When I was offered my first, post-college salaried job at a newspaper, I remember being thrilled at the prospect of earning a steady, reliable income every month. I re-read my offer letter over and over, imagining how grown up I would feel once I received that first direct deposit in my bank account. Then it hit and I was beyond taken aback at how small it actually was.
Once taxes, union dues and health insurance were taken out, the amount was dismal – far below what I thought I would have to work with.
After a few months and a dwindling savings account, I opted to take on extra work as a freelance writer to supplement my income. I knew I wouldn’t be leaving my current position anytime soon so, aside from completely changing my lifestyle, it seemed like the only real option I had.
From that point forward, even after landing a job with almost double the pay, I stayed committed to maintaining some level of side income. The benefits, I found, were many – far more so than just the financial relief I was looking for.
Considering 7 million people in the United States report having more than one source of income, I don’t think I’m alone in this.
It motivated me to raise the ceiling on my earning potential.
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My first job didn’t come with the guarantee that I would receive a raise each year. In fact, the only raise I did receive had to be fought for tooth and nail by the union, and it was still a meager amount.
Therefore, the quickest way to acquire a raise was outside my employer.
Once I landed a few gigs, it became a game every month to try to earn more than the month before. Suddenly my earning potential had skyrocketed, simply by utilizing a few hours of my downtime.
It lessened my money stress.
Aside from the obvious stress relief that comes from having more disposable income, establishing a side gig helped diversify my income and have something to fall back on should I be laid off.
Working in the newspaper industry isn’t for the faint of heart, and a few short months after I began, several employees were on the chopping block due to budget cuts. While I somehow slipped through unscathed, I knew my position likely had an expiration date.
My side income couldn’t cover me for a substantial amount of time, but it could certainly lessen the blow should I suddenly find myself jobless.
It helped me think about my bigger financial picture.
With such a small income, thinking past rent, utilities, food and gas seemed impossible. If I was able to successfully cover these necessities, I really just wanted to seek some kind of solace in seeing a movie or going out with friends. I could always think about tomorrow, well, tomorrow.
Then, with more money to my name and the potential to steadily increase that income, I could think about a financial life beyond just covering the necessities. It gave me even more motivation to rethink how I was currently managing my money, shift things around, and attempt to save every penny I received outside my day job.
If I couldn’t manage it one month, I at least knew the possibility would be there the following month.
It made me think about my bigger career picture.
In addition to increasing my earning potential and improving my financial outlook, taking on side work has simultaneously allowed me to build my resume much faster than I would going from one singular job to the next.
Granted, not everyone seeks out side gigs in the same field as their day job, but this can be hugely beneficial as well. If, for instance, your current position isn’t even in close proximity to the field you’d like to be in, taking on side work in your desired field can help build your skills and prepare you for a more suitable day job.
In my case, freelance writing jobs allowed me to build up my writing portfolio in ways my employer wouldn’t have been able to offer – something that will pay off substantially in the long run.
It made me feel more in control of my financial destiny.
If given the choice, I would much rather not have a singular employer’s offer letter dictate my financial picture over the next X number of years I stay at that position. I want the freedom and flexibility that comes with multiple streams of income and the ability to earn substantially more next month than this month.