Career

3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Taking on a Side Job

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Joanne Poh

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Don’t believe that every one of your colleagues is relying solely on that job for their entire income. At my last job, several of my coworkers were earning a bit of extra pocket money on the side—a few were giving tuition, another had a band while was yours truly was freelancing on the sly. When your boss gives you the evil eye, it can be comforting to know he’s not the only one putting food on your table.

While virtually any flexible job can be a viable side job, here are some of the more common ones people who already have a job are fond of taking on:

  • Tuition teaching – Teaching kids on the side is so lucrative you could be earning way more per hour than you do at your actual job.
  • Music teaching – If you’re good enough to teach the piano, guitar or violin, having a student come over to your place once or twice a week is less tiring than tuition and could pay even more.
  • Freelance photography, graphic design or writing – Many folks in the media industry freelance on the side to keep their skills sharp while earning a bit of extra pocket money.
  • Service jobs – If you desperately need cash, shift work in the service industry might be for you as they’re usually not bothered that you have another job.

But how do you know if you should take up another job? While the added perk of having another stream of income is obvious, one only has so much time and energy in a day. Here are three questions to ask yourself before you sign up.

 

What is the time investment vis-a-vis how much you can earn?

When you already have a job, the opportunity cost of not taking up a second job is no longer money—it’s time. To put it bluntly, you need to ask yourself whether taking up that second job is worth the time. It’s usually pointless to take up a side job that pays you even less per hour than your day job.

That’s because taking up a flexible or after-hours side job often enables you to earn MORE than your hourly wage at your regular job. A freelance piano teacher earns more per hour than an employee at a music school, although at the end of the month he or she might take home less due to working fewer hours.

For instance, if you earn $3,500 a month and work 8 hours every day, you’re earning a little less than $22 an hour. That means teaching an indifferent teenager math tuition for $50 an hour can be a pretty good deal—a 2 hour lesson will earn you the same amount of money it takes you more than half a day to earn in your regular job. On the other hand, it would not be worthwhile working in a $7/hour service job, as you would be earning 1/3 less than your regular hourly wage.

 

Do you hone any transferrable skills?

If your sole purpose for taking up a side job is to earn more money, then you might not even need to ask this question. For instance, many PMET tuition teachers (accountants and engineers teaching math, lawyers teaching English and so on) do it after work because it pays well and not because they are particularly concerned about honing their teaching skills.

But for many people, those hours after work are too precious to spend doing even more work, unless it helps them in some way. If that sounds like you, a side job offering transferrable skills can be a good way to boost your resume—especially if your current job is super monotonous and offers zero opportunities for growth.

Many web design and web development employees freelance on the side partly because they get to work on projects their own jobs can’t provide. For instance, web designers at magazines and newspapers do the same type of layouts day in, day out for years, and this can be a real career killer if they do nothing else for too long, unless they’re happy to do more of the same forever.

 

Is it something you reasonably enjoy?

Okay, let’s be honest, a side job is never going to be as much fun as hanging out with your friends after work. But make sure it’s something you at least don’t detest if you don’t want to end up hating your life. It’s tough enough continuing to work after office hours without having to be the only one in the entire company dreading the arrival of 6pm, because you’ll have to book yourself in to that other hell.

For instance, I used to give quite a bit of tuition on the side when I first started work, but after a while I realised commuting to the kid’s home and actually teaching were things I really did not enjoy—I was in more anguish than the kids attending my lesson. On the other hand, I have friends who rather enjoy giving tuition and manage to convince the kids to go to their place. For them, the agony factor is a lot lower, and their students are probably way happier than mine were.

Do you have side job? Tell us what it is in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.