There’s a really good chance that you’re heard a side hustle defined as a success once it crests six figures.
That is not why I am writing this post.
You see, I have no idea what it’s like to earn six figures from a side hustle. I don’t even know what it’s like to earn that from a full-time hustle–though I hope to find out one day!
I have a long and storied history with side hustling, and I attribute some of our financial success to it. But there was no grand milestone crossing that happened recently.
If anything, I’ve been side hustling less this past year than I have for almost the decade before it.
Instead, an impromptu opportunity to earn $100 is actually what pushed me to write about side hustling once more. Because that $100? Yeah, it made me a success.
Determine Your Definition of Success
Here’s the thing with side hustles. It’s really easy to let them turn into full-time jobs and then some.
And that’s a problem.
Why? For many people, at least initially, your real opportunity for income growth comes from your full time job. Of course, I understand completely that there are some positions where the process of making more money is painfully slow (hello, education!).
But if your side hustle starts to pull you away from your full time employment, you could jeopardize your career or earning potential.
You also run the risk of just making your side hustle suck.
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After letting myself become surrounded by the side hustle noise, I was fairly certain that my side hustles weren’t successful. I kept pushing. I made four figures a year. Then, I made five figures. Just as I found myself seeing if I could find a way to double my side hustle income again, it hit me.
I like my job. In fact, I love it.
I don’t need to keep up with the six figure freelancers…because I’m not a full time freelancer. I’m a teacher who freelances (and edits and consults and tutors and does myriad other things!) on the side.
If you aren’t careful to determine your own definition of success, you risk burning out. You also risk allowing your side hustle to erode your free time, your family time, and your sleep.
Three Benchmarks for a Successful Side Hustle
The most obvious benchmark for a successful side hustle is to generate an income amount that would stop someone on social media mid-scroll. It would grab a Business Insider headline.
But side hustles don’t have to yield six figures to be life changing.
In fact, there are three other benchmarks that are really useful in determining a side hustles success.
You Cover An Expense
I still remember the first side hustle light bulb moment I had. One evening, I finished back-to-back tutoring sessions after work, and then I ran into Aldi to do our grocery shopping. After the third or fourth turn of the cart, it dawned on me that the cash in my pocket from tutoring could cover everything on my shopping list.
Thankfully, I manage my side hustle money better now.
But realizing that my side hustle covered one of our non-negotiable expenses was pretty thrilling then. And it still is.
I don’t currently earn anything close to enough to cover my full time pay and all of the other benefits that come with my job. But I do earn enough to cover our mortgage. In any economy, that’s some serious breathing room. In this current state of things, it does wonders for my anxiety.
You Hit A Viable Hourly Rate
After I established myself as a tutor, I started to increase my rates. I always made sure to stay competitive, and I actually probably underpriced myself for our particular market. But once I started charging $40 an hour, I realized I was making something close to a very comfortable rate. It felt like enough where I could do that for a job, factoring in the tax situation and the lack of benefits of course.
I wasn’t pulling in $40 an hour forty different times a week. I wasn’t even tutoring forty hours a month.
But knowing that I sharpened my skills and built a client base that was more than willing to pay those rates made me realize that there was definite potential there.
You’ve Primed The Pump
A side hustle is an income stream, right? Sure. But if you listen to the common rhetoric about income streams, they should all be flowing like the Mighty Mississippi.
But side hustles don’t actually have to work that way.
In fact, if your side hustle is still very much active income–meaning you put in the effort and time every time you side hustle–you probably don’t even want a bunch of babbling brooks.
When I made $100 over winter break, I realized that this side hustle could be life changing. Not in the sense that $100 dramatically increase our lives over those two weeks.
But I realized that even after taking more than a year off tutoring, I established such a strong reputation and such solid relationships that I could go back to it if I ever needed or wanted to.
The pump is primed. Not every side hustle needs to net thousands or even hundreds of dollars a year. Being able to increase the output as needed is a powerful way to put on your parachute and protect your time (and sleep!) simultaneously.
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Final Thoughts on Side Hustle Successes
Please don’t take this post to mean that a six-figure side hustle isn’t something to strive for. It certainly can be. If you want to scale, 10x, and iterate your way into a new career or into entrepreneurship, I will cheer you on.
And if your side hustle nets you $50 or $100 a month, effectively covering a staycation or your holiday budget, I will cheer you on, too.
There are so many ways to be a successful side hustler, especially when you define what success means to you.
So Tell Me…How do you feel about side hustles? Are you currently doing any side hustling?