Discussion around side hustles is everywhere. From becoming an Amazon affiliate to making artisanal beef jerky, people all over are using their 5-to-9s and weekends to build income streams. Successes range from occasional beer money to six-figure salaries.
If you select the right side hustle, it’s also a fantastic way to level up your 9-to-5 skills. Maybe you’ve been dabbling in Python or AWS, but your job doesn’t give an opportunity to use these skills. With enough experience and confidence, you can land freelance projects requiring these skill sets on freelance sites to gain valuable experience.
Gigs are a great way to grow a new skill that otherwise would have sat dormant.
1. Start IT Consulting
Companies bring in consultants when they either don’t have the right expertise in-house, or their in-house team hits an obstacle. It might be the implementation of an app, cloud migrations, or another particularly hairy project.
If you have enough experience to bring to the table, you can make bank consulting. But, it’s probably not going to start as a full-time gig. Consulting means you’re self-employed, which means you’re only paid when you’re working. That’s why most people start consulting on the side and then drop their 9-to-5 when they have enough steady work.
Consulting is a hustle that people turn into full-time careers more than any other.
2. Teaching IT Skills
You have valuable IT skills, others want to pay to learn those skills. The best way this can play out is by creating an online course. You create the content (audio lectures, screen recordings, and slides) then host the class on education marketplaces like Udemy or Teachable. The site takes a cut of student payments, but runs all the backend stuff, like hosting the content processing payments. An online class can be the ultimate IT passive income earner.
Don’t forget about in-person teaching opportunities as well. Evening and weekend class scheduled at your local community college can dovetail perfectly with your day job.
3. Contracting with Local Small Businesses
Contracting is similar to consulting, but it’s more stable. Typically, consultants parachute in to untangle a problem. Businesses use contractors to outsource day-to-day operations.
Small businesses without IT staff always need help with IT operations. You can either sell hourly packages or operate on an on-call basis. Contracting is lucrative, but your availability is crucial — particularly if you still have a day job.
Imagine this scenario. You’re at work. It’s 10 a.m. You’re in a meeting. Your phone starts buzzing off the table. A client’s server went down at 10 a.m. and they’re calling you in a panic. What happens if you’re stuck at work until 5 p.m.? That’s a real lose-lose.
After-hours scheduled maintenance can be lucrative and also increase your experience.
Avoid on-call scenarios by managing expectations, or have a subcontractor on standby.
4. Web and Mobile App Development
Every dev dreams of turning their pet project into a money-maker. There is literally no better way to learn new development skills than to build an app from start to finish. No pressure. No one looking over your shoulder.
On the downside, there’s no pressure and no one looking over your shoulder. It takes the right type of personality to start, finish, and market a product. If that’s you, then web and mobile app development is the side hustle of dreams. Even if the end product gets zero traction you have something for your portfolio.
Again, don’t forget about freelancing for others. Freelance sites are a treasure trove for even newbie developers.
5. Salesforce Administration and Development
There’s never been a better time to learn Salesforce and start consulting. There are two reasons: Salesforce is growing fast, and it’s changing fast.
Salesforce is gobbling up CRM market share from Oracle and Microsoft. Salesforce is powerful out of the box. However, it requires an experienced admin to shape the platform to a business. For that reason, Salesforce consultants are in high demand. They’re also in high demand because of Lightning.
About two years ago, Salesforce announced the Lightning Experience — a ground-up rebuild of its platform. Needless to say, anytime a large company uses the words “ground-up” users and admins alike get nervous. Nervous admins mean there are consulting dollars up for grabs either for Salesforce training or administration.
To be clear, we’re not saying you can learn Salesforce overnight and start consulting. If you already know what you’re doing, Salesforce consulting can be a great side gig. If you’re interested in learning Salesforce, you can start today.
A Few Parting Words of Warning
Side hustles always sound easy to manage in the beginning. What’s another few hours of work each week, right? Here are a few considerations to keep out of trouble — and sane.
Check company policies. Before starting any side work, IT or not, consider if your current employer is okay with it. Most of the time companies don’t care what you do after work. But, there are exceptions. Make sure you don’t have a non-compete clause buried in your terms of employment. They’re more common than you think. Even if you didn’t explicitly sign a non-compete agreement, non-compete clauses are binding. Getting terminated and sued isn’t a great combo.
To tell your boss, or not to tell your boss. Some companies require approval from a supervisor for moonlighting. If so, then maybe you should disclose your side hustle. We aren’t lawyers, and this isn’t legal advice. Decide for yourself if you want to disclose or keep quiet about what you do on your own time. Ultimately, be smart and careful about who you share your side hustles with.
Consider your strengths. Before you start, decide what kind of side work you want to do — and not do. Set those rules for yourself. It’s easier to land good gigs with skills you are already strong in. Side hustles are a great way to learn new skills. There’s also the danger of getting in over your head.
Think about your sanity. There are two things to consider here. First, your time. It may be fine at first to sink another 10 to 15 hours into a side gig. It’s good for the money, but maybe not your sanity. This is particularly the case when you’re doing the same thing at work and home. If you spend all day as an expert Linux admin, for example, do you really want to go home and do it more? Good for the money, not for new skills, and terrible for burnout.
Death and taxes. As the saying goes, there are only two certain things in this life. Side hustle money is taxable. Do your research.
The Labor of Leveling Up
A side hustle might not be for everyone. It’s time-consuming and sometimes stressful. If your primary goal is increased income, a wise man once said: “The best side hustle is looking for a better paying full-time job.”