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Utah Business

Here's how to handle a side hustle without putting your day job at risk.

How to handle your side-hustle (without jeopardizing your day job)

As it has become more challenging to save for retirement, and with student loans and housing prices on the rise, the normal 9-5 jobs aren’t cutting it anymore. People have begun to seek opportunities outside their day jobs to accelerate their income potential, pay off debt, and put money away for the future. 

The “side hustle” has become a way of life for many. According to CNN, more than 44 million people have some sort of side job they work to earn extra money. These opportunities have proliferated thanks to the gig economy, which allows individuals to moonlight for ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft, take advantage of network marketing opportunities, or―in my case―write an article for Utah Business.

For decades, big corporations have sought out and nurtured “intrapreneurs” within their ranks. These employees, who have many of the self-motivation and leadership skills associated with entrepreneurs, are used to start and head new divisions, initiatives, or projects within the company—and in doing so, they give big companies some of the advantages that smaller, more nimble entrepreneurial businesses enjoy. 

Earlier this year, Amazon announced a new incentive for current employees to start small package delivery companies. The new incentive foots the startup costs―up to $10,000―as well as the equivalent of three months of the former employee’s last gross salary so employees-turned-business-owners can easily get their package delivery companies off the ground. 

Since the launch of its Delivery Service Partner program in June 2018, Amazon has enabled the creation of more than 200 new small businesses who are hiring thousands of local drivers to deliver packages to Amazon customers. 

That being said, how does one navigate both―the day job and the side gig―without monopolizing one or the other? As someone who works by day for Zions Bank, and by night for my own coaching business and the Black Chamber, along with building and hosting programs such as the Utah Diversity Career Fair, Living Color Utah, and the Inclusion Experience Project, I have learned first-hand how to navigate the benefits and challenges of succeeding at both. 

Here's how to handle your side hustle without sacrificing your day job.

Don’t let your side job get in the way of your day job

Just because you work a side hustle, doesn’t mean you don’t need approval from your day job. Many start a side business without letting their job know, thinking it’s not important. However, there are consequences as well as opportunities when it comes to getting buy-in for your entrepreneurial spirit. As your business grows, the balance between your job and your business becomes more challenging, and that makes it even more critical that the two know about each other.

I got started in network marketing several years ago because I was frustrated with my job and wanted to earn more income. But I became less productive at work, and that negative energy carried into my networking marketing business. It’s better to use the talents and skills you are using at your job to help build your hustle. Success happens when you can use all of your talents and skills throughout the entire day. 

In addition, full transparency allows you to do your best at both your job and your business. Sometimes, I had to use a vacation day to work on my business. And there were times I experienced grey areas and had to have conversations with human resources. But because I was open about what I was trying to do, and was working to understand the policies, I gained trust with my employer and found out how to still work both. 

In one instance, word got to employees that I was hosting a lunch n’ learn outside of work and they wanted to attend. I proposed the idea of hosting the same presentation on-site for one of my day job’s brown bag sessions. Another time, a few business partners and I hosted a half-day workshop on diversity and inclusion outside of work. Several employees from my company attended and enjoyed the content so much, they wanted to figure out how to bring the workshop to our company. 

This is a tough one to navigate, and it’s still on the table as my business partners, my company, and I brainstorm how to execute this workshop without any conflicts. It may or may not happen, but because we have full transparency, there is no awkwardness, or feelings of guilt, and that has allowed me to be a full participant in the conversation. 

Know the right time and place to focus on each business

It helps that all my opportunities align with my overall mission―during conversations, I can pivot to whichever opportunity would provide the best service―but I am still careful about who I am representing when I’m out in the community. If I am representing my job, that’s what I need to lead with, and if the conversation leads to other opportunities, I schedule a follow-up meeting or call. 

I quit carrying business cards because it was difficult to decide which business card to give out. Instead, I began connecting with people on LinkedIn, which is a better selling tool than a business card anyway. With the smartphone app, LinkedIn allows you to quickly connect with others via a QR code. I am more active on LinkedIn than any other social network and I frequently post, sharing articles that relate to my platform or promoting events I am hosting, or attending, to continue to grow and strengthen my network.

What I have found produces the best results is that I focus on marketing me: who I am as a professional and what I am able to deliver through my job, my business, or any of the organizations, programs, and events I lead. And that’s easier to do when I am able to fully share all of me―the opportunities I am blessed to have, and what I am passionate about―without worrying that my day job might discover my “moonlighting activity.”

Krystal Guerra does the same. By day she works at Instructure as a senior demand generation manager and also sits on its diversity, inclusion, and belonging council (DIB). But by night she is the CEO of Guerra Media, her own initiative dedicated to advocating for inclusivity, women, and leadership and preparing young adults for career success.  

“I am thankful that working in tech, I’ve have always had a level of flexibility with my schedule and have worked in companies where employee development goes beyond company walls,” she says. “At Instructure the values we have as a company, and the community of educators we serve, aligns with my passions and work in Guerra Media.”

Guerra believes employers need to understand that happy employees make better team members and that employee development shouldn’t end at the door. “I think whether employees choose to monetize their skills out of the workday hours or they choose to simply pursue their hobbies―should not be seen as a loss for employers.”

Don’t sacrifice family time for your businesses

Back in my network marketing days, I didn’t have full buy-in from my family. I failed to sell the vision to my significant other and did nothing to dispell the myths and stigmas of the network marketing industry. It didn’t help that while we were together  the momentum in my business slowed. I wasn’t making much money―or any money at all. Not having her support, in addition to losing my momentum, eventually caused me to leave the business.  

When I re-entered the side hustle once again, my first line of business was gaining the support of my family. I shared the vision of what I was trying to accomplish, and how it was going to help the community and our family. I also made sure that any activity outside of business hours was on the family calendar, and if it wasn’t, I stopped working when I got home. 

To help navigate between career and family, I began taking better advantage of my mornings. I got up a couple of hours earlier than the rest of my family, so I had uninterrupted time to complete important tasks. It’s nice to come home and just be home, not needing to escape from family time to engage in any business tasks. 

Here's how to handle your side hustle without sacrificing your day job.

Remember, it’s not always about going full-time

Many believe that everyone who has a side hustle eventually wants to turn that side hustle into a full-time gig. I’m indifferent. 

Would I enjoy just doing my side businesses and not having a full-time job? Absolutely. A couple of bank holidays and vacation days I was forced to use allowed me to experience what life would be like not having a job and―I’m not going to lie―it was awesome. It’s definitely something I think about. 

But am I working now to make that happen? Not really. Some people start a part-time business to eventually get out of their full-time job, either because they don’t like their job, or they just don’t want to work for someone else anymore. I’m in a fortunate position because I love what I do and the company I work for. Since I have learned to manage the flexibility I can do all that I want to do. 

I’m also fortunate because my business is gaining momentum while not impeding my full-time job. If, at some point, I have to choose one path or the other, I think it’s pretty obvious which path I would take. In the meantime, just like my car, “I’m gonna ride it until the wheels fall off.”

James Jackson is the supplier diversity program manager of Zions Bancorporation’s supply chain management and founder of the Utah Black Chamber.