I’ve worked in startups for the past decade, both as a tech journalist, in-house comms lead, and now at an agency that works with startup founders to tell their stories. One common thread among startups is how they support an entrepreneurial mindset in the workplace. It’s common for startup employees to have side projects, whether it’s freelance coding, launching a Shopify store, or trying to get their own startup off the ground. Side hustles are embraced in that world, and seen as an indication that you’re an entrepreneurial person with diverse interests.
Not so in the agency world. Side hustles are generally frowned upon at agencies, and they’re either not talked about, or outright banned (as they were in my employment contract at my first PR agency job). Having a side hustle is equated with not putting 110% into your day job, and there’s generally a fear that if you launch a side hustle you might leave the company. What entrepreneurs have figured out – and the reason they support side hustles – is that employees can have side projects while still being devoted to their day job – and in many cases, having a creative outlet makes them more committed. That and they know that employees will leave your company for a multitude of reasons. Why shouldn’t one of them be to pursue their passion?
My own side hustle journey started a couple years ago when I started building The County Wine Tours, a bicycle wine tour business in Prince Edward County. It was always meant to be a side project, since Eighty-Eight is more than a full-time job (and passion) already, and it was something I chipped away at on weekends with two of my friends. I never mentioned it in the office because I was afraid that people would think I loved Eighty-Eight less (false), that I was going to leave to do it full-time (false), or that it was taking my attention away from our day-to-day (also false – I’m just really organized). But then others on the team started sharing their side pursuits – Hafsa was launching a party planning business on weekends, which grew into Honey Lemon Events; Jamie publishes a literary magazine called The Cardiff Review; Cory does freelance design work for brands including his sister’s restaurant Peter Pan; Charlene was launching an ice cream store called iHalo Krunch with her partner. As soon as we started talking about our side hustles, it became abundantly clear that they weren’t a distraction from – or a replacement for – our day jobs, they were a way to follow our passions outside the confines of client work (while learning about how to run a business at the same time).
That led to the idea for our new internal branding campaign Agency Side Hustle. At Eighty-Eight our mission is to bring side hustles out of the shadows, and make them an accepted – and even celebrated – part of agency culture. Not only that, we want to harness the creativity and skillsets within agencies to not only make it acceptable to talk about them, but to make agencies a place where you can work on employee side hustles like a client project and bring together your team’s skillsets to further your team members’ creative endeavors.
We’re doing that in a few ways:
Our Side Hustle Manifesto – this outlines why we believe in supporting side hustles, and lays out our ask for agency owners.
Side Hustle portfolio – the portfolio profiles side hustles from agency staffers around the world. It launches with profiles of a few agency side hustlers, including a profile of my side hustle, my colleague Hafsa’s, and several others. Agency staffers can submit their own side hustles here. We’ll be featuring new side hustles on a monthly basis, and highlighting top picks in an email newsletter.
Merchandise store – We’ve designed a line of side hustle merchandise for sale on our Shopify store aimed at helping people run their side hustles more effectively, and to celebrate their side hustle. The items include:
- “Ask Me About My Side Hustle” t-shirts and tote bags
- Dual notebooks and notepads with “notes/to-dos for my side hustle” on one side, and “notes/to-dos for my day job” on the other
- A set of stickers, including one that says “This isn’t a fucking hobby” and one that says “Motivated as fuck”
Mugs with “fuel for my day job” on one side and “fuel for my side hustle” on the other
The collection is shipping globally – check it out now.
Side Hustle Pledge – As part of the campaign, agency owners around the world are asked to take the Side Hustle Pledge, which includes committing to:
- Making their agency a place that celebrates team members’ side hustles and lets people talk about them openly
- Working on one of their team’s side hustles like a client project every month to harness the skillsets of the team and support their individual passions
Getting rid of archaic policies that forbid side hustles, and instead treating your team members like adults and trusting them to get their work done while still maintaining passions outside of work
You can take the side hustle pledge now to show you’re an agency that supports the passions of your team. We’ll be featuring all agencies who take the Side Hustle Pledge on the website, and featuring side hustles from their team members in the coming months.
You can also share your support on Twitter at @agncysidehustle – or tell us why your agency isn’t taking the pledge. We know it’s not for every agency, but we’re taking a stand and we hope you’ll join us.