Side hustles used to have a negative connotation for me.
When I worked (more than) full-time, it conjured up images of spending my limited free time in the gig economy. These images included driving for Uber, delivering take-out, or shopping through Instacart. I pictured doing something I didn’t enjoy for little payoff and even less free time.
Some people worked side hustles to pay off debt, build their emergency fund, or work toward another financial goal. This made sense to me. This was especially true if the income they earned from their job wasn’t enough to help them meet their goals.
I had a hard time understanding why people pursuing FI would spend their free time side hustling. They were already saving a significant portion of their income. I didn’t understand why they’d want to spend their time in this way.
I now realize that I had an extremely narrow view of side hustling.
There are, of course, situations in which quitting a time-consuming side hustle will absolutely improve your life. There are other times where having a side hustle could actually improve your life.
Now, I understand that the discussion about side hustles is a lot broader and more nuanced than I originally thought. Side hustles take many forms, and people’s motivations to pursue them are diverse.
Passion Projects as Side Hustles
When we first started The Fioneers, I didn’t see it as a side hustle.
We weren’t generating income at the time. I theoretically knew that blogs could generate income, but I didn’t actually believe that ours would. Furthermore, it was something that I actually enjoyed doing, so it didn’t feel like work.
So, it wasn’t a side hustle.
My perspective started to shift in late 2019 when I attended the Cents Positive Retreat in Chicago. This is an awesome event put on by Tanja Hester (author of the blog Our Next Life and the book Work Optional) for women interested in financial independence.
During the event, I attended a participant-led breakout discussion on side hustles. I was surprised to see so many FI-oriented women interested in side hustles. I knew I must be missing something, so I went to learn more.
During the discussion, I heard from women who were interested in a wide variety of topics. Some of these included photography, cooking, art, marketing, graphic design, finances, and minimalism. These women were figuring out ways to monetize their passions to help them reach their goals.
One thing really surprised me. Many of these women weren’t pursuing these projects for the sole purpose of making money. They were doing something they enjoyed. Monetizing it helped them meet their financial and/or lifestyle goals, but it wasn’t the only purpose. Even if they didn’t make “quit-your-job” money, it was enjoyable so win-win.
As a result of this discussion, my perspective on side hustles shifted.
Breaking Down the Misconception that Work Shouldn’t Be Fun
For a long time, I still subconsciously believed that work shouldn’t be fun. Because of this belief, I didn’t want to think of my writing as “work.”
We’ve all heard the statement, “It’s not supposed to be fun – that’s why they call it work.”
I don’t know why this is such a prevalent belief. I suspect that part of the reason is that most people do not enjoy their work. Then, they say things like this because they want to feel better about not enjoying their work.
To be completely honest, another reason why I bought into this idea was that I didn’t think I deserved to be happy at work. Why should I get to enjoy my work when most other people didn’t?
In reality, this makes no sense.
We know that when people enjoy what they are doing, they are more engaged and more successful. I’ve seen this to be true in my life. When I can design my life and take care of myself, I am able to bring so much more of myself and my energy into the world.
From these women, I learned to see anything that was adding value as work, regardless of whether it was paid or unpaid. My eyes were now open to the possibility of creating a business focused on something I enjoyed.
Not all work will be fun. But, that doesn’t mean that we can’t find work that we enjoy the vast majority of the time.
I was finally ready to embrace my blog and the other passion projects as side hustles.
I decided to call them by a new name – the Passion Hustle.
Passion Hustle – the Fusion of Side Hustles and Passion Projects
After this realization, I decided to dig deeper into passion projects and side hustles.
I started asking myself these questions:
- What would I do post-FI if I no longer needed to work for income?
- Could I generate income by doing any of these things?
- Could this income eventually cover my expenses and allow me to transition to Coast FI? Or could it cover a portion of my expenses allowing me to semi-retire?
- Could I do this in a way that feels good?
When asking myself these questions, I realized a few things:
- The things that I want to do after FI will be enjoyable regardless of whether I earn income from them or not. Even if I don’t generate income, it’ll still be worth doing them.
- If I can generate income doing things I’d want to do post-FI anyways, it’s a bonus.
- I have an opportunity to incorporate elements of my ideal life right now through my passion hustles. It also might make it possible for me to transition earlier.
- As long as I can manage my passion hustles in a way that doesn’t put unnecessary pressure on myself, I will be happy doing it.
My Passion Hustle Journey So Far
Things shifted for me when I started seeing my blog as a passion hustle.
Many people think that those who write, teach, or share information online shouldn’t get paid for their work. I actually think the opposite is the case. If content creators are able to get paid for our work, we will be able to create even more great content to our audience. If not, our platforms will continue to be something we do “on the side” and “when we have time.”
This was a shift in my perspective. I finally realized that generating income from work you are passionate about is a good thing. I knew I was adding value to my audience, and I aspire to continue to add value in even more ways.
This year, we’ve started to monetize our blog and other side ventures. Now that we’ve been part of the FIRE community for the last several years, we’ve figured out so many things that people want to learn. We’ve also figured out ways that we can uniquely meet these needs.
I’ve created a lifestyle design coaching business where I run coaching groups and challenges. We’ve also started to generate a small amount of income from the blog through partnerships with companies we trust and believe in.
We aren’t making “quit our jobs” money… yet.
My goal is to leverage my passion hustles (the blog and coaching and possibly other projects) to build our ideal lifestyle over time. Ultimately, I want to get to a place where when we actually hit our FI number, we don’t need to change anything. We will already be living our ideal life.
I am starting to see that this could be a reality in the next couple of years. I now actually believe it could be possible to cover our full expenses (and maybe more) with income from our passion hustles.
This won’t happen overnight. I expect it’ll be a process where we slowly scale down our traditional (w2) work hours and scale up the time we spend on our passion hustles.
Even if it doesn’t “work,” there’s very little downside. We are still working our day jobs, haven’t taken on debt to start the business, and our overhead costs are quite low.
If the income from our passion hustles doesn’t cover our full expenses, then we can wait a bit longer to take the leap and live a semi-retired lifestyle.
If we don’t make any money, there’s virtually no negative impact. The worst thing that could happen is we spend time on things we enjoy and learn a lot along the way. We would need to work our traditional W2 jobs for a few years longer. We would need to make sure we sustain a growth mindset, so we don’t let our egos get bruised in the process.
How to Build Your Own Passion Hustle
If you want to create your own passion hustle, here is what I’d recommend doing:
- Reflect on what you’d do if you didn’t need to work for income. From this, create a list of potential ideas. Pay attention to all the things you enjoy. Don’t dismiss things that you think won’t make you money. The purpose is to figure out what you enjoy. Generating income is a bonus (if this is truly meant to be a passion hustle).
- Explore the things on your list. Try them out to see what you enjoy and want to invest your time into. Talk to people who already do the things on your list. A passion hustle is meant to be fun, so make sure it’s something you really want to do!
- Test and Scale – This is a concept that I learned from Jillian Johnsrud. Instead of “go big or go home,” start small. Each thing you do can get bigger and bigger over time. It builds both your confidence and your likelihood of success. For example, a big goal of mine is to run retreats someday. Some of my “tests” include planning meetups, facilitating workshops, and starting a lifestyle design coaching program. I’ve enjoyed these things and learned a lot from them.
- Invest time in your project. Once you see “proof of concept,” you could decide to scale back traditional work. You could decide to work part-time or seasonally or take a sabbatical so that you could invest more time into your passion hustle. This could allow you to see if your project is something that would enable you to transition out of traditional employment earlier.
- Transition earlier than reaching full financial independence. Depending on how much income your passion project generates, you have a variety of different choices. If it generates enough to cover a portion of your expenses, you can leave traditional employment when you have enough to live a semi-retired lifestyle. If it generates enough to cover your expenses, you could decide to leave traditional employment once you’ve met your Coast FI number. If you are able to generate enough to cover your expenses and save money, you could transition even earlier.
Download our FI Milestones Calculator to understand your FI timeline, how to calculate your Coast FI number, and how much active income you’d need in semi-retirement.
Leverage Your Passion Hustle to Design Your Ideal Life
We all have ideas about what we’d love to do once we reach FI, become debt-free, have a certain amount of money in the bank, etc.
Our ultimate goal is to live a location independent lifestyle. We’d like to slow travel the world for a few months each year. We want to experience new places, see beautiful sights, and visit family and friends without worrying about how much vacation time we have. We also still want a home base to be able to cultivate strong relationships in our community.
If we can build up our passion hustle to generate income, it will allow us to become location independent a lot earlier than reaching full FI.
I’d encourage you to take time to think about what your ideal lifestyle looks like. You may be able to figure out how to make a transition earlier than reaching FI.
One important thing to remember is that this is a process. This process helps us to build our confidence and the likelihood of success.
If we weren’t already building up our business and seeing “proof of concept,” I can’t imagine ever feeling like we could take the leap before reaching FI.
The small incremental changes have helped us to see what’s possible.
A year ago, I assumed that the best we could hope for was that our passion hustles would allow us to semi-retire a few years earlier than reaching full FI. Now that we’ve been working on these projects for two years, I see that covering our full expenses is a real possibility within the next couple of years.
This is why it’s important to get started.
Don’t wait! It may or may not turn into anything, but what’s the worst that could happen? You’ll do something you enjoy and learn a lot along the way.