According to Merriam-Webster, the term Side Hustle appeared in use in the ‘1950s, when it was used to describe both scams and legitimate jobs’. I’m sure everyone reading this has heard it used increasingly in everyday conversation over the last few years with the rise in debate around the gig economy. However what’s interesting to us here at HQ, is the lack of firm definition. It’s a term with an identity crisis. And with so many people identifying with the context of the term, as the lines between workplaces, roles and passion projects blur, what does that mean about how we ourselves identify?
Side Hustle is a term mainstream culture hasn’t quite caught on to yet. Because by default, by embarking on your own side hustle, you’re already at the edges. In the small (albeit growing) percentage of the population that are bold enough to carve out extracurricular time to make your passion a reality, there are so many rich experiences, stories to be told and lessons to be learned about the future of work, self-identity and, on a fundamental level, the future of human fulfilment.
With even the dictionary not able to put a concrete definition on it, we knew we wanted to explore the power of the side hustle further. And what better place to start than with our own side hustlers, The Sense Network, over dinner and wine in London.
We created a collision of worlds on the night; from textiles, innovation, digital design, art direction, literature, science, filmmaking, podcasts, fine art, sustainability, photography, electronic music, research, start ups and more… all in one place sharing stories and collaborating.*
Joining us around the table we invited:
Gemma Milne // Science Disruptor and Writer
Jude Pullen // Tech Scout and Design Engineer
Mia Bennett // Angel Entrepreneur
Joe Scarboro // Bot Builder
Chris Gilbert & Matt Pothecary // Bespoke Comedians
Nick Franco // Documentary Filmmaker and Supercomputer Builder
Madeline Lewis // Change-making Novelist
Scott Leonard // Champion Creator
Penny Longstaff // Electro Manager and DJ
Graham Wood // Designer Of Details and Sci-Fi Fanatic
Douglas Bell // The Innovators Innovator
Dominique L’Olive // Pattern Making Craftswoman and Educator
David Edmunds // Producer & Photographer
Sam Knight // Pollen8tor and Surf Lover
*Keep on reading and you might find out how to attend our next one in a city near you…
We heard from Gemma Milne (founder of Science/Disrupt) on what is means to be part of the gig economy and the struggles she faces with finding her ‘identity’. Her honesty and vulnerability were astonishing and the whole table were left in awe of her. We recommend reading this article and signing up to her amazing weekly newsletter, the Brainreel, if you’re interested in her journey.
We heard from Dom L’Olive, a remote lecturer at Central St Martins, about what it was to grow up with a free reign and how joining Central St Martins in John Galliano’s peer group affected her creative journey from designer to educator. She also told of the importance of sharing the stories of the unsung heroes of her trade such as Natalie Gibson… a designer whose influence has stitched the careers of some of the biggest names in fashion (but that doesn’t have a website so the mainstream doesn’t even know her incredible story). You can read more about Dom’s course here.
And we finally heard from the incredibly talented Scott Leonard, who has made a career out of side hustles. From designing the Make Tea Not War poster in his bedroom (which became the slogan for the UK anti-war protests in the 00s), to founding his creative agency Champion; he proudly told his story of side hustles and spoke of their power in society today.
Did you know that…
63 percent of full-time executives would switch to become a contractor, given the opportunity.
The White-Collar Gig Economy: Four On-Demand Workforce Trends According to Today’s Business Leaders, Mavenlink
Only 30 percent of U.S. employees describe themselves as engaged at work.
State of the American Workforce Report, Gallup
Serendipity had it that I came across this video the other day. It’s all about ‘The Puzzle Of Motivation’. Recorded a few years ago but still highly relevant for this discussion, the speaker Dan Pink talks to the changing motivations of us as humans and the need for businesses to keep up. He argues incentives like money and titles mean nothing without the inherent need to achieve mastery, autonomy and purpose in your life.
Mastery, autonomy and purpose. This is the side hustle. Businesses are struggling to keep up (although that’s why environments like our generous hosts Second Home and Google’s 20% rule exist now) and it seems to have pushed us to hunt for our own fulfilment. If we can make it financially viable, great, but from the feedback we received from our guests, that’s not the main driver.
We side hustle for the love of it and the world around us. We side hustle because we don’t like to be put in a box. Or as Nick Franco put it on the night, “I always felt like a triangular brick being forced into a square hole”. Of course the context of our own life stories makes each side hustle unique, but the drive to pursue it remains the same. We are chasing a more meaningful fulfilment in our lives, one that we can’t get from prescribed job titles and office blocks.
Gemma really hit this home for us. When you side hustle full time what do you even do? Mainstream culture is catching up, sure. But what, if like Gemma, you side hustle full time? What do you say you ‘do’ when someone asks? This feeling of vulnerability, shame, embarrassment, pride… whatever it evokes, it is something born out of the diversity of interpretation of the side hustle itself. And herein lies its power.
With the advent of automation, machine learning and connectedness also comes the ability to diversify, independently educate and develop your own passions into something real, tangible and… you never know… profitable. So what are you waiting for?
We can’t deny that traditional notions of success still exist and are aspired to… and it’s each to their own. Higher pay, better job titles and bigger offices are great. But what do you do if this isn’t you version of success?
There were a number of guests around the table that were only just starting on their side hustling journey and the feedback I received from them about how inspiring it was to hear other people’s stories was incredible. My biggest take out however, was why these remarkable people were not getting this energy, confidence, curiosity and courage from their day to day peers? Because, dear readers, the mainstream have not caught up yet. We are still on the outside.
As side hustlers we must find our own; hunt them out, write letters, video call, share stories, grab beers and celebrate our passions, trials and tribulations together. When worlds collide amazing things happen. Most importantly of all your creative journey steers a course unmapped and you’ll have trusted friends, peers and advisors to travel it with you.
The Sense Network has been our members’ own side hustle in itself for nearly 20 years. Knowing this, we want to create a safe, progressive and entertaining environment for people all over the world to unite, showcase and apply their own mastery, autonomy and purpose to the challenges that are facing organisations, and the world, globally. We think this is the future of fulfilment, if only providing the answer to a small part of complex and personal ecosystem.
We’re starting small with these awesome Sense Supper Clubs… but who know where the journey will take us. We do hope you’ll join us for the ride though.
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