Do the Hustle


Side hustles, also known as gig work or freelance work, have become increasingly popular

A side hustle is a way for people to earn extra money outside of their full-time job, and it can take many forms, such as starting a small business, renting out a room on Airbnb, or driving for a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft.

Sometimes side hustles grow into something bigger. In the late 1960s, 12-year-old Mike Strickland started putting up lights when touring acts passed through his hometown of Kingsport, Tennessee. Theatrical lighting was a fairly new concept. 

“We’d do a show one night for the Beach Boys,” Strickland remembers, “and they’d ask us to do the next night in another city.” He kept up his Bandit Lites side hustle through his junior high and high school years, when his main hustles were playing high school football and basketball. “All the equipment we used was borrowed from the local schools and theatres,” says Strickland, “hence the name Bandit!” Between 1968 and 71, Bandit worked with big names like the Monkees, the Grassroots, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, and on and on. 

Strickland hired employees in the Knoxville area and ran the company from his dorm room while attending college and law school at the University of Tennessee. “I was on the road more than in class during that time,” Strickland remembers. “I was lighting director and production manager for Kenny Rogers, and this was during his breakout period.” Today Bandit is a global lighting company with offices in Nashville, San Francisco, London, Hong Kong, Taiwan, along with its headquarters in Knoxville.

Why the turn to side hustles?

A big reason people have turned to side hustles lately is the economic climate. “The shift to remote work during Covid-19 freed up many Americans to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams without quitting their day jobs,” says Marianne Wanamaker, a former White House chief domestic economist and now a UT economics professor and executive director of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy. “The result was an explosion of new businesses, many of them ‘side hustles’ for the already employed.”

Aaron Crump was a medical scribe thinking about going to nursing school when Covid hit and he and his wife, Amy Crye, welcomed their baby Oliver. Having grown up in New Mexico, Crump had always been drawn to the mosaic stonework of Zuni jewelry. He started going to online jewelry houses collecting pieces he found beautiful, partly as a way to remember his roots. He started finding fine jewelry that he was able to resell on eBay. “My motivation is to do good,” he says. “The goal is to donate 10 percent of the proceeds to nonprofits like the Rotary Foundation to help alleviate poverty. He recently launched his own jewelry website  

Right before Covid arrived, Marshall Goldman, the director of UT’s Allen Jones Aquatic Center, saw that Hot Bagels in Oak Ridge was closing. “I called a buddy of mine who parents had owned a shop and asked them to teach me how to make bagels for myself,” says Goldman, who started cooking bagels out of his house, with help from his mom, Margie, and dad, Mitch, and an old friend Aaron Goodfriend. Another friend handles all the marketing on social media. The business scaled up quickly— “too quickly, maybe,” says Goldman. Today they make some 1,800 bagels a week and deliver to 11 coffee shops, using Toddy’s Backdoor Tavern as a home base.

In the post-Covid economy, many people have continued looking for ways to supplement their income, and the gig economy, which includes side hustles, has grown exponentially in recent years, making it easier for people to find and start gig work.

Another reason for the popularity of side hustles is the flexibility they offer. Many side hustles can be done on a part-time basis, allowing people to keep their full-time job while still earning extra money. This is particularly appealing to parents, students, and people with disabilities, who may find it difficult to commit to a full-time job.

It’s important to note that side hustles can also have downsides. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of stability and benefits that come with traditional jobs. Side hustles can also be time-consuming and can lead to burnout if not managed properly.

Despite the challenges, side hustles can be a great way to boost your income and gain new skills. It’s important to do your research and find a side hustle that aligns with your interests, skills, and schedule. It’s also crucial to be realistic about the time and effort it will take to make your side hustle successful.

A side hustle or a part-time job?

John Shelton Douglas worked as a T-shirt artist for 20 years but after the downturn in 2008 ended up as an instructor at the Apple store in West Town Mall. He found a side hustle doing what he knows—designing T shirts. He plays off pop culture themes, movies, and music and uploads his artwork to the website, on which customers browse through shirts designed by countless artists. Teepublic prints shirts on demand, ships them to customers, and pays Douglas a commission. “It’s no fuss, no muss,” says Douglas. 

Unlike a side hustle like John’s, a part-time job is a form of employment that typically requires a set number of hours per week and may come with benefits such as health insurance or retirement savings plans. Both a side hustle and a part-time job can provide additional income, but they differ in terms of structure and commitment.

If you are looking for a more flexible schedule and have a specific skill set or interest that you can monetize, a side hustle may be a good option. If you are looking for more stability, and a set schedule, then a part-time job may be a better choice.

Beware Multi-Level Marketing Companies

We all have friends who suddenly appear on Facebook or Instagram saying they are a business owner and selling a product. It’s important to know that according to a Consumer Awareness Institute study of 27 MLM schemes, researchers found that on average, 99.6 percents of participants lost money.

How to detect an MLM operation:

1. High recruitment emphasis: MLM companies often heavily emphasize recruiting new members 

2. Income promises: Be skeptical of income claims that seem too good to be true, especially those that don’t have a clear and realistic path to achieving them.

3. Purchase requirements: Watch out for companies that require you to purchase a large amount of inventory or pay steep start-up fees.

4. Complex commission structure: MLMs often have complex commission structures that can be difficult to understand and can make it hard to know how much money you’re actually making.

5. Pressure to buy and sell: Be wary of companies that pressure you to buy products or recruit others, even if you’re not interested.

6. Lack of retail sales: MLMs often rely on recruitment rather than retail sales, which can be a red flag.

7. Pyramid structure: MLMs are often structured as a pyramid, with the majority of profits flowing to those at the top, be aware of the structure of the company you are interested in.

By the Book

When planning your new business, it’s important to know the rules. You may need a Business License from the County, you’ll need to understand the changes to your Federal tax return, and you may be required to collect and remit State sales taxes.  It’s worthwhile to meet with a legal and financial advisor before you start, so you get your new business off on a solid footing.

Don’t get crossways with your day job

Check out your employer’s policy on moonlighting, to be sure you do not endanger your day job. Most employers have no objection as long as you are not working for a competitor. If your side hustle is something that can be done online, it might be tempting to make few posts while at work—don’t do it. 

The Bottom Line

Follow your interests and skills, and you can do very well. When choosing a side hustle, it’s important to consider your interests, skills, and experience. You should also research the market and determine the potential for profitability. Try a “test flight” with friends—would they be willing to pay for the service or product you offer? Is the price right? Is there a lot of competition? It’s important to create a plan and set goals for your side hustle, and to be prepared to put in the time and effort required to make it successful.    

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