Avoiding the Side Hustle Burnout

Side Hustle Burnout. It’s real but avoidable. As Jax wrote over on Project Beach Life, there are a few very good indicators of when it’s time to quit your side hustle, and I think I’ve found a few of mine.

For reference, I’ve taken up a life of side hustling for the past eight months, ever since I landed back ashore after life on a cruise ship. I do have a job that pays my bills, but it’s not as much as I’d like. That’s why I’ve decided to try and take control of my finances by taking advantage of freelancing and sharing economy side hustles.

My side hustles have been good to me, but in the past month or so, I’ve approached burn-out levels. Why?

A confluence of events:

  • There have been no legitimate requests for face-painting through Thumbtack.com lately. I can tell because the requests coming through are a 99% match to a scam I almost fell for. It’s been discouraging me from trying to pitch my face-painting services to anyone on the platform, since the credits to bid on jobs are costly and I don’t trust any of the requests.
  • I house-sat for three weeks in a row without sleeping in my own bed, which really took a mental toll. I missed my home and felt isolated from an environment where I felt comfortable.
  • Not only that, but the last family I house-sat for didn’t have an Internet connection in their home—something they neglected to tell me during the meet and greet session. My fault for assuming that everyone has Internet access in their home, but I did make it clear that I do a majority of my work online.
  • They had puppies that couldn’t be left alone for long periods of time or else they would tear the house apart. Because of that, I felt trapped, stifled, and unproductive in their home for most of my stay. I ended up hauling myself back and forth from the library each day, burning more gas (and money) than normal. Out of boredom, I played more video games than I have in the past few years combined. While I do love me some Zelda and put some serious hours into Breath of the Wild, it’s disheartening to think how I could and would have otherwise used that time.
  • Speaking of puppies: they were pitbull puppies. That means they can leap high and run fast – right over their backyard fence and into traffic. After spending an hour chasing them down (and panic-attacking the entire time), I was too paranoid to let them outside or even leave them alone for long periods of time. Again, this just added to the feeling of being trapped in someone’s home.
  • As far as the bartending side hustle goes, I realized that the scheduling team sees me as an on-call type of person. While it’s a side-hustle for me, it’s work for them, and they have shifts to fill. Fair enough, but I also have a hard time saying no to people; when the scheduler called and asked if I would pick up some shifts as a server, I agreed. I ended up working a wedding with a hysterical mother-in-law (seriously, some prime r/JustNoMIL shit right there) and a Bar Mitzvah where a woman berated me over something I had zero control over.
  • My part-time job has recently changed over to full-time hours for the next two months. As I’m realizing very quickly, working double what I used to means an increased need for ‘me’ time.

All of this is circumstantial, and maybe just something to file away in the ‘when side hustles go wrong’ folder. However, upon taking a step back and looking at things critically, there’s definitely an overarching theme here. This isn’t side-hustling any more.

This is just working a second, third, and fourth job. This is just a burnout in progress.

By definition, a side hustle should align with the following concepts:

  1. It is something you enjoy doing
  2. It is not that much of a time commitment
  3. Handsome compensation

I truly feel that if any of those fall short, it’s no longer side hustling, it’s just working for work’s sake. And, since a good majority of the personal finance and frugality bloggers are working toward the end goal of FIRE – financial independence & retiring early (myself included), things aren’t exactly jiving here.

Luckily, the solutions to side hustle issues are simple: take a step back, reassess, and do what’s best for you. There’s considerably less pressure associated with side hustling. That flexibility should mean that your side hustle doesn’t stress you out like a regular 9-to-5 would.

In my case, I’ve taken the following measures to realign:

  • Taking a break from Thumbtack. It seems I’m not the only one. There are multiple scam requests each day, and you can see how many freelancers have bid on the job. More and more, I’m noticing that fewer people are bidding on these jobs. Hopefully this means that the scammer will move on to greener pastures soon.
  • Removing house sitting as a service I offer through Rover.com; instead, I’ve started hosting puppies at my house, where I’ve got the super fast Internet, my own bed, and all the snacks I want.
  • Working on saying ‘no’ to the schedulers at the catering company. It’s not a crime to say no when people ask you for something.

Mostly, it just comes down to the fact that I need to put myself first.

It’s just money. Money isn’t worth much if you’re tired, miserable, lonely, isolated, and restless all the time. Money isn’t the same as feeling happy to be home and safe in your own bed. I know the topic of ‘Money ≠ Happiness’ has been written about since the beginning of time, but there’s a truth to it. Yes, I can pull in an extra $500 per month, but if it comes at the cost of my happiness, then I think I’ll pass.

No burnout for this side hustler.


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5 Replies to “Avoiding the Side Hustle Burnout”

  1. Ugh, I can’t believe the people you were house sitting for would neglect to mention they didn’t have internet. I lived without internet for about a year, and when I needed people to feed my cats I always told them about the no internet since I invited them to stay over if they wanted.

    Good on you for coming up with better boundaries for yourself! You’re right, it’s only money and there will be another paycheck coming soon. It’s a bummer that Thumbtack is so scammy right now, but if it had to happen it seems like now is a good time since you’re (temporarily?) busy with your part time turned full time job.

    1. Yeah, I tried very hard to give them the benefit of the doubt, but it was definitely shady on their part – *especially* since I mentioned I work from home a fair amount. Maybe they thought I’d turn them down if I knew ahead of time? I don’t know.

      That’s what I told myself, too! I think it’s a valuable & profitable commodity to be the person who can side hustle during business hours on weekdays and during weekends, but now that I’m working full time, I definitely want some time to myself on the weekends.

  2. And therein lies the beauty of a side hustle. You are totally in control. Something not working? Change it. When or if it is time to go back, you should be able to easily start again, because of all the previous experience. You won’t have lost anything, and you will have gained some sanity!

    1. I think that’s the precise reason why, if/when I do reach financial independence, I’ll still be a side hustler for life… except at that point, when I take a break, it’ll be because I’m lounging around on a beach somewhere 😀

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