Why My Broke Side Hustle is Better Than Your Main Hustle


Two one hundred dollar bills are sticking out of a blue grey suit jacket pocketAs the old saying goes, money doesn't buy happiness. The Physician Philosopher might agree when it comes to side hustles versus main hustles. Read on to learn how side hustles, even if they aren't making you a ton of money or any money at all, can positively contribute to your happiness in other ways.

Today’s Classic is republished from The Physician Philosopher. You can see the original here.


For anyone who has a side hustle, there comes a point where the following idea has crossed your mind. It’s the point where you realize that the side hustle isn’t earning a lot of money (yet!). Then you think… if you’d just focus more on your main hustle, you’d likely make more money picking up extra shifts, cases, or seeing more patients. Why not just focus there? Well, because it's not all about the benjamins, is it?

Today’s post will focus on the fact that value can be obtained from work in a variety of ways. Financial gain is not the only reward from a side hustle. These reasons are what push those of us who pursue side hustles to keep on hustlin’. Even when they don’t make money.

The biggest reason: Satisfaction at work

We have talked extensively before about satisfaction at work.

The three keys to satisfaction at work are autonomy (being able to decide how to do your own job), relatedness (i.e. support at work from those above and around you), and competence. These three factors help show a value system by which we can gauge our satisfaction with each job.

It also helps to explain another phenomenon that I have observed, which is that people want to be valued in one of three ways: (1) getting paid more, (2) having more time to do what they enjoy, and (3) getting recognized for their work.

Combining these two views of satisfaction and value, we can see that there are a variety of reasons that people might want to pursue a side hustle. And only one of the six items has to do with getting paid more.

So, why spend more time on something that will not provide more money? Let’s look at three keys to satisfaction, two ways to feel valued, and how they all add up to the reason behind hustling hard.

Three Keys to Satisfaction at Work


It doesn’t take long for human beings to learn that they like “doing things myself.” In a household of three kids, I can tell you that it starts around 3 to 4 years old. I have to tell my kids frequently, “I realize you can do a lot yourself, but you need a little bit of help.”

Their plight is not at all dissimilar to that of being an employee to a boss who operates as a tyrant. Yes, I just called my parenting style tyrannical.

The adult word for wanting to do something yourself, of course, is autonomy – or the ability to decide for yourself. The reason that it is important to four-year-olds and adults is because we all like to make our own decisions. In fact, it is about as important as it comes with job satisfaction, and explains why burnout is increasing at epidemic rates.

Many of us work as employees at our main job. The idea of starting a side gig – even one that doesn’t make money – where we get to be both the employer and employee – should create a lot of excitement. You finally get to decide how things are done. Unlike my four-year-old.

Support at Work

It is not an uncommon experience as an employee to put a ton of work into something simply to feel a complete utter lack of support. This then leads to resentment and dissatisfaction. When our administrators don’t know how to eat last, it greatly impacts our job satisfaction.

If you are running your own side hustle, though, you get your support from somewhere else – namely you, your family, and your friends. This is why, if you are going to pursue a side hustle or passion project, you need to have complete support from your family.

Once you have this support, though, it starts making the side hustle worth all the while. Why? Because you feel supported.



The first time I ever put a central line in a patient was in the emergency department as an intern. The patient’s INR was 4. To make a long story short: I botched the procedure, the patient bled, and my upper level had to save me.

After staying late to place that line, and got done around midnight for that shift. I stayed awake until 4 am because I felt like I’d never be good at my job since, as an anesthesiologist, I would need to be able to be as adept as anyone at placing lines. I felt incompetent. This led to a lot of dissatisfaction in that instance.

Eventually, I became very good at throwing lines in when needed. Overcoming my prior hurdle made a major difference in my happiness at work, because it is truly satisfying being good at something. There is even more satisfaction when being good at something improves the lives of people around you.

Writing posts on this blog is no different. As the site has grown, and I’ve found my voice in the burnout epidemic, it has become more and more fun to operate. It makes all the hard work and endless hours on this site worth it, particularly when a reader reaches out to say that something I wrote has helped them sort through a problem they are having.

Two Ways To Feel Valued

Time Off (Freedom)

One of the things that I look forward to most about early retirement is being able to set my own schedule. Wake up with no alarm. Work out in the morning or sip on a hot cup of breakfast tea on the days I don’t work out. Go play 9 holes. Come back, eat lunch. Work on my side hustles in the afternoon. Enjoy something fun like a movie or cooking dinner at home.

Rinse and repeat.

The big reason that seems so appealing is that I get to set my own schedule. Despite setting my schedule, I’ll continue to be productive and probably pursue Partial FIRE.

The idea of having the ability to control my own schedule is very alluring, though.

In a way, this is just more autonomy. Except it’s the ultimate autonomy, because the ultimate commodity is time. Being able to dictate when and how much time you get off by being self-employed is appealing.

Having a side hustle will help you get there faster and provide satisfaction while you do it.



You know that time when you put a ton of time and effort into doing something nice for someone – like washing their car, mowing the grass, or doing the dishes – and they didn’t even notice? Yeah, me neither. The fact is that simply being productive can feel good in and of itself, but if it goes unrecognized it is often not as rewarding.

I like to teach my kids to do something because it is the right thing to do, but we are all kidding ourselves if we don’t admit that it makes us happy when someone else notices something we have done well. It’s one of the many reasons that humans live in communities and not in isolation.

Working is not that different in this regard. We want our supervisors, bosses, and chiefs of the tribe to recognize the hard work we have put in. When this happens, we feel valued as employees.

Fortunately, side gigs have the same opportunity. If you create something on your own and even one person comes along and tells you how much it has helped them, then it all seems worth it. 

The recognition makes all of the time and effort seem worth it.

Take Home

Simply put, it’s not all about money. There are other ways to derive satisfaction and value from side hustles or passion projects. Hopefully, in the end, you make money from your passion project. After all, “If you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life!”

All of the above might provide you reasons to pursue that side hustle or passion project you’ve been thinking about, but have been holding back from pursuing. Go out and get it. Make it yours.

Keep hustlin’. You know I will.

Do you have a side hustle? How has it provided value to your life outside of the money you could stand to make? Would you recommend it to others? Leave a comment below.

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  1. I’m retired so my side hustle is my main hustle I guess, but I think the concept that you can do your side hustle any time you want is sort of a myth. If your side hustle is anything besides blogging then it is going to involve meeting other people at specified places and times, will have deadlines and deliverables you don’t unilaterally control and will have customers that tell you what to do in exchange for money just like your boss used to. In fact it is very much like a regular job and the more successful it becomes the more it will resemble a 9 to 5. I’m not saying that’s bad but work is work and it is never really all on your own terms. I like my consulting and I’m super lucky to pull in six figures working maybe 8 hours a week but I don’t generally get to pick which 8 hours I’m working. I’m not disagreeing, it’s a great post, and my hustle adds a lot to my life, but I think many side hustles have some similar baggage to the mundane work world.

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