In the advertising world, moonlighting while holding down a full time job has been around for decades. Millennials have taken it to a new height and often refer to moonlighting as a side-gig or a side hustle. A few weeks ago, I put up a post entitled “Advertising Agencies and the Gig Economy” (Media Realism, February 4, 2018). It generated quite a bit of mail. Many said they liked freelancing although to a person they said it made for a somewhat precarious financial existence as one never knew when the next gig was coming. Several responses were a bit different and essentially generated this post. They talked about side-gigs while keeping their conventional jobs.
Here are the most interesting and thoughtful comments that I received, edited and reprinted with the permission of each respondent:
--“You know me and you know that I am not a conspiracy theorist. It just seems that across all businesses people 55-60 years old are very vulnerable. I know of one company where the mature players were all transferred to a small division and then, two years later, the division was shut down. Coincidence? I don’t think so but it would be next to impossible to prove in court. Meanwhile, the company saves a bundle in health insurance premiums. I told a few friends when they were moved to develop a side-gig of some kind. It could be a hobby they have enjoyed or a crack at old fashioned moonlighting. Then, when the axe fell, they would have some modest bridge to fall back on until 401k withdrawals were not penalized and then social security kicked in as well later. Two people took my advice and they both said it saved them financially and emotionally.”
—“Don, you have known me forever and know that I have never voted for a Democrat. BUT, flaky Bernie Sanders made a spectacular point in his 2016 stump speech that largely went unnoticed by the mainstream media. He said that there were probably several million Americans who stayed at jobs that they did not like only because of good health care coverage. As a result, many who could have been successful entrepreneurs were stymied and stayed working in jobs that they considered mundane. Friends tell me that I am nuts to say this but, as you know, I have a son who is seriously ill and has run up six figure medical bills over the last decade. I have an entrepreneurial itch but can never exercise it. Bernie’s idea about free college tuition and a confiscatory tax policy are way out there, but he hit the nail on the head with lack of universal health care weakening innovation.”
—“We live in uncertain times. What a tired cliche. Well, we do. The days of the “organizational man” from the 50’s and 60’s is dead. Your company can get bought out and, if you work in advertising, your company may disappear in a few years unless your top management is unusually nimble. I have a side-gig which is great fun and makes me a few thousand a year which I put into a Roth IRA. It is possible that I may make it to retirement but I am hedging my bets. The recent bull market in stocks has allowed me to take some money off the table. I now have three years in living expenses in cash for the first time in my life. I think I do better at my day job now because I am not afraid. No matter what happens over the next few years, I will be far better prepared than most and the side hustle is great fun.”
—“Everyone needs a side-hustle in today’s world. Everyone. This is the most exciting time to live and work in history but you cannot let things slide. Also, a side-hustle expands your contact base significantly and you can make new friends at any age. My boss has one and he knows mine as we have worked together for 20 years. Our new ownership does not know and we plan to keep it that way.”
—“I have two friends who were made redundant recently (reader in UK). They both had side-gigs and now are surviving with free lance work from their new businesses. One is struggling while the other projects that she will be making more 18 months from now than at her old position. I am getting my feet wet myself now. It is fun and I think that I am a more interesting person as a result. Also, at 52, I am now excellent at time management which was always an Achilles heel with me.
—“I am a side-gigger and my boss knows about it. There is one rule which you must obey if you go that route. Spend 100% of your time in the office doing your 9-5 job. No exceptions. I may send a text or make a phone call at lunch outside of the office but it is clear that I am not using company time, equipment or pencils for my side-hustle. A colleague was fired as she would do conference calls in our office with her moonlighting clients. It is just stupid. Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”
Are you a side-gigger? You can be an artist, a life coach, a marketing consultant, an adjunct professor, or a stand up comic. The possibilities are endless. It may be the best financial and life hedge that you can make in the years ahead.
Separately, I am working on a detailed post set for release in about 10 days regarding advertising agencies. What will they be like in 2028? Will they survive in present form? So far I have heard from 22 people on the MR panel along with a wide variety of media, marketing, advertising and corporate professionals. If you would like to weigh in, I would love to hear from you. Drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org