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The Dark Side of Side Hustles

6 Ways Side Hustles Affect Mental Health

If you are like me, your inbox is regularly flooded with people trying to sell you a course on how to start a side hustle. Your social media feeds are filled with articles, from one person after another, telling you how they started their side hustle and how it’s so easy anyone can do it. They make claims about how in just a few months, they went from nothing to making enough money to finally quit the toxic job they hated and now do their side hustle full-time.

It all sounds awesome. Who doesn’t want to quit working a job they hate for a business they love? Who doesn’t want to be their own boss? Make their own schedules? Vacation whenever they want? We all want those things, but there is another side to the side hustle culture. A dark side that most people don’t want to talk about. As someone who has started their own business multiple times, I have first-hand experience with this dark side, and I am going to break it down for you now.

Leaving one boss for hundreds

A side hustle is a business. When you choose to start one, you are becoming a business owner, which sounds a lot more formal and a lot less “trendy or buzz-wordy”. But it is still a business. One of the draws of starting a business is the idea of becoming your own boss. What I think most of us fail to realize is that, when we start our own business, we are essentially trading one boss for hundreds. Let me explain.

No matter what business you start, service based, or sales based, in order to make money you need customers. And in most cases, you need a constant stream of them in order to make enough money each month to run your business and support yourself. That means, instead of finding one person to work for, you need to find multiple. If you’re in retail, like I am, you literally need hundreds of people, each month, to pay you for your work or products.

There are a lot of articles out there that make this sound so easy. In reality, it’s really freaking hard. Unless you already have a huge social media following, with tons of people willingly lining up to hand you their money, you are going to struggle. It takes time to build and establish trust with strangers, especially in a day and age where scammers are prevalent, and people are weary of getting scammed. Not to mention the fact that there is a ton of competition out there. Competition that has already built and established that trust.

I’m not trying to say that things are hopeless. I’m just pointing out it is really unlikely that you will go from zero to success in a short amount of time. And that’s okay. The problem is that if you don’t acknowledge that things take time, it can easily start to drain you mentally and emotionally. You may start to doubt your ability to be successful. You may believe that since things didn’t fall into place immediately that you’re a failure and are doomed to be stuck in a place you don’t want to be forever. This could easily lead to you quitting prematurely and sometimes even to depression.

You’re the boss, the marketing dept., the accountant…

At your regular job, you are likely responsible for doing one specific thing, when you own your own business, you are responsible for everything. You have to create the products or services you plan to sell and then either perform the service or make the actual product. You are in charge of marketing that service or product, customer service, bookkeeping, taxes, the list goes on. And on.

Not to mention the fact that you will need a website, email service provider, (think MailChimp, etc.), other software depending on your business, and you will have to be able to integrate all of those things together. If you have experience with that great, if you don’t, there is a learning curve that will cause your business to take even longer to get off the ground.

Plus, wearing that many hats can be exhausting. I normally see “experts” encouraging new entrepreneurs to outsource whenever possible, but in a lot of cases, people simply don’t have money in the budget to pay others. I know that I never did. So, we slog through. This can cause a lot of second-guessing and a lot of self-doubt. Which leads to stress and frustration and sleepless nights.

Content, content, and more content

Successful side hustlers typically tell you that when you’re first starting out, you should only focus on two social media accounts instead of trying to do them all. They believe that this will help you to avoid developing burnout. While I do agree you should limit your social media content, it is still stressful and overwhelming.

I personally chose Pinterest and YouTube for my business. The current recommendation is to post anywhere from five to twelve pins per day on Pinterest and at least one video per day on YouTube. Not to mention the fact that you need to be on top of keyword trends, hashtags, and be on a secret holiday themed schedule to make sure your content gets recognized by “the algorithm”.

As we just discussed, you are already wearing all of the hats in your business. Posting on social media may be something that you are already doing for fun, but when you have to be creating and posting new content, every. single. day., in addition to the other work you are doing, it can really start to drain you, and something that once seemed fun can easily become a chore.

Once you get established, you are supposed to be able to scale back on the amount of posting that you do, but that takes time. Especially if you are starting from scratch. It also takes time to establish a social media following, especially one that will convert to customers. Even if you already have a following, getting them to go from liking your posts to giving you money can be difficult. It can be really depressing to put in the time and effort and not see results. You may often feel like giving up and that nothing is working. Again, it takes time.

Little support from friends and family

Most people, especially from the older generations, believe that the only way to live your life is to get a job working for a company. That is the only path to “financial security”. What they don’t seem to realize is that the only reason that company exists in the first place is because someone decided to “go against the grain” and start their own business. No company has ever just poofed into existence. Every single one of them started with a person who had a dream and decided to make that dream a reality.

Your friends and family likely don’t see that. What they see is you trying to do something extremely risky that in their mind is only going to lead to financial ruin and despair. It is possible that they will try to talk you out of pursuing your dream and may even ridicule you. At the first sign of trouble, they will remind you of how “foolish” you’re being and try to convince you to give up.

This might be the worst thing you have to overcome in your new business. It is also the hardest. Seeking support from the ones you love is normal, and when they refuse to give it it can be soul-crushing. A lot of people will be jealous that you are willing to take risks when they aren’t. They will want to see you fail in order to make themselves feel better. Overcoming this negativity and lack of support takes a lot of mental energy.

Zero separation between work and home

Working from home is supposed to be a big bonus of working for yourself. It has become a huge source of contention between workers and corporate bosses in the aftermath of the pandemic. I agree that it definitely has its benefits.

It also has its problems. Your home is supposed to be a refuge. A place that you can go to relax, unwind, and de-stress. When you start a business out of your home, you lose a lot of those benefits. You no longer have a barrier between you and work. Your work is there, waiting for you, the second you wake up in the morning all the way up until you go to bed at night. It stares at you while you’re trying to relax and watch a show or movie. It calls to you as you’re trying to unwind with a glass of wine and your favorite novel. There’s no escaping it because there is nowhere to escape to.

Even if you manage to contain your business to one room and shut the door when you’re not in it, your mind is always on it. It’s especially difficult in the first few months when you’re getting started. There is literally so much to do that you can’t seem to think about anything else. Having constant, direct access to your work makes it nearly impossible to not become consumed by it every waking minute. This might sound dramatic, but there have been many times when this has become my life. It is so easy to fall into the trap of believing that every new idea needs to be tested right now. And it’s so easy to do because your work is right there.

Feeling guilty if you’re not working every spare minute

We just discussed how hard it is to not work when you’re literally sharing your home with your business. If you do manage to take some time away, it can be difficult to not feel guilty about it. We already established that things take time. A lot of time. It isn’t feasible to work months on end without taking a break. But it’s also not uncommon to feel a sense of urgency when it comes to your business.

People start businesses, or side hustles, for a lot of reasons. They want to build their own business, they hate their job, and want to be able to quit, they need extra money, etc. Regardless of why you started, we all have the same goal: to become as successful as possible as quickly as possible. Because of this goal, we feel the need to be working all of the time. If we take a break, it is very easy to start thinking things like: I’d be successful right now if I hadn’t watched that movie last night. I would already have customers if I hadn’t gone out with my friend’s last weekend. You get the point.

The fact is, starting a business requires a lot of problem solving and creativity. I don’t know about you, but I know that I have trouble being creative when I’m stressed out and tired. I also know that it is so much easier to let negativity and doubt creep in and take over when I’m stressed out and tired.

Side hustle stress is very real. I fight doubt, fear, anxiety, and depression almost every day. I know that I’m not alone in that. Reading about other people’s success can be a really good thing. It can motivate you. It can make you believe that it is possible to follow your dreams. It can also have the opposite effect. Especially when you only hear from these people after they’ve become successful. Most people don’t share about their failures. They don’t want to tell you that it took a year or more to finally get to where they are. That reality doesn’t sell courses.

I’m not here to sell you a course. I’m not here to discourage you from following your dreams. Quite the opposite. I absolutely want you to follow your dreams. I absolutely want you to succeed. I just don’t want you to fall into the trap of believing that starting a business is “easy” and that if you aren’t immediately successful it’s because you aren’t working hard enough. Especially if you are already giving it 110%.

Managing your expectations goes a long way toward managing your mental health.

I know that I’ve said, “it takes time,” so many times that it’s become a bit of a mantra. Which is good because that’s what you need. But in case you need more than that, here are a few suggestions of things that you can do when negative feelings start to creep in.

  • Take a 10-to-15-minute walk. Getting some fresh air, stretching your legs, and clearing your mind really does do wonders. I’ve gotten over many a creative block by taking a walk around town. Many times, I’ve found myself rushing back home to write down new ideas.
  • Take a bath. Bonus if you have a bath bomb you can add. The warm water will help soothe an aching body, and the epsom salt in bath bombs can soothe sore muscles. Read a book if you like to read, play a game, or simply relax in the quiet warmth.
  • Join an entrepreneurs’ group or group of people in a similar business as you. This will really help when you need support but aren’t able to get it from friends or loved ones. Having someone to talk to, to bounce ideas off of, or even who simply understands what you’re going through because they’re going through it too can really help to boost your mental health, right when you need it most.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. I know this can be really hard, but you have no idea where other people truly are in their side hustle journey. What matters is where you’re at. So, focus on your business and repeat “it takes time” as many times as you need to.
  • Go out for dinner or a movie. If money is tight, even a sandwich in the park will help. The goal is to give yourself a much-needed break. Getting away from home for a couple of hours really can help make you feel recharged. Just remember to not feel guilty when you’re back.

If these seem self-explanatory instead of revolutionary, take the suggestions as the reminder that they are to take care of yourself. Running yourself into the ground, both physically and mentally, is not going to get you where you want to be any faster. Unless where you want to be is burned out and depressed. Remember why you wanted to start your business in the first place, because you want to do something that you love. Don’t let the “business” side of things ruin your passion. Accept that it takes time and that, if you keep moving forward, you will eventually get to where you want to be.

Full disclosure: I am one of the owners of a company called Jasmine Falls. This blog is meant to be a fun outlet for my creative writings about our products, but I also want to talk about deeper things that not only affect my life but may be affecting yours too. This article is written from the perspective of someone who is actively living the struggles discussed within. Not only that, while we want our business to be a fun and exciting experience for our customers, health and wellness is the backbone of our business and the main part of our mission.

If you are interested, we do offer some products that can help to relieve stress.

Our bath bombs are made with only a few, nourishing ingredients that will help you to relax and unwind in the tub, including epsom salt, which helps to soothe achy muscles.

We also offer a calming daytime/nighttime lavender spray. The calming effects of lavender are well known throughout the world. If you struggle to fall asleep, you can spray some on your pillow and it will help to calm a racing mind and promote deeper sleep. If you find yourself stressed out throughout the day, you can spray some on your hands and breathe in the scent or spray your neck and face.

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