No, The Pandemic Wasn’t The Best Time To Start An Online Side Hustle

Apr 13, 2021
Created by the author (original image from pexels)
“You’ve done the pandemic right! I feel bad because I’ve totally wasted it.”

Most of my friends were shocked when they found out about my side hustles. I should be offended but I surprised myself too. What bothered me was the regret in their voices.

How can someone possibly think they’ve wasted a pandemic?

The global pandemic wasn’t like a Black Friday sale where you can miss out because you weren’t quick enough. Yet this is the way it’s being portrayed on social media and by some entrepreneurs. Of course, making you feel inadequate in how you’ve spent your time makes it easier for them to convince you they have the answer.

There’s no excuse for not having a side hustle during the pandemic!
Now is the perfect time to hustle!
Everyone should have a side hustle in 2021!

There are many valid reasons why it’s fine for people not to have side hustles. Don’t let people put you down.


Mental health > side hustle income

If you asked me in March 2020 whether I’d give up seeing my friends and family for large chunks of the year to achieve minor internet fame, I would have said no without hesitation.

People who think I cruised through the pandemic because of my side hustles don’t see all the times I was a mess because of anxiety. It was a tough year and I managed to grow online despite all of this stress not because I was unphased.

We all dealt with the shock in different ways and you should never feel guilty for what you did to look after your mental health. If you struggled then a side hustle might have been a burden you didn’t need. Starting a new venture can be scary at the best of times let alone when there was so much uncertainty about the future.

The secret most influencers like to pass over is that most online side hustlers earn next to nothing. Only 5% of Medium writers earn more than $100 a month. You might see those numbers and decide spending time on self-care rather than trying to go viral online is better for your wellbeing. I’d find it hard to argue with you.

More than the money, my side hustles helped me because I could retreat into my online world when the world was going bonkers.


“Hobby” isn’t a dirty word

When I was younger, I traveled to Japan and spent a few weeks training with some of the greatest Karate masters alive. Yet they refused to accept any payment for teaching me because they did it for the love of what they were doing.

I’m not as pure in heart as they are but I always remember their philosophy. Almost any hobby could be turned into a side hustle but it’s not the right choice for everyone. I enjoy writing less now I have the income pressure compared to when it was a happy-go-lucky hobby.

My friend is a fantastic baker and has built a large Instagram following for her creations. She did the opposite of what the internet tells you to do and took it from side hustle to a strict hobby last year. She was much happier baking what she wanted when she wanted rather than fulfilling customer orders.

Who is anyone to judge whatever hobby kept you happy even if it’s watching Netflix or playing games? Not all your time needs to be productive or money-making.


Moving with the crowd

If you saw shouty bloggers telling you to go make money to give meaning to your life then you can bet others did too.

The main platforms were flooded by new entrants making them incredibly noisy. It’s harder to get noticed when everyone and their grandma is trying to do the same thing as you. You might have had more free time to get things done but so did all the competition.

You might have a brilliant idea and execute it to high quality yet no one ever finds it because it’s drowned out. You might have needed to work even harder than normal to stand out!

We have a distorted image of the availability bias. Only the biggest players have a large enough reach to get to us, their fanbase will promote their work and the algorithms will reward that. We don’t see most of the tiny side hustles by definition!


The purge

I’m predicting a huge wave of people abandoning their side hustles in the second half of 2021. All the old distractions of normal life will return.

People have still had the same 24 hours in a day during the pandemic but they’ve had far less choice in how to spend their time. They might have plundered in the hours when their only alternative was going for a walk but it’s different when everything is open.

It’s led to people (including me) spending more time on their side hustle than is sustainable for them in the long run. They will burn out quickly if they try to do what they’ve been doing and add back a social life and commute.

Few will have made it to the point where they can quit their day job and go full time so they have a difficult decision to make. They’ve had the temporary illusion that it’s all manageable, so either they’ll be forced to become more efficient or have to quit.

If you start in more stable times, it’s easier to set realistic boundaries and not try to attempt too much.


You haven’t missed the boat

Whenever something newsworthy happens, there will be people who try to create a sense of urgency to force you into action. I’m sure in a few years’ time something else will happen and again people will declare it the best time ever to start a side hustle. It’s often just good for marketing.

I don’t believe for a second the current trends on the internet will last forever. There will always be change and new opportunities. You aren’t too late and you don’t need to rush.

When I started on Medium, the golden era was supposed to be over already. Many of the writers dominating the platform had been around for years. There weren’t any top writers who looked like me. All it meant is someone had to prove it was possible. I’m sure new writers will start this year and crush me.

The best time to start a side hustle is when you’re ready, not when strangers online tell you to. Maybe you were in the right mindset to start during the pandemic and congratulations to you if you were. If you weren’t, there’s always next year.

You may even decide to live a long and fulfilling life and never have a side hustle. Do what’s right for you.

Amar's Letter

Real talk on driving impact as an imperfect human.