Starting a side hustle? 'Know how much time you have' to spend before diving in, says expert

"It's about making it work, not adding stress in your life."


Americans are devoting more time to side hustles. More than a quarter, 27%, of people who have a side hustle spend over 15 hours per week on it, according to a 2021 DollarSprout survey of 500 U.S. adults. That's more than double the response in 2020, when just 12% of people reported spending that much time on their side hustles.

If you're considering starting your own side gig, finding more than 15 hours per week to work on it may seem like a lot. Don't worry: According to experts, how much time you ultimately spend comes down to your schedule and bandwidth, as well as which hustle you pick.  

"There are side hustles that will take you a couple hours a week and there are side hustles that will take up your whole life," says Jen Glantz, founder of Bridesmaid for Hire and the Odd Jobs Newsletter. "Before you commit to one, know how much time you have, and then maybe make a list of five that you're interested in and find one that matches your lifestyle."

If you have 5 minutes, 'find a side hustle that will just take 5 minutes'

There are side hustles that can fit just about any schedule. Say you know that you can devote just one hour a few afternoons a week to a side hustle and that you won't have time to commute. Virtual tutoring could be an easy way to fill that time slot without needing to leave your house.

Or maybe your only opening is your commute from work at the end of the day. You could sign up for a delivery service like DoorDash or Grubhub and pick up a delivery or two that happen to be on your way.

"If you're like, 'OK, I literally have five minutes every day,'" says Glantz, "Great. Find a side hustle that will just take five minutes every day." Reviewing products on apps like ProductTube, for example, could take just a few minutes of your time.

Alissa Quart: Avoid making 4 side hustle mistakes

Video by Stephen Parkhurst

'It's about making it work, and not adding stress in your life'

Regardless of the time you set aside, some weeks are variable. There may be weeks that offer six spare hours, and others that offer just two. That's OK. There are plenty of flexible side hustles that don't require a set amount of time every week. You can test websites for UserTesting, write a travel itinerary for a site like Wild Bum, or pick up an odd job on TaskRabbit when you have a spare few minutes.

"It's about making it work," says Glantz, "and not adding stress in your life." Once you've gotten started, remember not to be too hard on yourself on the weeks you end up working less than you'd wanted.

"Take it day by day and celebrate the small wins," says Latasha Peterson, founder of the Arts and Budgets blog. "If you were able just to work on your side hustle for an hour that whole week, celebrate that win."

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