Don’t Shame me for not having a side hustle

Image by Nahal Sheikh

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Disclaimer: this is not an anti-‘side hustle culture’ rant. I admire small businesses and passion projects. I also won’t be criticising capitalism or writing a manifesto on our growing need to turn ourselves into commodities. I’m wary of what Economics students will say, and besides, I feed into and benefit from capitalism myself everyday.

However I’ve started feeling…inadequate. Out of the loop. People have told me that having only one source of income means you are only one step away from homelessnes…or maybe I saw this on Twitter. Regardless, I suppose it’s true as you can’t live on people’s sofas forever, and I do believe the government does little to aid or ‘solve’ the crisis of the homeless.

But that doesn’t really explain why I feel jealous when I see someone with a thriving Instagram business, selling funky earrings or house plants. Or how I feel when I hear people who bought Bitcoin a long time ago have now earned millions by doing practically nothing. I feel as though everyone has achieved more than I have: a fantastic internship, or monetised their unparalleled creativity in some way. While I don’t have an Instagram feed full of Love-Islanders, the self-destructive thoughts that make me want expensive handbags and luxury cars haunt me. We cannot be content anymore. Social media is full of rhetoric such as “the grind never stops” (although, much can be said about the work ethic of some people who usually say this). And then I think, have I not done or achieved anything because I’m lazy, or am I just completely devoid of drive and creativity? Possibly both. It’s no coincidence that we are also living in an age where we prize “practicing gratitude” and yoga to ground ourselves, when we are constantly comparing ourselves to others.

Perhaps I get this feeling because seeing other people achieve a secondary flow of income seems attainable but simultaneously impossible. Sometimes I stalk a small business which Instagram advertises to me and think, “I could make something like that!” Then I realise, while I probably could, I have never had one original creative idea, ever. And if I made my own products, I wouldn’t put effort into marketing them, establishing a client base, customer care and so on. Building an online shop is actually very difficult, unless you want to have a marginally simpler process on Depop, who gets 10% of all your sales.

As I scroll aimlessly, I see some small-business owners guilt-trip people into buying their products and think: “Go away! I don’t want to buy a hanger made from up-cycled fishing nets for my plants!” But I do prefer to shop small, and while there’s a lot of tack, I have found some treasures in the digital wilderness (my @sunpuffstudios earrings and @blushing.daisy plant pot). 

I could never be a side hustler slash small business owner—not on social media, anyway. Everything moves far too quickly. It also seems I will have to hold out for a long time on achieving my dream of opening a book / coffee / mojito shop. I won’t be able to afford that until I retire, and I’m 20 now. In the meantime, I should probably take my own advice and spend less time looking at the filtered lives we see on social media, and think about me as a little girl, who wanted what I have now.

Article by Olivia Rix