By Eunice Wu
Growing up, I’ve always been attracted to novelty, seeking new endeavours on a whim and hoping that one of those ventures would eventually evolve into a lucrative hobby. I was not merely driven by money, but more so by the idea that I could make a living doing something I loved. With the recent emergence of side hustles, it seems that much of our generation also resonate with the belief that hobbies can provide additional financial support alongside our main source of income.
Coming from an Asian community, there was always a clear distinction between ‘hobby’ and ‘career’ in our culture. Children are thrust into a plethora of extracurricular classes ranging from sport to music to art. Yet parents rarely expect their children to become athletes or musicians. I’ve had my fair share of ballet, swimming and piano lessons in my kindergarten years. Thankfully, my parents never pushed me down the path of law or medicine. The pressure to raise a multi-faceted child is likely what underlies this phenomenon but unfortunately, it perpetuates the notion that hobbies will only remain hobbies.
My enlightenment came when I began to watch more YouTube in fourth or fifth grade. I noticed that a lot of the content creators or online shop owners were university students. Considering the demands of a degree rivalled that of a full-time job, these university students were essentially undertaking side hustles. To a younger and sillier me, this was genuinely one incentive to make it to university so that I could get the time to pursue a side hustle of my choosing. Clearly, I was deceived regarding the amount of time I’d have to spare, nonetheless, I spent my teenage years searching for my calling.
I tried to set up a blog multiple times, but I had nothing I wanted to write about for the entire world to see. I even set up an account on Upwork to attempt freelancing in graphic design, but I never got around to making a portfolio. My most recent venture has been crocheting, which resulted in a lopsided beanie for my boyfriend. However, my lack of time and yarn has prevented me from learning anything beyond a half double crochet stitch.
With my Etsy shop dreams shattered, I turned towards YouTube. I currently co-run a cooking channel posting recipes for students, with the occasional lifestyle vlog. As someone who does things spontaneously and acts on impulse, this has been my longest commitment to a potential side hustle so far. Although we’re still working towards getting monetised, I’ve already gained so much from the experience. I acquired self-taught skills in video editing and filming, which may be useful to showcase in the future, or at least that’s what I gathered from the satisfaction of passing LinkedIn skill assessments.
Monetising one’s hobby not only expands one’s skill set, but it could potentially help you bring one foot forward into the real world. Side hustles essentially provide a safe platform for you to explore entrepreneurship. You can get into the gist of running your own business, managing finances and so much more. The worst-case scenario? You hit the ground, but you experience a soft-padded landing because this is just a playground imitation of reality.
One may suggest that this pressures people into making their hobbies profitable, which seems to taint life’s simplest joys with human greed. Instead of pressurising, I think the success of so many of these ventures opens a gateway for people to pursue their passions. It also means being more informed about the choices we have and reclaiming the freedom to realise childhood dreams. You may worry that you’re running out of time but remember that it’s not a competition, instead it’s an opportunity to explore your options on the side.
With the increasing accessibility and simplicity of starting side hustles, it would be great to see more people get into it. Especially with the immense talent lurking in Durham’s student population, I’d love to support as many of my peers as I can with their little ventures.
Illustration: Rosie Bromiley