I have a side-hustle. Because God doesn’t want me to be poor.
I know. God and money are strange bedfellows. Partly, because God doesn’t sleep and money in a bed makes me feel icky. But it’s also difficult to talk about God and money because it’s so easy to fall into extremes.
On one hand, there are snake-oil-preachers who use the promise of divine prosperity to line their own pockets. On the other, there are believers who claim you aren’t being faithful to God if you have a savings account. Life isn’t often like bowling. But in this instance, that just might be the case. Beware the gutters on both sides and aim for the middle.
The Bible describes God as a father. As a father myself, I know I don’t want money to be a stressor for my kids. That doesn’t mean I’ll always bail them out, but it also doesn’t mean I won’t. That doesn’t mean my kids will have everything their hearts desire; but it also doesn’t mean a special treat, every once in a while, isn’t a good thing. It means I’ll teach them how to use money wisely and have a healthy expectation that they learn to be self-supporting. And I think God might feel the same.
My family has struggled financially over the past few years. Moving houses. A life-long disease diagnosis for my daughter. Some unexpected trips to the emergency room. Some unforeseen holes in insurance coverage. And, yes, even some poor consumer choices. Last year, we were living in a new city, paycheck to holy-crap-when-do-I-get-paid-again-paycheck. It was stressful. And, while this might sound strange, I believed God was fine with it because we were being obedient to him despite our debt. To a point, that’s true. But I also believe God wants us to enjoy our lives. And our family was doing everything but that.
I actually don’t think God wants you to struggle financially—at least, not for the long term. Perhaps for a season, to learn something. But you can’t thrive if you’re fighting just to survive. When I think about my kids, imagining them “just surviving” isn’t good enough for me. And I have to believe God is a better father than I am.
In the past year, God has shown up in our finances. We got a few surprise checks in the mail. But because God is more concerned with my character than my ease-of-life, He didn’t twirl his sugar-daddy finger and make my financial woes disappear. He did something quite different. He sent me Peter.
Peter is my mentor. We talk about life. And because finances have been such a struggle, we talk a lot about money. Peter reviewed my family’s budget—all clear. He looked at our bills—seemed reasonable. Our family isn’t extravagant, so what’s the problem? Peter put his finger on it pretty quickly. “You don’t make enough money,” he said. You know how defeating that is to hear? I work full-time at a job I find fulfilling and meaningful—but I don’t make enough to pay my bills and clear my debt. Sweet, let me go crawl in a hole and think about the people at home I’m letting down.
Peter snapped me out of my self-loathing. “Dude, shut up. You just need a side hustle.”
Over the past six months, I’ve worked up a steady stream of side hustle experience… and money. Last week, my family paid off the last of a sizeable medical debt that’s been following us around for three years. Now, we have our sights set on our credit card, with dreams of family vacations coming soon thereafter.
If you find yourself in a similar boat—with too little cash to go around—I hope you’re praying about it. And I equally hope you’re open to the fact that the answer just might be crawling out of your pity party and nailing down a side gig. Poverty doesn’t equate to holiness any more than wealth does. Stop using God (or life) as an excuse for not moving.
If you’re still with me, here are six lessons I’ve learned from a half-year of side hustling.
PICK SOMETHING YOU LOVE AND ARE GOOD AT
Let’s get some things clear, right from the start. (1) Your side hustle IS work. (2) You’re going to have to do this work outside any normal work hours you already have. Don’t try a side hustle at your full-time gig. That’s a bad idea. Since this work is going to be extra, it’s a really good idea to choose something you actually enjoy.
Exhibit A: When I started on this journey, I had two options—freelance writing or cleaning a barn. That might seem like a no-brainer to you, but hold your horses (pun intended). I love to write. If I were a superhero, it’d be my superpower. But finding freelance work can be risky. On the other hand, there was the barn—it was consistent work that paid fairly well for the time. But it would take me away from my family nearly every weekend… and, by the way, I kind of hate cleaning.
While the barn was safer, my wife and I chose to dive into freelance writing. It’s an activity that I love and can do fairly quickly. Sweeping hay? Not so much. If you’re going to do extra work, do the type that comes naturally to you. If you loathe your side hustle, you won’t last long.
CHOOSE WHAT TO KILL
In order to hustle, you’re going to have to make some strategic no’s. My side hustle happens from 10PM-midnight. My kids are already in bed. My wife is heading that way. And while I’d love to crawl into bed beside her, we have an understanding that the work I’m doing is for the benefit of our family. I’m not bingeing Netflix or hitting the bars—I’m working, and I’m doing so for our freedom. In order to have space to get cracking on your side-hustle, you will have to sacrifice something—sleep, extra time at the gym, the new season of your favorite TV show. You can’t hustle without putting something on the altar—so choose wisely.
Helpful hints: (1) If at all possible, don’t consistently sacrifice time with your spouse or children. (2) If you have to miss out on time with those closest to you, let them know why, even if they’re too young to really understand. Honesty is always the best. I’ve used phrases like “Daddy has to go do some extra work so we can pay the hospital, but I will miss you very much. Tomorrow, let’s jump on the trampoline together.”
ASK; THEN ASK AGAIN
Entrepreneurs are the new rockstars in America—our nation LOVES an underdog success story. From that perspective, it’s easy to think step one of your side hustle is to reach as many people as possible with your great ability or product. That’s actually not very helpful. When you’re starting your side gig, you don’t need to spend time or effort creating a website, or an email list, or logo. Just ask people for work. This is one thing social media is actually good for.
Every single freelance job I’ve ever gotten has been through a personal connection. Forget your pride and ask for work. If you don’t get anything, keep asking. My first asks for work yielded little results—but I took the work (see point #5) and kept asking. Now, I’m getting to the point that I’m able to turn down work. And I still don’t have a website.
NO HUSTLE TOO SMALL
I’m going to be honest—I stole this quote from an entrepreneur I met last week. His name is Tommy G. Credits go to him. But the principle is universal. At the beginning of your side hustle, there is no work that’s not worth your time. Take it all and knock it out of the park. Doing good work at the start ensures you have the option of doing good work later. The surest bet is the employee who has proven results. As your side hustle starts, you just need reps to show results. Later, you can pick and choose your work. But for months, your default answer should be yes.
VALUE YOUR ABILITIES
The biggest hurdle for me was appropriately valuing my abilities and skill set. To say it more plainly, I was under-charging my clients. You shouldn’t do that. Make your side hustle worth it by charging an appropriate amount of money. Don’t know where to start? Do a quick Google search. Find out the going rate for freelance photography, or pet-sitting, or dress alterations. It doesn’t matter what field your side gig lands in; there’s information online. Then charge your clients accordingly.
When I first started freelance writing, I googled the going rate and made the choice to charge my clients 50% of that rate. I thought I’d get loads of work because I was cheap. In actuality, the opposite was true. Most people see a cheap price tag as indicative of a cheap product. And, to boot, I was frustrated because my extra time and effort were yielding such marginal results.
Your service, skill, or insight—it’s worth more than you think. If you’re going to do extra work, make it worth your time and effort by charging appropriately.
PRAY FOR WORK
Seriously. If you need the work—if that income would be a gamechanger for you and your family—then ask God for it. We’ve gotten shy about asking God to improve our lives, and honestly, we’re suffering for it. The Bible’s pretty clear that God is the giver of blessings. Let’s go ahead and get the CYA moments out of the way: no, money won’t make you happy. Yes, greed is a bad thing. Yes, scripture says that “the love of money is evil.” But the Bible also describes debt as slavery (Proverbs 22:7), and that wealth (Deuteronomy 8:17-18) comes from God. When the extra work starts rolling in, and the income that comes with it, don’t forget to say thanks. Praying for the work will remind you the blessings aren’t solely because of your hustle.
Oh, and don’t forget to tithe on that extra income (or your regular income either). Giving God back the first 10% of your new profits will prove to him you are capable of handling even more. Believe me, I know it’s tempting to keep it all, especially if you’re using the income to pay off debt. But if you truly see your work as coming directly from God, it is ill-advised to be greedy with what he has so generously given you. God actually wants to bless your money. When it comes to blessings and curses, choose the blessing.
The biggest barrier to me working on my side hustle was passivity. It felt like a boulder that was too big to lift. But Peter wouldn’t let up, and I’m so glad he didn’t. Stop believing that money troubles are just your lot in life. God isn’t a sugar daddy, but He’s better. He’s a good dad. And He just might be asking you to do some extra work, for a season, to change the trajectory of your life.