Side hustles, or work taken on in addition to one’s main source of income, have become a popular way for Canadians to boost their income, particularly in times of personal or economic uncertainty.
Thirty-one percent of Canadians pursued opportunities to make additional income during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an August 2021 survey of 1,500 Canadian adults conducted by Abacus Data for the Direct Sellers Association of Canada. Respondents cited lay-offs, underemployment, and re-evaluation of their personal and financial aspirations as reasons for seeking new sources of income.
This interest in side hustles is likely to continue, even as the economy recovers: 32% of Canadians said they intended to pursue opportunities to make additional income over the next 12 months, while an additional 24% said they might pursue opportunities to make additional income over the next 12 months, according to the DSA survey.
A side hustle can help you make progress toward any number of financial goals — getting out of debt, bolstering the down payment fund for your first house, or saving up for a vacation — but it pays to understand the requirements for success before jumping in.
What is a side hustle, anyway?
A side hustle isn’t the same as a part-time job. When you work a side hustle, you’re more likely to be working for yourself or as a contractor for someone else.
Though it’s common to start a side hustle to make extra money, some do it to learn a new skill or to test the waters of self-employment. Many people choose side hustles that align with their personal interests or activities they enjoy.
Four things every side hustler needs
While the idea of making extra money is always enticing, there are a few things you want to consider before starting a side hustle.
Remember that a side hustle is something you do on top of your full-time job. Depending on your current schedule, this likely means early mornings, evenings, and weekends. Since these are hours many people spend time with friends, family, and loved ones, be sure that you’re willing and able to use it to take on extra work. And make sure it’s financially worth your precious time by estimating the side hustle’s hourly wage.
2. Start-up funds
Sometimes you need to spend money to earn money, and this is especially true for independent side hustles. Research fees charged by common side hustle platforms or talk to successful side hustlers to find out what it takes to get started (and how much they’re making). If you can afford it, and if the potential earnings will likely offset the investment — great. But if not, consider another path.
3. Certifications and credentials
Many side hustles are inspired by hobbies but that doesn’t necessarily mean they immediately translate into paid work. In some cases, you may be required to prove that your skills are legitimate in order to make money off of them. For example, you may love doing yoga every morning when you wake up but there are credentials needed to teach it.
4. An understanding employer
Before starting a side hustle, consider whether it will mesh well with your full-time work. Again, the goal is to generate more money, but try to avoid putting your main source of income at risk.
If you’re comfortable doing so, be transparent with your current employer about the fact that you’re exploring opportunities to generate more income. Ask about potential conflicts of interest, non-disclosure agreements or non-compete clauses in advance, to be sure your side hustle doesn’t cross any lines.
Common types of side hustles
Think you’ve got what it takes to make a side hustle work for your wallet? A few popular options include:
- Clothing consignment.
- Selling artistic creations.
- Drop-shipping or direct selling.
- Content creation.
- Photography services.
- Cleaning services.
- Dog walking or pet sitting services.
- Transportation services.
- Brand ambassador.
- Short-term rentals (room or entire house).
Although it’s possible to start doing many of these side hustles independently, certain technology platforms make it easier to reach customers, schedule appointments and collect payments. These include companies like:
- Uber and Lyft.
- DoorDash and Grubhub.
- Airbnb and VRBO.
Side hustle alternatives
Don’t think side hustling is right for you after all? Here are a few other income-producing options to consider:
While still considered official employment, part-time workers are typically on the job between 20 and 30 hours per week, and may work nights, weekends, or other non-traditional hours. Part-time employment may not come with the same flexibility or diversity of side hustling, but it may also be easier to find open positions and cheaper to get started.
Freelancing is a type of self-employment. There are so many different types of work that can be done on a freelance basis, and it allows for a lot of freedom and flexibility. Freelancing income can be inconsistent, however, and it earning it often comes with many of the responsibilities of a small business, like marketing and accounting.
Working from home
If it’s the location independence of side hustling you find appealing, rather than the idea of building a mini-business, it may be worth exploring full-time work-from-home opportunities. Canadian employers are increasingly open to the idea of remote or hybrid work arrangements. And if yours isn’t, websites such as Upwork.com, Indeed.com and FlexJobs.com have searchable listings of full-time jobs that can be performed remotely from just about anywhere, including your home.