Rather than a distraction from the ‘real’ work, side hustles bring new skills and an entrepreneurial mindset. And that can only be a good thing for media agencies. Ashlie McIntosh explains.
In recent months, I’ve been interviewing job candidates and a not-so-surprising trend has emerged. Many of them have side hustles. From graphic design to selling rare car parts, media agency staffers have a whole range of passions they’ve turned into side businesses.
In my experience working for large agencies, the idea of having a side hustle was often frowned upon. It was seen as a distraction, or that your priorities weren’t in check if you couldn’t fully commit to your role. And there was an attitude that you wouldn’t be able to manage your time to fit in both.
With the cost-of-living crisis driving up prices, for some people, a side hustle could be a necessity. And with Covid introducing hybrid working, we've become more efficient and better at time management than ever before. We’re also experiencing reduced commute times that allow people the opportunity to utilise that free time.
With all that in mind, it seems short-sighted to look down on side hustles, especially when they are bringing so much to your organisation.
Fostering an entrepreneurial mindset
First and foremost, side hustles are like a crash course in business. When you run one, you have to deal with all the challenges that come with a small business. From budgeting and time management to marketing and client relations, side hustles give you a broad understanding of business that you might not get if you’re a media buyer or an account director.
Someone with a gig on the side demonstrates entrepreneurialism and that's what a lot of independent agencies are built on. Jack Byrne leveraged his media sales experience to start Hatched despite never having worked at a media agency. Many other indies will have a similar origin story that makes sense for them to value that entrepreneurial spirit.
An entrepreneurial mindset can also be a catalyst for innovation. When you’re accustomed to thinking like an entrepreneur, you bring a fresh perspective to projects and come up with unconventional solutions.
This mindset is a game-changer for our industry given that it thrives on staying ahead of trends and breaking new ground.
Bringing your best self to work
My colleague Diana Wong has a side hustle making underwear and swimwear for disabled women and people who have recently had surgery called Schoen by Diana Wong. The underwear has a magnet that snaps into place and allows people the independence to dress themselves.
When she joined us, her managers knew about the business and have been helping her get it off the ground. She says: “There are so many smart people in the agency and they have been generous with their time even sitting down and reading through my business plan.
“It’s become part of my performance plan and the team is encouraging me to spend one day a month working on my business because if I’m not satisfied with the work here, I can’t bring the best version of myself to work.”
Side hustles give people the chance to explore passions and use skills they may not require in their day-to-day roles. And this provides a sense of fulfilment.
If you're unhappy, as Diana says, you’re not bringing your best self to work. And if that’s the case, employers can’t expect to hold on to you. Having support, or giving you time to work on side projects, is a great incentive for staff to join an organisation and stay.
The idea of building side hustles and ancillary skills into performance plans is also a way to retain and cultivate talent. Not only does it allow team members to stretch that muscle but there's also an incremental revenue opportunity for the agency.
Ultimately, side hustles bring untold benefits to agencies. So if you have one and the higher-ups don’t appreciate it, you might want to find another agency that does.
Ashlie McIntosh is a Group Business Director at Hatched.