I worked a lot of different jobs before I became a full-time creative entrepreneur. I worked in marketing, did temp jobs, and even worked part-time while starting up my freelance writing business. So I completely understand the question that so many artists and writers ask me, which is, “Should you take a side gig while you’re building your business?”
My answer might surprise you.
I think many people believe that if you take a side gig while also working as a creative entrepreneur that you’ve failed. I hear this from others giving advice, and my feeling is just totally different on this.
I think if you are going to be a creative entrepreneur (or a small business owner in any field) that you have to be realistic. YES, you are trying to build a business, and YES you will put all you can into that business. You will do absolutely everything to make it work.
But, there are times when you need to take a side gig. Maybe just for a bit. There are times when you need to bring in income for your family. A side gig might be for a while to get your through a certain period or it could be something you decide to keep. I personally DO NOT feel that you have failed if you take a side gig. I feel that if you need to do this to bring in money while you are continuing to build your business, then you are doing what you need to do to continue the dream.
Don’t Let Other People Define You or Your Business
I know, you’ve heard tons of advice on this subject. You should listen to all the advice people give and then make the decision that is right for YOU. In the end, you are the one who will define what is right for you.
Is working 100 hours a week a good thing for you? It might be. Maybe you need to. Maybe you love it. Maybe this is what is required for you to grow your business and improve.
Maybe working nights and weekends on your business is what really is going to make it happen for you. Maybe you need to go at a different pace.
Figure out what will work for you personally, for your family, for your own life. You’re the one that gets to make the definition on what’s right.
Side Gigs Can Take the Pressure Off
When I started as a freelance writer, I had a couple side gigs. I sold used books, I worked as a part-time marketing consultant (which was kind of a bridge between my old professional life and the new life I was creating), and I even worked part-time in marketing. I don’t regret doing that. I did these things for about a year or year and a half or so. I remember that I would come home from my gig and then work on my business.
I liked getting the regular paycheck and didn’t feel that the side gig took too much away from building my business. In fact, I got to choose freelance work that was better suited for me. I built a niche that was good for me personally.
It’s Not All Or Nothing
I really hate this “it’s all or nothing” mentality that some creative people spout. The creative life is not all or nothing. You might have a creative passion that is not as lucrative as someone else. Take my love of poetry, for instance. Poetry is not in and of itself a big money maker. It is, however, a huge part of my life. I don’t want to give it up, and if I had to take a side gig in order to still write and publish it, I would. I wouldn’t think of myself as any less of a poet because I needed to get a job in order to help support my family.
Artists and poets and writers (and yes, famous ones) all had to work either before or during their creative output because that is simply life. And yet, we still think of them by their creative contribution to this world, not by their side gigs.
Redefine What the Side Gig Means for You
Look, if you work for someone else, I want you to give them your very best effect. Never be that type of person who isn’t a good employee because you are too busy thinking about the creative business you hope to start.
At the same time, however, you can redefine the side gig. That gig is a blessing to you, it pays your bills, you love it for what it adds to your life, but you are a creative person doing this gig in order to live your dream. Don’t treat your treat your side gig as something you “have” to do in order to be creative. Treat it as what you get to do, the thing that allows you to also have a creative business of some type. Sure, you might want to do the creative thing full-time, but until then, honor the side gig because it will help get you there.