3 Lessons from Growing My Side Hustle Income to Match My Salary

May 13, 2021
 Created by the author — original photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash


It’s easy to forget where you began but luckily every week I write down 10 things I’m grateful for.

A year and a half ago, I wrote down:

“$0.98 first-ever article!!!”

I’d have laughed in your face if you told me I would write a title someday like the one you clicked on. I’d have laughed even harder if you tried to convince me I would quit my job to pursue writing.

Yet here I am.

I had already read hundreds of side hustle porn articles like many of you. I never believed I could do it myself because I knew I was nothing special. My writing was only meant to be a little habit to make sense of the mayhem of my mind.

I’d love to tell you I had a master plan and executed it to perfection but I would be lying through my fingers. I made mistakes and learned along the way but here are the three crucial lessons that allowed me to thrive.


#1 Use your competitive advantages

Most online advice about side hustling seems to assume the reader jumped out of the womb with a keyboard in hand.

Everyone reading this has unique skills they have built from their day job and the other areas of their lives. These are what can make you stand out from the crowd rather than trying to clone those already in your niche.

My day job as a technology consultant is challenging and I have to constantly adapt to be effective at what I do. It would be senseless to forget these skills are transferable and not use them to grow my side hustles. I’ve got no doubt my professional background has helped me:

  • UX skills mean I can create my own unique imagery.
  • Consultancy skills mean I can explain complicated ideas in a simple way.
  • Networking skills mean I can create long-lasting relationships.
  • Presentation skills mean I can jump on interviews and podcasts without nerves.
  • Technical skills mean I can handle all my accounts with ease.

Stop treating your side hustle as an alien life force. There’s probably far more overlap with the expertise you already have than you think.

What you can do today:

Grab a piece of paper and split it down the middle.

On the left side write down the different skills you’ve gained from your day job. They can be specific technical skills or soft skills. On the right side, write down how you could apply this to whatever you’re trying to achieve.

You don’t have to have a high-flying corporate job for this to be relevant. I like Jon Brosio’s example of working as a waiter at a fancy restaurant. Through his experience, he gained the skills to talk to business people with confidence and he’s used this to win clients of his own.


#2 Take the T-Shaped path

There are a million ways to make money online but you can’t do them all at once.

I have terrible shiny object syndrome where I get distracted by anything and everything. Many creative people share my problem and it stops them from reaching their potential.

I made the mistake of trying to diversify too early. My mind became scrambled by trying to learn too many different things at once and I wasn’t seeing results anywhere. I have over a dozen subscriptions I took out for various shiny objects that I canceled within months.

Then I focused on this platform. If you google me you’ll see I have 34,000 followers here but less than a thousand on Instagram, Twitter, and Quora. By abandoning these other accounts for a while, I built authority and credibility here.

My self-confidence has grown because of this and I no longer need to chase so desperately. Proving myself in one space has meant opportunities for other side hustles and collaborations have come to me. I have my solid foundation to take on the rest of the internet.

Don’t rush through the early stages, take your time to pick one thing you want to pursue and learn as much as you can about it. It’s far better to be great at one thing than mediocre in 10.

Success on one path will open up the other doors for you.

What you can do today:

Choose one place to focus your efforts on and build a reputation for quality. Whenever a sparkly new object comes into your eye line, set yourself a challenge before you investigate it.

If-then plans are great for this. Right now, I will wait until I can write 3 articles a week easily before carving out an in-depth Instagram strategy.

If you are a YouTuber, you may decide to wait until you are regularly creating two videos a week before spending hours trying to grow your Twitter following.


#3 Find reasons beyond money

This isn’t a lecture about needing to want to change the world. You’re starting a side hustle not creating a campaign for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Yet the cold reality is most creative side hustles won’t make you rich overnight. If you’re only motivated by money, you’ll get bored quickly and give up. If you need stability, it might be better to focus on more guaranteed work.

I’m an abnormal story because I got lucky right at the start as my second ever article earned me over $2000. I became delusional and thought I had things all worked out. I didn’t and it took nearly 6 months for lightning to strike again.

If I only cared about money, I’d have given up and would never have seen my income grow to where it is today. It was the other non-monetary aspects giving me joy and encouraging me to continue:

I made friends from all over the world.
I geeked out on learning about my craft.
Structuring my thoughts was like free therapy.

These kept me going and because I had a day job, I didn’t need to worry about needing to pay my bills. My writing was a hobby that could earn me income rather than a shortcut to being rich.

Even now, my side hustle income is volatile. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had multiple mini-heart attacks as algorithms change and expected income disappears. It’s stressful and few have any real security, even those at the top of their powers. I’m under no illusion it will become easy when I make the move to being full-time.

It’s a myth at the heart of hustle culture. If you hate your side hustle and are only doing it for the money, how is it any different from working for a boss you hate? Pick your poison carefully.

What you can do today:

Write down your reasons for picking a particular side hustle.

If it’s only Bob says I can earn $100k a week from this then it’s probably too good to be true. Look at the worst-case scenario for income and decide whether your other reasons are enough to keep you going.


What to take with you and me being emotional

As I make the transition from side hustle to a full-time creator, I’m terrified. I’ve come a long way from being excited by $0.98 yet in many ways I’m still the same person.

The mental models I used here to grow my income whilst having a job will need to adapt when I am free. I hope to bring the same thought process despite all the extra pressure that will come. Who knows, I may hate my new lifestyle and return to my side hustle ways.

The three key lessons from my side hustle journey:

  • Use your competitive advantages — Don’t copy the people at the top, use your complimentary skills
  • Take the T-shaped path — Get good at one thing first and see opportunities in other areas open up.
  • Find reasons beyond money — Creative side hustles are unreliable, you need to find joy in what you’re doing to stick it out through the barren periods.

If you’re a regular reader, thank you, you’re a big part of the reason I’ve been able to change my life.

Amar's Letter

Real talk on driving impact as an imperfect human.