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9 in 10 uni graduates are employed full time.1

Uni grads earn 15-20% more than those without a degree.2

Deakin postgraduates earn 36% more than undergraduates.3

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Why starting a side hustle could be the career shift you need

Mariah McInnes knew her full-time communications gig within the automotive industry wasn’t going to give her the flexibility to follow her dream to live the life of a digital nomad.

Few jobs give people that chance.

‘My goal was always to move to New York to live for a while, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that,’ she says. But through her networks, she learned of the idea of the side hustle.

Mariah started freelancing on the app Fiverr for a couple of years, doing odd jobs, but found the gig wasn’t paying well and didn’t give her much opportunity.

It was when someone suggested she ‘put more energy into [freelancing]’ and start her own business that an idea fell into place.

‘I then started looking at side hustling in terms of what I could do with my own skillset,’ Mariah explains. Having studied a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Journalism and Public Relations at Deakin University, she began working on the idea of a website that would offer her services as a freelance content writer – a venture that would unleash her passion for storytelling.

After planning for six months, Mariah launched Content Queen in June 2019. Nine months later, she expects her side hustle will become her full-time career.

If you’ve been toying with the idea of starting a side hustle to find an escape from your nine-to-five, Mariah says it can be a great way to explore a new industry, or ignite an old passion.

It could even become the career shift you’ve been looking for.

‘It’s tough, but I think if you really want it and you’re prepared to work hard for it, there are endless possibilities of what you can achieve.

The best part is, you’re only a few steps away from turning your dream into a reality.

It starts with an idea

‘I think it’s first about identifying what it is you really love doing, and it might not even be what you’re currently doing for work,’ Mariah says. ‘It could be a hobby that you love.’

This is good news if you’ve become jaded in your job or industry. Whether you’re thinking of getting out your old paintbrushes, or considering using your love of social media to help small businesses, Mariah says don’t be afraid to focus on a niche.

‘Find a target audience that you can serve really well, and try not to think, “I can serve everyone.” Because if you try to serve everyone, you’re good to no one.’

With an idea and target market in mind, you’ve got the foundations of a side hustle and you can start setting goals – both long term and short term.

Mariah’s advice is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What does this side hustle look like for you?
  • How do you see it growing?
  • What do you want it to bring into your life?

Now, you can form your goals around your answers. But try not to get so caught up in the fine details that your idea stays an idea forever.

‘Don’t think you need to wait until everything is perfect before you launch your website, or start your Instagram account, because if you’re always waiting for things to be perfect, you’ll never start,’ Mariah says.

Do you need to tell your boss?

Although she wanted to launch her website sooner than she did, Mariah says one thing that held her back was working up the courage to tell her boss. ‘In Australia side hustles are a bit of a taboo subject, and people might get a bit anxious talking about it with their employer,’ she says.

But the benefits of being transparent with your employer far outweigh any reasons to be secretive.

This is especially true if you’re planning on promoting yourself and your side hustle through LinkedIn and social media. ‘If you’re trying to hide it from people, you’ll find it really hard to target your audience, because you might not be promoting on the channels you should be,’ she says.

Confidence comes with practice

If you’re using your side hustle to dive into a new industry, you’ll be developing skills you’ve rarely – or never – used before, and it’s unlikely you’ll have confidence in yourself right away.

'Don’t think you need to wait until everything is perfect before you launch your website, or start your Instagram account, because if you’re always waiting for things to be perfect, you’ll never start.'

Mariah McInnes,
Graduate, Deakin University

Even if you feel highly competent at what you’re doing, Mariah says it can still be difficult opening yourself up to criticism.

‘The first time you share something important to you, whether that’s in your career or personal life, it can be scary,’ she says. ‘But the more you do it, the easier it gets.

‘The way you build confidence is through practice. For me, I was writing in my blog every week until I had the confidence to share it with people.’ Asking for feedback from someone you trust is also a fantastic way to better yourself and get a confidence boost.

Developing the right skills

The skills Mariah says are key for starting and maintaining your side hustle are:

Time management

Developing your time management will allow you to fit everything in while staying on top of burnout. ‘That doesn’t come easy,’ Mariah says. ‘Scheduling all of my time into a calendar helped, because then I could find out where I could get work done, where I had time to see my friends.’

Marketing knowledge

Knowing how to market yourself, or your hustle, will see you succeed sooner rather than later.  ‘Developing and maintaining your personal brand is vital, and the more authentic you are, the more you’ll stand out to potential clients,’ Mariah says.

If you haven’t come from a marketing background, listening to podcasts can be a good place to start.

Sales

In order to sell your service or product, you’ll need sales skills. Luckily, this is something you can hone with practice. You’ll need to know who your audience is and what problem you’re trying to solve for them.

‘Your first attempt at selling might be really corny, but you’ll develop that skill to the point where you’ll be able to naturally speak to people and promote yourself,’ Mariah explains.

Networking

As you grow your networks, you’ll see the benefits in the success of your side hustle.

Mariah says learning to connect with people, and developing social skills to listen, understand and empathise with others will help you understand where their problems are and where you can help them.

It’s also worth analysing where your weaknesses are and working on them, no matter what side hustle you’re starting. ‘Find an area that you lack confidence in, then find a mentor, whether it’s within your workplace, or outside if you’re curious about a different industry,’ Mariah says.

‘The good thing is, we have so many Facebook groups now, and the online world really opens us up to connecting with people in so many different places.’

Dodging burnout

Since starting her side hustle, Mariah says her biggest challenge has been work-life balance.

‘It’s difficult to maintain a full-time job, a social life and a side-hustle,’ Mariah says, knowing all too well the struggle of the juggle. She works 37 hours a week in her job, and spends 20-30 hours in her side hustle each week. ‘The stress of that can be enormous sometimes.’

Although Mariah can empathise with believing you can do it all, she’s mindful of its consequences.

‘Burnout is a reality, and if you’re trying to do it all, you’ll just end up hating what you’re doing – whether that’s your full-time job or your side-hustle. And you’ll end up back where you started, or potentially in a worse place.’

If you’re in a position to outsource – or let go of – certain parts of your life, that can take some of the pressure off. ‘For me, it was cooking,’ Mariah says. ‘I just don’t have time to cook, so I signed up for a food delivery program, and it might be a little more expensive, but it’s saving me so much time and stress.’

One step at a time

If you’re truly passionate about starting a side hustle, or just keen to step into a new industry, Mariah’s most important insight is: no one is going to do it for you.

‘No one is going to make that call to get started, or encourage you to jump in. Section out your goals day to day, and just go one step at a time,’ she says.

‘If you’re really nervous and scared about starting, or you’re not sure if you can do it financially, or balance it with your family and work, then just move forward slowly, and make small, tangible goals to work towards.

‘Believe in yourself.’

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