The Side Hustle

hs-fb-image-optimizedIt seems like the side hustle, also known as the job on the side or moonlighting has become commonplace for Ghanaian corporate and civil workers in recent times. It wasn’t unheard of in times past, but it wasn’t so rampant either. These days though, it seems everybody is doing it.

Perhaps it is the harsh economic times or the recent entrepreneur craze or maybe even a general dissatisfaction with corporate work rewards. Whatever it is, something has fired up this fast growing phenomenon of the side hustle and Business World set out to find out the nitty gritty of the matter.

The Side Hustler’s Story

For obvious reasons, the names of our candidates and their companies have been replaced or withheld.

Meet Araba, who works at a telecoms company and sells imported perfumes to her colleagues. She discloses that her and her husband’s monthly salary can only take them so far with the upkeep of her home and their two children; the extra money must come from somewhere. So when her sister came back from the UK with some perfumes as gifts for friends, she decided to make a business out of it.

Prince works at an advertising agency as a graphic designer for less than GHC1500 a month. With financial obligations to his ailing mother and little sister, something has got to give so he does; at night after work and on weekends, he goes home to work on contracted jobs mostly for his friends’ small businesses.

One would think it is only workers with financial obligations to others who feel the need for a side hustle, but no.

Kate lives in her mother’s house. She is unmarried and has a well-paying job at a bank as a relationship officer. Her salary pretty much all goes to her but even she has a side hustle. “Why?” We asked.

“I love fashion and I want to have a successful label someday soon,” she explains.

Kate is a fashion designer. She studied with her seamstress aunt and used her salary to buy herself an electric sewing machine. Now she mostly sews for her friends at night and on weekends but her friends have been referring her to their friends and her client base is growing.

She has every intention of leaving her job once the work load for her fashion label becomes too much to handle. “The fashion label is my dream so I guess my current job is just a means to an end.”

Most of the other side hustlers we spoke to are singing Kate’s tune of making dreams come true. There’s the nurse who is also a fashion designer, the accountant who builds websites and writes code on the side and the administrative assistant who plans weddings and other events, the University teaching assistant who has a vegetable farm and the bank executive with an engineering background who owns a cement block factory and wants to start a construction company.

In this age of the entrepreneur, the one most voiced out complaint is lack of adequate funding to see these start-ups from suckling stage to independent small businesses. So while some are throwing caution to the wind and quitting their jobs to fully concentrate on their dreams, others like our side hustlers are testing the waters while holding on to a stable job.

At some point, one will suffer, of course, and then they’d have to choose but for now, the extra income and regularity of cash flow that their corporate jobs provide them is too helpful to give up.

But still one must take precedent over the other so we asked Kate which takes up more of her time.

“Definitely the fashion label,” she nodded. Even though I spend more time in the office, I’m constantly thinking about designs and how to solve some problem or how to get a finished dress to a client. I think it’s because that is where my heart is.”

Prince says the same of his graphic designing. “At the day job, there are usually clients who have been with us for months or years even so we sort of develop a system of guidelines that make it easy to work around so that doesn’t require too much thinking. But the night job being mostly for start-ups is more consuming as most of them have no clear direction for brand visuals in mind.”

Business World wanted to know which is more lucrative. The answers were the same all round. At their current stages, the main hustle is regular but the side hustle fluctuates. One month you have a lot of income from the side job and the next month; nothing.

Most stick with it nonetheless because generally it’s more than just another way to make money. It’s a journey to a much desired place; dreams come true and, of course, financial independence.

There are many formidable businesses that grew out of side hustles like Twitter. It was thought up and developed by Jack Dorsey while he worked for a software company called Odeo. Kate’s dream succeeding is not a far-fetched idea.

So what’s the effect on this double life on the side hustler?

Among the consequences mentioned were fatigue due to little sleep and not enough time to spend with the kids or spouses. But they all say the extra income or the chance to build a dream is well worth the trouble.