Why entrepreneurs always need a “side hustle”

The next time you meet an entrepreneur, don’t talk shop. Instead, my recommendation is to ask a question like, “What do you do when you’re not running your business?” The answer could very well give you a better insight into what makes an entrepreneur and their ventures successful than what they do in their business alone.

Not only can an entrepreneur’s side hustle or other project tell you about what they’re interested in and passionate about outside of their current venture, but it can also reveal the additional skills they’re acquiring or the network they’re building beyond their primary focus.

Of course, not every side hustle eventually becomes a fully-fledged business – that’s not the goal. But many of these projects provide value in other ways, whether that’s skills, knowledge or experience, a chance to test ideas, or an opportunity to connect with certain people.

Lessons learnt

I highly recommend undertaking some kind of education in a field you’re interested in. It need not be a business course, nor anything to do with the industry your business is in, just something that you think you’d like to learn more about – it could be photography or learning to play the piano or becoming a wine sommelier.

Educating yourself in this manner puts you in a position to learn and when you’re in learning mode you see things differently. You put your ego aside and ask questions, you do research, you seek advice from experts. You’ll find that you start to see your business slightly differently. Meanwhile, you pick up different skills. These might not be directly applicable to your business, but they can often complement your skillset or help you understand different concepts that work to expand your way of thinking.

If you want to strengthen your business education or do further education in relation to your industry, you can definitely go down that path by reading more books, doing short courses or even degrees. For me, I became a scholar at The Marketing Academy Program in 2017, which taught me a wealth of knowledge about the industry and hugely benefited my career for the long run.

Taking passion to the next level

Another way to devote yourself to something outside your business is to find ways to serve your passion. Some people volunteer for organisations they like or become advocates for causes. Along the way you meet people who share that passion and you may acquire skills and experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to obtain in your business alone.

In 2011, I met the then president of the club and asked what he was doing for the younger professional market. There was nothing for that demographic so I proposed a supporters network, Essendon Emerging Leaders (now called the Essendon Executive Club). The target was people who were passionate about the club who were building their careers. We put on networking and fundraising events with amazing speakers with the view that these supporters would become future sponsors of the club.

Side hustles and projects external to your business may never come to fruition as independent ventures, but they are rarely a waste of time. Along the way you’re not only indulging in something you’re passionate about, taking you beyond your immediate business,  but also building new skills and networks that may turn out to be helpful in your business later on. Don’t think of your side hustle as a being of direct benefit to your business but as an investment in experience for your lifelong success as an entrepreneur.

Simon Davies, Founder and CEO, Bastion Brands