A common criticism that I get with some of my side hustles is that they’re – to be frank – a waste of my time. In all honesty, I can’t necessarily argue with that. I went to four years of college and three years of law school. My education has a retail value of well over $200,000. With all of this expense to educate myself, my time (at least in theory) should be pretty valuable. Yet, if you follow along with this blog, you know that I spend a lot of my free time doing things that seem pretty stupid – things like delivering food on my bike or walking dogs.
Depending on your point of view, these side hustles could really be viewed as pretty stupid – at least “beneath” what someone with my credentials should be doing. Instead of wasting my time doing these things, I could be hustling more at work to try to improve my income at my job. Or I could instead be doing something on the side that actually uses my legal training, and that presumably, would allow me to earn more on an hourly basis.
Instead, I’ve basically done the opposite of that. Over the last two years, I’ve taken two pay cuts in an attempt to find work that’s a better fit for me (to the tune of $70,000 less than what my salary was when I left biglaw). And rather than doing stuff on the side that utilizes my legal training, I’ve instead opted to do things that can be considered pretty low-level and obviously, are completely unrelated to my legal career – dog walking, bike deliveries, and other silly things like that.
While I understand the criticisms, I still think that there’s a lot more value to these sort of simple side hustles than people give credit for. As much as I talk about how much I make with these side hustles, to be real, side hustles have never really been about the money to me. I’ve always earned enough from my day job to accomplish my financial goals, and even when I was paying back my student loans, side hustles played a pretty minimal role in my ability to pay back my debt.
If not about the money, then what’s the point of these side hustles? For me, they’ve always served as an outlet – an escape from the pressures of my day-to-day life. In a profession like law (or medicine, or dentistry, or any other high-stress job), where stress and mental health issues are becoming more and more prevalent (or at least talked about), it’s important to figure out ways to keep yourself physically and mentally healthy. Picking up these little side hustles here and there, ones that weren’t mentally taxing and that I found fun, is what worked to keep me in physical and mental balance. It’s the main benefit I got from them and why I still do them today.
Stress and Mental Health In The Legal Profession
Professions like law have abnormally high rates of anxiety, substance abuse, and depression. It’s been a dirty little secret of the legal profession for a while – although being brought to light more with articles like this one from the New York Times. I imagine that law is similar to other high-stress professions as well – jobs like dentistry, medicine, and the like.
You can see why this is the case when you think about how these kinds of jobs work and the people that fall into these careers. Lawyers have always been high achievers. We’re perfectionists. Prone to working long hours with tight deadlines. The pressure can be overwhelming, with pressure coming from clients, partners, senior-associates, not to mention the internal pressures that we create for ourselves (what will my friends and family think if I don’t make it as a big-shot lawyer!?).
Unique to a lot of jobs, being a lawyer is based heavily on outward appearances. Even when I was overwhelmed with work, I always had to bury all of that anxiety deep within me and act like I had everything under control – “fake it til you make it,” is what they say. You’ve got a lot of people looking at you. If you’re visibly overwhelmed, no one’s going to trust you with anything.
With that backdrop, it’s easy to understand why lawyers might turn to other outlets to make up for their stress and anxiety. If the stats are any indication, all too often, that outlet becomes drugs, alcohol, and other things that harm us. It’s a sad state of affairs, unfortunately.
The Therapeutic Benefits of a Random Side Hustle
I’ve always been a pretty anxious person in general, and that definitely didn’t improve after I graduated law school and got my first real job. I needed an outlet, and side hustling filled that void. But not just any side hustle. I didn’t want to do more “work” since I already had plenty of that during the day
So instead, I looked around and saw what the sharing economy and gig economy had to offer. Bike deliveries were the first side hustle I did and the one that I still enjoy the most. It appealed to me in a lot of ways – it was totally different from my normal work, I could get outside and explore my city, it was simple and didn’t seem all that mentally taxing, and most importantly, it gave me a lot of control. I could just turn the delivery app on and off whenever I wanted.
I remember how silly I felt during those first few months of being a bike delivery person – I was a lawyer, with a high priced degree, and I was out on my bike doing deliveries to random people. But it was just too much fun for me. Even if a little embarrassing, the benefits to my physical and mental health were too much for me to pass up on. It was a stupid side hustle, sure, but it did something for me internally. When I was out doing deliveries, I could just shut off my mind, get out in the world, and explore.
What works for you, of course, will differ from what works for me. “Low-level” side hustles like these kept me balanced. They gave me the escape I was looking for – a brief moment when I could stop freaking out about the stresses and problems with work.
Side Hustling Can Be About More Than Money
Side hustling, no doubt, is probably about the money. I wouldn’t deliver food or walk dogs for free. But at the same time, money doesn’t have to be the sole focus of your side hustle. It can do more than just be a way to make more money.
It’s important to have outlets for your stress and anxiety. It’s up to you to decide what works for you. If you’ve got a little bit of an entrepreneurial edge, side hustling, even stupid side hustling, might be the outlet that works for you. And even if it’s a silly, low-level side hustle, only you can tell yourself how valuable it really is to you.
What do you think? Is your side hustle about more than just money?