Amy Bucher, an organizational psychologist at Johnson & Johnson, explains why you can’t forget the side hustle. “Side hustle” refers to freelance work outside your core full-time job.  Many times, this work is paid, although it does not have to be. Often professionals with side hustles work in fields such as software engineering or design, which easily lend themselves to project-based work. Your PhD in social science or the humanities opens unique side hustle opportunities for you.

Side hustles for social science and humanities PhDs:
  • Research and write for web publication. There are many reputable online forums that accept articles or posts from the general public. Find one that caters to people in your field and begin writing! Some places to start that cover a multitude of topics include Forbes, Wired Innovation Insights, or Fast Company.
  • Hit the local speaker circuit. Have a topic you know well and are passionate to share? Submit to speak at local events. These may be formal conferences, but they might also be Meetups, panels organized by local businesses or thought leaders, or community events. You also might reach out to area start-ups working on problems that interest you. Small companies might love an opportunity to work with a subject matter expert at low or no cost to them, while you benefit by sharing your perspective with an interested audience.
  • Consult on a project. Even though it’s slightly less straightforward than say, designing a website, social science and humanities PhDs also have skill sets that lend themselves to project-based work. You might be able to produce background research in your area of expertise, do statistical analysis of archival data, or use your strong writing skills to co-author a report.
  • Blog about it. Starting your own website and blog is a way to proactively author your professional image. It gives you an opportunity to connect with others online about topics in your area of expertise. And it increases your visibility, so you can more easily find other side hustles.
Why have a side hustle?

Side hustles can nurture your professional and personal growth in a number of ways, such as:

  • Nourish and grow skills that aren’t central to your job. Chances are your professional work focuses on a niche that does not include all of your many interests or skill areas. Or, perhaps you want to learn new skills that complement your existing ones. Side hustles are a chance to take on projects that show off skills you might not use in the workplace and expose you to new ideas and tasks. For me, the blogging and writing I do as side hustles allow me to explore motivation and behavior change in areas outside of my core work focus. I recently wrote about how motivational design can increase beer consumption; that is not something I usually explore at work.
  • Establish a reputation and build your network. You never know who will end up being an influential person to know. The more exposure and visibility you gain for your work, the greater the chances that you connect with someone who can refer you to a new project or full-time job, introduce you to a new mentor, or become a collaborator.
  • Supplement your income. While not all side hustles pay, some do. Sometimes speaking opportunities include small honoraria. And if you’re consulting on a project, you most likely will charge for your time. You probably won’t make enough money from your side hustle to quit your job, but it’s certainly nice to earn a little extra.

Some people feel concerned that a side hustle is “cheating” on their job. Don’t. When you work a side hustle, you’re investing in your skills and your network to your employer’s benefit. Think of your side hustle as a way of increasing the value you bring back to your organization. After all, the companies that hire PhDs are looking for smart employees who can get things done, which is exactly what you prove yourself to be when you run a successful side hustle.