How a 'job on the side' can boost your finances and your wellbeing

Schoolteacher Zach Holz earned an extra Dh27,000 in 2018 through music, photography and writing

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What would you do with an extra Dh27,000 of income a year?

I recently tallied up my side hustle earnings for 2018 to find I had raked in on average over Dh2,000 a month by playing music, taking pictures, and writing. Side jobs are a critical part of my life, and one I think everyone should consider not only to boost their income but also to develop their passions.

Not everyone is as positive towards freelancing as I am, particularly if they don't have the relevant paperwork or approval from their employer to work on the side. If you turn your passions into earning potential, you will never have any boundaries and you'll be burnt out from working all the time. Plus your ego might be bruised if people criticise your work in any way because you care so much.

But those who cast aside the side hustle are losing so much more than extra income. I am passionate about side hustles, so here are the four main ways earning money from my hobbies has changed my life:

• You save more

This is a pretty obvious one but I paid off my student loans in three years due to tutoring, photography (both running a photography teaching business and actually taking photographs), and music. This allows me to save over 60 per cent of my monthly salary without losing any quality of life.

• Improved mental health and well-being

When you don't enjoy your job for whatever reason, your whole life is affected. But if you have two or three other income streams and your job loses its lustre, you can secure the joy and validation you need from outside the 9-5 grind. Hobbies you can earn from provide something to look forward to, and the opportunity to develop different sides to your identity.

• A wider social circle

Making friends in adulthood can be hard. If you're only friends with those you work with, the odds are that you're going to complain a lot to each other about your jobs when you're hanging out. This can reinforce negative psychological elements and leave you depressed and stressed. But if you find your tribe of others who are also obsessed with whatever you love, that feeling of community can bolster your whole life. This is especially true if you enjoy doing something very niche, which can be isolating.

• You spend less

If I'm out making money from freelance gigs, I have less time to spend it. For example, when I was playing music at a fancy brunch on Fridays, I wasn't spending money at fancy brunches myself.

"OK, side hustles sound great, but I don't have one and I don't know how to get one," I hear you say. Well, fear not, dear reader, because I have you covered. Here is my patented five-step formula for building a creative side hustle.

1. Find what you're curious about

Let your curiosity become an obsession - go down the rabbit hole, so to speak, to learn about your chosen passion. YouTube is a fantastic resource, as are blogs or groups that are into the same things as you.

2. Practice - start creating, fail and fix

Share what you've created - give presents, show it off on social media, visit online forums and more.

3. Keep learning

This won't feel like a burden, because it is something you are personally interested in. You'll fight for time to do it; other pursuits will fall by the wayside.

4. Start charging

It's hard to know when to do this exactly. For me, it was an organic process that happened once I was making things that people got value from. Start low at first and build your brand. Under promise and over deliver.

5. Understand the Talent Stack concept

The Talent Stack, as defined by its creator Scott Adams (of "Dilbert" fame), is the idea that you take the skills you already have, and combine them in creative ways to find a good side hustle or passion. This is great because it's hard to be the best in the world at one thing, but you can be good at three or four things that you then combine to make a talent that is uniquely yours. Scott Adams talent stack was that he could draw a bit, he was fairly funny, and he had worked in Corporate America. Thus, "Dilbert" was born. For me, I have no fear about performing in public (thanks to music), and I am obsessed with personal finance, so I have been completely comfortable with being on the radio. Indeed, this article is a direct result of my talent stack of writing and personal finance.

If you're overwhelmed and are barely able to keep your head above water with your current job and life, freelancing on the side may not be for you. But for me, besides making my financial life less stressful because I have more money, they ease the demands of everyday life because of good friendships and a more positive outlook. Side hustles are worth making time for.

Dubai schoolteacher Zach Holz (@HappiestTeach) documents his journey towards financial independence on his personal finance blog The Happiest Teacher