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Daniel DiGriz: We’re talking today about how to be a secret agent, and we don’t mean spying on foreign governments, but rather, how to side hustle when you’re in a traditional job. So, if you’re an independent consultant or you would like to be, how do you get work, how do you get consulting, professional consulting work on the side, so that you’re not completely reliant on a single paycheck from your employer, or you’re completely reliant on your employer and their good will.
Steve, you and I have both done this, but I think you have a story of when you were first starting out?
Steve Pruneau: Well, I do. I’d been out in the world as an independent consultant for a while, yeah, but it was my first engagement at an apparel manufacturer. It’s winding down, getting ready to take my next big engagement. In my work, they’re often full-time projects, so it really consumes your time, and it’s hard to spin up a portfolio of work. So, all that’s looking good, but I also, as you point out, wanted to develop some other clients on the side. That’s all the intellectual side, and it was working out. There was a third client, and we were just getting ready to kick off.
Now, I’m moving into this next gig, which is at a fairly well-known movie studio. One day at the apparel manufacturer, the CIO kind of could see, I was having some anguish. She was aware of the side hustle, because she had been a reference for it. “Oh, how’s it going?” “Well, how’s this all going to work out? These guys at the movie studio are pretty conservative. They really like to dictate your time and things.” And She’s, “Oh, come on. You can work this out.” Basically said, “Look, you’re not working non stop from 8:00 to 6:00 every day. You know, you’ve got lunch breaks. You can take calls in the morning, do emails on afternoon breaks, do the work at night.” That was kind of the thing that broke me free emotionally. It was a really quick conversation.
After that conversation, I’m like, “Yeah, that’s right.” Then the logistics were pretty easy to work out. I could figure that part out, but I sort of needed a kick in the pants to get it all done. The embarrassing part is, you know, really, I’d been out in the world as an independent consultant for quite a while, and I was still having this hang up. Anyway, after about a month or two at the studio when I started that engagement, it was all starting to fall in place. Even the manufacturer, the apparel manufacturer, was having some ongoing work sometimes. I actually had two side hustles during my main gig, and that really got me into the rhythm of how this works. I’m really glad I got that kick in the pants.
Daniel DiGriz: Well, you know, I think as we listen to that, you’re kind of saying, it’s not like juggling 40 balls in the air at once. It’s more like being a dog walker. You’ve got two or three leashes, but it’s something you can steer, and something you can easily control. You know, as I’m listening, I found that the question that comes up for a lot of people is, wait a minute. There’s a practical or tactical issue about using company equipment, telephones, computers. You know, some companies ban use of email for personal purposes, et cetera. You can kind of get in trouble for that. You might even sign a contract. For me, Steve, I found that I’ve done it both ways.
When I was in an organization where that was the case, I would do 30 minutes before the commute, take some basic calls or do some basic calls, send some emails. Then lunches off site, and then simply my PM hours. It kind of worked out. When I was doing, even in the same organization, more sort of travel and remote work, you know, I might give a two hour presentation or something like that. There’s lots of down time. There’s lots of, you know, three hours in between, and I’ve got my own laptop. Where I’m there, sort of sitting in a hotel bar waiting for the evening version of the presentation. What am I going to do? I’m going to make some money, because the company doesn’t need me sweeping floors right now.
I wasn’t engaged all the time. I think it is possible to be the dog walker and not the juggler, and still take into account those issues of company equipment and resources, and your accountable time where you’re on deck, versus sort of your down time.
Steve Pruneau: This is what I admire about you, is because you have that hustle in you. When we talk about hustle, you know, I know you look at it this way too, it’s a positive thing. It’s not like we’re hustling to cheat someone. It’s that we’re moving quick, we’re thinking fast, we’re taking care of multiple things at the same time. I didn’t have that mindset. I was slower to come up to speed, and that’s kind of why I say it’s sort of an embarrassing story for me, because I’m out there for a couple of years as an independent consultant. I still haven’t got this wired emotionally in my head. Once that started coming together, how it works, rather than just blindly saying, “Oh, you shouldn’t be doing this,” is blindly saying this to yourself.
Once I got past all that, yeah, it all comes together. You know, you had … I really liked your approach to it, you know. For you, it really was just a logistical thing. You didn’t buy into the whole, you shouldn’t do this, I don’t think even from the get-go.
Daniel DiGriz: Well, we’re going to do a show about the ethics of it, probably the next episode. For those that do have that sort of hang up, of is this even right? Stay tuned. We’ll be covering it. In the meantime, yeah, it breaks down, if you have that question, and you don’t have the answer. The first thing to do is … It’s kind of mood, if it’s not mechanically possible, right? We’ve all sort of, probably mixed scrambled eggs on the counter while we’ve had bacon cooking in the frying pan behind us. It’s a little bit like that. If you look at the average executive … and this is kind of touching, but not going deep into the ethics issue. If you look at the average executive in the American workplace, there is a lot of that time that it’s not like, if they’re in between phone calls or reports, they’re required to go down to the mail room and sort of pitch in and help out.
This is not restaurant work, where don’t be standing around. Go in there and wrap silverware. We’re talking about professional level work. When your brain and your talent is not being used, it just becomes a mechanical thing of, well, you’re going to be doing something anyway. It’s incredible, the number of people at work that are sort of playing Angry Birds and on their Facebook accounts. To use a more executive level, the guys that go out for the two hour martini lunch, or that sort of walk around and ask you if your TPS reports could be in a different format. There’s a lot of down time. It’s just not documented as such. I think really, it’s about being clever. If you were to add up the amount of time that a university student spends learning versus other things … If you were to add up the amount of time spent on work in the average workplace versus other things, the answer is, it’s not a 100%.
Can you take the 20% that’s left over and do something with that to ensure that … and for me, I’ll say one other thing, Steve. I was a better employee because I had a side hustle. I was more confident. I was less worried about money. I was learning business skills that served me very well in business. That’s why I was able …
Steve Pruneau: Yeah, you know, the pivotal part for me … You were talking about logistics, and how do you make it work out? You were making the argument of, there’s time in there. The conversation I had with the CIO from the apparel manufacture was this. There’s always a way. She kind of went down the road like you only kind of kicked me in the pants pretty good. I’m grateful for it, because it really opened up, like pulling back the curtain. Look, there is a way. There is a way every day. You should never say no. She went through a few examples, just tactical things of how you look at it, and what do you say to both parties? For example, “Hey, you’ve got a lunch break. You don’t have to account to anybody where you’re going or what you’re doing.” All kinds of little tactical things, so it was a real eye opener.
She didn’t lay out the whole thing, of this is what you should do. It was just that initial conversation that kind of started the dominoes in motion for me.
Daniel DiGriz: It leads somewhere as well. You know, if you have one project on the side, you really need three. You need a pipeline of future business, so if it’s going to be sustainable, you need enough that if any one person stops, whether it’s your existing employer … I was a W-2 employee when I did this, not a contractor for my main gig. If they move on at any given time, I completed the project we had early, they may not have a role for me. Also, any one of my side hustles. I knocked out web development for their major project. It took eight months. We’re done, and now I’m back to the open market unless I’ve got a couple in the pipeline to sort of sustain me. For me, it was all about, not just filling the time issue, because we’re kind of emphasizing time, but it was also just making sure that I always have a paycheck. I always know that I’m going to be okay, regardless of where that income is coming from.
Steve Pruneau: This kind of goes into the why a little bit. The side hustle is important for whether you’re a traditional employee, or whether you’re an independent consultant already. If you’re a traditional employee, a side hustle is important, because even if things are nice, and comfortable, and steady now, something always changes. Our economy ebbs and flows. Individual industries ebb and flow. Businesses within those industries shift. Eventually, something’s going to change. You’re going to get a new boss. You’re going to get acquired, or you’re going to acquire some other business that’s going to move your job around or kill it.
The second reason, so not only in income diversity, but the second reason is to learn to hunt. As employees, we tend to get really comfortable, and well, how do we keep the money coming in? We become dependent on the job, because we don’t know how to hunt. For me, it’s important to do the side hustle, if for no other reason, then to learn how to hunt. As a consultant, the economics of it are even more important, because by definition, you are engaged by your client because they can end the engagement. You got to be working on a pipeline in that case. For me, like I was saying in the story, I still had some of the old habits of not really thinking in terms of a hustle.
There was always a risk for me in the early days that I was going to show up at the end of the gig, and, okay, now I don’t have the next one. So, I still needed that mindset of, I’ve got to develop my hunting a lot better. Those are some of the whys for me, on why should you have a side hustle.
Daniel DiGriz: I would add to list of whys, so one is that you know, doing a side hustle for me really broke down the artificial division between contract work and W-2 work. I started viewing my boss more like a client, and I started picking and choosing, realizing that some of the requests that I was getting were optional. Because now it’s not about unlimited time and unlimited authority, it’s about do I want to take that on. I was able then, to do things like propose additional things that aren’t on my roster of duties, for which I got to travel more, and get paid differently, and so on, and re-negotiate the payment. It really helped me to break down that division, and it led to my ultimate why, which is freedom.
I ultimately left W-2 employment life and became completely independent. That’s what I always wanted, the freedom to define my own vocation and sort of not have a boss. The road map to me getting there was taking clients and beginning to break down that distinction between clients and employers, and the type of work that I do for each. It may sound radical, but it’s kind of an emotional and practical thing that comes up. I mentioned that there were two different contexts when I worked in a particular hospitality chain that I started out, sort of, got to be in my cubicle, and got to use company equipment. It was because I was contracting on the side, that I went in and said “Well, we’re kind of at the end of this project. I know and you know, that in couple of months, we’re kind of done with my role. So what I would like to do now is travel the world around for you, and deliver presentations.” That extended this project.
I sort of did a try out, and got that. It was just like winning a contract gig. I had all that confidence to propose an additional relationship because I was taking contract work. I got paid nicely for it. It worked out really well, and I worked there an entire another year because of that, before I have built up quite an [inaudible 00:13:15] and went on my own.
I think your end result has to do with partly, Steve, picking and choosing the projects you want, because of lifestyle you want, but I’ll let you comment on that.
Steve Pruneau: Yeah, but I needed the mindset to be able to do that. It’s interesting, things you’ve said, it’s consistent with some of my favorite career advisors who are podcasters and coaches. They say the same thing. If you are traditional employee, you got to look at it the way a consultant looks at it. So they are basically saying there’s no more distinction between an independent consultant and being a regular employees. Look at it exactly the way you’ve described them, which is, “Hey, how can I help you? How can I view you as my client?”
Daniel DiGriz: So we are going to cover more about the side hustle in upcoming episodes. We’ll do an episode about the ethics of it, and kind of dig deep there. We’ll do an episode about how specifically one does it, little bit more detail and we’ll probably plumb some examples in another episode. So stay tuned for more.
May contain transcriber errors.