Money

How 5 Working Professionals Make Extra Money From A Side Hustle

By now, you’d be well aware that having a side hustle is not only enjoyable – it can be lucrative. Everyone should have one, but when you’re already a busy working professional, making time for yet another project can seem like insanity. Solution? It’s got to be good. For inspiration, we tracked down a few professionals to see what hustling they’re getting up to on the side, and what advice they have for those of us yet to get it together.

Side hustle #1: The wedding celebrant

Alexie is the Recruitment and Talent Manager at AGL in Melbourne, but for five years she’s worked as a marriage celebrant as well. She’s one of many people in their 20s and 30s taking on side projects, as a way to boost their income, for personal and creative satisfaction, or for a combination of reasons.

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“I became a celebrant specifically to marry some friends of mine who were keen to have me involved in their wedding,” Alexie says. “I find that having the opportunity to do something completely different on the weekend is so rewarding and creates an important balance in my life. Being a celebrant is financially rewarding and can increase my salary $15k upwards per year, depending on how busy I want to be, but I don’t really do it for the money. I am fundamentally romantic and believe in telling love stories the way they should be told (a skill that isn’t greatly desired in the corporate world).”

Side hustle #2: The arts freelancer

Cassie is the Media & Communications Manager for a small not-for-profit organisation, but on the side she’s a theatre critic, freelance writer & editor. Like many with side projects in the arts, she didn’t get into it for the money, though she earns enough to afford travel every few years, something out of her reach before.

“I started writing about theatre when I was working a tedious receptionist job. Critical analysis was always (maybe weirdly) my great love as a drama student, and I’ve always been a writer. A great friend suggested I combine all of those things into theatre criticism and writing about theatre and I fell in love with the work.”

Cassie’s transferrable skills from writing helped her get her current full time job, but she maintains that it’s love not money or career prospects that keep her at it. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that my side job has changed the fabric of my life. Through it I’ve made some fiercely intelligent, hilarious friends. So much of theatre is about the question of what it really means to be a person; I’m more thoughtful, and I think more considerate, now.”

Side hustle #3: The writer and public speaker

Like Cassie, Carly turned her passions into a side project that brings in enough for bonuses like overseas travel. A public servant by day, Carly started blogging about her life with a visible disability in 2009. As her readership grew, her hobby turned into viable work as a freelance writer and speaker, communicating about disability and appearance diversity issues at conferences and workplaces.

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“Mostly I do it because I love it,” she says. “I love crafting a story and it’s always a buzz getting published. Seeing my name in print is like my birthday! I was recently the opening speaker prior to Julia Gillard on my lunch break from my day job! It was a bit of a comedown when I returned to work.”

Side hustle #4: The photographers

Alison and Greg both work as photographers on the side, though Alison is a Teacher and Greg works as a Project Manager for an investment management company. Both started by shooting weddings or events for friends, then as word of mouth spread, their reputations improved and both are now earning around 10-25% more on top of their day job income.

Side hustle #5: The bookkeeper

For some, though, side projects are less about pursuing different interests and more about increasing income with freelance or self-managed work in the same industry. If you’re really good at something and can make it work, why not have a little something extra on the side?

Kate works four days per week as a Senior Bookkeeper (someone who records financial transactions for a business), but then on the side she runs Count on Kate Bookeeping Services, bringing in an extra $50K per annum. She stresses that achieving this level of success has taken a lot of hard work and long hours, but is worth it.

A word on side-hustling’s challenges

You’ve got to make sure you’re paid

Whether you’re bringing in the big bucks, or just finding a way to be creatively satisfied, there are some challenges anyone planning on diversifying should consider. The main issue Public Servant and writer Carly faces, is making sure she gets paid (and not only because she’s sometimes forgetful with invoicing). “I don’t like working for free, and this is especially problematic for people with disabilities – there’s the expectation we’ll provide our life skills and experience for free, like a charity.” Carly has had to develop her negotiation skills to insist on the value of her work.

You need to keep your admin – and life – in order

The administrative and financial elements of maintaining multiple income streams are recurring concerns. Photographer and Project Manager Greg acknowledges that his administrative tasks are “boring as hell!”

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Theatre Critic and Comms Manager Cassie stresses the importance of solid administrative habits and insists that anyone wanting to take on a side project has to be prepared to “schedule” their fun. “Write lists of your tasks and priorities (including how long you expect the task to take) and keep up to date calendars. Have your admin sh*t together. Schedule everything – but schedule your rest time and downtime too. Organised and scheduled fun and rest sounds weird at first but it’s rewarding and necessary.”

It’s hard (but necessary) to know what to charge and value your work

Admitting that she doesn’t have a head for business, Alison suggests that time and practice make the less fun parts of her photography business easier. “The financial aspect of building a business has been one of the more challenging issues, mostly around valuing myself enough to know how much to charge or what my time is worth. This also usually means knowing what is happening in the marketplace, too. I don’t like this side of it at all but I’m getting better at it.”

Talking to a few other people doing similar things to you is the best way to figure out where you sit with pricing. There are also resources you can find from a quick Google search, like this tumblr, that lists what publications pay freelance writers in Australia. Once you’re armed with this knowledge, standing by what you know your work is worth can be scary, but it’s an essential life skill. Practice make perfect.

You’ll need some support – and to find balance

Recruitment Manager and Marriage Celebrant, Alexie, credits her success to having a great accountant and a supportive husband. “I would urge anyone wanting to take on an additional sideline project to surround yourself with the support you need. I know I have to do a good job because if I don’t I will damage my personal brand so I make sure that I can deliver on the additional work I have taken on and that I don’t take on more than I can handle. Your health and managing a sensible level of stress is important so don’t bite off more than you can chew!”

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Greg agrees that balance is important, a lesson he learnt the hard way when he first started out. Giving yourself enough structure to be able to prioritise a healthy lifestyle is key. “Make sure you maintain a balance. At first I was up editing until 2am. In the early days it will be tough but make sure you have a streamlined workflow and don’t be afraid to outsource. Keep it fun. The minute you stop enjoying it then it’s just another job!”


Maeve Marsden is a freelance writer, director, producer and performer, and the creator of Sydney cabaret act, Lady Sings it Better. You can find her on Twitter here.