The Downside to Today’s Easy-Access Gig Economy

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on October 11, 2020 in Live Better, Make Money

Here’s my problem: I want to do everything. And I want to do everything right now. 

On a certain level, I’ll argue this is a beneficial character trait. It means I have institutional knowledge about a broad base of topics and experiences, and personally I like that because it informs my writing. Want to know what it’s like when you’re rail-thin and cross-checked in a college lacrosse match by a meaty Texas A&M Aggie? I gotcha covered there. 

The downside is that you can never fully devote your energies to one task because your world is filled with so many tasks you enjoy, and so many potential tasks you’re pursuing. 

Which gets me to our topic today: Spreading yourself too thin across too many side-hustles. 

Involving yourself in today’s gig economy is just oh so easy. Seriously—one need just sign up online, then have at it. Own a four-door car and some spare hours in your day? All sorts of taxi and delivery services want you. Have you taken a bazillion photos? There are a bazillion stock-photo agencies where you might start selling your snaps. Have an idea for an online course? There are scads of online education sites where you can earn an income teaching. Are you a writer, a consultant, a tech guru, a graphic designer? Tons of freelance sites await your profile. Fluent in a language, particularly English? Literally thousands of side-hustle dollars could be yours every month.

Or relevant to today’s topic: Are you interested in all of those and/or more? 

Then you, like me, suffer from SHOD—Side-Hustle Overload Disorder. Symptoms include: irrational excitability when reading about new opportunities that match some skill or interest you harbor; over-eagerness in signing up and building profiles on numerous websites; and delusional beliefs you really can do it all in the 37 hours a day you don’t actually have. 

But as I’m learning, pursuing side-hustles demands that you—we—learn to step back and decide what’s really worth the effort. 

I’ve written to you over the last few months about so many side-hustles I’m involved with. Truthfully, all of them have made money, save for one (more on that in a moment). But just as truthfully, they all consume an abundance of time, and that has fueled some stress in recent weeks. 

Small example: You likely know from previous columns that I edit screenplays on the side. Well, even though I promise to simply edit, format, spell-check, and properly punctuate a script, the reality is that I am rewriting dialogue, restructuring scripts, and improving the storyline for all these writers because I want them to succeed (which explains my five-star rating). That takes a lot of extra time (and, yes, that’s my fault for doing more than I promised). 

In essence, I’ve allowed my side-hustle life to slip out of balance. Here’s what it looks like: 

Blogging: I’ve earned some money (not a lot) from affiliate marketing links tied to a blog I write about gold and the global economy. 

Online surveys: I earned a few hundred dollars for one survey, but it required several hours of thoughtful input over three days. Plus, 95% of the surveys I signed up for disqualified me without explanation. Ain’t nobody got time for that. 

Screenwriting: Currently earning money editing screenplays for other writers. 

Financial writing: Currently earning money writing for a smartphone-based, investment-research app. 

E-books: I am consistently earning a little money every month from an e-book I wrote on the steps necessary for becoming a digital nomad. And I have two more e-books in mind…if only someone can loan me the 24 hours in their day.

Online courses: I currently have a project in the works, but I am not progressing as quickly as I want because there’s just so much going on.

Micro stock photography: This is where I have yet to earn a penny. But I know why: I’ve only uploaded 16 pictures—far too few. Truth is, I have tens of thousands of travel and landscape photos from all over the world. And I’ve built profiles on a couple stock-photo sites. Yet editing photos, adding the mandatory keywords, and then uploading them takes many hours, which I struggle to find.

It’s this stock-photo shortcoming that has me thinking about all of this these days. I really enjoy photography since it breaks the monotony of writing. And I want to focus more on this (as I will be writing about stock-photography in the November issue of The Savvy Retiree). But I realize I simply cannot commit to everything.

So, I’m trying to right-size. 

I have already dumped online surveys. While there’s money there to earn, I think it’s wasted effort because rejections are exceedingly frequent. That’s pointless to me. 

The blog I’ve put on hiatus, or at the very most I’ll add a new post only occasionally. Again, it’s a time vs. money tradeoff. The income doesn’t justify the outlay of time for now (when I have free hours again, I will refocus on blogging since I enjoy it). The e-books are on hold, too, as are two screenplays I want to write.

I’m maintaining my screenplay-editing and financial-writing gigs because combined they’re consistently bringing in $3,000 to $3,500 a month. And I continue working on the online course because I want it out there, given its timely nature.

As for micro stock photography…I’ve not given it a fair shake, yet. I see potential to possibly earn a few hundred dollars a month or more—passively. But my portfolio needs to grow to several thousand photos and that’s going to require time in the editing/upload process.

This side-hustle business—it’s a learning process. By all means, sign up for what you think you want to do and take a shot. But as you progress, take time to reassess. What’s really earning you money and what’s primarily a time vampire? 

Then, stick a stake in the vampires. It’s the best cure for SHOD.

By Jeff D. Opdyke