How to manage a Side Hustle while studying full time

 There’s no denying that getting your MBA — or any graduate degree — is a costly endeavor. Even if financial aid covers the cost of tuition, there’s still a raft of fees and the cost of books, moving, and living, which will vary widely depending on where you attend school. On top of all that, you have to give up your income for the next X years while you study.

Or do you? If the expenses are making you sweat, then you might be one of the many full-time students who consider taking on a side hustle.

What is a Side Hustle?

A side hustle is any job you do “on the side” to earn a little extra cash, whether it’s babysitting for your next-door neighbors, running social media for start-ups, or driving for Uber. It’s not your main focus, not what you center your life around, and certainly not what you’d answer when asked, “What do you do?,” but it’s a little bit of your time each week or month that brings in extra cash. If you’re lucky enough, you can get into a list of rich side-hustlers. Side hustles have been around since, well, paid work, but with the rise of the gig economy and the advent of public university tuitions, there are more students side-hustling than ever before.

Keep in mind that you took on a graduate degree to invest in yourself; if you end up sacrificing your studies for some extra pocket change … well, you shouldn’t need a finance class to tell you that’s bad economics. There’s no way your side hustle is lucrative enough to be worth NOT getting the most out of your degree, so if it comes down to making time for one or the other, your studies should always take priority. However, it’s also possible that you could be lucky enough to find a side hustle that actually enhances your degree by giving you experience in a relevant field.

Finding a Side Hustle

Often, the best side hustles arise purely by luck. Your favorite professor happens to need someone to do a little research for him or write up some case studies, or some other task related to your field of study, and you’re the man or woman for the job.

Or maybe your old company needs your expertise, and you can put in 10-15 hours a week helping them out. These kinds of part-time gigs often arise simply by dint of luck and having the right connections, but if you are looking for a side-hustle, it can’t hurt to ask around. Check-in with your professors and former bosses, or anyone else you know who might have valuable part-time work within your industry or academic focus.

However, if you don’t have luck with your personal and professional connections, and you’re determined to find that side-hustle, luckily for you there’s a vast, virtual sea of side-hustle opportunities out there: and many can be found from the comfort of your couch. Websites like Fiverr, JustAnswer, Freelancer, and Upwork all offer opportunities for paid jobs tapping into your professional skills and knowledge. If you prefer in-person work, you can also advertise your services locally—whether it’s tutoring, financial advising, or something as simple as dog-walking: in most communities there’s still a thriving forum for local exchange of skills. All you need to do is find community hubs like cafes, libraries, or even the student activities center in which to advertise your services.

What to look for in a Side Hustle

Once you’re on the hunt for finding a side-hustle, it’s important to keep in mind what your objectives were to begin with. If you’re purely looking to make money, and anything will do, fine, but remember not to overstretch yourself at the expense of your studies: your full-time gig, in this case, your degree, MUST come first.

If, on the other hand, you set out to land something that will enhance your experience or allow you to apply what you’re learning in the classroom, then don’t settle for less than that. You may also want to consider pursuing options that are more geared toward giving you that valuable, applied-skills experience, even though they may not bring that welcome extra income.

The Internship Alternative

If it’s an experience you’re after, it may be worth looking into an internship. Although generally unpaid, this will allow you to gain the additional industry experience and applied skills you are looking for. Whether you are hoping to get a degree to switch industries, launch your own business, or simply deepen your expertise to move up the ranks more quickly, an internship in the right company will help. If you’re stuck somewhere in your journey to the college, admissions consulting is your best friend.

In the end, it’s important to remind yourself that you took this time away from your industry to invest in yourself. While it may be difficult to transition to college studies, and, well, spending, rather than split your focus between your studies and a side-hustle, it is probably wiser to do what you came here to do: gain the knowledge, skills, and experience to achieve your career goals. Don’t be afraid to spend this time (and money) investing in yourself: it will pay off.

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