, you’ll be walking a much finer line to avoid conflicts of interest. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but you’ll just have to be much more careful about the projects you work on.
When in doubt, it’s worth bringing it up with your work team, and maybe even your HR department. Side hustles are pretty common these days, and there might be clear guidelines available to help you find a balance. If not, getting the all-clear from work is a great safety check, if you’re comfortable asking.
Use what you’re learning
It’s not just about making sure your side hustle doesn’t have a negative impact on your main hustle. You can build valuable skills outside of work that can make you more effective in your day job.
Whether it’s strengthening your technical skills and taking on similar projects at work or leveling up your negotiation skills as you work with clients, your side hustle can give you opportunities that you’d need to wait much longer for in your main gig.
If opportunities come up at work that let you flex the muscles you’re building in your side hustle, don’t be afraid to put your hand up for them! And depending on your office’s culture and your relationship with your manager, you can even feel free to bring up the skills you’re developing during conversations about your career with them.
Done right, your side hustle can be a perfect complement to your day job. So, what are you waiting for?
Desirae Odjick is the creator of Half Banked, a personal finance blog for millennials who want to think about money differently – and actually talk about it.
Illustration By Yana Vorontsov.