The risk-free way to test out career change ideas

Many of us dream of making a career change and waking up each day to work that inspires and motivates us, but then the demons kick in. 

“I’ll never earn the money I need.  I don’t have the right qualifications. It’s too late to make a change. I don’t have the right ideas, connections, confidence, ______ [feel free to fill in the gap].

Our sense of what’s realistic does a great job of shutting down our creativity and action, so we stay firmly stuck on the same unfulfilling treadmill. 

But this is often because we view career change as a stop-start exercise rather than a transition, and one that will take years and a great deal of personal development to achieve.

It is usually these assumptions that cause us to question the viability of a career change, particularly from a financial point of view, and deem it impossible.

So how do you conquer these perceived hurdles and take real action towards more fulfilling work? 

One answer is what author, business coach and speaker Pamela Slim calls the “side hustle”. 

A side hustle is essentially a side project separate from your day job that you undertake in a freelance capacity in your spare time.

You might be thinking that this sounds like a lot of work and you don’t have the time, but the truth is that if you focus your side project on something you are passionate about or interested in, it’s more likely to feel exciting and fun rather than an addition to your daily grind, and it’s amazing what you manage to fit in when you feel really engaged by it.

A side project is a clever way to test and try out new career ideas and their money-making potential. Plus it comes with the added bonus of potentially earning you some extra cash.

Freelance fields that typically fit the side project mould include writing and editing, photography, web design, PR, project management, research, personal training, beauty therapies, cooking, childcare, admin, events planning and coaching.

But ultimately there are no limits. You could be a marketing manager who teaches body training classes three times a week; a social media executive who builds websites for small businesses; or a PR exec who provides catering for local parties.

If this has got you thinking about what a good side project might look like for you, here are some things to keep in mind.

1. You should enjoy doing it

Choose something you have a compelling enthusiasm for because it generates motivation and focus. It stands to reason that if you are passionate about what you do your commitment to it will be greater, which ups the success stakes considerably.

2. You should be good at it

Draw on your top skills and strengths so that your side project utilises your natural talents. Consequently, you’ll find the delivery of your side project easy and enjoyable.

3. Keep things simple

Choose something that doesn’t require a huge brand-building effort or complicated website to start with, otherwise it will feel overwhelming and you’ll never get started.

4. Does it make financial sense?

Consider ideas that have the ability to quickly generate cash. Ask yourself what do you love doing that you are expert at, and that you could easily make £500 per month doing in a short space of time?

Have a go at brainstorming ideas and sound them out with family and friends. Aim to get feedback on what people will value and pay for, and then take action. The idea is to treat your side project like an experiment.

With this approach you’ve got nothing to lose. You can take action without risking your current job and salary stability, get real feedback on what works and what doesn’t, and test whether you really love what you imagine you will – all while unlocking some side income.

The other advantage of side projects is that they reduce the stress and frustration of your current job because you’ve got something fun and potentially long-term going on in the background.

Originally written for, and published by The Guardian