How Do You Evaluate a Good Side Hustle in the New Normal?

Many people have lost their jobs due to the impact of the pandemic. Thankfully, there have been some signs of recovery after US unemployment figures reached a historic high in April. But as of June 2020, many cities are still reeling, with a jobless rate of over 15%.

In this sort of climate, everyone has experienced some form of anxiety over their financial outlook, as well as the overall economic picture. Even if you’ve managed to retain your day job and successfully transition to working from home, the thought has probably crossed your mind: is it time for a side hustle?

Increasing options

Taking on a side hustle has been an increasingly popular way of boosting one’s income in recent years. The freelance industry has been steadily growing. Umbrella platforms in the gig economy, such as Uber or Airbnb, allow users to engage in alternative forms of revenue generation.

Technology has facilitated this shift in both directions. Prospective freelancers find it easier to land projects that match their skill set and pay well. Employers find it easier to source some of their work to contractors instead of going through the process of hiring and training someone new. And it’s no secret that potential customers enjoy the ease of finding services they need through their mobile devices.

But even though these trends were already in place before the pandemic, its disruptive effects are being felt by freelancers as well as regular employees. And not everyone is affected equally. You can still make a living off a gig, such as volunteering for healthy patient clinical trials, perhaps even more so now than in previous years. But the typical Uber driver is going to struggle to find a lot of passengers with fewer people willing to go out.

It shouldn’t be any surprise that when it comes to freelancing, remote work leads the way. Any job that can be performed entirely online would make a great side hustle. This might remain true even after a vaccine has been found and made available to the public.

And yet remote employment can also provide competition for the freelance industry. Before Covid-19, many employers were unwilling even to consider letting their people work from home. That’s why many workers turned to freelancing; they wanted better work-life balance. Now, many employees get to enjoy job security and flexibility. Taking on more of the same sort of work can be less attractive than before.

Jobs requiring an on-site presence might have fallen out of favor. But there is still a demand for the sort of work that requires your physical involvement. For instance, as people continue to observe social isolation practices, they also need someone to deliver their supplies.

AI has been touted as a solution to physical jobs, but it can’t currently cover all services needed. Companies providing these services might be driven to compete for human labor by offering better benefits, including health and safety precautions. Driving a vehicle for deliveries can become more attractive as a side hustle as concerns persist.

Risks and returns

Although the unsettled economy has made things difficult for many workers, you can still find options for a side hustle. But you always have to consider the opportunity cost before taking on additional work.

Even with the added flexibility of remote work, we still get only 24 hours each day. And the employment model, whether it’s full-time or contract-based, is all about trading your time for money. Do you know the exact value of your time? Each hour you spend working on another gig is an hour that you could use for rest or leisure, or practicing a new skill. Is the compensation you receive worth it?

Maybe financial necessity is the deciding factor, and every extra dollar is crucial to your survival. But if that’s not the case, you should be critical of any opportunities to take on new work. This is especially true if you’re new to freelancing; you want to land good clients.

If you can, try to follow the ‘barbell strategy’ recommended by Nassim Taleb. This combines modest, predictable outcomes with a small, risky venture. The concept was originally for investment, but it can be applied to your work.

Take on a regular job that never places demands on you outside of an 8-hour shift; if that describes your current job, then don’t quit. This makes your free time predictable. Then pair that with a side hustle that has the chance to scale up, and reward you exponentially relative to the time and effort involved.

This combination will give you the stability of regular employment and potentially reward you more for the extra time commitment. It can be the most effective approach to taking on a side hustle in this turbulent new world.

Meta title: What to Look for in Your Post-pandemic Side Hustle

Meta description: With the uncertainty we face in a post-pandemic world, taking on a side hustle can be more attractive. But what sort of work would be worth it?