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Why You Still Need a Sideline Gig in a Strong Economy

by Chris Poindexter

They go by a lot of names: side-gig, side-hustle and side-job, but it’s all basically the same thing. You go to your day job, then come home and start on your sideline career. I’m sure a lot of people are thinking, “Sure, I’ll just squeeze that in between soccer practice, taking care of the house and yard work…” Okay, not everyone will be able to shoehorn it in, but there are good reasons to develop a side job; many of which stem from the fact that a full-time job doesn’t mean what it did in your parents’ and grandparents’ days.

As incredible as it sounds, there are still employers out there complaining about a lack of qualified applicants. Every whine like that from big business should have a disclaimer tacked on the end that says “…for what we’re willing to pay.” Raise the base pay and offer great benefits, you’ll get lots of quality applicants, yet that never seems to occur to the titans of industry; the same companies that gleefully shipped manufacturing jobs overseas during the Bush years.

You Can’t Trust Them

Employers have worked hard to tilt the power relationship away from employees and toward employers. Those tactics include undermining union membership, unemployment benefits and weakening laws against age discrimination and wrongful termination. For the most part, big business succeeded beyond its wildest expectations. Companies today owe you nothing. You can work somewhere for decades and be let go with little in compensation and no recourse. The power dynamic is so one-sided today that you simply can’t trust your employer to do the right thing. The only person you can trust is you.

The Basis of Self-Employment

That institutional lack of commitment to employees is the basis of your need to run a side gig. Having your own business means having a fall-back for income in case you lose your day job. Side jobs can also be something you enjoy doing. Just about anything you’re good at can be turned into a side job. One woman I know runs dive and snorkel trips in the Keys on the weekends. She found a way to get paid for doing what she loves, not to mention a way to live life like a beer commercial.

Some Keys for Making it Work

A side business is also the proving ground for new entrepreneurs. Being new at business you’ll make the mistakes that are common among new entrepreneurs. One of the most common is mixing business income and expenses in your personal bank account. Come tax time it’s almost impossible to sort out which expenses belong where. Open a separate bank account for your business. Do that and you don’t have to be all that good at numbers come tax time. A good accountant can sort it all for you. Even better is to organize your side business as a corporation, or LLC. That costs money, and there are tax and reporting requirements, but it provides maximum protection of your personal assets.

The Path to Wealth

Investing in yourself to learn the skills to run a business is one of the keys to wealth and getting rich. The majority of the wealthy claim they’re more willing to take a risk and strike out on their own. Striking out without a basic understanding of business and business processes is monetary suicide. But if you’re smart, learn about business, and don’t mix personal and business assets, you can build your own safety net, reduce morale-sapping dependence on your employer, and chart your own path to a richer tomorrow.

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